By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 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 - Monday, October 15, 2012 at 1:19 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberals have decided they will indeed use their opposition day tomorrow to consider Stephen Harper’s previous views on omnibus legislation and whether the House Affairs committee should consider reform.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Liberals have an opposition day on Tuesday and they have tabled three options for the motion they will move that day, the first of which is just a little mischievous.
That the House agree with the comments of the Right Honourable Member for Calgary Southwest on March 25, 1994, when he criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles and dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill; and that the House instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of omnibus legislation and that the Committee report back its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, no later than December 10, 2012.
The first bit is reference to a point of order raised by a young Stephen Harper, in which the rookie Reform MP lamented for the abusive nature of omnibus bills that include various and unrelated measures. (I asked Peter Van Loan about the views of Young Stephen Harper at the time of the last budget implementation bill.)
The Liberals may well, of course, decide to pursue one of their other options—the motion on food safety, for instance, might be deemed more immediately relevant. But with a second budget implementation bill due anytime now, this could be a way to restart the debate on omnibus legislation.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 5, 2012 at 11:06 AM - 0 Comments
After going in camera yesterday, the Procedure and House Affairs committee apparently decided to dismiss a motion from Liberal MP Marc Garneau that would have had the committee study the rules around omnibus legislation. Here is as much as the Liberal press office can say about what happened.
The motion, which called on the committee to “begin a study into what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of Omnibus legislation in recognition of Parliament’s fundamental purpose to provide appropriate oversight of the Government,” was still pending before yesterday’s secret in-camera meeting. So while Mr. Garneau is barred from discussing what happened at the meeting, we can say this – the Conservatives have a majority on PROC and this motion has now mysteriously disappeared from the order paper.
For the record, here is the full text of Mr. Garneau’s motion.
“That the Committee begin a study into what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of Omnibus legislation in recognition of Parliament’s fundamental purpose to provide appropriate oversight of the Government; and that the Committee report its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, to the House no later than Dec. 10, 2012″
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 - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
It will obviously be awhile now before the Procedure and House Affairs committee reconvenes, but Liberal House leader Marc Garneau has tabled the following motion there.
“That the Committee begin a study into what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of Omnibus legislation in recognition of Parliament’s fundamental purpose to provide appropriate oversight of the Government; and that the committee report its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, to the House no later than Dec.10, 2012.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 2:51 PM - 0 Comments
On the afternoon of January 26, 1971, Robert McCleave, the Progressive Conservative MP for Halifax-East Hants, rose on a point of order to complain about Bill C-207, the Government Organization Act. In Mr. McCleave’s opinion, the bill should not be read a second time, but rather be divided as it contained “at least seven distinct proposals or principles.”
I suggest to Your Honour that there is more than one proposal or principle involved in this bill, and therefore, having regard to the very ancient privilege of the House that members should not be asked to give simple answers to what are, in effect, several questions intermingled together, I ask Your Honour to take the position of ordering that the bill be divided when the vote comes so that honourable members have a chance to make a decision on each proposal.
A discussion—including contributions from revered parliamentarians Allan MacEachen and Stanley Knowles, among others—ensued. After various members had had their say, Speaker Lucien Lamoureux ruled. It was this ruling that Young Stephen Harper invoked when he objected to the Liberal government’s budget implementation act in 1994.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
Shawn McCarthy delves into the environmental regulation amendments.
Ministers will have new discretion to decide what gets reviewed by whom and the scope of those reviews, including whether a fish species is important enough to warrant consideration … The budget bill also targets environmental groups by eliminating their ability to address environmental-assessment hearings unless they are directly impacted by the project or have specialized knowledge sought by the panel.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:26 PM - 0 Comments
Moments ago, after a recorded vote was compelled on a motion that “a member now be heard,” the NDP’s Yvon Godin stood in the House and spoke at length in regards to a committee report on “the snow crab industry in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.” Then Mr. Godin moved a motion to adjourn the House for the day. And now MPs are being called in for another recorded vote.
The Liberals have sent out a missive saying none of this will delay the actual second reading vote on the budget bill. (I’m trying to sort that question out.)
Meanwhile, there seems to be some dispute as to which MPs will be allowed to attend the finance committee meetings on the bill. Presuming the bill gets there at some point.
Update 4:54pm. Nathan Cullen spoke with reporters outside the House just before the first vote. He might have provided one clue to what’s going on here.
The way the procedure’s worked in the House is they’ve allocated days, not a date. The government can claim that the vote must come on Monday but that’s not the way that the instructions to Parliament work.
This might match one theory I’ve seen floated: that if the NDP can prevent today’s scheduled budget debate, they will push back the vote on the bill (by a day).
Update 4:59pm. More from Mr. Cullen’s scrum, this in regards to the dispute concerning the finance committee.
We also have an indication from government, as you’ll well remember, there was a promise made to allow associate members to sit on the Finance Committees, other experts that we have. For the first time we believe in parliamentary history, now the government is denying us that ability. So a promise that was made by the government to allow at least some measure of scrutiny over their budget bill has now been ripped up, we think for the first time in Canada’s history. It’s inexcusable, anti-democratic and they had this motion from us two days ago.
Update 5:07pm. With the Conservatives and Liberals voting against, the motion to adjourn has been defeated. The snow crab debate has resumed.
Update 5:12pm. The government moves that the debate be adjourned. A recorded vote has now been called for. It will be 30 minutes before that occurs, at which point it will be past 5:30pm, the time the House is scheduled to move on to other business. If the aforementioned theory is correct, the vote on C-38 will, as a result, have been pushed back a day.
Update 5:18pm. While we await the vote on the government motion, here is more of Mr. Cullen’s explanation for what is happening here.
It may sound strange but from opposition to government is a form of partnership. You try to have some conversations. You can agree on the actual substance but the form in which this government brought in they knew were wrong from the beginning. And it’s not me saying that. It’s every parliamentary expert that’s looked at the history of this country. It’s commentators from right across this country saying, while technically legal, it’s absolutely unethical for this government to do it. So let’s focus on how Parliament ought to work. Let’s focus on a government that if it had the courage of their convictions for each of these measures, be it unemployment insurance or be it on the environment they would introduce them as separate pieces of legislation. That was the reasonable offer that we gave to the government. They decided not to take that offer. That’s unfortunate. We now move on to secondary tactics and that’s also unfortunate…
Well, we have a series of options available to us. We’re looking at each one. It’s limited power. We don’t make any pretence that it can go for months and years. That’s absolutely not true and we don’t pretend it to be true. But we’re trying to put a little water in the wine of the government and say you may have some technical powers here but there are still rights and privileges for MPs and the people we represent and the people we represent want to see a fair hearing of this bill and want the worst parts taken out. That’s our job. That should also be the job of the government. They’re not doing their job so we’re going to push back a little.
Update 5:46pm. The House has now moved on to the previously scheduled votes. Meanwhile, a comment from the government whip’s office in regards to the dispute over which MPs can participate in the finance committee hearings.
The NDP are free to substitute any member they want to have participate on the Finance committee or any subcommittee of the Finance committee.
Update 6:13pm. The government side still seems to think a vote on the budget is happening, as scheduled, on Monday night. But by having the debate start again tomorrow, instead of on Wednesday’s abbreviated schedule, there will be more time for debate.
Update 6:44pm. Peter Van Loan just rose on a point of order to say that the opposition day that had been scheduled for tomorrow has been rescheduled. That presumably clears the way for the House to debate the budget bill tomorrow.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 10:49 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press talks to Nathan Cullen.
“The prime minister today had an opportunity to say ’no’ and he didn’t,” Cullen said in an interview … Cullen said he’s been dealing with Van Loan on the issue and the House leader has seemed receptive. “I don’t get the sense that they’re just stringing us along. I think they are actually contemplating our offer.”
In 2010, Progressive Conservative Senator Lowell Murray proposed that that year’s 900-page implementation act be split into five pieces and an attempt was made to defeat certain pieces of the bill in Senate. But, with an election threatened, the Senate ultimately passed the bill in its entirety.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
The Government House leader and I sat down in his Centre Block office for a chat this morning immediately after the NDP had finished calling, mere steps away from his office, for the budget implementation act to be split.
Q: Let’s start with what just happened out there. The gist of it, I suppose, is that they’re going to propose to split the budget bill. Any initial reaction to that idea?
A: We’re implementing a budget. Hence we have a budget implementation bill.
Q: No interest then?
A: Well, I think we’re going to, at committee, have part out of it for a special committee, so that’ll allow a detailed study of different pieces.
Q: So it’s a non-starter then, would you say?
A: I think it’s important that we’re trying to focus on job creation, economic growth. At a time when that remains, certainly, our top priority and I think it remains very important for Canadians. I think we’re at a critical point where things can either keep going forward or start sliding back. And I think it’s critical that we do [keep going forward] and it’s important for the long term as well. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 7, 2012 at 11:49 AM - 0 Comments
Seeking a conversation with the government side, the NDP will be presenting a motion to the House today that seeks to split the budget bill into some number of distinct bills.
Presuming the Conservatives reject this entreaty—probably a safe bet—we shall see whether the New Democrats have a Plan B.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 3:07 PM - 0 Comments
From QP this morning, Marc Garneau challenges the government backbench.
Marc Garneau: Madam Speaker, yesterday the Conservatives forced time allocation for the 18th time on a massive omnibus budget implementation plan. What a legacy, 18 time allocations in their first year as a majority. This is an incredible standard they are setting for this House of Commons. They are trying to prevent members from debating a 420 page document that amends or kills 70 Acts of Parliament. My question is for the backbenchers on that side of the House who surely campaigned in the last election to fight for democracy, why are they so silent now? Why are they–
Peter Van Loan: Madam Speaker, the priority of this government is job creation and economic growth. That is what economic action plan 2012 delivers. That is why we are proud that we have set aside for the debate on this bill more time than any other budget implementation bill in the last two decades, probably longer, but that is as far back as we went in our research. It is certainly a contrast with the party that the hon. member was part of when it was in government. The Liberals passed one budget implementation bill and they sent it to committee, limiting debate to three hours. We are happy to have this bill debated for the longest time in this House, because for once we want to hear members from that side talk about the economy. That is our priority.
Mr. Garneau continues his taunting online.
See previously: The Liberal standard
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
Courtesy of Parliament’s indispensable website, here is a list of budget implementation acts going back to 1994. Below, those
2224 bills listed chronologically with page counts (the electronic database does not include the first-reading versions of the first three).
C-17, 1994. 24 pages at Royal Assent.
C-76, 1995. 49 pages at Royal Assent.
C-31, 1996. 56 pages at Royal Assent
C-93, 1997. 117 pages at First Reading. 61 pages at Royal Assent.
C-36, 1998. 144 pages at First Reading. 92 pages at Royal Assent.
C-71, 1999. 60 pages at First Reading. 32 pages at Royal Assent.
C-32, 2000. 64 pages at First Reading. 35 pages at Royal Assent.
C-49, 2001. 124 pages at First Reading. 124 pages at Royal Assent.
C-28, 2003. 272 pages at First Reading. 144 pages at Royal Assent.
C-30, 2004. 122 pages at First Reading. 64 pages at Royal Assent.
C-33. 2004. 82 pages at First Reading. 82 pages at Royal Assent.
C-43, 2005. 128 pages at First Reading. 120 pages at Royal Assent.
C-13, 2006. 198 pages at First Reading. 198 pages at Royal Assent.
C-28, 2006. 138 pages at First Reading. 140 pages at Royal Assent.
C-52, 2007. 148 pages at First Reading. 146 pages at Royal Assent.
C-28, 2007. 390 pages at First Reading. 378 pages at Royal Assent.
C-50, 2008. 152 pages at First Reading. 152 pages at Royal Assent.
C-10, 2009. 551 pages at First Reading. 552 pages at Royal Assent.
C-51, 2009. 60 pages at First Reading. 60 pages at Royal Assent.
C-9, 2010. 904 pages at First Reading. 904 pages at Royal Assent.
C-47, 2010. 152 pages at First Reading. 152 pages at Royal Assent.
C-3, 2011. 58 pages at First Reading. 58 pages at Royal Assent.
C-13, 2011. 658 pages at First Reading. 658 pages at Royal Assent.
C-38, 2012. 452 pages at First Reading. 452 pages at Royal Assent.
C-45, 2012. 430 pages at First Reading. 430 pages at Royal Assent.
Note: I suspect page counts might vary somewhat depending on formatting and such.
I have, for instance, seen it reported that the current implementation act measures 421 pages.All page counts above are taken from the “print format” of the online versions.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 10:32 AM - 0 Comments
There are 421 pages of complex and individual ideas now lumped together in an omnibus bill. If the government had the actual courage of its convictions and believed that these were right issues to debate and present to Canadians, it would not lump them all together: the rollback of OAS rights to Canadians, the devastation of pay equity rules that apply to federal contracts and a ripping up and destruction of environmental protections when it comes to major projects.
If the Conservatives used to believe that these distinct issues should stand on their own merit for debate so Canadians can understand what is being applied, why the change of heart, why the change of convictions now?
After the motion was approved by a vote of 145-122, debate of the bill resumed with Peter Kent speaking for the government side.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM - 0 Comments
In justifying the time it is allowing for debate of its budget implementation act, the Harper government is deferring to the time allotted for debate for the Liberal government’s budget in 2005.
That Liberal budget apparently received 21.8 hours of debate in the House on second reading. Here is the bill as it was presented when it was first tabled in the House. In print format, it measures 128 pages.
Here is the budget implementation act that the Conservatives tabled last week. In print format, it measures 452 pages. It is apparently set to receive 28.5 hours of debate.
The Liberal bill received 0.1703125 hours per page. To match that standard, the Conservative bill would have to be debated for just under 77 hours (76.98125 hours to be precise).
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM - 0 Comments
Seven years ago, the Liberal government of the day tabled a budget implementation act that included legislation related to the Kyoto Protocol. As Elizabeth May noted earlier this week, the leader of the opposition at the time was unimpressed.
I also want to raise questions about the budget implementation act that was tabled today. We have several concerns on this, most notably the amendments that would give the government unlimited power to implement Kyoto without ever bringing a plan to Parliament. This is a back door manoeuvre to give the government a blank cheque. It is a dangerous way of proceeding. It will certainly not have the support of this party. If the government has a Kyoto plan, why does it refuse to present it to Canadians?
This complaint seems similar in substance to concerns now being raised about EI provisions that the Conservative government has included in its latest budget implementation. Which is ironic because the leader of the opposition in 2005 is now the leader of the government.
In the case of the 2005 budget bill, the Liberals, under threat of defeat, eventually withdrew the Kyoto provisions.
As noted here previously, the Young Stephen Harper opposed omnibus legislation on principle.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
As noted yesterday, the budget implementation bill tabled yesterday by the Conservatives numbers 431 pages of legislation. Included therein: changes to food regulation, an overhaul of environmental regulations, the repeal of climate change accountability legislation, changes to the protection of fish habitats and the elimination of the CSIS inspector general.
Speaking to reporters after QP yesterday, Nathan Cullen, the new opposition House leader, was unimpressed.
They are doing this simply to curry favour with their best friends in the oil patch. This is all about pipelines. This is about projects that don’t have the merit on their own to stand up to Canadian law. So what they’re doing is destroying Canadian law. The part of the Fisheries Act that is being destroyed here is the most significant environmental protection that we have. It applies to just about everything that we do and it now puts essentially an open gate on every project that the oil industry wants to put forward. It’s fundamental. And the fact that they bury it deep within a budget implementation bill shows that the government knows that on the surface Canadians will not tolerate this, would not allow even a debate …
If Canadians knew the truth of what’s hiding in the depths of this bill, they would be outraged. Now I’m not talking about one part of the political spectrum. I think this goes right across the board that people who like to fish, who like to hunt, people who like to have a clean environment are going to be deeply concerned with a government that won’t even have a discussion or a debate about changing fundamentally the way that we approach protecting our environment. It’s hugely dangerous and quite offensive to me as a Canadian.
Elizabeth May was equally concerned. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 12:23 PM - 0 Comments
Here is the budget implementation bill just tabled in the House this morning. As a file, it measures 1.8Mb. As a document, it measures 431 pages. As an act of Parliament, it amends more than 50 other acts of Parliament.
By page count, this year’s behemoth is nearly 200 pages smaller than last year’s behemoth and more than 400 pages smaller than the 2010 behemoth, so perhaps the trend line provides hope for those who oppose omnibus legislation. Mind you, between 1995 and 2000, the budget bills averaged 12 pages.
Once again, a young Stephen Harper would be very disappointed.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 12:43 PM - 5 Comments
The government’s latest budget implementation bill—Bill C-13—measures 642 pages.
It is broken into 22 parts. In all, it impacts about two dozen acts of Parliament. Part 1 includes 27 different measures. Part 13 “amends the Judges Act to permit the appointment of two additional judges to the Nunavut Court of Justice.”