It hardly seems possible that I have only been back in parliament for five days – I could easily be convinced it was a month. Every day we faced a gauntlet.
My amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (S-5) were before the Environment Committee on Monday and Thursday. My private members bill (PMB) C-226 to confront environmental racism was up for Report Stage debate on Friday. I had a member’s statement defending public health care on Monday, a question to the prime minister on Wednesday Elizabeth May: Prime Minister, use this budget to fulfill campaign promises, an adjournment proceedings debate on the Canada Water Agency on Tuesday Elizabeth May: Create an independent Canada Water Agency, the founding of the new all-party caucus on passenger rail on Tuesday, meetings with Ambassadors (the US and Palestine – not at the same time!), a great press conference with Deputy Leader Jonathan Pedneault and my fabulous parliamentary colleague Mike Morrice on Tuesday Green Party outlines priorities for new House of Commons sitting – January 31, 2023 as well as meetings with independent fish harvesters, media producers, and a half dozen Green Party meetings on the margins. I clocked Wednesday at 18 hours. And to cap it off, I assisted the Conservative member from Bow River in the ceremonial march of the haggis, following a bagpipe-playing Minister of Immigration, at the Speaker’s Annual Robbie Burns Night Dinner. Unlike a previous MP tasked with the same burden, we did not drop the haggis.
Other than not dropping the haggis, the hardest part of this week is assessing progress. Every single one of my S-5 amendments to repair damage to the toxic substance regime was defeated. We still have some hope. Key Green Party amendments to stop the undermining of the Constitutional basis of the act are still to go before the committee. Thanks to NGO colleagues in the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Nature Canada, the weakening of CEPA finally got some media coverage.
We are still pressing for more letters to the committee with this action campaign.
We did have reason for celebration. Mike Morrice has done a lot of the heavy lifting to get Bill C-22 – an act to create a Canadian Disabilities Benefit – passed. It did clear its final hurdle this week with unanimous support – and on to the Senate.
We carried another unanimous motion calling on Canada to assist 10,000 Uyghur refugees to be accepted in Canada – without reducing promised support to other refugees. Celebrating with the Uyghur community was a highlight of the week.
The weirdest part of the week was Friday and the Report Stage for my PMB on environmental justice.
I had been really encouraged that we could get through Report Stage fast and move right into Third Reading debate. Liberal MP from York Centre, Ya’ara Saks, was going to get up right ahead of me and move that we go straight to Third Reading debate. But before she got to her feet, the Conservative from Cypress Hills-Grasslands got up and, recognized by the speaker, moved for a vote on C-226 by recorded division. This unusual move is only possible due to the current COVID rules. Our Report Stage debate was hijacked, no one was able to speak to it, no moving the Third Reading and the House adjourned. The vote will be on Wednesday and C-226 drops to the bottom of the order of precedence to work our way back up for Third Reading. Think of snakes and ladders with more snakes than ladders.
A lot of us who think we know all the procedural hijinks were left trying to figure out how it happened. With luck, it will not delay ultimate passage of the bill, but we were close to getting it in and done on Friday.
Saturday I had the great honour and joy of joining my MLA, Green Party of BC MLA, Adam Olsen at the International Marine Protected Areas conference in Vancouver. We held a joint press conference on the multiple threats to healthy oceans.
No matter how hard it is to quantify progress, I can feel it. The ground that shifts under our feet is moving toward justice and survival. Next week holds its challenges. One day at a time.
Thanks for all your kind notes and support.
This is what I wrote for the Hill Times, published the day we returned to Parliament: The New Session, Setting Priorities.