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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Gay marriage vote and a new 
Liberal landscape

[PoliticsWatch Updated 3:00 p.m. December 1, 2006]

 

OTTAWA —  Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided the best welcoming gift to get for the new leader of the Liberal party is a debate on a controversial issue.  

Government House Leader Rob Nicholson announced in the House this week that the Commons will begin debating a motion as early as Wednesday on reopening the same-sex marriage issue. 

In its election platform, the Conservatives committed to "hold a truly free vote on the definition of marriage in the next session of Parliament. 

If the resolution is passed, the government will introduce legislation to restore the traditional definition of marriage while respecting existing same-sex marriages."

Last summer, the Senate gave Royal Assent to Bill C-38, which was the Martin government's same-sex marriage legislation. 

That vote appeared to bring to an end a divisive debate in federal politics that had been going on for more than two years after an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling in favour of same-sex marriages. 

Former prime minister Paul Martin made the vote free for his backbench MPs, but not for his cabinet ministers. Many of those cabinet ministers had voted for the traditional definition of marriage in previous votes in the House of Commons.

This included key Martin allies, such as Joe Volpe and Tony Valeri, who reversed their position once in cabinet.

One cabinet minister, Joe Comuzzi, resigned from cabinet shortly before the vote because it would have violated an election promise he made to constituents. 

Harper is promising a free vote for all MPs and says he will not whip his cabinet or his caucus, like he did for the vote recognizing Quebec as a nation.

The vote will likely be close, but groups who support gay marriages said they are confident they have the numbers to defeat a motion to reopen the marriage law. 

Nonetheless, the free vote will begin with another emotional debate in the House of Commons and will be closely followed by the media and stakeholders. 

"I'm confident that the vote is winnable," Nicholson told reporters this week. "Certainly, I believe there are many people in the Liberal party who felt constrained by the rules that were set in place a year-and-a-half ago."

"We'll see what Parliament has to say and I'm looking forward to the debate."

The vote places the new leader of the Liberal party in a bit of a bind. 

When Parliament last voted in favour of gay marriage last year, nearly three dozen Liberal MPs voted against the government. Close to 30 of those MPs were re-elected in January. 

At this week's Liberal leadership convention, Martin boasted to delegates that the Liberals were the party of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

But having nearly a third of your caucus voting against something that the Liberal leadership considers a Charter right makes it difficult for the new leader to boast about the party being all about defending the Charter. 

But Liberals are putting their best face on the vote.  

"I think it’s great news for us that we’re coming back to a time where Canadians can see the old Reform attitudes on this subject and it will remind people just at an opportune moment for the Liberal Party," Liberal MP John McCallum said this week. 

The last time there was a free vote on marriage, just three Tory MPs voted in favour of extending the right to same-sex couples -- Jim Prentice, Gerald Keddy and James Moore.
 
However, a substantial number of new Tory MPs elected in January are expected to join the other three in voting against most MPs in their caucus. 

"Parliament has already spoken on that issue and I don’t wish to revisit it," said Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon

New Liberal Leader

A new era will begin on Parliament Hill next week after the Liberals pick a new leader. 
 
If Michael Ignatieff or Stephane Dion win, then there will be a simple change in the seating plan with one of the two MPs sitting in the spot interim Liberal leader Bill Graham has occupied for the last 10 months. 

However, Bob Rae and Gerard Kennedy do not have seats and that raises a number of questions. 
 
Primarily being, who will lead the party in the Commons if Kennedy or Rae win? 

Graham has remained neutral during the leadership campaign so it is possible that he could remain on the job, which he has been growing into since the House returned for the fall sitting. 

However, if Rae wins, one option would be to have Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale lead the Liberals in the House. 
 
Goodale this week declared that he was supporting Rae in the leadership race ending his months of neutrality. 

If Kennedy wins, it's not clear who would be the leader in the House and the responsibility could wind up going to Graham by default. 

Also a new leader probably also means new critics. The seven Liberal MPs who were running in the leadership race have a lot of experience but currently are without critics' portfolios. That will certainly change after the leadership race. 


The Legislative Update is posted every Friday afternoon when the House is sitting. To stay informed on all the political events read PoliticsWatch's  Morning Briefing updated at 9:30 a.m. ET Monday to Friday and the Daily Agenda updated at 6:00 p.m. ET Monday to Friday.
  
______________

Here's what's happening in the House next week 

Monday 

> Ways and Means Motion No. 12, a motion to refer Bill C-30, the clean air act, to a legislative committee 
> Bill S-5, on tax conventions
> Bill C-34, on the first nations education agreement.

Tuesday

> Third reading of Bill C-24 softwood lumber

Wednesday and Thursday

> The House is expected to deal with a motion on reopening the same-sex marriage debate.

____________________

Committee Highlights

Monday, December 4

> The environment committee continues its study of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Tuesday, December 5

> RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli makes his second appearance before the public security committee's investigation of the Maher Arar affair

> Executives from the Canadian Wheat Board will appear before the Commons agriculture committee.

> Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn appears before the human resources committee.

> The aboriginal affairs committee begins a clause-by-clause study of former prime minister Paul Martin's private member's bill on the Kelowna Accord.  

> The environment committee continues its study of a private member's bill endorsing the Kyoto accord. Canada's environmental commissioner, Johanne Gelinas, will make an appearance. 

Wednesday, December 6

> The heritage committee examines the government's cancellation of the Court Challenges Program. 

Thurssday, December 7

> Public Security Minister Stockwell Day appears again as a witness for the public security committee's investigation of the Maher Arar affair. 


> Full Schedule


____________________

Bills the Tories have tabled in this Parliament 

C-2 An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability

Status: House returns amended bill to Senate November 21

This is better known the Federal Accountability Act, which a number of new measures and a massive list of amendments to current laws aimed at cleaning up government. The bill is the government's No. 1 priority and the Tories want it passed before the summer recess in June, but already some senators are threatening to hold up the bill because it creates a joint ethics commissioner for the House and Senate. 

C-3 An Act respecting international bridges and tunnels and making a consequential amendment to another Act

Status: Passed in the House June 22

C-4 An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act

Status: Royal Assent May 11

C-5 An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts

Status: Passed by Senate November 3

C-6 An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status: Referred to transport committee November 7

C-7 An Act to amend the National Defence Act

Status: Introduced April 27

C-8 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2007

Status: Royal Assent May 11

C-9 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment)

Status: Passed in the House November 3

C-10 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum penalties for offences involving firearms) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status: Referred to justice committee June 13

C-11 An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status: Referred to the Transport committee September 21

C-12 An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts

Status: Returned from the public security committee with amendments November 22

C-13 An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006

Status: Royal Assent June 22

This is the budget implementation bill. The bill was accidentally given unanimous consent in the House on third reading when none of the opposition parties objected after confusion over who would speak to the bill.

C-14 An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption)

Status: Referred to citizenship and immigration committee June 13

This bill makes it easier for parents to obtain citizenship for children they adopt from overseas.

C-15 An Act to amend the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act

Status: Royal Assent June 22

C-16 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act

Status: Passed in the House November 6

C-17 An Act to amend the Judges Act and certain other Acts in relation to courts

Status: Passed in the House November 17

This bill sets salaries for federally-appointed judges at a lower rate than that recommended by an independent panel. The panel wanted 10.8 per cent increase plus cost of living. The government is offering 7.25 per cent in the bill plus cost of living.

C-18 An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification

Status: Sent to justice committee October 4

C-19 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

Status: Passed in the House November 1

This bill toughens punitive measures against convicted street racers. 

C-20 An Act respecting airports, airport authorities and other airport operators and amending the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act

Status: Introduced June 15

C-21 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (non-registration of firearms that are neither prohibited nor restricted)

Status: Introduced June 19

This bill we effectively kill the long-arm registry.

C-22 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (age of protection) and to make consequential amendments to the Criminal Records Act

Status: Referred to justice committee October 30

C-23 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments)

Status: Referred to the Justice committee October 16

C-24 An Act to impose a charge on the export of certain softwood lumber products to the United States and a charge on refunds of certain duty deposits paid to the United States, to authorize certain payments, to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and to amend other Acts as a consequence

Status:
Report stage November 29

This is the implementation legislation for the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. This bill is considered a matter of confidence for the minority government. 

C-25 An Act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status:
Passed in the House November 10

This bill toughens money laundering and terror financing laws and would give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada the power to monitor money wiring and travellers cheques services. 

C-26 An Act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act

Status:
Referred to the industry committee November 6

This bill toughens money laundering and terror financing laws and would give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada the power to monitor money wiring and travellers cheques services. 

C-27 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace)

Status:
Special legislative committee struck November 9, Liberal MP Bernard Patry named chair of special committee on November 10

This bill places the onus on three time sexual and violent offenders to prove to the Crown they are not deserving of dangerous offender status.

C-28 A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006 

Status:
Referred to the finance committee October 30


C-29 An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act 

Status:
Introduced October 18


C-30 An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Energy Efficiency Act and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act (Canada's Clean Air Act) 

Status:
Introduced October 19

All three opposition parties say they will vote against the government's main plank of its Green Plan.  

C-31 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Public Service Employment Act

Status:
Referred to the procedure and house affairs committee November 8

This bill will require voters to present photo ID at polling stations. 

C-32 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status:
Introduced November 21

This bill will impose penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs 

C-33 An Act to amend the Income Tax Act, including amendments in relation to foreign investment entities and non-resident trusts, and to provide for the bijural expression of the provisions of that Act 

Status:
Introduced November 22


C-34 An Act to provide for jurisdiction over education on First Nation lands in British Columbia

Status:
Introduced November 22


C-35 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (reverse onus in bail hearings for firearm-related offences) 

Status:
Introduced November 23

This bill requires those charged with gun crimes prove why they should be granted bail before trial.

C-36 An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act 

Status:
Introduced November 27


C-37 An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters

Status:
Introduced November 27

This bill, among other things, lowers the legal miminum mortgage downpayment consumers have to make on a home.

C-38 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2007 (Appropriation Act No. 2, 2006-2007) 

Status:
Passed in the House November 28

Main estimates

C-39 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2007 (Appropriation Act No. 3, 2006-2007)

Status:
Passed in the House November 28

Supplementary estimates

: Related Links

> Check out last week's legislative update

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