Parliament's been back for a couple of weeks now, and I caught up with NDP House Leader Libby Davies after Question Period today to find out what she's been up to, and what's on her agenda for autumn. I didn't even get my first question out when she got the first question.
A: You saw the Housing bill passed?
Q: I did not.
A: Yes, it went through last Wednesday. It was wonderful! It was 148 to 137 – basically the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP supported it, and one Conservative – Peter Goldring, who’s and MP from Edmonton. The response out in the community was just so fantastic, from groups like Michael Shapcott in Toronto, and Housing groups in Vancouver. Various mayors wrote in. Even the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada supported the bill. Now it’s gone to committee. Now we have to work really hard to make sure that it’s dealt with in committee as quickly as possible from my point of view, and that it comes back into the House for report stage and Third Reading.
Q: What’s your sense of the timing on that in terms of the committee?
A: I’ve already talked to Tony Martin, who’s our member on that committee, and I’m hoping that he’ll work with the other members on that committee to make sure that it’s dealt with. They’re dealing with the EI bill right now, and government legislation always takes precedence, but once they’re done that I’m hoping that they’ll get to C-304 as quickly as possible.
It took me twelve years. I actually ran in 1997 because of housing, because all of the federal housing programmes had been cut, and it’s really the reason I decided to run. I was so angry that these housing programmes had been dismantled. It’s taken a while to do it, but I was really glad that it went through last Wednesday.
Q: Now that it’s in the committee stage, are you thinking about Senators you want to start approaching about that?
A: No – I’ll wait until it goes through committee first and making sure that groups know about it, because there may be some amendments that people want to see to improve it, so I just want to make sure of that, and then I’ll start working on the Senate side.
Q: So what else do you have planned for the fall, or is this going to take up the bulk of your time?
A: Another issue that I’ve been working on is I’m beginning some consultations with some compassion clubs – medical marijuana. This has always been an area where the federal government has always done such a poor job, and it’s very big issue for a lot of people across the country that they can’t properly access medical marijuana through the federal government. I’m meeting with folks beginning in Vancouver but elsewhere as well to maybe come up with a medical marijuana bill of rights or something, that there’s guaranteed access and availability.
Q: And maybe quality?
A: Quality has been one of the big issues – the quality of the product. So it’s a very bureaucratic system and it’s never really worked very well. The federal government, whether it was the previous Liberal government or this government, they’ve never wanted to make the programme work properly in my opinion, and there’s a very strong community out there and it’s always frustrated me that the federal government’s never wanted to work with the compassion clubs, who are very well established across the country and real experts in this area, and they never consult with them. They never get real information. That’s just one other thing that I’m working on.
Q: Are you also following what’s going on with the sex workers in court right now?
A: Yes – I’m not sure if I’m being called as a witness at this time, but I did an affidavit for them. I’ve been very supportive of the case. It’s a great team – it’s Alan Young, who of course is a very well known lawyer, but he’s got a whole team of volunteer law students who’ve just poured their heart into it. I think it’s a very important court case, and although it’s the kind of issue that can get really manipulated by media coverage and so on, there are fundamental issues here about the rights and safety of sex workers, and I hope that’s what will really come through.