From the House – John Rafferty MP

The first week back in Ottawa was a very busy one.  Before it gets too far along, I want to use the column this week to tell you about some relevant bills and motions that are coming up for debate in this fall session of parliament.

In each session of parliament a number of government bills are put forward for debate as well as numerous Private Members’ Bills and motions.  This Conservative government tends to hold its cards very close to its chest, so we get very little notice about the bills they put forth.  Private Members’ Bills though must go through a long and drawn out process, so we know what is coming far ahead of time.  For that reason I will focus on three of those bills and motions, known as PMB’s.

The first and probably highest profile PMB of the session was C-391.  That bill was tabled by Conservative MP Candace Hoeppner and would have abolished the Long Gun Registry had it passed two more votes this month.  In the end, C-391 was defeated on the first of those votes by the narrowest of margins (153-151).

My opposition to the Long Gun Registry is fairly well known throughout our riding, but the single most important factor that determined my vote on C-391 was your collective opinion on the subject.

The people of our riding made their opinion on C-391 clear through a riding wide survey that I conducted during the March to May period of 2009.  During that period of time my office sent out more than 35,000 surveys to households in our riding.  When the responses were tallied a full 96 percent of the respondents supported abolishing the Long Gun Registry, and it was because of that result that I cast my vote in favour of C-391 and in support of the abolition of the Long Gun Registry in that final vote.  Unfortunately, the majority of the House of Commons did not agree with our shared position, so the Long Gun Registry remains a part of our lives for the time being.

With the end of the debate on C-391 my attention is now shifting to other important bills and motion before the House of Commons.  One such motion comes from the representative of our electoral neighbours to the north.  Greg Rickford, the MP from Kenora, has tabled motion M-519 pertaining to the environmental and ecological status of the Lake of the Woods.

The actual wording of M-519 is too long to include in this space, but this non-binding and non-enforceable motion would indicate that it is the will of Parliament to refer the matter of the ecological and environmental health of the Lake of the Woods to the International Joint Commission (IJC) so that it could provide examination, reporting, and recommendations about the health of the body to the Canadian and US governments.  The IJC is bi-national body established by Canada and the United States more than 100 years ago to work on the preservation and maintenance of watersheds that are shared by the two countries such as the Great Lakes.

The effectiveness of Mr. Rickford’s non-binding M-519 is symbolic since agreements to refer watersheds to the IJC require the formal support of both federal governments and every affected state and province.  In the case of the Lake of the Woods, this process had been ongoing for more than a decade and Minnesota, Ontario, and the United States have already signed on to the agreement.  Late as it is though, Mr. Rickford’s non-binding motion should add some symbolic support to the process, and I expect that it will pass when it does finally come to a vote.

Last, but definitely not least, my own bill C-501 is set to be examined at the Industry, Science and Technology Committee some time later this fall.  My staff and I are in the process of drumming up public support for the bill (especially in Liberal and Conservative held ridings), formulating a witness list for those hearings, and generating media awareness and coverage of the bill.

These are just three of the bills and motions that I have identified as priorities for my work this fall session.  There will of course be others, especially as the federal government moves forward with itsown legislative agenda, so I will you keep you informed and let you know how things are proceeding on both of these bills as they move forward.