Trudeau Liberals limit scrutiny with fewer sitting days in the House

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The Liberal government’s move this year to limit the days of the House of Commons and delay the return of Parliament to the end of November is part of an effort to avoid scrutiny, opposition lawmakers say, a necessary debate on pandemic economic support. in between.

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The Prime Minister’s Office has said the House will not resume sitting until November 22, eight weeks after voters re-elected a Liberal minority parliament.

Lawmakers say a debate on expanding pandemic support to businesses and individuals is urgent. Rent and wage-support programs for businesses and direct income support for individuals who can’t work because of COVID-19 are set to end on October 23. The cabinet reserves the right to extend them until 20 November, but any additional changes or extensions would require parliamentary approval.


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According to a review of historical data by the Granthshala and Mail, the number of parliamentary meeting days under liberals has continued to show a markedly downward trend over the past few decades. As of this year to date, the House of Commons has sat for 76 days. Twenty more meetings are scheduled before the end of the year, taking the total to 96. The House sat for 86 days in 2020 and for 75 days in 2019. It sat for 122 days in 2018, which was Trudeau’s last full year. The government had a majority.

The reason for fewer meetings in the last two years is the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the House to discontinue all types of individual group meetings before adapting to a hybrid arrangement with video links.

The number of sitting days per year increased after World War II but has declined since the mid-1970s. Between 1945 and 1975, the House of Commons sat an average of 138 days per year. However since then, the House of Commons has sat an average of 123 days per year.

Since Trudeau’s Liberal government was formed in the fall of 2015, the house sat for an average of 105.6 days during the full five calendar years in power (2016–2020).

“He doesn’t like being in Parliament. It’s like we’re harassing them,” Block Quebecois House Leader Ellen Therian said in an interview. “In the last session, there was often only one Liberal MP in the chamber. Others were attending virtually… the legislative calendar was too light. Not much was happening. And now we see that it continues.”

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won a majority in 2015 with a campaign platform that made broad promises of reforming parliament’s role as a form of control over government power. But after the formation of a minority government in 2019, the number of sitting days per year dropped significantly.

A federal minority government may rule for four years, or as long as it retains the confidence of the House of Commons. This means that liberals will need the support of at least one other party on important votes that are matters of confidence, such as a budget bill.

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But the search for votes also happens on the other side, especially in committees. Opposition parties can join forces to topple liberals in minority parliaments on issues that are not trust votes, and in previous parliaments, they often did.

On objections from Liberal ministers, opposition lawmakers in the previous minority parliament used the powers of committees to approve proposals forcing the disclosure of sensitive documents. This included the frequent release of e-mails related to the pandemic written by political staff in ministers’ offices and in the prime minister’s office.

One of the most controversial battles was over a Commons order demanding that the federal government hand over uncensored records related to the shootings of two scientists at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. The Liberal government asked the Federal Court to intervene, but dropped the matter after the election was called.

NDP House leader Peter Julian said the fact that Mr Trudeau called this year’s election in the first place, less than two years into the minority mandate he achieved in the fall of 2019, is clear evidence that the prime minister was that Wanted increased power which comes with majority.

“I think Mr Trudeau started an election that no one wanted, and the Canadians sent a very clear message that they want things to continue as before, Mr Trudeau should take note of that and MPs. should act on the law which is required,” he said. said.

Mr Julian said he also hoped that the opposition parties would continue to work together several times to call for witnesses and documents from the government if needed.

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“These are parliamentary powers. It is actually, I think, more unusual when we have majority governments that Parliament does not exercise its powers …

“It is a minority parliament. That’s what the Canadians chose. And so lawmakers, I think, will use all the powers that we have available to all lawmakers to make sure there is full accountability and disclosure to Canadians.

When MPs return on November 22, the issue of vaccination is bound to be an immediate source of tension between the Conservatives and other parties. Liberals and bloc Quebecois support mandatory vaccination requirements. The NDP says all of its MPs have been vaccinated, but Mr Julian said the party is open to discussions about a possible virtual arrangement for unvaccinated MPs.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has not declared a firm position on the issue. Some of his lawmakers have spoken out against requiring lawmakers to be vaccinated.

Conservative House leader Gerard Deltel said in a statement that his lawmakers looked forward to starting the meeting.

“Canadian conservatives want to work in the House of Commons,” he said. “It’s time for the prime minister’s leave, it’s time to go to work.”

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Simon Ross, spokesman for Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez, said the government was working to deliver on its campaign promises, including further action on COVID-19, child care, paid sick leave, climate change, indigenous reconciliation and economic development.

“As the prime minister has said, a cabinet will be formed this month and parliament will be convened this fall. We are preparing to move forward on big, bold ideas where Canadians want action,” he said in a statement.

Mr Ross also indicated that liberals support compulsory vaccination for all lawmakers.

“With the return of Parliament, vaccination of MPs will be a relevant issue. We believe that MPs who choose to set foot on the floor of the House of Commons and committee rooms should be fully vaccinated, unless there is a valid medical exemption.

“This will be an important part of future discussions on the return of Parliament. It is a matter of safety for all MPs, their communities and all staff working in the House of Commons.”

With reports from Chen Wang in Toronto

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