Bill C-38 Amendments FAQ

On Monday, June 11th, 2012 in Press Releases

Q: How many amendments has Elizabeth May made to Bill C-38?

A: Elizabeth May proposed 330 amendments before the deadline of June 9th.  Of those, 320 were deemed admissible for debate at what is called report stage.

 

Q: What kind of amendments were written by Elizabeth May?

A: Fewer than three dozen amendments are called ‘deletions’, where Elizabeth May removed the worst clauses in Bill C-38.  The other 290 amendments are called ‘substantive’, where clauses are re-written or changed to make meaningful improvements to the legislation.

 

Q: Why are there so many amendments?

A: The vast majority of bills are much smaller in size.  Some have as few as a half dozen clauses.  However, Bill C-38 is over 400 pages in length, with in excess of 700 clauses, affecting over 70 laws. Bill C-38 is so large that Elizabeth May had to write over 300 amendments to try and improve how this bill is written.

 

Q: Where can I view Bill C-38 and Elizabeth May’s amendments?

A: The legislation can be found on the Parliament of Canada website:

http://parl.gc.ca/content/hoc/Bills/411/Government/C-38/C-38_1/C-38_1.PDF

Elizabeth May’s amendments can be found on her MP website:

http://elizabethmaymp.ca/parliament/legislative-amendments/2012/06/09/amendments-to-bill-c-38/

 

Q: Have other opposition parties offered amendments?

A: Yes. However, at this stage of the legislative process, they can only offer ‘deletions’.

 

Q: Why can other opposition parties offer only deletions and Elizabeth May can do more?

A: Because Elizabeth May as a Leader of the Green Party and Green party member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, does not have a Parliamentary caucus at this time (one requires 12 MPs), she is not permitted to sit on committees.

Opposition parties who are represented on committees may offer ‘substantive’ amendments at that time, but not after. ‘Deletions’ cannot be presented at committee stage, which is why they are being presented now, at report stage.

To ensure all MPs have the opportunity to offer improvements to legislation, political parties without a Parliamentary caucus can offer ‘substantive’ amendments at report stage.  This includes Elizabeth May.

 

Q: What happens now?

A: Final debate on Bill C-38 should start on June 12th and last three days, until June 15th.  During that time, the Speaker of the House of Commons should rule on Elizabeth May’s Point of Order (http://elizabethmaymp.ca/parliament/legislative-amendments/2012/06/09/amendments-to-bill-c-38/), asking him to throw out Bill C-38 on grounds that it is not a true omnibus bill and is ‘imperfect’.

If the Speaker rules against Elizabeth May, voting on all opposition amendments should start late Wednesday.

 

Q: How many votes will there be?

A: There are over 870 amendments to Bill C-38 before Parliament.  Thus, at most, there will be about 870 votes.  However, the Speaker has the power to group amendments that appear to be similar in nature. For example, he could lump all of the ‘deletions’ together, which could reduce the number of votes to around 300.

 

Q: How long should voting take?

A: Assuming it takes about 15 minutes for each vote to be cast, and if there are 300 amendments, it will take just over three days for voting to be completed.  If there are 870 votes, even if each vote took only 10 minutes each, it would last six days!

 

Q: Six days of voting? Couldn’t MPs just sit in the House of Commons later to speed this up?

A: Once voting starts, it continues 24/7 until it is done, including weekends and holidays.  Unless MPs give unanimous consent to a motion that somehow ends the process early, the vote will continue until completed.

 

Q: Sitting at their seat for three to six days?  Don’t they have to eat? Sleep?  Shower? Go to the washroom?!?!

A: Yes they do, and MPs can skip a vote, or multiple votes, to do exactly that.  However, with a majority of only a dozen MPs, if thirteen Conservative MPs missed a vote and ALL opposition parties were present, it’s possible that an amendment can pass.

 

Q: So, if the Speaker groups similar amendments together, does that mean the vast majority of votes will be based on Elizabeth May’s amendments?

A: Yes.

 

Q: Wait!! I thought Elizabeth May, as the one MP for the Green Party, has no real power in Parliament.  But, she can do more now than other opposition parties with a Parliamentary caucus.  How is that possible??

A: Many are surprised when they hear just how much a single MP can accomplish.

One single MP can:

  • Influence the course of debate by denying unanimous consent;
  • Fully participate in debate and Question Period;
  • Bring forward meaningful amendments to improve legislation: and
  • Truly represent his or her constituents and not a political master who ‘whips’ their vote.

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