The Trudeau government is shutting down debate on a massive bill to overhaul laws governing federal elections as it rushes to ensure the reforms can be implemented in time for the 2019 election.
After four days of preliminary debate on Bill C-76, the government invoked time allocation to cut off further discussion, force a second reading vote and send the legislation off to committee where it can be examined in depth and amendments can be proposed.
The bill received approval in principle by a vote of 196-85, with support from New Democrats despite their outrage over what they called heavy-handed tactics on legislation dealing with Canada’s most fundamental democratic process.
“This is the height of hypocrisy from the Liberals,” said NDP democratic reform critic Nathan Cullen, noting that Liberals railed against the previous Conservative government when it unilaterally rammed through widely denounced changes to election laws.
“This is a crisis of their own making,” he added, recounting how the government sat on an election law reform bill for 18 months without lifting a finger to move it along, the contents of which have now been rolled into C-76.
Cullen predicted the government will also cut short a committee study and final debate on the bill.
Government House leader Bardish Chagger said it would be “ideal” if the bill could be approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate by the time Parliament breaks for the summer at the end of June — an incredibly tight timeline that would likely necessitate further time limits on study and debate.
“It would be ideal to have royal assent, so hopefully all parliamentarians can work together to strengthen our democratic institutions so that it can be fully in force for the next election,” she said in an interview.