Trudeau gov't in legislative 'doldrums': critics
When asked if the Liberals are considering proroguing, Government House Leader Bardish Chagger said it was a question for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Friday, December 15, 2017 1:09PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 15, 2017 3:06PM EST
OTTAWA – Hitting the midway point on the House of Commons calendar, the Liberal’s legislative agenda seems lacking, critics say.
"The government made some initial moves back in 2015 that I think were positive, and now it just seems to be in the doldrums," said NDP House Leader Peter Julian in an interview with CTVNews.ca
Julian came back into the role after an unsuccessful leadership bid. He held the position at the start of this Parliament. He desribed the government's legislative showing "really disappointing."
He said the Liberals have gotten off track from bringing forward new ideas, or initiatives focused on the problems of "regular Canadians," and are rather more concerned about what benefits them and their party.
He described it as "a lack of focus."
Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen told CTVNews.ca that the government has been "bogged down" in the House and unable to pass more bills because of the backlash to many of their proposals.
Since forming government, the Liberals have introduced 70 pieces of government legislation. Among the key bills they’ve passed into law: a legal regime for physician-assisted death; a middle-class tax cut; protections for trans people; and the establishment of a parliamentary committee on national security oversight. They have passed 36 government bills so far.
Currently moving through Parliament are a handful of other bills that act on Liberal promises, including: legalizing marijuana, amending the access to information laws; implementing an oil tanker moratorium; and establishing a new political financing regime. They have 34 government bills left to pass.
The government has yet to bring forward other promised pieces of legislation, including bills on: pay equity; federal accessibility; and gun control.
Government House Leader Bardish Chagger wouldn’t say if she is concerned about passing all of the legislation left, in addition to any forthcoming bills.
"I am going to do the best that I can," Chagger said in an interview with CTVNews.ca. She said the pace of bills passing is attributable to the “scrutinizing” legislation is getting, though her opposition counterparts disagree.
Both Julian and Bergen described the Liberals as trying to "ram through" their bills, citing their increasing use of time allocation.
Bergen called their current shutting down of debate, something the previous Conservative government also did regularly, "frustrating."
Time allocation is a procedural mechanism that sets a limit on how much time a bill will be debated before a vote is called to pass it to the next stage.
It’s a tool both the NDP and the Liberals were highly critical of the previous Conservative government using. but now, Julian said, the Liberals are doing the same thing.
The Liberals have limited debate by using time allocation around 30 times so far this Parliament.
"The opposition has a job to do… they are going to do what they need to do, no differently than the government of the day is going to want to advance the mandate that Canadians gave to us," Chagger said.
Bergen said the Liberal’s legislative weakness is that they are trying to pass legislation without taking into consideration the effect the bills will have.
She cited marijuana legalization and changes to tax law as examples.
"It’s like they can’t see what’s coming, it’s like they don’t seem to have any foresight as to the consequences of their actions," she told CTV News.
Questions remain about whether a prorogation is on the horizon. A prorogation would end the current Parliamentary session, killing all current business that has not passed. It’s possible for bills and committee work to be reinstated with a motion.
The procedural tool has been used in the past at the mid-mandate point by previous governments to reset, and present a new throne speech laying out the government’s agenda for the remaining time they’re in power.
When asked if the Liberals are considering proroguing, Chagger said it was a question for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
"We’ll see what happens," Chagger said.