Last-minute Legislation

3 minute read

It’s crunch time. With only a few sitting days left, the government is focused on getting some key pieces of legislation across the finish line. However, the opposition Conservatives are doing everything in their power to stall the Liberals’ legislation unless the carbon tax is lifted on all home-heating energy sources, a Private Members’ Bill to grant carbon tax relief to some farmers is passed, and all First Nations are exempt from the carbon levy. It’s an attempt by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre to pressure the government on the cost-of-living challenges Canadian families are facing. 

The gamesmanship has eaten up valuable debate time. As a result, Government House Leader Karina Gould now has an even smaller window to pass the government’s priority legislation. A few bills that the governing Liberals want to advance, include, C-50, C-56, C-57, and C-59.

Bill C-50

It took over 50 days for Bill C-50, the Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act to make it through the Standing Committee on Natural Resources (RNNR) before being sent back to the House of Commons last week. The bill, sponsored by the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Jonathan Wilkinson, aims to help workers transition away from jobs in the coal and gas sector. Quite predictably, this bill garnered much opposition from the federal Conservatives, as well as oil-dependent Alberta. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s push against Ottawa’s 2035 net-zero requirements has further complicated the path forward for Bill C-50. Despite the resistance, and Sovereignty Act threats, the federal Liberals continue to push their green economy agenda. Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, doubled down last week announcing cap and trade regulations for major producers. A move that made Premier Smith call Guilbeault an “eco-extremist,” and showcased the growing tension between Alberta and Ottawa over climate and economy. 

Bill C-56

As Canadians gather for the holidays, conversations around the dinner table will certainly include the cost of living challenges facing families. Canada’s grocers didn’t do the government any favours this past week, announcing that prices will continue to rise in 2024. For this reason, the Liberals will try to pass Bill C-56, Affordable Housing and Groceries Act, 2023, which is awaiting third reading in the House. The bill removes the GST on the construction of new, purpose-built rental housing and is intended to spur more competition in the grocery sector in a bid to lower prices. When speaking about the cost of living crisis, the government points to C-56 as one of the measures which will improve affordability. The Liberals need to be seen as helping Canadian families and get the legislation to the Senate before the winter recess.

Bill C-57

Another bill that has been held up in the House of Commons is Bill C-57, the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, 2023. Since being sent back to the House from the Standing Committee on International Trade on November 29th, the Bill has been in limbo. It has been a lightning rod between the Tories and Liberals, with the Conservatives delaying passage because of the legislation’s (purported) commitment to promote carbon pricing and other measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks. Each side is now accusing the other of betraying Ukraine, with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly going so far as to blame Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre for trying to score political points at the expense of Ukraine.  

Bill C-59

The other piece of legislation that is expected to receive significant attention in the House before adjournment is Bill C-59, the Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2023. As noted by the title, the bill enacts many of the promises made in the Fall Economic Statment. When it was introduced on November 30th, onlookers didn’t believe that the bill would have enough runway to pass second reading before the holiday season. However, Government House Leader Karina Gould came out last week saying that it is her priority to get the legislation into committee by this week. 

The government has some lofty ambitions for the final sitting week of 2023 and there is a lot of work that needs to get done. With only a few days until adjournment, and a lot of procedural tools in the opposition’s toolkit, the Government House Leader has her work cut out for her.

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