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Liberals accuse Leef of abandoning FASD bill

Yukon's Liberals are accusing Yukon MP Ryan Leef of letting an important bill die without a fight. Leef recently agreed to withdraw his private member’s bill from Parliament.

Yukon’s Liberals are accusing Yukon MP Ryan Leef of letting an important bill die without a fight.

Leef recently agreed to withdraw his private member’s bill from Parliament, which would have amended the criminal code of Canada to recognize fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The MP contends the bill stood slim odds of becoming law, and that it’s a victory that the issue will be considered by parliamentary committee, with a report due in four months.

That’s not how Klondike MLA Sandy Silver sees it. “Our MP introduced a really good piece of legislation and they’re trying to make us swallow that this was the only way to keep it alive,” Silver said.

“I think the Tories are the only ones who are buying this story. This killed the bill.”

Leef maintains that pushing the bill along, only to see it die on the order table, would have been a merely symbolic victory. But Silver said that needn’t have been the only other outcome.

“Basically the feds decided they didn’t support our MP’s bill and asked him to pull it. He basically scrapped his own bill.

“The logic doesn’t make any sense.”

Yesterday, Leef said it’s not true that he was just following orders from his own party.

“(Silver) has been noticeably vacant on the topic up until he sees a moment to criticize,” he said in an email.

“I tabled the bill in the House of Commons for first reading in March and clearly at the time I had full expectation that the bill would receive support and be able to move through the entire parliamentary process by spring of 2015. There are many factors that can impact a private member’s bill.

“I made a decision in consultation with the invested stakeholders and my government to realize a new approach that would achieve equal, albeit slightly different, focus to FASD.”

During second reading of the bill on Nov. 20, Robert Goguen, parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, raised some doubts about the bill.

“For example, some people will ask why there is a need to address only FASD and not any other mental disability or mental disorder,” the Conservative MP said.

“Is FASD the only disability that has an impact on an individual’s degree of responsibility for the purposes of the criminal law?”

He then moved to withdraw the bill and refer it to committee.

Leef agreed to the motion.

Larry Bagnell, the territory’s former Liberal MLA and current federal Liberal candidate, took his own jab at Leef.

If the political will was there, the bill could have become law before next year’s election, he said.

“When you’re in government, especially in majority, you can do anything,” he said.

“It’s not a valid argument that the bill couldn’t go through. It’s a Conservative controlled House, and a Conservative controlled Senate.”

Bagnell gave six examples of private member’s bills that went from second reading and referral to committee to receiving royal assent within six months.

“While there was no guarantee that it would pass in that time, it certainly was possible to get it done,” he added.

Leef swung back by criticizing Bagnell’s record as an MP, saying people should look closer at how many times he mentioned FASD during his 11 years in Parliament.

“Larry never got a private member’s bill passed in 11 years as our MP,” he said.

“I guess after seven years in opposition he’s merely learned how to critique an issue versus solve one. Larry’s best years are behind him, while mine are still ahead of me.

“Our comparative records will speak for themselves. Like Sandy, he was absent and only now seeks relevance as some champion. The reality is he’s politicizing it for his own self-serving purpose.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at