May 14, 2014 - 9:19 AM
Early this week a group of concerned local citizens dropped of a petition to my Penticton office on “The Right to Save Seeds”– this petition, signed by 37 residents, is the second on this topic that I have received. On a related note, I was also asked recently how petitions work in the House of Commons and what happens to them once they have been tabled. In order to be deemed “valid” in the House of Commons a petition must be verified by the Clerk of Petitions– a process that has been in operation since roughly 1910 with some further modification in 1986. As a Member of Parliament, the petition I received this week will be forwarded to the Clerk for verification. Guidelines for petitions can be found online however it is important that petitions be addressed to the House of Commons and typically contain a statement identifying the petitioners and the issue in question that is the focus of the petition.
Once a petition has been verified by the Clerk it is returned to the Member of Parliament in question to be presented to the House of Commons. Interestingly enough, a Member of Parliament is not required to present a verified petition and may decline to do so. In addition there is no established time frame that is defined on when a petition may be presented following verification and likewise once a petition has been verified it can be presented by any Member of Parliament regardless if it was that Member or another MP who first submitted the petition for verification. Generally while I have observed it is not uncommon for different MP’s to present petitions that may have been certified by a different MP typically petitions are presented in a timely manner and most MP’s, (myself included) consider it a duty to present petitions on behalf of citizens in our riding.
Verified petitions can be submitted during routine proceedings (when the House is in session) and while brief comments of a factual nature are allowed to present the petition any supplementary comments or debate are not allowed and would be deemed out of order. Petitions can also be presented to the House by being filed with the Clerk directly– this often occurs on days when there are multiple members with petitions that exceed the fifteen minute time frame that is set aside for petitions during routine proceedings. What happens once petitions are filed? Many people believe that once a petition has been presented to the House of Commons that the process is now complete. In reality, once a petition has been presented in the House, the Clerk will forward the petition onto the Privy Council Office, who in turn will forward the petition to the relevant Government Ministry that has 45 calendar days to respond. Government responses to petitions are also generally tabled in the House of Commons during routine proceedings and the MP who presented the petition in the House will also typically receive a copy of the response.
It should also be noted that there are no Parliamentary sanctions in the event the Government fails to respond within the 45 days– a point that was raised extensively back in 1993, however it is widely recognized that the established deadlines should be respected.
I view petitions as an important part of our democratic process. Citizens should be free to request or oppose a course of action to Government in a timely manner expect a response. The principle of accountability and being heard is one that all elected officials should always be mindful of and that is why I welcome petitions and make every effort to have them verified and presented into the House of Commons in a timely manner. If you would like more information on petitions or any mater before the House of Commons please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 1-800-665-8711.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla who writes a weekly report for his constituents and his website www.danalbas.com has an archive of previous reports.
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