Bill C-6, which would ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth and restrict it for others, is set for third reading in the House of Commons when Parliament returns next month. If the bill makes it through the Senate before the government falls, then a new law will protect young people against futile and dangerous efforts to alter their sexuality or gender.
But much of the rest of the Liberal agenda is at risk. Parliament is currently on its winter break, returning in the last week of January. The House is only scheduled to sit for three weeks in February and two in March.
If, as politicos inside the Ottawa bubble all seem to agree, the government is defeated – or arranges its defeat – on the budget expected this spring, then that leaves little time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to push through those bills that matter most to the Liberals.
So what might make it into law in the few legislative weeks that remain, and what might die on the order paper if the government falls? Here’s a look, according to people who know.
Highest priority goes to C-7, which would change the law to permit medical assistance in dying (MAID) for someone whose natural death is not “reasonably foreseeable,” provided other conditions are met. The Superior Court of Quebec has granted three extensions to a deadline requiring Parliament to bring the law in line with the court’s ruling. There won’t be a fourth. The bill has cleared the House and is before the Senate, though it’s meeting resistance from senators who believe it goes too far, or not far enough. Regardless, the bill must have royal assent by Feb. 26, if MAID is to be uniform across the land.
Another bill at the top of the queue is C-19, which would amend the Canada Elections Act to make it easier to vote during the pandemic by extending the voting period and the ability to vote by mail. If both the government and the opposition parties want flexibility to fight an election this spring, passing C-19 is in everyone’s interest.
Bill C-18, which would protect free trade between Canada and the United Kingdom, is another must-pass bill, because after Britain leaves the EU on Dec. 31, there could be tariffs on some goods and services between the two countries until this legislation comes into force.
Indigenous leaders place a heavy emphasis on Bill C-15, which would incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law. The bill has only just been introduced, and the Conservatives have major concerns, fearing that courts could interpret UNDRIP to grant First Nations a veto over resource development. Unless Parliament survives beyond the budget, this bill may not make it into law.
Finally, there is C-3, legislation first proposed by Rona Ambrose when she was interim Conservative leader, to provide training to judges in sexual-assault law. The House keeps passing this bill; certain senators keep obstructing it, on the grounds that Parliament should not tell judges how to think. No one is sure whether the bill will finally make it to royal assent this time.
Legislation to implement the fall economic statement must get passed. There are proposals to regulate streaming services. And there is climate-change legislation, though it does not include the measures announced in early December for increasing carbon taxes. Will there be a vote of confidence on Liberal climate policies? Stay tuned.
This is been an unproductive Parliament. The first wave of COVID-19 threw sittings into chaos, with MPs focused on securing assent for emergency measures to counter the economic impact of the pandemic. Then the Liberals prorogued Parliament to limit the political damage from the WE Charity affair, and filibustered at committee when Parliament returned. So only a handful of important bills are likely to become law.
Of course, if the Liberals do survive the vote on the budget in April, then Parliament could keep going, with all sorts of legislation introduced and passed in the months after.
But if the government does fall on the budget, then whatever bills mentioned above that get through will be all the 43rd Parliament has to show for its efforts. A thin gruel.
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