If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear a quiet collective sigh of relief emanating from Langevin Block this week, as the prime minister's House strategists go through the fine print of the next batch of private members' business set to hit the Commons floor over the next few weeks.
Despite constant rumours of continued, if muted, muttering from the government backbench, it doesn't look like any of the 5 Conservative MPs set to join the queue is particularly interested in setting the stage for a potential split within caucus.
Rather than champion one of the two abortion-related motions he added to the Order Paper just before the House rose in December, or even last week's eleventh-hour pitch to abolish a subcommittee currently charged with deciding which items of private members' business can be put to a House vote, retiring Saskatchewan MP Maurice Vellacott has chosen to champion his comparatively non-contentious bid to rework the current divorce laws to focus on shared parenting instead of custody.
At the moment, the most potentially controversial item of business on the Conservative side of the parliamentary ledger would seem to be Scott Reid's proposal to elect future Commons speakers by preferential ballot, instead of the multi-ballot process currently in place.
As for the rest, it's difficult to imagine an internally divisive debate emerging from Greg Kerr's bill to crack down on anti-seal hunt protesters by limiting Commons "observer" access, Peter Goldring's campaign to establish a standardized metric for homeless counts, or even Rob Anders' efforts to reinstate "rape" as a specific criminal charge for the purposes of imposing minimum sentences, at least in principle.
As for Michael Chong's much-discussed move to give MPs the power to remove a leader by caucus vote, he won't get the chance to put it forward until the next replenishment of the priority list, which will likely take place later this spring.
On the opposition side of the House, the bulk of initiatives bound for the priority list are the same as initially reported in this corner over the Christmas break, with the following last-minute updates:
- NDP MP Pat Martin has decided to go with his bid to strengthen the Access-to-Information regime by implementing the very same changes proposed by the then-opposition Conservative Party in its 2006 campaign platform, including giving the information commissioner the power to order departments to release material and tightening the duty to create records to document decisions, recommendations and actions.
- Meanwhile, his caucus colleague Tarik Brahmi has quietly dropped his eyebrow-raising plan to allow police to conduct random breathalyser tests in favour of a markedly less controversial pitch to extend military health-care benefits to retired members who have been honourably discharged.
There's still one last hurdle for MPs to overcome before they can start sending out save the date cards in advance of their scheduled speaking slots — specifically, that very same subcommittee that Vellacott mused about mothballing will go through the list of putative additions to decide which, if any, should be declared non-votable due to overstepping either the parameters for private members' business or the jurisdiction of the House.
Should that occur — as, indeed, it did with Conservative MP Mark Warawa's ill-fated push to have MPs condemn sex-selective abortion — the sponsoring MP is automatically given the option to pick another bill or motion from the Order Paper. Such a designation can also be appealed to the House as a whole via secret ballot to overturn the committee ruling.
Keeping the above caveat in mind, then, here's the full list of pending private members' business as it stands right now.
Full list of Private Members' Bills
Note: The numbers refer to the slot in which a bill or motion appears on the full precedence list, which includes the 15 pieces of private members' business still working its way through the House.
C-208 — October 16, 2013 — Mr. Godin (Acadie—Bathurst) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of Bill C-208, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).
C-442 — Oct. 16, 2013 — Ms. May (Saanich—Gulf Islands) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-442, An Act respecting a National Lyme Disease Strategy.
C-565 — Dec. 10, 2013 — Ms. Turmel (Hull—Aylmer) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development of Bill C-565, An Act to amend the National Capital Act (Gatineau Park) and to make a related amendment to the Department of Canadian Heritage Act.
C-555 — Nov. 27, 2013 — Mr. Kerr (West Nova) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans of Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence).
C-567 — Jan. 28, 2014 — Mr. Martin (Winnipeg Centre) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics of Bill C-567, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act (transparency and duty to document).
M-455 — Oct. 16, 2013 — Mr. Goldring (Edmonton East) — That, in the opinion of the House, one nationally standardized "point in time" should be recommended for use in all municipalities in carrying out homeless counts, with (a) nationally recognized definitions of who is homeless; (b) nationally recognized methodology on how the count takes place; and (c) the same agreed-upon criteria and methodology in determining who is considered to be homeless.
C-560 — Dec. 6, 2013 — Mr. Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of Bill C-560, An Act to amend the Divorce Act (equal parenting) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
C-570 — Jan. 29, 2014 — Mr. Anders (Calgary West) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of Bill C-570, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mandatory minimum sentences for rape).
C-539 — Oct. 16, 2013 — Ms. Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods.
C-486 — Oct. 16, 2013 — Mr. Dewar (Ottawa Centre) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of Bill C-486, An Act respecting corporate practices relating to the extraction, processing, purchase, trade and use of conflict minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
M-489 — Jan. 23, 2014 — Mr. Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington) — That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to consider the advisability of instituting a single, preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker by replacing Standing Order 4 with the following:
“4. The election of a Speaker shall be conducted by secret ballot as follows:
(1) Any Member who does not wish to be considered for election to the Office of Speaker shall, not later than 6:00 p.m. on the day preceding the day on which the election of a Speaker is expected to take place, in writing, so inform the Clerk of the House who shall prepare a list of such Members’ names together with a list of all Ministers of the Crown and party leaders, and shall provide the same to the Member presiding prior to the taking of the ballot.
(2) Members present in the Chamber shall be provided by the Clerk of the House with ballot papers, on which shall be listed, in alphabetical order, the names of all the Members whose names have not been placed on the list provided pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order.
(3) The Member presiding shall announce from the Chair that the list provided pursuant to section (1) of this Standing Order is available for consultation at the Table.
(4) Members wishing to indicate their choice for the Office of Speaker shall rank each candidate listed on the ballot in the Member’s order of preference by marking the number “1” in the space adjacent to the name of the candidate who is the Member’s first preference, the number “2” in the space adjacent to the name of the Member’s second preference and so on until the Member has completed the ranking of all the candidates for whom the Member wishes to vote.
(5) A ballot on which a Member has ranked one or more, but not all, of the candidates is valid only in respect of the candidate or candidates whom the member has ranked.
(6) Members shall deposit their completed ballot papers in a box provided for that purpose on the Table.
(7) The Clerk of the House shall, once all Members wishing to do so have deposited their ballot papers, count the number of first preferences recorded on the ballots for each candidate, and, if a candidate has received a majority of first preferences, provide the Member presiding with the name of that candidate, whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the name of the new Speaker.
(8) If, after the count referred to in section (7) of this Standing Order, no candidate has received a majority of first preferences, the Clerk of the House shall
(a) eliminate the candidate who received the least number of first preferences from any subsequent counts and, in the event that, at the conclusion of a count, there is an equality of votes between two or more candidates, both or all of whom have the fewest first preferences, eliminate all of the candidates for whom there is an equality of first preferences;
(b) in all subsequent counts, treat each second or lower preference as if it were a first preference for the next highest candidate in the order of preference who is not eliminated; and
(c) repeat the process of vote counting described in paragraphs (a) and (b) until one candidate has received a majority of first preferences, at which point the Clerk of the House shall provide the Member presiding with the name of that candidate, whereupon the Member presiding shall announce the name of the new Speaker.
(9) Every ballot shall be considered in every count, unless it is exhausted in accordance with section (10) of this Standing Order.
(10) A ballot is exhausted when all the candidates on that ballot in respect of which a preference has been made are eliminated.
(11) In the event that, after all other candidates have been eliminated, the process of vote counting has resulted in an equality of largest number of first preferences between two or more candidates, Members present in the Chamber shall be provided by the Clerk of the House with ballot papers, on which shall be listed, in alphabetical order, the names of all candidates who have not been eliminated, and the vote shall proceed in like manner as the first vote.
(12) After a Speaker has been declared elected, the Clerk of the House shall destroy the ballots together with all records of the number of preferences marked for each candidate and the Clerk of the House shall in no way divulge the number of preferences marked for any candidate.
(13) During the election of a Speaker there shall be no debate and the Member presiding shall not be permitted to entertain any question of privilege.”;
and report its finding to the House no later than six months following the adoption of this order.
C-571 — Jan. 29, 2014 — Mr. Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior) — Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Health of Bill C-571, An Act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act (slaughter of equines for human consumption).
M-456 — Oct. 21, 2013 — Mr. Angus (Timmins—James Bay) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should establish a Pan-Canadian Palliative and End-of-life Care Strategy by working with provinces and territories on a flexible, integrated model of palliative care that: (a) takes into account the geographic, regional, and cultural diversity of urban and rural Canada; (b) respects the cultural, spiritual and familial needs of Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis people; and (c) has the goal of (i) ensuring all Canadians have access to high quality home-based and hospice palliative end-of-life care, (ii) providing more support for caregivers, (iii) improving the quality and consistency of home and hospice palliative end-of-life care in Canada, (iv) encouraging Canadians to discuss and plan for end-of-life care.