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The work ends in a climate of heightened partisanship in Ottawa.

Analysis | The season of nonsense in the Canadian Parliament

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During the sleepless night of December 7 to 8, Pierre Poilievre presented himself triumphantly before his deputies with meals from the fast food chain McDonald's.

  • Louis Blouin (View profile)Louis Blouin

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This time of year has a nickname in Ottawa. When the end of parliamentary work approaches, when the deputies are irritable and when indiscipline is at its height, we speak of the stupid season (“silly season” in English). Invectives, parliamentary paralysis, excessive partisanship: who will come out on top?

Decorum has taken its toll this week on Parliament Hill. In a few days, numerous skirmishes have attracted attention. The Standing Committee on Natural Resources descended into complete cacophony on Wednesday, December 6 when the Conservatives threw out 20,000 amendments in an attempt to paralyze it.

Shut up! launched Bloc MP Claude DeBellefeuille after repeated interruptions from his Conservative counterparts. No one will tell me to shut up! retorted Conservative MP Larry Brock.

After this incident, New Democrat Charlie Angus called the Conservative MPs a squad of bullies.

The same day, Conservative MP Damien Kurek was expelled from the Commons because he called the Prime Minister a liar and refused to retract his comments.

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The next day, Shame to the rest of you!, exclaimed, her face red with anger, Minister Diane Lebouthillier during the question period when her conservative opponent Joël Godin suggested that she leave her Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

This excerpt illustrates the disorder that reigned at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday after the tabling of thousands of Conservative amendments.

Partisan tensions have rarely been so acute since the election of Justin Trudeau. Pierre Poilievre added fuel to the fire this week. He promised to paralyze parliamentary activities until the Trudeau government eliminates carbon pricing for families, farmers and First Nations people.

The Conservative Party promised to disrupt parliamentary committees and forced 135 votes to be held in the Commons, forcing elected officials to stay there for more than 24 hours at a time.

House Leader Karina Gould compared conservative obstructionist tactics to those of the Republican right in Congress. They are new conservatives who are inspired by the far right in the United States, she declared Friday after a sleepless night.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Karina Gould, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, stand to vote on a motion during a marathon session in Ottawa on Friday, December 8, 2023.

The scene was unusual: Pierre Poilievre arrived as reinforcement during the night from Thursday to Friday, looking victorious, with two large bags of McDonald's to feed his troops during the voting marathon. The Conservative leader was welcomed as a hero to the applause of his MPs.

In the minds of conservative elected officials, there is no doubt that these maneuvers serve a just cause. In their eyes, carbon pricing hurts Canadians and must be eliminated at all costs. They are not the only ones. An Angus Reid poll released in mid-November indicated that 42% (New window) of Canadians wanted it abolished.

The end justifies the means. It’s a victory for us because we managed to delay Justin Trudeau’s destructive [program] by one day, argued Conservative MP Luc Berthold between two votes on Friday. This strategy allows Pierre Poilievre to energize his caucus and his activists.

All parties have resorted to various parliamentary obstruction tactics over the years. years to advance their political goals.

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre in the House of Commons on December 8.

This episode still raises a question of legitimacy for the official opposition. Can Pierre Poilievre justify blocking the functioning of Parliament because he opposes a policy supported by a majority of deputies in the Commons?

Canadians had the opportunity to vote on carbon pricing in the last two federal elections and elected a majority of MPs in favor of this policy.

Beyond the political contest, this parliamentary obstruction will have concrete effects. The voting marathon that has monopolized the Commons will cost taxpayers about $1 million, according to calculations by New Democratic Party House Leader Peter Julian. In particular, it will be necessary to pay overtime for Parliament employees who had to stay up all night.

However, the most significant impact will be legislative. The passage of important bills is delayed. Bills C-56 and C-59 include numerous measures aimed at accelerating the construction of housing in the country and mitigating the impact of the cost of living crisis on Canadians.

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The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill on Friday, December 8, 2023 in Ottawa.

Paradoxically, the Conservatives are rejecting measures that could help the people they seek to defend on issues they have made a priority.

The slip-ups of the last week could set the tone for the parliamentary contest between now and the next elections.

As the holidays approach, the Canadians perhaps hoped that the federal parties would succeed in putting aside their differences to implement quick and concrete solutions to their problems. When it comes to unity and solidarity, they will have to look elsewhere.

  • Louis Blouin (View profile)Louis BlouinFollow

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