Commons to stay open until midnight until MPs break for the summer

Get ready to put in some parliamentary overtime, MPs: the House of Commons workday is about to get a lot longer. Starting tomorrow, the chamber will stay open from 7 p.m. until midnight, every night but Friday, until it shuts down for the summer recess in June.

Extended sitting hours would add 20 hours to the parliamentary work week

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan wants to add an extra shift to the House sitting day by keeping the House open until midnight. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Get ready to put in some parliamentary overtime, MPs: the House of Commons workday is about to get a lot longer.

Starting tomorrow, the chamber will stay open from 7 p.m. until midnight, every night but Friday, until it shuts down for the summer recess in June.  

The move will give the government up to five more hours a day to spend on legislative initiatives that they'd like to get through the House before the summer recess, including the spring omnibus budget bill, proposed changes to online surveillance laws and the rules governing Canadian citizenship.

That works out to 20 hours a week — the equivalent of two and a half sitting days.

The motion put forward by Government House Leader Peter Van Loan on Monday would also prevent opposition parties from disrupting the House agenda by automatically deferring all votes until just after question period.

From the government's perspective, the provision is necessary to ensure regular Hill business won't be interrupted by the sudden sound of division bells summoning MPs to the Chamber.

'Laziest motion ever put forward'

New Democrat House Leader Peter Julian accused the Conservatives of simply wanting to avoid evening votes.

"Not only do they not show up to speak, they do not even want to show up to vote," he pointed out in his response to Van Loan's pitch. 

"This is ... perhaps the laziest motion ever put forward in the House of Commons by the government."

In response, Conservative MP Jim Hillyer pointed out Julian had just spent twenty minutes "talking about all the work the NDP does through talking," as he put it.

"My constituents never ask me, 'How much talking have I done? How many times have I repeated myself in the same hour to convince the unconvinced?'"

Julian shot back by noting that he's been invited to Hillyer's riding of Lethbridge.

"I think most of the member's constituents are wondering where he is because they cannot seem to find him in the riding."

Liberals side with Tories

Meanwhile, Liberal MP John McCallum, who served notice that his party would support the motion, took Hillyer's side.

"Over the course of this long discourse, I was not able to discern whether the NDP is voting for or against the government motion," he said.

"Are New Democrats voting for this motion, or are they voting against this motion?"

Julian, however, continued to play coy on his party's intentions. 

"Do we agree with evening work? Absolutely," he assured his House colleagues.

"Do we agree with the government's process of saying 'No' to evening votes, 'No' to showing up, and handcuffing the opposition as far as the House rules are concerned?" That, he said, "is another story."

"Stay tuned."

Without all-party cooperation, the vote on the motion will likely be put off until Tuesday, which is the earliest that Van Loan would be able to invoke closure to put an end to further debate.

The full text of the motion, which was added to the Notice Paper during last week's constituency break:

(i) when debate on a motion for the concurrence in a report from a standing, standing joint or special committee is adjourned or interrupted, the debate shall again be considered on a day designated by the government, after consultation with the House Leaders of the other parties, but in any case not later than the twentieth sitting day after the interruption.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.