The Race to the Finish

4 minute read

“We’re not lifting until we get it done.” That was Government House Leader Mark Holland’s message for reporters when asked about the government’s plan to rise in June. 

The government has a hefty stack of bills it wants to pass before the summer adjournment, with only three weeks left to push them through the House and Senate. With an increasingly dysfunctional House and growing speculation about prorogation, it is particularly important for the Liberals to conclude the spring sitting with a solid record of achievement.

What’s on the docket?

As the House Leader for the government, part of Mark Holland’s mandate is to shepherd government business through the House of Commons. He told reporters last week that the government intends to pass the following legislation before the House rises for the summer:

  • C-47, the Budget Implementation Act, was reported back to the House of Commons last week and began report stage on Friday, during which members have another opportunity to propose amendments to the omnibus bill.
  • C-42, which amends the Canada Business Corporations Act to implement beneficial ownership provisions, was before the industry committee but hadn’t yet been considered. 
  • C-22, the Disability Benefit Act, was at the final stage as the House had to consider Senate amendments to the bill. 
  • S-5, the Strengthening Environmental Protection Act, was also nearly concluded as the Senate considered House amendments to the bill. 
  • C-34, An Act amending the Investment in Canada Act, remained before the industry committee in the House.
  • C-18, the Online News Act, remained before the Senate technology and communications committee, with clause-by-clause consideration yet to come.
  • S-8, on the admissibility of sanctioned individuals, was reported back to the House Wednesday and was set to begin report stage.
  • C-35, respecting early learning and child care in Canada, was at report stage in the House and had not been considered by the Senate. 
  • C-41, to allow humanitarian aid in places controlled by terrorist entities, was at the justice committee and had not been considered by the Senate. 
  • The government also wants to send Bill C-40, establishing the Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission, to committee before the summer recess. 

To achieve that, Holland needs to work with House leaders from other parties on legislative timelines and votes, including on procedural motions like time allocation and closure. With the Official Opposition pulling out all the stops to slow down major government legislation – the budget bill in particular – the government House leader will have his work cut out for him over the next few weeks. 

We’re expecting more procedural shanagins between the opposition and the government as the summer adjournment approaches. This will have a direct impact on whether Holland can deliver on his promise to pass those bills before the summer adjournment. 

Uncertainty 

Prorogation rumours have been floating around for months now, but they were reignited by the May 23 release of the Johnston report on foreign interference. The slow drip of news on the interference issue has bogged things down for the government. The issue is complicating attempts to regain the initiative and move on. Johnston’s final report is due in the fall, so the summer break likely won’t be enough to cool down this continuing political controversy. 

While members of the government, including cabinet ministers and staffers, have informally denied rumours of prorogation, the decision to prorogue rests with the prime minister, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility. It would make sense from a strategic perspective to downplay rumours of prorogation until the announcement is made. 

If the prime minister did want to go that route, it would be best done after delivering on the legislative objectives listed above – both to prepare for a possible election and to ensure the work to date on those items isn’t wasted. Prorogation clears the order paper, which has the effect of essentially killing all government bills. An important consideration for the PMO is that a premature prorogation could upset key cabinet ministers. “Those aren’t my decisions, but I would definitely be opposed to it because I’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Justice Minister David Lametti when asked about the rumours. 
What about an early federal election? It’s an unlikely scenario, but one that’s not totally off the table. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said last week that he wouldn’t want to go to an election until confidence in our electoral system has been restored. But if supporting the Liberal agenda, and the confidence of the House becomes too politically toxic for Singh, then he may choose to pull the plug.

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