The Liberal government moved Monday to shut down debate over its budget bill, with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland warning that unless it is approved, some pandemic support programs could expire at the end of the month.
With just a handful of sitting days remaining before the House is scheduled to rise on June 23, the Liberals moved to limit debate on the budget legislation, C-30, to no more than 10 additional hours of discussion. The move triggered a half-hour question period followed by a vote, which passed 184 to 144 Monday afternoon. Bloc Québécois MPs voted with the Liberals, while Conservative and NDP MPs voted against the time allocation motion.
Ms. Freeland, who spoke from her attic where she is isolating from her family after returning from the Group of Seven summit in England, said it’s particularly important for the budget bill to pass before Parliament breaks.
“Now is the time to sound the alarm,” she said. “This is no ordinary budget – this is the budget that Canadians need to finish the fight against COVID and to come roaring back from the COVID recession.”
Ms. Freeland said pandemic support measures are at stake, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which is set to expire this month. The government’s budget bill would extend the wage subsidy until Sept. 25.
The Liberal government went over two years without a budget before tabling the April 19 document. It was the longest period in Canadian history without a budget.
Ms. Freeland and Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez held a news conference Monday prior to the vote urging the minority Parliament to pass four key bills before the House is scheduled to rise on June 23.
Mr. Rodriguez accused the Conservatives of filibustering the government’s agenda and urged the other parties to support procedural moves that will shut down debate on some bills, including the budget bill, so they can be approved before the summer recess.
“The Conservatives are jamming the Parliament,” he said. “To the other progressive parties, I’m saying, guys, let’s work together.”
The two ministers insisted the government bills are urgent and rejected suggestions that the Liberals are attempting to clear the legislative agenda ahead of a fall election.
“We don’t want an election. We want legislation,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
In addition to the budget bill, Mr. Rodriguez also identified three other bills as government priorities. These are Bill C-6, which adds conversion therapy to the Criminal Code; Bill C-10, which updates the Broadcasting Act; and Bill C-12, which would set national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Conservatives are strongly opposed to Bill C-10, which wrapped up a review in committee on Friday after procedural limits on debate that were approved by Liberal and Bloc Québécois MPs. That bill, which received many amendments in committee, now requires approval at report stage and third reading before it can be sent to the Senate for a final review.
This is the second time in a week that Mr. Rodriguez has held a news conference urging other parties to support procedural moves to shut down debate on certain bills.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told reporters Monday that his party is concerned that C-10 will curtail freedom of expression online. The bill is strongly supported by Canada’s arts community, but Mr. O’Toole said the government’s bill is not the right approach.
“I think we can put everyone on a level playing field without harming freedom of expression. As a government, we will find a proper balance to ensure our creators are protected without attacking freedom of expression,” he said.
Mr. O’Toole said the Liberal government is to blame for government bills that are being rushed through Parliament ahead of the summer recess.
With a report from Ian Bailey
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