The government has obtained unanimous consent to quickly pass emergency legislation to free up $ 82 billion to help Canadians weather the COVID-19 crisis.
After a day of tense negotiations, MPs began debating the bill in the wee hours of the morning, with a vote expected in a few hours.
The motion sent to the Speaker stated that the House would resolve itself in committee for up to an hour to consider the matter with members having up to five minutes for a question, and will be adjourned until April 20 after third reading.
Beginning the week of March 30, the Minister of Finance will report every two weeks on all actions taken in preparation for the pandemic, and will be discussed on April 20.
The Standing Committee on Finance will undertake a review of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act within six months of the day it receives royal assent and report its findings to the House by March 31 of next year .
The motion also provided that unless the Speaker received notice from House leaders of the four recognized parties, he would remain adjourned until a later date.
Worried about the “takeover”
Earlier on Tuesday, the Conservatives objected to what they called a Liberal “takeover”, which led to a late discussion that began on Wednesday morning.
House of Commons emergency sitting suspended moments after start, Conservatives backtrack on provisions that would give government broad powers to unilaterally spend, borrow and change tax levels without parliamentary approval for the next 21 months.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said earlier today that his party would support emergency efforts to bring money to Canadians living with the COVID-19 crisis, but would oppose any attempt by the Liberal government to extend its power.
His warning came before a small group of 32 MPs gathered in the Commons to debate and vote on a law to provide $ 82 billion in financial assistance and tax deferral to individuals and businesses, such as the proposed last week the government to deal with COVID-19 and its ensuing economic havoc.
They met as planned. However, the session was just beginning when the House Leader of the Government, Pablo Rodriguez, asked for its suspension so that the government could continue to negotiate the details of the legislation with the opposition parties.
“The Canadians need support to get out of it. Quick,” Rodriguez tweeted shortly after the session was suspended. He said talks are underway and he expects MPs to meet later on Tuesday.
But almost six hours later, the leader of the Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet angrily denounced the delay. If the government cannot obtain the unanimous consent necessary to adopt the law in one day, as hoped, Blanchet asked the government to submit the bill to the normal and long legislative process necessary for the money to circulate as quickly as possible .
He guaranteed the support of the Bloc to approve the law.
The Commons finally returned briefly Tuesday evening to extend the day’s session. Negotiations with the Conservatives were to continue, and it was possible that the Commons could still approve the bill by the end of the day.
If it reaches the House of Commons, the plan was for the Senate to approve it on Wednesday, immediately followed by Royal Assent.
At a press conference in the morning, Scheer said the Conservatives had no problem with the rescue program promised by Trudeau last week. But they would not agree to give the government a blank check to spend and tax as it pleases for almost two years, as originally proposed in a draft bill shared with opposition parties on Monday.
WATCH | Scheer talks about emergency measures Tuesday morning:
“Any conversation about the new powers of the government should not hinder the transfer of this aid if necessary,” he said. “Canadians are counting on us.”
Even while Scheer was speaking, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the bill would be introduced “without section 2”, suggesting that the bill would not contain the offending material.
At his own press conference outside his home, where he remains in solitary confinement after his wife contracts COVID-19, Trudeau said the government is trying to balance the need to act quickly to help Canadians and the need to remain accountable to Parliament.
“This is an exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and speed of response on the part of governments in order to be able to help Canadians and react to a situation that we see evolving rapidly every day,” he said.
“So we have a functioning Parliament, we have an opposition that is doing its job to ensure that we are taking the right measures in the right direction.”
Trudeau arrived late for his press conference because he was on the phone with opposition leaders.
WATCH | Trudeau speaks Tuesday in front of the Rideau chalet:
He said government is negotiating “until the last minute” to find a way to give it the flexibility it needs to get money back to Canadians quickly while maintaining “our democratic institutions and the values that are so important for all of us. “
Blanchet said the Bloc agrees that the government needs some flexibility to quickly get financial relief for Canadians and businesses without having to call back to Parliament every time – but this extraordinary power must not last longer than September.
Scheer, meanwhile, dodged questions about whether the Conservatives are ready to vote against the emergency assistance bill if it is not changed to their satisfaction. Defeating the bill would be a vote of no confidence for the minority Liberal government and could call an election.
The bill needs only the support of a single party to get through the House of Commons, but it needs the support of all members present to meet the one-day deadline desired by the liberals.
“Our hope is that (the government) will remain focused on supplying Canadians, not taking power. Not on the possibility of unprecedented new powers,” said Scheer.
The Conservatives’ position on the bill was complicated by one of their own MPs, Scott Reid, who on Tuesday threatened on his website to run for office, although he is not one of 11 Conservatives nominated. supposed to be present, and denied the unanimous consent was necessary to expedite the passage of the bill.
He later changed his post to say that he has no objection to the adoption of the relief measures on the same day, provided that members have enough time to read and understand the bill.
Parliament adjourned March 13 to April 20 at least as part of a national effort to stop the spread of the virus. He was called back on Tuesday to deal with the emergency aid package, but with only one in 10 MPs present in the Commons sitting at least two meters apart.
After agreeing to extend the session beyond 7 p.m., Scheer began to cross the aisle to speak privately with Rodriguez. The two men stopped short and spoke to each other from a safe distance.