Members of Parliament are getting ready to pack up and leave for the holiday vacation on Friday. Parliament will resume in January. However, the impending holidays didn't slow down the discussion in House of Commons this week, as MPs tackled major issues that will surely be re-assessed in the new year.
As we enter 2015, an election year, the major parties are sure to kick into pre-election mode. In the meantime, here's a roundup of the big issues in the House of Commons this week.
- On Thursday Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre tabled a bill that is a follow up to his contentious Fair Elections Act. Its vague title (the Citizen Voting Act) left many in political circles wondering about the goal of the bill, especially with the conviction of Michael Sona still fresh in everyone's memory. However, it turns out that this bill only applies to voters outside Canada. It will require ID and and additional registration requirements.
- A contentious issue discussed throughout this week was the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act. Capitalizing on the October shootings in Ottawa, the Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney, introduced the bill to strengthen CSIS's powers. This week, the House moved to amend certain clauses to the bill, namely those that could pose a threat to Charter rights. Opposition MPs, such as Green MP Bruce Hyer, strongly believe that the bill is being pushed through by the Conservatives without a thorough reading and debate. The committee only had four hours scheduled for hearing witnesses, the Minister, and officials from the Department of Public Safety. Expect a long debate on this one.
- On Tuesday, in a rare answer to a question on the environment, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the regulation of oil and gas "a crazy economic policy." In the meantime, in Lima, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq addressed the UN climate conference, reiterating that Canada is taking a sector-by-sector approach to greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Canada released its annual report on the state of the environment which showed that Canada will not be able to reach its greenhouse gas emissions target set in Copenhagen in 2009.
- Minister of Employment Jason Kenney told The Globe and Mail that 400 new public sector jobs will be added to Employment and Social Development Canada to address the growing number of complaints about EI processing. In addition, Harper and opposition leaders sparred over the reduction of frontline workers at Veterans Affairs.
- The most recent budget implementation bill passed Wednesday. It includes cuts to security at airports and greater ministerial control over transportation. It also included the amendment to fiscal arrangements with provinces that limits social assistance to refugees. This, along with speculation around the 2015 budget, will continue to dominate discussion in the House after the break.
Other things to keep an eye out for include Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's repeated demands to meet with the Prime Minister, the relationship the government has with the Assembly of First Nations following the election of a new national chief, updates on the sexual harassment scandal on the Hill, pre-election stunts, and Canada's response to international crises.
Francella Fiallos is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at OPIRG-Carleton, edits a campus newspaper and hosts a radio show on CKCU 93.1 FM in the capital region.
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