North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney was one of three NDP members of 32 total MPs sitting in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 24, to pass emergency legislation. These MPs came together after parliament was suspended on March 13 to pass emergency legislation to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.
According to a news release from Blaney, measures announced last week by the prime minister had received support from all parties, including a letter from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. However, when the draft legislation was sent to MPs late Sunday, additional measures were included that had not been previously discussed, the release stated.
“We were really taken by surprise by some of these new measures,” stated Blaney. “They gave the ministers of finance and health extreme spending and taxation powers for nearly two years without any parliamentary oversight.”
The release stated that negotiations on the bill began in earnest Monday morning, and continued well past the original debate start time slated for noon on Tuesday. Blaney was one of the lead opposition negotiators on this bill.
“We had every intention of supporting the emergency measures the Prime Minister had announced earlier,” stated Blaney. “But we couldn’t allow the bill to go through as presented; we have a job to do as parliamentarians and a big part of that is keeping the government accountable to Canadians.”
Negotiations finally came to a close at 2:30 am on Wednesday morning.
“We made sure that Canadians would get the support they need, even though that meant intense negotiations and little sleep,” stated Blaney. “These are unprecedented times, and those call for unprecedented measures from the government. I understood that from the beginning. But there needed to be a balance with accountability, and I think we managed to strike that balance.”
In the end, the legislation was passed and has since been approved by the Senate, according to the release. Blaney is pleased that the simplified and strengthened Canada emergency response benefit will be made available to Canadians very soon. Where the NDP and Liberals couldn’t agree on removing entire clauses, durations were shortened, and additional oversight measures were added to hold the government accountable without stalling the legislation any further, according to Blaney.
“The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for everyone in Ottawa and around the world,” stated Blaney. “I’m very glad I got to do this important work on behalf of my constituents and all Canadians, but now I’m ready to come home.”
Because Blaney will be travelling by plane to get home, she will be voluntarily going into self-isolation for two weeks upon her return. She and her staff will continue to be available by phone and email to support constituents and businesses and answer questions about the new legislation and programs.