House Call with Carol Hughes

A few items to watch as parliament resumes this month

In the same way that September marks a return to school, it also marks the return of Parliament. In a few weeks MPs will return to Ottawa to resume debate on numerous issues. Some of these will pop up daily and can’t truly be foreseen, but others have been brewing over the summer-or for years- and are set to claim their share of the parliamentary calendar. While this might not be as exciting as the presidential race in the United States for some, there are still big political expectations to be met in Canada.

Among the most pressing issues will be related to First Nations. It’s no secret that many of these communities are behind the eight ball on many fronts, but the government’s promise to close the funding gap for education remains unfinished business. With nearly a billion dollars over four years sliding off the table for K-12 education, many say that the election promises have been watered down. In addition to that, the two percent funding cap that hobbled education for First Nations students over 20 plus years is still in place for post-secondary education. In short, much remains undone.

Expect to hear a lot about electoral reform too. That committee spent the summer hearing testimonies and will report to parliament on December 1 in anticipation that the government will quickly follow up with legislation if there is any hope of making changes in time for the next federal election. Those of you who have been following the electoral reform discussions may remember that the government adopted a New Democrat proposal to add members to the committee based on percentage of popular vote.

Another issue that may well erupt again this fall will be that of the Physician Assisted Dying legislation which was nothing short of controversial when it was debated last year. Despite consistent calls from advocates and parliamentarians, the government chose to push their version of the legislation through setting aside several of the suggested recommendations which were included in the comprehensive report from a committee the government had struck to guide them through a court-ordered process. At that time, we recognized that this would pose a challenge to the government and that it would likely be heading to the courts. Now that a 70-year-old Quebec woman with MS died this summer, going without food or water for 14 days because her case slipped through the cracks of the legislation, expect this issue to heat up again.

As I mentioned at the outset, these are not the only issues that will be before parliament this fall, but the kinds that crop up daily are simply unforeseeable. In addition to that the government  will provide their own legislative agenda. Additional items such as the ongoing inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women will also claim their share of political discourse as will the economy, environment, and pocket-book issues. It promises to be an eventful autumn for parliamentarians and those Canadians who like to keep up with the debate in Parliament.