In my May 25th MP report I speculated on how recent efforts to reform the Senate to become more politically independent could result in the Senate causing significant delays to Government bills that could in turn have the effect of slowing down Parliament. As was speculated Bill C-14, the medical assistance in dying bill, left the House of Commons and it now appears that potentially significant delays could occur to this legislation in the Red Chamber. At issue is that the Senate is in the process of amending the bill while at the same time the Government has indicated its belief that the bill is fine as is, setting the stage for a potential stand-off.
As these stand-offs are somewhat uncommon there is an emerging debate from those who believe that unelected Senators should not be able to derail the legislation of democratically elected Members of Parliament while others point out that the Senate is simply fulfilling its role to provide “sober second thought” to legislation. From my perspective a more independent Senate may well continue to produce more of these types of stand-offs to the extent that the Government may want to further refine its current approach to Senate reform.
Ultimately there is no Parliamentary procedure that exists where Government can force the Senate to pass a bill that is not supported. It is for this reason that historically a Prime Minister will appoint Senators who are members of the Government caucus to help ensure that a democratically elected Government is able to achieve the mandate voters elected them on. In this instance there may be an official conference between the House of Commons and the Senate to try and reach an agreement between the two chambers on Bill C-14. It has been reported that a conference of this type has not been hosted in Parliament for roughly 70 years.
My thoughts on this current impasse? Given the magnitude and importance of a Bill like C-14 it is critically important this legislation receives extensive scrutiny between the two chambers in the hopes the bill can encompass more of the concerns expressed by the public to both Parliamentarians and Senators alike. Ultimately Bills, once passed into law will also be subject to scrutiny from our Supreme Court and many have suggested that Bill C-14 may well be headed in this direction. For the record I supported Bill C-14 after extensive consultations with constituents through my MP reports, several town halls and hearing lots of direct comments and concerns from the citizens of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Although not everyone was supportive of this Bill, I committed that I would listen to constituents and the vast majority I heard from were in support of the bill in recognizing the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize medical assistance in dying.
Finally, a reminder that I am now operating a Mobile Constituency service in Merritt, at the municipal hall on the first Tuesday of each month. As I will be adding additional mobile office service throughout our riding for information please go to my website: www.danalbas.com/mobileoffice . I welcome your comments and concerns and can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.