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Senate girds for sparks as Tory budget hits the floor with a boom

Fireworks are expected in the Senate this week over an omnibus budget bill that contains all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the budget - including environmental legislation, plans to sell off Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and breaking Canada Post's monopoly on overseas mail.

The House of Commons passed Bill C-9 on Tuesday over the objections of the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois but with the begrudging support of the Liberals - who ensured the absence of enough of their members to prevent its defeat.

That manoeuvre neatly dodged the election that would most certainly have resulted if the bill, a confidence matter, had not been passed in the Commons.

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But the Senate is not a confidence chamber and it can do what it wants to the bill without taking down the Conservative government.

The Senate sat late on Tuesday night and waived the usual notice rules to fast-track Bill C-9 to debate on Wednesday afternoon. It will go in its current form to a Senate committee later this week.

Then a motion could come from the Liberals or from an independent to lift out those items they believe do not belong.

The result would be outrage from the Conservatives - many of whom have been hand-picked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to ensure that his government's legislation is not altered by the Red Chamber.

The Liberals and independent senators, combined, still have a majority of one and could, in theory, order the committee to hive off the non-budgetary portions.

Conservative senators have a majority in the committees. But the committees are obliged to do what they are told to do by the Senate as a whole.

So the Senate could indeed accomplish what the opposition in the House of Commons could not.

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On the other hand, much would depend on how many senators of each stripe were in their seats - and whether all of the independents and Liberals were willing to get behind such a provocative action.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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