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Supports for passengers, farmers, artists: 7 bills from MPs and Senators to watch in 2024


When parliamentarians return to Ottawa in a few weeks to kick off the 2024 sitting, there are a few bills from MPs and senators that will be worth keeping an eye on, from a "gutted" proposal to offer a carbon tax break to farmers, to an initiative aimed at improving Canada's DNA data bank.

Each Parliament there is a push from MPs to see their private member's bill, or in the case of Senators, see their public bill pass. But, with often a few hundred tabled and a set schedule, the odds are slim. So far in this Parliament, 14 of these bills have become law, while another 30 have been defeated or done away with.

While government bills will take precedence and these pieces of legislation don't often make headlines, has pulled out seven bills from the bunch that could soon become law, or may at least generate some interesting debates in 2024.

Let's start with two bills that are, at least on paper, the closest to passage.


BILL C-234

The carbon tax carve-out bill for farmers

While technically this private member's bill from Conservative MP Ben Lobb is the closest of the non-government bills to passage, seeing as it has passed through all stages in the House and Senate and is now just awaiting the House of Commons' consideration of amendments made by the Senate, in reality it could be left to languish for some time.

Bill C-234, which initially sought to scrap the carbon tax on fuels farmers use to dry grain and heat their buildings, was considerably amended in its final stages in the Senate, so much so that the bill's backers have used the word "gutted." The changes made, and acrimony over the pace of debate generated backlash from the Conservatives, who were accused of drumming up outrage. They shot back that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers were "intimidated" into watering down the proposal. 

All of this drama, and the overall shift in the climate around the carbon tax conversation from when the bill first cleared the House, has led some political observers to suggest this legislation may now be left to languish indefinitely. Will that play out? Will the Conservatives try new filibuster-like stunts to put it back on the agenda? We'll be watching. 

BILL C-241

A travel expense deduction for tradespeople

This private member's bill from Conservative MP Chris Lewis proposes to amend Canada's Income Tax Act to allow a tax deduction for travel and temporary relocation expenses for eligible tradespeople and apprentices who have to travel for a construction job at a site located at least 120 km away from their primary residence.

The proposal, self-styled by Lewis as the "fair travelling tradesperson's bill," builds on an existing limited labour mobility deduction for tradespeople that includes coverage for certain transportation, meals and temporary lodging costs for travelling to work sites, and echoes past unsuccessful attempts from NDP MPs to pass similar bills. 

Spanning just four pages, Bill C-241 has made its way to the final stage of consideration in the Senate less than a year after it was first introduced in the House. It has so far moved through the upper chamber without any changes, meaning once senators take it up for debate at third reading, if it stays that way and they vote to pass it, it will become law.


There are two bills that originated in the Senate and could be some of the next in line to pass. One has raised some eyebrows and is just beginning its committee study stage in the Commons, while the other appears to be a widely-backed proposal but has come out of its House study with amendments.

BILL S-210

A bill aimed at protecting young people from pornography exposure

This proposal, initiated by Independent Sen. Julie Miville-Dechene, seeks to create a new federal offence for organizations that make sexually explicit material available to young people online, and to designate measures to prevent this material from being accessed by youth in Canada, including large fines and a requirement for Canadians to verify their age before accessing porn. 

While on its face this 10-page initiative appears well-intentioned and has been backed by opposition MPs, most Liberals are opposed to it because it encroaches on work underway by the federal government to advance online harms legislation. Moreover, Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and the Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law, has sounded alarms that the legislation is "the most dangerous Canadian internet bill you've never heard of."

He has warned about the potentially unconsidered implications of website blocking, and "overbroad" application of the bill to social media and search engine platforms, as the bill is currently drafted. Awaiting a review by the House Public Safety Committee, are changes afoot? Or, will this bill be left in limbo once the Liberals finally table their promised online harms bill? 

BILL S-202

The bill to create a parliamentary visual artist laureate

This piece of legislation proposes amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act to create a new position titled Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate, with the mandate of representing Canadian art for a two-year term. 

The bill, proposing a spinoff to the existing parliamentary poet laureate, has been a topic of consideration for years in Ottawa, so long that the artist that inspired the legislation died amid a cancer battle in 2020 while pushing to see his idea become a reality and its initial sponsor Sen. Patricia Bovey retired from the Upper Chamber.

After unanimously passing the Senate in December 2021, it sat unmoved in the House of Commons until June 2023. In November, the House Canadian Heritage Committee completed a brief study, passing two amendments to the bill aimed at securing linguistic and artistic diversity in the role. Will 2024 finally be the year that this initiative is adopted?


Although they’re among those with the farthest to go before they could become law, this final trio of bills are worth pointing out because of the potential they have to generate interesting debates.

BILL S-231

A push to enhance Canada's DNA data bank

A Conservative senator is leading a charge to promote Canada's DNA collection system and increase the number of DNA profiles stored in the national DNA data bank. Sen. Claude Carignan, through his Senate public bill, is proposing a series of amendments to the Criminal Code, the Criminal Records Act, the National Defence Act, and the DNA Identification Act.

Reviving legislation that died on the order paper after the last election was called, the aim of this proposal, according to the senator, is to increase the number of criminal offences for which a DNA sample may be taken. Citing a desire to help bring justice to the families of unsolved crime victims, the proposal has the backing of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

However, Bill S-231 was recently amended by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, seeing several of the clauses in the legislation deleted. It is now waiting a third reading debate when senators resume sitting in February. Has it been altered in a way that will garner wide support, or will this legislation fail to pass once again?

Bill C-371

A bill trying to prioritize passenger rail service

NDP MP Taylor Bachrach has initiated a push to try to see passenger rail lines prioritized across Canada. Through proposing amendments to the Canada Transportation Act, he's trying to require railway companies to allow passenger trains to travel over freight, when sharing the same rail lines.

This proposal was inspired by the NDP MP's experience, and he's tried to back up his legislative proposal with lived experience. Over the holidays Bachrach travelled the approximately 4,500 kilometres from Ontario to his British Columbia riding by train, to see what it can be like when passenger trains like VIA Rail get delayed to give cargo trains such as those run by CN Rail, the right of way.

This bill was just tabled in December, meaning it could be months before it starts rolling down the tracks. Should this proposal gain traction, expect some serious stakeholder lobbying from players on both sides of the tracks, given VIA Rail owns only three percent of railway tracks in Canada, while the remainder are owned by private railway companies, with 48.8 per cent owned by CN Rail and 29.1 per cent owned by CP Rail, according to the NDP.

BILL C-347

The bill trying to make the oath to the King optional

This bill, from Liberal MP René Arseneault, is just three pages long, but proposes one mega change to how Canadian parliamentarians begin their duties.

Bill C-347 proposes to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 to allow every MP or senator to chose to take the historic oath of allegiance vowing to be faithful to the reigning monarch, or instead swear an oath of office, or both. The proposed wording of the alternate oath reads: "I … do swear that I will carry out my duties in the best interest of Canada while upholding its Constitution."

Still awaiting second reading as this bill was only tabled in the House in June 2023, it remains to be seen whether this proposal revives the debate around the monarchy in Canada or if it takes off, at all given the tradition and history underpinning the significance of the parliamentary pledge.




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