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Amendments to Legislation

June 7, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Gold, the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Leader, while the Senate debated your government’s request for two pre-studies last Thursday, the House Finance Committee amended Bill C-19, including striking out a complete section of the bill — section 32 of Part 5. Government members supported most of these amendments, including throwing out section 32. The Senate Social Affairs Committee was scheduled to study section 32 on Thursday as part of their pre-study of Bill C-19. It had witnesses lined up, and senators made their travel arrangements accordingly. Less than two hours before the meeting was supposed to start, it was cancelled.

Last week, several senators raised the fact that pre-studying bills that could be amended in the House is a loss of valuable time and resources for the Senate. You brushed aside these concerns by saying that when doing a pre-study, the committee is studying the issues in general, not specifically the bill’s text.

Leader, why do you think the Social Affairs Committee decided to cancel its meeting? Isn’t this proof that we were right that considering pre-studies carries a risk of wasting resources on matters that will no longer be in the bill when the bill gets here?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Thank you for the question. I will resist the obvious response about the use of this chamber’s time.

The fact is that pre-studies for budget implementation bills are a regular practice. The two issues to which you referred have related to different bills.

To your question, it is a measure of the utility of the pre-study of Bill C-19 that the issue about the section which was removed was raised by senators on the committee, indeed, and the views of the Senate were communicated to the government as they always are in these matters. In that regard, rather than a demonstration that it was futile or wrong to do it, this demonstrates the validity of the pre-study, and, I hope, as the pre‑studies that we in this chamber approve will demonstrate as well.

Well, of course, they were set to study the part of the bill that was taken out, so I’m not sure how the Senate gave the instruction before they were even able to study it.

Senator Gold, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, you must have known the government would support deleting section 32 of Bill C-19. It had been discussed at another House committee on May 26, and this was supported by Liberal members there.

Why did you let the Social Affairs Committee organize a meeting on section 32 knowing that it would be deleted?

Senator Gold, you are not just a bystander in this Senate. You and your office have a role to play in making sure that the Senate is efficient and does not waste its time. Why didn’t you give more consideration to the witnesses and committee members?

Senator Gold [ + ]

The senators who were studying this bill, as all senators, I hope — certainly senators with whom I’m familiar — do their homework well before a bill is actually to be studied on the day of the committee hearing. That is the partial answer to the first aspect of your questions, though views of senators were well communicated before the meeting.

As for the rest, I stand by my answer, honourable colleague. This was an example of the Senate working appropriately and collaboratively. As such, the bill that is ultimately passed is the best bill to serve Canadians.

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