Progress in the House

I have been surprised how often it really matters to be the only MP in the House to take a stand. Many issues move quickly through the House by unanimous consent. Even when I was the only Green Party MP in the House, before Bruce Hyer, MP for Thunder Bay-Superior North joined me as the second Green MP, there have been many times that my refusal to grant consent has made a difference.

Given that there are four other parties in the House, it is rare that they are all prepared to force through legislation without adequate study – but it does happen. The worst moment was in June 2013 when, using a procedural trick, a unanimous consent motion was used to force through allowing seismic testing and drilling under the new Sable Island National Park. We have had other losses, on many devastating omnibus bills, but it was particularly hard to have such a loss forced through with the active engagement of opposition MPs with whom I am usually in agreement.

In June 2011 I was able to ensure there was a committee review of the proposed Mega-trials Bill. Unfortunately, despite identifying numerous holes in the bill, (even the head of prosecutions for the Department of Justice agreed the bill needed fixing), the bill was pushed through by all the other parties without any amendment.

On other occasions, I have worked hard to raise awareness of regressive legislation, such as the omnibus budget bills, and proposed treaties such as the Canada-China Investment Treaty.

Arcane and obscure rules

By becoming very familiar with even the arcane and obscure rules of Parliamentary procedure, I was able to put forward substantive amendments to every bill going through the House. My efforts made enough of a difference that the Conservatives moved to change the rules and deprive MPs from smaller parties and independents the right to do what I’d been doing.

The most lasting and positive of my efforts in the House will be the National Lyme Disease Strategy. It is rare for a Private Members’ Bill to become law. In fact, in the last Parliament less than two percent of Private Members’ Bills got as far as
Bill C-442 has so far.

Bill C-442 has received strong support from all sides of the House. In fact, my bill received unanimous support at Second Reading. We are not yet through all the hurdles, but I am very grateful to Health Minister Rona Ambrose who has supported the bill publicly. The NDP and Liberals are also supportive, so our only barrier now is time, scheduling the bill before the Health Committee, and then passage through the Senate.

Please visit my MP website for more information on Lyme disease and Bill C-442.

Reading every bill has allowed me to make a significant impact. It has been a shock to realize that other MPs rarely read the legislation at all. On the other hand, since they are all told how to vote, reading bills and deciding for yourself if the legislation is in the national interest and would be supported by your constituents is a potential career-limiting move.

Lindsey’s Law

Lastly, in the House I have been able to work with other MPs, often Conservatives, to bring in changes to laws and to achieve funding of programmes. Achieving budgetary approval for a new DNA data bank to assist in the search for missing persons was one such success. My commitment to the DNA data bank preceded my election. One day Judy Peterson walked through the doors of our old Green community office on Beacon Avenue to ask for my help. Judy is an inspiration. Twenty years ago, her 14 year old daughter Lindsey went missing and was never seen again. From that tragic event, Judy forged an iron will and resolve to bring in a key missing piece in the search for missing persons. She had at first been amazed and then angered to realize that there was no mechanism by which crime scene DNA could be compared with DNA of missing persons. She started the campaign for “Lindsey’s Law,” gaining the support of the RCMP, a Senate committee and numerous MPs – but year after year, the creation of Lindsey’s Law was rebuffed claiming a lack of resources.

Last year, I promised Judy she would not have to face another Mother’s Day without the creation of the DNA Data Bank and Lindsey’s Law. Together we developed a campaign strategy to get Lindsey’s Law into the 2014 budget. We worked to bring in the support of other key MPs. John Duncan, Conservative MP of Vancouver Island North, became a key ally. Thanks to John Duncan, Judy was able to meet directly with other Cabinet members. And thanks to the late Jim Flaherty, a commitment of $8 million for Lindsey’s Law was in the 2014 budget. I will forever be grateful to Jim Flaherty for that decision.

Working across party lines, I was also able to assist in the funding of a major ocean research project for the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada’s Smart Oceans programme. Although Michelle Rempel, Calgary North MP, and I had sparred frequently over climate policy when she was parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Environment, we had become friends. She is now Minister for Western Diversification. I connected her with Dr. Kate Moran, President and CEO of Ocean Networks Canada, when she and UVic representatives were visiting Ottawa. This led to Minister Rempel’s announcement on April 14, 2014 of the largest single grant from the Office of Western Diversification in its history – $9.1 million over three years. Thanks to investments from other partners, notably IBM, a total of $20 million will be invested in making the BC coast “the world’s smartest coastline.” Sensors and data collection will be matched by skilled and highly trained scientists to interpret the data. The expanded Smart Oceans Programme will provide information to help predict earthquakes and tsunamis, improve marine safety and contribute to environmental knowledge.