Parliamentarians don’t have the proper information they need to make decisions that Canadians expect of them, says a former MP. “They certainly get direction from the party machine which eclipses their need to think, but even in non-partisan situations I think they’re not in a position to make the kinds of decisions that I think Canadians want them to make,” former Liberal MP Joe Jordan told The Hill Times. Mr. Jordan is speaking on a panel with former Conservative MP Ted Menzies at a Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians conference today to discuss how MPs and Senators can make better public policy. There will be three panel discussions, the first featuring Mr. Jordan and Mr. Menzies entitled Policy-relevant knowledge: What kinds of information and analysis do Canadian Parliamentarians need to address complex policy challenges? The discussion will be moderated by Parliamentary Librarian Sonia L’Heureux. Mr. Jordan said the biggest problem MPs and Senators have in making public policy is time. “By the time information makes its way to committee, it’s been through so many lenses, it’s almost as if it’s a self-fulfilling briefing note in the sense that they don’t really get you thinking laterally,” he said, noting that the committee stage of bills and studies should be where a lot of the information comes from. “I think the system is not set up to have the kinds of discussions at the front end. Part of it is the individual Parliamentarians aren’t involved necessarily in the original policy decision. They’re given a fait accompli and told to have some hearings. I think we could do better.” He said that on top of that, there are political issues to contend with, and time allocation and closure motions in the House put further pressure on short timelines to get things done. Mr. Jordan said that while technology is allowing Parliamentarians to find more information if they need it or want it, sometimes “it’s a needle in a haystack” when it comes to making good public policy. “Look at the estimates. Nobody could say the information isn’t there. Yeah, it’s there, but it’s buried in 600 pages, so it’s a combination of things. I’m looking forward to the discussion,” he told The Hill Times, noting that Parliamentarians need to look more unintended consequences. “That’s where governments appear glaringly incompetent when they get that sort of thing wrong. That’s what’s supposed to come out of committee hearings.” The second panel focuses on citizen engagement and “harnessing the power of the internet” featuring Carleton University assistant professor Amanda Clarke, former Progressive Conservative MP Dorothy Dobbie and Samara Canada’s Laura Anthony. The panel is moderated by Catherine MacLeod, head of the Parliamentary Information and Research Service. The third panel is called Information overload: Challenges and opportunities for Parliamentarians. NDP MP Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore, N.S.), former Liberal Cabinet minister Don Boudria and retired journalist Barry Wilson will be on the discussion panel, with Canadian Study of Parliament’s Jack Stilborn as the moderator. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. when former Liberal Cabinet minister Andy Mitchell, president of the CAFP, will make some opening remarks. The event, part of the CAFP’s annual general meeting, takes place at the Library and Archives in Ottawa. Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, MPs will debate Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act, at report stage; and Conservative MP Colin Mayes’ (Okanagan-Shuswap, B.C.) private member’s Bill C-587, the Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act. MPs will also vote on the NDP’s opposition day motion on a financial code of conduct. NDP MP Ryan Cleary (St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, Nfld.) will introduce a bill to establish a National Institutional Abuse Awareness Day at 10 a.m. in the House of Commons, followed by a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in room 130-S Centre Block. Pathways founder Gemma Hickey will also speak. On the agenda (all times local) Events Alternatives Journal is hosting a panel discussion on the environment as part of Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences today at 10:30 a.m. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.), NDP MP Megan Leslie (Halifax, N.S.), Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont.), Sierra Club Canada national program director John Bennett, Royal Roads University professor Ann Dale, Université de Montréal professor Norman Mousseau, Carleton University professor James Meadowcroft, University of Toronto associate professor Stephen Scharper, and Alternatives Journal founder Robert Paehlke will take part in the panel discussion, moderated by The Green Majority host Daryn Caister. The event takes place at the University of Ottawa and focuses on themes around sustainability. For more events, check The Hill Times’ Parliamentary Calendar. House committee hearings The Public Safety and National Security Committee will meet at 8:45 a.m. in room 268, 151 Sparks St., to study Bill C-637, Firearms Storage and Transportation, at clause-by-clause. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault will appear before the Finance Committee to discuss Bill C-59, the Budget Implementation Act, at 9:15 a.m. in room 253-D Centre Block. The committee will then meet at 4:15 p.m. in room 237-C Centre Block to hear from Finance Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.). The Foreign Affairs Committee will meet at 11 a.m. in room 268, 151 Sparks St., to continue its study on the next North American leaders’ summit. The committee will hear from the Mexican Ambassador to Canada Francisco Suarez Davila, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, BMO Financial Group and Laura Dawson from the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Centre. The Procedure and House Affairs Committee will meet at 11 a.m. in room 306, 151 Sparks St., to continue its study of Bill C-50, the Citizen Voting Act. French Ambassador to Canada Nicolas Chapuis will appear, along with Leadnow.ca campaigns director Jamie Biggar by videoconference. The subcommittee on International Human Rights will hear from Amnesty International secretary general Alex Neve on the human rights situation in Mexico. 1 p.m., room 237-C Centre Block. The Natural Resources Committee will meet at 3:30 p.m. in room 268, 151 Sparks St., to study the supplementary estimates for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and Natural Resources Canada. The Transport Committee will meet at 3:30 p.m. in room 306, 151 Sparks St., to continue its study on updating infrastructure in Canada. Senate committee hearings The Senate Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament will meet at 9:30 a.m. in room 356-S Centre Block to study Bill C-586, the Candidacy and Caucus Reforms Act. The committee will hear from former House Speaker Peter Milliken and Liberal MP Stéphane Dion (Saint Laurent-Cartierville, Que.) before it goes into clause-by-clause consideration. Finance Minister Joe Oliver (Eglinton-Lawrence, Ont.) will appear before the National Finance Committee at 3:15 p.m. in room 160-S Centre Block to discuss the subject matter of Bill C-59, the Budget Implementation Act. Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Aaron Wudrick will also appear, along with officials from Finance Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, Finance Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian Heritage, Industry Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Privy Council Office, Public Safety Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat and Veterans Affairs Canada. Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien will appear before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to discuss Bill C-26, the Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act at 3 p.m. in room 257 East Block. Sheldon Kennedy will also testify along with the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness. The Agriculture and Forestry Committee will meet at 5 p.m. in room 2, Victoria Building, to continue its study on international market access priorities for the Canadian agricultural and agri-food sector. Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis will appear before the Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee at 5 p.m. in room 257 East Block to discuss Bill C-46, the Pipeline Safety Act. The Fisheries and Oceans Committee will meet at 5 p.m. in room 505, Victoria Building to study Bill S-224, the National Seal and Seafood Products Day Act, and Bill C-555, the Seal Fishery Observation License Act, at clause-by-clause. Photo of the day, from the archives Today, in 1997, Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétienwon his second majority government. The Liberals won 155 seats in the 301-seat Parliament. The Reform Party formed the official opposition with 60 seats. The Bloc Québécois had 44 seats, the NDP 21, the Progressive Conservatives, who were decimated to two seats in the previous election, came back with 20 seats. Canada’s 36th Parliament was dubbed the “Pizza Parliament.” Mr. Chrétien is pictured in this file photo with his wife Aline, from the June 3, 2002, edition of The Hill Times. For more historical political coverage, visit The Hill Times archives.