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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

MPs take break as things heat up on 
the Hill 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 3:15 p.m. May 19, 2006]


OTTAWA —  MPs will have next week off to mark the Victoria Day holiday and it couldn't come at a better time.  

Tempers are flaring on Parliament Hill following perhaps the most action-packed week since the House returned in April. 

The opposition parties are seething after four moves by the Conservatives this week, which they say is showing a lack of respect for Parliament. 

The most prominent one being Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision for a sudden vote on extending the mission in Afghanistan for two years. 

Harper contended that the sudden decision to hold a vote was because of a request by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay last week. But the Liberals believe the move was politically motivated to create divisions in the Liberal caucus. 

The motion passed by just four votes after 24 Liberals voted with the government. But MPs were angry that when it appeared Harper could lose the vote, Harper said he would extend the mission for one year even if the motion was defeated. 

"Wednesday's rush debate on Canada's mission in Afghanistan highlighted once again the disdain and disrespect the prime minister has for the institution of Parliament," Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said in the House on Friday. " Even before the debate was concluded, he was announcing that he would only respect the results of that vote if we agreed with him."

The prime minister also angered opposition MPs on the government operations committee who rejected his nominee to head a new public appointments commission, former CEO Gwyn Morgan

After grilling Morgan for two hours before committee, the opposition parties used their control of the committee to pass a motion calling Morgan unsuitable for the job because of comments he made in a speech last year linking increased violence in Canadian cities to immigration policy. An angry Harper responded by scrapping the appointments commission entirely and saying he would need a majority to get action on ending patronage. 

Harper also plans to ignore a Bloc motion passed by the House this week calling on Canada to commit to meeting its Kyoto targets. 

And then there's the gun registry. Even though all the opposition parties support the gun registry, the Conservative government got around having to pass amendments to the criminal code in the House  to effectively scrap it by simply declaring a gun amnesty. 

Things will also heat up in committees in the coming weeks because of the findings in the auditor general's report on the gun registry this week.  

The public accounts committee is planning on going ahead and examining exactly how $60 million for the registry was effectively hidden from Parliament by government accounting practices. 

"There definitely will be more witnesses called," said Liberal MP Shawn Murphy, who chairs the public accounts committee.

"It appears from the record of what we have that the office of the Comptroller General, the office of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the office of the Canadian Firearms Centre have taken one position and they stand by that position. The Office of the Auditor General has taken another position. 

"This could just be an honest dispute as to how that expenditure was handled from a public accounts point of view. We don't know that. That's why it's important to hear some evidence as to what transpired as to how it was treated."

While Liberals on the committee believe its a simple disagreement about accounting practices, Tories believe the Liberal government was trying to hide cost overruns in the gun registry from Parliament. 

At Thursday's public accounts committee meeting, Tory MP Jeff Watson said the accounting discrepancies were a "high-level conspiracy by senior government officials to hide critical financial information." 

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 when the House returns on May 29 

Monday: Continued debate on:
                 Bill C-13, the budget implementation bill,
                 Bill C-9, conditional sentencing, 
                 Bill C-10, mandatory minimum penalties.

Tuesday : Opposition Day
Thursday: Opposition Day


Committee Highlights


> Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge appears before the industry committee to discuss challenges facing Canada's manufacturing sector.

> 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: Referred to committee April 27

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: Referred to transport committee May 1

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: Returned from health committee without amendment May 18

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

Status: Second reading May 5

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: Introduced May 4

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: Introduced May 4

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

Status: Introduced May 4

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

Status: Introduced May 8

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

Status: Second reading May 12

This is the budget implementation bill. 

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

Status: Introduced May 15

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: Introduced May 18

: Related Links

> Read last week's Legislative Update
> Harper's Parliamentary agenda 

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