Government House Leader Peter Van Loan has moved to significantly limit debate on the government's latest omnibus crime bill, using a tactic one veteran NDP MP denounced as "nasty" and intended to "stifle debate."
Passing the legislation within 100 sitting days of Parliament was one of the Conservatives' campaign commitments.
Government MPs used their majority to win the vote on a time allocation motion Tuesday morning by a margin of 158-133.
Van Loan's time allocation motion was provoked by a Liberal attempt last week to delay the legislation by a "reasoned amendment" which would have deleted every page of the more than 100-page bill.
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The Liberals gave a variety of reasons for wanting to stall the process, saying the bill ignores the best evidence on public safety, crime prevention and rehabilitating offenders, the government hasn't provided a clear cost estimate, and that bundling so much legislation together "will compromise Parliament's ability to review and scrutinize its contents and implications on behalf of Canadians."
The safe streets and communities act was introduced only last week when the House of Commons returned from its summer recess. Following the passage of the motion, the House debates the bill at second reading for only two more days before it next comes to a vote as early as Wednesday evening.
After that vote, the bill moves on for study at the House justice committee, which is chaired by a Conservative MP and has a majority of Conservative MPs who can vote to protect the government's intentions for the bill in committee. The legislation could theoretically be in front of the justice committee as early as next Tuesday.
On Twitter, NDP Deputy Leader Libby Davies decried Van Loan's "nasty motion on C10 crime bill to stifle debate."
One rookie Tory MP, Mark Strahl, fired back from his account: "Media and opposition express shock at CPC plans to pass tough on crime bill. We're just delivering on campaign promises. Get used to it."
Pamela Stephens, a spokesperson for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, wrote CBC to offer that "while the Opposition [parties] continue to look at ways to delay or obstruct these important measures, Canadians gave our [government] a strong and clear mandate to continue making our streets and communities safer."
Before debate on the motion began, Opposition House leader Thomas Mulcair summoned reporters to the foyer Tuesday morning to protest the government's attempt to "shove this down the throats of Parliamentarians."
Mulcair expressed particular concern about the costs of the legislation, which imposes mandatory minimum jail sentences that could significantly ramp up prison costs both federally and provincially.
"If the Conservatives remain bloody-minded about this, that they're going to impose the guillotine no matter what, and that they're going to have this show of force, they might be able to use their majority," Mulcair admitted, adding that "Canadians will decode that they're not respectful of our institutions, but they'll also understand across Canada...that the long-standing argument of the Conservatives that they were different from the Liberals, that they were not going to be downloading massive costs onto the provinces, is a falsehood."
"The NDP always objects to spending money when it comes to fighting violent crime," Justice Minister Rob Nicholson shot back during question period. "I'm proud to be part of a party that knows where money should be spent."
"I'll tell you who's been silent, it's the NDP on the cost of victims in this country," Nicholson said in response to another question about the government's refusal to disclose more details about the cost of the bill.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page started yesterday on an investigation of the costs of the omnibus crime bill and hopes to report back to Parliament in 60 days.
The NDP wants to extract from the bill several measures on which they believe it could be possible to get unanimous consent in the House, and pass those quickly: new offences to protect children, putting victims rights in the parole process into law, and changes to lengthen the time period in which offenders must demonstrate crime-free behaviour in order to become eligible for parole.
During question period, NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said the government was wrong to shut down a bill Parliamentarians had spent "less than four minutes a page debating." Comartin said he would ask the government to agree to fast-tracking these measures on which everyone could agree.
"We offered to do that before but then we got a majority and now they've withdrawn that," Nicholson replied.
The justice minister said the NDP want the part of the bill that cracks down on drug dealers removed. "Nobody is going to agree to that. Let's get the whole thing passed. That's what Canadians want," he said.
During his morning press conference, Mulcair had vowed that the government will have a major fight on its hands when it comes to other aspects of the bill, including its "copycat American three strikes, you're out" policy on criminal pardons (which the NDP argues has failed in the U.S.), the centralizing of arbitrary control over international prisoner transfers in the justice minister's office (which did not make it all the way through the previous Parliament before the election was called), and moves to impose a "U.S.-style war on drugs" which the NDP believes also has failed in the U.S.