MPs brace for fierce debate as Liberals table Emergencies Act declaration in Commons
Measures in the act can be altered only after it is tabled in Parliament
The Liberal government has formally tabled its declaration of an emergency under the Emergencies Act in the House of Commons — a move that sets up what's likely to be a heated debate among MPs over the coming days.
The government was required to table its declaration in the House of Commons and the Senate within seven sitting days of its introduction.
Once that declaration is tabled, MPs can debate the measures in the act and, potentially, vote on amendments that could limit its powers and scope.
Until any amendments are made, the act will be in effect exactly as proposed by the Liberal government.
1/ Our government has tabled a motion in the House confirming the declaration of an emergency on the illegal blockades. MPs will be able to examine the motion, documents that explain our reasons for taking this responsible action, and our consultations with provinces/territories.—@markhollandlib
The government pledged to begin the debate process quickly earlier on Wednesday.
Speaking at a Wednesday news conference, Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti said "Canadians expect and deserve nothing less" than a full debate by their elected officials.
The debate, now likely to begin Thursday, is going to be a tense one. Both the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois have voiced strong opposition to the use of the Emergencies Act.
"We cannot support the Emergencies Act. We don't believe that it's the right thing to do," Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen said Wednesday.
"This is not the right tool," said Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet. "The federal government wanted to hide its failure behind a far too strong law."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has voiced concerns about the act but has not rejected its use as strongly as other opposition party leaders. Singh said on Wednesday that he would withdraw his support for its use if the NDP decides that it constitutes an overreach of government authority.
WATCH | Jagmeet Singh says he won't support Emergencies Act if it is an overreach
The act — which has never before been invoked — gives the federal government temporary powers to handle ongoing blockades and protests against pandemic restrictions. Participating in anything considered an unlawful assembly is now a violation of the act, and the government also has powers to restrict protesters' access to financial services.
House of Commons' schedule complicating the debate
Text in the Emergencies Act also stipulates that a debate on the act must take place "without interruption." That suggests the current session of the Commons could stretch into the weekend or next week.
The House of Commons is currently scheduled to have a week-long break starting Monday, Feb. 21. It's not yet clear if that break will still take place if the House is in the midst of a complex debate at the time.
Lametti said all options are being negotiated among house leaders in Parliament.
"There are a number of different ideas being floated," he told CBC's Power & Politics.
"I'm going to let the House leaders determine whether or not we debate late and through the weekend or come back next week, or whether it begins now and gets completed later."