With the clock ticking toward the end of the Parliamentary session in Ottawa, the Senate voted yesterday to pass the Trudeau government’s proposed ban on tanker traffic off British Columbia’s sensitive northern coast, while sending its proposed Impact Assessment Act back to the House of Commons with more than 180 amendments.
The outcome on the tanker ban, Bill C-48, “was far from certain after the committee that studied the legislation recommended against passing the Liberal plan,” CBC reports. But the scathing report stickhandled by Transport Committee Chair Sen. David Tkachuk (C, SK) produced pushback from senators who found it overly partisan, and the Red Chamber ultimately rejected the critique on a 38-53 vote. Senators are still expected to amend the bill before sending it back to the House.
Throughout, Tkachuk maintained the bill unfairly targeted one region of the country where the Trudeau government’s electoral prospects are dim, and risked stoking western resentment.
The CBC report recaps the committee’s assessment of the bill and the response it generated. “Independent Quebec Sen. André Pratte said that, while he opposed parts of the tanker ban bill and will offer amendments at the third reading stage, he thought Tkachuk’s report did a disservice to the committee’s deliberations on the legislation,” writes Parliamentary reporter John Paul Tasker. “While many reports are produced with a degree of consensus—with contributions from members of the committee from different parties—the committee’s deputy chair, Independent Quebec Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, said there was so such offer” from Tkachuk.
“He said no to any steering committee, as usual,” she told her colleagues, in a speech urging them to reject the 21-page report. “We were therefore unable to decide in a collegial manner how to go about writing the report. My only priority then became to ensure that whatever report was prepared would be put before the Senate promptly so that we can all vote on it.”
She added that the process “does a disservice to the Senate and does not do justice to the diversity of opinion among the 139 witnesses who appeared before us.”
Independent Sen. Murray Sinclair of Manitoba, the former judge who chaired Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, called the Transport Committee “dysfunctional” given the level of bickering it had produced. “The committee did not appear to be able to get along very well in its work and deliberations, and that causes me concern,” he said, “because now we are being asked to be parties to this report as members of the chamber.”
Independent Quebec Sen. Rosa Galvez said the mood on the committee was “extremely unpleasant” under Tkachuk’s leadership, adding that “a cost-benefit analysis of this report would be absolutely scandalous.” She contended the committee’s travel to British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan “was essentially a waste of time because dissenting voices were all but excluded from Tkachuk’s final report,” CBC reports.
“Overall, I got the feeling that our work was being undermined and even sabotaged,” Galvez said, maintaining that Independent Alberta Sen. Paula Simons, who cast the deciding vote to defeat the bill in committee, was “harassed” to vote a certain way.
“Rather than conducting an in-depth analysis of Bill C-48, of its weaknesses and limitations, so that we could suggest amendments and make observations that could be effective in improving it, we created a hostile and aggressive atmosphere that prevented the legislation from being studied in the best interests of Canadians,” Galvez told senators.
Tkachuk defended the committee report and the travel that preceded it. “This was not a waste of time,” he said. “This was the Senate at its best.”