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'This is a joke,' natural resources minister says of Conservative obstruction on energy bills

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Liberal ministers and an NDP MP came out swinging Thursday against the Conservatives for what they say has been "circus act" filibustering preventing a pair of bills focused on jobs in the energy sector from coming up for study.

"I am extremely disappointed … with the tactics that the Conservative party has adopted in committee with respect to … [bills that] are extremely important to building an economy for the future of Canada," Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told reporters on Thursday.

There are a pair of bills sponsored by Wilkinson that were referred to the committee in October for study, but work digging into either has yet to begin as the last few meetings have been mired in discussions over "committee business," seeing the Conservatives spend what the NDP have calculated to be nearly 10 hours this week talking out the clock. 

"I'm probably one of the least partisan members in this Chamber, but this is a joke," Wilkinson said.

The bills the Liberals and New Democrats say are being held up are:

  • Bill C-49, regarding offshore wind development in Atlantic Canada; and 
  • Bill C-50, the "Canadian Sustainable Jobs Act." 

"Canadians expect that the different political parties may have different views on some of these things, but they expect that those kinds of conversations will actually happen at committee, not the kind of circus act that seems to be taking place and has been taking place over the last few days," Wilkinson said. "So, I am concerned because I don’t know when this is going to end and it is important that we move these things forward."

Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan joined Wilkinson in his dismay.

"I'm hardly new to committee hearings. I know they can be animated. I know they can be partisan, it's all part of the job. This is next level. And I don’t know what’s up. So I stand here at the mic, expected to have answers, and I swear to God I’m asking questions. What’s up with them right now? I don’t get it," O'Regan said.

"The lack of coherence in their arguments for both of these bills certainly makes me want to make sure I pass … both of these bills. It certainly motivates me."

NDP MP and natural resources and 'just transition' critic Charlie Angus also held a press conference on Parliament Hill Thursday in which he questioned how Poilievre's Conservative can face any energy worker after blocking the committee's work and workers' testimony on the impacts of the energy transition with "gong-show tactics."

"The rule in Parliament is when legislation is referred to committee, all the work at committee is interrupted to deal with legislation. That's our job as legislators. I spent the last 19 years in opposition, I'm used to not getting my way, a lot of the time. When legislation comes, our job is to deal with legislation from the government, whether we like it or not," Angus said.

"What the Conservatives are trying to do, is to impede legislation that went through … votes in the House," said Angus. "And what we're seeing now is actually really silly, vindictive, and childish behavior while jobs and our economic future is on the line."

The long-time NDP MP was accompanied by Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and a handful of other labour representatives that similarly described the Conservatives' conduct at committee as the worst kind of politics, while noting there is room to improve the legislation.

"I'm calling on Conservative MPs to stop preventing workers from having their voices heard on this bill. I'm calling on government and all MPs to get this bill fixed, and get it passed so that workers are not left behind," Bruske said, going on to question the substance behind Poilievre's stated desire to win support of working Canadians.

In a statement to CTV News, Conservative MP and natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs stood by her party's obstruction of the Liberals' "radical agenda."

"After eight years of Trudeau, the NDP-Liberals have used every tool to block, delay, and kill Canadian energy projects and jobs. Conservatives will use every tool at our disposal in the Official Opposition to stand up for Canadian jobs," Stubbs said. "We will block, delay, and challenge Trudeau’s anti-development, anti-private sector policy punishment of workers." 

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