Inside Politics

Missing in (parliamentary) action, Mulcair risks losing spot on private members' priority list

With just days to go before the much anticipated replenishment of the private members' priority list, New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is in danger of missing out on what will almost certainly be his only opportunity to present a bill to the House before the next federal election.

Mulcair is one of fifteen MPs slated for automatic promotion to the Order of Precedence, the list of bills and motions to be called during the daily private members' hour, which allows for a maximum of 30 items of business at any one time. 

When the list drops to 15 items, it is automatically refreshed by putting the next 15 MPs on the waiting list -- which is determined by lottery at the start of a new parliament -- into rotation for debate.

In order to get on the fast track, however, an MP must have at least one item of business on the Order Paper, which -- at least, at press time, and according to the latest list --the Leader of the Official Opposition does not, and if he doesn't rectify that situation before Wednesday afternoon, not only will he not be included in the replenishment, but his name will be removed from the list entirely. 

According to the speaker's office, the deadline for adding a private members' bill to the Order Paper is Monday evening, with one additional days' grace permitted for motions.

Unlike bills, motions are nearly always non-binding -- except when the contents constitute an instruction to the House, as was the case with the much-discussed M-312, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's proposal to establish a special committee to look into the Criminal Code definition of 'human being.'

Motions are also allotted just two hours of Chamber debate before being put to a final vote, which can make it a less attractive route for backbench government and opposition members alike.

They can, however, be far more sweeping in scope than bills -- like, for instance, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae's recent offering on First Nations issues -- which could make that an appealing option or a party leader, particularly one who may not want to commit the time necessary to shepherd a bill through the full parliamentary process -- committee, report stage, third reading and, if it makes it through the Commons intact, ultimately the Senate.

Mulcair isn't the only MP at risk of being passed over during the upcoming replenishment.

According to the Order Paper, four other MPs primed for promotion to the precedence list -- Conservatives David Sweet and Phil McColeman, New Democrat Francois Pilon, and Liberal Gerry Byrne -- currently have no pending business.

The lucky fifteen: 


  • Gerry Byrne (Liberal)
  • Mark Warawa (Conservative)
  • Charmaine Borg (New Democrat)
  • David Sweet (Conservative)
  • Judy Foote (Liberal)
  • Dean Allison (Conservative)
  • John McKay (Liberal)
  • Anne-Marie Day (New Democrat)
  • Brad Trost (Conservative)
  • James Bezan (Conservative)
  • Francois Pilon (New Democrat)
  • Thomas Mulcair (New Democrat)
  • Mike Wallace (Conservative)
  • Kennedy Stewart (New Democrat)
  • Phil McColeman (Conservative)

Note: I'll have more on what we can expect to see from the MPs not facing unceremonious deletion from the list in a subsequent post. 

In the meantime, I'll keep an eye on the notice list, and let you know what, if any, new business makes it in under the wire. 

Stay tuned! 

Tags: blackberry jungle, private members' business

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