Another pandemic Parliament session has wrapped up for Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Rosemarie Falk.
Falk is back in the riding full time for the summer break. But in speaking to the News-Optimist, Falk indicated she has spent time at home even throughout the session.
Due to pandemic restrictions, Falk has been in the riding “more so this year than in previous years, just the way the numbers worked in Ottawa with capacity.” Instead of being in Ottawa for the entire session, Falk has attended House proceedings in person on a rotating basis each month.
At other times, she has been attending proceedings virtually by ZOOM from her constituency office.
Falk admits she is “ready for normalcy, because it’s very difficult to do legislative work with an unstable internet connection.”
A frustration for Falk during the recent session was with some of the scheduling issues surrounding the legislation going through Parliament.
“It is very frustrating for some of us when the government, the Liberals, would say things like ‘well Conservatives are holding it up’ or ‘they’re doing this,’ and that’s just not true.”
She pointed out it is the government who sets the agenda, and it was the Liberals who prorogued Parliament last fall. Due to the prorogue of Parliament, a number of House bills had to be reintroduced, “so we lost time with that and just with their inability to schedule.”
Nevertheless, Falk said her party has been able to score some “wins” in the House in the last session, citing a few private members’ bills and some opposition motions that got support in the past several months.
Among the successful private members’ bills was Bill C-210, which made it easier to become an organ donor, Bill C-220, which allowed more time off following the death of a loved one, and Bill C-228 to reduce recidivism and end the revolving door in the prison system.
Falk noted that Manitoba MP Larry Maguire’s Bill C-208 was relevant to residents of her riding. That legislation “removes the unfair burden families face when transferring a farm or business to their children.”
She pointed to a few opposition motions that were successful. One notable motion that passed called for the government to hand over documents regarding the transfer of dangerous viruses from the Winnipeg national microbiology lab to Wuhan Institute of Virology, as well as the subsequent firing of two government scientists.
Another bill that passed with all-party support called for immediate action in establishing a national suicide prevention hotline, which would consolidate suicide crisis numbers into one easy number for people to remember across the country with the three digit number 988.
Falk also noted the Conservatives put forward a motion in March that demanded the government table a plan with clear metrics on reopening the economy following COVID-19.
“We know the government still has not been entirely clear on what their plan is, especially when we look at the border measures and that type of thing,” said Falk. The pressure the Conservatives were able to put on the government resulted in some information on when Canadians could expect a return to normalcy, she said.
Falk also noted the Conservatives had called for an end to the mandatory hotel quarantine for people coming in, and also for a safe reopening of the Canada-U.S. border.
“Since March in the House of Commons, we’ve been asking questions and even went as far as putting a motion forward. The Liberals voted against that, ironically, as well as the other parties ... it doesn’t make sense in my mind,” said Falk.
Falk said the sentiment she heard from within the riding was that “people want businesses open, they want to be back to normal. Hopefully, come July 11 here, we’ll see some of that light, which will be great.”
Falk also pointed to emergency debates that the opposition initiated, including on the Keystone XL pipeline when that pipeline was in trouble, as well as on Enbridge Line 5.
The opposition initiated a motion calling on the government to increase support measures for workers in the highly impacted hospitality sectors. They also passed a motion demanding the government reveal documents about the pandemic response and information about the contracts they were signing.
“Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for some of these documents. I know our health critic Michelle Rempel Garner has been doing a marvellous job and holding the Liberals’ feet to the fire and making sure they follow through on the things they say they’re going to do.”
What Falk cited as a particular win was what happened with Bill C-10, which Falk describes as the “Liberals’ internet censorship bill.”
That bill passed the House and is now in the Senate, but has been scheduled to go to committee in September. By that time Parliament could be dissolved and the bill would then die on the order paper, which would be just fine for Falk.
“It seems that Justin Trudeau has his sights on an election here, so that bill might not come to pass at all.”
Falk opposed Bill C-10 because “the government is going to give a regulatory body control of what can be put on the internet and what can’t be put on the internet. We’re seeing a lot of individual content creators, and that can be anybody, whether that’s on TikTok or Instagram or Facebook or YouTube or whatever. And it’s just unclear — does it mean they’re going to have to have a certain amount of followings, and then they’re going to have to go through the same regulatory protocols as a place like the CBC, or Global, or that type of thing?”
She also pointed to the way C-10 was handled by the Liberals, with amendments dropped and time-allocated debates. “It’s imperative that we protect freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”
Falk also has been active as the Conservatives’ critic for seniors, and noted they “fought very hard” to have a study conducting regarding COVID-19 to see how seniors were faring in the pandemic.
“The Liberals definitely did not want to study this,” said Falk. But it moved ahead, and Falk cites the importance of this work in helping seniors across the country.
“It’s very important that people, especially seniors in these rural communities, aren’t left out of programs or funding or grants that the government is coming out with.”
Falk spoke to the News-Optimist on the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Cowessess First Nation for signing of a child welfare agreement. That was the locale of the recent discovery of 751 unmarked graves.
She called the recent discovery of graves at residential schools “horrific.”
“It’s a stark reminder of Canada’s history,” said Falk, and “that we can do better, and it’s imperative that we do better.”
Now that Parliament has recessed for the summer, Falk is back meeting constituents. The MP has been using a mobile office that has set up in various communities in the riding for appointments, and they hope to do that this summer as well.
But looking large is the talk of a potential early-fall election. Falk expects Prime Minister Trudeau will indeed call an election soon, based on what she’s seeing from him lately.
“I see he has got his hair cut and is all spiffy announcement-ready,” said Falk. “He looks like he’s doing some campaign-style things already.”
Falk said she is ready.
“I’m always ready. I take very seriously and see this as an honour to serve the constituents of Battlefords-Lloydminster. I see and I feel the great responsibility that comes with it.”