Randall Garrison has unfinished business in parliament and he wants constituents to send him back for a fourth term.
The NDP candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke has been Member of Parliament since 2011 and has had four pieces of legislation interrupted by election timing.
On Garrison’s table was: a conversion therapy ban; a bill to improve intervention on domestic abuse; a bill that would change self-harm among Canadian Armed Forces members from a disciplinary matter to one of health; and a motion to remove subsidies from fossil fuel industries and channel that money towards a Crown corporation that would build renewable energy projects.
Anytime an election is called, all in-process work drops to the floor to be picked up – or not – by the next cohort of representatives.
Garrison, the NDP spokesperson for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, offered to help expedite the Liberal-initiated bill to ban conversion therapy last March, but said they never took him up on the offer. The bill lingered in the House of Commons, eventually passing, but without enough time for the Senate to approve it before the election was called.
Garrison said it’s at least the third time the bill neared the finish line only to be derailed due to election timing.
In April, Garrison’s private member Bill C-247, which would make coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship a criminal offence, got a unanimous ‘yes’ from the justice committee. It was about to be referred to Parliament and could have made it through to the Senate in time to become law before a regularly scheduled 2023 election call, he said.
“It’s a tool to intervene before there’s overt violence,” Garrison said, describing the bill’s content.
”Right now it’s often the case where someone asks for help and the police are bound by … well, there has to be physical injury. My example is the Portapique shooter in Nova Scotia, where he forced his partner to move to a rural property, took her cell phone away and took the wheels off her car. When she asked for help, RCMP said none of those individually are a criminal offence. So my bill says, when you observe a pattern of behaviour like that, they can intervene.”
But that bill will also have to be reintroduced, starting again from the beginning.
The NDP wants to cap cell phone rates in line with global averages and force companies to offer affordable unlimited data. They’ve also long been calling for $10-a-day childcare spaces, but have so far not found enough federal support to make that happen.
Garrison said he never sought out politics. “I grew up gay (so) I didn’t think that was possible.”
Jack Layton, the late federal NDP leader, came to see him while Garrison was a criminal justice instructor at Camosun College. “He asked me tough questions like, ‘if you think there should be gay people in Parliament, then why won’t you run? How do you think they get there if people like you don’t run?’”
So he did. He narrowly lost his first two elections in 2004 and 2006, served as an Esquimalt city councillor for three years, then won the federal seat in 2011. He was re-elected with improving margins in 2015 and 2019. “I’m hoping I can do at least that well, but I have to earn it.”
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