Members of Parliament are bracing themselves for a marathon session of voting this week as the opposition puts forward 871 amendments to the Conservative government’s budget bill.
Having failed to persuade the Tories to split the 425-page bill and having failed to compel them to accept any changes when the bill was studied in committee, the votes mark the final act of protest by the opposition before the legislation inevitably passes and MPs return home for the summer.
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen says at the very least, his party hopes to persuade the government to think twice before stuffing future budget bills full of extra items.
“One of the ways you give them pause is by causing them pain,” he said in an interview. “If you let them get away with it and you back down from a bully, then the bully will bully again. They should feel every vote as far as I’m concerned.”
All eyes will be on Andrew Scheer Monday as the House of Commons Speaker prepares to announce at noon whether MPs will be required to vote on every single amendment to Bill C-38 or whether some will be grouped together or dismissed outright.
The Conservatives are urging Mr. Scheer to dismiss most of the amendments as frivolous, based on a little-known rule brought in more than a decade ago by the Liberal majority government of the day when it faced similar opposition tactics.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan made it clear Sunday that the Conservatives have no intention of backing down and will push the bill through as is before the summer recess.
“The bill has already received the longest House debate and committee consideration of any budget bill in over two decades,” the minister said in a statement Sunday.
Past marathon voting sessions have shown MPs should expect a pace of about seven votes per hour, meaning the House of Commons could be in for several days of consecutive voting depending on how the Speaker rules.
The sweeping legislation imposes key elements of the March 29 budget, such as raising the eligibility age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67, starting in 2023, and removing the HST from a handful of health-care expenses. But it also contains extensive measures that critics say should have been introduced and studied as independent legislation, such as changes to Employment Insurance and numerous environmental laws.
In some cases, sections of the bill create entirely new laws. For instance, the bill creates the Shared Services Canada Act, outlining the powers of a new federal department. In another section, the bill creates the Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement Operations Act, proposed legislation outlining the powers of U.S. and Canadian police officers operating in each other’s territory. Those measures were twice introduced as a stand-alone bill by previous Conservative governments but never passed.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May could play a starring role in the votes. Because she is not allowed on committees, she has special rights to submit substantive amendments at report stage, when MPs can propose further amendments prior to third reading and passage of the bill. In contrast, the amendments from the NDP and the Liberals are largely focused on deleting various sections of the bill.
In an interview, Ms. May said her amendments are mainly focused at ensuring environmental assessments that are handed over to the provinces meet clear standards.
“My amendments are not about delaying,” she said. “My amendments are about ensuring that C-38, if passed, is not a disastrous piece of legislation.”
Amendment voting by the numbers
6.8: The average number of votes per hour during so-called standing votes, when MPs are called by name.
14.7: The number of hours it would take MPs to vote on 100 amendments
128: The number of hours it would take MPs to get through 871 amendments should the Speaker allow individual votes for each one