Last Friday was the last sitting day of 2014 for the House of Commons as the House breaks for the holiday and allows Members of Parliament time to be back in home ridings before the session resumes in January of 2015. However as is often the case while the House of Commons rises the Canadian Senate continues to sit for a number of additional days and on Tuesday evening of this week nine Bills became law as Royal Assent was received on Bills C-45, S-211, S-5, C-483, C-442, C-428, C-43, C-525 and C-266.
What are these new laws? Bill C-45 is a Government Bill and in this instance is an Appropriations Act. Bill S-5 is a Senate Bill – An Act to amend the Nááts’ihch’oh National Park Reserve Act. Bill C-43 is a Government Bill and also the Governments Economic Action Plan budget for 2014.
A number of Private Members Bills also received Royal Assent. Bill C-483 “An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act”. This act is an administrative one that transfers the authority to authorize a temporary escorted absence of a criminal convicted of first and second degree murder (within three years of full parole eligibility) to the Parole Board of Canada as opposed to a prison warden as is the current situation. Proponents of this Bill have suggested there is greater accountability to victims when the Parole Board of Canada is the authorizing authority in these types of situations.
Bill S-211 is “The National Health and Fitness Day Act” sponsored by BC Senator Nancy Greene-Raine; it is a Private Member’s bill first tabled in the Senate that designates the first Saturday in June as a day to promote increased participation in fitness and sports activities.
Bill C-442 was sponsored by BC MP and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and is the “Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act” – this is a Bill I voted in support of and also heard strong support from a number of constituents across Okanagan-Coquihalla. Bill C-428 is the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act– and is the first private members bill passed by a First Nations MP in the history of the House of Commons. I voted in support of this Bill and wrote about it in my December 30th MP report of last year.
The final two bills passed this week were both private members bill as well. Bill C-525 is the Employees' Voting Rights Act that provides for a democratic private ballot in matters of unionization and de-certification under federal jurisdiction. Finally Bill C-266, the “Pope John Paul II Day Act” designates that April 2 of each year be recognized as “Pope John Paul II Day”– this Bill does not propose that April 2nd would be a holiday rather a day to recognize some of the achievements of Pope John Paul II in promoting freedom and human rights.
Some of these Bill were strongly supported by all sides of the House of Commons while others were only supported by a small majority of votes. From my perspective while it is often disagreement that most defines the House of Commons the fact that a First Nations MP and also the leader of the Green Party with a caucus of just two Members of Parliament have introduced private members bills that have become law is evidence of the fact that diversity and debate remain healthy and vibrant in our Canadian Parliament. At times there will always be disagreement but across party lines there can also be consensus as Members of Parliament do work together in support on common areas of concern.
While it is often common to focus on the challenges and conflicts it should not be forgotten that collectively over the years our Parliamentary democracy, in spite of the many flaws and shortcomings has consistently helped to create the great country of Canada. It has been a privilege to represent the good people of Okanagan-Coquihalla over this past session that has also been a very productive one. As always I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on matters before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament elect for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.