An Unexpected Display of Unity in a Normally Fractious Parliament

This week there was a surprise turn of events in Parliament that was highly unusual if not unprecedented. Conservatives shocked political analysts by wholly embracing a polarizing bill that just before the election the majority had vehemently opposed. Some Conservatives even hugged members of the opposition after they unanimously voted yes.

The House of Commons unexpectedly united to speed up a bill banning conversion therapy.Credit…Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Before the election, the Conservative opposition had turned a bill banning conversion therapy, the discredited practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression, into one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in Parliament. Sixty-two Conservatives voted against it, while Erin O’Toole, the party leader, and 50 other Conservatives voted in favor.

The legislation died when Parliament was dissolved with the election call in August. But this week the government tried again and introduced a new bill with a few additional protections to prevent attempts at conversion therapy.

Then came the unexpected twist. Rob Moore, a Conservative from New Brunswick, rose on Wednesday afternoon and proposed a motion to fast track the bill and send it directly to the Senate.

“I was completely taken by surprise when this happened,” Jonathan Malloy, a professor of political science at Carleton University in Ottawa, told me. “This was something that the House previously divided on and that we expected it would again divide on — and then it didn’t.”

Exactly what went on within the Conservative caucus before Mr. Moore presented his motion is not public. But Professor Malloy said that the rare moment of parliamentary unity that followed it may mark an important point in Mr. O’Toole’s political career.

At moments during the election and afterward, Mr. O’Toole has struggled to square his positions on questions like L.G.B.T.Q. rights with those of his party’s social conservatives. That has led to some policy reversals and compromises that pleased neither social conservatives within the party nor people who might consider voting Conservative but who are not social conservatives. Recently Mr. O’Toole has come under criticism for personally favoring vaccination but refusing to endorse mandatory vaccination, even for his party’s members in Parliament.

The bill banning conversion therapy must now make its way through the Senate.Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times

Another protracted fight over the conversion therapy legislation, Professor Malloy said, would have allowed the Liberals to suggest to voters that whatever Mr. O’Toole’s personal positions, the Conservatives are guided by the socially conservative wing of their party.

“For him to apparently get some sort of agreement within the party, this is quite something,” Professor Malloy said.

There’s no guarantee that the conversion therapy bill’s swift trip through the House of Commons will be repeated in the Senate. Mr. O’Toole’s influence over Conservative senators is uncertain. Last month, Mr. O’Toole removed Denise Batters, a senator from Saskatchewan, from the Conservative national caucus after she started a petition to remove him as party leader. But the party’s Senate caucus defied Mr. O’Toole, and Ms. Batters continues to sit as a Conservative. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision not to allow anyone to sit as a Liberal in the Senate leaves his party without a formal voice in the Senate, presenting another potential obstacle for the legislation.

And the House of Commons’ “fantastic day, ” as David Lametti, the justice minister, described it, is unlikely to reflect the tone of the rest of this Parliament. Just before this session opened, Mr. O’Toole named Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative’s most rhetorically combative member, as the party’s finance critic.

Conservatives have also defined inflation and the growth of the federal deficit because of pandemic support spending as their key attack points against the Liberals, which means fans of an overheated Parliament and partisan speechmaking are unlikely to be disappointed.

Trans Canada

Prabhjot Kaur Dhillon embraced her friend Kim Cardinal, whose home was consumed by flood waters in British Columbia.Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times
A house that was destroyed when flood waters raged through Merritt, British Columbia.Credit…Ian Willms for The New York Times
  • I’m back from the interior of British Columbia, where swollen rivers devastated communities. My full report, illustrated with powerful photographs by Ian Willms, can be found here. Of the many conversations I had with people there, one remark still lingers with me. “I never would have thought that it would be as bad as this is,” Denise Cook, who had returned to her hometown, Princeton, as a cleanup volunteer, told me. “It’s bad. People sitting at home watching this, they have no idea.”

  • Turner Sports is new to hockey and has brought in Wayne Gretzky and Paul Bissonnette, along with Anson Carter and Rick Tocchet, to analyze the game for American viewers. It is a learning experience for all concerned, but the group has found a chemistry not unlike that of a hockey team itself, Jonathan Abrams, a sports reporter for The Times, writes.

  • Peloton, the fitness company, has gone into the clothing business with products that include the Strappy Bra. That’s led to a patent infringement lawsuit from Lululemon, which is based in Vancouver.

  • Workers at three factories in Winnipeg owned by Canada Goose, the luxury parka maker, have voted overwhelmingly to unionize, Noam Scheiber, a workplace reporter for The Times, reports. This year there were allegations that Canada Goose had disciplined two workers who identified themselves as union supporters. But the union said that the company had dropped anti-unionization efforts in recent weeks.

  • As the Arctic melts, killer whales have found a new hunting ground.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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