Interventions in Board of Internal Economy
 
 
 
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Madam Chair.
I want to underscore the work of Nycole Turmel, a former whip of the NDP, and Christine Moore, the member of Parliament for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. They have really been leaders—I think pioneers—in pushing for an end to what is a pretty strange situation in which members of Parliament are penalized for caring for their children. That is our current policy, and that's what I think we need to keep in perspective. We're currently penalizing parents for doing their work.
It seems to me that this is a very reasonable approach. What it allows parents to do is to take their time with their children, but the reality is—as you've spelled out very well, Ms. Daigle and Mr. Dufresne—that voters in any event are still going to require members of Parliament in their riding. What this does is ensure that there's not a financial penalty on top of that. There are still obligations that come. I have many friends in this Parliament who have gone through being new parents. They still have obligations. They still have to attend to things in the riding—there's no doubt. But what this does is end the penalty that members are currently subjected to when they do that. I think, for those reasons, this is a very responsible and appropriate approach.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I think you pointed out, Madam Chair, that what we're actually talking about is two workplaces. There are two workplaces that every member of Parliament has. One is here, and currently, if you come here to Ottawa or if you miss that session, you're penalized by not being present in the House of Commons, but in no way does that have an impact on the constituency work that members of Parliament continue to do.
There's no mythical MP who doesn't do work in the constituency, because somebody who doesn't do work in their constituency doesn't get re-elected. Members of Parliament are still working during this period. These parental obligations have to be balanced with that constituency work. All that's being suggested by this policy is that we stop penalizing them in the second workplace. The first workplace continues.
With those considerations, I find this a very reasonable policy, and if we provided PROC with direction, then we could seek to get things implemented if we continue to talk about what this should actually mean and we compared it with other workplaces. I believe very strongly that we need to be raising parental leave provisions. I'm certainly sympathetic to raising those provisions in this country, but in the two workplaces right now, the first workplace continues and in the second workplace, hopefully, we would end the penalties.
I think that's a very reasonable proposal. For all the members of Parliament from all parties whom I have seen working and going through the birth of a new child, they're all still working. Some of them hope not to have to come to Ottawa for a certain period of time, but currently they're being penalized if they do that. I think it's reasonable for us to adopt this policy and provide that direction to PROC so we can move on.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
To clarify, Madam Chair, so we are supportive of the policy as written and referring it back to PROC?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I would agree with Ms. Chagger on that. I believe what she's recommending is that we have this come back to the BOIE from administration prior to us rising. I think the timing is important as well to have those—
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
As the new guy on the block, when I got my book, I looked at a few dozen MPs' websites and I found a number of them that had fundraising in one way or another.
I'll ask a question, and then I'll have a comment afterwards for Mr. Paquette and Mr. Dufresne.
We do this compliance check once a year, I understand. I'm interested in knowing what percentage, in doing that compliance check for websites, are turned up that are non-compliant. I would agree with Mr. Holland. It's a much larger issue. It seems, from my quick look at a number of websites, that it's something that happens very frequently.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Of the 449 checks, how many did you find that were non-compliant on websites?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay. That's a big number. That's important. Thank you for that. I think that's very helpful.
Getting back to Mr. Holland's point about having in place not just the periodic reminders, but looking forward to how we will deal with the 74 cases of non-compliance we have, I think that's something the BOIE should be looking at.
Mr. Holland has talked about social media, and that becomes a lot more difficult. That would be, I think, a major shift in terms of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I would certainly need to talk with folks to have a better understanding. Certainly for websites, it seems to me that it makes sense to have in place measures that ensure compliance, particularly if we have 74 cases in the last year—I would assume probably from all parties, and maybe independents too—of non-compliance out of the 449 checks.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I think it's been a good discussion, and I think we have some consensus for the websites.
I'd like to follow up on comments that Mr. Strahl made. This was a complaint that came forward from another MP to Mr. Angus, but we have found out that 74 MPs haven't been compliant in the past year. If this body became a place where political parties just threw out complaints left and right, we would have 74 complaints for administration to investigate. That involves an incredible amount of time. I don't think any of us want to see the BOIE go down that road.
Coming back to the broader picture, about a quarter of the House of Commons hasn't been compliant in the past year. For their websites, how do we best make sure there is compliance? I think having a clear communication—and I agree with everyone about letting the whips know. Whips have a lot of influence and they can help with compliance. That's going to be very important, making sure there's a reminder to members, and then I think that having a graduated series of consequences makes sense for websites.
As far as social media is concerned, as I mentioned earlier, I think there are a lot of ramifications. I am certainly going to do some research at my end, and I think for today's purposes, we've had a good discussion on the website issue.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's really a pleasure to be back here.
Thank you for the presentation.
I think everyone would understand that the intensity of the job means that the transition is particularly difficult for somebody who's defeated. They've been going basically seven days out of seven, for 16-hour days, and then they get through the election, and then they have to wrap up their constituency office if they've lost. They have to wrap up their Ottawa office. They're basically putting years of their life in boxes, and for somebody from British Columbia, it means having to move right across the country.
After all of that is done, that intense period of another month, then they finally have a chance to concentrate on themselves. For anybody, losing a job is intense. For anybody, it's a particularly difficult time of their life, so I would agree with Ms. Bergen and Mr. Holland about the communications aspect. For them also to be cut off from their friends, their contacts, and the people they've worked with is difficult. So having provisions for those communications to continue would be important.
The counselling is important too. I gather from Ms. Bergen's question that the counselling isn't necessarily a big part of what is provided in the assistance packages, so perhaps you could elaborate a little bit more on the employee assistance plan, what that means in terms of, let's say, the following year for that individual. What would they have access to? What would they not have access to in terms of mental health supports? All of us who've been here have known colleagues who have taken it very hard. They need those supports. In many cases, sadly, it means that maybe things they thought they'd conquered previously come back, so having that counselling in place can make a real difference for that person to be able to get back on their feet again.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Overall, I also think this makes sense in the event of the death of a member. I was first elected 13 years ago. Unfortunately, several members have died since.
It is unfortunate that it has been difficult to support the families of the members to date. I think this is important. Changing the policy is a sign of respect for the members and their families.
There are also special accommodations for members. Some members sometimes have problems, and I think it's important to help them, especially when it comes to addiction issues. It's better than always bringing these issues back to the Board of Internal Economy.
Those are important aspects, but I would like to voice a concern.
It is on the question of sign language interpretation services. Having worked with the deaf community before I was elected, I think this is really a question of accessibility. I have events all the time with sign language interpreters, and I find this to be an essential question of accessibility for deaf Canadians, which is a responsibility of all members of Parliament.
This would actually reduce access to sign language interpretation. I don't see that as a positive thing. I see that as a negative. We should be talking about expanding accessibility so that deaf Canadians can attend these events. By limiting it to the MOB, as opposed to having the option of going through House officers as well, it will mean ultimately that fewer members will provide sign language interpretation at their events, which means less accessibility. I have real difficulties with that.
I don't have any difficulties with any of the other changes. If we could set that one aside and consider it at a future BOIE, I would feel much more comfortable. That issue probably needs to be discussed at the BOIE, but I would suggest taking a different tack so that we are encouraging sign language interpretation for our deaf constituents.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Since I started here as a member of Parliament I have regularly been using sign language interpretation coming out of my MOB. A neighbouring member of Parliament who might not do that then has a larger budget, so I have been able to go to my whip on occasion and say, “Look, in terms of the budget, I still want to provide accessibility. Are you able to provide funding?” This reduces the pool.
I understand the argument of being fair to all members of Parliament. This is a question of being fair to all Canadians, and deaf Canadians are often excluded from the kinds of events that they should have accessibility to. That is why we have the principle of having QSL as part of our parliamentary television broadcasting. The idea is to provide accessibility to deaf Canadians.
This reduces accessibility and that's why I'd suggest that we set it aside and we can come back to it at a future BOIE, but I would suggest a different approach that would actually enhance and encourage, hopefully, accessibility for members of Parliament to the deaf community as opposed to reducing it, which is what this does.
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