Last-minute push: A guide to the government bills left to pass this Parliament
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way through the West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
OTTAWA – Back and forth on amendments between the House and Senate, one final prime minister’s question period, and end-of-session celebratory remarks. Expect all that and potentially more procedural wrangling in the final three days that the House of Commons is scheduled to be in session.
After four years, more than 90 sitting weeks, and more than 100 pieces of government legislation tabled, the 42nd Parliament is nearing a close. MPs are set to decamp for their ridings at the end of this week, with Senators following behind them a week later. Whatever legislation is left behind once Parliament adjourns for good will die on the order paper the minute that the fall federal election is called. Any not-passed bill—whether a private members’ bill or government legislation—would have to be reintroduced in the next Parliament by whomever forms government after the Oct. 21 vote.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to participate in one last House of Commons question period. This became an informal routine every Wednesday of this Parliament when he was in town. Expect this to be a raucous and highly partisan display.
Then, once Government House Leader Bardish Chagger rises to say “Mr. Speaker if you seek it I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion,” or something along those lines, you’ll know the session is coming to an end that day. The motion could pack in all-party agreement to pass multiple bills through various stages at once, agree to table outstanding committee reports, and other housekeeping items. Once this happens, each side will have a representative stand and deliver thank yous and goodbyes. This happens at the end of most summer sessions, but this one will have more finality.
As speculation begins to swirl about a potential early rising of the session, here’s a recap of all the active legislation still left to pass (there about a dozen others the government’s already signaled won’t be advancing) including a considerable and in recent memory, the largest number of Senate-amended government bills.
As you go through this list keep in mind a few things:
First, the government has been routinely limiting the amount of debate time on the remaining government bills, especially those with Senate amendments. This, coupled with House sitting later most nights for the last few weeks, has resulted in bills moving through quicker than has been the case for most of this Parliament.
Second, the prospect of one final Opposition-prompted marathon voting session did not pan out. If there was to be another Conservative-led all-nighter of votes on various lines of the estimates it had to happen Tuesday evening, and it didn’t, so all remaining House time can be capitalized on by the government.
And, should Parliament be recalled to ratify the new NAFTA this summer, then the session doesn’t necessarily have to be completely wrapped up by the end of this month. If parliamentarians are recalled to vote on Bill C-100, they could deal with other key bills that aren’t dealt with before this session wraps. Just because the House and Senate adjourn by months’ end, it doesn’t mean this Parliament has ended, so if a special summer session is in the cards, there will still be time to officially tie a bow on things.
Bills in the House that still need full Senate study
These bills that have the farthest to go to be able to pass, with just days left, meaning they are the least likely to reach Royal Assent by the end of next week when the Senate is set to adjourn.
- Bill C-98, which amends the RCMP Act and CBSA Act to set up a new oversight body for the two agencies. It was tabled by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale in May and is currently at report stage.
- Bill C-99, which amends the Citizenship Act to include in the citizenship oath that new Canadians have to promise to respect Indigenous treaty rights. It has yet to be debated after being introduced on May 28.
- Bill C-100, the new NAFTA implementation bill. The "Canada United States Mexico Agreement Implementation Act" was tabled on May 29 by the prime minister and has since passed into committee study. The government has indicated it will be taking a “goldilocks” approach to moving this bill forward, meaning they don’t want to pass it too quickly, or too slowly, rather they intend to do it in-line with the U.S. and Mexico.
- Bill C-101, the steel industry bill that amends the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act to temporarily prevent a flooding of cheap steel being dumped into the Canadian market. It is also being pre-studied in the Senate.
Bills in the House that the Senate has sent back with amendments
These are all bills that the Senate has amended. In all cases the government has accepted some but not all of the Upper Chamber’s proposed changes. Once the House votes on their responses to the amendments, each bill will go back to the Senate where senators can either agree to live with the legislation as is, or push back and demand more changes.
- Bill C-75, an omnibus piece of legislation that aims to reform a number of areas of Canada's criminal justice system and address court backlogs. It was tabled in March 2018 and was studied intensely at the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which made just over half a dozen changes.
- Bill C-83, which proposes to overhaul how federal inmates are separated from the general prison population, eliminating solitary confinement as it is known. It was tabled in October 2018 and was amended by the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee.
- Bill C-91, the Indigenous Languages Act, which is aimed at reviving Indigenous languages and would create a new Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages. It was tabled in February by Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez and has been whisked quickly through multiple stages, but not without a few changes.
- Bill C-92, which seeks to assert that Indigenous people have jurisdiction over child and family services in their communities. It was tabled by Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan in May and has been fast-tracked and was lightly amended by the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee.
Bills that have passed the House, awaiting passage in the Senate
These are all bills that so far have not been amended by Senators meaning that should that remain the case, they will be able to swiftly pass from the Senate without bouncing back to the House. Among these is the budget implementation bill, which is key.
- Bill C-88, which makes changes related to regional resource protections in the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories. It is currently before the Senate Environment Committee, and it is yet to be seen whether there will be amendments.
- Bill C-93, the pot pardons legislation. Tabled by Goodale in May, it moved out of study at the Senate Legal Affairs Committee on Tuesday without amendment, and is now at third reading.
- Bill C-97, the Budget Implementation Act, 2019. This omnibus bill makes all sorts of changes tied into the federal budget, and also makes immigration law and housing rights changes. It was tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau in April and is currently at third reading.
- Bill C-102, the Appropriation Act No. 2, 2019-20. This is a routine spending bill, approving government spending. It was tabled and passed in the House on Tuesday and will move very quickly through the Senate.
Bills that have returned to the Senate with House amendments
These are all bills that the Senate has amended and the House has considered those changes, decided not to accept them all and have since informed the Senate of that. Now Senators have to decide whether they will accept the ‘thanks but no thanks’ reception to some changes, or insist on more amendments, and then it’s back to the House for that bill.
- Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act would introduce a federal ban on tanker traffic off of the B.C. north coast. The Senate Committee on Transport and Communications just recommended it not be proceeded with at all, which the Senate as a whole rejected, but then did suggest changes.
- Bill C-58, the legislation that changes Canada's Access to Information Law in several ways, including giving the new information commissioner new authorities. It has largely been panned as a bad bill that will not improve an already troubled freedom of information system. It was first ushered in under the Treasury Board portfolio in June 2017.
- Bill C-69, which makes a number of considerable changes to environmental assessments and regulations.
Bills that have passed in the last week
- Bill C-59, the National Security Act, which is a wide-spanning piece of legislation that proposes national security and oversight reforms. It had been returned after the House accepted some, but not all Senate amendments, which the Senate agreed to accept on Tuesday.
- Bill C-68, the legislation that makes changes to the Fisheries Act related to make clear the minister’s authority and strengthen the powers for enforcement of the law. It was tabled under the Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard portfolio in February 2018. It passed on Tuesday.
- Bill C-77, which introduces a victims' bill of rights for the military justice system. From Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, it was tabled in 2018. It passed on Tuesday without amendments.
- Bill C-78, which updates family and divorce laws, in an attempt to have more disputes settled out of court, and amends the language related to custody. It passed on Tuesday without amendments.
- Bill C-82, the Multilateral Instrument in Respect of Tax Conventions Act. From Finance Minister Bill Morneau, this bill enacts a mechanism aimed at avoiding double taxation related to an OECD tax convention. It passed without amendment on Monday.
- Bill C-84, which mends the Criminal Code to crack down on bestiality and animal fighting offences. It passed on Tuesday without amendments.
A previous version of this story included Bill C-87, the Poverty Reduction Act. It has been removed from the list of bills left to pass as it was folded in to the budget implementation bill, C-97.