There is a renewed round of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Senate feeling it oats and flexing its muscles, and yesterday it was the Prime Minister doing it. Apparently deliberating and amending bills is fine unless it’s a budget bill, in which case it’s a no go. The problem with that is that of course is that a) there is no constitutional basis for that position, and b) if the whole point of Parliament is to hold the government to account by means of controlling supply (meaning the public purse), then telling one of the chambers that it actually can’t do that is pretty much an existential betrayal. So there’s that.
But part of this is not so much about the actual issue of splitting out the Infrastructure Bank from the budget bill – which Senator Pratte, who is leading this charge, actually supports. Part of the problem is the principle that the Senate isn’t about to let the Commons push it around and tell them what they can and can’t do – that’s not the Commons’ job either. As Kady O’Malley delves into here, the principle has driven the vote (as has the Conservatives doing their level best to oppose, full stop). But some very good points were raised about the principle of money bills in the Senate, and while they can’t initiate them, that’s their only restriction, and they want to defend that principle so that there’s no precent of them backing down on that, and that’s actually important in a parliamentary context.
— Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) June 16, 2017
As for this problem of Trudeau now ruing the independent Senate that he created, well, he gets to lie in the bed that he made. That said, even as much as certain commenters are clutching their pearls about how terrible it is that the Senate is doing their constitutional duties of amending legislation and sending it back, it’s their job. They haven’t substituted their judgment for those of MPs and killed any government bills outright and have pretty much always backed down when the Commons has rejected any of their amendments, and that matters. But it’s also not the most activist that the Senate has ever been, and someone may want to look to the Eighties for when they were really flexing their muscles, enough so that Mulroney had to use the emergency constitutional powers to add an extra eight senators to the Chamber in order to pass the GST – which was a money bill. So perhaps those pearl-clutchers should actually grab a bit of perspective and go lie down on their fainting couch for a while.
FYI: the Senate hasn't been all that assertive, even relative to recent Parliaments. (Macfarlane, 2017). 😉
— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) June 16, 2017
On the subject of the Senate, it’s being blamed for why the government hasn’t passed as many bills in its first 18 months as the Harper government had. Apart from the fact that the analysis doesn’t actually look at the kinds of bills that were passed (because that matters), the reason why things tend to be slow in the Senate is because the Government Leader – err, “representative” – Senator Peter Harder isn’t doing his job and negotiating with the other caucuses and groups to have an agenda and move things through. That’s a pretty big deal that nobody wants to talk about.
- Justin Trudeau says it’ll be business as usual with Cuba as the Trumpocalypse undid some of the gains made by the Obama administration.
- The Supreme Court of Canada doubled down on their previous ruling around court delays and didn’t waver from their 18-month guideline.
- Harjit Sajjan says no Canadian troops in Syria in the next phase of the fight against ISIS.
- Karina Gould and the head of the CSE gave a presentation on cyber-threats and how it affects our elections, which will mean working with parties.
- The Commons immigration committee tabled a report recommending that the immigration consultant regulator be replaced with a more robust body.
- Confusion, as meetings with fighter jet makers were cancelled and then back on hours later at the Paris Air Show (thanks to Public Services and Procurement).
- Frank McKenna will head up the search for the next RCMP Commissioner. Bob Paulson retires in two weeks.
- Firearms imports spiked after the Conservatives killed the long-gun registry.
- Here’s a look at how police in Nova Scotia are dealing with sex workers in light of the new laws around prostitution.
- Laura Stone talks to Arnold Chan, who insists he’s a fighter and will carry on despite his cancer.
- It looks like the Canadian Labour Congress tried to organise a push to get rid of Thomas Mulcair entirely last summer.
- Law prof Kyle Kirkup explains the meaning of Bill C-16 passing, and no, it’s not forced speech or memorizing new pronouns.
- Susan Delacourt has praise for Arnold Chan’s words about Parliament last week.
- Colby Cosh has serious doubts about the “minimally intrusive” justification for giving mandatory roadside samples per the government’s current bill.
Odds and ends:
This week’s Ask Kady Anything looks at Indigenous languages in Parliament and the forthcoming anti-terrorism bill.
Here’s the tale of a trans soldier in the Canadian Forces.
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) June 16, 2017