by Anne Jardine
Local Food Security & Kootenay-Columbia Part VIII
Local food and its many facets continue to preoccupy Wayne Stetski’s thoughts as he prepares for his third federal election campaign as NDP Candidate. He recalls one of his proudest moments during his time as Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia (2015 - 2019). He proposed a Private Member’s Bill calling for a National Local Food Day to be celebrated across Canada every year on the Friday before Thanksgiving.
Getting a Private Member’s Bill on the House of Commons agenda is a tricky process. Each of the 338 Members of Parliament can submit multiple bills for first reading. Their ability to select one of their Bill proposals and try to get it through to legislation depends on where they end up in the number draw process. Many private member bills that are introduced into parliament at second reading are voted down and quickly dismissed.
Stetski’s bill drew #111. It took quite a while for the number to finally come up. During the waiting days, Wayne talked to agricultural and educational organizations across Canada about his proposal. Everyone seemed interested and supportive. He introduced his Bill, C-281 in the House of Commons for first reading on June 1, 2016.
His face lights up as he remembers, “MPs from all parties lined up to speak in favour of my Bill. There was so much pride, joy, excitement, ownership, and energy bursting out of each Member telling their story of local food in their home ridings. Local food was something every Member of Parliament cared about. It is rare for any Private Member’s Bill to pass in the House of Commons. It is even rarer for one to pass unanimously – as my National Local Food Bill did. This was a very special moment!”
“The Bill went on to the Senate for final approval before being sent on to the Governor-General to sign it into law. There, it was stopped by Conservative Senators who wanted to change the date of National Local Food Day, effectively killing the Bill. Comments included ‘I get frost in my riding in October.’ Another said ‘yes sometimes we get snow.’ The Whip for the Conservative Senators said ‘we know better than to just approve even a unanimous bill from the House of Commons because they often don’t think things through.’ Because of this, the Bill would have to be re-written and go back to the House for more votes. There were only a few days left in the session and no time to move the bill back onto the Parliamentary agenda. The fact that unelected Senators could undo a unanimous vote of the elected Members in the House of Commons was the saddest moment in my time in Parliament. That’s a discussion for another day…” says Stetski.
The possibility that local food might be a way to unite Canada in a time of great divisiveness still fascinates Stetski.
“We are what we eat. It defines us. it delights us. It connects us. We need to continue to shine a spotlight on it!” he concludes.