The latest sitting of Parliament in the House of Commons ended with a marathon voting session on a number of major bills proposed by the Conservative government, but they were able to make it through the ordeal and are now taking their summer break.
Souris-Moose Mountain MP Ed Komarnicki was in the thick of it, including late-night voting sessions, but is glad a number of important goals were reached by the majority government before summer recess.
One of the accomplishments made possible by having a majority government was the scrapping of the controversial long gun registry, which the Conservatives have promised for years they would do.
“Repealing of the legislation was something that was a long time coming,” said Komarnicki, pointing out the bill regarding the Canadian Wheat Board was also “a long time coming”, although acknowledging that was more controversy over the latter bill as there were court challenges launched to try and stop the government’s actions.
Most recently, the court upheld the power of the minister and of the government to enact changes in the legislation, which will remove the single-desk power and monopoly of the CWB to market wheat and barley. This change in the role of the Wheat Board will take effect on Aug. 1, the start of the new crop year.
The new crime legislation was another major bill the Conservatives had wanted to get passed, and “we were able to get through,” said the MP.
The legislative session also had three separate labour issues to deal with, namely labour disputes with Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail, with the latter labour dispute affecting the delivery of grain from the prairies to the ports in Vancouver and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Lastly, the federal budget’s implementation bills were the last to get through the House before adjourning for summer, said Komarnicki.
“The opposition to it was quite heavy, by the NDP in particular, with 21 hours of voting. It didn’t stop until about 11 p.m., and went through the night and into the next day with round-the-clock voting,” said MP Komarnicki, adding the NDP were flexing their muscles with their new leader, Thomas Mulcair, at the helm leading the charge in the Commons.
A new copyright bill was also passed into legislation, and “was somewhat controversial” facing opposition in the House, said the MP. “The budget bill had a number of important issues, and the immigration legislation was significant, with temporary foreign workers addressed in the bill. The Environmental review was a big-ticket item also in the bill.”
In regard to immigration issues, and with Employment Insurance changes also made, the MP said this was to address needs in certain parts of the country.
“With areas where you have unemployment, you can’t really ask people to move from one of the country to the other in order to get a job,” said Komarnicki, in particular when the vacancies are in the service industry.
He noted that the service industry sometimes finds it particularly difficult to fill their needs, and the temporary foreign worker program has been a huge help to some employers in meeting this need.
The program has been streamlined so now it’s easier to bring in an immigrant as a worker.
“In areas where the economy is relatively hot, the focus is on realigning the immigration system to what the economy needs,” said the MP.
The EI program is another piece of legislation to have changes, and will be worked on to enable those on unemployment to be able to get work without having so much of their EI benefits clawed back.
One change being looked at is a requirement that a person on EI has to be willing to travel a reasonable distance to get work if none is available in their immediate vicinity.
The legislation regarding changes to environmental requirements for new business ventures will be important to the West, said the MP, as it will deal with reducing the red tape that often holds up business projects from going ahead. The strict requirements for environmental impact assessments will still need to be done, added the MP.
“It’s still a complex and detailed process … that was a positive step. Industry would like to have seen the process streamlined, and at the same time protect the environment; they all the same goal in mind, namely to keep the economy rolling along,” said Komarnicki.
Looking back on the session, he said overall it was very productive as a lot of ground was covered, but he added, he has never sat for so many hours in the House before for such a marathon voting session.
“We had a half-hour break every five hours. We had to have sufficient numbers in the House to defeat the opposition; it was round-the-clock. I was certainly happy to get to the place where you can see the end in sight,” said Komarnicki.