Before we get started, the obligatory spoiler alert: Despite their ongoing efforts to frustrate the government’s last-minute scramble to push its most high-priority legislative initiatives through the House of Commons ahead of the looming summer recess, it appears that the Conservatives are not prepared to use their last opposition day of the sitting to trigger the most politically high-stakes parliamentary gambit.
As of Wednesday morning, there’s not a single motion on the order paper that would constitute a question of confidence, either directly or implicitly, although MPs will get at least one more chance to formally revoke it during the final round of estimates votes.
That doesn’t mean Team Trudeau is going to get off easy, however.
Among the latest additions to the shortlist of available options for Thursday’s day-long debate: A call for the House of Commons to “formally censure” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to “express (its) disappointment in his conduct,” which, it contends, includes “misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS, misleading Canadians about his service record, presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman (and) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations.”
If adopted, the motion, which stands in the name of party leader Erin O’Toole, would be binding, at least in the sense that the censure would be officially noted on the House record, although it’s not entirely clear what, if any, other consequences could ensue.
(A quick check of the parliamentary bible suggests that individuals censured in the past have been called to the Bar to have the resolution read to them in person, but in most cases, that seems to have brought the matter to a close.)
Also on notice today: A revised — and significantly expanded — version of a motion put forward by Conservative MP Michael Chong last month, which would have requested that the government “table a report regarding its opinion on the origins of COVID-19.”
Under the terms of the new motion, that request would become a formal order of the House for “all briefing notes and documents relating to the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China,” with a 30-day deadline to deliver the material to the House, at which point it would be automatically referred to the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
Meanwhile, given the ongoing refusal of the government to comply with a previous order to produce unredacted documents related to the firing of two scientists from the National Microbiology Laboratory, and the multiple questions of privilege filed as a result that are still under consideration by the speaker, Conservative MP Michael Barrett has come up with a contingency plan to allow for emergency summer sittings to ensure that the House “may discharge its constitutional responsibility of holding the government to account and defend its constitutional rights and privileges during the forthcoming summer adjournment.”
Finally, his caucus colleague James Cumming has also filed a motion to recall the House over the summer hiatus — specifically, after the release of the next Labour Force Survey, which is due on July 9, to kick off three days of committee-style question-and-answer sessions to “review the progress” made towards the “only serious economic metric” in the most recent federal budget: namely, to “create one million jobs by the end of June 2021.”
As always, the Conservatives will have until Wednesdayt afternoon to make the final call on which motion to bring before the House on Thursday — and, as always, while that usually ends up being one of the more recent additions to the order paper, they can also circle back to an earlier proposal that was duly put on notice, but not called for debate.