From the House – John Rafferty MP


John Rafferty MPOTTAWA – This week in Ottawa was a week of mixed results and emotions in Ottawa.  First came a moment of progress and pride as my pension protection bill C-501 had two hours of hearings before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.   Unfortunately, a few hours later disappointment sent in when the Conservative government used their majority in the unelected and unaccountable Senate to kill a bill that was passed by a majority of MPs in the democratically elected House of Commons.

The best four hours of the week by a wide margin came during the pair of Industry Committee hearings on C-501.  During two separate two hour meetings the assembled committee of parliamentarians heard from witnesses ranging from pensioners, to economists, and bankruptcy experts about the effects of the my bill.  I believe the most effective witnesses were those pensioners and workers who travelled from across Canada to testify about why this bill is so needed.   A witness from our riding, Joe Hanlon of the United Steelworkers Local 2693 which represents many former Buchanan workers, was particularly effective in his testimony.  He pointed out that C-501 will ensure that termination and severance pay would also be secured as well as pensions, which many MPs tend to forget.  All in all, it was a great week for C-501 and I look forward to the final two hours of testimony next week.

But while I was very happy to see C-501 moving forward, I have to admit to being greatly disappointed by the morally bankrupt actions of the Conservative dominated Senate just a few hours later.   For those that don’t already know, Tuesday evening the Conservative dominated majority in the Senate voted down Bill C-311 without even so much as a debate or committee hearings.  C-311 known as the ‘Climate Change Accountability Act’ was tabled by my electoral neighbor and New Democrat colleague Bruce Hyer and passed by a majority of MPs in the elected House of Commons back in May.  Unfortunately, bill C-311 was brought to a snap vote by a Conservative Senator and defeated 43-32 with all Conservative senators opposed.

Regardless of how you may feel about the issue of climate change or C-311 in particular, you surely agree that the unelected, unaccountable Senate – stacked with failed Conservative and Liberal Party candidates, fundraisers, and personal friends of the current and past Prime Ministers – should never overturn a bill that is passed by a majority in the elected and accountable House of Commons.   Once upon a time the Senate was supposed to provide a “sober second thought” and compliment the work of the House of Commons which has traditionally meant that Senators examine bills in greater detail and recommend minor changes to be voted on in the House.  The defeat of C-311 in the Senate on a snap vote and without any debate whatsoever may have been the first such time in our country’s history that such an act has occurred.  Researchers are looking, but have yet to find such an affront to democracy in our country’s history.

Over the years, Mr. Harper and his Conservatives have spent a great deal of time complaining that the “un-elected Liberal Senate” was holding up their agenda.   In fact, not so long ago Stephen Harper was quoted as saying that he would “never appoint unelected and unaccountable Senators” as Prime Minister.   Unfortunately, since winning power Mr. Harper has made 35 such appointments – just enough to give him a majority in the unelected and unelected Senate Chamber.   What would Mr. Harper have said three years ago if those darn Liberal Senators actually defeated one of his bills like his Senators did to C-311?   Congratulations Mr. Harper; on the issue of the Senate and Senate reform you are now officially worse than the Liberals.  Not an easy feat, but you did it.

So as you can see it was interesting week in Ottawa.  C-501 is moving forward and hope remains that we can get something done to protect the termination, severance, and pensions of workers who enter bankruptcy.  On the flipside, democracy in a broader sense suffered a huge setback at the hands of Mr. Harper’s unelected and unaccountable Conservative Senators.  I hope in the coming weeks that we can continue to make more progress on C-501 in committee and that Mr. Harper can give his head a shake and try to find out what has happened to those values of accountability and democracy that he used to hold so dear.

John Rafferty MP

Thunder Bay Rainy River

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