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OPINION: Making parliament work

Wayne Easter at his constituency office in Hunter River. After 25 years serving as MP for Malpeque, Easter says he is ready to run one more time.
Wayne Easter is the MP for Malpeque. - Stu Neatby

Wayne Easter

Guest Opinion

The 43rd parliament will begin on Dec. 5 with the Speech from the Throne, a traditional opening statement from the prime minister, which will outline the government’s agenda for the forthcoming session.

According to some media reports, that agenda may have been finalized following "negotiation" with at least some of the other political parties.

This approach is not unheard of with a minority government and shows a willingness to work together by the government.

From one perspective, this outcome is desirable, and speaks of compromise. The kind of compromise that is likely to be required, if we – as elected legislators and appointed Senators – are going to make decisions in the best interests of Canadians.

Canadians, I believe, expect us to make this parliament work, bury the partisanship, and consider ideas put forward by all parties.

The fact is, previous minority governments have accomplished a lot for Canadians. Some measures are quite notable.

During Prime Minister Lester Pearson’s minority governments, the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Student Loans Program, and universal coverage of hospitalization and medicare were introduced.

Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s minority government brought in election-related measures that exist to this day: a tax credit for political donations, disclosure of certain donations, limits on the amount of campaign spending by candidates and parties, and reimbursement of political parties’ election expenses.

I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that these measures are important for helping to avoid the types and amounts of election spending undertaken by our neighbours to the south.

Other minority governments have also had successes. Prime Minister Joe Clark’s government introduced access to information legislation that had not passed by the time the government fell, but was the basis for legislation that was enacted by the next government. Notable accomplishments of Prime Minister Paul Martin’s minority government included a $41 billion increase in federal health care funding and the transfer of federal gas tax revenues to municipalities, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government enhanced federal infrastructure spending. Clearly, minority governments are able to accomplish important work, and to make real progress for Canadians.

I was first elected to the House of Commons at a time that is much different than today.

Politics seemed to be less viciously partisan and more focused on reasoned debates and making good federal public policy.

It seems that something has been lost over time, and it often seems that the focus is not working together cooperatively and constructively, but instead trying to tear each other down.

Rest assured that, as I return to Ottawa to work on behalf of the people of Malpeque, other Islanders and – indeed – all Canadians, I will continue to do so with the goal of making decisions that are in the public interest, compromising where it makes sense to do so, and standing firm when that is the right thing to do. Compromise and cooperation should be the hallmarks of the 43rd parliament as we govern for Canadians.

Wayne Easter is the member of parliament for Malpeque.

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