Originally published on the DaninOttawa.com site on
Currently there are roughly two dozen Parliamentary Committees, two joint committees between the House of Commons and the Senate and a further eighteen separate Senate committees. Typically each Parliamentary committee will consist of twelve different member MP’s. Currently I am a member of The Status of Women committee and also the joint Parliamentary-Senate Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations.
Due to the many demands of being a Parliamentarian, often a member will have a scheduling conflict and will be responsible for finding an alternative MP to attend his or her Parliamentary committee due to the scheduling conflict. From my own perspective I attempt to accept as many invitations to sub onto other committees whenever possible, subject to my own schedule and obligations in Ottawa. I have found that this is an invaluable chance to participate in the study or review a government bill, or another aspect of policy or at times even program delivery. As a new MP, it helps me to better understand the many complex issues that we as Canadians face.
Recently I substituted in two different committees: The Standing Committee of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities that I was formerly a member of; as well as The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Both committees were reviewing bills that are before the House.
At the Standing Committee for Transport, we heard testimony from Minister Lebel and Ministry staff regarding Bill S- 4 (the 'S' denotes that it was introduced and discussed in the Senate): An Act to amend the Railway Safety Act.
This Act is intended to strengthen the regulation of safety for rail companies that utilize the federal track system. The bill was once known as Bill C-33 (The 'C' denotes that it was introduced in the House of Commons) and died on the Order Paper before it could be voted on, due to last May's election.
As a previous member of the Transport committee, I was happy to listen and participate as the review was very extensive. The bill was largely created due to a report by an independent panel after several high-profile train derailments in 2005 and 2006. As you can see the wheels of Government turn slowly as some 5-6 years later the report and related bill in response is still being reviewed at the Committee stage. The report noted that the Railway safety Act was fundamentally sound, but suggested that improvements could be made. The bill incorporates all 56 specific recommendations and received a wide spectrum of input and consultation.
After the Minister and his staff had answered the committee's questions, there was an all party desire to proceed with a final review of the bill. It passed with no amendments and with all parties in support, which is likely why you will not hear about this passage in the media as committee bickering and disagreement seems far more in the headlines then those times there is a unanimous agreement. Suffice to say it does happen and it has been my observation that the Transport committee and its members work well together. After the bill had been reviewed and the chair tasked with tabling the committee's support for the bill in the House, we elected Olivia Chow as the new Vice Chair (the Vice Chair's on this committee traditionally comes from the opposition).
On the Justice committee, we had a much different experience. Instead of reviewing a government- sponsored bill, we were reviewing a private member's bill sponsored by my Conservative colleague Brian Storseth. The bill is known as Bill C-304 (bills that start in the 300's refer to private member's business), " An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act" and intends to abolish section 13, 54 (1) and 54 (1.1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
These sections have created a fair bit of controversy in the media. Mr. Storseth has advocated for the removal of these vague sections of the act, due to what Mr. Storseth believes is an infringement of freedom of expression. It was pointed out that quasi-judicial bodies do not require the same level of scrutiny nor standard of evidence that would be required by a court to proceed with charges. It was also noted that a review was done by the commission that resulted in a recommendation to delete those sections as well, rather than amending the Act.
This bill will receive more study before returning to the House. I found this particular committee study to be very helpful in increasing my understanding and awareness of this particular private members bill as it has helped me get a broader perspective on this issue.
Since MP Storseth announced this bill, I have received quite a few inquiries on it and the potential implications from both supporters and critics alike.
I can say that with these two committee meetings, a Ways and Means vote , constituency case work and calls to people back in the riding- it has been a great start to the week in Ottawa.
I look forward to hearing your comments on Bill S-4 or Bill C-304 either here on the blog or you can choose to email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
*For those who would like a closer look at Bill S-4 and Bill C-304, please see them below in their current form.
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In addition to his weekly MP Report. the Dan in Ottawa blog is another resource for residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla. Chronicling Dan’s personal experiences as he travels to Ottawa and throughout the riding as your MP.
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