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By Chris Hannay (@channay)
The Liberals have gotten some criticism from opposition parties for limiting debate on bills through "time allocation."
What does that mean? Time allocation is a way of scheduling the amount of debate a bill receives – though that scheduling can be used to put an end to debate. As the House of Commons Procedure and Practice puts it: "While the term 'time allocation' connotes ideas of time management more than it does closure, a motion to allocate time may be used as a guillotine by the government."
According to the record of House of Commons votes, the Liberals have used time allocation four times in the past few weeks:
C-15, a bill to implement measures of the March budget.
As Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux pointed out in a 2014 debate: "There is no doubt that in majority government situations, and even in minority situations, time allocation is sometimes necessary" – though, he said, it can be overused.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA
> In response to videos showing Saudi Arabia using weaponized vehicles against its own people, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said what matters is that Canada sticks to its contracts, including one to sell $15-billion of arms to the Saudis.
> Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is facing so much correspondence and so many requests to speak that the Prime Minister's Office is looking at getting her a second staffer to help her with the workload.
> Speaking of staffing, the government's vetting failed to pick up the tax troubles of an assistant in Transport Minister Marc Garneau's office.
> The Liberals are going to overhaul government advertising policies.
> Mauril Bélanger's private member's bill on the national anthem is back on the parliamentary agenda, thanks to the help of a rookie colleague.
> NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he expects to keep his job for less than a year. Meanwhile, party officials are worried the upcoming leadership race could be a drain on party fundraising, considering the campaign debts that still have to be paid.
> Jeffrey Simpson sums up the myriad reviews, panels and task forces the Liberals have created so far. (for subscribers)
> And, to commemorate the unveiling of Paul Martin's official portrait, veteran Hill photographer Dave Chan gives a behind-the-scenes look at the former prime minister's time in office.
WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT
Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "The Liberals have designed a process for electoral reform that will appear completely illegitimate if it ends up with the kind of voting system Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants. And its design also means it's almost certainly going to end up with what Mr. Trudeau wants." (for subscribers)
Chantal Hébert (Toronto Star): "Mind you, based on the recent experience of the MPs and senators who toiled diligently on the medically assisted death file only to see the thrust of their report ignored by the government, this [electoral reform] committee could amount to little more than a make-work project designed to allow the Liberals to check an item off their bucket list."
Robyn Urback (National Post): "If a new electoral system is deemed to better ensure that every Canadian vote counts (in the absence of a referendum vote, in which every vote really would count), Canada could very well see itself presented with a new, different and unfamiliar means of electing governments, achieved by consultations with select Canadians, assessed by a committee controlled by Liberals who were elected in an illegitimate first-past-the-post election and reviewed by a group of unelected senators."
Andrew Coyne (National Post): "If the government were genuinely committed to proceeding with the support of the other parties – or even one of them – it would not matter whether it controlled a majority of the seats on the committee. If, nevertheless, it insists on such a majority, we are entitled to ask what is up. That it should choose to do so, what is more, fresh from using its majority on the committee studying assisted-suicide legislation to bat away virtually every one of dozens of opposition amendments, sets off all sorts of alarm bells."
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