Politics

MPs' pension bill, transgender rights bill and others left to die by Senate

Canada's Senate rose earlier this week after passing a controversial union finance disclosure bill, but left behind a few other private member's bills to die.

Senators gone for the summer, leaving unfinished tasks to wither

A final vote on a contentious union finance disclosure bill was the last act of senators before they left for their summer break, leaving behind a number of bills unresolved. Ghosts of effectively dead private member's bills now haunt the empty Senate chamber. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

MPs and senators have vacated Parliament Hill for the summer, leaving behind the procedural drama and cranking up the barbecues as they head into the federal election campaign.

The Senate rose on Tuesday after heated debate and "draconian steps" to force a vote over the controversial union finance disclosure bill, but also left behind a few private member's bills to die.

Conservative MP John Williamson's Bill C-518, which would strip MPs and senators of their pensions if they were convicted of certain crimes, was sent back to the House with amendments — after the Commons had already adjourned for the summer.

Bill C-518 faces little hope of being reinstated and is effectively dead. 

It passed the House of Commons with a vote of 256-15 in February. 

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation condemned the Senate for sending the bill back for amendments in a recent release, accusing the unelected legislators of protecting their own in the midst of criminal trials of suspended Senator Mike Duffy and former senator Mac Harb.  

Two other bills also languished and then died on the order paper. 

'Shameful' Senate opposition

A Senate debate over the transgender rights bill sponsored by NDP MP Randall Garrison was delayed. That move spared senators from having to vote on a bill that supporters said had been gutted and stripped of any power during Senate committee hearings.

Also dead is NDP MP Joe Comartin's private member's Bill C-290, which would legalize sports betting on a single event. The bill was passed unanimously by the House in 2012 and had been languishing in the Senate ever since. Senators didn't do anything with the bill, which had been referred to committee, before they rose for the summer. 

"It's been shameful, the opposition that has come from within the Senate," said Comartin, who is retiring from federal politics.

The Senate has seen its reputation tarred by the expenses scandal over the past couple of years, providing further ammunition for critics demanding its reform or abolishment. 

Conservative MP Michael Chong's embattled Reform Act recently came close to being derailed, but senators ultimately voted down an amendment that would have sent it back to the House to die before summer break. The Senate passed it last week.

It's not the first time that bills passed by the House of Commons were shut down or left to die by the chamber of sober second thought. 

Climate change vote-down

In 2010, then NDP MP Bruce Hyer's private member's Bill C-311 would have committed Canada to a long-term target to reduce Canadian greenhouse gas emissions 80 per cent below the 1990 level by 2050, meeting Canada's obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Hyer has since crossed over to the Green Party.

MPs passed the bill with a 149-136 vote and it went to the Senate. It was defeated at second reading in the Senate by a vote of 43-32 without debate, triggering outrage among environmental groups and the opposition New Democrats.

"[Prime Minister Stephen Harper] broke his promise never to appoint unelected senators, and now, he's using them to subvert the will of this House," NDP leader Jack Layton said at the time.

With files from The Canadian Press

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