Roundup: A reminder of why debate matters

While I haven’t been following the trial in Sudbury around those non-criminal bribery charges related to the provincial by-election, aside from Chris Selley’s columns on the topic, it was something that he tweeted from the courtroom yesterday that piqued my interest because it’s something I deal with a fair amount in writing both about law and politics. Part of the issue raised is that these sections of the law that the trial is proceeding under have never been tested before.

We see these kinds of bills passed not infrequently federally that are passed at all stages with no debate. This is usually where the Senate picks up the slack and does the actual heavy lifting, but not always. Sure, there are a few bills that are relatively non-contentious, related to national parks and such (to think of an example or two off the top of my head), but some that matter – like the changes to royal succession in Canadian law – got no debate in the Commons despite it being a fairly fundamental problem that the law as passed effectively reduced Canada’s status to that of a colony once again.

But the point I make is that the courts will often turn to Parliament for guidance in what it is they should be interpreting. That means looking to debates and committee transcripts to try to divine just what it is that Parliament intended when they passed the bill so that the judge can rule one way or the other in clarifying the meaning. And if you have no such debates – like in this Ontario statute – well, that’s a real problem. It’s also a reason why I will frequently harp on why the Senate matters so much is because they not only will offer some debate in instances where the Commons offers none, but it’s where committee testimony becomes most crucial, especially when it comes to hearing from witnesses that people object to (as happened with the trans rights bill) – because they want it on the record that they heard and dismissed these concerns should they eventually be litigated.

Parliament is supposed to matter, and MPs (and MPPs in this particular instance) do themselves and the province or country they serve a real disservice when they don’t do the job of putting things on the record. And I’ll say that the issue going on in Ontario right now with the bubble law around abortion clinics is another such issue. The provincial Progressive Conservatives offered to pass the bill at all stages – eager to get it off the agenda so that it minimizes the divisions in their ranks on the issue, and the Liberals refused, wanting instead to hear from those it affects. While the cynical calculation is that this is the Liberals playing politics – and to an extent it really is – it’s also the responsible thing to do, so that we get some debate and testimony on the record, so that when this legislation is inevitably challenged, there is a record for the courts to turn to. And yes, that matters beyond the petty politicking.

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau arrived in Washington as Donald Trump has started talking about cancelling NAFTA again. Trudeau spoke at a forum with Ivanka Trump watching.
  • There’s been a lot of noise about this CRA “folio” about treating some employee discounts as taxable benefits…but you won’t find a useful explanation here.
  • The government has taken a step toward taking new Super Hornets off the table, and is now officially looking to Australia to buy their used F-18s.
  • Boeing, meanwhile, is trying to talk up their economic importance in Canada.
  • The government unveiled the shortlist for their planned superclusters yesterday.
  • Not surprisingly, the responses to the government’s consultations on pardon reform are overwhelmingly in favour of making them easier to get.
  • Netflix is engaging in some (self-serving) damage control over what they term to be “conspiracy theories” about their investment announcement.
  • Here’s a look into some of the problems and workarounds that employees are trying to use with the shambolic gong show that is the Phoenix pay system.
  • The government is looking for partnerships to develop jet biofuels in order to help meet climate targets.
  • Kady O’Malley’s Process Nerd column looks at how the raft of Senate bills are delaying private members’ bills in the Commons. The poor dears.
  • Andrew Potter has a thoughtful take on the question of whether the government should be bailing out the news industry.
  • Susan Delacourt notes the apparent breakdown in the Liberals’ comms machine as their useless talking points mount.
  • Stephen Gordon looks at how singletons are being overlooked by government policies despite being a growing demographic.
  • My column looks at the rhetoric used around the cancellation of Energy East, and wonders where the free market conservatives went in this country.

Odds and ends:

Jagmeet Singh wants to compare his hair to Trudeau’s for some reason, and this is just so stupid you guys.