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The Liberal in charge of legislation on the House rising

OTTAWA – On Thursday the House of Commons adjourned for potentially the last time before the fall federal election, pending a parliamentary recall to ratify NAFTA. CTVNews.ca sat down with Government House Leader Bardish Chagger in her West Block office to recap the session.

She spoke about being satisfied with the amount of legislation the Liberals passed, why she thought there were “embarrassing” days during this Parliament, and what additional House of Commons reforms she’d like to see made. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: You passed almost every piece of legislation in the end, though there was some doubt that would happen. Now the lingering question is the NAFTA implementation bill… Should we expect some sort of summer sitting for that to be dealt with?

Answer: “C-100, the new NAFTA bill, has now been sent to committee. So today, it was deemed as passed on division. So we'll see, if the committee chooses to do some more work on it… We have also been saying quite clearly that we're watching closely what the United States as well as Mexico are doing we're going to work in tandem with the other countries so that we can find a way forward.

“So if there is progress in the United States, and we need to recall the House, it's an option that we do have available. And that's why I shared that colleagues would not be surprised if we had to or chose to exercise that option.”

What did you learn the most in your position as government House leader?

“I'm not new to the way government operates and not new to the way this place operates. I've been in these hallways before. I think there is this, like constant commentary about like, ‘you need to be here for a long time to know.’ I have colleagues who have been here for a really long time, and will not know half of the rules that I knew before I was elected.

“I've been watching question period my whole life. It's something that my father and I do together. So I do understand the way we operate. I think for myself, what I learned is that the way we function is not necessarily what people believe to be the reality of it. So there's quite an adversarial system in the House of Commons.”

Looking to the next parliament, would this be a position you would be keen to be able to hold if you were to form government again?

“The cabinet is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. And I have confidence in this Prime Minister to make the choices that he needs to make. I believe this Prime Minister and this government need, and deserve a second mandate, because the programs and services that we put in place, have delivered greater results than we even imagined… But we know that we still have more work to do.”

Are there still reforms and changes to the House that you have now seen over the last four years that you think are still worth making, and would be interested in pursuing another mandate?

“Yes, can we strengthen our democratic institutions. We can strengthen them even more. And that's why we have done some work. We have maternity, paternity leave for the first time in the history of our country… That's a really big deal… Do I want to see more done? Yes. But it will take willing parties who are wanting to have a conversation… So where there is a desire, we can do that. But in the campaign, in the platform, I'm sure we’ll continue to want to strengthen our democratic institutions. And we'll see some ideas within there that hopefully Canadians agree are important to us being able to deliver for them.”

You say you will have passed 89 pieces of legislation, the previous Conservative government passed 122 bills. So the criticism that they passed way more legislation in a four-year term than the Liberals, what is your response to that?

“So for me, it's really about quality of legislation over quantity… Now is with the 89 government bills that we've passed, I've only heard of the Conservatives saying there's three bills that they would undo.”

You are the steward of government legislation coming from ministers. Do you feel that they are all confident that they were able to move through the House all of their remaining mandate items? Are all of your colleagues happy that they got done everything they want to accomplish in this Parliament?

“There’s basically nothing left on the order paper, so I can only move it through the House of Commons if I have legislation. So my colleagues have to be able to provide me legislation. Look, we got it all done. And not only did we get all legislation done, we got legislation done that's been amended both in committees as well as in the Senate. The Conservatives can't say that.

“So we've used time allocation 65 times on 40 bills, and Conservatives used time allocation 91 times on 56 bills. Within my use of these limited tools we also accepted amendments on over 25 bills from the Senate, let alone the House.”

And there were many hours taken up by filibusters in this Parliament.

“There's been some really obnoxious, and I would say frankly, embarrassing days in the House. Because of the disruptions and the noise. It's something that the Prime Minister does not support. It's something our benches often have not been part of. And you can observe that in question period or any other time. Yes, there is some rumblings and a friendly banter that goes back and forth. You would never see a Liberal Party regardless of what side of the House they're sitting on. interrupt the Minister of Finance’s budget speech, that is a day that people will never forget. And then to have the leader of the Official Opposition, who is a former speaker, walk out of Parliament, when Canadians have elected them to be in those seats and do their work. That’s their approach, it’s just not ours.”

Interested in more detail on the final day the sitting, and all the bills that passed? You can find that, here.

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