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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Ethics and softwood bills coming back to the Commons

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:45 p.m. November 10, 2006]

 

OTTAWA —  Two of the government's big bills are going to be back on the floor of the House of Commons when MPs return from their Remembrance Day break.  

The Federal Accountability Act was returned from the Senate with amendments on Thursday evening and the international trade committee has completed its examination of the softwood lumber enabling legislation. 

The Tories and the NDP are irked that a Liberal-controlled Senate made over 150 amendments to the Accountability Act. 

The law which cracks down on political fundraising, places limits on lobbying in Ottawa among other things was the centrepiece of the Conservative government's election campaign. 

The Liberals argue that Tory senators made amendments to the legislation as well, but Conservatives say those were primarily administrative, such as correcting translation errors. 

The bill was returned from the Senate to Treasury Board President John Baird on Thursday. 

Tories tell PoliticsWatch that Baird and his officials will go over the amendments with a fine tooth comb and consult with the opposition parties during the break week.

As early as next Monday, Baird will then table a motion in the House outlining which amendments the government accepts and which ones they object to. 

The motion will be debated and can be amended in the House and is the subject of just one vote before being returned to the Senate. 

Although Baird has not done a complete examination of the amendments yet, Tories say a number of the Liberal senate amendments are non-starters.

In particular a proposal to amend the new maximum political donation level to $2,000 from $1,000 and the creation of a separate ethics commissioner for the Senate. 

"The Senate has finally sent it back and we want to expeditiously respond and to make this into law in the coming days and weeks," Baird said after question period on Friday. 

While Baird was diplomatic about the amendments, NDP MP Pat Martin blasted the unelected Senate on Friday for the changes. 

"Over 100 amendments, 150 amendments, so we have got our ransom note from the Senate now and they are threatening to kill bill - kill bill 2 if we don't yield to their amendments," he told reporters after question period.

"We don't appreciate it. We think they have gone way beyond tweaking the bill as is the Senate's mandate, to the point where they are jeopardizing the very viability of the bill."

Martin said the Senate cannot technically kill government bills but could begin "this ping pong game back and forth between the Senate and the House of Commons until it dies a natural death."

However, one Liberal MP is more optimistic about the Accountability Act becoming law before the government falls, which most in Ottawa expect will occur after the spring budget. 

"It'll come back to the House after the recess and I would hope that we have an expedited passage of it through the House and back to the Senate," Liberal MP Stephen Owen said after question period. 

"I think there's no reason why this can't be done very quickly."

Also returning to the floor of the House after the break will be the softwood lumber bill. 

This will be a confidence vote meaning the government will fall if it's defeated. However, the Bloc will be voting with the government so no election is expected to happen. 

The bill went through a wild ride at the international trade committee this week. 

NDP MP Peter Julian put on a one-man filibuster for nearly 12 hours at the committee after he introduced nearly 100 amendments to the bill. 

Realizing the bill was going to be passed in the House, the Liberals did not join in the filibuster and voted with the other parties to limit the amount of time amendments and sub-amendments can be debated. 

Still Julian employed other stalling tactics such as taking a long time to register his voice votes and repeatedly challenging rulings by the chairs. 

While reporters and some spectators were having a good time watching Julian's performance, other MPs on the committee were clearly not enjoying it. 

Julian's filibuster aside, both the Liberals and the Tories worked together to make substantial amendments to the bill, including recognition of lumber remanufacturers and strengthening the exemption for Atlantic Canada. 

So what was it like to sit through an eight-hour filibuster? 

Under trying circumstances, Tory MP Helena Guergis, who is trade minister David Emerson's parliamentary secretary, maintained her composure during Julian's performance and moved a number of changes to the bill. 
 
At the midway point of Julian's filibuster, Guergis spoke to PoliticsWatch during one of Julian's many lengthy speeches. 

"I wouldn't call it fun," she said summing up the situation. 

"All of us at committee here have a responsibility to take this legislation seriously through clause-by-clause and return it back to the House. You can see as you're sitting in there that all party members with the exception of the NDP are working closely together to ensure this is done that we're treating the process fairly and with respect."

"The rest of us are trying to still enjoy each other's company at the same time as going through this very rigorous process that he's forcing us to deal with here. We are still trying to engage in a conversation that's very valid but it is hard of course because we're taken off track by his antics every once in a while.

"I don't find anything that he's doing to be funny." 

Unlike the committee, Julian will be limited in introducing similar tactics when the bill is on the floor of the House. 

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 to Wednesday

The government plans to deal with the following bills

Bill C-2 accountability act
Bill C-24 softwood lumber bill (report stage and third reading)

Thursday 

Opposition Day

____________________

Committee Highlights

Tuesday, November 21

> The House affairs and procedure committee will discuss decorum in the House of Commons.  

Thursday, November 23

> The public security committee continues its study of the case of Maher Arar  

> 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: Passed by Senate with amendments

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: Referred to the public security committee September 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: Returned from the Justice committee with amendments November 1

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:
Returned from trade committee with amendments November 9

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:
Report stage November 9

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

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. 

: Related Links

> Check out last week's legislative update

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