House of Commons adjourns for the year, ending fall sitting early

The House of Commons has adjourned for the year, after MPs unanimously agreed to wrap up the fall sitting a few days early.

While MPs were scheduled to stick around until Friday, after a jam-packed political fall, all sides agreed to finish off their work in the Chamber on Wednesday.

“It’s been a tumultuous few years, and this House has seen a lot and had to grapple with a lot of challenges … I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas break, a very happy new year,” said Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer during a round of year-end remarks from each party that brought the sitting to a close.

It’s not uncommon for MPs to unanimously agree to wrap up their work in Ottawa a few days ahead of the holidays, depending on the status of key government bills, as well as how much tension there is between the parties.

Across Parliament Hill MPs from all parties seemed energized about the early adjournment after five weeks of consecutive sittings. The all-party agreement to bring their fall sitting to a close was met with cheers across the chamber.

“I think that we’ve had a very productive parliamentary session,” Government House Leader Mark Holland told reporters on his way in to a Liberal caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. Reflecting on the fall sitting in the House, Holland also offered his thanks to the staff who ensure the Hill functions and the security officials who are responsible for keeping parliamentarians safe. 

This week’s legislative agenda took somewhat of a backseat after the death of Liberal MP and former minister Jim Carr on Monday. Following question period on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered remarks as part of a tribute to the late politician.

“Jim embodied that unique set of characteristics that distinguish people from the Prairies, his clear headedness, his pragmatism, his decency. Our government will forever be better for it,” Trudeau said as a photo of Carr sat next to a vase of white flowers placed on what had been his desk in the chamber.

WHERE DO KEY BILLS STAND? 

While the Liberals managed to pass most of the legislation they made a priority at the outset of the fall sitting—from the dental and rental benefit bill, to the GST tax credit boost—other bills they wanted to see advance have been mired in political controversy and wrangling over amendments.

For example, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s gun control legislation Bill C-21 is held up at a House committee and faces further scrutiny over a contentious amendment to considerably expand the number of firearms that would be prohibited. MPs are still set to decide on Thursday how to proceed.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mendicino held a press conference backed by a handful of Liberal MPs signalling an effort to take the temperature down around the debate.

“We are very much inviting and embracing of a responsible and civilized debate about how we make sure that we draw the line in the right place,” the minister said. “And so we will continue to take the time that is necessary to make whatever fine tuning to the language of the amendment, to make sure that we get it right.”

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s online streaming legislation Bill C-11 remains before the Senate and is likely destined to be bounced back to the House in the new year given the degree of changes the upper chamber has made.

The last bill to clear the final legislative hurdle in the House was Bill C-18, the online news remuneration legislation. It’s now off to the Senate where it’s unlikely to get far until 2023. The Liberals also tabled two new bills on Wednesday, one seeking to amend the Indian Act to provide new entitlements to registration, and the other to establish the Employment Insurance Board of Appeal. 

While MPs are getting out of Ottawa a bit early, the Senate is scheduled to sit until Dec. 22. However, in anticipation of moving through business, the upper chamber will be convening earlier than usual on Thursday. 

Among the key bills they are set to pass before adjourning for the holidays is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fall economic update implementation legislation, Bill C-32.

LEADERS GIVE SITTING-END SPEECHES

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre kicked off his day with an end-of-sitting speech to his caucus, where he capped off his first stretch of parliamentary work with him at the helm of the party by delivering a laundry list of ways he thinks Trudeau and the federal Liberals are failing and how Conservatives could do better.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh gave his own pre-holiday remarks on Parliament Hill Wednesday afternoon follow his caucus’ meeting.

“So every day of this session, New Democrats have been fighting to deliver help for you and your families,” Singh said. “We fought and delivered victories for people, and we’re going to keep on doing that in the new year.”

Asked about the state of the Liberal-NDP supply-and-confidence deal heading into 2023, Trudeau said both parties are “ambitious” in “trying to get things done for Canadians” amid a tough time.

The prime minister addressed Liberal loyalists at the party’s Christmas confab on Wednesday evening, taking direct aim at his Conservative opponent. “When he says that Canada is broken, that’s where we draw the line,” Trudeau said to applause.

MPs are not scheduled to be back in the nation’s capital until Jan. 30. 

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