Parliament adjourns for 2018, ending final sitting in Centre Block for a decade
Published Thursday, December 13, 2018 5:06PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 13, 2018 7:47PM EST
OTTAWA – Both the House of Commons and the Senate have risen for the year, marking the conclusion of the final sittings in Centre Block for the next 10 years or more.
“Now we are about to leave this beautiful Chamber, this magnificent edifice, this building that means so much to all of us and to all Canadians, long may it stand,” said House of Commons Speaker Geoff Regan in declaring the adjournment.
The House and Senate both adjourned for the holidays following the official passing of a handful of government bills during what’s known as a Royal Assent ceremony. The ceremony in the Senate Chamber was overseen by Governor General Julie Payette, as is tradition. The ceremony was the final one to take place in the Senate Chamber before it closes.
The Royal Assent ceremony was for six pieces of government legislation, including the controversial electoral reform bill C-76 that makes broad changes to Canada's elections laws, including new limits on spending and foreign participation, while also aiming to boost accessibility and participation in democracy. Also passed Thursday was the omnibus and wide-spanning 850-page budget implementation legislation C-86. This bill amends dozens of different laws and creates new Acts on topics ranging from pay equity to expanded parental leave benefits.
The Royal Assent ceremony brought the total number of government bills passed in 2018 to 24, and the total number of government bills passed since forming government to 61.
Reflecting on the fall sitting, NDP House Leader Ruth Ellen Brosseau said the Liberals, despite promising to be different when it comes to using procedural tools to cut short debate and improve the tone in the House of Commons, this Parliament has seen “an outstanding number” of instances in which time allocation was used. This mechanism puts a limit on the amount of debate hours left on a piece of legislation.
An example was with the 850-page budget bill, which time allocation was imposed on after an hour of debate in the House of Commons.
“When they’re limiting debate and forcing legislation through, there’s not much of a difference,” Brosseau said, speaking to the difference between the Liberals and the previous Conservative government who was criticized for their strong-arm approach to legislative affairs.
In rebuttal, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, who is parliamentary secretary to the government House leader said oftentimes the NDP and Conservatives team up to take on the government, compelling the Liberals to have to use these mechanisms.
When MPs return to work on Parliament Hill on Jan. 28, they’ll be in West Block, where a new temporary House of Commons has been created. This new House of Commons will be where MPs debate for the next decade at least, as Centre Block undergoes renovations.
Starting in January the crown jewel of Canada’ federal legislative buildings will turn into a construction zone, after serving as the centre of debate and Canadian democracy for nearly a century.
Similarly, the Senate which currently sits down the hall from the House of Commons in Centre Block, is moving down the street to the Government Conference Centre, once a train station. There, cameras will capture senators in action daily, for the first time ever. Until now Senate proceedings have only been available via audio, except for in special circumstances starting Feb. 19 when the Senate resumes sitting.
“It has been truly rewarding to witness the restoration of this magnificent building over the past several years,” said Senate Speaker George Furey in a statement marking the official handover of the new Senate building on Thursday. “Today marks an exciting new chapter for the Upper Chamber and I know all senators look forward with anticipation to serving Canadians in the new Senate of Canada Building.”