Proroguing Parliament will delay review of bills

Prorogation of Parliament will delay review of dozens of government-sponsored bills.

Prorogation of Parliament will delay the review of dozens of government-sponsored bills.

Government-sponsored bills go back to square one unless there is majority consent in the House of Commons to restore them to the stage they were at prior to prorogation.

In the past, getting majority consent hasn't been an issue when a majority government suspends Parliament. But majority consent is not a given with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government.

In fact, it's possible that some of the more controversial justice bills won't get consent when the next session of Parliament begins March 3.

However, all private member's bills survive to the next session thanks to procedural reforms introduced 15 years ago. Those bills are all automatically reinstated at the same point in the legislative process where they left off.

That means that Bill C-391, which was introduced by Manitoba Tory MP Candice Hoeppner to scrap the long-gun registry and was under examination by a parliamentary committee after winning first and second reading votes in the House, will return to that stage when Parliament resumes.

While prorogation won't have much impact on bills making their way through the Commons, it will cause some delays on the Senate side.

Bills that had not made it entirely through Senate debates, committee hearings and votes at the time of prorogation will have to go back to the starting line in the upper chamber.

From Harper's perspective, that's not entirely a bad thing. He's railed incessantly against the Liberal-dominated Senate holding up or meddling with government legislation. But with the prime minister poised to fill five vacancies as early as this week, the Tories will outnumber Liberals in the Senate by the time Parliament resumes.   

In the long run, that will presumably help speed the passage of the Conservative government's legislation.

Moreover, prorogation breaks the impasse that had developed last month between the government and the Senate over two bills.   

Liberal senators had insisted on amending the Tory tough-on-crime bill to remove mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of growing fewer than 200 marijuana plants. And they insisted on amending a consumer protection bill to shield home-business operators from sweeping search-and-seizure provisions.   

The government was unlikely to accept the Senate amendments. And that set the stage for a potentially prolonged and fruitless game of parliamentary ping-pong, with the two bills bouncing repeatedly back and forth between the two chambers.   

But prorogation means those amendments cease to exist and both bills will head back to the legislative starting line in the Senate.

With files from The Canadian Press