Canada Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?
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NEW YORK — In the first television interviews of his post-presidency, Donald Trump repeated his false claims that the election was stolen from him 10 times — each instance unprompted and unchallenged. Trump emerged this week for interviews with Fox News Channel, Newsmax and One America News Network tied to the death of Rush Limbaugh. Each network actively appeals to Trump's base conservative audience. And the way the interviews were conducted illustrates how difficult it may be to change the minds of supporters who believe the former president's unfounded narrative.
OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don't want an election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Conservatives appear to be pursuing a strategy that could give the Liberals justification for calling one.
Liberals are accusing the Conservatives of systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including bills authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid and special measures for safely conducting a national election.
The Conservatives counter that the Liberals have not used the control they have over the House of Commons' agenda to prioritize the right bills; other parties say both the government and the Official Opposition share the blame.
Liberals using interpreter shortage to dodge accountability, Conservatives allege
OTTAWA — Federal Conservatives say the Liberals are using a pandemic-induced shortage of translators to shut down House of Commons committees when they raise issues that cause the government discomfort. Conservative whip Blake Richards points to a meeting of the health committee last Friday, which was abruptly cut short by Liberal chair Ron McKinnon announcing that the committee would not have any Commons staff resources, including interpreters, after 4:30 p.m.
"They're playing politics all the time in the House. It's delay, delay, delay and eventually that delay becomes obstruction," the Liberals' House leader Pablo Rodriguez said in an interview.
"It's absurd. I think it's insulting to Canadians and I think people should be worried because those important programs may not come into force ... because of the games played by the Conservatives."
He pointed to the three hours last week the Commons spent discussing a months-old, three-sentence committee report affirming the competence of the new Canadian Tourism Commission president.
That was forced by a Conservative procedural manoeuvre, upending the government's plan to finally start debate on the pandemic election bill, which contains measures the chief electoral officer has said are urgent given that the minority Liberal government could fall at any time if the opposition parties unite against it.
Firearms group to face censure as it ramps up anti-Liberal ad campaign
MPs will be asked to consider taking action against the National Firearms Assocation even as the NFA readies an anti-Liberal pre-election advertising campaign.In the meantime, the NFA has been preparing since July to run “custom attack ads” against Liberal members of Parliament it hopes to help defeat in the next general election.
A week earlier, MPs spent three hours discussing a committee report recommending a national awareness day for human trafficking — something Rodriguez said had unanimous support and could have been dealt with "in a second."
That debate, also prompted by the Conservatives, prevented any progress on Bill C-14, legislation flowing from last fall's economic statement with billions in expanded emergency aid programs and new targeted aid for hard-hit industries.
That bill was introduced in December but stalled at second reading, with Conservative MPs talking out the clock each time it did come up for debate. After eight days of sporadic debate — more than is normally accorded for a full-fledged budget, Rodriguez noted — Conservatives finally agreed Friday to let the bill proceed to committee for scrutiny.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has argued that "modest debate" is warranted on C-14, which he maintains is aimed a fixing errors in previous rushed emergency aid legislation.
Unanimous committee report calls on Trudeau not to trigger election during pandemic
OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee is unanimously urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promise he won't call a federal election while the COVID-19 pandemic rages across Canada. In a report by the procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau's minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote. TheIn a report by the procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau's minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote.
Last December, the Conservatives dragged out debate on Bill C-7, a measure to expand medical assistance in dying in compliance with a 2019 court ruling.
For three straight days last week, they refused consent to extend sitting hours to debate a motion laying out the government's response to Senate amendments to C-7, despite a looming court deadline that was extended Thursday to March 26.
Conservatives note they offered the previous week to extend the hours to allow a thorough debate but the government waited five days before tabling its response to the amendments.
Video: NDP MP pushes Liberals on getting vaccines from COVAX (The Canadian Press)
For Rodriguez it all adds up to "a pattern" of obstruction aimed at blocking the government's legislative agenda.
Procedural machinations are commonly used by opposition parties to tie up legislation. But Rodriguez argued it's inappropriate in a pandemic when "people are dying by the dozens every day."
If the government held a majority of seats in the Commons, it could impose closure on debates. But in the current minority situation, it would need the support of one of the main opposition parties to cut short debate — something it's not likely to get.
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The House of Commons voted unanimously last month to urge the government to declare China's treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority as genocide.Cong Peiwu on Wednesday held a virtual press conference with political journalists from several Canadian outlets, including Global News. The event came a little over one week after the House of Commons voted to recognize China's treatment of Uyghurs as a genocide.
In a minority Parliament, Rodriguez argued, all parties share responsibility for ensuring that legislation can at least get to a vote.
But Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell lays the blame for the legislative impasse squarely on Rodriguez.
"The government House leader has failed to set clear priorities, and has therefore failed to manage the legislative agenda," he said in a statement to The Canadian Press, adding that "my door is always open for frank and constructive discussions.”
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien agrees the Liberals have "mismanaged the legislative calendar and must take their responsibilities." But he doesn't exempt the Conservatives.
He said their obstruction of the assisted-dying bill and another that would ban forcible conversion therapy aimed at altering a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is "deplorable."
"These are files that require compassion and rigour. It is inexcusable to hold the House hostage on such matters," Therrien said in an email, suggesting that O'Toole is having trouble controlling the "religious right" in his caucus.
As far as NDP House leader Peter Julian is concerned, both the Liberals and Conservatives are trying to trigger an election.
"We believe that is absolutely inappropriate, completely inappropriate given the pandemic, given the fact that so many Canadians are suffering," he said in an interview.
Here's what can happen if the Kielburger brothers refuse to testify before parliament
Conservative members of parliamentary committees scrutinizing the WE Charity scandal have warned the Kielburger brothers — the organization’s co-founders — they could be forced to testify and potentially face legal consequences if they refuse to attend. The WE founders have declined requests to testify before two House of Commons committees. Compelling witnesses to appear before committees is a longstanding but infrequently used power. Even rarer would be the circumstance where a warrant is issued by the House of Commons to force a private citizen to explain their refusal, which could involve being held in contempt of Parliament, and lead to prison time.
Julian accused the Liberals of bringing forward unnecessary legislation, like the election bill, while "vitally important" bills, like one implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and another on net-zero carbon emissions, languish.
The Liberals' intention, he said, is to eventually say there must be an election because of "all these important things we couldn't get done." And the Conservatives "seem to want to play into this narrative" by blocking the bills the government does put forward.
Veteran Green MP Elizabeth May, however, agrees with Rodriguez, who she says must be "at his wits' end."
"What I see is obstructionism, pure and simple," she said in an interview.
She blames the Conservatives primarily for the procedural "tomfoolery" but accuses both the Bloc and NDP of being "in cahoots," putting up speakers to help drag out time-wasting debates on old committee reports.
"It's mostly the Conservatives but they're in league," May said.
"They are all trying to keep anything orderly from happening that might possibly let the Liberals say we've accomplished a legislative agenda. Whether the bills are good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant in this strategy."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021.
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Virtual voting for House of Commons moves into next phase with debut of mobile app .
OTTAWA — Members of Parliament zipped through two votes in 30 minutes Monday as they began using new technology allowing them to cast votes with their mobile devices. The voting app is the latest adaptation of the parliamentary process to allow MPs to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It comes nearly a year since Parliament shut its doors as part of the national lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Commons remainedThe voting app is the latest adaptation of the parliamentary process to allow MPs to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.