Judy addressing the Rally

Judy Rivard addresses the Rally, June 13, 2012

My remarks today include some quotes I have gathered as a concerned citizen trying to gain a better understanding of the C-38 situation. Let me begin with the following quote.

“The omnibus bills we have before us attempts to amend several different existing laws. Second, 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 on such concerns? “

Stephen Harper spoke these words on March 16, 1994 in the House of Commons when he was a Reform MP for Calgary West. He was referring to the 24-page omnibus budget bill tabled by the government of the day. 

He went on to say, “We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.” END Quote

Bill C-38 the 2012 Budget is over 400 pages; the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper has tabled five budgets of 390 pages or more in its six years in power. Only three times between 1994 and 2005, when the Liberals were in power, did a budget implementation act exceed 100 pages at the time of royal assent. On seven occasions, the bill that passed Parliament was less than 70 pages.

Another former conservative MP stated,

“It makes a travesty of the democratic process to bundle all of this into a budget bill, with all of its other facets, is not becoming of a Conservative government, period." Said by Tom Siddon, a Conservative elected 5 times federally between 1978 and 1993, serving as Fisheries Minister from 1985 to 90. Mr. Siddon was Referring to one of the 70 amendments in Bill C-38 when speaking at a House of Commons Subcommittee meeting on Wed. May 30, 2012.

In a letter to the Oakville Beaver last Thursday, June 7, our MP, Terence Young, responds to opponents of the bill by presenting statistics so the average Beaver reader might say the Bill has been sufficiently debated. My math totals 96 hours of debate for 452 pages of legislation that’s 4.7 minutes per page. Unless one is familiar with legislative procedure they might assume this is fine. But we have to consider the scope of the bill. 4.7 minutes per page doesn’t seem to be enough time to repeal acts that took years to set up.

DEMOCRACY IS more than just a vote it’s a process and that process matters. This is not a question of whether a majority government can make lawful decisions by outvoting the opposition in Parliament. They can. This is a question of how the government makes those decisions, whether they have followed due diligence and explained clearly the rationale and the pros and cons of their decisions to the public. Meaningful, informed debate to possibly amend proposed legislation is the purpose of Parliament.

These “omnibus bills” can be an expedient way for the government to make law. While I’m all for efficiency, what’s the rush. If the contents of Bill C-38 is in alignment with the views and values of a majority of Canadians then it should be split and each component able to stand up to open public debate in our Parliament. It should also be able to stand up to a free vote not along party lines so as Mr. Harper stated “Members can be allowed to represent the views of their constituents."

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