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Parliament adjourned for summer, government’s controversial budget bill passed without amendment

By Rachel Aiello      

MPs head back to their ridings for the summer barbecue circuit.

The House of Commons adjourned for the summer on Wednesday, June 21. It will remain adjourned until Sept. 18, 2017. The Hill Times photograph by Rachel Aiello
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PARLIAMENT HILL—The House adjourned for the summer Wednesday evening after an acrimonious spring sitting, and the Senate followed suit the next day after voting not to insist upon its changes to the government’s 300-page omnibus budget implementation bill after the House rejected them.

The House had rejected the Senate’s amendments to remove the so-called escalator tax increases on wine, spirits, and beer, and sent it back to the Senate. Many Senators had opposed the escalator because it increases the tax rate on booze each year in line with the rate of inflation, departing from the custom of Parliament approving every tax increase proposed by the government.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) said, in the motion to adjourn the Commons two days earlier than scheduled, that the House disagreed with the amendments made “because these amendments [infringe] upon the rights and privileges of the House.”

Senators from all groups in the Chamber bristled at the suggestion that the Senate was out of line to propose amendments to government legislation.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos said the response “didn’t show much respect for the parliamentary system,” The Canadian Press reported.

Senate leaders for the Liberal and Independent groups and Government Representative Sen. Peter Harder (Ottawa, Ont.) sponsored the Senate’s motion to pass the government budget bill, which also directed that a message be sent to the House of Commons to “acquaint” it with the fact that the Senate “confirms its privileges, immunities and powers as provided under the Constitution to amend legislation, whatever its nature or source.”

Senators also chose not to press forward with Bill S-3 before the Senate rose for the summer, leaving it at the final stage, awaiting a Senate vote on amendments from the House of Commons. That bill is intended to remove sex-based inequities related to registration under the Indian Act, but some critics say it leaves some forms of discrimination intact. The House stripped out amendments passed in the Senate to remove any form of discrimination before passing it back to the Senate, which in turn chose not to decide upon the bill before the summer break.

The Quebec Superior Court has ordered the government to fix the discrimination in the Indian Act by July 3. With Parliament adjourned and rumour of a prorogation, which would wipe out legislation in both Chambers, it’s unclear when or how the issue will be dealt with.

The House had also sent three bills to the Senate in the days before it adjourned, all of which remain at second reading in the Upper Chamber: C-23, related to pre-clearance of goods shipped across the Canada-U.S. border; C-25, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act; and C-36, An Act to Amend the Statistics Act.

Ms. Chagger had also received the approval of the opposition to have any other coming committee reports tabled by the end of the week, Friday, June 23, be deemed presented to the House.

The government has passed 29 bills so far in this Parliament.

Unless it gets recalled, the House has adjourned until Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, and the Senate until the following day.

—With files from Peter Mazereeuw

The Hill Times 

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