This past Thursday, the House of Commons saw a couple of noteworthy things. First of all, NDP MP Dawn Black gave her farewell address to the House, even though Friday the 3rd was her actual last day in the chamber, as she will officially resign her seat by April 13th in order to run in the provincial election in BC.
MPs from all parties stood to speak of their profound respect for Black, and her many accomplishments in her many years of service. And while she may no longer need to take those long flights between Ottawa and BC, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh – a former NDP Premier from the province – said that she may not find BC politics any quieter than it is in Ottawa, characterising the province’s political scene as a “blood sport.” Nevertheless, Black was always an engaging MP, and it was refreshing to have a female face on the Defence committee who would speak to the issues in the media.
Immediately thereafter, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, “reformed” homophobe Tom Lukiwski, rose to challenge the validity of Bill C-304 without a royal recommendation. C-304 is Libby Davies’ Private Members’ Bill on housing, and a royal recommendation means that it is basically a bill that would authorise the government to spend funds on it – something Davies had repeatedly said she was avoiding in the drafting of the bill in order to avoid this very scenario. The Speaker has said that he will study the issue, and report back to the House at a later date.
Shortly thereafter, debate began on C-304, where Davies kicked off second reading. Liberal Andrew Kania said that he will be supporting the bill in at reach getting to committee, and it might be assumed that the rest of the Liberals might also be giving their support. Remember that second reading is a vote on the bill in principle, and that the details will get sorted out in the committee stage, so if it passes in principle, it means that it’s usually assumed that one is onto a good thing, and they can work out the details – unless of course the details are irreconcilable and they’ll kill it at that stage. Bloc MP Thierry St-Cyr also expressed his party’s support for the bill, so it looks like it should at least pass second reading whenever it gets its next spot of debate, sometime in May. Little surprise in that the government won’t be supporting the bill.
And finally, with the Organisation of American States (OAS) summit coming up shortly, it looks like the issue of Cuba’s continual exclusion is going to be a hot topic, and Canada is stuck in the middle. The Americans want to keep the exclusion going, while other Latin American and Caribbean leaders want change, and we, who have normalised relations with Cuba, are playing it cool. We can probably be glad that with Bush out of the picture, Harper will be less likely to try and follow whatever position he took, which would likely have damaged our relations with Cuba as a result. But with Bush out of the picture, and with Obama softening the American stance on Cuba, it’s probably all we can hope for that Harper doesn’t screw up this one relationship, like he has with so many others.