Published on June 12, 2012
P.E.I.’s three Liberal MPs say the Harper government is ‘ramming’ through its budget implementation bill in order to impose major changes to multiple laws and services without facing public scrutiny.
“The government is just basically ramming this though, they have the majority to do it, but they’re ramming it through without proper discourse and proper debate,” Malpeque MP Wayne Easter said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re finding new information every day of what’s in this bill.”
The MPs are gearing up for a long night of voting in the House of Commons Wednesday on the controversial omnibus bill. It’s expected it will take more than 24 hours of voting to get through the more than 800 amendments that have been proposed to Bill C-38.
Opposition parties originally introduced over 1,000 amendments but the Speaker of the House of Commons would not allow them all and grouped many of them together.
It means MPs will vote between 67 and 159 times when voting on the bill begins tomorrow — a process that will take a least an entire day.
Charlottetown MP Sean Casey said this is the only card the Opposition parties have to try to hold up this large piece of legislation what will have dramatic impacts on P.E.I. and the region.
“We have been pleading with the government to break up the bill and allow for proper study and debate and they have shown absolutely no interest in that,” Casey said. “They have a majority so I guess they have the right and the power to do what they’re doing, so really the only card that we have left is to propose multiple amendments and to have a marathon vote.”
The bill proposes reforms to a myriad of laws and services, including major changes to the employment insurance system, environmental and fisheries laws, eligibility for Old Age Security, food safety and border security.
The Conservative government has shown no willingness to split the bill, arguing that no matter how they carve it up the Opposition will still vote all of it down.
“We are firmly committed to getting this bill through and we will have it passed before we rise for the summer,” said House Leader Peter Van Loan.
But Opposition MPs say they do not understand why government wants to make so many far reaching changes without allowing more time for consultation and debate.
“What’s the hurry? Why can’t these be sent to the proper committees for study?” Casey said. “They have the power to jam this down the throats of Canadians and parliamentarians and that’s exactly what they’re going to do.”
Natural Resources MinisterGail Shea, P.E.I.’s only Tory MP, says government is implementing the changes in this bill in to ensure government programs are “efficient, effective and achieving” the expected results for Canadians.
“In our view, Economic Action Plan 2012 accomplishes this,” she said in a written statement. “It also lays a strong foundation for continued job creation and economic growth with more support for training, extending the hiring credit for small business, and providing new opportunities for Canadians to gain access to the labour market. It also keeps taxes low for small- and medium-sized business, and facilitates the responsible development of Canada’s energy and natural resource sectors.”
But Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay said he very concerned over the impacts he believes the measures in Bill C-38 will have on Islanders.
“This is bill is an encyclopedia. I’m concerned about fisheries, I’m concerned about EI, I’m concerned about the environment, I’m concerned about old age pensions and it’s all in one,” MacAulay said. “My concern is they want to pass legislation that I feel will hurt a lot of people that I represent without them even knowing about it.”
Only two of P.E.I.’s three Liberal MPs will take part in the voting marathon, which is set to begin tomorrow in the late afternoon and continue all through the night and likely most of Thursday.
Casey will be absent from the house for a pre-scheduled surgery on his eye.
(With files from The Canadian Press.)