Roundup: A swiftly-moving “stalled” bill

An odd narrative has been developing over the past few days about the budget implementation bill being “stuck” in the Senate, and that senators there are “holding it up” as the sitting days in the Commons tick down. And I’m really not sure where this impression comes from because the bill has only been there since Tuesday.

Quite literally, the bill was passed in the Commons on Monday, read in at First Reading in the Senate on Tuesday, passed Second Reading on Wednesday, and had the minister appear at committee on Thursday, and it was later that day that the motion to split the bill was voted on. (The Senate didn’t sit on Friday, for the record). If anyone can please explain how this is “holding it up” or “stuck,” I’m frightfully curious as to how exactly it works.

Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, went on The West Block yesterday and reiterated his praise for the Senate’s work and saying that he expected that this particular attempt to “alter” the budget bill is just “growing pains.” Err, except by altering, they are simply trying to split one section out so that it gets further study, so that the rest of the budgetary elements can get passed, while the section that does need further study gets it. That’s not exactly a major alteration, and they’re not looking to kill that section of it either – just ensure that it’s going to work like it’s supposed to. But then Trudeau insisted that it’s a well-established practice that the Senate always defer to the Commons on money bills.

The hell it is. Constitutionally, the Senate can’t initiate money bills, but that doesn’t mean they simply defer on all of them. Hell, the very first bill they passed in the current parliament were the Supplementary Estimates (which is a money bill), and lo, they had to send it back to the Commons because they forgot to attach a crucial financial schedule to it. Should they have deferred to that flaw? Yes, the Commons is the confidence chamber, and the chamber of “democratic legitimacy,” but Trudeau is conflating a number of different things here, and it’s a bit disappointing because he should know better.

And I will remind everyone that this current Senate, no matter how many bills it sending back with amendments, is still nowhere near as “activist” as the Senate was in the Mulroney days, where they forced him to an election over the free trade agreement and to use the constitutional emergency powers to appoint an additional eight senators in order for him to get the GST passed. The current iteration of the chamber, while they are sending more bills back with amendments, will inevitably defer. That the government is accepting many of those amendments shows that perhaps *gasp!* it was flawed legislation to begin with (not that the Harper government using its illegitimate whip over their senators to pass bills made them any better, because their court record shows they weren’t).

But if we could have fewer terribly media headlines putting forward a patently false narrative about what’s going on in the Senate right now, that would be grand.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau won’t set a date for a balanced budget (not really surprising), and insists that yes, he respects Donald Trump.
  • With the Commons due to rise this week, here’s a look at what’s still up for debate, and new bills on Access to Information and reforming the Anti-Terrorism Act.
  • Also being announced today is the long-awaited gender-based violence strategy.
  • Federal and provincial finance ministers are meeting to discuss a coordinated framework on marijuana taxation, and keeping it low to price out the black market.
  • The GG says they’re room for “continual debate” on the constitution. I’m sure there’s also room for continued jabbing yourself in the eye as well.
  • Despite promising to make available data on how tax treaties have caught tax evaders, the CRA won’t turn it over for privacy reasons.
  • Access to medical assistance in dying remains uneven across the country.
  • The Chief of Defence Staff says that the F-35s remain on the table.
  • Here’s a look at the need for civilian oversight as the Canadian Forces develops its cyber-warfare capabilities.
  • Here’s a look at the push to sell trade agreements as having social benefits rather than just fiscal and economic ones.
  • Here’s a look at the preparations for Canada 150 from a security standpoint.
  • Jagmeet Singh released his climate policy document and lo, he too comes out against Kinder Morgan, because he can’t be too far offside from the rest of the pack.
  • Charlie Angus, meanwhile, promises more help for Indigenous children, because it can happen in a snap.

Odds and ends:

Conservative Senator Fabian Manning is suing the House of Commons, which operates the Centre Block cafeteria, for his fall there that gave him a concussion.

Apparently Conservative Quebec lieutenant Denis Lebel plans to announce his retirement from federal politics today.

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