OTTAWA – The House of Commons rose on Friday after a tumultuous fall sitting marked by international controversy and carbon tax politics, despite threats by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre that he would “ruin” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Christmas vacation.
Conservatives tried to get MPs to sit on Monday to pass the contentious bill C-234 which exempt some farm heating from the carbon tax, but MPs said “no.” Meanwhile, Liberals chided the Opposition for last week’s 30-hour marathon vote, which they called a “temper tantrum.”
In the end, MPs voted to adjourn the sitting Friday afternoon to travel back to their ridings for the holiday season. They will come back on Jan. 29, 2024, for the winter sitting.
On Friday morning, Speaker Greg Fergus attempted to put accusations of partisanship behind him by apologizing once again for having recorded a video tribute to the outgoing interim leader of the Ontario Liberals that was broadcasted at the party convention earlier this month.
“I made a serious mistake. I should have never recorded that video, not in the Speaker’s uniform, not in the Speaker’s office and not for a friend who was an active politician. I am deeply sorry. I want to reassure members that nothing like this will ever happen again,” he said.
Fergus thanked the Liberals and the NDP, who agreed to have him stay on, while extending an olive branch to the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois, who want him to step down.
“To those members who have generously extended me a second chance to serve as Speaker, I say: thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those who are opposed to this second chance, let me say: I can understand your point of view and I will spare no effort to regain your trust.”
“I know that this issue was a source of distraction at a time when members’ timetables were very full and our legislative program was very heavy,” he added.
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The busy session started off with accusations that India had a Sikh leader killed on Canadian soil, then saw former Speaker Anthony Rota step down for having honoured a Ukrainian war veteran who fought for a Nazi unit during the Second World War.
A new Israel-Hamas war saw stark divisions amongst the Liberal caucus, which culminated this week with Canada’s vote at the United Nations calling for a ceasefire — much to the disappointment and even anger of Jewish MPs and groups across the country.
At the national level, the Liberals caused a commotion when they put in place a carve-out on the carbon tax on home heating oil after pressure from its Atlantic caucus, which prompted the Opposition and provinces to demand additional carve-outs on all forms of home heating.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, have been riding high in the polls and staying consistent in their opposition to the carbon tax — even prompting them to vote against the new Canada-Ukraine trade deal which mentions carbon pricing but does not enforce it.
The NDP, meanwhile, has been boasting about securing wins, such as anti-scab legislation and a national dental care program. Negotiations are still ongoing for pharmacare legislation, and the deadline was extended to next March.
The last few weeks of Parliament have been particularly feisty, with Conservatives threatening to use delay tactics to keep the House in session as long as the government does not give a carbon tax exemption to families, farmers and First Nations.
They threatened to use another marathon vote to delay the passage of C-50, the Sustainable Jobs Act, by forcing votes on 198 amendments to the 11-page bill in the House of Commons, but the Liberals changed the legislative agenda on Thursday to prevent that from happening.
Government House leader Karina Gould told reporters she would not be entertaining Poilievre’s “little temper tantrum” and suggested that “he takes a little bit of a time-out” over the holiday period.
“I think it’s a good idea for Mr. Poilievre and his Conservative members of Parliament to go home, cool down a bit, take a break, talk to Canadians and reflect … on their politics of obstruction and their irresponsible actions of this session,” she said.
NDP MP Charlie Angus said “things were very toxic” in the House this session and said he hoped all MPs would do better in the spring.
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh admitted that the past session was “pretty intense” but made no apologies for the way his party has behaved in the past few months.
“We have a government that is so out of touch with Canadians, and you have the Opposition like us talking about Canadians — what do you expect? Canadians are hurting. The government doesn’t realize it and that’s why it’s intense in the House,” Waugh said.
“You will continue to see it until this government backs down on the carbon tax.”
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