The 44th edition of the Canadian Parliament returns Monday after its winter break — and the Liberal government has just a few days to deliver on promises for its first 100 days in office.
Those first 100 days of the government’s new mandate end on Thursday, assuming the clock started ticking on Oct. 26, 2021, when cabinet ministers were sworn in.
Among legislation promised but not yet introduced are bills to combat online hate; to regulate foreign web giants; and to better protect Canada’s critical infrastructure, including 5G networks.
The Liberal government delivered on several promises during the House’s first session last fall.
Several pieces of legislation introduced during that session have already become law, including a ban on conversion therapy, the introduction of 10 days of paid sick leave for workers in federally regulated workplaces, and new criminal penalties for blocking access to health-care services or intimidating health-care workers or patients.
Mark Kennedy, director of communications for Government House leader Mark Holland, said in a statement the government was looking forward to moving ahead with its agenda.
“The House was very productive in the fall sitting, and we believe that with continued collaboration among parties, we can accomplish many things for Canadians in the coming weeks.”
One question going into the week was whether major protests in Ottawa over the weekend could complicate the return of the Commons. The prime minister’s official itinerary indicates that parliamentary business is expected to proceed as scheduled. It also notes he will be attending Question Period and a take-note debate on the situation in Ukraine virtually.
In a statement, Holland’s office did not indicate changes would be made because of the disruption on the Hill.
“We’ve already passed a motion that gives MPs the flexibility to work in a hybrid House in this sitting — which remains in effect until June. Some MPs will be in the chamber on Monday and beyond, and others will participate virtually.”
Another battle looms over internet regulations
One of the most contentious pieces of legislation introduced by the Liberal government before the 2021 election was a proposal to alter Canada’s Broadcasting Act to better regulate online content.
That legislation, known then as Bill C-10, died on the order paper when the election was called, meaning the re-elected Liberal government must start the process from scratch if it hopes to turn the bill into law.
Those who opposed C-10 are already preparing for a fight if and when a new version of the bill is introduced.
A new version of the bill will likely arrive soon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez to reintroduce that legislation in a December mandate letter.
John Nater, the Conservative heritage critic, has urged the government to abandon the bill entirely over concerns that it would infringe on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.
Bill C-10 would have the extended powers of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to include user-generated content uploaded to social media platforms.
Critics have said those powers are too broad and could prevent Canadians from exercising their right to free speech online.
During a recent panel-style interview with several journalists at CBC News, Google’s chief legal officer Kent Walker highlighted several issues with the proposed legislation, including the possibility of stricter content regulation.
“With very credible concerns still left unanswered, and experts warning of the dangers to
Canadians’ rights and freedoms, your government chose to push this legislation forward,” Nater wrote in a letter to Rodriguez.
Ottawa still pushing move to repeal mandatory minimum sentences
The government can also be expected to move on its bill to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for 14 separate offences in the criminal code.
Advocates have long argued that mandatory minimum sentences disproportionately target marginalized groups including Black and Indigenous people.
The government introduced legislation to make that change before the winter break, but it has not yet cleared a second reading in the House of Commons.
The Conservatives have identified the cost of living as their priority for the upcoming session, in line with the persistent arguments they made before the winter break. In a statement, Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell also noted his party would hold the government to account on housing affordability and its “divisive approach.”
“Canada’s Conservatives will continue to hold this cover-up prone government to account, and be the voice of Canadians left behind by Justin Trudeau,” Deltell said.
The NDP’s list of priorities for the upcoming session largely reflect the party’s election platform, with a focus on climate change, affordable housing and more funding for health care.
“As Parliament resumes … New Democrats remain focused on helping Canadians get through the pandemic and helping people get back on their feet,” said NDP whip Rachel Blaney in an email.
The House is scheduled to sit until Feb. 18.