One aspect of majority Governments that is not often discussed is the ability to control timing. As an example of this announcements that may not be received positively are often released late on a Friday, as was the case when the Liberals released alarming updated debt projections on Friday, December 23rd of last year. Another example is making an announcement during the same time frame the budget is introduced knowing full well the budget will overshadow other events and thus receive less scrutiny. An example of this occurred recently when the Liberal Government released a document they call the “Modernizing Parliament” document.
As an Opposition MP I have come to be increasingly skeptical when the Liberals introduce new documents using buzz words, as was the case with the Liberals “Democratic reform” that the Liberals reneged on only when their preferred version of democratic reform, the use of a ranked ballot, was not well supported by experts during a Parliamentary Committee study and submissions by Canadians who instead supported other proposals like proportional representation.
In this case of “Modernizing Parliament,” it is clear that the Liberals see less accountability and a shorter Parliamentary work week – both measures that benefit the majority governing Liberals, as the more modern new way of doing business. Essentially some of the measures being proposed include shortening the Parliamentary work week by eliminating Friday sittings, eliminating Opposition procedural tactics in the House of Commons and what I find most troublesome allowing the Prime Minister to only show up one day a week in Question Period.
Why does this last measure trouble me? Think back to what was viewed as the “Senator Duffy scandal” – without the ability to question the Prime Minister daily in the House of Commons it is doubtful this issue would have received the scrutiny it deserved. Conversely without the ability to question the Prime Minister daily would the talents of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair in Question Period have been as well recognized by Canadians? Having been a member of the former 41st Parliament I believe our democratic interest was well served with the daily accountability from Question Period with an expectation the Prime Minister attends more than once a week.
At the same time the Liberals are proposing to spend less time in Ottawa they have also increased Parliamentary precinct spending by 18% since being elected. The House of Commons and Senate budget jointly is almost $700 million annually, an increase of roughly $100 Million since the Liberals were elected. In my view significantly increasing spending at the same time the Liberals are proposing to spend less time in Ottawa is misguided.
More importantly is the fact that as elected Members of Parliament we do not work for the Liberal Government, we work for Canadians. You are our employers and in my view it is up to Canadians to decide if they see higher spending on Parliament and getting a shorter work week in return is something you support. For the record both the Conservative and NDP Opposition caucuses fully oppose these measures. We were elected to a House of Commons that sits 5 days a week when the House is in session. I believe it is our duty as MPs to honour that work week commitment no differently than most Canadians do.
My question this week is do you support a shorter Parliamentary work week when the House of Commons is sitting? I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.