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Rathgeber looks ahead to busy Parliament session

By: Stu Salkeld

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jan 25, 2014 06:00 am

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The upcoming resumption of Parliament on Jan. 27 will feature St. Albert’s own MP Brent Rathgeber in a number of spotlights.

In emails to the Gazette this week, Rathgeber said there will be a lot of work to do, as a late start and multiple breaks meant there were only about six weeks of work done in Parliament last fall.

He noted it’s obvious the Opposition under NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will continue to attack Harper’s Tory government on the ongoing senate expenses scandal. The MP stated the opposition isn’t letting go of that issue because there are too many unanswered questions. Did Nigel Wright act alone in paying back Senator Mike Duffy? Did a small group of Prime Minister’s Office people know about the payment? Did a large group of PMO people know?

Rathgeber also stated that Harper and his Conservative government were getting hammered prior to the Christmas break by what seemed daily revelations about the scandal. The prime minister released Parliament in early December, a couple of weeks earlier than expected, probably because of the amount of negative publicity his government was experiencing, Rathgeber said.

Rathgeber himself has several big days coming up soon. His private member’s bill is coming back to the House of Commons soon for one last hour of debate, tentatively set for Feb. 12. Rathgeber is currently trying to undo changes made by the Harper government and Tory-dominated committees.

Rathgeber’s original bill proposed that any civil servant with a salary over $188,000 make his income public, and also proposed the CBC not be allowed to use “journalistic integrity” to obscure certain operations of the publicly-funded corporation.

It’s estimated, if the agenda allows, a vote could be held around Feb. 26 on Rathgeber’s bill.

Rathgeber will be in the House of Commons’ spotlight on Feb. 3 as he gets his first opportunity in this session of Parliament to ask a question. He will also take the floor on Feb. 5.

The government also has a budget due, noted Rathgeber.

“Possibly during the Olympics when few are paying attention,” he said. “It will be a stay-the-course budget with some cuts to the federal public service.”

Other work on Parliament Hill will include close examination of rail-line safety after fiery derailments and much more.

“Rail safety will be an issue; the opposition will rightly pressure (Transport Minister) Lisa Raitt to finally sign some updated transport regulations,” stated Rathgeber.

“Democratic reform will be an issue,” Rathgeber said. “Michael Chong's bill to allow caucuses to turf their leaders and give (riding associations) final say on nominations, Kennedy Stewart's motion on electronic petitions and Brad Trost's motion on committees electing their own chair, rather than having one appointed by the PMO, will all be important pieces of private members’ business.

“Parliament has one year, from about a month ago, to come up with a new prostitution law that does not endanger the lives of prostitutes by forcing them onto the streets,” Rathgeber said. “This is going to be a challenge.”


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