Roundup: Amendment and attempted intimidation

As the spring sitting of Parliament draws to a close, and the Commons is getting tired and cranky as MPs are restlessly looking to get back to their ridings, all eyes are on the Senate to see if they’ll pass the budget bill unamended so that MPs can leave, or if they’ll be forced to stick around to deal with delays. It looks like the latter is going to happen after the Senate voted to adopt changes made at the committee that would remove the automatic escalator on beer and wine taxes. (There is some debate around this – while on the one hand there is the argument that increases won’t be scrutinized in future years by Parliament, there is also a reminder that the indexation fight was settled years ago).

So while this means that the Commons wasn’t able to rise last night, and may have to stick around until Thursday, depending on whether or not they pass it at Third Reading tonight, and how fast it takes the Commons to turn around a vote on accepting or rejecting (almost certainly the latter) the amendment.

But that’s not the only curious part of this tale. Apparently when the vote was about to happen, all manner of Liberal MPs and ministers arrived in the Senate to watch the vote happen – but not in the gallery. No, they were instead on the floor of the Senate, behind the bar at the entrance.

While this attempt at intimidation is quite unseemly in and of itself, I’ve also been hearing complaints that Senator Peter Harder, the Leader of the Government in the Senate – err, “government representative,” is admonishing senators not to amend bills this late in the game because recalling the House of Commons to pass or reject those amendments “is expensive.”

I. Can’t. Even.

Telling Senators not to do their constitutional duties of reviewing and amending legislation because it might inconvenience a few MPs is gob-smacking in and of itself, but couching it in dollar terms is beyond the pale. Apparently, we can only have parliamentary democracy if it’s done on the cheap. Why have oversight or hold the government to account if it’s going to cost any additional dollars? I guess we might as well pack it all in and roll over for the government – costs too much otherwise. Sweet Rhea mother of Zeus…

Update: It seems there were some Conservatives there as well.

Good reads:

  • The government unveiled their major new national security overhaul legislation yesterday, which includes giving CSE power to launch cyber-attacks.
  • Two of the country’s foremost experts on national security legislation give their assessment here. (Spoiler: Mostly good, but still needs work).
  • The bill to create the national security oversight body of parliamentarians has passed the Senate with no amendments.
  • The courts have refused to extend the deadline for the government to pass Bill S-3, and now a showdown looms with the Senate over amendments.
  • $600 million in new military spending will be put through the Supplementary Estimates as a “down payment” on the new defence policy.
  • When the government increased benefits for veterans, some only got a mere $1.39 extra.
  • Dwight Duncan has apologised for partisan sniping over social media, and plans to be more non-partisan in the future.
  • A new panel has been created, helmed by former journalist Tom Clark, to find new board members for CBC, including a new president of the broadcaster.
  • A new Judge Advocate General was appointed for the Canadian Forces – the first woman in the role, and also an expert in cyber-security law.
  • Conservative senators are throwing up every procedural roadblock they can to stop the national anthem bill from being passed before July 1st.
  • Kim Campbell thinks Rona Ambrose’s bill on sexual assault training for judges should pass, but there are reluctant Liberal Senators.
  • Here’s some reaction from Senator Marc Gold, who abstained on the tie vote that wound up not splitting the Infrastructure Bank from the budget bill.
  • Maclean’s talks to Peter Milliken about the situation with the Speaker in BC.
  • Kady O’Malley looks at the likelihood of the Commons rising for the summer later today.
  • With all of the speculation around a summer cabinet shuffle, Susan Delacourt advises Trudeau against it.
  • My column looks at the pearl-clutching about the Senate doing its job, and some of the underlying concerns that some people may not recognize.

Odds and ends:

Here is a look at Charles and Camilla’s itinerary on Canada Day.

There’s a new Heritage Minute for World Refugee Day on the Vietnamese Boat People.