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MP kills his own bill

Edmonton-St. Albert MP allowed his own bill to die rather than present it with government amendments with which he disagrees. The bill was intended to disclose the salaries of workers who are paid with federal government funds.

MP Brent Rathgeber’s transparency bill is dead.

The MP for Edmonton-St. Albert participated in a precedent-setting moment on Wednesday when, rather than send his sponsored bill to third reading with the government’s edits intact, opted out of bringing it forward out of report stage.

This resulted in the bill being dropped from the order paper, essentially killing it.

“I’m not happy with the outcome but given the circumstances I think the best solution was for me to withdraw my support,” Rathgeber said. “I did what no one has ever done before. I stood up and fell on my own petard at report stage.”

Rathgeber’s move came after two votes addressing his eight suggested amendments to Bill C-461 were defeated in the report stage of the legislative process.

The first was addressing seven motions which edited the bill, including removing all references to CBC. That motion was defeated in a vote of 130-145.

The second addressed Rathgeber’s desire to see the public worker salary disclosure bar – which had been upped at committee stage to $444,000 – moved back down, this time to the level of an MP’s pay, currently about $160,000.

The second vote was much closer, coming in at 135-138. A handful of Conservative backbenchers joined the other parties in the “yea” vote, but not enough to get the motion through.

After Rathgeber declined to bring his bill forward, Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled that the bill couldn’t proceed out of report stage without its sponsor, noting a bill has never been abandoned by its sponsor at that point before.

“We worked with the speaker’s office because we knew we were in precedent,” Rathgeber said.

The bill is the one which Rathgeber left the Conservative caucus over, after significant changes were made to his version at the committee stage, including the increase of the salary disclosure bar.

“To me it was an affront to transparency. It made a mockery of transparency, quite frankly,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Rathgeber was cautiously optimistic he might have the votes to at least get the salary disclosure bar lowered. On Wednesday, he knew his support was evaporating.

“I knew it was going to be tight. I had soft commitments from about 10 people, but I knew there was lots of waffling,” he said.

The dropping of the bill from the order paper brings a conclusion to the 18-months Rathgeber has spent on the bill, including his split with the government caucus in June.

“There’s a lot of history attached to this bill and I guess maybe there’s some relief now that it’s finally over,” he said.

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