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Letter to the editor: Gudie Hutchings OAS vote

Dear Editor,

I was very interested to read the article about the recent vote on a motion to increase OAS by $110 per month because I was surprised to see our MP, Gudie Hutchings, vote against it. I was even more surprised when I found out that only 3 Liberal MPs out of 149 voted for it. After reading the article, I was even more upset because of how incomplete some of her answers were.

Regarding the motion itself: It was a private member’s motion, which is the main way opposition members bring forward ideas and issues. They’re either called resolutions or orders, depending on what you want to do with them. This entire motion (Vote No. 62, Sitting No. 68, March 8, 2021) is as follows:

“That the House: (a) recognize that the elderly were most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) recall that too many of the elderly live in a financially precarious position; (c) acknowledge the collective debt that we owe to those who built Quebec and Canada; and (d) ask the government, in the next budget, to increase the Old Age Security benefit by $110 a month for those aged 65 and more.”

Ms. Hutchings is correct that it’s not tied to any legislation, but it’s not tied to any legislation because no private member’s motion can contain provisions for raising or spending money, unless it’s worded as a suggestion. If this particular motion were made into a bill (or if it wasn’t worded as a suggestion), it would need a royal recommendation, which you can only get through a Minister. It is unlikely that MP Andréanne Larouche would have had the minister’s sign-off, in part because it was brought forward by a member of the opposition, and because according to Gudie in the article, there was a Liberal plan in the works to increase OAS for seniors over 75 by 10%.

This alternative idea from the Liberal party is significantly less beneficial than the motion in Vote 62. The current maximum OAS rate is $618.45 per month. A 10% increase would mean an additional $61.85 per month – only 56% of the proposed $110 increase in the private member’s motion and restricted to recipients over 75 instead of all OAS recipients.

Now that the motion has passed, it is considered “an expression of the opinion of the House” and further legislation can be built upon it, creating a bill. This motion was only the first step of several to increase OAS payments. I hope the remaining steps go smoothly, and with a stronger vote than 183 to 147!

The final Nay count was 147, 146 of whom were Liberal MPs. Of the NL MPs, 3 voted Yea to increase OAS by $110 per month (NDP MP Jack Harris, Liberal MPs Ken McDonald and Churence Rogers) while 3 voted Nay (Liberal MPs Gudie Hutchings, Seamus O’Regan, and Scott Simms). The other Liberal MP to vote in favour of increasing OAS was NWT MP Michael McLeod. All other parties (NDP, BQ, Greens, and Conservatives) voted in favour of the motion, along with 3 out of 4 independent MPs.

“…we remain committed to increasing OAS for seniors over the age of 75 by 10%”

Vote No. 62

Sitting No. 68 – Monday, March 8, 2021

That the House: (a) recognize that the elderly were most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; (b) recall that too many of the elderly live in a financially precarious position; (c) acknowledge the collective debt that we owe to those who built Quebec and Canada; and (d) ask the government, in the next budget, to increase the Old Age Security benefit by $110 a month for those aged 65 and more.

Yea 183, Nay 147

Liberal – 3 yea, 146 Nay

Cons – 117 Yea

NDP – 24 Yea

BQ – 32 Yea

Independent – 4 Yea, 1 Nay

Green Party – 3 Yea

Hence, such motions which simply suggest that the government initiate a certain measure are generally phrased as follows: “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider …”. The government is not bound to adopt a specific policy or course of action as a result of the adoption of such a resolution since the House is only stating an opinion or making a declaration of purpose.

No private Member’s motion can contain provisions for either raising revenue or spending funds, unless it is worded in terms which only suggest that course of action to the government. As an alternative to a bill which might require a royal recommendation obtainable only by a Minister, a private Member may choose to move a motion proposing the expenditure of public funds, provided that the terms of the motion only suggest this course of action to the government without ordering or requiring it to do so.

_____

Sources:

Melissa Samms,

Codroy Valley

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