Om­nibus rides again

The Packet (Clarenville) - - EDITORIAL -

All that is old is new again, and old again, and new again. Sigh. It’s hard to have any faith in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem at all. “In the in­ter­est of democ­racy I ask: how can mem­bers rep­re­sent their con­stituents on these var­i­ous ar­eas when they are forced to vote in a block on such leg­is­la­tion and such con­cerns? ... I would ar­gue that the sub­ject mat­ter of the bill is so di­verse that a sin­gle vote on the con­tent would put mem­bers in con­flict with their own prin­ci­ples.”

That was Stephen Harper on March 15, 1994, in op­po­si­tion, talk­ing about the use of om­nibus bills.

Om­nibus bills are whole col­lec­tions of leg­is­la­tion, of­ten packed to­gether in bud­get en­abling leg­is­la­tion that can run into the hun­dreds of pages. Op­po­nents of the bills point out, quite rightly, that hav­ing so many things packed into a sin­gle bill means par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have no time to re­view in­di­vid­ual el­e­ments of the leg­is­la­tion.

De­spite Harper’s re­vul­sion for om­nibus leg­is­la­tion in 1994, that type of bill be­came a hall­mark of the Harper years, with bud­get bills reach­ing

400 pages of dense re­vi­sions to a broad range of leg­is­la­tion.

The process reached the point that om­nibus bills be­came a ral­ly­ing cry for Justin Trudeau and the Lib­er­als dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion.

Here’s part of the Lib­eral plat­form from that elec­tion: “We will not re­sort to leg­isla­tive tricks to avoid scrutiny. Stephen Harper has… used om­nibus bills to pre­vent Par­lia­ment from prop­erly re­view­ing and de­bat­ing his pro­pos­als. We will change the House of Com­mons Stand­ing Orders to bring an end to this un­demo­cratic prac­tice.” Oh, if it were only so sim­ple.

It’s 2017, the Lib­er­als are in power, and their bud­get im­ple­men­ta­tion bill this year is more than 300 pages long.

The Lib­er­als claim it’s not om­nibus leg­is­la­tion, with Trudeau telling the House of Com­mons on April 12, “We made a com­mit­ment to put only bud­get items that are part of Canada’s eco­nomic plan in the bud­get im­ple­men­ta­tion bill. That is ex­actly what we are do­ing. We will not make in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of om­nibus bills like the former govern­ment did.”

The Lib­eral bill amends the rules for the Par­lia­men­tary Bud­get Of­fi­cer; sets up an in­fra­struc­ture bank; in­creases pay for some jus­tices; changes rules for the Cana­dian De­posit In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion; makes changes to veter­ans leg­is­la­tion; amends the Cana­dian Labour Code; en­acts a ser­vice fees act and an “In­vest in Canada” act. In all, it cre­ates or 13 piece of leg­is­la­tion. It looks, walks and talks like om­nibus leg­is­la­tion, re­gard­less of Lib­eral protes­ta­tions.

Con­ser­va­tive House Leader Can­dace Ber­gen called the move hyp­o­crit­i­cal — it’s a won­der, with the Tory’s record for om­nibus abuse, that she could even get the words out with a straight face. But she’s right.

And we’re wronged.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.