'Parliament is working better than ever right now' - Macleans.ca

‘Parliament is working better than ever right now’

Peter Van Loan heralds the health of our Westminster system


In marking the end of the fall sitting of Parliament, Government House leader Peter Van Loan seemed keen to celebrate the private members’ bills that had achieved royal assent over the last two years. Here is how he put it to reporters.

… We’re also demonstrating an empowered Members of Parliament who have delivered the most private members bills to royal assent ever in Canadian history of a substantive nature.

They aren’t bills like they used to be in the olden days that simply changed the name of a constituency but rather they’re bills that change the Criminal Code, that tear down interprovincial trade barriers, that make real substantive changes to the laws of the land to advance Members of Parliaments local interests. That’s something I think we can all be proud of and shows how Parliament is working better than ever right now.

And here is how he and the government put it in the official release.

In fact, this Parliament, has seen a record number of substantive private Members’ bills become law. Already, 19 have achieved Royal Assent on subjects ranging from tackling crime to removing interprovincial trade barriers.

“On top of everything we have accomplished, this year in Parliament has also been marked by an unprecedented level of individual Members of Parliament bringing forward and passing ideas which are very important to them and their constituents,” concluded Minister Van Loan.

This might come as some surprise to the Justice Minister.

Here is the official parliamentary record of private members’ bills that have passed both chambers. Sixteen of the bills passed in this Parliament (going back to 2011) were tabled by Conservative MPs.

C-475, C-464, C-442, C-419, C-383, C-321, C-313, C-311, C-310 and C-278 passed the House unanimously. C-370 drew one nay. C-300 drew three nays (presumably, I’m guessing, because the Bloc rejects all national things). Third reading votes on C-316, C-299, C-293 and C-288 broke entirely along party lines. C-268, C-304 and C-309 drew some dissent from the party lines.

So some number of private members’ bills are getting through Parliament. And yet still it would seem to require a brave man to proclaim, after these 12 months, that Parliament is working better than ever. Or perhaps “better than ever” is faint praise.

Meanwhile, Mr. Van Loan was reluctant to comment on the Reform Act.