Liberals extend House debate to midnight until summer break
OTTAWA – In the words of Lionel Richie, MPs will be debating "all night long" through to when Parliament adjourns for the summer.
On Tuesday night the House of Commons passed a government motion to extend debate to midnight Monday through Thursday, until the end of the sitting, currently scheduled for June 22.
The late nights are part of a Liberal effort to advance legislation in the final four weeks before MPs decamp for their ridings and the barbecue circuit.
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger moved to end debate on the motion Thursday night and the move came into effect immediately after it passing by a vote of 161 to 119.
This means for every night that MPs will be there until midnight, so too will be members of the House administration, security, and transportation services.
There are a number of procedural aspects to the motion, which mimics one advanced by the Liberal government last spring to do the same thing. Among what it allows the government to do: prohibit any "dilatory motions" -- parliamentary speak for delay tactics -- to be proposed after 6:30 p.m., reserving the evening debate time solely for government business.
Typically, MPs sit late the last two weeks of the spring sitting; it’s even built in to the annual parliamentary calendar. Previous Conservative governments have used similar motions to extend the hours of the House.
Discussing the motion in the House Tuesday, Chagger said it is about allowing more time for debate which is typical this time of year, while the opposition parties contest this move is another example of the federal government breaking its promise to do politics differently.
"This is just another way to ensure that every member of Parliament that wants to debate important legislation that this government is advancing has the opportunity to do so," Chagger said.
She argued that because the opposition parties have been using various procedural tools like points of order or questions of privilege, it has eaten away at debate time. Chagger cited an example from Tuesday: a brief filibuster at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee which is studying the electoral reform bill, C-76, over the committee’s proposed timeline for considering the wide-spanning legislation.
Questioning the minister about the motion in the Commons, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said the motion to end debate on extending the sitting hours was over the 30th time the Liberals have used time allocation -- the tool to limit the time left to debate a matter.
"What about the openness and transparency they promised?" he said, noting that when they were in opposition, the Liberals called time allocation and the use of omnibus bills "assaults on democracy."
Deputy NDP House leader Matt Dube said that his caucus is fine to work as long, and as late as required, but criticized the government’s ability to pass bills.
The government currently has 27 pieces of legislation before the House of Commons, and 11 bills before the Senate. Among the priorities to see pass in short order: the suite of proposed marijuana laws, Bill C-45 and Bill C-46, which are before the Senate and could end up in a legislative showdown between the chambers over proposed amendments.