Our new Politics newsletter: Time running out to get things done

A calendar sits in the middle of the newly-renovated temporary Senate chamber. ((Benoit Roussel, CBC))

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With 35 days to go in the House, what can really get done?

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

This election will be different for the Liberals for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is they have to run on their record, and they only have about 35 days to cement that record.

That’s how many days are left in which the House of Commons is scheduled to be sitting. Yes, there is the potential for longer, evening sittings and to stretch the calendar, but the likelihood of that making a big difference is negligible.

So why does that matter, you ask? Who will suffer when the riveting excitement of votes and question period comes to a close?

It totally matters. There are a lot of bills either in the House or in the Senate and time is ticking to turn them into law.

A short sample of what still isn’t law:

  • Bill C-69, which would overhaul the pipeline approval process.
  • Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers on the northern coast of B.C.
  • Bill C-92, First Nations child welfare legislation.
  • Bill C-71, new gun laws.
  • Bill C-59, new national security laws and a redress system for people stuck on the no-fly list because their name matches someone who is actually on the list.

And that doesn’t include the other stuff the government has talked about for years: a possible handgun ban, regulating social media companies and pharmacare.

To be fair, the Liberals aren’t the only party to face this issue. I remember going to a police station in late spring of 2015 to watch then-justice minister Peter MacKay introduce new drunk driving legislation that would never see the light of day unless the Conservative were re-elected.

When I asked why they would introduce a bill with almost no time left to pass it, I was met with looks of incredulity as if I had just proposed unicorns were real.

In any event, that list up there, like I said, is just a short sample. In total, there are 10 bills still before the House and 13 in the Senate.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger rises to cast her vote during a marathon voting session in the House of Commons Thursday March 21, 2019 in Ottawa. The Parliamentary session began Wednesday and has continued through the night into Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Oh yeah, the Senate!

It’s new! It’s more independent! Is that true? Is that good or bad? These are the questions we’ve asked ourselves at various junctures over the past three and a half years. I remember standing outside the red chamber doing live hits when the Senate was studying the assisted dying legislation and everyone was abuzz wondering if Senators would try and put the kibosh on it.

WHAT WILL THE SENATE DO? I asked as I stared into the camera, trying to convince myself and viewers this was wild and exciting stuff.

Now, the leadership of all Senate parties and groups (it’s never simple there) did strike a deal to hold third reading votes on or before June 6 for 10 of the 13 bills before senators. But some of the outstanding ones — I’m thinking especially of Bill C-69 — are real doozies. They won’t be easy to push through.

There’s also the prospect that the drama that preceded this two-week Easter break could repeat itself. The Conservatives, protesting the decision of Liberal MPs on the justice committee to shut down the committee’s probe of the SNC-Lavalin affair, used every means possible to delay proceedings in the House. Will it happen again? I know you’re on the edge of your seats.

All of this is not to say the process should be rushed. I’m not a cynic and I believe parliamentarians debating and examining bills perform an essential function — the result is nearly always stronger, and better-thought-out laws.

But politically, a lot hangs in the balance. “We gotta get this done,” one staffer in House Leader Bardish Chagger’s office told me (but like, how?, I replied. They then asked me where my blazer was from. It was a short conversation).

So much…

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