NEWS
05/01/2017 12:43 EDT | Updated 05/04/2017 15:05 EDT

Parliamentary reforms: what's gone, what's still on and what might come later

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has backed down on some of its more contentious proposals for changing the ins and outs of parliamentary procedure, while promising to push ahead with the ones in their 2015 campaign platform.

Here is a quick look at where things stand now:

What's gone?

— The Liberals had proposed bringing something in called "programming," modelled after the system used in Britain. It involves scheduling a set amount of time to move government bills through the legislative process. It can bring some predictability, but also means limiting the ability of the opposition parties to surprise and to stall.

— The Liberals also wanted to put a 10-minute cap on the length of time an MP could speak during a committee meeting. The suggestion was meant to cut down on filibustering, although the Liberals said MPs could sign up for as many 10-minute speaking periods as they wished.

— The Liberals had also suggested bringing in electronic voting in order to remove the need for MPs to drop what they are doing and come stand up in the House of Commons every time the bells ring.

What's still on?

— One question period each week would be dedicated to grilling the prime minister. The Liberals have promised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not use it as an excuse to avoid showing up on other days. Trudeau began implementing this practice, without having to change the standing orders, last month, but the Liberals say they want to make sure future prime ministers do it too.

— The Speaker would have the power to allow separate votes and committee studies on different sections of an omnibus bill, which would counter a move by the government to package dozens of unrelated measures into one massive piece of legislation in order to avoid proper scrutiny or force the hand of the opposition parties.

— The Liberals promised they would not prorogue Parliament early as a way to get out of a tricky situation, as the previous Conservative government did in 2008 to avoid a confidence vote. They want to require governments to issue a report explaining their reasons for proroguing as soon as Parliament returns. That report could then be studied at committee and debated in the Commons.

— The Liberals also want to change the schedule for the release of spending estimates so that they reflect measures included in the annual federal budget.

What might come later?

— The Liberals had proposed doing away with sparsely attended Friday sittings, or making Fridays like any other day of the week, with the same hours and business to be done. Now, The Liberals are asking opposition parties to ask their respective caucuses what they think about reallocating the time now spent on Fridays to other days or weeks in the parliamentary calendar.

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