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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Environment to top agenda as 
MPs return

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:10 p.m. January 26, 2007]

 

OTTAWA —  Health Minister Tony Clement is feeling somewhat lonely these days.    

"I'm ever the bridesmaid these days," Clement said during a break at this week's Tory caucus retreat on Parliament Hill. 

"You know health used to be the No. 1 issue, now it's the environment and how it plays out into health of course."

MPs return to Ottawa Monday after a six-week Christmas break. 

And no doubt, barring an unforeseen crisis, the environment is expected to dominate debate around Parliament Hill in the coming weeks. 

The Tories have made the environment one of their two-long term priorities and the most talked about committee is a special legislative committee to examine the government's Clean Air Act. 

The Climate Action Network issued a press release on Friday announcing a press conference for the first day of the winter session with the name "Kyoto tops agenda for 2007 Parliament."

The environment will be in the air, but it won't be the only issue. 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper outlined his government's priorities in its second year, which begins in the House of Commons next week. 

Federal Budget

La Presse reported earlier this month that the budget will be tabled on Tuesday, March 20. 

Harper is saying it will keep federal spending focused on results, "reduce taxes even further for families and individuals" and address the fiscal imbalance.

The key budget vote will be carefully watched. The government needs at least one of the three opposition parties to endorse it in order to survive a confidence test and avoid the government falling. 

Last year, the Bloc Quebecois moved quickly to support the budget which came just three months after the federal election. 

Whose turn will it be this year? No one knows. 

And Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said this week he does not have any plans to entice one of the opposition parties. 

"We'll be continuing our work on the budget and we'll be following the economic plan that we laid out for Canada -- Advantage Canada -- in November and I hope we would have the support of the House," Flaherty said. 

Democratic Reform

The government introduced two pieces of legislation last year which will have a major impact on the Senate. 

A bill introduced in the spring seeks to limit the term of Senators, who are currently appointed until they are 75, to eight years. That bill is being held up in the Senate. 

And in December, the government introduced a bill to have Elections Canada hold votes in provinces where there are Senate vacancies. The winners of these contests will then be appointed to the Senate by the prime minister. 

The second bill faces criticism from all three opposition parties and will likely be stalled if and when it reaches the Senate. With the life expectancy of the current government being measured in months, the probability of the Senate consultation bill becoming law is low. 

In addition, the government's fixed election date bill is still snaking its way through Parliament. 

Crime

The Conservative government had promised to get tough on crime and a check of the legislative agenda of the federal government reveals it is loaded with justice bills, a grand total of 11. 

However, the three opposition parties are not on side with the government's criminal justice agenda and so far only two of the bills have become law, most notably a crackdown on street racing. 

The remaining bills are trapped in a legislative log jam. The government's bill to reduce the number of criminals who qualify for house arrest is still in the Senate. A bill to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for criminals that use guns in a crime has been stuck at the committee stage since June.  

With an election expected this year, the government's ambitious crime agenda may never fully develop. Nonetheless, Harper told a Tory rally in Ottawa this week that the government is "going to continue to keep pushing for passage of our crime bills." 

Income Trusts

The opposition parties have their own agenda for the winter session of Parliament as well. 

The Commons finance committee is kicking things off the first week back with an appearance by Flaherty before the committee to discuss the government's October income trust decision. 

The government passed a ways and means motion to tax income trusts in the fall.

The government's reversal of policy was clouded in much secrecy and was controversial when it was announced because it was seen as a flip-flop of a key campaign promise. 

The opposition parties are hoping to get some political mileage out of resurrecting this issue. 

Afghanistan

Both the Liberals and the Bloc emerged from their caucus retreats this week by saying they want to make the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan an issue. 

The Liberals are specifically calling for public hearings on the mission. 

However, the prime minister believes the opposition parties do themselves no favours by trying politicize the mission. 

He noted that the Tories will be the only party to stand "100 per cent" behind the troops in Afghanistan. 

In addition, Harper also does not plan to change his pro-Israel, pro-democracy foreign policy, which all the opposition parties have criticized. 

The PM has strongly supported Israel's actions in its war against Hezbollah in the summer and made Canada become the first country in the world to cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority after elections gave power to Hamas. 

"Canadians want us to continue speaking plainly and acting decisively," he told the Tory rally this week, promising he will "continue promoting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law not just as our heritage but as the common destiny of all the peoples of this planet." 


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 is adjourned until January 29



____________________

Committee Highlights

Monday

> The special legislative committee to examine the Clean Air Act will hold its first meeting to arrange witnesses. 

Tuesday

> Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appears before the finance committee to discuss the October income trust decision. 

> Margaret Bloodworth, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister & Associate Secretary to the Cabinet, appears before the public safety committee's examination of the Maher Arar affair. 

> The Commons defence committee continues to examine the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. 

Thursday

> Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge appears before the finance committee study of the October income trust decision. 


> 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: Passed by the Senate with amendments on December 13

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: Returned from committee with amendments December 13

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:
Returned from committee December 13


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:
Returned from committee with amendments December 13

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:
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:
Introduced November 27


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:
Introduced December 5

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:
Introduced December 13

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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