Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Canadian parliamentary system of passing bills is broken

Canada's parliament managed to pass two of the four supposedly priority bills it wanted to pass before the House breaks for the summer

The Liberals' budget bill (C-30) passed, finally, with the help of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, as was Bill C-12, the so-called "net-zero bill", which sets ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets for the country, and which passed relatively easily. Two other bills, however, which were specifically flagged by the Liberal government as priorities during this parliamentary session, have failed to pass: Bill C-10, which aims to apply Canadian content rules to online streaming sources, and Bill C-6, which would have banned gay conversion therapy.

Both of these bills got bogged down in the Senate, and their failure to pass is therefore not really the government's fault. But it does call into question the whole system of parliament and the senate taking these long summer holidays (and other breaks). Why do they need such long breaks? They are well paid, are they not? So, can they not put in a few more days if need be, and just take a few weeks off each year like normal working people?

The parliamentary calendar is detailed here, including that summer break from June 23rd until Labour Day in early September. But I have never seen any actual justification for it. Something to do with 19th century gentlemen taking time for hunting and fishing perhaps? Yes, there is "constituency work", but they are supposed to handle that throughout the year, aren't they? And even this does not apply to Senators. The important thing to remember here is that, if a bill is not passed by both chambers during a session, it "dies on the order paper". It can then be reintroduced in the next session, but the process starts all over again, and valuable time is lost irrevocably.

If there is important legislation to be passed, legislation that has already been debated and argued over for months, can they really not see their way to working a few days more to get the job done, as would happen any other occupation? It seems a bit ridiculous.

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