Thursday: In the House and In Committee

Thursday: In the House and In Committee

UPDATED June 14, 2018 2:36pmET


The Conservatives have an opposition day in the House of Commons, and plan to again raise carbon pricing.

Here is the motion that MPs will debate at 10am ET / 7am PT:

That, given the government’s failure to provide a clear explanation of the costs of their carbon tax policy, and given that the people of Ontario have rejected the carbon tax, the House call on the government to table, by June 22, 2018, how much the proposed federal carbon tax of $50 per tonne will cost a median Canadian family.

Voting is also scheduled on the main estimates. There are nearly 200 opposed votes on the Notice Paper — and the Conservatives promise an overnight marathon if the government fails to support the carbon pricing motion.

From The Canadian Press:

The motion comes after weeks of political pressure from Poilievre and other Conservatives, who were given documents through the Access to Information Act that referenced such an analysis but blacked out the details.

The Liberals are requiring every province to have a price on carbon of $20 per tonne by next year, rising to $50 per tonne by 2022. Legislation to establish a federal carbon price that will be imposed on provinces that don’t comply is part of the spring budget implementation bill.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has argued the costs to families will change, depending on how provinces decide to use revenues from the carbon tax — but she hasn’t yet explicitly said how Ottawa will return the revenues to people who live in a province where Ottawa imposes its price.

“We will make the government as uncomfortable as possible until they tell the truth,” Poilievre said.

The Conservatives say the people of Ontario rejected the idea of a carbon tax when they elected Ford last week, although the Liberals counter that a majority of Ontario residents actually voted for one of the two parties that support carbon pricing.

Poilievre says if the Liberals believe their carbon price policy is legitimate they should show the costs and defend them. And he says they can vote for his motion without backing away from their policy.

Watch Poilievre’s morning news conference:

A similar voting marathon took place in March when Conservatives protested the defeat of a motion calling for the prime minister’s national security advisor to answer questions at committee on the Jaspal Atwal/India controversy.

There are hundreds of items in the main estimates, all of which have been referred by standing committees back to the House of Commons for agreement, or “concurrence.”

Any MP can “can give notice to oppose any item … such items are then referred to as ‘opposed items’ in the estimates … a mechanism by which Members force the government to propose a separate motion for the concurrence in each vote that is the subject of total or partial opposition,” according to House of Commons Procedure and Practice.

These “opposed votes” take place following the final opposition motion of the supply period — in this case, today’s Conservative motion.

Once again, here’s how the House’s procedural manual describes the process (emphasis added):

On the last allotted day of each supply period, once the proceedings on the opposition motion are completed, motions to restore or reinstate votes in the estimates are considered first, followed by motions to concur in each of the votes for which a notice of opposition has been given, and the motion to concur in the remaining unopposed votes. The House then proceeds to the appropriation bill based on those estimates. For these purposes, the House may sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.


In Committee: Auditor General Responds to Report Criticism

Auditor General Michael Ferguson goes before the Commons public accounts committee LIVE ONLINE at 3:30pm ET / 12:30pm PT

Ferguson’s spring reports came with a scathing message about “incomprehensible failures” by the federal government — especially with Phoenix:

Phoenix is a defining moment—a wake-up call—that goes well beyond lessons learned. It needs to lead to a deeper understanding and correction of the pervasive cultural problems at play … The culture has created an obedient public service that fears mistakes and risk. Its ability to convey hard truths has eroded, as has the willingness of senior levels—including ministers—to hear hard truths. This culture causes the incomprehensible failures it is trying to avoid.

But Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council, told the committee Tuesday that Ferguson’s views amounted to an “opinion piece.”

From The Canadian Press:

Wernick said the public service isn’t perfect but he won’t accept Ferguson’s findings and called them “sweeping generalizations.”

Wernick also said he does not agree with Ferguson’s characterization of the Phoenix pay system as an ‘incomprehensible failure.’

“It’s entirely comprehensible, it was avoidable … it’s reparable,” he said.

Wernick reiterated that there are problems in the public service, but not across every department.

“I don’t think we have a broken culture,” he insisted.

Wernick also told members of the committee that they should create a culture where it’s possible to disagree with the auditor general.

He said it should be OK to challenge the auditor general’s analysis and hopes he’s not in too much trouble for disagreeing with his findings.

-Andrew Thomson