Opposition MPs delay budget to protest proposed House procedure changes
Published Wednesday, March 22, 2017 10:17PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 22, 2017 10:28PM EDT
“If the Liberals have their way, this will be the last budget where the opposition hold them to account,” Conservative MP Candice Bergen declared in the House of Commons before the 2017 federal budget was unveiled Wednesday.
Her bold statement brought about loud choruses of “Shame, shame” from the opposition that left the House Speaker waiting -- and waiting.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget speech was delayed by 25 minutes on Wednesday because of opposition tactics -- another act in a parliamentary drama that began Tuesday night when members on the House of Commons procedure committee filibustered until the early morning.
Conservative and New Democrat MPs kept the committee sitting until 2 a.m. -- and returned the next day at noon to continue the filibuster -- to try to delay a Liberal motion to begin studying rule changes for the House.
Those changes could allow the prime minister to face the opposition just one day a week in a special question period set aside for queries just for him, a system already in place in the United Kingdom. The motion would also replace traditional MP headcounts with electronic voting (as is done in the U.S. Congress), it would change the way private members’ bills introduced by MPs are handled, and it would end sparsely attended House sittings on Friday, when most MPs head back to their ridings.
All of these moves, the opposition charges, will make it harder to hold the government to account.
"We're not going to let them get away with it,” interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose told reporters on Wednesday. “This is not the house of the Liberals. This is not the house of Trudeau. This is the House of Commons."
Ambrose’s statement was echoed by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
"It's time for Mr. Trudeau to understand he's not royalty, he's not a monarch -- he's democratically elected like all the rest of us,” Mulcair told CTV News on Wednesday.
MPs on the procedure committee returned to work Wednesday evening, promising to continue to fight against a move they say is undemocratic, but one the Liberals say is a much-needed attempt to modernize Canada’s Parliament.
Opposition MPs, however, argue that any changes to House rules must be made with the support of all parties, and not just forced through by the Liberal majority.
With a report from CTV News Parliament Hill correspondent Glen McGregor