John Ivison: O’Toole’s pro-Canada speech may resonate with voters tired of apologies
Erin O’Toole’s leadership pledge to “take back Canada” was viciously lampooned. “Indigenous folks, did you hear Erin O’Toole wants to give you your land back,” quipped one social media satirist. The slogan may have helped O’Toole get elected leader but its Trumpian undercurrent ensured it was retired after he decided to present a more moderate image to Canadians. O’Toole has since released his five–point recovery plan – one million jobs; a new anti-corruption law; a mental health action plan; a stockpile of essential products and vaccines, and, balancing the budget over the next decade – to a collective yawn across the country.
© Michaela Neuman Photography Participants in Calgary's 2019 Pride parade carried banners calling for conversion therapy to be banned.
If C-6, the government bill to ban conversion therapy, dies on the order paper this summer, it'll be due to some combination of politics and circumstances.
But if it's still possible to save the bill, time is quickly running short.
"Bill C-6 is a common-sense piece of legislation. It's fundamentally about safety. It's fundamentally about prohibiting torture and child abuse," said Nicholas Schiavo of the advocacy group No Conversion Canada.
"This should be a non-partisan slam dunk, for all parliamentarians."
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© Europe 1 How to react to European states displaying an openly homophobic policy? Saturday, the day of the pride, Jean-Luc Romero was the guest of Europe 1 to make an inventory of the fight against discrimination with regard to the LGBTQI + community. on the occasion of the pride march, Saturday, Jean-Luc Romero, Deputy City Human Rights, Integration and Fight against Discrimination, was the Guest of Europe 1.
Schiavo is planning a last-ditch letter-writing campaign to call on the Speaker of the Senate to recall the upper chamber to deal with the bill this summer.
"When I think about the victims of conversion therapy practices, I think it's unacceptable to not be able to pass this bill," said Sen. René Cormier, C-6's sponsor in the upper chamber.
Cormier said he's pretty sure the bill won't pass this summer, but acknowledges that there could still be time.
It is widely assumed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will seek an election call before Parliament's scheduled return in late September. The dissolution of Parliament would kill C-6 and force any future proposal to ban conversion therapy to start over from the beginning of the legislative process.
Senate rises for summer with conversion therapy ban, broadcasting reforms left in limbo
Canada's Senate rose for its summer break late Tuesday after members of the upper house pushed through two key pieces of government legislation — but two other bills failed to get through in time, including a ban on so-called conversion therapy and a controversial plan to overhaul the Broadcasting Act. Senators passed C-12, the government's "climate accountability" legislation, which would force current and future federal governments to set binding climate targets to get Canada to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The upper house passed it with a vote of 60-19, with two abstentions. All Conservative senators voted against the bill.
But the government's pursuit of a ban has suffered from bad timing from the start. An earlier version of the current bill was tabled on March 9, 2020. Days later, the full weight of the pandemic came crashing down on the country and Parliament. The only legislation that passed in the subsequent six months involved either funding the government or responding to COVID-19.
Prorogation and postponement
In August, as opposition MPs were chasing the Liberals over the WE Charity affair, the government prorogued Parliament. The House reconvened on September 23 — two days later than originally planned — and the government re-tabled the proposed ban on October 1. C-6 quickly passed through second reading that month and the justice committee completed its review of the bill in December.
But then it stalled. The government didn't bring C-6 forward for debate again until April. Then there was a prolonged debate at third reading as multiple Conservative MPs stood to speak to the legislation.
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It has been argued that blame for these delays is shared by all parties. All business bogged down in the House this spring (the parliamentary schedule has become a regular source of needless conflict over the last decade). It's fair to ask whether the government could have moved faster to pass C-6. But it's also fair to say Conservatives were willing to drag things out.
The bill had widespread support at second reading — only seven MPs, all Conservative, voted against. But there were more naysayers when C-6 came back to the House. With some critics claiming the bill would criminalize conversations between children and parents or clergy, 62 Conservative MPs — more than half of Erin O'Toole's caucus — ended up opposing the bill.
But by passing the bill on June 22, the House gave the Senate very little time to deal with C-6 before Parliament's summer adjournment. The government moved to a motion to have the Senate sit until June 29 — long enough to pass the government's budget bill and climate accountability legislation — but C-6 was left behind. © Chris Lewis, Dale Molnar/CBC, Marilyn Gladu Conservative MPs Chris Lewis of Essex, Dave Epp of Chatham-Kent-Leamington and Marilyn Gladu of Sarnia-Lambton were among 63 MPs in their party to oppose Bill C-6 at third reading. The bill seeks to criminalize conversion therapy.
Sen. Marc Gold, the government representative in the Senate, made a last-minute request to allow a Senate committee to continue meeting virtually to study C-6. It was denied. Conservative Senate leader Don Plett subsequently accused the government of both "playing politics" and "incompetence." (Plett shares the concerns raised by some critics of the bill.)
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Two days later, Sen. Gold came forward with a plan to allow the bill to be studied and voted on in July. But agreement among the Senate's disparate groups remains elusive.
"Unfortunately, it has been made clear to me that some in the Senate have no intention of finding agreement on the timeline, to approve virtual committee meetings, or to launch hybrid Senate sittings to maintain health and safety standards for senators and staff, and to ensure fair and equitable participation and voting for senators who cannot be physically present in Ottawa," Sen. Gold said in a statement last week.
There is no immutable law that says Parliament needs to take nearly three months off each summer. Sen. Gold could ask the Speaker of the Senate to recall senators at any time. But Gold apparently wants agreement on an agenda before he does so. Further complicating matters is the fact that a previous agreement that allowed the Senate to meet virtually during the pandemic expired on June 30.
In comments to the Toronto Star this week, the office of Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc blamed Conservative senators for the lack of a path forward. Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos has said that the fact the Senate isn't sitting is entirely the government's fault.
O’Toole gave supporters and other party insiders taxpayer-funded contracts
Individuals and entities connected with O'Toole's leadership campaign won $237,00 worth of taxpayer-funded contracts from O'Toole's office during his first six months in office. Erin O’Toole's office gave nearly $240,000 worth of taxpayer-funded contracts to Conservative insiders in his first six months on the job, Global News has learned, even while O'Toole and many of his MPs were hammering the Trudeau Liberals for sending taxpayer-funded contracts to Liberal-connected firms.
© Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press Sen. Leo Housakos and other Conservatives have said the Trudeau government is entirely to blame for the plight of C-6.
It is always tempting to speculate about political motives. Maybe neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives would entirely mind if the bill failed in a way that would allow them to point fingers at each other. It's also true that an election might only delay a ban on conversion therapy; if the Liberals remain in government, they could bring a new bill forward this fall.
But it's hard to see how the failure of C-6 would be a clear win for any party — and any short-term political advantage would be dwarfed by the potential real life benefits of the legislation.
In its new, independent form, the Senate is harder to control and more prone to close review of legislation. In a previous era, it would have been easier to argue that the Senate should have simply passed C-6 with little to no review. © Roger Cosman/CBC Independent Sen. Paula Simons says C-6 would pass if it were introduced in the Senate tomorrow.
"The Senate is not a rubber stamp," said independent Sen. Paula Simons, who delivered an emotional speech about C-6 when it arrived in the Senate.
There might be just enough time to do a meaningful review and vote on the bill before an election is called. The House of Commons might have to be recalled to deal with any proposed amendments.
"If we were recalled tomorrow to vote, the bill would pass," Simons said.
That makes it even harder to justify failing to deal with this bill over the next few weeks.
"For LGBTQ Canadians and for survivors, quite honestly we're not interested in partisanship," Schiavo said. "We have heard from every group in the Senate that no one is interested in playing partisan games, no one's interested in making this political, and I think that's a great message. But then let's get it done."
John Ivison: Conservative platform is substantial, in parts inventive, and occasionally frivolous .
Justin Trudeau has not so much wedged Erin O’Toole as wedgied him. The Liberal requirement that domestic travellers and the federal public service be vaccinated has forced O’Toole to talk about something on which he’d rather not be drawn. At first the Conservative leader said that, while he supports vaccination, people should make their own decision. Later, he issued a revised position, stating a Consevative government would require passengers to present a negative test result or take a rapid test. Public servants not vaccinated would need to take a daily rapid test — not an unreasonable stance, given it conforms with current Treasury Board guidelines.