Poilievre threatens to delay Parliament
Conservative leader says he’ll hold up legislative work unless Liberals allow more exemptions
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre threatened Wednesday to throw a massive wrench into the machinery of Parliament unless Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exempts more people from having to pay the carbon price.
Between proposing thousands of legislative amendments to forcing hundreds of votes on individual government spending plans, Poilievre vowed his party will not let the Trudeau Liberals take their Christmas break without changing their carbon pricing program.
“You’ve ruined Christmas for Canadians,” Poilievre said in a speech to his MPs Wednesday, in reference to the current cost of living pressures facing Canadians and that he blames in part on the carbon pricing program.
“Common-sense Conservatives are going to ruin your vacation as well.”
Poilievre’s delay tactics can actually only gum up the legislative works until Dec. 15, the day set for MPs to break until the end of January. If he wants the House of Commons to sit longer, other parties would have to agree.
So what Poilievre is actually doing, Liberal House Leader Karina Gould said Wednesday, is playing political games that echo the partisan legislative shutdowns common in the United States.
“Mr. Poilievre is not taking politics or Canadians seriously. He takes them for granted. He thinks he can pull the wool over their eyes,” Gould said.
“That is absolutely irresponsible. It’s reckless and quite frankly, Canadians deserve better.”
Among other things, she said 20,000 amendments have now been put forward on a Liberal bill known as the “Sustainable Jobs Act,” which sets up a plan to support workers in the oil-and-gas sector. Each amendment would require a vote, which would take the committee hours and hours of work.
The Conservatives have also placed more than 100 motions on notice that they intend to force individual votes on specific line items of government spending. While the votes are still likely to go in the government’s favour, the move has the effect of potentially keeping MPs voting around the clock, in turn delaying other government business.
Poilievre’s party has held up government spending bills and other legislation numerous times; in June, for example, the Conservative leader said he was going to personally speak in the House of Commons for hours on end until the Liberals had a plan to balance the budget.
His speech stopped after four hours, as there was an actual limit on the amount of time on that debate.
At the time, then-Speaker Anthony Rota chastised the Conservatives for their tactics, saying they brought the House into disrepute.
But tempers have not cooled. On Wednesday, deputy speaker Chris d’Entremont threw Conservative MP Damien Kurek out of the Commons for saying the prime minister lied and refusing to apologize and retract the comment. MPs are not allowed to use that word in the chamber.
The last time a Tory MP was ejected, their party used the incident as a major fundraiser, much to the chagrin of the Speaker’s office.
Within minutes of Kurek being ejected, he was circulating a clip of the incident on his social media account.
Kurek made the accusation during a heightened back and forth over the state of a Conservative private members’ bill, C-234, which would remove the carbon price from the propane and natural gas farmers use to dry grain or heat and cool their barns.
The bill — which passed the House of Commons — has turned into a hotly debated issue in the Senate, with allegations of bullying and intimidation flying across the Red Chamber floor.
Late Monday, an amended version passed that would allow the exemption only for grain drying, which the Conservatives say guts the bill.
It must now go back to the House of Commons, and one of Poilievre’s demands in exchange for dropping his delays is that it get passed there in its original form.
Another demand is a removal of the carbon price on all forms of home heating fuel — it was recently lifted off home-heating oil — and an exemption for all First Nations from carbon pricing programs, in an echo of a lawsuit recently filed by 130 First Nations in Ontario.
Poilievre’s Conservatives argue that the carbon price — which they refer to as a tax — creates more financial hardship for Canadians than the emissions it is supposed to reduce. Poilievre has repeatedly said he will eliminate it entirely should he come to power in the next election.
Liberals say the point of carbon pricing is to shift consumers away from using carbon-intensive products to protect the environment, and say all the money raised by the levy is returned in the form of rebates.
The procedural showdown could begin as soon as Thursday.
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited