What We’re Watching: B.C. floods, confidence tests… and Omicron – iPolitics

It was an ominously familiar development, given the last 18 months: Due to reports that Omicron — the dangerous new variant of COVID-19 — might be on the move, the federal government announced on Friday it was temporarily, but immediately, closing Canada’s borders to foreign nationals who’ve travelled through South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, or Eswatini in the last two weeks. Global Affairs Canada is also warning Canadians against travelling to the region.

As of Sunday, the new variant hadn’t been reported in Canada. But, as Global News reported over the weekend, “public-health experts have said they would not be surprised if the virus was … ‘already here’ and spreading within the country’s borders.”

It’s therefore safe to assume that newly installed Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos will be pressured to say whether the general population should get booster shots earlier than his government planned to offer them.

When asked that question by reporters on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said she didn’t know.

“She pointed, however, to the vast majority of fully inoculated Canadians having received their last dose in the last five to six months or so, saying they were nearing the eligible period for a booster,” Global reported.

While the threat of another Christmas Eve lockdown seems remote right now, it’s not outside the realm of worst-case possibilities, likely putting it front and centre on the opposition agenda when the House reopens for business.

It’s also certain to come up when MPs resume debate of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s omnibus proposal to extend — or streamline, in some cases — pandemic supports, including those that target sectors such as hospitality and tourism, which are at higher risk of another pandemic-imposed downturn.

The ongoing flooding in British Columbia — which has already sparked one emergency debate and could trigger a second round this week — will probably be another hot topic. According to the latest forecasts, a fresh wave of extreme weather is expected in the days ahead.

Debate of throne speech to start Tuesday

Right now, there’s virtually no chance it will end with a make-or-break confidence cliffhanger, but MPs will still get the chance this week to start weighing in on the minority Liberal government’s latest throne speech, and to eventually vote on it.

Last week, Government House leader Mark Holland advised the House that the first three days of throne-speech debate would be Tuesday to Thursday. (According to Commons protocols, the longest the speech can be debated is six days, but that rarely happens.)

According to the standard schedule, the Conservatives will likely put forward the first opposition amendment on Tuesday afternoon, with a possible sub-amendment from the NDP or Bloc Québécois following on Wednesday.

Either way, the first full vote either on the sub-amendment or the amendment — or, in the absence of either, the motion to acknowledge the speech itself — would likely take place on Thursday, and would constitute the first formal confidence vote of the new Parliament.

(Technically, a vote on Freeland’s COVID-relief bill would probably count as a de facto confidence test, too, but it’s not clear if that will happen before votes on the throne speech begin. Even if it did, it wouldn’t render those later votes moot, since confidence votes can always be withdrawn at any time.)

Even so, while no one expects the government to fall by Friday, the cross-aisle breakdown could still preview where the Liberals will likely find the support they need in the next few months to make it over the majority threshold.

Meanwhile, the wording of both the amendment and sub-amendment can offer a similar glimpse of how opposition parties intend to go after the government in the weeks and months ahead.

Also on the legislative agenda this week:

As promised by the Liberals on the campaign trail — and repeated again in last week’s throne speech — Justice Minister David Lametti has filed the necessary parliamentary paperwork to revive his government’s attempt to restrict the practice of so-called conversion therapy as early as tomorrow.

Not only is the bill — currently slugged “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy)” — on the notice paper for Monday, there’s also a multi-ministerial news conference planned for that same afternoon. Appearing with Lametti will be Marci Ien, who now holds the dual role of cabinet lead on women and gender equality and youth, as well as Tourism Minister Randy Boissonault, who previously served as Trudeau’s special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues.

What’s not clear yet, however, is just how closely the new bill will match up with Lametti’s last attempt to curb the practice. The latter made it through the House of Commons just before the chamber shut down for the summer, only to die on the Senate floor at the election call.

Last week, CTV News reported that the as-yet-unnumbered bill would be an “enhanced version” of the previous bill, and is “expected to include more teeth and potentially a wider reach.” This was previewed in the Liberal platform, which promised to “eliminate the practice of conversion therapy for everyone, and extend coverage of the ban to include people over 18 years of age.”

Nor do we know when it will make it onto the floor for an opening round of debate. Given the cross-aisle support for the previous version, however (it was backed by both the Bloc and the New Democrats), the government might be trying to negotiate a deal to put it on the procedural fast track. But even in the most optimistic scenario, it’s unlikely to make it to the finish line before the House shuts down for the holidays.

Priority list for backbench business to be set via lottery

Backbenchers with ambitions of one day changing the laws of the land — or, alternatively, getting their fellow MPs to endorse a motion on a topic near and dear to their hearts — are about to find out how long they’ll have to wait for the chance.

According to a dispatch the clerk’s office fired off to MPs last week, the once-per-Parliament lottery to determine the order in which eligible MPs will get to present a bill or motion to the House will be held on Tuesday. (According to House rules, eligible MPs include everyone but ministers, parliamentary secretaries, the Speaker, and the deputy Speaker.)

“Members and their staff may attend the draw, but their presence is not required,” the dispatch notes.

Any MP lucky enough to score one of the first 30 slots will have a bit more time to decide exactly how he or she wants to use his or her moment in the Commons spotlight, however.

Due to the abbreviated fall session, the order of precedence won’t be established until the 20th sitting day after the draw, which works out to Feb. 8, 2022. That’s also the filing deadline for a bill or motion to qualify to be bumped up the priority list during the opening round of private members’ business.

Out and about outside the precinct

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh starts the week in Montreal, where, according to his office, he’ll join his Quebec lieutenant, Alexandre Boulerice, at a closed-door meeting with the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec. The pair will go over their party’s “plan for an economic recovery that puts workers and their families first,” and attend an afternoon session with Greenpeace Quebec to explain how the NDP plans to “address the climate crisis.” (Monday)

In conjunction with the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Bank of Canada co-hosts the first-ever Symposium on Indigenous Economics. According to the notice, the two-day virtual conference is “the first in a series of biannual events examining the unique economic issues facing Indigenous Peoples,” and will include opening remarks by Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem. (Monday through Tuesday)

More from iPolitics

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.