It’s one down and two to go with only a week left for the federal Liberal government to win parliamentary approval of priority legislation before an extended Christmas break.
The government has managed to win approval for one of three bills it wants to be passed before Parliament takes a six-week holiday break on Dec. 17.
But it’s uncertain the other two will make it through all the legislative hoops in time to meet the government’s self-imposed deadline.
The fate of Bill C-2 — which would create targeted support programs for sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and a new lockdown benefit for individuals thrown out of work due to the pandemic — seems particularly iffy.
The minority Liberals appear to have a better shot at Bill C-3, which won unanimous approval in principle Thursday with support from all parties.
That two-pronged bill would create 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated employees and create new criminal offences aimed at cracking down on harassment or intimidation of health-care workers who have faced anti-vaccination or anti-abortion protests outside hospitals and clinics.
A third priority bill — banning the discredited practice of conversion therapy aimed at altering a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — was fast-tracked without debate or votes through the House last week and through the Senate earlier this week. It received royal assent on Wednesday and is now the law of the land.
Bills C-2 and C-3 are currently before the Commons finance committee and human resources committee respectively. Neither committee has a deadline for scrutinizing the bills and returning them to the Commons for final debate and votes.
C-3 has support, at least in principle, from all opposition parties, which could yet speed its progress through committee and the Commons.
But the minority government has yet to secure a dance partner to ensure similar treatment for C-2.
Both the Conservatives and NDP have signalled their opposition to the bill. The Bloc Quebecois is open to supporting it but has laid down several conditions that must be met first.
The Bloc wants government assurance that there’ll be direct assistance for workers in the cultural sector; an extension of aid, if necessary, to other industries, such as aerospace; and an end to the clawback of the guaranteed income supplement from seniors who claimed pandemic emergency benefits.
Testifying on the bill at the finance committee Thursday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland took pains to praise the Bloc’s willingness to collaborate on the bill and to stress her openness to meeting the party’s conditions.
However, Bloc MP Gabriel Ste-Marie told The Canadian Press afterward that Freeland’s assurances were “not yet sufficient.”
“We need solid guarantees,” he said.
Even if the committees expedite their work and the Commons approves C-2 and C-3 by the end of next week, they must still get through the Senate before they’re enacted.
Two Senate committees have launched a pre-study of C-3, which should help speed that bill’s passage through the upper house once it arrives there. But no similar pre-study has been started on C-2.