4 min

Conservative senators bulldoze through worrying bills

It was a late-night session of the Senate on Monday – a night the Senate doesn’t normally sit, and late at night, when most parliamentarians have gone home for the night. And yet there the Upper Chamber sat, debating several bills, among them Bill S-10 on drug crimes. There was vigorous debate, and the Liberal senators once again raised all the various problems with the bill that they tried to amend but couldn’t, given the new Conservative majority in the Upper Chamber. They raised the costs to incarceration that the government wouldn’t disclose. They reminded us that this is a Very Bad Bill. And in the end, the bill passed on division (meaning no standing vote) and will head to the Commons. Cannabis Culture is (understandably) freaking out, considering what this means to pot users, now that having as few as five plants can mean mandatory minimum sentences. Will the MPs in the Commons now roll over for fear of being accused of being “soft on crime” with all the associated moral panic about people selling drugs to schoolchildren brought up? I guess we’ll find out in the spring session, won’t we?

Also debated that night was C-36, the product safety bill, and as previously mentioned, it too passed despite some very worrying flaws. Senator Elaine McCoy (who is made of awesome) spoke about those flaws, moved amendments, which failed, and the bill passed. McCoy laments the passage on her blog here. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see a Charter challenge on this law?

Also? The Conservatives’ attempt to brand the Opposition as soft on pedophiles keeps blowing up on them, but apparently it’s not their job to fix their own bad legislation, such as the “three strikes, no pardon” provisions they’re trying to pass through. But if it’s not their job to fix problems they admit they have with bills, and they lambaste the Opposition every time they propose amendments, then they want bad bills to pass? Is that the message I’m getting here? Seriously, people.

And on the subject of prisons, the public safety committee feels that “serious money” needs to be made available to the correctional system in order to deal with mental health and addictions among inmates.

Michael Ignatieff started off question period by asking about the sovereignty implications of that perimeter security agreement, while Marc Garneau followed up on the continuing F-35 drama (to which Peter MacKay now only responds with personal attacks rather than talking points). Gilles Duceppe asked about the issues of CRA officials in Montreal with investigations of organized crime involvement and that beaten auditor, while Daniel Paillé asked about tax havens. Jean-Yves Laforest wanted to know specifically about the tax havens in Panama, seeing as we’re looking to sign a free trade agreement with them. Jack Layton asked after household debt, and moved on to asking after his plan to reduce taxes on home heating.

Round two kicked off with Scott Brison also on the topic of household debt, but more on the issue of the mortgage regulations that Jim Flaherty put in place – and then rescinded – regarding no-money-down, 40-year terms. Ujjal Dosanjh asked about the government’s commitment to the Canada Health Act (as he, Carolyn Bennett and Hedy Fry all made speeches about healthcare that morning). Michel Guimond asked about the CEO of the Port of Montreal, Josée Beaudin asked about the Champlain Bridge, and Claude DeBellefeuille asked about the Franklin border crossing. Joe Volpe then accused the government of using the former public service integrity commissioner to cover up their messes, and Frank Valeriote asked about the funding cut to a food policy group.

From there, questions moved to pharmacare, homeless housing, oil subsidies, the BHP deal, rural post offices and leaks at a Chevron refinery (this last one from Bill Siksay).

Sartorially speaking, it was a fairly dull day, but I’ll give snaps to Bonnie Crombie for her red velvet jacket over a red dress. Style citations go out to Gerald Keddy for a greenish-brownish tie with a lavender shirt, Cathy McLeod for a repeat offence of a bad grey turtleneck with a purple jacket, and Tony Clement, for a really naff Xmas tie. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports an interestingly cut grey jacket with black buttons down the left side, along with black trousers.

The leak of that finance committee report on the pre-budget consultations has caused the government to shelve the report and draft the budget without any parliamentary consultation – which not only gives them more power, but does rob them of the excuse of spreading the blame. Nevertheless, it does look awfully convenient for them to shelve the consultations unnecessarily.

Here is an awesome takedown of Tony Clement by Andrew Coyne over the Pratt & Whitney government loans over Twitter.

Say what you will about Senator Colin Kenny and his tenure at the Senate national security and defence committee, but he did a substantive amount of work – unlike his successor, Senator Pamela Wallin.

And remember how the government was going to spend all this extra money to encourage Canadians to fill out the new voluntary “national household survey” that was to replace the long-form census? After they spent all that time and energy fear-mongering on the contents of the long-form census? Turns out they’re chopping that money too, so we’ll get less encouragement to ensure that Canadians give needed data, which won’t be reliable anyway. Seriously?
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