Published by Senator Joan Fraser on 25 July 2009
In the July 23 Canwest News Service story in the Leader-Post, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, in reference to Bill C-15, said that, "when it got to the Senate at the beginning of June, we found it impossible to even get them to debate it." Bill C-15, a government bill, concerns drug offences. This allegation utterly distorts the truth.
Bill C-15 took more than three months to pass in the House of Commons, not an unreasonable time for a complex legislative proposal. It arrived in the Senate on June 9. A week later, the Conservative government's sponsor of the bill opened the second-reading debate with a speech on June 16. The opposition critic is the first speaker after the government sponsor of a bill, but it is normal for the opposition to take a few days to consider the government's stated position before speaking. In this case, however, the government side, without warning, tried on June 22 to have a bill sent directly to committee without waiting to hear from the opposition. This was blatantly counter to normal parliamentary practice, and the Senate voted to reject the government's manoeuvre.
The next day, on a motion put by the government leadership, the Senate rose for the summer recess. When we resume sittings in the fall, Bill C-15 will receive normal consideration. No one has suggested that the Senate not proceed with it.
Sen. Joan Fraser is the Liberal chair of the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee.