Liberal Senate flexes muscle on
[PoliticsWatch updated 5:45 p.m. October 24, 2006]
The Liberal-dominated Senate has flexed its muscle for the first
time since the election of the minority Conservative
Liberal Senator Joseph Day announced Tuesday that a
Senate committee examining the federal government's Accountability
Act will make "numerous" amendments to the bill.
The Accountability Act was the centrepiece of the Conservative
government's election campaign and was referred to as the
government's No. 1 priority.
"After hearing more than 140 witnesses through 98 hours of meetings, we have concluded Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, is deeply flawed and requires numerous amendments if it is to better live up to its name,"
Day said in a statement.
The Senate committee will conduct a clause-by-clause review of the
bill, which will be completed by Thursday.
The most controversial amendment is one that will increase the
maximum campaign donation to $2,000 from the $1,000 that the Tories
proposed in the Accountability Act.
Liberal senators say the government failed to produce any evidence that the existing limits are undermining the electoral process at the federal level
The campaign donation issue gained prominence when the
Accountability Act was at committee stage in the House.
The Conservatives and the NDP blocked Liberal amendments to the Federal Accountability Act that would have delayed the implementation of tough new campaign donation limits until next year.
The Liberals cried foul saying the immediate implementation would put them at an unfair advantage because the $1,000 donation limit would make anyone who donated more than five dollars to their party this year ineligible to attend the party's leadership convention in December, which costs $995.
NDP MP Pat Martin criticized Tuesday's move by the Senate,
suggesting they were attempting to "sabotage" the
After leaving the Senate committee, the bill still has to go through
report stage and third reading before returning to the House.
The bill is expected to be back in the House some time before the
Remembrance Day recess.
"Right now I think we're going to run out of time," said
"This Parliament is running out of gas fast and I don't like our chances for getting this complex piece of legislation through if we're facing sabotage by the Liberal Senate."
After Remembrance Day, the House sits for another four weeks before
the lengthy Christmas recess.
At that point, the political dynamic will change in Ottawa with the
election of a new leader of the Liberal party, creating greater
instability for the government.
"We're a few working weeks until the Christmas break,"
explained Martin. "We come back February 1. They have a budget, they have a confidence vote, they call an election. We're out of time."
Treasury Board President John Baird's office and the PMO did
not respond to PoliticsWatch's request for comments.
Aside from the amendments to political financing, the Senate
committee has also proposed:
> removing the Canadian Wheat Board from falling under the Access to Information Act
to allow it to better compete in the international market-place
> allowing Sustainable Development and Technology Canada to better respect the sensitivity of the information received from their
> better protection of the privacy of donors to the National Arts Centre
> Strengthen the nomination process for the new Director of Public
Prosecutions to ensure its independence from partisan political interference.
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