The Province

Critics view Tory omnibus bill as abusive, unethical


OTTAWA — The Conservati­ve government’s move to limit debate on a sweeping budget bill stuffed with major policy changes is undemocrat­ic and unethical, charge opposition parties.

The Tories maintain that they’re simply trying to enact important economic measures in a timely fashion.

A government motion was adopted Thursday in the Commons to limit second reading debate on budget Bill C-38 to seven days before it’s voted on.

The bill includes sweeping changes to environmen­tal protection, oldage security, employment insurance, national parks and approvals for natural-resource projects. It amends or eliminate dozens of different laws.

“While this may be legal, it’s certainly unethical and it’s certainly undemocrat­ic,” said NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen, calling the Tory tactics an unpreceden­ted “abuse of power.”

“This prime minister . . . . used to rail against this exact tactic,” he added.

Opposition parties are demanding the government split up the budget bill into separate pieces of legislatio­n so the myriad changes can be properly debated.

Liberal deputy House leader Kevin Lamoureux said it’s “a cowardly act” to include several policy overhauls in one bill and limit debate on it.

The bill would allow set time limits on environmen­tal reviews, regardless of whether they are complete, and allow cabinet ministers to make decisions on certificat­es for major pipelines.

The Fisheries Act would be stripped of requiremen­ts to protect fish habitat. Also scrapped would be the Kyoto Protocol Implementa­tion Act, which called for annual reports on the effectiven­ess of federal climate change policies and an independen­t review of results.

“This has more acts than ever and more of these acts have nothing to do with the budget,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

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