There has been some drama in the Senate over the past couple of days as the procedural shenanigans to bring the national anthem bill to a final vote culminated in a motion to call the vote, and eventually that happened. The bill has passed, and the new national anthem will be law once the Governor General gives it royal assent. But the procedural moves have the Conservatives in a high dudgeon, somewhat legitimately.
Trudeau appointed Senators, including the Speaker, shut down legitimate debate today. Blocking of democracy!
— Senator Larry Smith (@LarryWSmith36) January 31, 2018
My understanding of events was that the main motion to call the vote has been on the Order Paper for months, and was finally called Tuesday night. This was a debatable motion, and likely would have sparked a few weeks of adjournments and debate, but ultimately would have delayed the vote for only that long. But a second, also legitimate procedural move was used by another Independent senator immediately following, and Speaker apparently didn’t hear Senator Don Plett’s desire to debate it. What I’ve been able to gather is that this was likely a mistake given lines of sight, but were compounded by tactical errors on the Conservatives’ part in demanding to debate the first motion and not the second (or something to that effect). Points order were debated last night, but they had agreed to end the sitting at 4 PM in order to have the votes at 5:30, and when they didn’t get unanimous consent to extend the sitting, debate collapsed and when 5:30 rolled around, the Conservatives boycotted the vote in protest. According to those I’ve consulted, the moves were all legitimate but messy, and have the danger of setting up bad precedent for not allowing debate on this kind of motion.
Conservative Senators weren't convinced that a year and a half is nearly enough time to not study a three-word change to a song lyric. Stand with them as they defend democracy. https://t.co/XerLZ4tkoB
— Paul Wells (@InklessPW) February 1, 2018
The Conservatives in the Senate, meanwhile, are caterwauling that their democratic rights have been taken away, and there is talk about conspiracy between Mélanie Joly’s staff, and other threads that are hard to track when they’re throwing them against the wall like spaghetti. And while I share the concerns about bad precedent, I can’t say that I have too much sympathy because they’ve used (and one could argue abused) procedure for over a year to keep the bill at Third Reading, with the intent to ultimately delay it until it died on the Order Paper. They insist that they offered the chance to amend it to the more grammatically correct “thou dost in us command” rather than the clunky “in all of us command,” but I find it a bit disingenuous, because it was simply another delay tactic. And I’ve argued before that this continued tendency to use procedural tactics to delay bills is going to end up biting them in the ass, especially because it plays into Senator Peter Harder’s hands in his quest to overhaul the chamber in order to strip it of its Westminster character. The Conservatives are overplaying their hand, and it’s going to make it very difficult to drum up enough legitimate concern to stop Harder when crunch time comes, and they should be very aware of that fact.
— Sen. Larry W. Smith (@SenLWSmith) February 1, 2018
One worries that when seeking to make a point, people sometimes make a different point.
— Paul Wells (@InklessPW) February 1, 2018
- Justin Trudeau held a town hall in Winnipeg last night and got questions on Canada Post, immigration and child welfare issues, but not his ethical lapses.
- While Chrystia Freeland says that Canada could walk away from NAFTA talks over numerous issues, Trudeau says they have plenty of contingency plans.
- Andrew Scheer said the party has hired a third-party investigator to look into how Rick Dykstra was able to be a candidate despite the sexual assault allegations.
- A group of disabled veterans plan to take their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- The Correctional Service of Canada will now officially start housing trans inmates with those of their specified gender identity.
- A group of senators are looking to further enhance diversity reporting provisions for corporate boards as part of a government bill.
- Apparently Liberal backbencher Francis Drouin is lobbied more often than some ministers, in part because of his riding and his committee work.
- The Auditor General will unveil a report on “inappropriate sexual behaviour” this fall, but we have no idea what it’s going to cover.
- Here’s a look at the latest batch of Order Paper questions and their responses.
- Part of the renovations to West Block included soundproofing, to keep inadvertent information leaks to a minimum.
- Liberal Senator Colin Kenny has resigned a year early, citing continued ill health.
- Andrew Scheer will unveil his first economic policy plank tomorrow, which will be a tax credit for families. How original!
- Erin O’Toole is apparently considering a run for Ontario PC leader.
- Jagmeet Singh says the only skeletons in his closet are insensitive legalese when he was a lawyer. Okay, then.
- The NDP shuffled more critics, and gave Nathan Cullen the role of being a special liaison with the BC government, and part of his focus will be electoral reform.
- Chantal Hébert wonders if a Caroline Mulroney-led PC party in Ontario could make things awkward for Trudeau’s the relationship with the Ontario Liberals.
Odds and ends:
Pierre Poilievre was recently married in Portugal.
Mélanie Joly’s office releasing information on the Parliament Hill rink costs may have breached parliamentary privilege.