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Column: From the Hill -- on the job back in Ottawa

On Sunday I returned to Ottawa to prepare for the opening of the 43rd Parliament. Last week I was given my shadow cabinet roles—critic for Natural Resources and deputy critic for Transport.  I was the critic for Natural Resources for the last four years so know that file well, and issues of transport intersect natural resources in many ways.

On Monday I met with a diverse group of people from the energy sector across the country at the Positive Energy lunch.  We had a spirited debate over the “go big or go home” question—should future energy projects concentrate on large infrastructure such as hydro dams and pipelines, or should we instead promote distributed energy production such as roof-top solar and energy efficient buildings? My take-away was that the smaller production initiatives would be both sufficient and quicker, if combined with critical efficiency programs and large-scale distribution projects and smart grid regulation changes.

On Tuesday I met with a Senator to plan the roll-out of private members legislation.  She has offered to table my private member’s bill (that died in the Senate last June when Parliament dissolved) so that it can proceed more quickly to debate in the House of Commons.  I can then put forward a second private members bill directly in the House of Commons as well.  We also discussed the changing face of the Senate, as traditional Liberal and Conservative caucuses morph into more independent groups.

Being in Ottawa again allows me to meet with Ministers to discuss riding issues.  I have already spoken directly with Catherine McKenna, the new Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, about the Oliver irrigation canal situation and enhanced compensation for Grand Forks residents who are being forced out of their houses for future flood mitigation.  I am setting up a meeting with her and local officials about those issues.

On Thursday the formalities of opening the new Parliament begin.  The House of Commons will elect a new Speaker and then MPs will go over to the Senate for the Speech from the Throne. That will set the tone for the legislative agenda the government will roll out over the next year.  The first job of the new Speaker is to draw numbers in the private member’s bill lottery to generate the order of debate for private member’s bills.  This is especially important in a minority parliament which may only last two or three years.  Even in a four-year majority government only half of the MPs have a chance to bring their bills to debate.

I’ll be back in the riding before Christmas and hope to see many of you at my Christmas open house events.  One will be in Castlegar at the community events centre on December 16th from 2 to 6 pm (co-hosted with MLA Katrine Conroy), and another will be in my Penticton office (#202-301 Main St.) on December 19th from 3 to 6 pm.  If you’d like to get in touch, please send me an email to richard.cannings@parl.gc.caor phone 250-770-4480.  Happy Holidays!