OTTAWA – Even the most hardened politicians succumbed to the pain of global tragedy this week.
Hit first by the shooting in Orlando on Sunday, then by the beheading of another Canadian hostage in the Philippines on Monday, and by the slaying of a British MP on Thursday, Parliament Hill reeled with shock and outrage.
The business of Parliament kept a frantic pace, however, driven by the government’s wish to pass the assisted dying bill as soon as possible. The bill spent the week caught between the will of the House and the new-found determination of the Senate.
Less noticeable were several moves to rejig policy in a way that could affect everyday lives in Canada.
Here are three ways politics mattered this week:
PENSION PROBLEMS: Federal and provincial finance officials have been burning the candle at both ends this week in the hopes of finding a compromise that would see the federal Liberals keep an election promise to expand the Canada Pension Plan.
The federal goal, as vaguely outlined in speeches and documents, is to substantially increase the retirement payout to the next generation of middle-class retirees. Fewer people will be covered by private plans, and those who are covered will often have less generous benefits than today’s retirees.
But there’s an open question about whether governments need to step into the breach. The price of an expanded CPP is higher premiums for employers and employees today. Some provinces have yet to be convinced that the higher price is worth paying right now, especially since there will be a political backlash from small business as well as conservatives who would rather see individuals take control of their own personal finances.
Maybe after the federal and provincial finance ministers hash it out Monday in Vancouver, the public will see some hard numbers and be better able to engage in an informed debate about whether our retirement savings our adequate — and if not, whether an expanded CPP is the best solution.
GIRL POWER: MPs of all stripes voted 225-74 to slightly change the words to the national anthem this week so that it would be gender neutral. But that wasn’t the biggest move MPs made to reflect the role of women in public life.
The Status of Women committee had all-party support for its recommendation to subject every single government initiative to a gender-based analysis before it gets the green light. The committee wants legislation that would make the analysis mandatory. Minister Patty Hajdu seems open to the idea.
The implications for regular people could be big or small, depending on how seriously the government takes the idea.
With the government’s plan to spend $60-billion on infrastructure, for example, how would a gender analysis affect a program that would normally create jobs that overwhelmingly go to men? Committee member and Liberal MP Sean Fraser says a gender analysis would encourage the government to improve training for women in the skilled trades.
But what would happen if instead of shaping women to fit the program, the government shaped the program to fit women?
CANADIANS ON THE TELLY: The government, via the CRTC, has put in place its first policy building block to rescue local news.
The broadcast regulator will require private English-language TV stations to air at least seven hours of local news every week — double that for big-city stations in Toronto and Vancouver. French-language stations will need to carry five hours of local news.
Where will the money come from? Mainly from shuffling around parts of existing pots of money already put into community programming by the networks. Big companies such as Bell, Rogers and Quebecor can take some of the $156 million currently spent on community programming for local news production instead — on condition they keep all their stations open. Independent stations will see what is new money to them, but comes from the existing community fund.
The CRTC order is only the first piece of the puzzle the government is working on. It sees a crisis in local news, not just in television but in print and digital media as well, and is actively looking for solutions on all fronts.