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A worker unloads wheat at a farm near Fort MacLeod, Alta., on Sept. 26, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Todd Korol/Reuters)
A worker unloads wheat at a farm near Fort MacLeod, Alta., on Sept. 26, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Todd Korol/Reuters)

Wheat Board bill gets pre-screening - and debate limit - in Senate Add to ...

The Conservatives in the Senate are trying to expedite the government’s legislation to disband the wheat board by holding their own committee hearings before the bill even reaches the Red Chamber.

That bill is likely to be passed by the House of Commons within the week.

The wheat-board bill is one of the three Stephen Harper wants passed before Christmas. The others are a budget implementation bill and a bill to redistribute the seats in the House of Commons to better reflect the distribution of the Canadian population.

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But the Liberals in the Senate have indicated they intend to call many witnesses before the legislation is put to a final vote and sent off for Royal Assent. So Conservative senators introduced a motion to allow the Senate’s agriculture and forestry committee to begin hearings on the wheat-board bill immediately, getting a start on a potentially long witness list.

The Liberals countered by introducing a number of amendments to the motion, which prompted the Conservatives to impose time allocation. The pre-study motion is now like to come to a final vote early next week.

“But, if it goes on beyond Tuesday or Wednesday it’s going to be a moot point because the bill is going to come [to the Senate]the following week,” said Majory LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Pre-studies are not common practice nor have they been used in this session – and Ms. LeBreton also said they are not her preferred way of doing things. But they have happened several times since 2006, when the Conservatives first took office.

Ms. LeBreton said no pre-study has been offered on the budget bill and the seat-allocation bill. “We will just treat those as normal when they get here,” she said.

The government wants the seat-allocation bill passed quickly to allow the provinces to set up electoral boundary commissions and get the ridings redrafted before the next election which will take place in four years time.

There are measures in the budget bill that cannot take effect until the bill is passed.

And the government wants speedy passage of the wheat-board bill so there is market certainty for next summer’s crop year, Ms. LeBreton said.

The Senate, she added, will likely sit an extra week longer that the House of Commons in December in order to get those measures passed.

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