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Trudeau's Senate point man withdraws motion condemned by Tories as 'time allocation on steroids'

Trudeau’s Senate point man withdraws motion condemned by Tories as ‘time allocation on steroids’


Peter Harder, the federal Liberal government’s representative in the Senate, has withdrawn a controversial ‘programming motion’ that had the Conservative opposition up in arms.

There are roughly eight weeks left in the current session before Parliament is scheduled to rise for its summer recess. This is also the last sitting before an expected fall federal election — meaning there is extra pressure on the Liberal government to clear the decks of legislation before it asks voters for another mandate.

Claiming that Tory intransigence had forced his hand, Harder tabled a motion Tuesday that would have curtailed the amount of time the upper house would have to study and debate 11 pieces of government legislation.

The Conservatives slammed the motion as “time allocation on steroids,” calling it a betrayal of the government’s promise to “do politics differently.”

Harder defended the motion, saying it was made necessary by an impasse in his negotiations with Conservative leadership on a timeline for seeing a number of Liberal bills through the Senate before summer.

Today, Harder said he’d reached an arrangement with the Conservatives to make the timeline work. Harder withdrew his motion shortly after question period today, saying only that a deal had been reached on timelines without specifying what those timelines would be.

Some of the bills in question have been in the Senate for more than a year, while others were only recently introduced and are still at early stages of passage through the upper house.

Harder had proposed strict timelines for wrapping up both committee study and third reading debate on the bills, to ensure any amended legislation could be sent to the Commons in early June for review by government and MPs in the lower house.

The bills awaiting passage include some key items of Liberal legislation, such as: Bill C-48, the northern B.C. oil tanker ban; Bill C-69, the overhaul of existing environmental assessment regime for natural resources projects; Bill C-71, changes to the country’s firearms law; Bill C-81, which makes sweeping changes to federal law for people with disabilities; and Bill C-85, the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

It is not the first time Conservative senators have been accused during this parliamentary session of holding up bills, including legislation on trans rights, a gender-neutral O Canada and a ban on holding whales in captivity. The Conservatives maintain that, as the opposition, it’s their job to oppose government business at every turn.

“With the media focused on the prime minister booting two members of caucus, the government quietly put forward a motion that shuts down the abilities of senators to review and question government legislation,” Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the Senate, said of Harder’s motion.

Harder has said senators on all sides of the chamber will have ample time to debate, study and move amendments to the legislation.

‘This is not some schoolyard squabble’

To date, Harder largely has avoided introducing time allocation motions in the Senate. Time allocation is a tool used by all previous government leaders in the Senate to curtail how long members of the upper house can study, debate or amend government legislation. It’s also used frequently in the Commons.

Harder threatened to use the tool on Bill C-45, the government’s cannabis legislation, but backed off after securing a timeline with the Tories.

Speaking in the Senate Wednesday before Harder withdrew his motion, Conservative Manitoba Sen. Don Plett, the party’s whip, said he and Smith have always negotiated in good faith with Harder and his manoeuvre came as a surprise.

“I met with you in your office. We had what I thought was a very collegial conversation about moving legislation forward,” Plett said in question period, addressing Harder. “I kept my part of the bargain. You did not. In complete contradiction of your word to me, you tabled a programming motion that is seven pages long and impacts 11 bills.

“This is not some schoolyard squabble. What you have done impacts the ability to move legislation forward in a manner which respects the traditions, conventions and values of this chamber. Having broken your word to us on this matter, how am I or any other senator in this chamber supposed to trust your word going forward?”

Harder said the “programming approach” should come as no surprise to the Conservative opposition.

“It is my responsibility to prepare for all eventualities, and those preparations have been under way for some time,” Harder said. “Without going into all of the details … let me simply reiterate that I have, over the last number of weeks, spoken about the need to have a programming approach.”





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Brampton man departs to collect remains of 6 family members killed in Ethiopia plane crash

Brampton man departs to collect remains of 6 family members killed in Ethiopia plane crash


Manant Vaidya didn’t sleep at all last night. 

Then early Saturday morning, the Brampton, Ont., man departed for a trip that nobody would want to take.

His parents, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces were all killed last Sunday, when a flight from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa crashed shortly after takeoff. None of the 157 people on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 survived.

“I lost my family,” Vaidya said shortly before boarding a plane at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. “It’s still hard to believe. I’m totally broken.”

Along with his wife and two children, Vaidya is on his way to Ethiopia to collect the remains of his loved ones. Then, he intends to fly to India — where his extended family resides — for final rituals. He has been in frequent contact with officials at both the Canadian and Indian consuls to facilitate transportation of the remains. 

“My priority is to get the closure, to the bodies, to the souls. I want to make sure that they rest in peace,” he said.

Vaidya expects to spend two days in Ethiopia, where he will try to help authorities identify the remains of his family members and visit the field where the Boeing 737 Max 8 slammed into the ground. He said Peel police collected a DNA sample from him on Tuesday that will be used to attempt to distinguish his relatives from the other victims.

He lost his father, Pannagesh Vaidya, 73, and his mother Hansini Vaidya, 67; his sister Kosha Vaidya, 37, and his brother-in-law Prerit Dixit, 45; as well as his two nieces Ashka Dixit, 14, and Anushka  Dixit, 13. The teenage girls, who were both students at schools in Peel, were his sister’s daughters.

From left to right: Ashka Dixit, Prerit Dixit, Kosha Vaidya, and Anushka Dixit. The family was among those killed when a Boeing 737 Max 8 jet crashed in Ethiopia. (Pramesh Nandi/Facebook )

“It’s still unbelievable for me to even digest the news that they are no more,” Vaidya told CBC Toronto. Sometimes he prefers to think that they are still on vacation and that “they are still going to return.”

But he expects the tragic truth of the situation to hit him particularly hard in Addis Ababa.

“Once I get over there, maybe I will face reality. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I just want to get the closure and answers to all my questions about what happened and why it happened.”

Answers, however, could still be far off. A team of investigators in Paris have begun examining the black box recorders recovered from the crash site. Experts say it is too soon to know what caused the crash, but aviation authorities worldwide have grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX 8s and 9s in response.

Flight data has already indicated some similarities with a crash by the same model of plane during a Lion Air flight in October. All 189 people onboard were killed. Both planes crashed within minutes of takeoff after pilots reported problems.

Investigators have notified other families that it could take up to six months to identify their loved ones

Vaidya says he eventually wants clarity about what led to the crash. But for now, he’s focused on his family. In India, he will gather with other relatives to say goodbye to those they have lost.

Six members of this Brampton family are among the dead in Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash. (Garry Asselstine/CBC)



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