Government looking to cut Friday sittings

How many people out there want to take Friday’s off and still get paid for them. Yes, we imagine that everyone reading this had a twitch in one of their arms and they wanted to raise it high in the air. It’s a shame that our present and past Governments are not smart enough to use technology to their benefit.

CVP has the answer, join us and see how we can change the way our Canadian Government, under the leadership of the CVP can bring things back to the way they should be and that’s a Government that works for you, not the other way around.

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During a rare review of the House of Commons’ rules Thursday, opposition MPs accused the Liberal government of trying to duck scrutiny by “floating trial balloons” about ending House of Commons Friday sittings.

As MPs spoke during the take-note debate on possible changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, NDP MP Charlie Angus accused the government of cloaking plans to reduce face time in Question Period with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) under the guise of changing rules and practices to make Parliament more “family friendly.”

Mr. Angus questioned the government’s motives after Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell, who chairs the Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee, included Fridays off as a way to address time constraints for MPs whose electoral districts are several time zones away from the capital.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, parliamentary secretary for Government House Leader Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.), also addressed Friday sittings as he spoke of demands facing MPs whose homes are distant from the capital.

“Certainly they’ve been floating trial balloons trying to get people to say ‘let’s be more family friendly, let’s sit less, let’s have less time for the prime minister to be in the House,” Mr. Angus said in an interview outside the Commons as the debate continued. “That concerns me.”

“If we’re talking about making Parliament better for Canadians, making it more efficient so we do our work better, I’m all for that, but if it’s about using the family-friendly guise to actually lessen the time that the House is sitting, that will certainly favour any government, and it doesn’t necessarily favour democratic input,” said Mr. Angus (Timmins-James Bay, Ont.).

“Whoever takes Friday shift, it always does feel like drawing the short straw,” he said. “It’s difficult, getting home is difficult. But if it’s a question of simply shortening the week of Parliament, are we making better use of the time in Parliament or is this just giving the government one less day in the media cycle, so they don’t have to worry about it?”

Commons committees do not sit on Fridays. Friday House sittings end at 2:30 p.m., whereas on other days of the week they usually end by 7 p.m.

Although neither Mr. Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Man.) nor Mr. Bagnell specifically called for an end to Friday sittings—an idea rejected during previous Parliaments out of fear over public reaction—Alberta Conservative MP Rachael Harder also cited Liberal talk about shortening the work week in Ottawa.

“I would further suggest that the government’s musing to end the Friday sitting day is a bit too dramatic, and perhaps not a change that would serve the Canadian public at large,” Ms. Harder (Lethbridge, Alta.) said after Mr. Lamoureux and Mr. Bagnell (Yukon) spoke.

“Removing the Friday sitting would remove one day of the week when private members’ business is debated,” Ms. Harder told the Commons. “We already have very little time for private members’ business to be brought to the floor and we certainly do not want to cut it back any further.”

Private members’ business typically lasts an hour a day when the House is sitting.

“I did not speak about Fridays, and I just want to add a couple of clarifications: there are some members from all parties who were in favour of that,” Mr. Bagnell retorted during debate, referring to previous discussions in the Procedure and House Affairs Committee.

Mr. Bagnell had earlier stated Fridays off alone would not completely alleviate the challenges he faces, with 14 hours of air travel on three different airlines to and from Whitehorse.

“It would actually lengthen the work week by doing Fridays in the constituency,” Mr. Bagnell said, noting he would have to conduct riding business on Saturday.

The Procedure and House Affairs Committee determined not to recommend a change to Friday sittings in a June report on making the House more family friendly, after hearing a lack of consensus from witnesses.

The committee reported that the House clerk said adding hours to a sitting day or getting rid of a sitting day “would cause little impact on the operation or costs for the House, that the House administration would support and put in place any decision the House made, and that it was difficult to predict what unintended consequences eliminating Friday sittings could have.”

Mr. Lamoureux noted during the House debate Thursday that the current Question Period practice, under which the prime minister normally responds only to questions from opposition party leaders, denies other opposition MPs the chance of obtaining responses from the prime minister.

“Why not have a day designated for the prime minister, or a portion, where members know if they stand up there is a greater likelihood that the prime minister is in a position to answer the question?” said Mr. Lamoureux.

Conservative MP Michael Chong said other reforms are more important, including the suspension of a recent practice giving parties control over which MPs are allowed to ask the government questions during Question Period.

“First and foremost, we have to restore the right of Members of Parliament to ask questions in Question Period, rather than the current system where they need to be approved by the party whips and the House leaders,” Mr. Chong told The Hill Times.

“The Speaker needs to take back the right to determine who gets to ask and who gets to answer questions,” said Mr. Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.).

The government introduced a motion to hold the take-note debate on the House of Commons standing orders under a standing order that requires the review between the 60th sitting day and the 90th sitting day of a new Parliament following every general election.

Reference

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