NDP House Leader Libby Davies has been given the housing and homelessness critic portfolio, after Megan Leslie took over the health critic portfolio from Judy Wasylycia-Leis. Davies' bill, Bill C-304, is also coming back to the House for Report Stage later this week. I caught up with Davies after Question Period today.
Q: You have a new critic portfolio. Tell me about it.
A: Housing? I was the housing critic once, and it’s moved around. Megan [Leslie] then took it as a new member, and she’s now the health critic, which is terrific, and so I’m happy to take housing back and do everything I can. I know the area very well.
Q: You’ve certainly been vocal about it in terms of what was going on during the Olympics.
A: And I know the players across the country. As I say, I used to be the housing critic, but with more members, it was easier to share the various critic areas. When I was first elected, I was social policy critic, housing critic, critic for youth, and post-secondary education – all four. Now we have a critic for social policy, one on housing, one on youth, one on education – but four different people. So I come from a place of holding it all up – not that it’s a piece of cake, but I take it very seriously. And I do know the players – I undertook two national tours on housing when I first took on the critic area, and really immersed myself in what was going on, because I was really familiar with Vancouver but I didn’t know as much across the country, so I was very involved at the time with pushing the Liberals into doing stuff around homelessness, because they had completely abandoned housing. This was when the Toronto disaster relief committee started, like ’98-’99, and it’s still an issue. There are still deeply systemic problems in the fact that Canada is not addressing housing issues, so I’m happy to take it on and do what I can.
Q: And speaking of that, your bill is coming up for report stage on Wednesday. It passed through committee—
A: Did you know it was challenged in the House?
Q: No, I wasn’t.
A: The amendment that we got in the bill, that has to do with Quebec, the Conservatives challenged that in the House, and both myself and the Bloc rebutted that, and the Speaker ruled that the amendment is out of order, and that’s very concerning about the bill, that we’ve now lost the amendment. It’s coming back into the House, as you said shortly, and we’ll be debating report stage of the bill, but with that amendment being taken out, that’ll make it more difficult.
Q: I take it you’ll be spending the next few days lobbying support for that?
A: There’s a lot of work going on right now, and people have actually been focusing on contacting Conservative members. A lot of faith groups, a lot of housing groups, a lot of individual constituents across the country. We’ve had a fair amount of traffic across the country saying they want to know what they can do to help the bill, and we’ve been encouraging people, if they have Conservative members in their area, particularly if they’re urban members – I’ve been saying urban Conservatives – I don’t know how they could deny that there’s a problem and something needs to be done. I really want to focus some attention and getting those folks on board. I’m going to be speaking to individual Conservative members as well, trying to get them onside for the vote.
Q: Is Report Stage for a Private Members’ Bill one hour of debate or two?
A: There’s two hours of debate for Report Stage and Third Reading – so we’ll have the first hour, and then the second hour, then we’ll go to a vote. If there are amendments, you have a vote at Report Stage, but there isn’t an amendment, so I believe what it means – and I have to double-check this myself – we’ll have the first hour, then the second hour, and then we’ll have a vote. So it’s not a separate vote at Report Stage unless there are amendments, which there isn’t for this.