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Politics With this bill, the Liberals are acting a lot like Conservatives

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks delegates at the 2016 Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg, Saturday, May 28, 2016.

JOHN WOODS/THE CANADIAN PRESS

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POLITICS BRIEFING

By John Ibbitson (@JohnIbbitson)

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Liberals, acting like Conservatives, face the first real mess of this administration over the assisted-dying law, which should pass final reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, less than a week before the June 6 Supreme Court deadline to pass a new law.

With the Senate unlikely to clear the bill in that time–they might even not clear it at all–no federal law on when and how doctors may help a patient end their own life will exist, leading to a confusing, though probably temporary, patchwork of provincial measures mixed with straight-up confusion over what, if any, rules apply.

The reason for that confusion is simple: The Liberal government's handling of the bill resembled the Conservatives at their worst.

To bring the new federal law into compliance with the Supreme Court ruling on assisted dying, the government created a committee, which recommended measures to end the lives of, not only those dying from an intolerably painful illness, but those suffering from intolerable chronic or mental illness. Mature minors might also qualify.

But the government calculated that the public was not prepared to go there, and so pared back the grounds for seeking a medically assisted death. Many observers warn that the government bill, as written, would be unlikely to survive a court challenge. So the Trudeau government is mimicking the Harper government in passing legislation that many authorities consider judicially invalid.

Because the morality of assisted dying is fraught, because MPs may vote their conscience on the bill, and because they like to make things miserable for the government, the opposition parties tried to extend debate on the bill. Because it had to make the June 6 deadline, the government imposed closure then a sort of uber-closure to get the bill through the House. Sound familiar?

This led to "elbowgate," and prime ministerial apologies and delay. And probably a missed deadline.

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Bill C-14 could also become a crucial test case for the Liberals' Senate reforms. As of today, the Senate is divided more or less into three: The Conservative caucus, the group of former Liberal senators who were expelled from caucus by Justin Trudeau, and a collection of independent senators that he recently appointed.

How will the bill proceed? How will Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, get it through? The legal committee of the Upper House has already studied the bill and expressed "serious reservations."

If the Senate sends C-14 back to the House with recommended amendments, then a reconciled bill might not clear Parliament for months. It will serve as a fascinating test of the Liberal government's ability to manage a Senate that Mr. Trudeau is reshaping through non-partisan appointments.

Potentially unconstitutional bills, warring over the hammer of closure and confusion in the Senate. Where have we heard that before?

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW IN OTTAWA

By Chris Hannay (@channay)

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> The Liberals' assisted-dying bill is up for its final vote in the House of Commons today, after all amendments were voted down last night and the legislation passed a report-stage vote 192 to 129. All Liberals but four voted for it, and they were joined by 19 Conservative MPs. But an Ontario court ruling has raised more questions about the constitutionality of the Liberals' regime.

> The Liberal government is consideration a major expansion of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which provides oversight of federal departments and agencies, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says.

> The federal government is set to unveil today the first step to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.

> The bill to make O Canada gender-neutral is up for debate again today.

> And should former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler be a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize? Barbara Kay makes the case.

REGIONAL ROUNDUP

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> Quebec: The Liberal cabinet held a private "team-bonding" session in the last days of the National Assembly's sitting, after a tough few months for the caucus.

> British Columbia: A former B.C. Liberal MLA has written a book about the Premier called Christy Clark: Behind The Smile. "I felt the portrayal of her as a heartless, arrogant, corporate sellout did not match the truth about her or the work she was doing on our behalf," Judy Tyabji writes.

WHAT EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT

Pat Carney (Globe and Mail): "I went to the Conservative convention in Vancouver this past weekend seeking clues to the party's future. Red or blue? Code words for a party historically split between progressives and social conservatives. Instead, I found the party faithful celebrating a new brand of fun, fashion and fiscal responsibility – not normally associated with Conservative values under Brian Mulroney or Stephen Harper."

Campbell Clark (Globe and Mail): "After decades of court battles, the Canadian government will talk to Métis about compensation for claims to land dating back to the Red River settlement. And Ottawa must also start figuring out how it's going to make good on its court-confirmed duty to provide the Métis with status and benefits similar to those provided to other indigenous people."

Lawrence Martin (Globe and Mail): "While they have to end the culture of bossism, the Liberals' challenge is to prevent it from taking root. Going into their convention, there were indications of how they could be arrogant and all-controlling. There was Justin Trudeau's crossing the floor to manhandle opponents. There's been his persistent refusal to consider a referendum for something as important as changing the country's 150-year-old voting system. There's been heavy-handed debate-limitation tactics."

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Tasha Kheiriddin (iPolitics): "But don't kid yourself – free membership isn't free. It comes at a price, and that price is your personal information. In the age of Big Data, your email address is far more valuable than your $10. The Liberal party will engage with you, probe you for your interests, likes and dislikes (Did you sign up for that newsletter on electoral reform? Are you more interested in climate change? Do you have kids? A dog? An iguana?) and mine you for information and money."

Gillian Steward (Toronto Star): "Alberta premier Rachel Notley is convinced that holding grudges isn't very productive especially when Alberta needs powerful provinces like Ontario to sign on to Alberta's interprovincial pipeline projects. And there's no doubt Premier Kathleen Wynne would be a formidable ally."

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