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Much has changed in Ottawa, but some things remain the same

Commentary with Geoff deGannes
Commentary with Geoff deGannes

The taxpayers’ television network, better known as the CBC, had a rather interesting analysis last week comparing the accomplishments of the current Trudeau majority government to that of the Harper majority government at the two-year mark in their mandates.  

A review of the bills passed so far shows this government has been “less legislatively ambitious” than the one it replaced. As a matter of fact, the Tories were chugging right along with some 50 bills having passed royal assent. The Liberals will have passed about half that number by the time Parliament breaks for the summer.
Of course, much has changed in the way politics is being done in Ottawa these days and as a result the process of moving legislation forward has been slowed considerably. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
The Harper Conservatives had a penchant for enforcing debate-limiting measures like closure and time allocation which conveniently kept the opposition from throwing a monkey wrench into the government’s agenda. The Liberals have been more open to not only allowing more free votes, but also more debate time on legislation.
The reformed Upper Chamber is another reason why it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the Trudeau Government. Thanks to the changes that have allowed the Senate to become more of an independent body and less a patronage-filled chamber of rubber-stamping partisans, the Senate is finally providing due diligence by truly serving as “the Chamber of sober second thought.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can take much of the credit or the blame for having created the existing situation. You’ll recall one of his first steps as party leader was to kick all Liberal senators out of his caucus and then, upon forming government, launching a process of appointing independent senators.
A seemingly more engaged and accountable senate can’t be whipped into line by the government as it was in the past and as a result roughly 20 per cent of the bills that have passed royal assent have been amended by the Senate. In terms of the legislation, should it not be more about substance and content, rather than the quantity of bills being processed?
While he’s appears frustrated by a process that is delaying the implementation of his government’s agenda including the budget bill, Prime Minister Trudeau admitted in a Global Television interview earlier this week that it is all just part of “a learning process.”
That being said, the Senate is an unelected body with obvious limitations and in the final analysis, the real power lies with the representatives of the people, the House of Commons.
As I understand it, senators have no right to initiate money bills or make any significant changes to the government’s proposed budget. They may have found a renewed purpose in the role they play of the parliamentary process, but in the end, it is our elected MPs who have the final say.

Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.

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