Inspired by a CBC journalist who wrote about the many bills that were killed as Harper prorogued parliament for the second time in as many years, I couldn’t help but go to the LEGISinfo website and look for myself.
Parliament convened on the 18th of November in 2008, and was quickly prorogued on December fourth, leaving an extra long Christmas break for all members of Parliament. As it was such a short little session for our elected members, only four government bills and 52 private member bills were tabled. The four government bills passed through a first reading, but were killed, only to come back during the second session in January. The 52 private member bills were kept as they were, frozen in time until parliament could reconvene.
This is due to nifty (and somewhat convenient) law that was passed over a decade ago that allowed private member bills to carry forward from one session to the next within the same parliament – even despite proroguing. If – and now I think it is safe to say – when a parliament is prorogued due to the wisdom of the Governor General, all government bills that are killed on the spot rise again, reborn. Private member bills, however, stay kicking around in the state they were left in, to be reintroduced to the House or Senate for eventual defeat or royal assent. After the 2009 prorogation, all 52 private member bills came back, all having undergone first reading in the first session.
On to session number two. It was a busy year for the Senators and MP’s, beginning on that shiny morning of January 26th, 2009. 354 private member bills were tabled, all made it through the first reading and many were ready to come back after they were scoured by committees and layered with amendments. Only 64 government bills were tabled, though. Out of those 64, 30 received royal assent, which means more than half died on the table.
Truly, though, what does this matter to Canadians? It is not the number of bills passed or defeated; it is their content that matters. Many of them were procedural, but a few notable ones include Bill C-6: The Consumer Safety Bill, Bill C-15: The Drug Sentencing Bill; and Bill C-26: The Auto Theft Bill. All three made it to Senate and will now have to be brought back into the House then to the Senate, which will likely look remarkably different after Harper’s expected appointments.
Parliament amended the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act that extended the geographic definition of Canadian arctic waters to 200 nautical miles offshore (from 100), a response to the perceived threat on Canada’s arctic sovereignty.
An “act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations,” as stated on the LEGISinfo site, was introduced and received royal assent. This act combined three previous bills that died during the 2008 prorogation. This act was introduced to give non-profit organization greater flexibility and recognizes them separately outside the Canada Corporations Act.
There is also Bill C-8, Family Homes in Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act. Reserve land is governed under federal law, and all acquisition or transfer of property is as well. However, the provincial government decides when a married couple divorces what the division of property will be, both real and personal. See the catch? The province cannot make decisions about reserve land, but there is no federal legislation or provisions in the Indian Act that governs the division of martial property. Essentially, those who obtain a divorce who also reside on reserves in Canada, are stuck in limbo as to the ownership of their home, their land, and any other property attained in their marriage. Even the United Nations has told Canada to get their act together. However, since this bill died on the order paper it looks like, once again, Ottawa will have to re-examine its treatment of FNMI persons in Canada.
These are only three examples of government bills that came through during the second session of parliament. It may have been short, but it sure was not sweet. Despite the potential to achieve quite a bit, many bills will have to come forward again, going through parliamentary procedure. Hopefully we will see more decisions made before the next election, or dare I say, prorogation.
Before it all went Prorogue in the House of Commons
First Session: November 18th 2008 – December 4th 2008,
Second Session: January 26th 2009 – December 30th, 2009
(Information from LEGISinfo, updated January 4th, 2010)
Private member bills:
354 went through first reading
23 were voted through to second reading
83 members who tabled private members bills
21 bills relating to Employment Insurance
25 bills relating to the Criminal Code
30 received royal assent
34 dead on the table, waiting to be revived
3 tabled by The Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway
3 tabled by The Minister of State
5 tabled by The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
3 tabled by The Minister of Health
4 tabled by The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
3 tabled by The Minister of Finance
6 tabled by The President of the Treasury Board
2 tabled by The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
12 tabled by The Minister of Justice
3 tabled by The Minister of Environment
7 tabled by The Minister of Public Safety
1 tabled by The Minister of Natural Resources
2 tabled by The Minister of Industry
1 tabled by The Minister of Veterans Affairs
1 tabled by The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
2 tabled by The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
1 tabled by The Minster of Labour
1 tabled by The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
The MP who wins for most bills tabled is MP Peter Stoffer with a grand total of 22 bills tabled.