Committee filibuster over changes to House of Commons rules to resume Monday, opposition MPs say

When Parliament returns after a week's break tomorrow, opposition MPs are vowing to continue their marathon attempts to talk out the legislative clock in their effort to derail the Liberal government's plans to reform how the House of Commons operates.

NDP and Tory MPs on the procedure and House affairs committee spoke virtually nonstop last week from Tuesday until Friday to prevent the Liberal majority on the committee from passing a motion that would put a deadline on recommending changes to how MPs make laws.

"Until the government moves away from their power grab we're going to be staying in this major filibuster that the government has brought on," said NDP MP David Christopherson.

That pledge was echoed by Conservative MP Scott Reid, who said he wants the Liberal government to treat reforms to how the House works in the same way previous governments have.

Don't like the deadline

"Unless the Liberals are willing to drop their motion to push through all changes to the standing order by June the 2nd, the filibuster will continue," he said.

So far the proceedings have been suspended on occasion, allowing MPs to vote and sleep, but otherwise Conservative and NDP MPs have taken turns talking out the clock.

It all began March 10 when Liberal House Leader Bardish Chagger introduced a discussion paper proposing ideas on how to reform the workings of the House, parliamentary debates and committees.

Liberal MP Scott Simms, who sits on the committee, introduced a motion asking the MPs to study the government's paper over the next two months and report back with recommendations in June.

The opposition is upset with the deadline, arguing that the Liberals can then use their majority on the committee to rubberstamp the proposals in Chagger's paper, eventually leading to them becoming Parliament's new rules, without all-party consent.

"This government wants to take the ability to change the rules of how we operate in the House of Commons and instead of it being all-party agreement, they want the ability to ram rule changes through using their own majority, and right now the fight is on that issue," Christopherson said.

"We've got a Liberal government that is supposed to be transparent and fair and respect committees, and what they want to do is grab the absolute unilateral right to change the rules with their votes only, even if the united opposition is opposed," he added. "That can't stand."

Proper review needed

Reid said that, in the past, changes to the rules for how the House operates and how laws are made required the agreement of all parties in the Commons.

"The government can spring legislation upon us, rush it through before the opposition and the Canadian public have had a chance to focus on it and change the way Canada operates without proper review," Reid said.

The Liberal proposals include: 

- Changing question period to dedicate one session each week to questions for the prime minister.

- Eliminating Friday sittings.

- Reorganizing debate, in a way that the opposition says will limit its ability to hold the government to account.

Chagger said the discussion paper is simply meant to "add to the conversation" that Canadians want to have about how the country is governed and to help make Parliament more "accountable, effective and transparent."

"To be clear, the discussion paper contains ideas on how to improve the House of Commons and is meant to encourage a conversation, among members from all sides of the House, on this important issue," Chagger said in an email to CBC.

"We would like to hear from all MPs about how they think the House of Commons can be improved."

The committee resumes sitting Monday at noon.