5 things to watch for when parliament reconvenes

The House of Commons reconvenes Wednesday. Here’s what to watch for when the legislative session resumes for the last half of the spring sitting.

1. Immigration

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is poised to keep the pressure on the U.S. to fix its immigration system. But he can’t rush things, especially on one that may be of interest only to one-tenth of the world’s population.

New Democrats have called on the government to spend $99 million over five years to improve services for newcomers in British Columbia, a move that would win the party some political points in this unsettled election year.

Critics of the proposed throne speech may be disappointed to learn that Trudeau offered no concrete proposals to roll back controversial changes to Canada’s citizenship rules made by Conservative government. Instead, he has directed the government to overhaul the Citizenship Act so that more newcomers’ children can gain permanent residency through a lower qualifying threshold.

2. Justice

The Conservative government used to like to use the legislative session to introduce new Justice Bill C-59, usually to rip up anti-abortion laws. But as the government faces an election this fall, Trudeau is not likely to allow that to happen. The government has also sought to smooth the ideological rifts caused by its sudden support for decriminalizing cannabis, two hot-button issues that could generate a mini-immigration crisis.

Trudeau has told the Canadian press that he’s open to the idea of legalizing marijuana, saying, “when people say they want to smoke a joint for health reasons, and they say they’d like to take their kids with them when they do it, I don’t think it makes sense to arrest them.”

Some media outlets are speculating that Prime Minister Trudeau could also extend the current use of natural death certificates to include those who have died of substance-use related causes.

3. Agreements

The Conservatives were hard on the West Coast when they controlled Parliament. Now that the left-leaning party controls the city of Vancouver, that area could become a focus of announcements.

One area of contention is an announcement the Conservative government made in April 2016 that Canada would agree to take in 50,000 refugees who fled persecution in Syria, but that commitment had yet to be put into effect as of Jan. 1. Liberal government officials say they have made adjustments to the delivery timeline to make sure refugees can be settled within a short period of time.

The B.C. government still has $2 billion in housing, permanent-residence and child-care funds that it hasn’t yet used to help refugees find housing and jobs.

While the Liberals have promised to fully fulfill its refugee plan, they say the party’s main goal is to reach one million Syrian refugees by the end of the year. That could affect another project.

Global Affairs Canada has committed $18 million for technical assistance to help small businesses in war-torn Iraq and Syria build their supply chains and upgrade their management.

4. B.C. wildfires

The federal government has sent six additional military aircraft, three helicopters and two new observers to British Columbia to help fight hundreds of wildfires that have been burning for more than a month. The government believes that could relieve some of the strain on forest and air resources in a province still reeling from widespread forest fires.

But the wildfire season is far from over and could, according to officials, cause economic losses that top $3 billion this year. The cost to remove the forest fires, however, is just a fraction of the economic toll that will be felt if they spark more fires.

5. LNG

Chinese companies interested in building export facilities in British Columbia are poised to weigh in after visiting Parliament Hill this week. China Investment Corp. head Yu Wu, president of state-owned China National Petroleum Corp., met with Trudeau.

The government says it expects to make a final decision on the proposed Kitimat LNG project soon, though a decision could also come earlier this month.

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