7 bills hurried through House of Commons

The Harper government has moved time allocation nine times this fall to hurry along legislation and limit debate in the House of Commons. It's also used a similar tactic at the justice committee.

Why the rush? Government says time allocation made necessary by Opposition tactics

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan is in charge of moving priority legislation quickly through the House of Commons. Since the election, a half-dozen bills have been fast-tracked thanks to closure or time allocation motions to limit debate, and that tactic may soon be used on more legislation. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Opposition calls it undemocratic. The government calls it necessary. 

On twelve occasions so far in this Parliament — the one that began following the May 2 election — the Harper government has used either closure or time allocation motions to limit debate and speed the passage of bills that could otherwise have stalled in the face of Opposition objections.

Here's a list of government bills where we've seen this hurry-up offence:

C-3, Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act (the first budget bill)

Introduced: June 14

Royal assent: June 26

The government sought — and received — the Opposition's help the first time they moved time allocation, to skip some of the usual steps and pass its budget bill quickly before Parliament's summer recess. After the government introduced a similar budget to the one the finance minister presented before the spring election in March, C-3 featured no surprises, making it easier for the Opposition to cooperate with what could have been seen as inevitable, given the Conservatives' new majority mandate.

C-6, Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act

Introduced: June 20

Royal assent: June 26

The government evoked closure to move as quickly as possible to pass back-to-work legislation to end the lockout of the postal workers' union at Canada Post. Nevertheless, the NDP filibustered for 58 hours to delay the bill.

C-10, Safe Streets and Communities Act (Omnibus crime bill)

Introduced: Sept. 20

Currently: Passed the House of Commons Dec. 5, now in Senate

The government bundled together nine bills from previous Parliaments into one piece of omnibus legislation the Conservatives had pledged during the election campaign to pass within 100 sitting days.

Time allocation was necessary in the government's view because as soon as debate began on the bill, Liberal MP Sean Casey made a "reasoned amendment" calling for the House not to give second reading to the bill. The NDP wanted to divide the bill so at least one measure on sex offences involving children could be adopted quickly and unanimously, but the Conservatives wouldn't budge and the NDP motion failed to pass.

The government also used its majority on the Justice committee to limit the length of time allocated to clause-by-clause review. After a day-long debate on the motion to limit debate on Nov.17 – which postponed any progress on the clause-by-clause review itself – a compromise deal was reached that saw the committee complete its work Nov. 23, after spending a limited amount of additional time. 

On Nov. 30, the government moved time allocation at the report and third reading stages, its third act of limiting debate on this omnibus legislation.

Despite using time allocation multiple times to speed passage of C-10 through the House of Commons, Government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton told CBC News on Dec. 7 that the bill wouldn't be rushed through the Senate. The government feels that so long as C-10 passes by mid-March it will have kept its campaign commitment to pass the legislation within 100 sitting days.

C-13, Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act

Introduced: Oct. 4

Royal assent: Dec. 15

This bill would implement the rest of the measures in last June's budget. In moving time allocation at second reading for this legislation, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan argued that the Conservatives campaigned on many of the measures in this bill and Canadians elected a majority of Conservative MPs to implement them. The committee that reviewed the bill finished its work and reported back on Nov. 4.

On Nov.16, Van Loan moved time allocation for the second time on this legislation, limiting debate on the bill before it was concurred by the House and voted on at this report stage. This use of time allocation for the second time prompted NDP MP Pat Martin's use of foul language on Twitter to vent his frustrations at the limited time for debate.

C-18, Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act

Introduced: Oct. 18

Royal assent: Dec. 15

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz wanted the legislation to end the "single desk" monopoly system the Canadian Wheat Board has for marketing Western Canada's wheat and barley passed before the end of this calendar year, so farmers are free to market the 2012 wheat and barley crops outside the wheat board's system.

Shortly after its introduction, this legislation also saw a reasoned amendment from the Opposition, this time from NDP MP Pat Martin, again calling on the House to decline to give the bill second reading, followed minutes later by a motion from Liberal MP Frank Valeriote to adjourn the debate so MPs could hear from more farmers before proceeding. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan moved time allocation to allow the legislation to proceed to a special legislative committee on Oct. 24.

That committee worked through the bill in record time over three successive marathon evening meetings and reported back to the House on Nov.4. On Nov. 23, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan moved time allocation for a second time, to speed debate at both report stage and third reading. The legislation faced its final vote and passed the House of Commons on Nov. 28.

C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act

Introduced: Oct. 25

Currently: Committee reported back to House Nov. 30, awaiting report stage

The legislation to scrap the long-gun registry and destroy all the data it contains is another longstanding Conservative campaign pledge. Van Loan gave notice of time allocation the afternoon after it was introduced and this motion to limit debate was voted on and passed the following morning. Later that morning, the NDP moved a reasoned amendment calling on the House to decline the bill at second reading. However, the government had already limited the days of debate. 

C-20, The Fair Representation Act

Introduced: Oct. 27

Royal assent: Dec. 16

The latest bill to warrant a time allocation motion is the legislation to give more House of Commons seats to Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Again, House Leader Van Loan gave notice of a motion for time allocation to limit debate after a reasoned amendment from NDP MP Alexandrine Latendresse on Wednesday afternoon calling for the House to decline second reading on the bill. Van Loan's motion to limit debate on C-20 passed on Nov.3. The government wants to pass this legislation quickly so officials can begin the considerable work involved with accommodating more MPs. Elections officials also need to begin the process for adjusting riding boundaries in time for the next federal election, expected in 2015.

On Dec. 7, House Leader Peter Van Loan moved time allocation for the second time to limit debate on the report and third reading stages of the bill. Its final vote at third reading was on Dec. 13.

No rush yet?

Van Loan's office also notes that two other bills, C-4 (Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act) and C-11 (Copyright Modernization Act) have seen reasoned amendments from the Opposition that could be considered stalling tactics. However, the government has not yet moved to limit debate on either of these bills. In the case of the Copyright Act reforms, the government had said it wanted to pass this legislation before Christmas because so much work already had been done in the last Parliament. 

In October, a special legislative committee was struck specifically to review the Copyright Act after the House refers it to committee after second reading. That committee has yet to begin its work. On Dec. 12, the government "moved that the question be put" for C-11, which may (or may not) signal the government is considering limiting further debate at second reading. The House now has risen for the holiday break and will not sit again until late January.


Janyce McGregor

Senior reporter

Janyce McGregor joined the CBC's parliamentary bureau in 2001, after starting her career with TVOntario's Studio 2. Her public broadcaster "hat trick" includes casual stints as a news and current affairs producer with the BBC's World Service in London. After two decades of producing roles, she's now a senior reporter filing for CBC Online, Radio and Television. News tips: Janyce.McGregor@cbc.ca