Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Tracy Gray

COLUMN: MP Gray stands up to voice the importance of Parliament resuming responsibly

Kelowna - Lake Country MP Tracy Gray addresses House of Commons

It was an honour to stand in the House of Commons on behalf of the constituents in Kelowna-Lake Country on May 25 to debate an important motion that will set the path for Parliament for the upcoming months, and potentially years.

On March 13th, Parliament had its last regular sitting and Canadian democracy was put to the test. I was there that day, just after the pandemic was declared, as Parliament unanimously agreed to recess for five weeks. We then resumed a few times to pass legislation related to government programs created to address COVID-19. May 25 was the first full reconvened day of Parliament, with a reduced number of MPs. The government tabled legislation to recess Parliament again until late September, and continue with limited committees now meeting virtually as well as the special COVID-19 committee. One change would be that the COVID-19 committee would now have some members of parliament present in person in the House of Commons and some online, a “hybrid model”.

I spoke on the importance of re-establishing all committees (virtually) with their full powers. Committee work is valuable – bringing in experts, doing studies, and creating reports to government. It was proposed that only a few committees would continue, but will have more of their powers restored.

I also spoke about allowing Parliament to reconvene with a reduced number of MPs, just as we did on that day, May 25th. If MPs are going to physically be in the House of Commons to participate in the COVID-19 committee, Parliament can reconvene. The full powers of Parliament do not exist with this committee. In the current committee format, there is no regular debate, legislation, opposition days, private members bills, nor emergency debates. It is only asking questions.

I have heard from many constituents who want checks and balances in place to scrutinize government decisions. The Auditor General’s work (the arm’s length office that audits government spending) needs to be fully supported by the government, and we have yet to see this. My colleagues and I spoke about how we need to be sitting regularly with the full powers of Parliament with all committees to ensure we manage this crisis as a country as we move through recovery stages.

The work of Parliament is essential. We can develop new procedures, and protocols, in order to operate safely, like every industry and private or public sector organization is doing. No one is suggesting that 338 Members of Parliament be in the House of Commons. But I spoke about how normal and ongoing Parliamentary business, with a reduced number of MPs, must return just as legislatures all over the world and within our provinces are.

We need to govern. This is our democratic institution. Parliament matters.

Thank you for continuing to connect with me. Constituents continually bring constructive suggestions on how to improve or alter current support programs to ensure no business or Canadian who genuinely needs help falls through the cracks. For example, opposition efforts led to authorizing credit unions to deliver loans, reducing penalties for part-time workers, preventing new parents from losing benefits, and amending requirements for the Emergency Business Account loans for small businesses. Please reach out if you need assistance or have an idea. Some of our best ideas have come from you.

Please go to my website to see many statements, letters to Ministers, and other activities, and answer questionnaires to let me know your thoughts. Stay safe.

READ MORE: Tories want Parliament declared ‘essential service,’ regular House sittings

READ MORE: B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

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