MP Ryan Leef and the Conservative government do not respect our democracy – they do not respect the views of Canadians. They have no interest in hearing from Canadians. They have decided that they know what is best, and they are going to impose their will upon Canadians.
Parliament, they have decided, needs to be sidelined – ignored. It used to be a place where serious issues were debated, where the nation’s business was taken care of. No longer.
Yet again, the Harper government has tabled an omnibus budget bill – this time 443 pages that amend everything from the Navigable Waters Protection Act to the Canada Labour Code. By combining completely unrelated measures in a single massive bill, the Harper government is hoping that many of the provisions will not be noticed, or that Canadians’ outrage will be buried – today’s news story, forgotten tomorrow.
What is the government afraid of? What are they afraid parliamentarians – and Canadians – will discover if the bill is given the proper scrutiny its provisions deserve?
While in opposition, Stephen Harper complained about a 21-page omnibus bill, saying “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 … it will be very difficult to give due consideration to all relevant opinion.”
In opposition, a 21-page bill was offensive. Now he tells Canadians a 443-page bill is just right.
Other countries limit legislation to a single topic or subject. In the United States, 42 of the 50 state constitutions have articles prohibiting excessive omnibus legislation.
Recently the Liberal opposition in the House of Commons proposed a motion to place reasonable limits on omnibus bills. Mr. Leef refused; he stood with his Conservative colleagues and voted that motion down.
Canadians expect parliamentarians to do their job – to scrutinize legislation, to listen to Canadians, to seriously debate proposals, and to make changes where changes are necessary. That is how the best laws are made. The Harper government knows that it is very difficult for parliamentarians to do their jobs properly when presented with omnibus bills, and that is why it has become addicted to them.
This isn’t how Canadians expect their government to work. We all deserve better.
It is time to deliver a message to the Conservative government: respect our democracy, and respect Canadians. No more abusive omnibus bills.
Senator James Cowan
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate