By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 0 Comments
The official opposition presents “The Tale of the Monster Budget Bill.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 26, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries hope C-45 marks the end of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board.
In the second Budget Omnibus Bill related to the 2012 Budget, the Government proposes to suspend the operations of the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) until such time the Employment Insurance (EI) Operating Account returns to balance. According to the 2012 Budget, this is not expected until 2016. Is this the end of the CEIFB? Lets hope so.
The CEIC was established in 2008 to “set EI premium rates for the upcoming year in a transparent fashion”. This has never happened. In every year since its creation, the Government has overridden the rate recommended by the CEIC through an Order-in-Council. In the March 2012 Budget, the Government proposed further changes to the EI rate-setting process. The employee EI rate is now to be limited to a 5 cent per year increase until the EI Operating Account is balanced. This precludes the CEIFB from setting rates for at least another four years.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 1:37 PM - 0 Comments
And John Geddes looks at how the Navigable Waters Protection Act relates to the environment.
Here’s perhaps the key point Saxe walked me through: four provisions in the Navigable Waters Protection Act automatically required an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Among them is the key federal power to approve building on navigable waters—structures like bridges, booms, dams and causeways. So approving or rejecting any of these sorts of projects required an environmental assessment under the CEAA regulations.
Or, at least, such assessments were required under the old CEAA. The Tories replaced that law earlier this year with a much-revised statute, which will mean fewer federal assessments in a more limited range of circumstances. But under the previous CEAA— passed in 1992 and in force until its repeal last summer—theNavigable Waters Protection Act was named in regulations as a law that triggered assessments. (You can search here for those regulations.) To claim then, as Fletcher did, that the act was only about navigation and never the environment, is, in Saxe’s words, “just wrong.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 9:15 AM - 0 Comments
Here is the text of Thomas Mulcair’s speech in the House yesterday—with periodic interjections from Conservative MPs—on C-45, the second budget implementation bill. He spoke just after Shelly Glover began the debate for the Conservatives.
Mr. Mulcair is mistaken on one point. Stephen Harper did not promise a price on carbon of $65 per tonne in a speech to the British Parliament. The speech was delivered at the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Speaker, in life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. I will read page 282 of the budget, because that is what my colleague was referring to. So we, along with all the Canadians who are watching, will know whether page 282 of the budget mentions the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
In life, as in politics, everything revolves around whether we have credibility. The member just told us that on page 282 of the budget we would find a reference to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. I will now read page 282 of the budget. Under “Transport Portfolio”, it states:
“Organizations in the Transport portfolio identified a combination of productivity-enhancing and transformative measures that change the way programs and services are delivered and support the Government’s agenda of refocusing government and reducing red tape.”
I ask members to retain that term because, in the Conservatives’ mouths, reducing red tape is synonymous with reducing public protection. Walkerton, XL Foods and listeriosis is reducing public protection. That is a theme we will be talking a lot about this afternoon. I will continue.
“Non-core activities will be reduced while maintaining capacity related to core mandates in order to protect the safety of Canadians and support economic growth.”
“For example, VIA Rail Canada Inc. will pursue productivity improvements such as augmenting the performance of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems….”
Navigable Waters Protection Act? Not so far.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Sometime between when I wrote this post last night and 10:30am this morning when a reader alerted me to the issue, Transport Canada’s FAQ for the Navigable Waters Protection Act disappeared from the Internet.
I asked the office of Transport Minister Denis Lebel to explain and received the following response.
For years, the Transport Canada website has consistently said “The Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWAP) is an act respecting the protection of the public right to navigate.” The Act ensures a balance between the public right to navigate and the need to build works in navigable waters. That has never changed. Some pieces of inaccurate information have been removed. This link now contains correct information.
The FAQ has now reappeared. It appears to me that there are now no references to the “environment” within it.
Update 3:51pm. There now appear to be two references to the word “environment,” both in a single sentence.
Several federal departments and agencies have additional responsibilities to review the environmental impacts of tailings areas, including Environment Canada.
Update 4:14pm. The previous version had a section entitled “Questions about the Amendments to Navigable Waters Protection Act.” That section has been shortened and is now titled, “Questions about the 2009 Amendments to Navigable Waters Protection Act.” One of the questions that has been deleted was as follows.
Do these changes mean there will be a decline in environmental assessments?
Transport Canada is committed to a healthy and sound environment.
Before the Act was changed, many routine projects required detailed navigational reviews and environmental assessments – even when they involved waters that could not be practically navigated. The effort required to perform these assessments was not proportionate to the actual navigational and environmental risks associated with the project.
The revised Act will reduce the level of review of these minor projects and allow for more in-depth reviews of the substantial projects that are of greater concern to the Canadian public.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Ralph Goodale condemns the latest budget bill.
It’s a complete dog’s breakfast, deliberately designed to be so humongous and convoluted in a single lump that it cannot be intelligently reviewed by Parliament, and any votes will be largely meaningless. Such abusive tactics have been condemned by none other than Stephen Harper himself. But now in power, he behaves like a Third World despot – seemingly afraid of a properly functioning Parliamentary democracy.
That fear of democracy is also evident in Conservative election financing violations (for which they’ve been charged and convicted), robo-call schemes to manipulate voters, and vicious attack-advertising. It’s all beneath contempt.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that are included in the latest budget implementation act, the Conservatives have argued that the act is “not an environmental law” and insisted that the NWPA is about “navigation and navigation only.” On that note, Megan Leslie deferred yesterday to Transport Canada’s FAQ on the act.
Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities’s own web page contradicts his talking points. The Navigable Waters Protection Act FAQ alone mentions the environment 23 times, and the website says of the act: “These stiff new penalties reflect the government’s ongoing concern toward maintaining the safety of public navigation and the environment.” That is right, according to the department, the Navigable Waters Protection Act is about protecting the environment. Why is the minister so confused about his portfolio?
Denis Lebel: Mr. Speaker, changing the words “navigable waters” to “navigation” does not change the essence of this act. That is about navigation, and that is what we will continue to do. The member asks frequent questions about the environment, and the Minister of the Environment will continue to answer her. We will continue to answer her about navigation.
The FAQ in question is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 12:44 PM - 0 Comments
Olivia Chow will table a motion at the transport committee today that would have the committee study “all transport and infrastructure-related aspects of C-45, especially the changes proposed to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.”
The New Democrats tried similar motions around C-38 without success.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
On CBC radio’s The House this weekend, Evan Solomon interviewed Jim Flaherty. During that interview, Solomon raised Stephen Harper’s 1994 point of order about omnibus legislation and asked Mr. Flaherty what had changed since then. Mr. Flaherty responded as follows.
Well, you know, what has changed is that it’s very, very difficult to get a piece of legislation through the House of Commons because of the obstreperous nature of the opposition and so we need to, you know, make sure in the budget—it’s like, the budget itself is 473 pages, which I delivered on March 29. So we took half of it and we did it in the first budget bill. The other half we do in the second budget bill. There are no surprises, it’s all part of jobs, growth and prosperity for the government of Canada. It’s our agenda and we’re a majority government, we’re entitled to advance our agenda. I know the opposition doesn’t like that and good luck to them in the next election.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives and the opposition parties unanimously agreed this morning to split MP pension reforms from the omnibus budget bill and pass the separate legislation.
Here is the text of the motion, moved by Conservative MP Lynne Yelich, that split C-45.
That the House recognize that the provisions of Bill C-45 dealing with Members’ pensions should be enacted as quickly as possible, and passed without further debate;
That Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be divided into two bills: Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, and Bill C-46, An Act to amend the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act; and
That Bill C-46 be composed of
(a) clauses 475 to 514 of Bill C-45, as it is presently composed,
(b) a clause, inserted before all of the other clauses, to provide that “This Act may be cited as the Pension Reform Act”, and
(c) a clause, inserted after all of the other clauses, to provide that “This Act comes into force, or is deemed to have come into force, on January 1, 2013.”;
That Bill C-46 be deemed to have been read the second time and deemed referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read the third time and passed;
That Bill C-45 be composed of its remaining clauses;
That Bill C-45 retain the status on the Order Paper that it had prior to the adoption of this Order;
That the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary; and
That Bills C-45 and C-46 be reprinted.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
During QP yesterday, Jim Flaherty ventured the following.
Mr. Speaker, we have had budget bills in this place, including under the previous Liberal government, that were many pages longer than this budget bill.
The budget bill tabled today measures something like 450 pages (depending on format). The longest budget bill I’ve found between 1994 and 2005 was 272 pages (though by the time that bill received Royal Assent it was 144 pages).
The Conservatives have moved larger budget bills before though: 900 pages in 2010 and 650 pages in 2011.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 19, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
In fact, a cursory search of the March 2012 budget document reveals that Flahery is wrong — not everything in the legislation tabled Thursday was flagged in the spring spending blueprint. For instance, on EI rates, the budget stated that: “Over the next few years, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board (CEIFB) will continue to set the rate, but the government will limit rate increases to no more than five cents each year until the EI Operating Account is balanced.” On Thursday, the board was disbanded while the Conservatives set up what they’re calling an “interim … regime” for setting EI rates.
The budget also made no mention of changes to the definition of a native fishery included in the omnibus bill, while the Navigable Waters Protection Act is entirely absent from the March budget.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 5:43 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair agreed with Stephen Harper. Just not now. Or at least not the version of Stephen Harper that was now in front of the NDP leader.
“Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are trying to shove another 450-page budget bill down the throats of Canadians,” Mr. Mulcair reported. “The finance minister once again showed total disregard for our democratic institutions, choosing photo ops rather than Parliament, 450 pages. The Prime Minister once criticized the Liberals for their omnibus approach. He was right then, he is wrong now.”
“Will the Prime Minister respect Canadians, respect the role of Parliament and split this omnibus bill to allow for proper study?” the NDP leader asked.
Alas, Mr. Harper was not inclined to agree with his earlier view.
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians’ priorities are focused on the economy. They remain jobs and growth,” the Prime Minister reported. “This government continues to move forward with the latest version of the plan presented in March to promote jobs and growth across this country and to continue the relatively superior performance of the Canadian economy.”
You needn’t read the budget yourself, you see, because it is mostly just the words “jobs” and “growth” written over and over again for 450 pages. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
In all, C-45, the second budget implementation act, amends or affects the Income Tax Act, Excise Tax Act, Jobs and Economic Growth Act, Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, Trust and Loan Companies Act, Bank Act, Insurance Companies Act, the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, Canada Shipping Act, 2001, Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, Payment Clearing and Settlement Act, Fisheries Act, Schedule I of the Bretton Woods and Related Agreements Act, Canada Pension Plan, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act, Indian Act, Judges Act, Canada Labour Code, Merchant Seamen Compensation Act, Customs Act, Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, Agreement on Internal Trade Implementation Act, Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, Employment Insurance Act, Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Fees Act, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canada Grain Act, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to Repeal the Grain Futures Act, International Interests in Mobile Equipment (aircraft equipment) Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board Act, Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board Act, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Act, Schedule III to the Financial Administration Act, Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, Public Service Superannuation Act, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act and Canada Revenue Agency Act
It also enacts a new bill, the Bridge To Strengthen Trade Act, which “excludes the application of certain Acts to the construction of a bridge that spans the Detroit River and other works and to their initial operator … establishes ancillary measures” and “amends the International Bridges and Tunnels Act.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 10:31 AM - 0 Comments
Here is C-45, the second budget implementation bill, which was tabled in the House about 20 minutes ago.
As a pdf, it is 457-pages long.
Depending on the precise and final formatting, that would make this bill longer than C-38, the year’s first budget implementation act. At a combined 900 pages, that would be the second largest load of budget bills in the last 19 years: surpassed only by the two bills that were tabled in 2010 that combined for more than a thousand pages.
Here, for the sake of comparison, are the page counts for all budget implementation bills going back to 1994. If you add all the budget bills from 1994 through 2001 together at the time they received Royal Assent, they total 473 pages.
And here again is the rough guide to Bill C-38, which should answer a lot of the procedural and contextual questions you might have about C-45.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Atop the notice paper this morning, under “introduction of government bills,” is the following.
The Minister of Finance — Bill entitled “A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures”.
That is the official notice of the government’s intention to table its second budget implementation act. You will remember the first bill to implement certain provisions of the budget as C-38.
With its addition to the notice paper, the bill could be tabled in the House as early as Thursday.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM - 0 Comments
The House is presently considering the Liberal motion on the use of omnibus legislation.
Here again is the point of order from a young Stephen Harper.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
Scott Clark and Peter DeVries review the recent trouble with omnibus budget bills and suggest reforms.
First, the Budget Plan needs to be much more explicit on the proposed policy initiatives. The Budget should provide sufficient details and background information on the proposed initiatives for Parliamentary assessment and for a better understanding by the public at large and other interested parties. The Auditor General should be asked to review the adequacy of the information to be provided.
Second, Budget Omnibus Bills should include only proposed tax/revenue changes and issues related to borrowings. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and the Senate Finance Committee should consider these. Third, all proposed spending initiatives should be presented either through the Main Estimates or through separate legislation and submitted to the applicable Parliamentary Committees for review.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 4:25 PM - 0 Comments
Again this afternoon, the Liberals asked the Conservatives to table a separate bill to deal with MP pensions. The Conservatives don’t seem interested.
Marc Garneau: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the government for a separate bill on MP pension reform so that Canadians could see how their MPs support this very important bill in a stand-alone fashion. I did not get an answer. Is the Prime Minister worried about a backlash from his own backbench members if he does not force this down their throats as part of a single budget bill? I have a proposition for him. How about a separate stand-alone bill, and the Liberals will co-operate in fast-tracking it? This is the kind of thing Canadians expect: transparency from their government.
Tony Clement: Mr. Speaker, we will not have a separate stand-alone bill when it comes to MP pensions or salaries. We will have a budget implementation bill that is focused on jobs, the economy and economic growth in this country, as we indicated previously. I am not surprised that the Liberals and the NDP on the other side have already voiced their opposition to this bill without even seeing it. That is how they operate. However, we are focused on jobs and economic growth for this country and we will continue to be so.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The prospect of a second budget bill figures prominently and Thomas Mulcair was asked about that legislation yesterday in his interview with Tom Clark.
Tom Clark: I’m wondering, the government has also said that it is going to be bringing in another omnibus bill like we saw last spring on the Budget Implementation Act. Now when that happened last spring, you and your party put up a parliamentary protest about it. We had the marathon voting session. If there’s an omnibus bill put in front of the House this fall, what are you going to do?
Thomas Mulcair: Well they could surprise us and put something interesting in it so I won’t presume it in advance but as we say in French, “le passé est en garante l’avenir.” You know, since the past behaviour sometimes guarantees what they’re going to do in the future you can expect some of the things that they would be doing to be completely contrary to what Canada needs right now. We need a government that doesn’t just wash its hands of all these economic problems. You have to look at it in a clear-eyed manor and say, okay, we’re losing the balanced economy we built up since the Second World War. We’re killing off manufacturing sector; we’ve got to try to get some of that back. If that bill does the same thing as the last one, we didn’t just use our tools in Parliament, we went across Canada. You know people from Victoria to St. John’s were organizing meetings. Hundreds of people came out to those meetings and we were able to point out what they were doing. Requiring people to work two more years to get their Old Age Security, gutting Employment Insurance, especially in regions that rely a lot on seasonal employment, and of course, as I mentioned before, going after environmental legislation in a way that will leave a huge deficit for future generations, this time on the ecological front.
Tom Clark: But are you saying though that if the measures in an omnibus bill are measures that you think are positive or at least take the country in the right direction, that you may support it?
Thomas Mulcair: We’ve always tried to take a balanced approach. You know, we’ve believed that as the Opposition, of course sometimes we’re going to oppose because we have diametrically opposed views to the Conservatives on certain issues, but on the other hand, we’re also about proposing and if there are things in there that can help bring solutions, of course we’ll support them.
Tom Clark: So you’re not fundamentally opposed to the idea of an omnibus bill then?
Thomas Mulcair: Well it depends what’s in it and when you go after things like environmental legislation that has nothing to do with your budget, that’s using the budget bill as a Trojan horse. You’re hiding things in there. People expect a budget bill to be just about that; about numbers, about what’s going to be spent or not spent in the economy. That is what you’re expecting to see. They’re using the old American method of having a bill where you tack on hundreds of riders, you know, pork barrel things that have nothing to do with the budget but everything to do with their right wing agenda.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Conservatives promise another omnibus budget bill, Nathan Cullen mixes his metaphors.
“Will I be surprised if they play parliamentary games and obstruction? No, I won’t be,” Van Loan said in an interview. “I guess we’ll have to deal with that.” Indeed, the second budget bill — just like the first — will almost certainly face fierce resistance from opposition parties who say they’re prepared, if necessary, for another fight to stall the legislation and highlight its potential impacts on Canadians.
“They (the Conservatives) are hunkering down again. I guess they didn’t take any lessons from what happened in the spring,” said NDP House leader Nathan Cullen. “These guys are pretty obstinate. They believe their orders come from on high.” Cullen said the NDP has asked for meetings with Van Loan to discuss the Tories’ priorities for the fall session, but have been turned down. “I hope they put some water in their wine,” he said, before adding: “We don’t mind going toe-to-toe.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 1:07 PM - 0 Comments
Ironically, I received infinitely more media attention in the last 72 hours than I did in the last 6 months. Admittedly, this was quite unexpected. Normally, my musings on this little blog attract a very limited audience. Although, I stand by my comments, I think they received more attention than was warranted. I suppose it is newsworthy when a government backbencher is seen to be critical of the Ministry. However, it should be axiomatic that government treat taxpayers’ money respectfully. This is so especially in times of fiscal restraint; pointing out the obvious shouldn’t be newsworthy at all!!
He also defends the budget bill.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 8:49 AM - 0 Comments
“I see the role of a backbench MP to hold the government to account,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that I’m disloyal or that I’m a maverick or that I’m going to vote against the government or cross the floor. It just means that from time to time I feel an obligation to point out to the government that they need to respect the taxpayers’ dollars.”
For reaction, the Canadian Press talks to Conservative MP Rick Dykstra.
Ontario Tory MP Rick Dykstra said he, too, has received an earful about Oda’s spending and cabinet cars. But he said the budget is prompting questions as well and not the kind he’s used to hearing. Ever since he’s been back in his St. Catharines, Ont., riding, Dykstra said he’s received a “boatload” of queries on the marathon voting session in the Commons earlier this month, when MPs voted continuously for almost 24 hours on hundreds of opposition amendments to the budget bill. “It’s very rare when I get constituents actually talking to me about what’s happened in the House of Commons, actually in the House itself,” Dykstra said.