Roundup: Absurd procedural objections abound

There are times when I don’t get the way that the opposition is trying to do its job – and I don’t mean the epic levels of disingenuousness and mendaciousness by which Question Period is operating these days. Rather, it’s the procedural objections to the way in which the government plans to handle Bill C-59, being the major national security bill that they’ve tabled. They’ve stated that they want the bill to head to committee before Second Reading, which is unusual, but still procedurally sound because it means that it will allow for a wider variety of amendments to be proposed and adopted, as a vote at Second Reading means that the bill is “locked” at its principles, and changes made at that point tend to be fairly technical. One would think that proactively taking this move would generally be appreciated, because it’s a recognition that it’s a tough subject that they want to get as much input on as possible, and are open to a wider degree of changes than usual. But no.

Instead, the opposition are now crying foul because they say that the government is trying to “fast track” it by doing his – not necessarily true, given that it can stay at committee for a long time, and they haven’t invoked any time allocation – that they’re trying to “evade” second reading debate (which, again, is absurd given the procedural move of allowing a greater scope of amendments), and that they’re avoiding the possibility that the Speaker could break up the bill because it’s an omnibus bill. But part of the problem with that is that omnibus bills aren’t bad per se – they’re bad when they’re used abusively to ram through a multitude of unrelated things with little debate. In this case, all of the constituent changes in the bill, which affect several other existing pieces of legislation, are all part of the same national security framework. It makes more sense to make the changes at once with a single piece of legislation rather than piecemeal bills that may create legislative traffic jams that would require coordinating amendments in order to ensure that all of the changes don’t butt up against one another. It’s hardly an abuse of omnibus legislation in this case, and they should know that.

What the government is doing is procedurally sound, and I can’t count the number of times that the NDP have demanded that bills go to committee before second reading debate on a whole host of issues (and it happened a lot under the previous regime). This government is doing that move on a major piece of legislation proactively, and they’re being accused of evasion. It’s enough to make a person scream.

Good reads:

  • Nebraska approved an alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline; Rachel Notley applauded the decision.
  • Canadian negotiators at NAFTA talks are refusing to table counter-proposals and are delivering lectures instead, which the US Senate seems to be backing that strategy.
  • Australia may try to block Canada’s entry into the East Asia Summit, but that may be a pressure tactic to get us to sign onto the TPP.
  • For the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol on reducing ozone-depleting emissions, the Kigali Amendment on reducing hydrofluorocarbons was signed.
  • In an about-face, the government now says they’ll support Romeo Saganash’s bill on implementing UNDRIP (though one still wonders how).
  • Apparently staff at the MMIW inquiry were told they have to shield commissioners from criticism and surprises.
  • As a trio of MPs return to Canada after being in the States dissuading would-be asylum seekers, the US announced more measures likely to drive them here.
  • Here’s a look at CBSA’s attempts to deport some people under removal orders, but their home countries refuse to take them back.
  • The Coast Guard had to spend $2.5 million to charter a research vessel while their own remained in dry dock undergoing refit.
  • The Kosavar president is coming to town this week, but won’t be meeting with Trudeau.
  • The Auditor General’s special report on the Phoenix pay system debacle will be released today.
  • Some senators decided to accept medals from their own Canada 150 medal programme.
  • Here’s a profile of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s new chief of staff.
  • Kady O’Malley’s Process Nerd column explains the pre-holiday legislative blitz.
  • Stephen Gordon walks us through the Quebec report on Guaranteed Annual Income, and why it can never be what its proponents want it to be.

Odds and ends:

In the Law Times, I have a piece talking to lawyers about carbon pricing and how the patchwork of rules around the country makes their jobs tougher.

On the occasion of Her Majesty’s 70th wedding anniversary, Maclean’s digs into their archives for their write-up of then-Princess Elizabeth’s wedding preparations.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: Absurd procedural objections abound

  1. This is just appalling! You’re right to say that the NDP have urged the use of this standing order on many occasions before–how bizarre. The opposition’s insistence on interminable second reading debates and disregard of the committee process speaks volumes about their ignorance of how legislatures ought to work.

    My personal view is that this procedure should be used for almost all government legislation (that’s how it’s done in New Zealand, and of course Paul Martin made it a regular practice during his brief government). Some of the rules used to judge the receivability of amendments after second reading are totally nonsensical, and in general they’re poorly understood.

  2. “… and I don’t mean the epic levels of disingenuousness and mendaciousness by which Question Period is operating these days.”

    Scary thought: maybe MPs cannot engage in meaningful debate because they lack the basic analytical and communication skills to put sentences and paragraphs together.

    Watch British QP (CPAC has it) and be amazed at the literacy of the antagonists.

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