Roundup: Harder threatens hardball

A curious development happened in the Senate yesterday, where the Government Leader in the Senate – err, “government representative,” Senator Peter Harder, decided to threaten to play hardball for the first time. Harder moved a motion that would send the marijuana legalisation bill to three different committees by March 1st, with an aim to have them report back to the Chamber by April 19th. The threat? That if they don’t agree, he’ll resort to time allocation (which may be an empty threat if he can’t get the votes to do so). While there are questions as to why the “haste” (though I would hardly call it such), the supposition is that the government wants this passed before summer, despite the fact that there will be an eight-to-twelve-week lag between royal assent and retail sales. Now, one could point out that the Senate rose a week early before Christmas and could have done more of their second reading debate beforehand (along with the other bills on the Order Paper), and maybe they should have been more conscious of the timeline then, but that’s now past.

While I’m not opposed to one-off timeline negotiations, I do find myself concerned by some of the tone of Harder’s release, one line of which reads “Sen. Harder said he is also concerned that opponents may behave in a partisan fashion to delay review of the bill.” Why is this concerning? Because it’s part of his larger plan. After the Speaker ballsed up the procedural motions around the national anthem bill (which saw the motions go through that day rather than the three of four weeks of delays that were anticipated), the Conservatives are angry and threatening to delay legislation, and that in turn is giving Harder the ammunition he needs to push the Independent senators to agitate to change the rules to eliminate the government and opposition roles in the chamber, which is a very bad thing for parliamentary democracy. But the Conservatives can’t help themselves, and keep insisting that they’re just ensuring through examination of the bill, as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Of course, bringing up the anthem bill is not the same thing as it was a private members’ bill and there was no real mechanism for Harder to move it forward, whereas he has tools for this bill. But, as with anything, false equivalencies to prove a point are part of the game if people don’t know any better.

And if the Conservatives don’t think that they’re signing their own warrants for the demise of opposition by continued procedural gamesmanship, then they had better wake up because the ISG is rousing itself to go on the warpath for these rule changes. Being a little more strategic in their partisanship and tactics would be advisable because the reckoning is coming.

Good reads:

  • Following their meeting with Justin Trudeau, the family of Colten Boushie says that they believe the government is serious about making changes to the justice system.
  • Jody Wilson-Raybould reiterated that she doesn’t think the justice system is fair to Indigenous Canadians, and that they are planning on making broad changes.
  • Here’s an explainer about peremptory challenges in jury selection in Canada.
  • Ralph Goodale also said that the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission will look into RCMP conduct in the death of Colten Boushie.
  • In an interview with the National Observer, Trudeau noted that Trans Mountain approval was part of a “trade off” to get Alberta onboard with climate change plans.
  • Bill Morneau announced that the budget date will be February 27th, which is in advance of the Estimates cycle for a change.
  • Our chief NAFTA negotiator said that his American counterparts are being hamstrung by their own president’s public statements.
  • There are hints that there may be funds for media in the upcoming budget, but not as generous as some might like.
  • Cabinet has ordered a deeper security review of the proposed Chinese takeover of Canadian construction giant Aecon.
  • The government is shaking up the board of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and wants less focus on arms sales abroad.
  • While the MMIW inquiry is supposed to be looking into police work, many police agencies across the country say that their files have not been requested.
  • The Ethics Commissioner said that he was just thinking out loud when he contemplated publication bans, and didn’t really mean it.
  • Twitter had a meltdown after Kim Campbell pointed to an essay that said that women newsreaders who are sleeveless have less gravitas. Cripes.
  • The Senate Board of Internal Economy has vetoed Senator McPhedran using her office budget for her harassment support line (which is not unexpected).
  • Here’s a preview of this weekend’s NPD convention.
  • Kady O’Malley previews how tonight’s take-note debate on the Indigenous experience with the justice system will play out.
  • Susan Delacourt contemplates the notion of lifting the veil of secrecy over jury deliberations in Canada.
  • Martin Patriquin is unimpressed with the Conservatives’ attack lines in Question Period (and supposes that Trudeau is pleased by them).
  • Paul Wells looks at the idea of “clean” drug dispensing machines as a solution to the opioid crisis deaths in Vancouver.
  • My column reflects on my time at the Manning Centre conference panel on Senate independence, and my view of where it should be headed.

Odds and ends:

In light of all the Colten Boushie conversations, I’m re-upping a piece I wrote in the Law Times on Ontario’s overdue progress on Indigenous representation on juries.

Maclean’s profiles the man obsessed with changing our national motto from “From Sea to Sea” to “From Sea to Sea to Sea.”

One thought on “Roundup: Harder threatens hardball

  1. Good post! But if you support one-off timetabling negotations, what’s wrong with formalizing those negotiations into some sort of all-“party” business committee? The committee would still have to consider each bill individually and allot time in proportion to its importance.

    Nevertheless, Woo and Harder are making it very hard for me to sympathize with the ISG. Structured opposition is indispensable to counter groupthink–the cohesive voting patterns of the ISG are an object lesson that that’s true.

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