Between burger bites, Christmas card-writing and constant voting, MPs lose a work day

Between burger bites, Christmas card-writing and constant voting, MPs lose a work day © Provided by The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Members of Parliament lost an entire day of work in the House of Commons after a voting marathon forced by the Conservatives, sneaking in bites of burgers and writing Christmas cards to get them through the night.

The voting ended late Friday, with the House adjourned until Monday.

The non-stop voting on 135 spending measures, which happened both in person and online, began at 6 p.m. on Thursday and pushed other agenda items off the table until next week.

Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer had said earlier Friday that the Conservatives would not let up unless the government removed federal carbon pricing from applying to all home heating, farmers and First Nations.

“The carbon tax is really hurting Canadian families as we head into the Christmas season. More and more Canadians are experiencing the tragic choice of heating their homes or putting food on the tables.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat in the House overnight for the votes, and when asked Friday whether he’d “axe the tax,” as Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre puts it, he said he wouldn’t.

“What the Conservatives are doing right now is so silly and absolutely ridiculous. This is not leadership,” said government House leader Karina Gould.

By the time voting ended late Friday, MPs had been at it for well over 24 hours, with many of them staying awake overnight by reading books, eating fast food, streaming shows on their tablets or scrolling on Instagram and YouTube.

At around 1 a.m., Poilievre joined his caucus in the House after attending a fundraising event in Quebec, where he also marked the first day of Hanukkah by attending a menorah lighting in Montreal.

He arrived to Parliament holding up two bags of McDonald’s, as his caucus chanted the party’s slogans “Bring it home” and “Axe the tax” before the deputy Speaker presiding over the votes asked them to be quiet.

MPs also feasted on Kentucky Fried Chicken and Tim Hortons.

“Rest assured I consumed a lot of Alberta beef last night,” said Scheer.

Coffee and tea kept many Liberals energized, Gould said Friday.

“I’ve almost finished signing my holiday cards over the course of the evening,” she said.

On Friday afternoon, International Trade Minister Mary Ng was in the front bench covered in a blanket while watching a show on her tablet during a steady stream of yawns, before ultimately falling asleep.

She was woken up by a colleague, who splashed water on Ng to wake her up for a vote. Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who was in the line of fire, ended up with a soaked back.

Health Minister Mark Holland was reading “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan was also seen in the House with a stack of books. On top was “How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future” by Vaclav Smil.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne, who came to the House straight from Dubai, where he attended COP28, were seen doing the wave after one of the votes.

“I’m jittery. I haven’t had any sleep,” one Liberal MP was heard saying on Friday afternoon, while a Conservative MP commented to his colleagues that “I’m growing outward very quickly” as he listed the amount of food he’s eaten since being in the House.

Nearing the 24-hour mark in the serial voting, some MPs had their shoes off.

In a speech to his caucus that was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Poilievre acknowledged that the marathon vote was challenging.

“I want to thank all of you for the energy that you’re putting in,” he said early Friday.

“I know this is not easy. It’s extra time away from family, it’s hard on your health, but we have to make a point. We said we would fight to axe the tax.”

NDP House leader Peter Julian said the lost day of work had cost $1 million.

He attacked the Tories for voting against billions allocated to a wide variety of measures, including settlements with First Nations, defence spending and funding for agencies such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress advocacy group, said Conservative MPs had undermined support for Ukraine for a second time by voting against a line item that would allocate money to help its war effort.

The UCC had previously condemned the Tories for voting against a bill that would implement an update to the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. The Conservatives have said they voted against the bill because of language in the deal that would see both countries promote carbon pricing.

Despite the Tories’ forced votes, the government spending bill still passed — albeit 24 hours later than originally expected.

Source: Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press