The Senate will sit for two extra days next week in order to pass the budget bill and likely another bill on climate-change targets, but government legislation on broadcasting and conversion therapy appear unlikely to become law by summer.
Members of Parliament gave final approval late Wednesday afternoon to Bill C-30, which implements key parts of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s April budget. The 211-121 vote sent the bill to the Senate and then the House adjourned for summer.
The Senate was also scheduled to recess for summer on Wednesday, but Senators agreed to add sitting days on Monday and Tuesday to wrap up unfinished business.
Bill C-12, a climate-change bill, was approved by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate late Tuesday night. The legislation would require national targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, with the aim of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Senators have already held pre-studies of those two bills in anticipation that they would be receiving them at the last minute. However, the Senate has not conducted pre-studies of two other government bills that arrived in the Senate this week: Bill C-10, which updates the Broadcasting Act, and Bill C-6, which would ban the practice of conversion therapy.
Bill C-6 would create five new Criminal Code offences, including forcing someone to undergo conversion therapy against their will. Conversion therapy is a widely denounced practice aimed at changing someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The result of behind-the-scenes negotiations among the Senate leadership were revealed Wednesday in the Senate, as the Chamber agreed to extend the current COVID-19 rules that allow Senators to participate remotely via video link and to schedule two new sitting days for Monday and Tuesday.
The fact that neither Bill C-10, nor C-6, received pre-study in the Senate suggests it is highly unlikely that either of those two bills will be passed into law by the end of the day on Tuesday, when Senators break for summer.
“The government has mismanaged the legislative process both in the House and in the Senate,” said Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett in an emailed statement. “The Senate is insisting that bills receive a fulsome debate and are not artificially rushed through.”
Several Senators have spoken out in recent days, warning that C-10, which would apply broadcasting regulations to online streaming services like Netflix, is a contentious and complicated bill, and the Senate should not be expected to pass the legislation without a thorough study.
“The government’s behaviour when it comes forcing legislation forward has been particularly offensive this session,” said Senator Pamela Wallin, a member of the Canadian Senators Group, during the Chamber’s question period Wednesday. Ms. Wallin is critical of C-10 and said it should not be rushed into law.
“Can we please seek an assurance that when a government has had six years in office to present their legislation, they do not literally dump a bill on our doorstep at the 11th hour claiming it must be passed in mere hours?” she asked.
Senator Marc Gould, who represents the government in the Senate, said Bill C-10 would be debated over the coming days, but he did not pledge that it would be passed into law before summer. In contrast, he said he expects the Senate to approve C-30, the budget bill, next week.
“Colleagues will know that, although we have received several bills recently, notably C-10 and C-6, it is our collective view that these are important bills that require proper study and will receive proper study,” he said. “And so to that regard, you have my assurance and this government’s assurance, that we will continue to respect the role, the important and legitimate role, of the Senate and of Senators to give proper due consideration to government legislation.”
There is widespread speculation that the minority Liberal government will call an election in August or September, meaning any legislation that has not become law by that time would die. A future government could re-introduce the legislation at a later date. The official opposition is strongly opposed to Bill C-10 and has said a Conservative government would not support the legislation.
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