Religious freedom, eating disorders, the status of women, cannabis, curling, the World Hip Hop Dance Championship and NORAD Santa Tracker. All of these seemingly random terms have something in common: they were all a top topic for an MP during the fall seating of the House of Commons.
With the House resuming earlier this week, we analyzed the University of Toronto’s linked parliamentary data project to determine what MPs and parties have been talking about the most.
Questions as Orders for Returns and numbered questions: simply put, these are questions.
Second Reading: the debate stage of a bill; the second stage of a bill becoming law.
Report Stage: the examination stage of a bill, when members can make others changes; the fourth stage of a bill becoming law.
The top word of the fall 2016 session was “trade”
Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year may have (unfortunately) been “post-truth,” but according to our analysis, the top word of the fall 2016 session was “trade.” (We excluded function words like “the” or “to” and ingrained words like “government,” “Speaker” and “Canadians.”)
The infographic below displays all five top words, by party.
The top topic was the Budget Implementation Act
Aside from the generalized “Questions Passed as Orders for Returns,” or more simply put “questions” category, the top five topics overall were:
- The Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2
- Business of Supply (how the government’s funds are dispersed through Parliament)
- The Canada Pension Plan
- The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation Act (strengthening the bond between Canada and the European market)
The infographic below shows the top topics, by party.
Behind Assistant Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes, NDP MP Guy Caron for Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les Basques gave the most speeches categorized with the Budget Implementation Act topic.
“I don’t think there’s anything more key to the role I’m playing than normalizing the budget,” Caron said. “This is one of the most central bills of the finance committee and one of the most important discussed throughout the house.”
The top issue was preferential access to government
While most speeches on topics were not categorized further, some included a sub-string issue with more information. Aside from uncategorized issues, preferential access to government was at the top, with heavy debate over cash-for-access fundraising.
The infographic below shows the top five issues by party, excluding uncategorized issues. (Genetically modified alfalfa, bottled water, agriculture and agri-foods, and genetically modified foods tied for fourth place for the Green party.)
Behind preferential access to government, the genocide against the Yazidi people was the second most talked about issue. Conservative MP Garnett Genuis was one of three MPs that made the issue a priority, with 10 speeches in the data categorized as such.
“Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been serving heroically alongside our Kurdish allies in northern Iraq, and Canada has contributed significantly to the well-being of the people of Iraq,” Genuis said regarding the genocide against the Yazidi people issue. “The government promised to take in Yazidi refugees, but we haven’t seen action on that either. Needless to say, violations of human rights abroad are continuing daily, so this is something I will not stop raising in the House of Commons and elsewhere.”
The fifth most talked about issue is also expected to continue being raised in the spring sessions: the Softwood Lumber Agreement. Conservative MP Todd Doherty for Cariboo-Prince George was the most vocal MP about the top-five issue, with nine speeches in the data categorized as such.
“In a single community in my riding, two mills are at risk,” Doherty explained. “That is 400 jobs and a quarter of the municipal tax base. Instead of rising to the occasion to fight for our forestry families, the Liberal Government has decided that softwood lumber is not a priority, and it is up to local MPs to make sure this issue remains front and centre.”
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