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:: PoliticsWatch Legislative Update

Minority Parliament appears to be in 
final days     

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:15 p.m. November 18, 2005]

 

OTTAWA — The minority Parliament appears to be on its last legs with an opposition non-confidence vote expected a week from Monday. 

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper will use a Thursday November 24 opposition day to table a non-confidence motion and delay the vote to the following Monday to avoid disrupting a special First Ministers meeting with Aboriginal leaders.

But before he does that, the Liberal government is looking to embarrass the opposition parties by introducing a confidence vote of their own before the summit with Aboriginal leaders. 

Here's a timetable for events on the Hill. 

Monday

> The House will vote on a non-binding motion from NDP Leader Jack Layton requesting the prime minister call an election in the first week of January. That vote will pass, but the Liberals already said they will ignore it. 

> Government House Leader Tony Valeri could bring forward a vote on a ways and means motion for a retroactive tax cut affecting those in the lowest income bracket. The tax cut was contained in Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's economic update released earlier this week. 

The vote would be a confidence vote and could defeat the government. Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay would not rule out his party defeating the government on the motion because of concerns the government may prorogue the House. 

Tuesday

> The Bloc Quebecois will use its opposition day to table a motion regarding agricultural subsidies. 

Thursday

> A First Ministers meeting with Aboriginal leaders begins in B.C. The Liberals and Aboriginal leaders argued this week that defeating the government before this meeting could derail the whole process. 

> Conservative Leader Stephen Harper plans to table his opposition day non-confidence motion . Harper will defer the vote 24 hours, pushing the actual vote back to the following Monday. 

Here's a primer on some of the issues surrounding the procedural wrangling happening on the Hill. 

Opposition Days

Opposition days -- also known as Supply Days -- are critical to this plan. The government is obliged to give the opposition parties seven opposition days before the fall sitting of Parliament is scheduled to end on December 16. 

These days are set aside for opposition parties to table and debate any motion they want, including binding non-confidence motions in the government. 

There are two opposition days next week 

Thursday November 22 -- Bloc opposition day
Tuesday November 24 -- Conservative opposition day

Government House Leader Tony Valeri has agreed in writing on these dates and for opposition days on November 29, December 1 and December 8.

The November 24 opposition day is now the real hammer, as it is the date a non-confidence vote is held if Martin does not agree to the three parties' demands for an election. Martin has already called those demand "untenable."

The First Ministers Meeting with Aboriginal Leaders

The Aboriginal leaders' two-day meeting with First Ministers in British Columbia beginning on November 24, has become a major factor in the opposition parties' delay of defeating the government. 

November 24 is the NDP opposition day when the opposition parties plan to table their non-confidence motion in the government. 

Such a vote would force the prime minister to call an election. 

Aboriginal leaders have given a press conference in Ottawa and television interviews in which they have blamed the opposition parties for putting their historic meeting in jeopardy.

But the opposition leaders believe they have found a way around this landmine. 

Under Standing Orders, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Prime Minister Paul Martin both have the power to defer a vote 24-hours. 

If Harper defers the non-confidence vote 24-hours on late Thursday afternoon, then the vote would be put off to the following Monday because the House is not sitting on Friday afternoon. 

"The general practice would be to do it on the 28th on a Monday," said Harper following the Conservative caucus meeting on Wednesday.

Everyone on Parliament Hill is now circling Monday November 28 as the likely day of the actual vote of non-confidence in the government.

Under this scenario, the earliest election date would be Monday, January 9. 

Rumours of Prorogation 

Prorogation is the self-destruct button in this game. 

The PM, with the support of cabinet, could essentially decide to shut down the House and the Senate for as long as a year if he so chooses. 

Such a move by Martin would block the opposition parties from defeating his government this month, but it would also kill all the important government legislation the PM has argued needs to be passed. 

The PM proroguing the House could also make him look weak politically. 

The Liberals were distancing themselves from the prorogation option on Thursday. 

"The only people talking about prorogation are the opposition parties," Valeri said.

"We have not discussed prorogation. We'd like to get supply. We'd like to continue to govern. We are not here to shut down the House. We are here to keep the House open and I have no interest in prorogation." 

But MacKay said he does not believe Valeri's denial. 

"I'm never more convinced of the truth of the matter then when I hear a Liberal adamantly deny it," MacKay said. "So when they're saying they're not going to prorogue I think they're seriously considering it."

Ways and Means motion

The Liberals, in perhaps an effort to embarrass the opposition parties, plan to deal with a ways and means motion early next week  to implement retroactive tax cuts contained in Goodale's fiscal update. 

These tax cuts benefit Canadians in the lowest income bracket, reducing their tax rate from 16 per cent to 15 per cent and increasing the basic personal exemption by $500. 

The ways and means motion would make those changes retroactive to January 1 of this year. Once a ways and means motion is tabled, Revenue Canada regards that as a change in the tax policy that has already occurred. 

But it's only confirmed once there is a vote on the motion. That would be a money bill and a confidence vote that could be voted on as early as this week. 

The Liberals are essentially trapping the opposition parties. 

They can declare confidence in the government by passing the tax cuts and then have to explain why a week later they no longer have confidence in the government when a non-confidence vote comes to the floor of the House. 

The NDP is reluctant to kill the government on this issue next week because it could derail the First Ministers meeting. But Conservative House leader Jay Hill and MacKay are now saying their party is "reconsidering" their previously stated plan to support the measure. 

Why are the opposition leaders pushing for an election?

While each of the parties has its own motivations, what is clear is that all three do not believe the government should be able to set the timetable for the election campaign. The opposition parties believe the prime minister's timetable for an election is only lengthening the pre-writ period of the election where the government has a tremendous advantage over the opposition parties. Layton said he feared the PM and other cabinet ministers essentially could be campaigning in government jets for weeks by traveling the country making funding announcements and future funding announcements. 

Why are the opposition parties giving the PM an ultimatum before defeating the government? 

The answer quite simply is politics. 

There are four things the opposition party leaders don't want to be blamed for. 

1.) A campaign that goes through the Christmas season, something polling shows is not popular with most Canadians.

2.) Supplemental estimates: This comes to a vote on December 8. If the government dies before that so does the supplemental estimates which include things such as pay increases for the military and increases in the seniors benefits. 

3.) The government's energy bill, which proposes a number of measures to lessen the burden on low-income families who will face rising heating costs over the winter, will be left in limbo if the government is defeated this week.

4.) The prime minister is expected to attend a special First Ministers meeting with aboriginal leaders on November 24. Killing the government this week would affect that meeting, the Liberals and Aboriginal leaders argue. 

The opposition parties believe that their motion for an election call in January will take away two weapons from the Liberals. The Liberals would not be able to set the election timetable and the opposition parties would escape blame for a Christmas election campaign that would kill the above mentioned legislation and events. 

If Martin does not agree to their compromise, the opposition party leaders believe it would take away Martin's ability to blame them for killing the business of government because he was given an option. 

On the Fast Track

The House leaders from all parties are in negotiations to fast track three bills and give priority to a fourth. They are as follows:

Bill 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. This bill is currently at the Justice committee and seeks to change the legal burden of proof for criminals to prove their property was not obtained with illegal funds. 

Bill 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. This bill is already before the House and ready for a vote. 

Bill 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. This bill is before the Industry committee and is designed to ensure workers' wages are protected in the event their employers declare bankruptcy.

Bill 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. 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. This bill still hasn't passed second reading. This is also a confidence vote. 

Is the motion requesting the PM to call an election in January binding?

No. With the exception of non-confidence motions, opposition day motions are not binding on the government. Martin has already publicly stated he will ignore it. But Layton wants to go ahead with the vote to put it on record that the PM is ignoring the will of the House. In this sitting of Parliament, the three opposition parties have used their majority to pass four motions that have been ignored by the government, including one calling for a public inquiry into the Air India bombing. 

Is the non-confidence motion binding?

Yes.

Will there be a Christmas election?

Yes and no. If the opposition parties defeat the government before Christmas, then the campaign will run through the Christmas holidays, but the vote won't be on Christmas Day.

Under federal election laws, the election campaign must be 36 days long and come on the first Monday after 36 days have elapsed. If that Monday is a holiday, then the vote is on a Tuesday. 

Under the timetable where the opposition parties kill the government on November 28, the election would be on Monday, January 10.

However, it doesn't have to be that way. The campaign has to be a minimum of 36 days, but that doesn't mean it can't be longer. The prime minister has the ability to set the election campaign much longer if he so chooses. There is some suggestion that Martin could extend the campaign a week to allow for time off during Christmas week.

______________

While all of this is occurring, the government plans to deal with the following bills during the week. 

> Bill C-71, first nations commercial bill (second reading)
> Bill S-37, the Hague Convention bill (report stage)
> Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill (report stage)
> Bill C-57, the financial governance bill (report stage)

Committee Highlights

Monday

The Government Operations committee is examining the testimony of former cabinet minister David Dingwall who denied he received a "success fee" from a company he was lobbying for in 2000. Bioniche was recently asked to repay money to the Technology Partnerships Canada's loan program because it paid a contingency fee, which violates program rules. Graeme McRae, president and CEO of Bioniche, and Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch are set to appear.

Tuesday

Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach appears before the Commons Human Resources committee.

Thursday

Heritage Minister Liza Frulla appears before the Commons Heritage committe. 


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: Returned amended from Justice committee November 14, 2005

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:
Motion to move bill to Justice committee before second reading debated November 14, 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:
Returned from Justice committee November 16, 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 16, 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

C-73  An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act
 
Status:
Introduced November 14, 2005

C-74  An Act regulating telecommunications facilities to facilitate the lawful interception of information transmitted by means of those facilities and respecting the provision of telecommunications subscriber information 
 
Status:
Introduced November 15, 2005

C-75  An Act respecting the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and amending certain Acts 
 
Status:
Introduced November 16, 2005

C-76  An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (adoption) 
 
Status:
Introduced November 17, 2005

C-77  An Act to amend the Citizenship Act (prohibitions) 

Status:
Introduced November 17, 2005

C-78  An Act to provide for emergency management and to amend and repeal certain Acts 

Status:
Introduced November 17, 2005

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> Read last week's legislative update

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