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Government Should Eliminate Friday Sittings To Improve Parliament: Dominic LeBlanc

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OTTAWA — The federal government may scrap Friday sittings of the House of Commons despite a lack of unanimity from Parliamentarians, the Government House Leader's office confirms.

Writing in the summer edition of Power and Influence magazine, Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc argues Friday sittings should be eliminated to improve the way Parliament works.

dominic leblancGovernment House Leader Dominic Leblanc is seen in June. (Photo: Matthew Usherwood/The Canadian Press)

But LeBlanc's comments fly in the face of a Commons committee report this June that found a lack of consensus between MPs on getting rid of the Friday sittings.

LeBlanc's spokesman Sébastien Béliveau told The Huffington Post Canada that the government hasn't made a final decision on eliminating Friday sittings but "it is one of many options being seriously considered."

"He believes it is a very valid option," Béliveau said of his boss.

Shifting hours during the week

Getting rid of Friday sittings would require hours to be extended Monday to Thursday "to ensure the House of Commons sits for at least the same number of hours it currently does, if not more," LeBlanc wrote in the magazine.

Extending sitting hours during the week would allow more work to be accomplished when more MPs are in the Commons, he argued. Right now, the House ends at 2:30 p.m. on Fridays and no votes can take place on that day.

"There are many reasons for for this, but one main reason is that all parties, including those arguing that Fridays are sacrosanct, typically only have a third of their members in Ottawa on Fridays, if not fewer," said LeBlanc.

canada house of commonsThe House of Commons is seen as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses Parliament on June 29, 2016. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Eliminating Fridays in Ottawa would allow MPs who work "round-the-clock" to spend more time in their ridings connecting with their constituents and attending more events, he wrote.

"I believe it is important that we recognize that by implementing this change, Canada would be recognizing what many other legislatures, both in Canada and internationally, have already realized; increasing the amount of debate in the House of Commons and ensuring that Members of Parliament can spend more time directly helping their constituents is worth much more than a lesser amount of hours and a sitting day where all parties already let two-thirds of their members be absent."

LeBlanc's opinion piece was penned before the committee's report came out, the magazine's editor said.

house of commonsA worker cleans in the House of Commons in this undated photo. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

In June, the Procedure and House Affairs committee found no agreement on eliminating Friday sittings, However, it noted that the House of Representatives in both Australia and New Zealand don't sit on Fridays, while the House of Commons in the United Kingdom sits on only 13 designated Fridays.

The committee's report noted that some MPs were opposed to eliminating Fridays since "it would reduce the ability of the Opposition to hold the government to account." Extended sitting hours during the week would also encroach on family time in the evenings for staff and those MPs living in Ottawa with their spouse and children.

"Given the lack of consensus the Committee has heard regarding whether the potential benefits of eliminating Friday sittings outweigh the potential drawbacks, the Committee does not intend to propose a recommendation regarding this matter," it wrote.

Family-friendly modern workplace

LeBlanc, however, may plough ahead with reforms.

"He's going to follow through on the mandate letter that was given to him, asking for a more family-friendly modern workplace," his spokesman said.

The Government House Leader's mandate letter calls on him to "work with Opposition House Leaders to examine ways to make the House of Commons more family-friendly for Members of Parliament."

That may be difficult with the NDP and the Conservatives raising concerns about eliminating one extra day of parliamentary work and many MPs at odds about possible changes.

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