Justin Trudeau – What We’re Watching: All eyes on Senate for final MAiD debate
After making it through the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee without a single amendment, the government’s proposed changes to the laws on accessing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) have been sent back to the red chamber for a final round of debate that could include a last-minute legislative rewrite on the floor.
Unlike their Commons colleagues, senators are allowed to put forward substantive amendments at third reading, which, as iPolitics’ Rachel Emmanuel reported last week, is precisely what two of its most steadfast opponents intend to do when it hits the docket this week, possibly as soon as Monday.
Just before the committee began clause-by-clause review, Conservative Sens. Don Plett and Denise Batters advised their colleagues they’d be voting against every single provision, with Plett stating he’s “inherently opposed to the entire piece of legislation,” a sentiment echoed by Batters.
“A vocal critic of the bill, (Batters) said she’d wait until third reading to introduce amendments to the legislation, thus giving senators an opportunity to reflect on the three days of ‘powerful testimony,’ which finished earlier in the day,” Emmanuel noted.
The delay would “also allow all senators to take part in the ‘very important debate’ on C-7, rather than just those sitting on the committee,” Batters said.
To drive that point home, Inclusion Canada is bringing together a full contingent of disabilities-rights advocates to reiterate their plea that senators “reject” the bill.
“Canada’s disability-rights organizations unanimously agree (that) Bill C-7 endangers the lives and human rights of people with disabilities, in particular, those who are Black, Indigenous, and poor,” notes the advisory.
“Senators have been thoroughly briefed on the realities of systemic violence and discrimination faced by Canada’s most marginalized. Will sober second thought prevail? We’re down to the wire, and this bill must be stopped.”
As the Canadian Press reported last week, “it has become clear during the committee’s extensive hearings on the bill that many senators have profound objections — some, like Plett, because they think it goes too far, and others because they think it doesn’t go far enough.”
Rather than hold that debate over the committee table, however, they “essentially agreed to shelve their concerns for now, in the interests of getting the bill back to the Senate as a whole quickly.”
For its past, the government is still hoping the bill passes by Feb. 26, which, as the Canadian Press notes, is “the thrice-extended, court-imposed deadline” to comply with the 2019 court ruling. Even that adjusted timeline may prove overly optimistic, though, if senators break out the red pen this week.
“If, as seems likely, the Senate makes substantial amendments to the bill … the amended version would have to go back to the House of Commons,” the Canadian Press explains. It would then be up to MPs “to decide whether to accept or reject the amendments before shipping it back to the Senate, where senators would have to decide whether to approve the bill, even if some, or all, of their amendments were rejected.”
House of Commons on hiatus, but Trudeau likely to face questions outside Rideau Cottage
The House of Commons may have powered down for a week-long hiatus — which, to be scrupulously accurate, will actually run for a week and a day, as the Family Day long weekend will keep the chamber shuttered until Feb. 16 — but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should nevertheless be ready to answer pointed questions about his government’s handling of the pandemic during his next on-camera briefing from outside Rideau Cottage.
For starters, he can count on being cross-examined over the unplanned delays in producing and shipping vaccines — delays that have at least temporarily disrupted the original schedule of the cross-country rollout. He’ll also be asked why his government didn’t focus its efforts on supporting at least one made-in-Canada alternative.
Trudeau might also be asked to explain just why “senior political staffers” in his own office “privately discussed how to withhold information from Canadians about the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis last June,” as reported by Global News, based on internal emails turned over to the Commons Health committee as part of its ongoing review.
He may also be pressed for details on just how his government plans to enforce the new travel restrictions announced last month. As CBC News writes, the rules have left many Canadian travellers “confused” by what they could mean.
While not yet listed on his official itinerary, it’s safe to assume Trudeau will go before the cameras at least once before the House returns next week — most likely Monday or Tuesday.
Allegations against former top soldier Jonathan Vance trigger emergency committee meeting
In the wake of a Global News report on allegations of inappropriate conduct by former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance involving “two female subordinates” and “an alleged relationship with a woman he significantly outranked,” the House DEFENCE committee is holding an emergency session to discuss whether to launch an investigation of the claims.
According to the committee schedule, the meeting is on Tuesday afternoon, as requested in writing by the Conservatives on the committee.
Given the nature of the allegations, the push to open a formal probe seems guaranteed to succeed, likely with the support of all parties. However, under the minority configuration, the combined votes of the opposition could override any Liberal objections. It’s not clear exactly how it could play out, given the matter is now reportedly being investigated by the military police.
O’Toole returns to virtual party hustings
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are taking advantage of the parliamentary downtime to send their leader, Erin O’Toole, back to the virtual hustings, with three days solid of meet-and-greets on Zoom starting Tuesday.
According to the invitations on the party website, four of the five online get-togethers have no minimum donation requirement, but one of the two sessions on Thursday evening lists a ticket price of $1,200 to $1,600.
According to the most recent post-event reports filed with Elections Canada, eight to 15 supporters have joined previous webcam mix-and-mingles with O’Toole. However, there’s still no way to tell how much cash made it into party coffers as a result, because there’s no requirement to disclose attendees’ voluntary contributions.
By comparison, a $250-per-ticket Zoom event with Liberal MP Mona Fortier on Nov. 26, 2020, attracted 34 supporters, according to the follow-up report, while the Laurier Club’s “virtual fall event” on Oct. 29, 2020, which was headlined by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and open to any card-carrying Liberal with an annual donation record of at least $1,600, brought in more than 600 supporters from across Canada.
Also hitting the Zoom circuit this week:
- Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef is sharing details of new federal money to boost high-speed internet in southwestern Ontario. (Monday AM)
- Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna teams up with Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Government House leader Pablo Rodriguez (who also serves as Team Trudeau’s Quebec Lieutenant) for what her office is calling an “important infrastructure announcement” for the Montreal region. (Monday PM)
- Also on McKenna’s agenda this week is a virtual appearance with Community Foundations of Canada president Andrea Dicks and Canadian Urban Institute CEO Mary Rowe to unveil a new initiative to “support healthy communities.” According to the advisory, it will be followed by a panel discussion with “leading place-making experts from across Canada,” including Jay Pitter, Cliff Grant, Will Prosper, and Marc-André Carignan. (Tuesday PM)
- Finally, Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is announcing new cash for “Indigenous entrepreneurs across Quebec.” (Tuesday PM)