After a weekend in which no fewer than four provinces — Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Alberta — reported record-high numbers of new COVID cases a day, and Manitoba “logged its deadliest day yet,” MPs are scheduled to return from a one-week break for the final four weeks of sittings before the House shuts down for the holidays.
(In some cases, that will mean returning to their assigned seats in the House of Commons, but, given skyrocketing transmission rates, it’s safe to assume most MPs will continue participating via webcam.)
Amid the latest pandemic-imposed uncertainty, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is reportedly “finalizing” the comprehensive economic update she promised to deliver this fall, which, according to CBC News, was initially scheduled for “the final week of November, but sources concede … could slide to the first week of December.”
Broadcasting changes top the agenda as opening round of pre-holiday rush hits the Commons
The pre-recess legislative blitz begins with a final day of discussing the government’s proposal to require federal judges to get trained for dealing with sexual-assault cases and victims. It’s expected to garner third-reading approval — and safe passage to the Senate — by Monday afternoon.
Speaking to the House just before the Remembrance Day break, Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez advised his colleagues that the next item on this week’s legislative to-do list will be the Liberals’ already-much-discussed bid to update the Broadcasting Act, which is tentatively on the docket to begin second-reading debate on Wednesday.
And according to the latest notice paper, a long-overdue revamp of the federal privacy regime could be introduced as early as Monday.
Late last week, CBC News reported that the government may also be ready to reveal details of its promised “climate accountability” legislation, which is expected to “formally commit Canada to its target of net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.” It could be tabled in the House as early as this week.
Conservatives put forward four potential motions for upcoming opposition day
Meanwhile, with fewer than 20 sitting days left in the fall supply cycle, the Conservatives are scheduled to take temporary control of the Commons agenda once again, courtesy of the opposition day currently slated for Tuesday. For those keeping track, that’s the sixth day of a maximum of nine to be allocated before Dec. 10.
So far, they’ve expressed no intention to use the opportunity to trigger another confidence challenge — or, for that matter, put forward a motion to give the minority Liberals an opening to declare it a confidence matter anyway — but a quick scan of the latest notice paper reveals four new additions to the list of motions that could appear on Tuesday:
- a proposal that the public safety committee launch a new investigation into “prevalence and effects of money-laundering in the Canadian economy,” particularly, but not limited to, real estate; and study of criminal enterprises and organizations involved, as well as “efforts” of various law-enforcement agencies to track such activities
- a proposal to have the House recognize that, as per the latest Official Languages Commissioner’s report, the language rights of Canadians “are not being respected” due to federal institutions not complying with the law, and the federal government “not doing enough to promote linguistic duality”; and a proposal that the Liberals bring in legislation to “reform and modernize the Official Languages Act” before the House rises for the holidays
- a proposal that the House issue the government a (non-binding) 30-day deadline to “make a decision on Huawei’s involvement in Canada’s 5-G network,” and table a “robust plan … to combat China’s growing foreign operations in Canada and increased intimidation of Canadians living in Canada”
- a proposal that the House ask the government to “make the completion of Keystone XL a top priority in bilateral relations with the incoming administration in the United States.”
Under standard Commons rules, the Conservatives have until Monday afternoon to announce which of the above motions — or, alternatively, those previously on notice — they’ll present to the House on Tuesday.
And while the New Democrats don’t have a designated opposition day this week, they hope to pitch all-party backing of a motion to formally invite U.S. president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris to visit Canada. Due to the pandemic, however, the party will wait until “the earliest safe opportunity to do so.”
In an interview with CTV News, New Democrat House leader Peter Julian said while the invitation “is not immediate,” the NDP caucus believes that, in the aftermath of “a chaotic four years under Donald Trump, it’s important to turn the page, extend that hand (in) greeting … and to say to them: ‘We would love to hear from you. We want to build a stronger relationship between our two countries.’ ”
But it’s not clear when Julian will get the chance to put forward the motion, since he needs the unanimous consent of the House to do so.
Also on the precinct watchlist:
- Green Party Leader Annamie Paul joins Green MPs Paul Manly and Elizabeth May to “lay out” their party’s expectations for the government’s reportedly imminent “climate accountability” law. As noted earlier, it could be tabled later this week. (Monday AM)
- Canada teams up with Botswana to host the second annual Global Conference for Media Freedom. According to the notice, it will include half a day of ministerial meetings for governments “committed to working together to advocate for media freedom and the protection of journalists.” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada, and “new funding and initiatives to support media freedom around the world” will be announced. (Monday)
- The parliamentary budget office releases its “fiscal analysis” of Canada’s Joint Support Ship program, which includes the latest projected cost of building two new supply ships and of “contracting converted commercial vessels … to provide military support.” The government operations committee requested the analysis, according to the notice. (Tuesday AM)
Mi’kmaq fishing rights, Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, and Canada-U.K. trade on the House committee circuit
After a final round of witness hearings during last week’s parliamentary break, JUSTICE members will begin examining the fine print of the government’s proposed changes to the laws on medical assistance in dying. The changes have been given a court-imposed deadline of mid-December, and are expected be sent back to the Commons for a final vote by the end of the week. (Tuesday AM)
In a two-hour session with Fisheries Minister Bernadatte Jordan, members of the FISHERIES committee will continue studying implementation of Mi’kmaq treaty fishing rights off the coast of Nova Scotia — specifically, balancing the right to a “moderate livelihood” with the interests of commercial fishers. Jordan warned last week that the “high concentration of (lobster) traps” near Cape Breton “raises concerns (with) localized impacts to the stock.” (Wednesday PM)
INTERNATIONAL TRADE members will get briefed on “a potential transitional trade agreement” between Canada and the United Kingdom in the post-Brexit era, courtesy of the Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Trade Justice Network. (Monday AM)
Former New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash will offer his view of the government’s interest in making National Truth and Reconciliation Day a federal holiday, which is based on a backbench bill initially put forward by the New Democrats during the last Parliament. It’s now being reviewed at CANADIAN HERITAGE after garnering all-party support earlier this fall. (Monday AM)
Auditor General Karen Hogan returns to PUBLIC ACCOUNTS to present her office’s latest report on e-commerce taxation, with officials from the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Revenue Agency, and the Finance department also expected to testify. (Tuesday AM)
On the fall estimates committee track: Public Services Minister Anita Anand at GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS AND ESTIMATES (Monday PM), Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault at PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS (Tuesday/Thursday AM), and International Development Minister Karina Gould at FOREIGN AFFAIRS, where, according to the notice, Gould should also be prepared to discuss her mandate letter. (Tuesday PM)
Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino is scheduled to appear at the SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON CANADA-CHINA RELATIONS, where he should expect to be asked whether his government intends to fast-track applications for asylum from Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who are under increasing threat of persecution by the Chinese government. (Monday PM)
As for the ongoing cross-aisle standoffs in the WE Charity controversy — specifically, the various attempts by opposition parties to revive any or all of the committee investigations that were in progress at the time of prorogation — both FINANCE and ETHICS are expected to meet at some point this week. No end to the impasse at either committee is in sight.
Finally, after the abrupt resignation of committee chair Yasmin Ratansi — who left the Liberal caucus earlier this month after it was revealed she’d hired her sister to work at her constituency office, in violation of House rules against employing family members — ENVIRONMENT members are scheduled to elect a new chair. Under standard protocol, he or she will be a Liberal. (Wednesday PM)