The vital role of the Senate as the Chamber of “Sober Second Thought” became abundantly clear with the introduction of the Federal Accountability Act, then Bill C-2. This piece of legislation was a cornerstone of the Conservative Party of Canada’s agenda upon assuming government.
The Federal Accountability Act was the first piece of legislation the Conservative government introduced into the House of Commons on taking office in 2006. It was a 210-page piece of legislation which contained very serious flaws.
The breadth of Bill C-2, while not unprecedented, is certainly rare in Canadian parliamentary history and tradition. It contained 314 clauses and amended more than 45 statutes. Numerous errors and problems were uncovered during hearings by the House of Commons Legislative Committee, and over 280 individual amendments were proposed during that committee’s study. Even when the bill was received by the Senate, it contained numerous problems.
Despite the declaration by Minister John Baird that the bill had already been “examined with a microscope” by his colleagues in the House of Commons and by “a team of government lawyers,” the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee undertook a serious examination of this important bill. In particular, it wanted to ensure that those Canadians who wished to be heard would be given a full opportunity to express their views – something denied to many witnesses by the rushed hearing schedule imposed in the House of Commons Legislative Committee.
The Senate Committee held 30 hearings on Bill C-2 and heard from158 witnesses. On the basis of the testimony it heard, the Committee made 252 amendments to the Bill. These included close to 50 amendments put forward by the government itself to correct some of the mistakes and inconsistencies it had made in its haste to push the legislation through the House of Commons.
See below for more information about Liberal Senate Caucus and the Federal Accountability Act.