If I asked you to name two of the top issues Manitoba MPs should be most concerned about what would you say?
I’m guessing many people would include, in some form at least, aboriginal issues and agriculture in their list.
So perhaps I won’t be alone in being surprised and somewhat dismayed that in the new membership lists for House of Commons committees on aboriginal affairs and agriculture, Manitoba is missing.
Not a single one of the 14 MPs who hail from Manitoba got a seat on those two committees. Before the last election, there were three Manitobans on the aboriginal affairs committee and Interlake MP James Bezan chaired the agriculture committee.
Now Manitoba rates a big fat basket of bupkis when it comes to input on those two committees, which examine issues in far more detail than the house as a whole, can order studies, suggest legislative changes, interview witnesses, and generally have at least some influence on the government of the day’s actions.
How this happened isn’t entirely clear. Each House of Commons standingcommittee has a maximum of 12 members, with a chair and two-vice chairs included in the 12. The number of seats any part gets on a committee is proportional to the number of seats they have in the house but each party gets to decide who from among its caucus will fill the spots on any one committee.
Usually the party’s critic or the parliamentary secretary will be assigned to the committee connected to their role. So Rod Bruinooge and Anita Neville used to be on aboriginal affairs because Bruinooge was the PS and Neville was the Liberal critic. But Bruinooge is no longer a PS and Neville is now her party’s critic for status of women, so neither of them are on the aboriginal committee anymore. Tina Keeper was assigned to it but she lost her seat in the election.
So it might have just been a coincidence that none of the parties saw fit to assign a Manitoba MP to either of those committees but it is disappointing nonetheless.
Overall, Manitoba is well represented and influential on the committees with three chairs and two vice-chairs on some of the bigger committees – Merv Tweed is the chair of Transport, Joy Smith chairs Health and Bezan is now the chair of the environment committee. NDP MPs Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Pat Martin were chosen vice-chairs of the health and government operations committees respectively.
In all nine Manitoba MPs received committee assignments with newcomer NDP MPs Niki Ashton and Jim Maloway, and Conservative MP for Dauphin Inky Mark were excluded. Vic Toews and Steven Fletcher are cabinet ministers and therefore don’t get committee assignments.
Here are the committee assignments for Manitoba’s MPs.
Niki Ashton (NDP – Churchill) none
James Bezan (Conservative, Selkirk-Interlake) Environment and Sustainable Development *chair
Rod Bruinooge (Conservative, Winnipeg South) Canadian Heritage
Steven Fletcher (Conservative, Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia) Cabinet
Shelly Glover (Conservative, Saint Boniface) Canadian Heritage, Official Languages
Candice Hoeppner (Conservative, Portage-Lisgar) Status of Women, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Jim Maloway (NDP, Elmwood-Transcona)
Inky Mark (Conservative, Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) None
Pat Martin (NDP, Winnipeg Centre) Government Operations, *vice-chair
Anita Neville (Liberal Winnipeg South Centre) Status of Women
Joy Smith (Conservative, Kildonan-St.Paul) Health, *chair
Vic Toews (Conservative, Provencher) Cabinet
Merv Tweed (Conservative, Brandon-Souris) Transport, Infrastructure and Communities *chair
Judy Wasylycia-Leis (NDP, Winnipeg North) Health *vice-chair
I am told that in fact Niki Ashton, Jim Maloway and Inky Mark have been assigned to be associate members of committees. Associate members can ask questions but they don't get to vote unless they have been asked to step in to replace one of the full members who is absent. But it's important to note that there are several dozen associate members of committees.
There are a number of Manitoba MPs who are associate members of both agriculture and aboriginal affiars, but I maintain, without at least one MP from Manitoba with a full deal meal ticket on either of those committees, the Keystone province isn't getting the influence and input it should in those areas.