As there have been a number of articles in the media covering my voting record and highlighting my independence, I’ve created this page for constituents to more easily find my rationale for dissenting votes.
So, here is a list of the dissenting votes, and a brief explanation (or a link to a longer explanation) of the reasons for my decisions.
You will notice that I often support private member’s legislation at 2nd reading. Our government usually opposes such legislation at the 2nd reading stage. In my view, based on parliamentary practice, it is appropriate to support legislation at this stage where I agree with the principle or object of the bill. In the event that one agrees with the principle of the bill, it should be referred to committee for further study before any final decision is made.
1. Bill C-14, assisted dying legislation. Votes # 65, 67, 68, 73, 74, 75, 76, 102, 103.
I voted differently from my government 9 times on this single issue. I did not support the restrictive nature of the legislation, as I explained in my speech at 2nd reading. By limiting access to assisted dying to individuals whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” (the terminal illness criterion), I do not believe C-14 was consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Carter.
2. Bill C-239, charitable gifts, 2nd reading. Vote # 86.
A Conservative member proposed this bill. It would have provided tax credits for charitable donations that are consistent with the tax credits for political donations.
I supported the bill’s principle – namely treating charitable and political donations equitably – and I supported sending it to committee for further study.
3. Opposition day motion, ISIS genocide. Vote # 88.
The Conservatives proposed the following motion:
That the House agree that ISIS is responsible for: (a) crimes against humanity aimed at groups such as Christians, Yezidis, and Shia Muslims, as well as other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq; (b) utilizing rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war and enslaving women and girls; and (c) targeting gays and lesbians who have been tortured and murdered; and, as a consequence, that the House strongly condemn these atrocities and declare that these crimes constitute genocide.
I supported the motion, and explained my decision in an article for the National Post here.
4. Opposition day motion, marijuana decriminalization. Vote # 89.
The NDP proposed the following motion:
That the House: (a) recognize the contradiction of continuing to give Canadian criminal records for simple possession of marijuana after the government has stated that it should not be a crime; (b) recognize that this situation is unacceptable to Canadians, municipalities and law enforcement agencies; (c) recognize that a growing number of voices, including that of a former Liberal prime minister, are calling for decriminalization to address this gap; and (d) call upon the government to immediately decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana for personal use.
I voted in support of the motion because decriminalization is fairer than our current system of prohibition, and after meeting with a constituent who had been charged with simple marijuana possession.
5. Bill C-223, organ donation registry, 2nd reading. Vote # 101.
A Conservative member proposed this bill. It would have created a national organ donation registry.
While I had some concerns about jurisdiction, I supported the bill’s principle – namely increasing organ donations – and I supported sending it to committee for further study.
6. Bill C-221, sports betting, 2nd reading. Vote # 106.
This bill would have removed the criminal prohibition against single game sports betting from the Criminal Code. Canadians can already easily gamble on single game sports online, and we should be regulating such gambling, not prohibiting it and pushing it underground or offshore.
I supported the bill’s principle and sending the bill to committee for further study.
7. Opposition day motion, creation of standing committee on arms exports review. Vote # 114.
The NDP proposed the following motion:
That: (a) the House recognize that (i) Canadian arms exports have nearly doubled over the past decade, and that Canada is now the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East, (ii) Canadians expect a high standard from their government when it comes to protecting human rights abroad, (iii) Canadians are concerned by arms sales to countries with a record of human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Sudan, (iv) there is a need for Canadians, through Parliament, to oversee current and future arms sales; (b) Standing Order 104(2) be amended by adding after clause (b) the following: “(c) Arms Exports Review”; (c) Standing Order 108(3) be amended by adding the following: “(i) Arms Exports Review shall include, among other matters, the review of and report on (i) Canada’s arms export permits regime, (ii) proposed international arms sales, (iii) annual government reports regarding arms sales, (iv) the use of these weapons abroad, (v) all matters and broader trends regarding Canada’s current and future arms exports.”; (d) the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs prepare and report to the House within five sitting days of the adoption of this Order a list of Members to compose the new standing committee created by this Order; and (e) that the Clerk be authorized to make any required editorial and consequential amendments to the Standing Orders.
I supported this motion because many constituents had raised concerns with me regarding the Saudi Arms sale, and because there is precedent for such a committee, as the United Kingdom has a similar parliamentary committee to review arms exports.
8. Bill C-246, animal protections, 2nd reading. Vote # 120.
I introduced this bill to modernize animal protections by strengthening the Criminal Code’s existing offences against animal cruelty, banning the importation of shark fins, and updating our fur labeling laws.
9. Bill C-231, national food awareness act, 2nd reading. Vote # 123.
An NDP member introduced this bill. It would have established October 16 as “National Food Waste Awareness Day” and called on the government to develop and implement a national strategy to reduce food waste in Canada.
I received correspondence from constituents to support of the bill (and no opposition), I supported the bill’s principle, and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study. Other countries are taking food waste seriously, and so should we.
10. Bill S-208, National Seal Products Day, 2nd reading. Vote # 142.
The bill would establish May 20 as National Seal Products Day.
I was asked by constituents to vote against the legislation (and no support), and I do not support the continuation of the commercial seal hunt. I also found some of the language in the preamble problematic, as the bill suggests that the human species’ “predator” role cannot be separated from the rest of nature.
As a result, I did not support the bill.
11. Bill C-245, development of national poverty reduction strategy, 2nd reading. Vote # 174.
An NDP member proposed the bill. Among other things, it called on the government to develop a national poverty reduction strategy, and to appoint an independent poverty reduction commissioner.
I agreed with the bill’s principle – namely for the government to take steps to reduce poverty and establish a national strategy to that end – and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study.
12. Bill C-228, closed containment aquaculture, 2nd reading. Vote # 175.
An NDP member proposed this bill. It would have banned open net-cage fish farms on the west coast.
There are risks with open net fish farms, and a number of experts and environmental groups have called for better protections against those risks. I supported the bill’s principle – namely making fish farming safer – and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study.
13. Bill C-235, fetal alcohol syndrome, 2nd reading. Vote # 180.
A Liberal member proposed this bill. Among other things, it would have given courts the power to order assessments and consider fetal alcohol syndrome disorder as a mitigating factor in sentencing. It was supported by the Canadian Bar Association, and the John Howard Society.
I supported the bill’s principle – namely improving our criminal justice system’s treatment of mental illness – and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study.
14. Bill C-301, RRIFs, 2nd reading. Vote # 183.
A Conservative member proposed this bill. It would have eliminated minimum withdrawal requirements for RRIFs.
I received correspondence from constituents in support of the bill (and no opposition), and I reviewed reports in support of eliminating the minimum withdrawal, including from the CD Howe Institute.
I supported the bill’s principle – ensuring financial security for retirees – and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study.
15. Bill S-217, detention in custody (Criminal Code), 2nd reading. Vote # 208.
A Conservative Senator introduced this bill, it passed the Senate, and a Conservative member sponsored it in the House. Among other things, it would require a prosecutor or police representing the Crown in a bail hearing to put an accused’s criminal record or recent charges before the court.
I received some correspondence from constituents in support of the bill (and no opposition), and met with one constituent – a former police officer – who had testified in support of the bill at the Senate.
I supported the bill’s principle – namely requiring that one’s criminal history be put before a judge in a bail hearing – and I supported sending the bill to committee for further study.
16. Bill S-201, genetic non-discrimination, report stage & 3rd reading. Votes # 210, 211, 212.
A Liberal Senator introduced this bill, it passed the Senate, and a Liberal member sponsored it in the House. It amends the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to protect Canadians against genetic discrimination.
I received a significant amount of correspondence from constituents in support of the bill (and no opposition), including experts in genetics.
Our government took the view that the bill usurped provincial jurisdiction. However, our Justice Committee (including 6 Liberal members) disagreed unanimously on that ground. I reviewed the testimony before the Justice Committee from constitutional experts, and discussed the issue with my Liberal colleagues.
In the event that the bill constitutional, we have adopted significant protections against genetic discrimination. In the event that it is not constitutional, it still sends an important signal to provinces, and puts provinces in a position where if they wish to challenge S-201’s validity, they will likely need to substantially replace it with their own regulations.
© 2017 Nathaniel Erskine-Smith. All rights reserved.