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Tories forcing delay of government bills, spending as holiday recess nears

OTTAWA — The official Opposition continued to force the delay of government bills and billions in spending on Thursday in an attempt to get the Liberal government to remove the federal carbon-pricing plan from all home heating by the holidays.

The Conservatives are doing this by prompting 135 votes in the House of Commons on Thursday, most of them on the government's estimates.

The party said this will result in round-the-clock voting that will likely last until Friday evening and stall the Liberal agenda as the holiday recess nears.

The Tory votes oppose small amounts of money to billions of dollars in spending that have been earmarked for different government departments.

Some votes oppose from $0 to as little as a loonie in funding for departments and agencies such as Indigenous Services Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Tories launched their campaign to delay government work a day earlier, saying they won't stop until families, farmers and First Nations are exempted from the federal carbon-pricing plan, which they say is increasing the cost of living for those groups.

Also on Wednesday, MPs put forward over 20,000 amendments to an 11-page government bill that aims to create sustainable jobs as part of the transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

NDP MP Charlie Angus, who sits on the natural resources committee where the amendments were proposed, accused the Conservatives of "legislative abuse."

"Under Pierre Poilievre we are seeing goon squad tactics at committees. We're seeing harassment, intimidation," Angus said Thursday.

"I want to put on the record that what is happening in Parliament right now is a very, very dangerous trend. A trend to shut down the work that we do."

In response, a Conservative spokesman pointed to comments Alberta Conservative MP Garnett Genuis made in the House during question period on Thursday.

Genuis had accused the NDP and Liberals of ramming through the bill "under the cover of darkness," calling it an "anti-energy agenda"

The Liberal government believes the Conservative tactics ultimately failed at Wednesday's committee, because many of the 20,000 amendments were similar in nature, meaning there was no need to vote on each of them.

Votes were held on about 200 amendments instead, a process that took eight hours and saw the meeting conclude at 2:30 a.m. ET Thursday. The bill will move ahead.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Conservatives were pulling a stunt, and that Liberal MPs are happy to work late.

Speaking to reporters in the late afternoon, Liberal MPs took the Conservatives to task for voting to keep the House sitting all night, instead of taking a break from midnight to 7 a.m.

Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon said that means putting some ill or elderly members of Parliament through up to a projected 30 hours straight of voting. He noted in French that also affects support staff, such as technicians and security guards.

House Leader Karina Gould accused Poilievre of using the same tactics as the “extreme right wing of the Republican Party” in the United States. “He is leading the charge when it comes to that extreme right-wing agenda,” she said.

Gould also criticized Poilievre for not showing up to the House for the votes himself, noting he was scheduled to be at a fundraiser in Montreal Thursday evening instead.

Eliminating the federal carbon price has been a key policy under Poilievre, who often tours the country holding "axe the tax" rallies.

In October, Trudeau announced a carbon price carve-out for heating oil after months of resisting calls from his Atlantic caucus to provide cost-of-living relief.

The decision came as the issue of affordability is contributing to the Liberals’ plummeting poll numbers among Canadians.

But with that exemption limited to just home heating oil — which is most common in Atlantic Canada — premiers in the Prairies and Ontario immediately cried foul alongside Poilievre.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press