After Question Period today, I also talked to NDP House Leader Libby Davies about the spring session.
Q: It’s end of sitting – what were your high points?
A: For the NDP, I feel really proud of our members. We’re amongst the most productive members of the House – if you look at committee, what we initiate. We’re the smallest party but what we initiate in very constructive things is always superb. We got our motion passed on EI, on credit cards, on pensions including with the government. We had an EI bill pass, we’ve had other bills pass, motions. So I feel for us, we really struck true to our commitment to bring forward people’s issues. People who are really hurting, people whose rights are being trampled on, and we stuck really hard to that. We didn’t play a lot of games, we just kept hammering away on the government. So I feel really proud of that?
Q: For you? Anything personally?
A: I’m the House Leader for the NDP, so my job is to make sure collectively we all do our job, and again I feel proud that we worked as a really strong team. We have a fabulous caucus, we have a very good leader who works with that caucus. So we have a very strong sense of teamwork – I’m very much a part of that. That’s not things that are always eminently or publicly visible. For me personally, I was very glad to bring forward my housing bill, which I obviously will keep working on, and I’m very happy that we stood very clear on principle on the drug bill [C-15], and it got a fair amount of coverage in the media. The Liberals are now getting a lot of flack in the Senate for the fact that they supported the drug bill going through. So the government’s now criticising the Liberals for holding up the drug bill in the Seante, what they think will happen because they’re getting so much flack. So I feel that on those two things, I did a good job and there’s more to do. For us it was a good session.
Q: In terms of your housing bill, how’s that progressing?
A: I actually have continued to meet with various individuals and organisations, and we’ve been receiving more letters of support, so I really feel that the momentum for the bill is growing. I was also very glad to see that Mr. Ignatieff acknowledged at the FCM [Federation of Canadian Municipalities] that the Liberals made a huge mistake in the 1990s by cutting Canada’s housing programmes. That’s the first time that the Liberals have publicly acknowledged that, that what they did back then was really bad public policy and we’re living [with] the consequences of that today in terms of homelessness and lack of housing for people. I feel like the bill is in a very strong position. It’s come at this critical time to move forward with this message that Canada needs a national housing strategy. Even the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada – they’re very interested and very supportive of the bill and it’s got really broad support. I actually had a meeting with them, and there were lots of issues that I would have liked to discuss with them [laughs] where maybe we didn’t agree, but on the housing question, they’re saying no, we need to have a national housing strategy. They have three-and-a-half million members.
Q: When are you planning on having your second hour of debate for that?
A: It’ll be in September.
Q: With the high points, what were the low points?
A: I think the low point was seeing this agreement. I’m stunned that after all the huffing and puffing from the Liberal leader about what they were going to do in order to not have an election, so they got a working group. It’s like uh, what? You got a what? I thought that was pretty low-level. Compared to what the NDP got when we had an opportunity like that in 2005 – we zoomed in and went to bat for people. I was the person who negotiated that – we got the $4.6 billion for housing, post-secondary education, transit, international development. I mean, we got real stuff for people, and they got a working group that maybe will do something, maybe in September? I thought that was the low point actually.
Q: What are you planning to do for the summer?
A: It’ll be very interesting. First of all I’m going to head back to my riding and work like crazy. It’s very, very busy, which is great – I look forward to that. I’ve got lots of appointments – I’m pretty well booked up. And then in July I’m heading out to Copenhagen for the Outgames, and I’m going to be speaking at the conference there, so I’m very much looking forward to that. And then I come back from that and I’m heading straight to Gaza. I’m part of a small delegation of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Association. We’ve been planning this trip – it’s been hard to plan but we’re doing it and we’re heading into Gaza. Foreign Affairs won’t support us going into Gaza – we’re doing it on our own, we’re paying our own way, we’re going in to see what’s going on in Gaza and into the West Bank, and then coming back from that, and then I go straight to the NDP convention in Halifax.