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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

The E-Word spreads in Ottawa 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. February 9, 2007]

 

OTTAWA —  Just two weeks after the return of Parliament and Ottawa is awash with wild election rumours and speculation. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in most of his Christmas interviews that he does not want an election this year, but news reports this week suggested otherwise. 

The most intriguing speculation appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday. 

According to the Globe, "Conservative Party workers" are picking up "subtle messages" that the Prime Minister's Office wants to engineer its own defeat in May for a June election. 

"The rank-and-file Tories worry that a long and very hot summer, especially one that brings drought and other severe weather events, could prompt Canadians to think even harder about the environment -- and could give Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion more time to establish himself as its protector," the Globe went on to explain. 

"There are some weather predictions that say we are going to go through the summer from hell here, that it is going to be hotter than Hades," one Tory organizer from Ontario told the Globe. 

The hotter than Hades theory is so far the opinion of one Tory organizer.  

But many in Ottawa are expecting that if an election is going to happen this year it will be some time in April, May or June. 

The reason being two major obstacles -- provincial elections in Quebec and Ontario. 

Under a new fixed-date law, Ontario will have a campaign in the fall, leaving a small window of opportunity for a federal election to be called after the House returns from the summer recess. 

In Quebec, the election timetable being widely reported in the French-language media is for a winter campaign that will end on March 26, just six days after the federal budget is expected to be tabled. 

The budget is expected to include a huge amount of new money for Quebec to address what the provinces refer to as the fiscal imbalance. 

While everyone is focusing on the budget as the key confidence vote that could make or break the minority Parliament there are reasons to believe that it won't. 

It will be hard for the Bloc Quebecois to vote against a budget that contains billions in new money for Quebec, especially if it comes after an expected Parti Quebecois defeat to Quebec Premier Jean Charest in the provincial election. 

The Bloc would have a hard time campaigning with demoralized ground forces and explaining why they voted against the budget. 

One NDP strategist told reporters this week he is expecting Harper to engineer the government's own defeat on some other issue in April in time for a May election. 

The list of wedge issues Harper could trot out is limitless, given the Conservatives are usually on the other side of the ideological spectrum from the other three opposition parties. 

Harper hinted at one such wedge issue in a speech he delivered on Tuesday outlining his priorities for this year.  

The PM eluded to the legislative backlog in Parliament of the government's tough on crime agenda. 

"During last year’s election campaign the opposition parties claimed to support mandatory prison sentences for gun crimes, reverse onus on bail applications involving gun crime, and a crackdown on violent, dangerous offenders," Harper said. "So did we. That’s why we brought in legislation on all three.

"Yet the bills are still stuck in Parliament, bogged down by opposition obstructionism. Mark my words, if an election does come before these bills pass, the opposition will have a lot of explaining to do."

Meanwhile, Harper and the Tories must be encouraged by two new polls that were released late this week. 

The two polls show that the Liberals' have lost the public opinion bounce they received following their dramatic leadership convention in Montreal. 

A Leger poll gives the Tories a whopping seven-point lead and SES, regarded by reporters as the most accurate firm based on the last two federal elections, has the Liberals and Tories tied at 33 per cent. 

Not only that, but two weeks into the winter session of Parliament the early reviews of Dion's performance on the Hill are not good. 

Last week, Sun columnist Michael Coren wrote about the latest "elephant in the room" in Canada, that being Dion's English, which is a work in progress. 

Reading transcripts of Dion's post question period scrums takes one or two extra reads to decipher. Surprisingly, even Press Gallery reporters snicker at times over Dion's pronunciation or choice of words that seem lost in translation. 

Dion's focus on the environment was reportedly criticized in caucus and appears to be gaining no traction. It may be reminding soft left-wing Liberal supporters of the "inconvenient truth" of the Liberals' failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while in government and pushing them back to the NDP or the Greens.

The Liberals' "Kyoto-or-nothing" strategy is beginning to be questioned. 

Scientists, who question the man-made impact of climate change, have now appeared on the two popular afternoon political cable news politics programs in the past week. 

Harper, Environment Minister John Baird and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach are now seeing their message that meeting Kyoto targets would destroy the economy appearing in front-page headlines. 

And even the Liberals' allies, such as Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove, are questioning the impact of Kyoto. 

"It would be devastating for the whole community, anybody that signed on," he told the National Post this week. "It's not even a remote possibility. No prime minister in any one of the parties in the House of Commons is going to bring in any kind of regulation that says we have to do that. It would be suicidal for our economy."

With Dion's early struggles and polling numbers it is not surprising that election rumours heated up this week. And the stakes will be high if an  election is called. 

Three of the four major party leaders could lose their jobs depending on the election results, including the newly-minted Dion. 

Liberals, you see, are a lot like New York Yankee fans. They don't like losing and will make demand changes if they think it's necessary. 

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.
  
______________

The House will deal with the following bills next week

Monday 

Debate on the Statutory Review of the Anti-Terrorism Act

Tuesday

Bill C-35, bail reform

Wednesday 

Bill C-27, dangerous offenders legislation (second reading)

Bill C-31, the voter integrity legislation
Bill C-44, aboriginal human rights
Bill C-11, transport; 
Bill C-33, the technical income tax act


Thursday

Opposition day

Friday

Bill C-10, mandatory minimum sentences (report stage)

____________________

Committee Highlights

Monday

> Representatives from Greenpeace appear before the special legislative committee on the Clean Air Act. 

Tuesday

> The finance committee continues its hearings into the government's decision to tax income trusts.  

Thursday

> Public Works Minister Michael Fortier appears before the operations and estimates committee.



> 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: Royal Assent December 12

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.

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

Status: Royal Assent February 1, 2007

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: Royal Assent December 12

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: Report stage February 6, 2007

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

Status: Passed in the House December 11

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: Royal Assent December 14

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: Royal Assent December 14

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:
Royal Assent December 14

This is the implementation legislation for the softwood lumber deal with the U.S. 

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:
Royal Assent December 14

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 Criminal Code (criminal interest rate)

Status:
Passed in the House February 6, 2007


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:
Report stage December 7


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:
Referred to special legislative committee December 4; Tory MP Laurie Hawn appointed committee chair December 12

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:
Report stage, February 6, 2007

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:
Referred to the justice committee February 6, 2007

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:
Royal Assent December 12


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:
Referred to Human Resources committee January 30, 2007


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

Status:
Referred to finance committee December 7

This bill, among other things, lowers the legal minimum 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:
Royal Assent December 12

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:
Royal Assent December 12

Supplementary estimates

C-40 An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001 and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act and to make related amendments to other Acts 

Status:
Referred to finance committee, January 30, 2007

C-41 An Act to amend the Competition Act 

Status:
Introduced December 7

C-42 An Act to amend the Quarantine Act 

Status:
Introduced December 12

C-43 An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate

Status:
Introduced December 13

This bill will allow for Elections Canada to hold votes to select candidates to fill Senate vacancies in province-wide races.

C-44 An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act

Status:
Second Reading February 7, 2007

This law will remove a controversial section of the act that provides an exemption for aboriginal Canadians. 

C-45 An Act respecting the sustainable development of Canada's seacoast and inland fisheries

Status:
Introduced December 13

: Related Links

> Check out last week's legislative update

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