OTTAWA -- There will be a formal House of Commons sitting on Wednesday, during which the limited number of MPs in Ottawa are expected to be asked to fast-track legislative changes implementing an aspect of the federal government’s aid to farmers.

Last Tuesday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would provide $252 million in new federal assistance for Canadian farmers and others in the agri-food sector to help redistribute food and better protect workers in processing plants.

As part of this package, the government said it intended to increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s borrowing limit by $200 million to cover costs related to having to store excess cheese and butter.

In order for this initiative to be enacted, legislative changes are needed, and that’s set to be the focus of Wednesday’s House of Commons sitting. 

As seen across sectors, supply issues have led to Canadian producers having a surplus of products such as potatoes, and so the federal government is also planning to bulk purchase and redistribute the food to where it can be used rather than see it thrown away. 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie Claude Bibeau is expected to table the bill, which MPs will study following their already scheduled in-person meeting of the special all-party COVID-19 committee. 

At the time of the food sector announcement, Trudeau said talks were getting underway with opposition parties about moving ahead with what will be the fourth emergency piece of legislation since the pandemic shut down the regular parliamentary session in mid-March.

In addition to the handful of in-person sitting days to pass these bills, two weeks ago MPs began a hybrid schedule of virtual and in-person question and answer sessions. The regular session is slated to resume May 25, unless an agreement to extend the suspension is reached or a more formal agreement around a virtual House of Commons is struck.

As seen in past emergency House sittings, some degree of negotiation is expected between the opposition parties and the government about the details of the bill or the terms around passing it quickly. In this instance, some industry stakeholders have said this new funding falls “well short” of what’s needed, so it’s possible the other parties could push for the package to be beefed up.