Inside Politics

15 new MP-sponsored bills, motions on House priority list

As reported last week, 15 lucky MPs, including New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair, are about to be promoted to the private members' business priority list, which is scheduled to undergo one of its semi-regular updates, known within parliamentary circles as 'replenishment,' on Wednesday afternoon. 

Some of the highlights of the next batch of bills and motions headed for the House floor: 

Following last weekend's news that the government will now require warning labels for tanning equipment, Conservative backbench MP James Bezan has abandoned his long-standing private members' bill that would have also banned the use of such services by under-18s. 

Instead, both he and his Conservative caucus colleague David Sweet will continue the governing party's unofficial tradition of using private members' business to bring forward comparatively minor - and occasionally questionably Charter-proof -- law-and-order initiatives. 

Bezan will bring forward a bill to "increase parole ineligibility" by giving judges the power to impose longer waiting times for parole hearings -- up to 40 years, in cases of truly heinous offences, while Sweet hopes to further ensure "fairness for victims" at parole stage with a series of amendments to give concerned parties a bigger role in the process. 

Conservative Phil McColeman, meanwhile, has apparently chosen to break the trend; instead of coming up with still more ways to make life just a little bit more unpleasant for involuntary guests of Her Majesty, he plans to put forward a non-binding resolution on the labour market for disabled workers.

Also making it in under the replenishment wire: New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair, whose bid to boost the power of the parliamentary budget officer will be unveiled in the House tomorrow.  

Other precedent list-bound NDP bills: Francois Pilon's plan to tweak the Old Age Security Act to provide for funeral arrangement without incurring any additional cost on the treasury, and Charmaine Borg's move to strengthen the power of the privacy commissioner. 

Meanwhile, Liberal MP John McKay intends to continue his efforts to impose greater transparency on Canadian resource companies with overseas mining operations. 

Moving on to the flurry of motions headed for the House agenda, only two of those currently up for consideration would be binding if passed: 

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart's bid to set up an electronic petition system for the Commons that would include "the possibility" of triggering a House debate, if a certain number of signatures were received and no fewer than five members of the House were willing to act as sponsors, and Conservative backbencher Brad Trost's pitch to put committee chair elections to a preferential ballot in the House of Commons., 

Given the relative lack of success that opposition members have had in passing even seemingly non-contentious requests for Commons consent, it seems unlikely that Stewart's e-petition pitch will manage to attract enough support from the Conservative backbench to make it to committee, although it's worth noting that Trost, at least, has signed onto as a seconder -- the only MP from outside the NDP caucus to do so, at least at press time. 

As for Trost's proposal to strip the government of its current control over who wields the gavel at committee,  his Conservative credentials likely won't be enough to assure him the same cabinet support that Bezan and Sweet will almost certainly enjoy. 

Meanwhile, non-binding though it may be, Conservative MP Mark Warawa's bid to "condemn discrimination against females occuring through sex-selective pregnancy termination" will almost certainly command considerably more public attention than most private members' business -- not to mention provide fresh fodder for those who believe his party is seeking to restrict abortion through the back door.

Introduced in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of fellow Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's high-profile campaign to critically examine the Criminal Code definition of 'human being,' Warawa's motion, if passed, would simply express the will of the Commons, with no obligation on the government to actually do anything in response.

Even so, word in the back corridors is that the Prime Minister's Office may have M-408 in its sights, which could lead to another very visible caucus split when it goes to a vote. 

Over the coming weeks and/or months, the House will also debate Liberal MP Judy Foote's case for a "full review" of the Last Post fund (M-422), her fellow Newfoundlander and caucus colleague Gerry Byrne's appeal for action on the enrollment and registration of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band, and pleas from Conservative MPs Mike Wallace and Dean Allison that the government recognize the serious health risks posed by obesity (M-425) and anaphylaxis (M-230). 

A few things to keep in mind before finalizing your must-watch list for the upcoming PMB cycle: Before being added to the schedule, all private members' business must go before a House subcommittee, which will determine whether they will be deemed votable. 

Although those deemed non-votable can still be brought forward for debate, most MPs faced with such a ruling will drop the original item and choose another one from the list. Those truly committed to their original initiative, however, can challenge the decision of the subcommittee, which ultimately leads to a secret ballot vote in the House on whether or not to overturn it. 

The speaker will also be called upon to rule out of order any bills or motions that would "impose a cost on the treasury" without a ministerial co-signor.

Finally, as pointed out earlier, there's always the possibility that an MP could change his or her mind between now and Wednesday's refresh. If I hear anything to that effect, I'll post an update.

With those procedural caveats out of the way, here's the full list of pending private members' business as it stands right now:

Private members' bills 

Charmaine Borg (NDP) C-475 An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (order-making power) 
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to, among other things, give the Privacy Commissioner the power to make compliance orders and the Federal Court the power to impose fines in cases of non-compliance."

David Sweet (Conservative) - C-479 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (fairness for victims)
LegisInfo Summary: "The purpose of this enactment is to amend Part II of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in respect of the following matters:
(a) the parole review of offenders who are serving a sentence of at least two years for an offence involving violence;
(b) the attendance of victims and members of their family at parole review hearings;
(c) the consideration of victims' statements by the National Parole Board when making a determination regarding the release of an offender;
(d) the manner of presentation of victims' statements at a parole review hearing;
(e) the providing of information under consideration by the Board to a victim;
(f) the cancellation of a parole review hearing if an offender has repeatedly refused to attend, or waived his or her right to attend, previous hearings;
(g) the providing of transcripts of a parole review hearing to the victim and members of their family and the offender; and
(h) the notification of victims if an offender is to be released on temporary absence, parole or statutory release."

John McKay (Liberal) - C-474 An Act respecting the promotion of financial transparency, improved accountability and long-term economic sustainability through the public reporting of payments made by mining, oil and gas corporations to foreign governments 
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment requires mining, oil and gas corporations to submit annual transparency reports that disclose all payments provided by them or their subsidiaries to a foreign government for the purpose of furthering mining, oil or gas industry activities. It also makes it an offence to fail to comply with this requirement and establishes a penalty for such contravention." 

Anne-Marie Day (NDP) C-473 - An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation) 
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment amends the Financial Administration Act to achieve balanced representation in the number of women and men serving as directors on boards of parent Crown corporations by establishing the minimum proportion of each sex on those boards" 

James Bezan (Conservative) C-478 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (increasing parole ineligibility)
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of the abduction, sexual assault and murder of one victim is to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole until the person has served a sentence of between twenty-five and forty years as determined by the presiding judge after considering the recommendation, if any, of the jury." 

Francois Pilon (NDP) C-480 An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (funeral arrangements)
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment amends the Old Age Security Act to exclude from the calculation of income, for the purposes of the monthly guaranteed income supplement, the lesser of the amount of benefits received from a registered retirement savings plan or a registered retirement income fund and the amount -- not exceeding $2,500 -- paid to or under an eligible funeral arrangement.

Tom Mulcair (NDP) C-476 An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Budget Officer)
LegisInfo Summary: "This enactment provides for the appointment of the Parliamentary Budget Officer as an officer of Parliament."

Private members' motions

Gerry Byrne (Liberal) 
M-432 -- February 27, 2013 -- Mr. Byrne (Humber--St. Barbe--Baie Verte) -- That, in the opinion of this House, in relation to the enrollment and registration process for the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band, the government should commit: (a) to completing the enrollment and registration process for all applicants who applied on or before November 30, 2012 by agreeing to extend the 2007 Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band beyond March 21, 2013 until all such applications are processed; (b) to ensuring that the rules of eligibility for membership are followed by all government decision makers in any continuation of the enrollment process; (c) that all previous interpretations, precedents and rulings on matters affecting enrollment that were not specifically addressed within the 2007 Agreement but were established instead through the records of decisions made by the Enrollment Committee and the Appeals Master be made known to all participants in any future enrollment process and that the decision makers in any future enrollment process be instructed to guide their decisions in a manner consistent with such previous interpretations, precedents and rulings; (d) that the same standard of evidence as well as the same thresholds for the quantity and quality of information that was previously deemed acceptable by the Enrollment Committee for the remaining 75,000 unprocessed applications to the Band; (e) that an independent Appeals Master will continue to be employed in any future enrollment process for the assessment of the remaining 75,000 applicants and that this person will be drawn from outside of government, from outside of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and from outside of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band and that this Appeal Master will be vested with the same powers and authority and be drawn from the same legal and administrative background as the previous Appeals Master to ensure consistency with the rules and standards established under the previous enrollment process; (f) to maintaining all existing memberships, except in cases where fraud can be established that is material to the application; and (g) to ensuring that no eligible applicant who submitted an application in good faith prior to the November 30, 2012 deadline is disenfranchised from enrollment.

Mark Warawa (Conservative)
M-408 -- September 26, 2012 -- Mr. Warawa (Langley) -- That the House condemn discrimination against females occuring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.

Judy Foote (Liberal)
M-422 -- January 30, 2013 -- Ms. Foote (Random--Burin--St. George's) -- That, in the opinion of the House, the Last Post Fund is currently underfunded and excludes deserving veterans causing unnecessary stress and hardship to families of veterans, and that the House call on the government to do the following: (a) accept the recommendations of successive Veteran Ombudsmens' calling for expanded and enhanced financial access to the Last Post Fund; (b) accept the advice from the Royal Canadian Legion made in the years 2008, 2010, and 2012 calling for expanded access and financial support for the Last Post Fund; (c) accept three year old advice from departmental officials to expand and enhance financial access to the Last Post Fund; (d) review the Last Post Fund's current burial assistance cap of $3,600 with the goal to establish a standard consistent with burial assistance provided to current members of the Canadian Forces; (e) review the "means tested" standard applied to the Last Post Fund that currently excludes many veterans with the goal to improve and lower the qualification standard to access the Fund; and (f) provide stable long term funding to the Last Post Fund with consideration given to establish a financial escalator tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Dean Allison (Conservative)
M-230 -- June 15, 2011 -- Mr. Allison (Niagara West--Glanbrook) -- That, in the opinion of the House, anaphylaxis is a serious concern for an increasing number of Canadians and the government should take the appropriate measures necessary to ensure these Canadians are able to maintain a high quality of life.

Mike Wallace (Conservative)
M-425 -- February 6, 2013 -- Mr. Wallace (Burlington) -- That, in the opinion of the House, the government should continue to: (a) recognize the long-term health risks and costs of obesity in Canada; (b) support, promote and fund organizations and individuals who are involved in the physical well-being of Canadians; and (c) make the reduction of obesity of Canadians a public health priority.

Kennedy Stewart (New Democrat)
M-428 -- February 13, 2013 -- Mr. Stewart (Burnaby--Douglas) -- That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to recommend changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions governing petitions so as to establish an electronic petitioning system that would enhance the current paper-based petitions system by allowing Canadians to sign petitions electronically, and to consider, among other things, (i) the possibility to trigger a debate in the House of Commons outside of current sitting hours when a certain threshold of signatures is reached, (ii) the necessity for no fewer than five Members of Parliament to sponsor the e-petition and to table it in the House once a time limit to collect signatures is reached, (iii) the study made in the 38th Parliament regarding e-petitions, and that the Committee report its findings to the House, with proposed changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions governing petitions, within 12 months of the adoption of this order.

Phil McColeman (Conservative) 
M-430 -- February 25, 2013 -- Mr. McColeman (Brant) -- That, in the opinion of the House, the government should endorse the report of the Panel on Labour Market Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities entitled "Rethinking disAbility in the Private Sector", and its findings, and commit to furthering public-private cooperation by: (a) building on existing government initiatives, such as the Opportunities Fund, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, the ratification of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities; (b) issuing a call to action for Canadian employers to examine the expert panel's findings and encouraging employers to take advantage of private sector-led initiatives to increase employment levels for persons with disabilities in Canada; (c) pursuing greater accountability and coordination of its labour market funding for persons with disabilities and ensuring that funding is demand driven and focussed on suitable performance indicators with strong demonstrable results; (d) establishing an increased focus on young people with disabilities to include support mechanisms specifically targeted at increasing employment levels among youth with disabilities, through programs such as the Youth Employment Strategy; and (e) strengthening efforts to identify existing innovative approaches to increasing the employment of persons with disabilities occurring in communities across Canada and ensuring that programs have the flexibility to help replicate such approaches.

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