Legislation worth watching
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN THE HOUSE AND SENATE RESUME SITTING
What should you watch for this fall as the Trudeau government hits its busy midterm?
Both the House of Commons and Senate will start sitting again this week. For the first time during Trudeau’s mandate, he will face permanent opposition leaders: Conservative Andrew Scheer, and whomever New Democrats elect in October.
We will find out if this fact, or the government’s handling of key files this fall, will extend or disrupt the honeymoon Liberals have enjoyed.
Here’s a list of some legislation worth watching:
Legal pot and drug- impaired driving (C-45 and C-46): The bill setting a legal framework around a recreational marijuana market was being studied in marathon committee hearings this week. Debate will continue in the House of Commons around federal rules covering the production and sale of weed, but also in provincial jurisdictions, where age limits, points of sale and more are being decided — like Ontario’s plan to give government storefronts a monopoly on cannabis sales. A subsequent bill introduces new criminal offences for drug-impaired driving and, controversially, gives cops the ability to compel alcohol breathalyzer tests without cause.
National security (C-59): The Liberals’ answer to the Conservative anti-terrorism law, remembered as Bill C- 51, beefs up oversight on security agencies, revamps the role of the Communications Security Establishment and tightens and specifically prescribes the powers of CSIS. Changes are extensive, so expect a serious debate.
Transport modernization (C- 49): Sweeping changes to air and rail transportation were being discussed in committee this week. The bill includes a “passenger bill of rights” and an extensive list of changes to how railway companies should operate.
Access to information (C-58): A new law amending access-to-information rules is less than what the Liberals promised during their election campaign, which has elicited criticism and will continue to be brought up.
ON THE DOCKET IN THE SENATE
Sex- based inequities in the Indian Act ( S-3): A bill to remove sex-based inequities in the registration of Indigen- ous people as “status” Indians under the Indian Act has faced considerable backlash in the Senate for, senators and advocates believe, not going far enough to remove discrimination from the system. The Liberals have now had to seek two different court extensions on a decision that initially prompted the bill. The government rejected Senate amendments on the final day of Commons sittings this spring. Senators appear prepared to battle the government indefinitely, so watch for a fiery standoff.
National anthem ( C- 210): A private member’s bill to change a few words in the national anthem continues to stall at third reading in the Senate after Conservative senators successfully delayed its passage. The bill changes “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command” so lyrics are more gender-neutral.
Sexual assault training for judges ( C- 337): A private member’s bill from former interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose passed unanimously in the Commons and currently sits at second reading in the Senate. It would require federal judges to receive training on sexual assault offences.
SENATE BILLS IN THE HOUSE
Plain packaging for tobacco (S-5): After it got through the Senate this spring, the government won’t have trouble passing a bill governing new rules for tobacco packaging, and introducing the first-ever regulations around vaping. But it will still hear criticism from the tobacco industry, which says the bill will give organized crime a leg up by making it easier to produce counterfeit products.
STILL TO COME
Tax reform: Bill’s bills are coming. Arguably the summer’s biggest talker were new tax reforms suggested by Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Draft legislation is on the table for two out of three proposals that seek to increase fairness in the tax system and, per Morneau, close loopholes that allowed the wealthy to lessen their tax burdens. Formal legislation won’t be introduced until after a cross- country consultation is over. It could happen this fall. Tories will put up as big a fight as they can muster.
Elections reform: Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told the National Post a new elections bill could come as early as fall. It could include time limits on election campaigns and restrict how third- party advocacy organizations participate in elections.
Sen. Mike Duffy was acquitted of all charges relating to a 2013 Senate spending scandal. A Federal Court judge has ruled some documents related to senators were wrongly classified, making them exempt from public release.