Inside Politics

UPDATED - Stage set for 8-10 hour omnibudget vote-a-thon

UPDATE: It looks like the Commons is facing just one night of round-the-clock voting. 

After discarding the 1,000-plus amendments defeated at committee, as well as others that failed to pass procedural muster, Scheer grouped the remaining motions to allow a maximum of 47 separate votes, which would likely keep members on the feet for just 8-10 hours -- a far more manageable marathon than the 53+ hours required for the first iteration of the omnibudget bill last spring. 


With report stage debate on the omnibudget set to kick off this morning. all eyes will be on House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, who is expected to announce which of the 1,667 omnibudget amendments on the Order Paper will be accepted, and how the ensuing votes will be grouped.

During a somewhat testy exchange on the floor of the Commons yesterday afternoon, New Democrat house leader Nathan Cullen implored the speaker not to exercise his power to bundle together unrelated amendments, noting that such a practice could force members to vote against measures that they actually support, or vice versa.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, however, urged Scheer to ensure "efficiency" by ruling hundreds of amendments out of order, and allowing just ten votes on those deemed admissible -- one for each thematic section of the bill. 

He also suggested that the right of independent members like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to introduce substantive amendments at report stage should radically curtailed by imposing a "test" vote on a single amendment, which, in his view, would demonstrate whether there was any chance of success.

(For her part, May intends to make the case for her 80-odd amendments to the speaker this morning.) 

OotD's prediction, for what it's worth, is that Scheer will follow the same protocol that he employed in grouping motions during report stage of the first iteration of the omnibudget bill last spring, which would likely result in approximately 48 hours of votes -- far less than requested by Cullen, but not as perfunctory as proposed by Van Loan. Stay tuned! 

Before that gets underway, however, May will head to the Centre Block press theatre to give her take on the "key issues for Canada and the world" at the current round of UN climate-change talks in Doha.

Later this morning, the Parliamentary Budget Office will post a report assessing the revisions to the government's fiscal outlook on its website.

Outside the Chamber, the supplementary estimates circuit is in full swing, with six ministers set to appear before their respective home committees: Agriculture and Agrifood, Human Resources, Industry, Procedure and House Affairs -- which will also hear from former Chief Electoral Officer Jean Pierre Kingsley as it continues its study on the government's bill to tighten up the rules on political loans -- Canadian Heritage and Justice.

Government Operations and Estimates, however, must continue to content itself with a passel of senior civil servants, as Treasury Board President Tony Clement has not been able to squeeze even a brief estimates appearance into his schedule.

Ministers who do find time to take questions during this round of requests for extra cash may find themselves queried on the details of the ongoing strategic review by the unquenchably curious Official Opposition, whose members have been making a point of doing so at previous meetings, and will likely continue the strategy throughout the process. (As the review is explicitly referenced in the main estimates document, questions on the specific nature of the spending cuts asterisked in the included projections would seem to be entirely in order, even under the stringent parameters imposed by some Conservative committee chairs.)

Over at Natural Resources, meanwhile, despite a full list of witnesses scheduled to discuss "innovation in the energy sector," today's meeting could well turn into another two hours of wasted time should government members persist in their efforts to pass a motion inviting Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau and former natural resources critic David McGuinty to explain recent comments on Albertan politicians, and the lone Liberal on the committee continue to protest the move by delaying the call of the vote.

Outside the precinct, former Liberal turned Conservative minister David Emerson unveils the results of his review of Canada's aerospace sector, while in a downtown Ottawa hotel, "leading Canadian trade strategist" Peter Clark shares his thoughts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with interested media.

Elsewhere in the capital, the RCMP launches the National Council Against Marihuana [sic] Grow Operations and Clandestine Laboratories.

Finally, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair heads to Vancouver, where he's slated to speak at the BC Federation of Labour convention. 

For up to the minute dispatches from the precinct and beyond, keep your eye on the Parliament Hill Ticker below -- or, alternatively, bookmark it and check back throughout the day. 

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NOTE: Updates added in reverse chronological (newer to older) order.

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