Taking up all the oxygen in the Chamber

Both major opposition parties summoned the media to the Foyer before the Commons got down to business this morning – the NDP had already booked their usual slot for another edition Monday Morning Sanctimony, leaving the Liberals to book even earlier. The topic of day was supposed to be the Liberal game plan for the Refugee reform bill back before the House this week, and the NDP to report back on what their “consultations” found over the last week.

But that really wasn’t what took up the airspace. No, that was really taken up by the discussions about the imminent back-to-work legislation around the CP Rail strike.

Speaking for the Liberals, Marc Garneau did talk about how they were the “real” opposition, and were working with Elizabeth May to move their 28 amendments that failed at committee at report stage – which May is able to do as an independent – in order to make the point that these changes are important. Both he and May later tweeted that they have approached the NDP to cooperate, but have yet to hear a response. On the omnibus budget bill, Garneau said that they were still planning on moving hundreds of amendments at Report Stage in order to delete many of the controversial clauses, saying that procedurally, this was the better tactic that “hyperventilating and making lots of noise.”

But then it was onto discussing the back-to-work legislation, the use of time allocation, and the fact that the minister signalled her willingness to use bring in the legislation last week gave the company an excuse not to bother bargaining any further since the government would do their work for them.

A few minutes later, when Nathan Cullen, Peggy Nash and Guy Caron arrived, they each read out their statements at the scrum mike, Nash reading out some “excerpts” of the “hundreds” of in-person concerns and “thousands” of on-line interventions given to them over the past week about the omnibus budget bill. But aside from a couple of trite sentiments about how they hoped the government would be open to amendments on the omnibus budget bill (and seriously guys, stop calling it a “Trojan Horse,” because it’s not), they too turned to the issue of CP strike. It’s not that they don’t care about the economy, Nash argued – it’s that the government doesn’t like collective bargaining.

One reporter wondered if there was enough oxygen in the chamber for them to worry about both the back-to-work legislation and the omnibus budget bill. “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of oxygen,” Cullen assured us. “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.” And yet the entire purpose of their presser, the budget “consultation” sessions, was lost in the fog of back-to-work legislation.

With that, they were off. The Speaker’s procession filed into the Chamber, and after an hour of private member’s business, the hammer was dropped – time allocation was invoked to limit debate for a whole two hours at Second Reading, and a mere hour for Report Stage, even though the bill hasn’t even been introduced yet and won’t be until Routine Proceedings after QP this afternoon.

Because there’s nothing more important than making sure the trains run on time, apparently.