Libby Davies' housing bill, C-304, is now in the Human Resources committee being studied. Thursday the 5th saw the first round of study. I spoke to Davies after Question Period today.
Q: Your bill has made it to committee. Tell me about that exciting process.
A: It came up in committee the last Thursday we were hear. We heard from excellent witnesses – we had the FCM, Michael Shapcott from the Wellesley Institute in Toronto, the Assembly of First Nations, the Canadian Housing Renewal Association, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who are very supportive of the bill. That’s all good. What I’m very concerned about is tomorrow we’re going back into committee with the bill and we’re going to be doing clause-by-clause, and I have and amendment that would allow Quebec to opt-out, as it happens in other instances, and I believe that the amendment is going to be ruled out of order, and if I don’t have that amendment through, then I don’t have the Bloc. So things are difficult right now. I’m trying to talk to people and find a compromise, so at this point, the bill is having some problems.
Q: Why would it be ruled out of order?
A: I haven’t heard the official reasons – we’ll hear them tomorrow. But they’re saying that you can’t have a bill that talks about a national strategy that then allows one province out. But the fact is, it’s a reality of federal-provincial-territorial relations. It’s not that Quebec opts out, it’s that they’re doing it already, and as long as they meet the baseline then it should be okay. They’re already providing housing, so I’ve got to try to work around that, but it does present a difficulty for the bill, because without their support, it won’t go through.
Q: What have you been hearing so far in terms of support from the other parties?
A: The Liberals are still okay, and the support out in the community has been awesome. We’re still getting letters coming in from municipalities – Amnesty International just wrote a letter. The support from the community is very broad, very non-partisan, and even groups like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada have been terribly supportive of the bill. This is what’s so frustrating – everybody knows that it needs to be done, and we’re down to these technicalities. I’d hate to think that this bill’s going to get tripped up on a technicality, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out how to get around right now.
Q: There was also talk earlier that they were going to try to challenge this as needing a Royal Recommendation?
A: That’s been dealt with. We already beat that one. The Conservatives challenged that it required a Royal Recommendation, we responded with a whole bunch of arguments, and the Speaker ruled in our favour that it does not require a Royal recommendation.
Q: You said tomorrow’s the day?
A: Yep – at 3:30. I was the first witness at the committee last Thursday; Megan Leslie, who’s our housing critic, is the person who will actually be on the committee – I can’t actually do it, it’s my bill. But I’ll obviously be there, sitting right next to her, but Megan Leslie is the one who will be the NDP member on the committee. We’ve got a few other amendments as well, but that’s the significant one that I had given a commitment to the Bloc to make sure that we got that amendment. They’ve actually got their own amendment on it too, but as I say, I believe it’s possible they’re both going to get ruled out of order, so that’s a problem. We’ll see tomorrow.