Ottawa: Government House leader Bardish Chagger is putting her opposition colleagues on notice that the Liberals will be invoking closure on debate in the Commons a lot more often.
The Trudeau government is backing down on some of the more contentious changes that it had been proposing to parliamentary procedure, changes that have had Conservative and NDP critics up in arms for weeks.
But Chagger says the result will require the government to use “time allocation” shutting down debate, essentially more often in order to get things done.
The Liberals had proposed a system called “legislative programming” to schedule times for debates on legislation, but pulled the plug on that idea and several others in a letter Sunday to her opposition colleagues.
“We had hoped there would be a willingness to examine the concept of legislative programming to manage time for debating legislation,” Chagger told the Commons on Monday, the first day back after a two-week hiatus.
Unfortunately that willingness does not exist, and so it is with regret that I inform my colleagues that under these circumstances, the government will need to use time allocation more often to implement the ambitious agenda we were elected to deliver.
“This will be done every time with full transparency.”
On Sunday, Chagger said she would proceed only with those changes promised in 2015 election campaign, including having the prime minister deliver all the responses in one question period each week.
Other proposals the government will implement include changes to how committees operate to give them more power, better financial oversight measures and restrictions on the use of so-called omnibus legislation.
Chagger is letting go of more controversial proposals, which the opposition parties have denounced as an attempt by the Liberals to control the parliamentary agenda and curtail their efforts to hold the government to account.
The battle over reforming the ins and outs of parliamentary procedure had led to a lengthy filibuster at committee, with tensions spilling over into the House of Commons, even delaying the tabling of the federal budget.
Chagger nonetheless warned in her letter that without those reforms, the Liberals will end up having to limit debate in other ways in order to get their legislation through.
Her Conservative counterpart Candice Bergen sounded unmoved by the climbdown, saying the government routinely promises one thing, then proceeds to do something entirely different.
“We now have a House leader who is saying that changes are going to be rammed through that will make this government and this prime minister less accountable,” Bergen said.
She called the government “arrogant” and accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of having “said one thing and done something different on so many levels.”
Chagger, for her part, insisted that all the recommended changes “will allow the government to be held to greater account, not less.”