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Liberal MP feeling 'excited but nervous' after winning private member's lottery

Members of Parliament of different party stripes have won a chance to pursue policies close to their hearts — and maybe even see their ideas adopted into law — all thanks to some good luck.

At the start of a new Parliament, the Speaker of the House of Commons holds a random draw to determine the order of precedence for considering private members' business — the bills and motions brought forward by MPs who aren't serving as cabinet ministers or parliamentary secretaries.

House Speaker Anthony Rota held the lottery in Ottawa Tuesday, drawing MPs' names to determine the order. With so much legislative ground to cover in Parliament and limited time devoted to private members' business, it's generally believed that landing in one of the top 30 slots means an MP has a good shot at seeing their bill debated and brought to a vote.

Liberal MP Randeep Sarai, who has represented the British Columbia riding of Surrey Centre since 2015, scored the coveted top spot.

Sarai told CBC News he has never considered himself lucky.

'I haven't won draws before'

"Oh, this is something new," he said. "I don't win the lottery and I haven't won draws before. So this was an exciting moment."

Sarai's name was drawn 244th in 2019. He said that's probably why he was standing in a lobby as the draw took place this week in a committee room in West Block.

Sarai said that when a colleague told him he'd won, he had mixed emotions.

"Being excited but nervous also to get something that we can get across the finish line on both sides of the House and something that hopefully helps my constituents as well," he said.

Sarai said he has a "few ideas" he'd like to pursue but wants to consult his constituency youth council first.

"So I'm going to be canvassing with them and getting some ideas from them in the next week or so. And from there, I'll narrow it down and hopefully have something drafted before the new year," he said.

Sarai said he is aiming for a bill that is meaningful for his riding but also "national in scope."

Ontario Conservative MP Kyle Seeback, Nova Scotia Liberal MP Jaime Battiste, B.C. NDP MP Gord Johns and Ontario Liberal MP David McGuinty rounded out the top five.

Seeback's spokesperson said the MP has "a number of pieces of legislation he is considering bringing forward."

Carr, Scheer, May also land good spots

There are several other intriguing names in the top 30. 

Manitoba Liberal MP Jim Carr served in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet as minister of natural resources and international trade diversification, but was dropped in October.

His name was drawn sixth in the lottery, giving him a chance to introduce a private member's bill for the first time. It could represent an interesting chapter in Carr's political legacy.

Ontario Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan, a former science minister, won the 13th slot.

Former party leaders also proved lucky. Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May had her name drawn 22nd, while former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer came in 28th.

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer speaks in the House of Commons on June 18, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Some other high-profile MPs had good fortune this year. Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner sits at 18 on the order of precedence, while Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton sits at 19.

But the draw was complicated by the fact that Trudeau had not yet named his team of parliamentary secretaries, who assist ministers in their duties. 

Parliamentary secretaries are not allowed to bring in their own private member's bills or motions because it could give the appearance of an endorsement by their minister or the government.

Trudeau released his list of parliamentary secretaries on Friday. Any Liberal MP promoted to the role gives up any bill they might have been thinking about introducing. 

So Battiste, who had his name drawn third, will give up the slot after taking on the role of parliamentary secretary to the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.

So too will Ontario MP Vance Badawey (drawn 23rd), who is now the parliamentary secretary to the Indigenous services minister, and Ontario MP Gary Anandasangaree (drawn 30th), who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

Private member's bills rarely pass but can draw attention

Private member's bills cannot direct the government to spend public money. That means MPs hoping to actually create a new law need to be creative.

While private member's bills rarely pass, there have been success stories over the years.

In the last Parliament, Conservative MP Len Webber fronted a bill to have Revenue Canada ask Canadians on their income tax returns if they consent to becoming organ donors. It was unanimously adopted by the House of Commons and became law in June.

Webber's bill was inspired by the memory of his late wife, who died of breast cancer. Webber told HuffPost Canada that when his name was drawn first in the private members' business lottery after the 2019 election, it felt almost like "divine intervention."

Private member's bills and motions can also be used to stir up heated debates or draw attention to issues, even if the proposed legislation has virtually no chance of passing.

Last year, Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall tabled a private member's bill seeking to make sex-selective abortion a criminal offence. 

Though the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois were firmly opposed from the outset, the bill put some pressure on Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, who had courted support from social conservatives in his party's leadership race.

O'Toole voted against Wagantall's bill, telling reporters at the time he was doing so because he is "pro-choice." Thirty-seven other Conservative MPs also voted against the bill.

Watch: Conservative MP reacts to O'Toole opposing her sex-selective abortion bill

Saskatchewan Conservative MP reacts to O'Toole opposing her push to ban sex-selective abortion

Cathay Wagantall said she respects Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's decision to vote against her private member's bill on banning sex-selective abortion.

Here is the top 30 order of precedence for private members' business:

1. Randeep Sarai (Liberal)
2. Kyle Seeback (Conservative)
3. Jaime Battiste (Liberal — he'll surrender his spot now that he's been appointed a parliamentary secretary)
4. Gord Johns (NDP)
5. David McGuinty (Liberal)
6. Jim Carr (Liberal)
7. Brian Masse (NDP)
8. Marty Morantz (Conservative)
9. Chris Lewis (Conservative)
10. Martin Champoux (Bloc Québécois)
11. Ben Lobb (Conservative)
12. Kelly Block (Conservative)
13. Kirsty Duncan (Liberal)
14. Jacques Gourde (Conservative)
15. Marcus Powlowski (Liberal)
16. Marilyn Gladu (Conservative)
17. Wilson Miao (Liberal)
18. Michelle Rempel Garner (Conservative)
19. Niki Ashton (NDP)
20. Sherry Romanado (Liberal)
21. Ken McDonald (Liberal)
22. Elizabeth May (Green Party)
23. Vance Badawey (Liberal — he'll surrender his spot now that he's been appointed a parliamentary secretary)
24. Kevin Waugh (Conservative)
25. Clifford Small (Conservative)
26. Anju Dhillon (Liberal)
27. Chandra Arya (Liberal)
28. Andrew Scheer (Conservative)
29. Taylor Bachrach (NDP)
30. Gary Anandasangaree (Liberal — he'll surrender his spot now that he's been appointed a parliamentary secretary)

Complete results

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