The Harper government is intent on passing its 421 page Budget Implementation Bill in seven days. If Stephen Harper were the Leader of the Opposition, he would be up in arms. In fact, as Leader of the Opposition, he was. "In the interest of democracy," he fumed,
I ask how can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?”
But that was then. This is now. And now Harper knows that his program runs so deeply against Canada's core values that he must accomplish his mission by stealth. Tom Walkom outlines the significant details in the omnibus budget act:
One section of the bill, for instance, repeals the entire Environmental Assessment Act.
It replaces it with another that gives cabinet the authority to press ahead with mega-projects that it wants, regardless of their environmental effects.
The bill also includes seemingly minor amendments to the Fisheries Act that would remove federal protection from a great swath of environmentally sensitive wetlands.
Another unadvertised section would repeal the federal Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. That act requires contractors working on federal projects to pay reasonable wages. Its elimination has been lauded by non-union shops.
Yet another so-called technical amendment would reduce the number of jobless who get Employment Insurance. The mechanism here is complicated, but the net effect would be to give cabinet the authority to override the courts in determining who is eligible for EI.
Harper has known from the very beginning that his mantra, "Conservative values are Canadian values" is patently false.
That is why he doesn't want to debate the details of the budget bill. That is why parliamentary committees meet behind closed doors. That is why there was a centrally organized campaign to suppress opposition votes during the last election.campaign
And that is why the opposition parties must stand up and collectively say no. They must refuse to vote on the budget bill. Let the bells summoning Members of Parliament into the House ring for months if necessary. Canadians have had enough.