Conservative MP Joy Smith

NDP's 'flexing of political muscle' delays passage of human trafficking bill

  • April 4, 2012

OTTAWA - Conservative MP Joy Smith expressed shock the NDP's playing of partisan politics has prevented debate on anti-trafficking Bill C-310 and delayed the bill from going immediately to the Senate.

Smith had expected the NDP would support her bill as it had at every previous stage. Bill C-310 had unanimously passed through the Justice Committee with no recommendations.

"I am absolutely stunned by this," said Smith. "Bill C-310 will strengthen Canada's efforts to combat human trafficking and this should not be a partisan matter. I have worked so hard to secure the support of all parties and have appreciated the support of all MPs for this bill up until today."

Smith had expected Bill C-310 would have one hour of debate March 30, pass third reading unanimously and then go on to the Senate.

"What is most astounding is that the NDP have been fully supportive of Bill C-310 at second reading and committee stages. They have even jointly seconded this bill," said Smith. "My heart sank when I watched as they stood, smiling, and shouted 'NO!' when the Speaker of the House sought consent."

This procedural matter postponed further consideration of Bill C-310 until April 4, and then it dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence for private member's business and is not likely to come up again until May.

"I don't have any answers as to why this happened," said Smith. "I would invite Canadians to write or call NDP members for an explanation of why they would vote against such an important, bipartisan bill and deliberately hold it up."

"We kept debate going because we have MPs who want to speak to the bill, which is a good thing," said Marc-André Viau, the NDP's lead caucus press secretary, in an e-mail. "This is normal and will in no way block this bill from passing through the House of Commons and soon becoming law. The NDP supports this bill, and has at each stage."

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada policy analyst Julia Beazley described the NDP's delay tactic as a "sucker punch."

"I suspect the move had very little or nothing to do with human trafficking, or with the bill itself," she wrote on the EFC blog. "I can only speculate, and this — admittedly — from a position of great disappointment. But if I had to guess, I would think that this was a cynical flexing of political muscle by a party with a newly elected leader against a private member's bill expected to form part of a broader government initiative, an initiative largely taking place because of the recognized efforts of that same private member.

"Political maneuvering and a showing of 'strength' appear to have taken precedence over doing the right thing."

Smith has developed a comprehensive strategy for combating human trafficking called Connecting the Dots that is being considered at the Conservative cabinet.

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