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Tough on Crime Omnibus Bill Passes In Senate

Tough on Crime Omnibus Bill Passes In Senate
Feb 27, 2008

The Conservative government's crime bill narrowly passed in the Liberal-dominated Senate on Wednesday, avoiding an election showdown over the issue.

The bill, which now only needs the governor general's approval to be made into law, passed 19-16, with most Liberal senators abstaining.

The vote came just three days before a deadline imposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He accused the Senate of stalling on the bill, and threatened to dissolve Parliament and call an election if senators didn't pass the bill by March 1.

The crime bill, among other things, calls for:
* Tougher mandatory prison terms for serious gun crimes.
* Stiffer penalties for impaired driving.
* Tougher bail laws.
* Tougher rules for repeat offenders.
* Increasing the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 in certain cases.

The bill, known as an omnibus bill, combines the ideas contained in five other pieces of crime legislation that were introduced by the Conservatives last year, but did not make it through the House and Senate before the parliamentary session ended in the summer.

The new omnibus bill passed in the House of Commons in November, with almost all MPs voting in its favour.

The Conservative government's insistence that the Senate pass the bill by March caused an uproar in the House of Commons two weeks ago.

Harper formalized the March 1 deadline in a motion that he tabled in the House as a confidence matter. Had MPs not voted in favour of demanding the Senate tackle the bill by March 1, the government would have fallen.

Liberal MPs walked out of the vote in protest, as Conservatives taunted them, singing "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye."

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion called Harper's deadline "juvenile," and nothing more than an attempt by the minority Conservative government to engineer its own downfall and force voters to the polls this spring.

He said the Senate wasn't stalling on the omnibus bill, but simply hadn't had enough time to study it in detail.

Despite the Liberal protest, the motion to give the Senate a deadline passed 172-27, with Conservatives and Bloc Québécois MPs voting in favour and New Democrat MPs voting against it.

The crime bill was one of three possible triggers for a spring election, along with the federal budget and a government motion to extend the military mission in Afghanistan.

Dion has now said he won't bring down the government over the budget, and the Tories and Liberals have essentially agreed on a compromise motion on extending the Afghan mission.

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Further Articles:
More on Bill C-2 and the calls to stop the Bill
Conservatives Threaten Election over Tough on Crime Bill