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The Conservative government is preparing to pass a flurry of new laws over the coming weeks, as it rushes to clear the decks ahead of a cabinet shuffle and possible prorogation.
Parliament is currently in recess until Tuesday, May 21. The Parliamentary calendar has MPs sitting for another five weeks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been indicating for months that he plans on using this summer to shuffle his cabinet and reset the agenda, likely through a prorogation and throne speech in the fall.
But proroguing Parliament means all government bills are scrapped and would have to start at the beginning of the legislative process. Private member's bills from backbench MPs are exempt from this. (With a majority, the government does have options to re-introduce and speed up its bills after a prorogation.)
Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader, recently put MPs on notice that he has a long list of bills the Conservatives want passed into law before summer. Topping the list is the government's first budget bill.
"I believe and I think most Canadians who send us here expect us to do work and they want to see us vote on these things and get things done," he told MPs on Thursday as he listed off 23 bills as "the government's priorities."
The long list is somewhat unusual given the government's self-imposed summer deadline. Several of the bills are still in the early stages of the legislative process. Many have not yet been studied by House committees, where MPs could hear from expert witnesses.
NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen said he's concerned a series of bills are about to become law without proper study.
"When they shut down debate and close everything down, they tend to get the legislation wrong," said Mr. Cullen in an interview. "Because lo and behold, the process is actually of benefit. When you're writing a law, you should actually talk about it. Who knew?"
So what new laws will your MPs be working to pass before summer? Below is a breakdown of the government's priority bills, with a brief description and an assessment of how far along they are in the legislative process.
Keep in mind that the Conservative-dominated Senate is becoming a bit of a wild card for the government. If the House sends a large number of bills to the Senate in June, there's no guarantee Senators would study and pass all of them before Parliament prorogues.
(Government bills that begin with C are introduced in the House and then go the Senate. Government bills that begin with S start in the Senate and end in the House of Commons. You can look up more information about all of these bills on the parliamentary website.)
C-12 the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This bill updates legislation covering privacy rights in the private sector. It is in the early stages of the process. A similar bill died before in 2011 and this once also appears doomed.
C-21 the Political Loans Accountability Act. These changes to the Elections Act would tighten the rules around loans to political parties and candidates. Similar bills have died before in the House. This one has been studied in committee but still has a long way to go before becoming law.
C-48 the Technical Tax Amendments Act. This bill is full of long-requested fixes to various tax laws. It is not controversial and the measures would be welcomed by accountants. This will likely get through.
C-49 Canadian Museum of History Act. This bill, which replaces the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., with the Canadian Museum of History, got a lot of attention when it was introduced in November 2012 but it has not gone anywhere since. A long shot to become law.
C-51 Safer Witnesses Act. This update of the Witness Protection Program has just been through committee study in the House. It has a good shot at becoming law.
C-52 the Fair Rail Freight Service Act. This largely technical bill has been through a committee study in the House so could be passed before summer.
C-54 the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act. This bill has generated considerable controversy since it was introduced in February. The bill would make public safety the paramount consideration when dealing with mentally-ill individuals who are deemed unfit to stand trial. It has not yet been studied by a committee in the House so critics of the bill would certainly object to a rushed process on these changes.
C-57 the Safeguarding Canada's Seas and Skies Act. This wide-ranging bill includes new government powers for investigating aviation accidents, among other changes. It is a relatively new bill and has not been studied by a committee. It has a long way to go before becoming law.
C-60 the first budget bill. The government needs to pass this one. Debate has already been cut short to make sure it passes quickly. The opposition is concerned by new government powers over Crown corporations like the CBC.
C-61 the Offshore Health and Safety Act. This bill, which sets up new occupational health and safety rules in offshore areas, was just introduced. It is unlikely to become law soon.
S-2 the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act. Similar bills have been debated for years, but this one is in the final stages and could be law soon. The government says it protects the rights of women on reserves in the cases of divorce. Many aboriginal groups said the bill fails to recognize First Nations governance rights.
S-6 the First Nations Elections Act. This is another bill dealing with First Nations that could become law in the next few weeks. This bill is less controversial and has received some support from aboriginal groups, but also some criticism. It would allow First Nation communities to opt out of the election rules in the Indian Act in favour of new rules that allow, among other measures, four year terms instead of two year terms. It is the least likely of the three First Nations bills from the Senate to pass soon.
S-8 the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act. This bill sets standards for drinking water on reserve, but aboriginal groups have expressed concern that it doesn't come with extra money to enforce the requirements. This bill is in the final stages.
S-9 the Nuclear Terrorism Act. This bill makes it illegal to use nuclear material with the intent to cause harm to people or the environment. It is in the final stages and will be passed.
S-10 the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. This bill implements the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This bill has yet to be studied by a House committee. That means it is possible, but unlikely, that it will be passed before summer.
S-12 the Statutory Instruments Act. This bill deals with the power of governments to change laws by regulation rather than legislation. It has not been studied by a House committee.
S-13 the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act. This bill deals with prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish. It still needs to go through a committee study in the House.
S-14 the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act. This bill increases the maximum sentence for bribing a foreign public official. It has not been studied by a House committee.
S-15 the Expansion and Conservation of Canada's National Parks Act. This bill establishes the Sable Island National Park Reserve of Canada. It has not been studied by a House committee.
S-17 the Tax Conventions Implementation Act. The bill implements tax treaties with Namibia, Serbia, Poland and Hong Kong. It has not been studied by a House committee.
Bill Curry covers finance in the Ottawa bureau.