My first official day in the House of Commons
I had a very busy and exciting second week in Ottawa. I was officially sworn in as the Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith on May 27th at 10 am.
As soon as the ceremony was complete I was given a stack of briefing notes and documents and asked to attend the committee doing a line-by-line reading of Bill C-97, an Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures. Elizabeth and her team had submitted a series of amendments to the bill for the Green Party and I spoke to three of those amendments when they came up in the examination of the bill. We succeeded in getting one of the three passed.
Just before Question Period started, I was led into the House of Commons by Elizabeth May to a standing ovation.
Three opportunities to speak to the House of Commons on the first day!
During Question period, I asked the government if it was prepared to take emergency action to help people in crisis with affordable housing under the national housing strategy. The most vulnerable people in our community, people with disabilities, low income seniors and single parent families are the ones who are hit hardest by the housing affordability crisis. Jean-Yves Duclos, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, responded favorably, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Adam Vaughan spoke to me about possible actions and things to look into for our community.
Later that same day I joined the debate on the Liberal motion on the climate change emergency and asked why the targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions were not being increased from the targets set by the Harper government. I later asked whether the new coast vessels that are being proposed would be designed to be zero emission. We have Canadian companies whose innovative technology is being implemented in Europe and it would be good to see this kind of technology used for government funded projects such as the Coast Guard vessels being proposed.
Reception of the Canadian Medical Association
On Monday evening, I went to a reception of the Canadian Medical Association and met Dr. Sandy Buchman, the new president of the CMA. We had an interesting discussion about the effect of climate change on health and in particular mental health. The fires, floods and severe storms are having a psychological impact on the people who are affected and this is often not considered in the discussion around climate change.
Debate on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act
On Tuesday, I was again in the House of Commons for debate of various bills and for Question Period. I asked a question during debate of Bill C-81 the Accessible Canada Act. Disability advocacy groups have asked for changes to the legislation to strengthen it. I quoted my friends from the Nanaimo Self-Advocates “Nothing about us without us.” And suggested that the legislation be improved in the future.
ImagiNation and UFCW Receptions
That evening, I attended two receptions. One for the ImagiNation Celebration (Paralympic Foundation of Canada) where I met with Quebec Senator and Canadian wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc. I also met a number of the Paralympic athletes including curling champion Jon Thurston. The second reception was for the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers). The UFCW represent workers in a wide variety of service industries.After the receptions, I returned to the House of Commons for the evening session and stayed until adjournment at midnight. Earlier that day there was a vote for time allocation to keep the House sitting until midnight from May 28th until the end of the session.
Opportunities and Learning the Ropes
On Wednesday morning the house wasn’t sitting so I took part in a political panel hosted by CASA, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, to discuss how political parties can engage youth and increase voter turnout among students and youth.
I continued the orientation sessions available to new members of parliament. I had a staff member, Margot, start on Tuesday and we did the session together to learn more about HR and finance in our new roles.
In the afternoon, I met with legislative services to go over a private members bill I am developing about affordable housing. There will not likely be time to develop and table the bill before the end of this legislative session but I will have it ready to table in the fall if I am successful in being re-elected. There is a lottery system to determine which MPs get time to speak and present bills in the House of Commons when the new session begins, and I want to be prepared if my number comes up. After this meeting I attended Question Period and sat in the debates over various bills and motions in the House.
Galas and a Dinner Meeting
In the evening I attended several galas with Elizabeth and had a chance to meet Gordon Lightfoot. At the Ottawa Riverkeeper gala former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin became the honorary Riverkeeper for the year. We attended an all-party dinner meeting with members of the technology and legal communities who are concerned about the growing anti-democratic nature of social media and internet companies and their platforms – Google, Facebook, Youtube etc. The event was hosted by Jim Balsillie, the founder of research in Motion (Blackberry). Roger McNamee, the author of Zucked, a critical analysis of Facebook was also at the event.
My New Parliamentary Office
On Thursday morning, I finally got the keys to my new office, 313 Confederation Building. My father Jim Manly had an office in the same building when he was an MP from 1980 to 1988. When I was going to high-school in downtown Ottawa, I would sometimes stop by for lunch and then attend question period. Confederation building is one of the parliamentary precinct buildings that has not been renovated yet so it still looks the same as it did in the 1980’s.
Meetings on Killer Robots, the Right to Housing, and Chinese State Acquisition of Sensitive Canadian Businesses
I joined a lunchtime conversation to hear a panel of experts on autonomous weapons - killer robots. Canada is a world leader in robotics and artificial intelligence. We need to take leadership on the ethics of developing and deploying these weapons for the sake of humanity. It was a very interesting session.
In the afternoon, Elizabeth and I had a meeting with Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing. We discussed the right to housing in Canada and had a discussion about the situation in Nanaimo-Ladysmith in particular. I am hoping she is able to pay a visit to our community this summer.
We also met with representatives of UNITE HERE, the union that represents many seniors care and hotel workers. They were concerned about the purchase of Retirement Concepts by Anbang (a Chinese company that has been taken over by the Chinese government and is now a state-owned corporation), and the acquisition of InnVest Hotels (Canada’s largest hotel owner) by Bluesky Hotels, which is owned by a numbered company suspected of being owned by the Chinese state. Unite Here is concerned about privacy and security of the data these companies collect on patients and hotel guests. They cited the cyber attack against Marriott hotels which compromised the information of nearly 500 million hotel guests over a four year period. The cyber attack had been traced to hackers working for China’s Ministry of Security.
Tabling a Petition on Equal Treatment of Women in the Workplace
Later that day I tabled a petition that calls upon the government to implement legislation and policies that promote the equal treatment of women in the workplace.