It was an honour to stand in the House of Commons on behalf of the constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country on May 25 to debate an important motion that would set the path for Parliament for the upcoming months, and potentially years.
On March 13, Parliament had its last regular sitting and Canadian democracy was put to the test. I was there that day, just after the pandemic was declared, as Parliament unanimously agreed to recess for five weeks. We then resumed a few times to pass legislation related to government programs created to address COVID-19. May 25 was the first full reconvened day of Parliament, with a reduced number of MPs.
I spoke on the importance of re-establishing all committees (virtually) with their full powers. Committee work is valuable – bringing in experts, doing studies, and creating reports for government.
I also spoke about allowing Parliament to reconvene with a reduced number of MPs, just as we did on that day, May 25. If MPs are going to physically be in the House of Commons to participate in the COVID-19 committee, Parliament could reconvene. The full powers of Parliament do not exist with a committee.
Many constituents have reached out to me, wanting checks and balances in place to scrutinize government decisions. The auditor general’s work (the arm’s length office that audits government spending) needs to be fully supported by the government in order for this to happen. My colleagues and I spoke about how we need to be sitting regularly with the full powers of Parliament with all committees to ensure we manage this crisis as a country as we move through recovery stages.
The work of Parliament is essential. We can develop new procedures, and protocols, in order to operate safely, like every industry and private or public sector organization is doing. Normal and ongoing Parliamentary business, with a reduced number of MPs, must return just as legislatures all over the world and within our provinces are.
We need to govern. This is our democratic institution. Parliament matters.
The government, supported by the NDP, voted late on May 26 to suspend full, regular Parliamentary sittings until late September.
While a “hybrid” COVID-19 committee will continue through June, with a few sittings in the summer, with MPs in the House of Commons and others taking part virtually, it is only statements, tabling petitions, and asking questions. There will not be any debating, opposition days, private member’s bills, or emergency debates.
In addition, only a handful of other committees will continue to meet virtually. Important committees such as veterans affairs, Canada-China relations, international trade, natural resources, public safety and national security, among many others, will not be meeting until late September.
Thank you for connecting with me and I will stand up on important matters. Constituents continually bring constructive suggestions on how to improve or alter current support programs to ensure no business or Canadian who genuinely needs help falls through the cracks. For example, opposition efforts led to authorizing credit unions to deliver loans, reducing penalties for part-time workers, preventing new parents from losing benefits, and amending requirements for the Emergency Business Account loans for small businesses. Please reach out if you need assistance or have an idea. Some of our best ideas have come from you.