Parliament will sit at least until July to pass the massive and sweeping omnibus Federal Accountability Act if necessary, says the Chief Government Whip.
Jay Hill (Prince George-Peace River, B.C.) told The Hill Times that the government is "optimistic" Bill C-2 will receive Royal Assent before the House rises, but also said he's not counting out the possibility of sitting in July.
"Look at how well this Parliament has worked so far," he said late Friday afternoon. "All parties are working together, for example, in amendments on the Speech From the Throne. I'm quite optimistic that we can get this done. I don't want to put the cart before the horse, but we're hopeful it will get passed before July. "We hope the committee will work diligently and plough through at a good pace and get it to the Senate."
Note to Mr. Hill, the opposition will pass the legislation when its good and ready. The Accountability Act is absolutely massive and complex, so it is quite reasonable to want a considerable debate and examination. The Conservatives seem intent on bullying the opposition to move on their timetable, which is a clear detachment from reality. The opposition has two choices, standup to the intimidation or risk being marginalized as though it were a majority.
Everyone knows the opposition doesn't want to go to the polls, but that doesn't translate into the Conservatives chomping at the electoral bit. The government is becoming increasingly obnoxious in its tone and demands, as a result of their calculation that the opposition will not dare to defy. Given the fact that the Accountability Act is receiving substantial criticism from all quarters (perpetual cheerleader John Crosbie even wrote a negative piece), there exists an opportunity for the opposition to push back. Does Harper really want increased scrutiny for this flawed package? You could argue that this is exactly why the government wishes to push the bill through quickly, but if the opposition resists the contentious points are magnified.
How the opposition responds to the arrogance of the minority, will set the tone for the entire length of this parliament. If Harper wants to draw a line in the sand over this Accountability Act, call the bluff and take the chance. I suspect the tough rhetoric will be replaced by tepid accomodation, as the government fears the appearance of forcing an election over this complicated legislation. Tell Mr. Hill that the opposition is ready to sit all summer and fall until they get the legislation right. Such is the reality of a fragile minority and don't let the bulls forget it.