This Week: Budget Debate Returns to Commons

This Week: Budget Debate Returns to Commons

UPDATED March 16, 2018 9:28amET


Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have been set aside to complete debate on the budget motion as the House of Commons resumes sitting next week.

Budget 2018: CPAC’s Full Coverage

The budget motion is simple: That the House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Of course, the debate touches on all aspects of the government’s fiscal plan and policy proposals.

Watch more on what happens after the budget speech:

Four days are usually set aside to debate the budget. The first full day on Feb. 28 saw Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer move the tradition opposition amendment to the budget motion.

I move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

the House rejects the government’s budget statement because it fails middle class Canadians, women and business operators by raising taxes on over 90% of Canadian middle-class families; announcing new tax hikes on local businesses; borrowing an additional $18 billion; jeopardizing our future generations by choosing not to balance the budget by 2019; spending so much to achieve so little.

NDP parliamentary leader Guy Caron followed with another budget tradition, the third-party subamendment:

That the amendment be amended by deleting all the words after the words “because it” and substituting the following:

(a) does not adequately address tax havens and tax loopholes that benefit the rich;

(b) does not provide any funding for the immediate establishment of a universal pharmacare system;

(c) does not immediately address the nationwide housing crisis; and

(d) does not provide the necessary funding to eliminate long-term boil water advisories and upgrade water and wastewater infrastructure in Indigenous communities by 2020.

Sometimes, budget amendments can change political history.

The Progressive Conservatives and NDP defeated the 1974 budget with an amendment that turned the budget motion into one of confidence in Pierre Trudeau’s minority government. That led to a election where the Liberals instead won a majority of seats.

And then there was 1979, when the new Progressive Conservative minority government was quickly defeated when the NDP’s subamendment passed the House of Commons as a confidence vote:

This House unreservedly condemns the Government for its outright betrayal of its election promises to lower interest rates, to cut taxes, and to stimulate the growth of the Canadian economy, without a mandate from the Canadian people for such a reversal.

Here’s reaction to the vote on Dec. 13, 1979, including then-prime minister Joe Clark:

The subsequent 1980 election saw the return of Pierre Trudeau to the prime minister’s office with a majority Liberal government.

As for Budget 2018, the parliamentary budget officer has released a list of issues for MPs and senators to consider. They include:

  • whether the government has a plan to balance the budget — as implied on the Mandate Letter Tracker website (“Underway – with challenges”)
  • lapsed infrastructure spending
  • a detailed spending plan for government’s new defence policy
  • reconciling the budget and estimates processes

MPs also vote on the Conservative motion on the Canada Summer Jobs program and the need for funding applicants to attest support for reproductive rights:

That, in the opinion of the House, organizations that engage in non-political non-activist work, such as feeding the homeless, helping refugees, and giving kids an opportunity to go to camp, should be able to access Canada Summer Jobs funding regardless of their private convictions and regardless of whether or not they choose to sign the application attestation.

CN and CP rail executives testify this afternoon at the Commons agriculture committee on grain shipment backlogs in western Canada. LIVE ONLINE at 3:30pm ET / 12:30pm PT

Also scheduled to appear: the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Western Grain Elevator Association, and a host of other agriculture groups.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen discusses supplementary and interim estimates at the Commons immigration committee. LIVE ONLINE at 12pm ET / 9am PT

-Andrew Thomson