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Passing private members bills is an art for Dave Levac.

MPP Dave Levac is not one to sit still when it comes to the legislative agenda of the province.

While he is not a Minister and thus an official law-maker, since 1999 when Levac was first elected to the legislature, he has already managed to get four private members bills made into law. This is no mean feat for a government backbencher.

In 2000, he saw passed the Firefighters' Memorial Day Act, a bill that established the first Sunday in October as a memorial day to commemorate firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. In 2005, Sabrina's Law was passed unanimously by all members of the legislature, a rarity. The Bill required that every school board establish and maintain a policy on dealing with students with life-threatening anaphylactic reactions such as peanut allergies.

The law was named for 13-year-old Sabrina Shannon, a Pembroke student who died in 2003 after eating french fries in her school cafeteria that were served with tongs suspected of being in contact with cheese. Sabrina had a severe allergy to dairy products.

In 2009, Levac instigated the passage of the Holodomor Memorial Day Act which marked the fourth Saturday in November a day that honoured the victims of the Ukrainian genocide by starvation under Stalin from 1932 to 1933.

For his work on the Act, Levac was the recipient of the prestigious Order of Merit award by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and more recently on Jan. 22, was made a Chevalier of the Ukrainian Order of Merit by Ihor Ostash, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada.

Levac also co-sponsored the Smoke-Free Amendment Act on cigarillos which was made into law in 2008. It banned the sale of cigarillos in packs under 20 and the sale of flavoured cigarillos, both of which are marketed to youths.

Levac has a list of private members bills he would love to see passed, including ones on keeping exotic wildlife in captivity, the management of stormwater around new homes, and mandatory reporting for industrial facilities that keep hazardous materials on site. His latest campaign is to legislate school boards across the province into establishing mandatory protocol to deal with students with diabetes, in his proposed Bill of Rights for Pupils with Diabetes. The bill passed second reading on Apr. 1, 2010 and hopefully now will be heard by committee for debate and amendments.

Treating diabetic students varies from school board to school board, Levac said in an interview, and while some boards are exceptionally responsive to the needs of these students, others are not.

"It's just ignorance and I don't mean that in a critical way," Levac said. "You can't expect everyone to know everything about treating diseases. Some teachers and principals allow things like glasses of water and snacks [on diabetic pupils'] desks, others don't, and maybe for old-fashioned reasons."

Diabetic students need to check their blood sugar, take insulin regularly, eat snacks when necessary, eat lunch at an appropriate time and have enough time to finish the meal, have free and unrestricted access to water and the bathroom, and participate fully in physical education classes, gym classes and other extracurricular activities, including field trips.

Good management isn't as hard as you might think, Levac said. Even when it comes to giving needles with insulin, educators need not be alarmed since many diabetic students self manage and today's insulin pumps do away with the guesswork of dosages.

With the increasing prevalence of diabetic young people, it is more important than ever to make sure students with diabetes--especially the more severe Type 1 Diabetes that is most often diagnosed in young people--have a safe and proper education, he said. The power of law will give parents the ability to kickstart schoolboards and compel them to deal fairly and properly with children trying to cope with diabetes in the classroom.

Private members bills are tricky things. While every member of provincial parliament may have a list of bills they would like to see made into law, inspired by personal experience or by comments by constituents, with the complicated way provincial lawmaking works in this province, it is rare that any private members bills actually make it onto the lawbooks.

Not only do the bills require thorough vetting by government lawyers and ministry bureaucrats, other Members of Provincial Parliament need the chance to submit their comments before public hearings take place. After that lengthy process, final passage of a bill only takes place after the government finishes pushing its own laws into debate and committee hearings. Often, private members bills get stuck in debate or postponed year after year onto the next legislative agenda and many eventually just die on the order paper when the session ends.

It is a complex arduous process that can deter almost any MPP who isn't tenacious and skilled in managing cooperation and consultation. Luckily, Levac, a former teacher and principal, is known for his bridge-building skills and it likely did not hurt that right now he holds the positions of South Central Liberal Caucus Chair, two committee positions, and Vice-Chair of the Ontario-Quebec Parliamentary Association.

Levac said he's not sure why he's had so many private members bills successfully passed.

In the meantime, though, he works hard on all his bills, and while he's not privy to the inside machinations of the various government ministries and only makes discreet inquiries when it comes to the progress of his bills, he respects the meticulous process that needs to take place.

"There's lawyers and lawyers that look at each bill," he said. "The government has to be really careful they get it right. Lawyers and bureaucrats think of every possible scenario.

"It benefits all of us in the end."
COPYRIGHT 2011 Carol Parafenko
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Title Annotation:Scene & Heard
Publication:Paris Chronicle (Paris, Canada)
Date:Jan 28, 2011
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