Senate drops amendments, passes bill

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government’s budget bill passed the Senate without amendments Thursday, but the broader dispute over which parliamentary chamber has the right to decide budgetary matters was left unresolved as Parliament shut down for the summer.

Senators voted 50-33 to drop their insistence on amendments to the budget implementation bill, which would have deleted a provision allowing the government to hike the federal excise tax on wine, beer and alcohol every year by the rate of inflation.

But at the same time, they sent a message back to the House of Commons, reminding MPs that the Senate is constitutionally empowered to amend any legislation “whatever its nature or source.”

Their message was in response to the government’s rejection of the Senate amendments because they ”infringe upon the rights and privileges” of the Commons.

That assertion, sent in a message to the Senate on Wednesday after passing unanimously in the Commons, echoed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s contention that only the elected chamber of Parliament has the right to make decisions on budgetary matters and that appointed senators therefore have no business trying to rewrite the budget.

Senators countered that the Constitution prohibits the appointed upper house from initiating a money bill, but does not stop it from amending — or even defeating — one.

Even the government’s representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, who had been urging senators to defer to the will of the elected chamber, agreed with the need to reaffirm the Senate’s powers to amend, even if it ultimately did not exercise those powers on the budget bill.

“We asserted our rights as a Senate, as an institution, with respect to our role and responsibilities on all legislation,” he said, emphasizing the word “all.”

“Our message is one that I very much support.”

However, government House leader Bardish Chagger declined to say whether she accepts that message or by what authority the government contends the Senate does not have the power to amend budget bills. Instead, she repeatedly made the point that the budget itself was passed by both houses of Parliament and that the budget implementation bill simply gave effect to it.

Nevertheless, Chagger listed the “healthy dialogue” with the Senate among the government’s accomplishments in the spring sitting of Parliament.

“Already we have shown we can work together in adopting Senate recommendations on bills such as the response to the opioid crisis and to amending our citizenship law,” she said.

The Senate’s message was supported by all independent Liberals and independent senators in the chamber, including a number of those who had raised significant concerns about the budget bill and had originally supported the Senate amendments.

Conservative senators — the single largest group in the Senate and the only group to remain openly partisan — voted against standing down on the amendments. And they suggested the vote demonstrated that the others are not truly independent.

“I think clearly we’ve seen in the last few days Trudeau’s appointments are doing what is expected of senators when they get appointed by a certain prime minister. They support his agenda,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos.

“How independent are independents?” questioned fellow Tory Sen. Raynell Andreychuk.

But independent Sen. Andre Pratte, who had unsuccessfully attempted to divide the budget bill to separate out provisions creating the new infrastructure bank, said he and other independents believe they must ultimately defer to the Commons “unless it’s an exceptional circumstance … where fundamental rights of Canadians would be at play.”

“This is not such a case,” he said, pointing out that an excise tax “is not a matter of life and death.”

“We are appointed. Our role is to suggest amendments, to alert Canadian public opinion, but it’s not to defeat … a bill that has the support of the elected House.”

Sen. Elaine McCoy, co-ordinator of the independent senators’ group, suggested senators should stand firm only in exceptional cases where Canadians’ charter rights are violated or where they disagree with a declaration of war.

Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Christmas season in Red Deer begins with Festival of Trees

The kickoff to the Christmas season in Red Deer is upon us.… Continue reading

Judge allows Mr. Big evidence in murder trial

Two men accused of triple-murder admitted their involvement to undercover police

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

Four people arrested after gas and dash

Four people were arrested after an alleged gas and dash in two… Continue reading

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month