News  Conservatives submit massive budget bill

Parliament limits debate to five days

On Thursday, October 18, the Conservative government tabled the second part of the 2012 budget bill, which runs a total of 457 pages. The bill’s official name is The Jobs and Growth Act 2012, or Bill C-45.

The budget bill follows omnibus budget bill C-38, which was introduced in March and led to much debate and filibustering from the NDP and Liberal Party opposition.

Bill C-45 is one of the largest budget bills in recent history, second only to the 900-page Bill C-9, tabled in 2010 at Royal Assent.

Much like its predecessor, the bill covers a number of amendments in a variety of categories and changes a total of 74 pieces of legislation.

These include amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review, the Employment Insurance Act, the Navigable Waters Act, and the Customs Act, among others.

When asked about the length of the bill, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in an email to The Daily, “Even though the opposition likes to suggest otherwise, it has been common practice to include various measures in a budget – and the subsequent budget implementation bill.”

“This is nothing new or groundbreaking. This simply reflects the central role of a budget to a Government’s agenda. As the challenges Canada’s economy faces are neither small nor one-dimensional, neither is our plan,” Flaherty wrote.

Another act in the bill, The Bridge to Strengthen Trade Act (Division 5), concerns the creation of a bridge that would connect Ontario to Michigan over the Detroit River. The bridge would be exempt from any environmental laws.

While Conservatives oppose the bill from being split up, they did allow one piece of the bill to be passed separately the day after it was introduced – the part of the bill concernimg Members of Parliament’s pensions.

Last Thursday, the Conservative government also allowed ten House Committees to be assigned to better scrutinize parts of the bill. Committees will be charged with studying health, fisheries and oceans, justice and human rights, as well as citizenship and immigration.

According to Flaherty, “We want an open, public, and timely study and debate. As always, there will be detailed Committee studies in the House and Senate.”

“We really hope the opposition will give their support at second reading if they genuinely want these committees to study the legislation – instead of shutting down debate and playing political games.”

The same day, however, Conservatives brought a motion to limit debate to five days.  The motion passed, limiting the second reading of the bill to begin late last week.

On the opposition side of the House, there has been much talk about the massive bill being undemocratic.

The Daily spoke with McGill Political Science professor Christa Scholtz about the bill.

“There is a theory that the legislature has to hold the cabinet accountable. The Prime Minister and the cabinet have to hold the confidence of the house,” Scholtz said.

“The problem with an omnibus bill,” Scholtz continued, “is it is completely unreasonable for the government to be held accountable. They don’t have enough time for a detailed examination of the bill, especially it is a problem when the cabinet and Prime Minister invokes a limit on debate.”

The second reading of the bill is currently underway in the House of Commons.