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House moving to midnight sittings as Liberals blame Conservatives for stalling agenda

Government House leader Mark Holland speaks to reporters after a meeting of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Government House leader Mark Holland speaks to reporters after a meeting of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa, Wednesday, May 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

It's that time of year again where MPs will be sitting until midnight until the House rises in late June, as the federal government pushes to pass as many bills as it can before the summer legislative hiatus.

On Wednesday, Government House Leader Mark Holland announced that the House of Commons will be working late "every single night … from here until the finish."

The House is scheduled to adjourn for a two-month break on June 23.

Because of a motion passed back in November allowing for the extension of House sitting hours on a day-to-day basis, MPs have been holding midnight sittings sporadically, but now MPs will be burning the midnight oil for three weeks. 

Holland said this is being done to see progress on nine pieces of legislation that the Liberals must see movement on before MPs wrap up their work in Ottawa, including seeing the passage of the budget implementation bill, a handful of foreign policy-focused bills, and the online news and disability benefit bills.

Holland placed the blame for needing to keep the House running into the night each night on the Official Opposition Conservatives, who he accused of "obfuscating."

"The frustration that I've had in having the responsibility to shepherd the legislative agenda through Parliament is that the Conservatives will not tell us how many speakers they have, they will not tell us how long they want to spend with bills, so we have to effectively try to navigate the legislative session with blindfolds on," Holland said.

"The consequence now is that we have a limited amount of time… So we're sitting here every night until midnight and we're going to get the work of the nation done," Holland said. "It is totally fair to have disagreement on the content of what is in legislation, but to refuse to engage… that creates an unacceptable situation."

While Holland suggested allowing more time for these debates should help see legislation moving, he didn't rule out moving ahead with further time allocation measures to ensure these bills pass.

Commenting on Holland's accusations, his Conservative counterpart Andrew Scheer shot his own back.

"The Liberals are trying to ram through their high-spending, high-cost, high-inflation, high-interest rate, high-crime agenda through the House of Commons," said the Conservative House leader. "So, you're darn right we are taking our time to highlight those deficiencies."

"We're going to keep doing our job. We were sent here to hold this government to account, we make no apologies for that," Scheer said.


Meanwhile, rumours and speculation are afloat on the Hill over the prospect that the federal Liberals could prorogue Parliament in the weeks ahead, potentially in an attempt to take some of the political heat off of them over foreign interference, as Trudeau did in 2020 amid the WE Charity affair. 

However, Liberals insisted up and down on Wednesday that prorogation is not on their minds, chalking the claims up to opposition-driven spin and insisting they remain focused on passing their legislative agenda.

"There are reasons to prorogue Parliament, they've been used in the past. I'm not aware that those conditions exist… We're in the middle of silly season, with all kinds of foolish rumors. And I put that in this category," said Liberal MP Sean Casey after Wednesday's Liberal caucus meeting. "It's never been discussed in caucus, it's never been discussed in the corridors. I don't know where it's coming from."

Prorogation is a political tool at the prime minister’s disposal that essentially shuts down the House and Senate without launching a federal election.

Sometimes used as a political reset button, all legislative work on Parliament Hill stops when a prorogation occurs. That means that any outstanding bills that have not yet become law are killed, any ongoing committee studies are halted.

While work can be reinstated with all-party support, that would only occur after the new session begins.

Justice Minister David Lametti said that while the decision around prorogation rests with the prime minister, he said it is "not my idea" and would be something he'd "definitely" be opposed to "because I've got a lot of work to do."

"I think we're all looking forward to seeing legislation pass, getting to the summer break," said Liberal MP Chris Bittle.

"It's a rumour," said Chief Government Whip Steven MacKinnon. 



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