Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said unelected senators should .... has rattled some members of the Red Chamber.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said unelected senators should keep their hands off budget bills, a pronouncement that has rattled some members of the Red Chamber.

Liberal ministers, MPs were 'accosting' senators to vote against amended budget bill, senator says

Last-minute lobbying efforts fail as some Liberals, Independents stand against hike to alcohol excise duty

Senior Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs with the party engaged in last-minute lobbying efforts outside the Senate chamber Tuesday evening, trying to fend off efforts to amend the government's budget bill.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau, House leader Bardish Chagger and various Liberal MPs pulled aside a number of Senate Liberals and Independent senators on their way into the chamber, hoping to bend their ears before they cast votes on whether to back a Conservative amendment to remove yearly, automatic hikes to the excise duties on alcohol.

"I've never seen this in the eight and half years that I have been here in the Senate: Liberal MPs and ministers hovering in front of the Senate door, and accosting senators. Imagine," Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, chair of the powerful internal economy committee, said in an interview with CBC News.

Some of the MPs stood behind the bar separating the entrance from the Senate floor while the vote was held, an unusual move, as visitors to the chamber usually sit in the gallery above.
FedBudget Infrastructure 20170620
Some Liberal MPs stood behind this bar on the floor of the Senate chamber Tuesday evening as senators voted on whether to accept amendments to the government's budget bill. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
"I don't know if it was an attempt to intimidate, but it certainly was an attempt to influence the vote," Housakos said.

A spokesman for Chagger said the efforts were "a continuation of the approach we have been taking with the Senate in this Parliament — maintaining dialogue as the senators do their work."
'There's no cohesion. There's no communication. …. It's a state of chaos' - Senator Leo Housakos

But the government advocacy did not have the desired effect, as the amended bill passed report stage 46-32, and cleared third reading Wednesday. The amended Bill C-44 will now be sent back to the House, where MPs can either accept or reject the changes.

Nine Liberal senators — Joe Day, Lillian Dyck, Art Eggleton, Joan Fraser, Libbe Hubley, Serge Joyal, Terry Mercer, Jim Munson and Claudette Tardif — and three Independents, Senators Diane Griffin, Éric Forest and Stephen Greene, voted with all Conservatives present in the chamber (34) in support of the amendment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said unelected senators should keep their hands off budget bills, a pronouncement that has rattled some members of the Red Chamber.
"Unquestionably, we have the right to amend or even defeat budget bills," Liberal Senate leader Joe Day said Wednesday.

 "This is a long, long established right, but we know it's always controversial if, and when, we actually exercise that power. But we do have a job and we must not shy away from it."

Another Liberal, Quebec Senator Serge Joyal, appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien, said his patience is wearing thin with pressures from the government.

"I keep hearing that we should yield to the other place, well, I'm sorry, the structure of Parliament is one elected body, one unelected. It's the bicameral system."
Joe Day, Liberal Senate leader, says the Red Chamber has every right to amend a budget bill. (CBC)
Housakos said the lobbying Tuesday night speaks to the "discombobulated" nature of the chamber after Trudeau's move to strip partisanship from the Senate by appointing Independents who sit outside the Liberal Party caucus.

"Let's call a spade a spade," Housakos said. "What you have are longtime, traditional Liberals who are saying to Mr. Trudeau, 'You didn't want us in caucus, you didn't want to work with us, why would we back your bill?'"

"There's no cohesion. There's no communication. In the past, you had a line of communication in [national party] caucuses, all of the discussions about the nitty-gritty aspects of these bills would take place there. There's none of that anymore. It's a state of chaos."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trudeau's 'China First' Policy Has Canada

Canadian Crime Minister Justin Trudeau showing his deepest gratitude to the rich Chinese lobbyists for the $1,500 a head Liberal Cash-For-Access events and the $1M Chinese donation to the Trudeau Foundation by putting Canadians and our Allies security at risk.

Trudeau Reminds Senate Not To Meddle With Budget Bill

Bloggers note: NO body has the right to tell the Senate of Canada how to exercise its business and constitutional obligation, surely not Justin Trudeau or Bill Morneau  be them Prime ministers or Finance ministers...Nothing in the senate does can be construed as obstructionist or unwillingness to pass legislation. 
But when the obstructionism comes from the governing class, in this case .. democracy is endangered .... to be continued    

Trudeau Reminds Senate Not To Meddle With Budget Bill
Posted: Updated: 
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau reminded senators Friday that they're unelected and have no business rewriting a federal budget passed by the elected House of Commons.
The prime minister said he respects the role senators play in providing sober second thought to legislation.
Indeed, having instigated a new appointment process aimed at making the Senate more independent and less partisan, Trudeau said he actually encourages senators to scrutinize legislation and recommend improvements.
But he drew a line at the government's budget implementation bill, as senators debate whether to hive off the portion of it that deals with creation of a new infrastructure bank.
justin trudeauCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Meets With Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel on June 16,
2017. (Photo: David Kawai/Getty Images)
"It's important to understand that the House of Commons has the authority when it comes to budgetary matters," Trudeau said during a news conference with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
"I very much respect and encourage ... the important role the Senate has in deliberating on pieces of legislation that pass through the House, on making recommendations and improvements in many cases ... I think it's an enhancement to our democratic institutions and to the governance of our country," he stressed.
That said, Trudeau added that the government is "looking for swift passage of the federal budget that passed through the House of Commons, with all the legitimacy that the elected House of Commons has."
Trudeau's reference to the Commons' authority over budgetary matters was an apparent reference to the fact that the Constitution prohibits the Senate from initiating a money bill; that power rests solely with the Commons.
That same fact prompted Senate Speaker George Furey to disallow a motion Thursday from independent Sen. Andre Pratte to carve the infrastructure bank provisions out of the budget bill so they could be more closely examined. In effect, Furey said the motion would amount to the Senate initiating two money bills.

However, senators voted 38-33 to overrule Furey. A vote on Pratte's motion to split the bill will now take place next week, possibly as early as Monday.
The Commons would have to concur with a Senate bid to divide the bill or otherwise amend it, which Trudeau made clear is not in the cards.
Should his attempt to split the bill be rejected by the Commons, Pratte told CBC's "Power and Politics" on Friday that he would defer to the will of the elected chamber.
The Senate could also theoretically vote to defeat the bill outright but Pratte noted that it has not rejected any legislation put forward by the Trudeau government thus far.
"We're very much aware that we're not elected," he said.
Some have blamed the potential for an impasse over the budget bill on Trudeau's insistence on appointing independent, non-partisan senators.
"Justin Trudeau's Senate reforms have given senators a green light to do exactly this," said NDP democratic reform critic Nathan Cullen. "His chickens are coming home to roost."
However, the decision to overrule Furey was not actually due to independent senators. It was primarily the result of Conservative senators — who still make up the single largest group in the chamber and who continue to operate as a partisan group — voting en masse to overturn the ruling.
"Justin Trudeau's Senate reforms have given senators a green light to do exactly this."
In any event, long before Trudeau began appointing independent senators, the upper house had a history of occasionally balking at rubber-stamping a money bill.
For instance, in 1990 the then Liberal-dominated Senate was poised to defeat a Conservative government bill creating the goods and services tax. Brian Mulroney, prime minister at the time, resorted to an obscure constitutional clause to appoint an additional eight senators, who ensured passage of the bill.
In 1993, a Mulroney government budget implementation bill was defeated in the Senate, even though the Conservatives commanded a majority in the chamber at the time.
The current budget bill includes creation of a $35-billion infrastructure bank, with which the Trudeau government hopes to leverage up to $5 in private investment for every $1 in government funding to finance transformational infrastructure projects.
bill morneau
Finance Minister Bill Morneau appears at a Senate committee on Bill C-44 on June 15, 2017. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau maintain the bank is an integral part of the government's plan to bolster the middle class, spur economic growth and create jobs.
However, some senators fear the bank's proposed structure leaves it open to political interference and that taxpayers will wind up on the hook for projects that run over-budget or flop.
Some senators also object to another provision in the budget, which would allow the federal government to automatically hike the excise tax on beer, wine and spirits by the rate of inflation every year.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why the Senate is unpredictable — and its independents not so independent filed #BabyTrudeau

Why the Senate is unpredictable — and its independents not so independent

Independent senators appointed by Justin Trudeau have voted with the government 94.5% of the time

Éric Grenier - CBC News

June 19, 2017
Senate Swearing In 20161201
André Pratte, left, has been less likely to vote with Peter Harder, right, the Liberals' government representative in the Senate, than fellow independent Senator Marc Gold (centre). (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
The Senate is gumming up the work of the Liberal government, slowing the process that turns bills into law because the government cannot reliably count on a majority of senators lining up behind it, according to an analysis of votes in the upper chamber.

But the numbers also show this isn't due to the independent senators named to the Red Chamber by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In fact, these independent senators have voted closely with the government — more often than the "Senate Liberals" cut loose from the party in 2014.

The Senate is currently divided into three groupings: Conservatives, Liberals and an Independent Senators Group (ISG). There are also a few non-affiliated senators, including Peter Harder, the government representative responsible for guiding the government's agenda through the Senate.
The Conservative senators form part of the party's parliamentary caucus, along with Conservative MPs from the House of Commons. But the Liberal senators were ejected from that caucus in 2014 by Trudeau, a move aimed at reducing partisanship in the upper chamber.

Though they still caucus together in the Senate, they no longer co-ordinate with their colleagues in the House.

The ISG is formed of senators who left their former Conservative or Liberal caucuses, as well as those put in the Senate by Trudeau as part of the government's pledge to appoint non-partisan senators nominated by an independent commission.

As the opposition in the Senate, the Conservatives have voted against the government's position the most often, siding with Harder in just 25 per cent of all 48 recorded votes held since Harder took office. (This includes votes on both government and non-government bills and motions.)

But the swing votes in the Senate have not been the gaggle of independents, but rather the Senate Liberals, who have voted with Harder only 78.5 per cent of the time.
Votes in the Senate
The independents, by comparison, have been much more co-operative. Independents appointed by Trudeau's predecessors voted with Harder 88 per cent of the time, while independents named by the prime minister have stood with Harder in 94.5 per cent of recorded votes.

This makes Trudeau's independents — as a bloc — the most reliable votes that Harder can count upon in the Senate.

Senate Liberal swing votes

This bloc is not large enough for Harder to easily steer the government's legislation through the Senate.

With 98 senators — excluding Speaker George Furey and Jacques Demers, who has been away due to poor health — Harder needs 49 votes to pass legislation when all senators are in the chamber.
In addition to himself, Harder can count on the support of his deputy, Diane Bellemare, and government liaison Grant Mitchell. The independents named by Trudeau increase his vote total to 29.
Adding the six independent senators appointed by past prime ministers who frequently vote with the government bumps that number to 35 — still short of a majority.

So in order to pass legislation, Harder needs most of the votes from the 18 Liberals, making them the Senate's decisive swing votes.

Compliant House vs. rogue Senate

By the standards of the House of Commons, the Senate Liberals are downright unreliable.

While about 98 per cent of Liberal MPs vote with their government in the House at least 95 per cent of the time, not a single Senate Liberal has achieved that watermark in the current session.

According to an analysis conducted in February, even Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the most frequently dissenting Liberal MP, voted with his government 87 per cent of the time. A full 15 of the 18 Senate Liberals have been less compliant.

A majority of senators have voted with Harder a majority of the time, but the rate of dissension demonstrates why no single vote in the Senate is a sure bet — particularly when compared to the House, where party discipline, whipped votes and the Liberal majority ensure success on any matter the government wants.
(A full breakdown of how senators have voted can be found at the bottom of this article.)

'Independent' senators?

Though the prime minister has touted his Senate-nomination process as non-partisan, it is clear that the senators who have been appointed by Trudeau are like-minded individuals.

Of the 26 independent senators appointed to the Senate by Trudeau, along with Harder, nine have sided with Harder in every recorded vote, two have abstained on one occasion and eight have voted in opposition only once.

That means just seven have voted differently from the government's representative on multiple occasions.

P.E.I. Senator Diane Griffin has been the independent most willing to oppose the government that appointed her, voting with Harder 83 per cent of the time. 

The other Trudeau-appointed independent senators who have sided with the government in less than 90 per cent of votes were: Ontario Senator Frances Lankin, and Quebec Senators André Pratte and Marie-Françoise Mégie.

Still, their rate of dissent makes them more likely to vote with the Liberals' government representative in the Senate than the bulk of the actual Liberals in the Red Chamber.

The changes the prime minister has made to transform the Senate into a more independently minded chamber of sober second thought have certainly turned it into a more unpredictable place. But he likely didn't expect the Liberals in the Senate, rather than the independents, to be the biggest source of that unpredictability.

Senators by vote