Controversial legislation to overhaul the Canadian Grain Commission was among the legislation wiped out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to prorogue the current session of Parliament.
The bill faced a bumpy ride through Parliament from the opposition parties, even if Harper does fill Senate vacancies with Conservative supporters.
Introduced last spring, the bill was punted out of bounds for six months by the opposition but revived briefly last fall. However, the government withdrew it rather than let it come to a vote that would have spelled its defeat.
The bill can be reintroduced after Parliament resumes in March. It would end the requirement for inbound inspections of grain at terminals and introduce a new system for compensating producers if a grain buyer goes into default. The government has yet to release details of the new system.
It’s unlikely Harper even considered the bill when he decided to end the second session of the 40th Parliament. Halting embarrassing questions about the transfer of Afghan prisoners and waiting for more Liberal senators to reach mandatory retirement age undoubtedly were the main motivators.
Another casualty of Harper’s move may well be the Commons agriculture committee’s study on the competitiveness of Canadian farmers. Also, the trade committee was examining the government’s defence of supply management at World Trade Organization negotiations. The committees will have to be recreated after Parliament resumes in early March.
The new session may bring about a long-rumoured bill to amend the Canadian Wheat Board’s voters’ list, which has been under discussion among the CWB and farm groups for several months.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is also expected to present legislation to overhaul the Canadian Food Inspection Agency along the lines that listeria investigator Sheila Weatherill recommended last summer.
The government will bring back legislation to ratify free trade agreements with Colombia and Jordan, both of which are supported by farm organizations. The NDP has filibustered the planned Colombian agreement.
The end of the session was also a crushing setback for Manitoba MP Candice Hoeppner, who managed to get her private member’s bill ending the long-gun registry through the Commons. Now she will have to begin again.
Whatever Harper’s motives, prorogation was used by previous prime ministers wanting to give their government a fresh start. It was often accompanied by a cabinet shuffle but there’s no word yet that Harper is planning any changes in his ministers.
While Parliament was set to resume in mid-January, it was also set to shut down for two weeks during the Olympic Games in Vancouver, scheduled for Feb. 12 to 28.