Four-day Parliament work week not finding support in Windsor-Essex

A proposal to eliminate Friday sittings from the House of Commons is not finding much support in Windsor and Essex County.
Tracey Ramsey, NDP MP for Essex says she does not support eliminating Friday sittings in the House of Commons. (Amy Dodge )

A proposal to eliminate Friday sittings from the House of Commons is not finding much support in Windsor and Essex County.

All three area MPs and the longtime former MP for Essex have spoken out against the plan, saying Parliament needs to meet five days a week.

"I don't think taking Fridays off is the answer," said Tracey Ramsey, the NDP MP for Essex. "I was elected to go to Ottawa and work Monday to Friday and fight as hard as I can for the people of Essex."

"To have that day taken away is less time I'm able to rise, ask questions of the government and debate. [Taking Fridays off] doesn't speak to me to be more family-friendly," Ramsey said.

Ramsey's position comes as Windsor West MP Brian Masse also spoke out against the idea.  He said eliminating Friday sittings wouldn't make things better for MPs trying to be with their families.

"It wouldn't improve things as they currently stand. And it could actually create more complications as well," Masse told CBC News Monday.

Masse coaches his kids and makes a point of coming home to Windsor whenever he can. By eliminating Fridays, it may mean later hours during the week, which would hurt family time in other ways, Masse said.  

Heavy workload on Parliament Hill

The idea for a four-day workweek comes as a House of Commons parliamentary committee studies how to make life easier for Members of Parliament with young families and how to entice more young people to consider running for Parliament.

Some MPs have to travel great distances to get home to their ridings. Some, like Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, have been outspoken on the importance of making time for their families.

A study by Canada's Library of Parliament suggests there are fewer jobs with longer hours and greater stress than that of an MP. Another study pegs divorce rates for Members of Parliament at 85 per cent.

All political parties have been asked to consider ending Friday sittings at Parliament and moving the workload earlier in the week, that way parliamentarians can get home to their constituencies for the weekend.

Jeff Watson, who represented Essex for 11 years before losing his seat in the last election, also supports keeping Friday sittings.

Jeff Watson says he thinks MPs can make personal decisions that help them carve family time out of a busy schedule. (Mike Evans/CBC)

He said being a parliamentarian is a difficult job, but his family was able to make it work by accepting a shared sacrifice. He didn't take evening meetings and his family made the decision to live in Ottawa and commute together to Windsor in their SUV.

"You look to do things to carve out the time you need while you do the service," Watson said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning. "[Ending Friday sittings] would be a net loss in the accountability of government and I think that is the wrong trend."

He said some other measures, like ending night votes in the House of Commons are working. But ultimately it comes down to the members themselves deciding the make their families a priority.

"We can make a lot of the decisions that help us divorce-proof our marriages, spend time with the kids and still do the accountability and service," he said.


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