The election we nearly had: last week at West Block (March 18-22)

Last week saw a typically filibuster last over 30 hours, an investigation shut down and another person resign in the SNC fallout. Here’s your wrap-up from the House of Commons last week.

  1. An early election was nearly called. The Conservatives launched a filibuster, or marathon voting spree, that forced Members of Parliament to stay on the floor. While a video of the Prime Minister being chastised for bringing a chocolate bar into the House of Commons went viral, we should really be talking about the election that was nearly called. During the 126th vote the Conservatives say dozens of Liberal Members of Parliament weren’t in their seats, meaning they wouldn’t be eligible to vote. If the Liberals had lost a vote, an early election would have been called. The deputy speaker of the house said it was up to each Liberal Member of Parliament to determine whether or not they had been in their seat. 
  2. Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled the 2019 federal budget, the Liberal’s last budget before the election this fall. The Liberals have projected a budget of nearly 20 billion dollars by next year. Critics say there is no plan or timeline to a balanced budget. The budget has 4.5 billion dollars going into indigenous services, this includes 1.2 billion dollars for Jordan’s Principle over three years. 
  3. A Liberal majority shuts down the investigation into SNC Lavalin. Just hours before the budget was tabled, the House Commons Justice Committee met behind closed doors where a Liberal majority passed a motion that effectively ended the SNC Lavalin investigation, for now. This angered the opposition who called it a cover-up. Both the Conservatives and the NDP said Member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould needed to testify again after former parliamentary secretary Gerald Butts shared information that conflicted with her testimony. Chants of “Let her speak” drowned out Finance Minister Bill Morneau will he tried to table the budget Tuesday evening. 
  4. Party leaders condemn white supremacy that led to the shootings at two Christchurch mosques. In a sombre and unified moment, the party leaders came together to condemn what New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  called terrorism. Earlier this month a gunman killed 50 people at two different mosques in Christchurch and injured fifty more. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he called Ardern to offer support to the people of New Zealand. In a speech, he said, “The tragedy in New Zealand is, sadly, another example of just how far we’ve gone astray. But we cannot let the lessons of those 50 deaths go unlearned. The path we’re going down is dangerous and unsustainable. People are tired of fighting this alone, without the backing of their leaders.” 
  5. Michael Wernick announced his retirement. The Clerk of the Privy Council was named in the Globe and Mail’s bombshell story about SNC Lavalin. The paper said he tried to pressure former Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould into signing a remediation agreement to spare SNC Lavalin a criminal trial. He testified to the House Commons Justice Committee twice. The first time, he said, “I’m worried that somebody is going to be shot in this country this year during the political campaign.” Wernick wrote a letter to the Prime Minister saying, he clearly does not have the trust of the official Opposition. Ian Shugart, the deputy minister of Foreign Affairs will take over. 
  6. Anne McLellan will advise PMO on the role of the Justice Minister and the Attorney General of Canada. One takeaway from the SNC Lavalin affair is whether the roles of Justice Minister and the Attorney General are in conflict with each other. Jody Wilson-Raybould held both positions but justice minister is a cabinet position while the attorney general is meant to be an independent decision maker. Many questioned how one person can balance both. The announcement sparked criticism from the opposition who pointed out she was the deputy prime minister under Paul Martin. McLellan has until June to report her findings.


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