Today, the House of Commons begins debate on 871 proposed amendments to the Harper government's Omnibus Budget Bill. The bill is Stephen Harper's parliamentary version of Shock and Awe. It is an attempt to overwhelm parliamentarians and send them scuttling for the exits. But, like the Bush invasion of Iraq, it has spawned an insurgency.
The Globe and Mail reports that, rather than dealing just with budget matters, the bill creates entirely new pieces of legislation:
For instance, the bill creates the Shared Services Canada Act, outlining the powers of a new federal department. In another section, the bill creates the Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement Operations Act, proposed legislation outlining the powers of U.S. and Canadian police officers operating in each other’s territory. Those measures were twice introduced as a stand-alone bill by previous Conservative governments but never passed.
Stephen Harper has always argued that Canadians only care about results, not about process. Being found in contempt of Parliament was all about process and was, said Harper, entirely picayune. Now the Harperites claim that all the amendments are frivolous. NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen argues that the amendments put every MP on record -- either in support of, or in opposition to, each element in the bill:
“The cost to them is that they have to stand up over and over again for all these things that they want to see happen to the country. If you want to take people’s pensions away, you should have to stand up and vote for that. If you’re going to get rid of somebody’s employment insurance, you should have to at least take the 10 minutes to stand up and vote for that too,” he said.
The Tories have a penchant for doing things behind closed doors. They have worked very hard to avoid public scrutiny. There is a great deal in the bill which was never part of their election platform. Those nearly 900 amendments are meant to hold the Harper Conservatives accountable -- something they used to claim was absolutely essential for good government.
Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer will let us know just how accountable this government intends to be -- and just how independent he is. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Harper handles the insurgency as foolishly as George W. Bush handled the Iraq insurgency.