Monday Dec. 2nd
On Monday I was sworn in as a member of the 43rd Parliament of Canada. The swearing in ceremony involves taking the oath before the Clerk of the House of Commons, and signing the test roll, which is a book all MPs sign that has the sworn oath printed at the top of each page.
My wife Samantha and my daughter Aven were in attendance, along with my dear friend and Green Party caucus leader Elizabeth May, and Interim Green Party of Canada leader JoAnn Roberts. My former campaign manager, and current chief-of-staff, Ilan Goldenblatt also joined me in Ottawa for a week, to attend my swearing in, join me for important caucus meetings, and to get acquainted with my newly hired Ottawa staff members: legislative assistant Deirdre O’Beirne-Rosaeg and members assistant Irene Brueckner-Irwin. We are all thrilled to have Deirdre and Irene join the team! My hill staff and constituency staff work closely together to serve the communities I represent.
Later that evening I attended a parliamentary reception commemorating World AIDS Day 2019 and Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. The event was hosted by the Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development, the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada.
Clockwise from top left:
Reta Lambert, retired senator and Métis elder
Inuk elder Sally Webster with the qulliq (blubber lamp)
Lindsay Sheridan, Parliamentary Officer for RESULTS Canada
Shauna Olney, Chief of Gender, Equality and Diversity & ILOAIDS Branch, International Labour Organization
Tuesday Dec. 3rd
On Tuesday morning my friend, mentor, and Green Party house leader Elizabeth May was sworn in as a member of the 43rd Parliament, her third term in office. It was an honour to be in attendance. I'm so grateful for all of the guidance and advice that Elizabeth gave me during my first months in office and I have so much more to learn from her.
There has been quite a bit of misunderstanding around Elizabeth's decision to step down as Green Party leader. People frequently ask me what we'll do without her, but she's still the MP for Saanich - Gulf Island and she's not going anywhere! I'm thankful to have her leadership and mentorship in the House of Commons, because there is so much to learn and I'm fortunate to be learning from the best!
Later that morning, MP Jenica Atwin, JoAnn Roberts and I met with representatives from the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. In our meeting we discussed our mutual goal of seeing a universal pharmacare plan implemented in Canada. We also talked about the healthcare implications and impacts of climate change.
Next up was a meeting with representatives from Inclusion BC. Our discussion focused on Right to Life safeguards for people with disabilities, especially people with intellectual disabilities, to ensure they are not at risk of being pressured into accessing MAiD due to feeling they may be a burden on their families. We also talked about employment programs for people with diverse abilities.
The week leading up to the start of a new parliamentary session is not something I’ve experienced before. There are a great many networking events to attend. I was only able to make it to a fraction of the ones I was invited to, but between our three caucus members we did our best to attend as many as possible within our schedules. On Tuesday evening I attended the Air Line Pilots Association reception and the Assembly of First Nations Parliamentary reception.
At the AFN Parliamentary Reception I met Grand Chief George Mackenzie of Tlicho First Nation, and Chief Gerry Cheezie of Smith's Landing First Nation. They talked with me about their opposition to the Teck Frontier mine. It's a topic of great concern that I recently wrote about and brought up during Question Period.
Wednesday Dec. 4th
Wednesday morning began with our first Green Party caucus press conference. We talked about the 25th Conference of the Parties in Madrid (COP25) and Canada's climate challenges.
In the afternoon our caucus met with representatives from member organizations of the Green Budget Coalition. The GBC have put out a publication with their recommendations for the 2020 Federal budget. The publication is extensive, but their two main priorities are climate action and the biodiversity crisis. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ducks Unlimited, Mining Watch Canada, The David Suzuki Foundation, and Environmental Defence. The issues discussed were many and varied:
The lack of transparency in amounts and scope of fossil fuel subsidies.
The need for Canada to follow the lead of the World Bank and make concrete plans to stop funding all fossil fuel projects within the next few years.
Accounting for carbon released due to the degradation of natural ecosystems.
The Natural Solutions Fund.
A push for energy efficient buildings.
Green public transit.
The expected land and water conservation targets of the new Liberal government.
On Wednesday evening MP Jenica Atwin and myself attended at dinner hosted by Eli Enns, co-chair of the Conservation 2020 Circle of Indigenous Experts. The focus of the event was Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs), which is a framework for protecting biodiversity and advancing reconciliation.
Wednesday concluded with the Maclean's Welcome to the Hill event at the National Arts Centre. Former prime minister Paul Martin presented a lifetime achievement award to Ethel Blondin-Andrew, former MP and cabinet minister who was the first Indigenous woman elected to the parliament of Canada. And I had the honour of meeting her!
Thursday Dec. 5th
On Thursday morning we were given our seat assignments in the House of Commons. MP Jenica Atwin and I were deskmates for one short day before the seating arrangments were changed. Now we're each sharing desks with very experienced MPs - me with Elizabeth May, and Jenica with Jody Wilson-Raybould. What better mentors could a couple of new MPs hope for?
Members of the House of Commons convened to cast their votes for the Speaker of the House. The Speaker is elected by ranked ballot and it is one of the only times that MPs cast a secret ballot. Liberal MP Anthony Rota was elected as Speaker.
Of course the big event on Thursday was the Speech from the Throne. As you can see from the video, there's a great deal of ceremony involved. The Speech from the Throne outlines the government's priorities and signals the official opening of the parliamentary session.
Note that the actual speech begins around the 50 minute mark.
Friday Dec. 6th
Our first day sitting in the House of Commons as the 43rd Parliament of Canada. My first statement was a reply to Andrew Sheer's response to the Speech from the Throne.
December 6th marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of 14 young women who were engineering students at École Polytechnique in Montreal. It was fitting that today I was able to present the following petition:
Mr. Speaker, on this day when we remember the lives of women who were murdered in a heinous terrorist act of misogyny, I would like to bring a petition forward to oppose gender discrimination and violence against women. The petitioners want the House of Commons to recognize that violence against women remains a critical problem in Canada that disproportionately impacts indigenous women, as reflected in the crisis of missing and murdered aboriginal women; that striving for pay equity and equal participation of women in leadership roles must be a political priority for all members of Parliament; and that shifting cultural attitudes toward women and gender minorities in our society requires cultural changes to our processes of education and socialization.
On Friday afternoon I had a meeting with members of the Ontario Legislative Internship Program. I learned that OLIP is a paid internship program that is open to Canadian citizens who have recently graduated from a Canadian university. OLIP accepts applicants from all across the country and those who are selected to participate gain valuable work experience through this non-partisan program.
Friday concluded with a remembrance vigil for the École Polytechnique victims:
Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.
Sunday Dec. 8th
I stopped by the Extinction Rebellion Climate Emergency camp near the war memorial in downtown Ottawa on Sunday to show my support, and in particular to recognize the efforts of Ann Cognito. Ann is a climate activist from Calgary who walked across Canada this year with her dog Mr. Myrtle, to hand deliver a letter to prime minister Justin Trudeau calling for real climate action. Ann is waiting for an appointment to deliver her letter but so far her requests have been denied. It's cold in Ottawa, hard weather for camping in. You can support Ann's efforts by signing her petition on Change.org.
While I was at the camp I also met Mia Beijer and Cecile Wilson from Future Rising Ottawa. FRO have been striking in front of the parliament buildings every Friday since March 1st. Meeting and talking with all of these dedicated climate activists was a very fitting conclusion to my first week in Ottawa.