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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Opposition leaders plot next move     

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:00 p.m. November 11, 2005]

 

OTTAWA — Like an old rock group that broke up and got back together, the three opposition leaders are set to collaborate on a new production beginning next week and hopefully launch a cross country tour -- known as an election -- early next year.

After a brief break up, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton got back together this week and are working on a new motion set to hit Hansards as early as next week.  

The trio's work has been widely anticipated by press gallery reporters, who have been pushing Layton to join up since he went solo in May and Harper and Duceppe became the power duo known as the Bloc-Conservative Alliance.

Layton offered reporters a sneak preview of the motion he is working on this week informally entitled, "Please, Mr. Prime Minister."

In that motion, which Layton plans to table on his opposition day November 4, Layton asks Prime Minister Paul Martin to be nice and call an election early in the New Year. 

There is nothing that binds Martin to this motion.

The motion essentially expresses the lack of confidence in the government the opposition parties have, but not enough to destroy all the goodies in the government's spending estimates and to have the campaign intersect with Christmas. 

Already, critics are giving negative and confusing reviews to the opposition leaders' new motion. 

"When is a duck a duck? If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck but clucks like a chicken, what is it?" constitutional expert Ned Franks told Canadian Press this week.

So just why are the opposition parties muddying the waters and not issuing a clear vote of no-confidence on one of their opposition days? 

Martin spent the better part of the week travelling the country and telling anyone who wanted to hear how an election can't possibly happen before his set timetable. 

According to Martin, the election would destroy a First Ministers meeting with aboriginals, threaten seniors whose pensions are due to increase and even delay money to low income families to help with home heating.  

"Ever since the Gomery report gave the opposition parties election fever, the Liberals have been warning that defeating their government and forcing an early-winter vote would pretty much end the world as we know it," Sun Media's Greg Weston deftly observed this week.

"Judging by yesterday's performance of Jack Layton as the chicken who saved Christmas, the Liberal scare tactics are working exactly as planned."

The NDP proposal aims at rescheduling the parliamentary calendar to have MPs return on January 4 for a non-confidence vote in the government. The opposition parties run the risk of having the Liberals reject the motion, pass the estimates and then prorogue the House until shortly before they want to call an election in February. 

While Layton's proposal saves Christmas, the CBC, the public broadcaster, decided to devote two minutes to its Thursday night newscast to report that Layton's campaign will interfere with Chinese New Year.

It seems everyone is doing everything in their power to prevent Canadians from having an election at any time other than the Liberal government's choosing. 

Even if Layton were to move his election timing past Chinese New Year would any one be surprised if George Constanza's father held a press conference at the National Press Theatre flanked by Liberals to complain about the election coming too soon after Festivus? 

Adding to the comedy that is Ottawa, is Harper's decision to go along with Layton's plan. 

After criticizing Layton for weeks about propping up a Liberal government and keeping them in power because they may pass things the NDP likes, it turns out once Harper smoked Layton out he smoked himself out too.

Harper, it seems, wasn't so opposed to the "corrupt" Liberal government after all.

Harper is not only afraid of having an election through Christmas, but also about killing the corrupt Liberals' estimates. 

"We will not vote against things unless we disagree with them," Harper said at a press conference in Toronto this week.

"We are not going to start voting against individual pieces of legislation we might agree with just to defeat the government because we don't want to hand the government an issue that should not be an issue in the election. 

"So we'll look at those estimates and what's being requested."

While Harper may feel his decision is politically sound, it's not playing with his biggest fans in the right-wing blogosphere, who tend not to be as critical of Harper as the media is. 

But in this case, they're laying into Harper and the other leaders more so than mainstream columnists.

In a post entitled: "A Message to Stephen Harper," Blogging Tory Stephen Taylor writes, "How can the NDP, the Conservatives and the Bloc have confidence in a government until it's convenient for an election? That's quite a contradiction!"

Greg Staples of Political Staples wrote, "The motions they are bringing forward now are good in showing how the Liberals are desperate in clinging to power but unless the job is finished by actually bringing down the Government it is just a pointless exercise in Parliamentary procedure and obstructionism and the Liberals will come out looking better." 

Conservative MP Monte Solberg, who is a member of Harper's caucus and a well-known blogger, even finds it comical that there exists this crazy fear about an election campaign that passes through the Christmas holiday. 

"As you know Christmas is that period where we go home around the second week of December and stay there until after New Year's Day," Solberg wrote tongue in cheek on his blog this week.

"This is the period where we turn off the TV, roast chestnuts, go tobogganing down by the old mill stream, play hockey on the pond, tell stories by the fire, and put on matching sweaters and sit by the Christmas tree drinking hot cocoa with a golden retriever by our feet." 

Somehow without lifting a finger, the Liberals have managed to sit back in their chairs and change the channel as all the bandwidth that was focused on Gomery's report and Liberal corruption is now being dedicated to the bumbling opposition leaders "playing politics," as the prime minister, whose House leader gerrymandered the opposition days to the end of the year, likes to say these days.

The antics will continue next week when the opposition leaders hold a meeting and probably a press conference after to outline their strategy. Expect tough questions and unclear answers.

The Liberals are planning on introducing a mini-budget with tax cuts and money for education before the Finance committee on Monday. But Solberg will introduce a motion to have Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's appearance before the committee cancelled, forcing Goodale to retreat across the street at the National Press Theatre 

And while all this is going on, the House is currently embroiled in a debate on Adscam after a point of privilege by MP Denis Coderre regarding a Bloc Quebecois householder that he says is slanderous. 

The debate could go on for days. 

If and when that debate concludes, the government plans to deal with the following bills when MPs return November 14. 

> Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill (third reading)
> Bill C-50, cruelty to animals bill (second reading)
> Bill S-36, diamonds bill (second reading)
> Bill C-44, the transport legislation (second reading)
> Bill C-68, the Pacific Gateway bill (second reading)
> Bill C-66, the energy bill (second reading)
> Bill C-67, the surplus legislation (second reading)
> Bill C-61, the marine bill (second reading)


There will also be a take note debate on Tuesday November 15 on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Committee Highlights

Monday

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale will appear before the finance committee to table what is expected to be a mini-budget. The opposition parties are expected to cancel Goodale's appearance at 3:15 ET in Room 253-D of the Centre Block . 

Tuesday

Industry Minister David Emerson will appear before the industry committee and could face questions from the NDP and Conservatives about the recently cancelled Technology Partnerships Canada program.

Information Commissioner John Reid and Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddardt appear before the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee. 

Wednesday

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Public Security Minister Anne McLellan will appear before the public security committee reviewing the government's anti-terrorism legislation. The two ministers will follow appearances by the families of victims of the Air India bombing.

Thursday

Senior officials with the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency will appear before the Commons transport committee to answer questions about airport security. This week the Fifth Estate aired a segment which exposed a number of security flaws at Canadian airports. 


Bills the Liberals have tabled this session. 

Bill C-2: "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act".

This bill is aimed at cracking down on child pornography with "stiffer penalties and other important measures," according to Valeri. "This Bill has been changed significantly from the last Session, to address concerns raised by Parliamentarians," he said. During the federal election campaign, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper blasted the Liberal government for not getting the bill through Parliament. Harper made the comments after his war room had to retract a news release entitled "Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography."

Status: Royal Assent July 20, 2005

Bill C-3: "An Act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act and the Oceans Act".

Status: Royal Assent June 23, 2005

A Bill aimed at modernizing administrative structures of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Bill C-4: "An Act to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment".

Status: Royal Assent February 24, 2005

This bill will facilitate major capital transactions in the aviation industry. 

Bill C-5 "An Act to provide financial assistance for post-secondary education savings".

Status:
Royal Assent December 15, 2004

This bill created the Canada Learning Bond and the Canada Education Savings Grant, which will help lower-income families save for their children's education.

Bill C-6: "An Act to establish the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and to amend or repeal certain Acts".

Status:
Royal Assent March 23, 2005

This legislation will finalize the integration into a single portfolio of the core activities of the Solicitor General portfolio along with other activities required to protect against and respond to natural disasters and security emergencies.

Bill C-7: "An Act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts".

Status: Royal Assent February 24, 2005

This legislation will move the Parks Canada Agency from Heritage Canada to the Environment portfolio.

Bill C-8: "An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act".

Status: Royal Assent April 21, 2005

This bill will establish the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency to modernize the management of human resources in the Public Service.

Bill C-9 "An Act to establish the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec".

Status: Royal Assent June 23, 2005

This bill will establish that agency, and put it on the same footing as the other regional development agencies, such as ACOA and WED.

Bill C-10: "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mental disorder) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts".

Status: Royal Assent May 19, 2005

Justice Minister Irwin Cotler introduced amendments concerning prosecutions of persons found unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible due to mental disorders.

Bill C-11:  "An Act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings".

Status: Passed in the House October 4, 2005

This bill was amended by opposition parties to create an independent officer of Parliament to handle complaints about government wrongdoing by whistleblowers.

Bill C-12: "An Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable diseases".

Status: Royal Assent May 12, 2005

This is new quarantine legislation to protect Canadians from the spread of serious health threats, such as SARS.

Bill C-13 "An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act"

Status: Royal Assent May 19, 2005

Bill C-14 "An Act to give effect to a land claims and self-government agreement among the Tlicho, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, to make related amendments to the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts"

Status:
Royal Assent February 15, 2005

Bill C-15 "An Act to amend the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999" 

Status: Royal Assent May 19, 2005

Bill C-16 "An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts " 

Status: Referred to Justice committee November 2, 2004

Bill C-17 "An Act to amend the Contraventions Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts " 

Status: Referred to Justice committee November 2, 2004

This is the government's much talked about marijuana bill which decriminalizes possession of small amounts.

Bill C-18 "An Act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another Act  " 

Status: Royal Assent March 23, 2005

Bill C-19 "An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts" 

Status: Sent to the Industry committee November 16, 2004.

Bill C-20 "An Act to provide for real property taxation powers of first nations, to create a First Nations Tax Commission, First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Finance Authority and First Nations Statistical Institute and to make consequential amendments to other Acts" 

Status: Royal Assent March 23, 2005

Bill C-21 "An Act respecting not-for-profit corporations and other corporations without share capital" 

Status: Sent to Industry committee November 23, 2004.

Bill C-22 "An Act to establish the Department of Social Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts" 

Status: Royal Assent July 20, 2005

Bill C-23 "An Act to establish the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and to amend and repeal certain related Acts" 

Status: Royal Assent July 20, 2005 

Bill C-24 "An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (fiscal equalization payments to the provinces and funding to the territories) " 

Status: Royal Ascent March 10, 2005

Bill C-25 "An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems " 

Status: Passed in the House October 5, 2005

Bill C-26 "An Act to establish the Canada Border Services Agency " 

Status: Royal Assent November 3, 2005

Bill C-27 "An Act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the Acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those Acts and to amend other Acts in consequence " 

Status: Returned from Agriculture committee June 22, 2005

Bill C-28 "An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act " 

Status: Passed in the House October  October 18, 2005

Bill C-29 "An Act to amend the Patent Act " 

Status: Royal Assent May 5, 2005

Bill C-30 "An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts " 

Status: Royal Assent  April 21, 2005

Bill C-31 "An Act to establish the Department of International Trade and to make related amendments to certain Acts " 

Status: Defeated at second reading February 15, 2005

This bill creates a separate department for International Trade.

Bill C-32 "An Act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts " 

Status: Defeated at second reading February 15, 2005

Bill C-33 "A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004" 

Status: Royal Assent May 13, 2005

Bill C-34 "An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005" 

Status: Royal Assent December 15, 2004

Main estimates

Bill C-35 "An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005" 

Status: Royal Assent December 15, 2004

Supplementary estimates

C-36 An Act to change the boundaries of the Acadie-Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts

Status: Royal Assent, February 24, 2005

This bill changes the boundaries of the Acadie-Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts.

C-37 An Act to amend the Telecommunication Act

Status: Passed in the House October 24, 2005

This bill permits the CRTC to administer databases to prohibit or regulate the use by any person of the telecommunications facilities of a Canadian carrier for the provision of unsolicited telecommunications.

C-38 An Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes 

Status:
Received Royal Assent July 20, 2005

This is the federal government's much debated same-sex marriage legislation, which Justice Minister Irwin Cotler hopes to pass by June.

C-39 The Minister of Finance -- An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and to enact An Act respecting the provision of funding for diagnostic and medical equipment 

Status:
Royal Assent March 23, 2005

C-40 An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Canada Transportation Act  

Status:
Royal Assent May 19, 2005

C-41 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2005 


Status:
Royal Assent March 23, 2005

C-42 An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2006 

Status:
Royal Assent March 23, 2005

C-43 An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005 

Status:
Royal Assent June 23, 2005

This is the government's budget implementation bill, which the Conservatives are threatening to vote against because it contains a provision allowing the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions to meet its Kyoto targets.

C-44 An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts 

Status:
Introduced March 24, 2005

C-45 An Act to provide services, assistance and compensation to or in respect of Canadian Forces members and veterans and to make amendments to certain Acts  

Status:
Royal Assent May 13, 2005

C-46 An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code 

Status:
Introduced April 20, 2005

C-47 An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act 

Status:
Referred to Transport committee November 3, 2005

C-48 An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments

Status:
Received Royal Assent July 20, 2005

This is the companion legislation to the budget implementation bill, which includes the $4.5 billion in new spending reached in an agreement between the NDP and the Liberals. 

C-49 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) 

Status:
Third reading October 17, 2005

C-50 An Act to amend the Criminal Code in respect of cruelty to animals 

Status:
Introduced May 16, 2005

C-51 An Act to amend the Judges Act, the Federal Courts Act and other Acts 

Status:
Introduced May 20, 2005

C-52 An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (terms and conditions of permissions, leases and licences) 

Status:
Second reading June 13, 2005

C-53 An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act  

Status:
Referred to Justice committee September 28, 2005

C-54 An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada 

Status:
Third Reading November 3, 2005

C-55 An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

Status:
Referred to the Industry committee October 5, 2005

C-56 An Act to give effect to the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Labrador Inuit Tax Treatment Agreement 

Status:
Royal Assent June 23, 2005

C-57 An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions 

Status:
Referred to Finance committee October 6, 2005

C-58 Main estimates 

Status:
Royal Assent June 23, 2005

C-59 An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act 

Status:
Introduced June 20, 2005

C-60 An Act to amend the Copyright Act  

Status:
Introduced June 20, 2005

C-61 An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act and other Acts 

Status:
Introduced June 22, 2005

C-62 An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts 

Status:
Introduced September 28, 2005

C-63 An Act to amend An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act 

Status:
Referred to procedure and House affairs committee October 18, 2005

C-64 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (vehicle identification number) 

Status:
Referred to the Justice Committee October 25, 2005

C-65 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act 
 
Status:
Referred to the Justice Committee October 25, 2005

This bill was inspired by a private members bill from the late MP Chuck Cadman. 

C-66  An Act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure, and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts 
 
Status:
Second reading November 1, 2005

This is the government's $2.4 billion plan to address higher energy costs, which includes $250 rebates to low-income seniors and families, financial incentives for energy efficiency and more powers to the competition bureau to deter price gouging by oil and gas companies. The bill has the luke warm support of the opposition parties, but the NDP could hold it up in committee to improve it help low-income Canadians who do not qualify under the current proposal. 

C-67  An Act respecting the allocation of unanticipated surpluses and to amend the Income Tax Act  
 
Status:
Second reading October 27, 2005

This bill will provide a legal framework for how the government spends its surpluses. 

C-68  An Act to support development of Canada's Pacific Gateway 
 
Status:
Second reading November 2, 2005

C-69  An Act to amend the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act 
 
Status:
Introduced October 27, 2005

C-70  An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) 
 
Status:
Introduced October 27, 2005

C-71  An Act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands  
 
Status:
Introduced November 2, 2005

C-72  An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA Identification
 
Status:
Introduced November 2, 2005

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> Read last week's legislative update

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