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With MPs on the brink of a summer break, pressure is on Liberals to pass bills

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With just a few days standing between MPs and summertime in their ridings, the pressure is on the federal Liberals clear their legislative priority list.

Facing questions about the swirling speculation around an early adjournment, Government House Leader Steven MacKinnon said Tuesday that the minority Liberals have "lots of work yet to do."

With some chatter of MPs agreeing to pull the plug on this sitting of Parliament a few days early, MacKinnon said he didn't know yet how the rest of the week will play out.

"We have lots of things that we want to accomplish," MacKinnon said. "We set out a very ambitious set of objectives for this parliamentary session. We’re close to having met them. We’re not, unfortunately, yet at the finish line, but progress is being made every day."

The House of Commons is scheduled to adjourn this Friday, but before that happens the government still needs to pass the federal budget bill, which the Conservatives oppose but has the backing of the NDP. 

There are also a few other pieces of legislation the Liberals have said they'd like to wrap up before leaving town until the fall.

What bills need to pass?

The biggest bill the government is looking to pass before week's end is Bill C-69, the Budget Implementation Act, 2024, No. 1. It is likely to be expedited through the remaining House stages shortly thanks to time allocation, and is already being pre-studied in the Senate.

The mammoth bill enacts much of what the federal Liberals promised in the latest budget, minus the capital gains tax change, which will essentially be enacted one week from now, despite the legislation not coming until the fall.

Related to the budget to some degree are a pair of must-pass routine spending bills, C-74 and C-75, that essentially provide the supply of funds government departments and agencies need to keep the lights on and programs running. They're both already in the Senate.

The other major item to keep an eye on is Bill C-70, the Countering Foreign Interference Act, which proposes a suite of new measures and law changes aimed at countering foreign interference in Canada, including a foreign agent registry.

MPs fast-tracked this bill through the Commons and it is now before senators, who have to balance the signal from MPs that they want to see it passed quickly with calls from civil-liberty groups for a more rigorous review. 

MacKinnon said he is encouraging the upper chamber to pass this bill before the summer break, something the government's representative in the Senate is also anticipating.

Other bills that are close to fully passing are sustainable jobs Bill C-50, and the fall economic update implementation legislation Bill C-59, while the anti-scab Bill C-58 passed the Senate on Monday.

Health and labour stakeholders held a press conference on Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning urging the Senate to also pass Bill C-64, the Pharmacare Act, before rising. This bill passed the House in early June.  

Two items the government is also looking to pass in the House and get before the Senate this week are Bill C-40, the Miscarriage of Justice Review Commission Act, and Bill C-26, the long-languishing legislation regarding industry cyber security.

There are other pieces of legislation that likely won't clear the Commons before MPs adjourn, and are unlikely to receive a last-minute all-party agreement as part of an early adjournment motion. These include Bill C-63, regarding online harms, and Bill C-65, which proposes a suite of electoral reforms, including a contentious proposal to push back the fixed election date

The Senate is scheduled to stick around for up to a week later than MPs, giving them time to essentially triage and oversee the royal assent of any late-arrival priority bills from the House before they also wrap up their work for the season.

Conservatives want summer studies

Meanwhile, as the clock ticks down, the Conservatives are pushing for MPs to keep working on House of Commons committees through the summer to tackle problems they say are the prime minister's fault, from a rise in food bank usage, to the persisting housing crisis, and crime.

In a social media video posted by Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer over the weekend setting up the strategy, the Official Opposition criticized Justin Trudeau for taking time off while Canadians are struggling, despite the scheduled break applying to all parliamentarians. 

The video also put pressure on the self-described NDP "worker bees" to back them in their attempts to keep committee work rolling through July and August.

"Conservatives have launched a massive and coordinated effort – not seen before in the House of Commons – to ensure nearly 20 committees sit over the summer, forcing Liberals and their NDP costly coalition partners to keep working," Scheer said in a statement to CTV News. So far, this effort has faced resistance.

"Common sense Conservatives are ready to work through the summer for Canadians. The NDP have a clear choice to make – support everyday Canadians or take the side of their Liberal bosses and let Trudeau and his government off," Scheer said. 

This is not the first time Poilievre's Conservatives have wanted to extend the work of MPs ahead of a prolonged break.

In December, the Conservatives threatened to delay MPs' holidays unless Trudeau backed off the carbon tax. After a marathon voting session, ultimately MPs did not miss any scheduled time in their ridings.

Last June, Poilievre also said his caucus was ready to work "all summer long," but in the end his party agreed to adjourn the spring sitting two days early.

Changing the House sitting schedule requires either all-party approval, or for Trudeau to seek an extension with good enough reason for the House Speaker to agree. However, at Commons committees, typically just a majority vote is needed to hold extra hearings.

After this week, the House of Commons isn't scheduled to resume until Monday, Sept. 16.

"We're almost there, a couple more sleeps," House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus told MPs as he sought to calm heckling between interjections in question period on Tuesday.  

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