Time for Parliament to lead the way on a New Normal

By: Laura Steiner

54- that’s how many days the Parliament of Canada has sat since June, 2019. There hasn’t been that much business done in that time. It comes as a bit of a surprise that the NDP agreed to the Liberals’ demands to suspend regular sittings in exchange for legislation on 10 days worth of mandatory sick leave.

All spending legislation associated with COVID-19 has been approved. Outside of legislation related to the pandemic? The list is headlined by a reworked North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law on March 13, 2020, but that’s pretty much about it.

There are bills representing key parts of the Trudeau government’s agenda still in progress. Legislation amending the citizenship act to include reference to First Nations as mentioned in the truth and reconciliation commission has only reached second reading. Legislation that would expand access to Medical Assistance in Dying is also on second reading. The last session dealing with that was February 27. The ban on Conversion Therapy? That was given first reading March 9, 2020. There is no mention of legislation on the firearms’ ban announced to fanfare last month, or even a hint of next steps on a Pharmacare plan. When parliament is suspended a lot of this legislation will have to be reintroduced, and start the legislative process over again after it resumes.

COVID19 has affected every aspect of Canadian life from the way we work and socialize, to the way we give to charities. Parliament is not immune to this, as noted with the hybrid sitting model. An all-consuming focus on the crisis was necessary at first, as was a willingness to do whatever is needed to help Canadians.

But it’s been almost three months. Governing by press conference is becoming tiresome. And it’s unfair both to the press, who have been thrust into the role unofficial opposition, and to the democratic institutions MP’s represent. The worst of the crisis has passed, and there’s a full agenda. It’s time to get back to work in the new normal.