Winnipeg MP Joy Smith was practically beaming today as she stood up in the house to vote in favour of her private members’ bill to set a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for a conviction of human trafficking of a child.
She was joined by almost every other Conservative, Liberal and NDP MP and one Bloc MP, which means her bill is now through the first big hurdle in the House of Commons. It passed 232 to 47. There were 29 MPs who were absent or abstained.
It will go now to the Justice Committee for further debate and potentially amendments.
"It’s a wonderful day," said Smith, whose enthusiasm was noticeable even over the phone.
She also produced 5,000 signatures on a petition backing the bill.
The Bloc Quebecois are not in favour of mandatory minimum sentences for any reason so it was not surprising they voted against it. Ahuntsic MP Maria Mourani was the notable exception.
Smith has worked very hard on the issue of human trafficking, and whatever people think of her politics or her motives, she deserves to be proud today.
It’s not all that common for private members’ bills to go forward so the fact this one did, and with the support of three of the four parties, suggests this is a measure whose time has come.
Few MPs would know better how difficult it is to get a private members’ bill through than Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
She introduced a bill today to establish a national breast implant registry. The idea is to allow physicians to track women who have implants to get a better understanding on the impacts the implants may have, including future health issues, and also be able to reach women in case they need to be notified of a problem with the type of implant they have.
There are obviously personal privacy implications for such a registry and we all know what the government record is on national registries – just today it was reported the police have not actually solved a single crime because of the sex offender registry and then there is the ongoing disaster that is the federal gun registry.
But it’s obviously an important issue to Wasylycia-Leis. She has introduced the bill multiple times before. It has never passed. Bills which don’t pass in a single session of parliament fall off the agenda unless special permission is granted to carry them over. So every year it doesn’t pass, Wasylycia-Leis has to introduce it again.
It is the problem with how non-cabinet ministers get to go about introducing legislation.
The government’s bills are the ones introduced by cabinet ministers and they get priority in terms of debate and voting. There is limited time allocated to debate private members’ bills and usually only a handful of private members’ bills will make it through the machinery of Parliament and actually become law.
Since January 26, when the house resumed, 163 private members bills have been introduced including more than 30 by Manitoba’s MPs.
Most of those bills are not new.
Some of them are interesting, some of them are grandstanding, and some of them are bordering on bizarre.
But in the style of government we have it’s a fact of life that if you’re not in cabinet, you’re ability to actually introduce and get passed a piece of legislation is very limited.
Just one more thing to add to the agenda for democratic reform, IMHO.