House of Commons passes Emergencies Act motion after fractious debate
The House of Commons has passed a motion to approve extraordinary, time-limited measures in the Emergencies Act, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked last week in a bid to end blockades in Ottawa and at several border crossings.
Vote on Emergencies Act becomes unofficial matter of confidence in governmentMia Rabson
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 21, 2022 4:35AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 21, 2022 4:21PM EST
OTTAWA -- With hours to go before a vote on the federal Liberals' use of the Emergencies Act to end anti-government blockades in Ottawa and several border crossings, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is confident the votes are there to approve the measures.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh seemed to confirm that fact midday when he said the situation is a national crisis and his party would reluctantly support the ongoing use of temporary powers under the law.
Singh said his party would pull support as soon as it decides the measures are no longer necessary, including if remaining convoy members stopped lingering in Ottawa and near border crossings.
If the motion fails, the extraordinary powers stemming from emergencies law would be torn up. If it passes, the measures would remain in place until mid-March at the latest.
In either case, a parliamentary committee must review and report back on the use of the act within a year.
But there were signs Monday that the vote has turned into a confidence matter, meaning if it fails, the government could fall, which would trigger an election.
Singh said his party has always seen the vote as a confidence matter.
Trudeau has not officially designated the vote as such, but he opened the door to that interpretation earlier Monday by likening the decision to that on the throne speech, which lays out the government's agenda.
"I can't imagine that anyone who votes 'no' tonight is doing anything other than indicating that they don't trust the government to make incredibly momentous and important decisions at a very difficult time," he said at a news conference.
Trudeau said the government doesn't want to trigger an election, calling it "the worst thing to do in this crisis," and adding "we will never allow that to happen."
Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said he might have voted against continuing to use the act now that the blockades had ended, but would vote yes because he has no interest in helping trigger an election.
Bloc Quebecois MP Martin Champoux said making it a confidence matter undermined the validity of the vote because it was "twisting the arm" of people who might otherwise disagree.
Many Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs spoke against invoking the act on Monday, and over the last few days as the House of Commons sat for extended hours through the weekend.
Ontario Conservative MP Michael Barrett said during Saturday's debate that invoking the Act was just a "mad grab at power" because the charges being laid against people arrested were not new laws.
"The charges that are being laid in Ottawa are for mischief and conspiracy to commit," he said. "We do not require an Emergencies Act to deal with these things. We have a public order operation taking place on the streets of Ottawa. It is not an national emergency."
Fellow Ontario Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said on Twitter Sunday the Liberals should rein their use of the act now that the demonstrations appear over.
"If it was just about clearing the blockage and not about a power grab and government over reach, the Liberals would rescind these measures," she said.
There is some disagreement within the Conservatives about the blockades or demonstrations themselves, and whether they were truly a problem.
Former leader and Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer questioned on Twitter if it could be called an occupation: "MPs and staff moved freely in and out of every one of those buildings for weeks. So again, which one of those buildings were occupied?"
Edmonton MP Ziad Aboultaif said using the act was overkill to stop what amounted to some illegally parked vehicles.
"It is using the most draconian piece of legislation at its disposal to fix a parking problem in downtown Ottawa," he said.
Trudeau said a week ago he was invoking the act for the first time since it passed in 1988 because police needed extra help to end blockades that had been ongoing in downtown Ottawa for weeks.
On Feb. 15, regulations were unveiled under the act to turn tow trucks into essential services, require banks to freeze accounts of people participating directly or indirectly in the protest, and designate no-go zones for public gatherings, including Parliament Hill.
Singh said Monday the act was needed because all three levels of government failed to take the threat posed by the convoy seriously until it was too late.
"That brought us to this moment," he said at a virtual news conference. "And so in response to that failure of leadership to take this seriously, we believe now the measures put in place are taking this threat seriously, and are helping to address the serious crisis. Our support from the beginning has always been reluctant. We were reluctant because it should have never got to this point."
The Senate must also vote on the act's use and intends to do so over the next three days.