Senate holding up Liberal budget bill is the Senate Justin Trudeau envisioned, he says

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This is the Senate Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted when he kicked the Liberal senators out of caucus and launched a process for appointing independent senators.

This Senate – the very one holding up the Liberal’s budget bill, delaying implementation of any measures the Trudeau government laid out last March – is what he envisioned, the prime minister said in an interview with The West Block’s Vassy Kapelos.

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“Yes,” he said when asked if the Senate is operating as he’d planned.

“I wanted a Senate that actually takes its job seriously of reviewing, in a non-partisan way … legislation put forward by the House [of Commons].”

These delays and, in his view, ill-informed attempts at altering the budget bill are all just part of a “learning process,” Trudeau said in an interview aired Sunday.

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“We recognize that the learning process of having a less partisan, more independent Senate is all a part of what we’re going through right now,” he said.

“And it doesn’t surprise me it’s happening this way.”

While applauding members of the Senate for scrutinizing legislation, however, Trudeau drew a line at monkeying around with and attempting to rewrite a federal budget passed by the elected House of Commons.

“The issue around budgets, of course, is it’s the House of Commons that votes on budgetary measures, and the Senate is, of course, welcome to look at it and make recommendations,” he said. “But the legitimacy happens from the House of Commons on this.”

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Trudeau’s reference to the House of Commons’ authority over budgetary matters is an apparent reference to the fact the Constitution prohibits the Senate from initiating a money bill; that power rests solely with the House of Commons.

That same fact prompted Senate Speaker George Furey to disallow a motion last week from independent Sen. Andre Pratte to carve the infrastructure bank provisions out of the budget bill in order to more closely examine them.

In effect, Furey said the motion would amount to the Senate initiating two money bills.

However, senators voted 38-33 to overrule Furey. A vote on Pratte’s motion to split the bill will now take place next week, possibly as early as Monday.

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The Commons would have to concur with a Senate bid to divide the bill or otherwise amend it, an option Trudeau last week made clear is not in the cards.

At the end of the day, Trudeau said, the Constitution and rulings from the Supreme Court of Canada will dictate the powers of his un-elected – yet more independent – Senate.

“We actually made a Senate that is freer from partisanship … and doing the real work of advising, recommending, doing studies and being a thoughtful place of sober second thought,” he said.

“We will take note of the recommendations they make, but on the issues of the budget, it’s a well-established fact the Senate defers on money bills, on budget bills particularly, to the legitimacy of the House of Commons.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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