Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Prime Minister has decided to prorogue parliament with a new session starting on September 23rd. There will be a Speech from the Throne, followed by a vote of confidence to be called on the government’s update plan for recovery from the economic devastation of COVID-19. The Liberals are likely to try to appeal to the NDP with the Speech from the Throne, to ensure they hold on to power.
Acting quickly on Bill Morneau’s resignation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named Chrystia Freeland the new Minister of Finance (in addition to her current role as Deputy Prime Minister). Dominic Leblanc is the new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and will continue to hold the role of President of the Queen’s Privy Council. While Morneau and Prime Minister Trudeau had their differences on how best to handle the economy and WE scandal, Freeland and Leblanc are both strong supporters of Mr. Trudeau.
In her historic new post, Freeland will lead the safe restart and recovery of our economy and LeBlanc will work with provinces and territories “to ensure the well-being, health, and safety of Canadians from coast to coast to coast,” according to a statement from the PMO. With the government faced with a $343B deficit this year and expectations that the federal debt load will hit $1.2 trillion in 2020-21, she has her work cut out for her.
Effects of prorogation
The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to terminate business. Members are released from their parliamentary duties until parliament is next summoned. All unfinished business is dropped from or “dies” on the order paper and all committees lose their power to transact business, providing a fresh start for the next session. No committee can sit during a prorogation. Bills which have not received Royal Assent before prorogation are “entirely terminated” and, in order to be proceeded with in the new session, must be reintroduced as if they never existed. On occasion, however, bills have been reinstated by a motion at the start of a new session at the same stage they had reached by the end of the previous session; committee work will similarly be revived.
While new laws cannot be made during prorogation, cabinet and bureaucratic business continues, and officials from all parties work out plans for the next session. Whenever the house is not in session, including during prorogation, MPs have a number of other tasks, like connecting with constituents in their home riding. (source: House of Commons Procedure and Practice, edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit).
The government will hold a cabinet retreat in September and the Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23rd to begin a fresh session of the House of Commons. A budget or economic update is planned shortly thereafter.
Regarding engagement, MPs will still be meeting with constituents in their communities. There is a good chance that the government will hold a new round of consultations this fall leading to an economic update or budget. Officials will still be open to have discussions as well. There is an opportunity to engage the new Finance Minister and her office as well.
We will also be watching to see if Chrystia Freeland’s Chief of Staff Jeremy Broadhurst and other staff follow her to her new post. When parliament does finally resume in October the Conservative Party will have elected a new leader, and depending on who wins, may or may not have their leader in the House of Commons. This fall will undoubtedly be a very interesting time politically.
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