If you want to know how irrelevant Parliament has become, Scott Clark and Peter Devries write, consider what has happened to the budget consultation process:
In the past, pre-budget consultations took place outside the Finance Committee and the minister’s “public” pre-budget consultations. They were run by the Department of Finance as part of a normal process of policy development leading up to delivering recommendations to the minister.
Under the previous government — the first one to ask the Finance Committee to seek the views of Canadians on the upcoming budget — the minister of Finance would appear before the committee in person, present updated economic and fiscal projections and lay out potential challenges for budget planning. The last time a minister presented such an update to the committee was … 2006.
This year, the Harper government announced a surplus and then announced it had been spent on tax cuts -- primarily income splitting. Under Magna Charta, the chief function of Parliament was defined as reviewing and approving public expenditures. The Harper government has, quite simply, neutered Parliament. As Clark and Devries observe:
It’s just another front in the Harper government’s campaign to turn Parliament into a machine for voting money — obediently, silently and blindly. After all, what’s the point of consulting on how to spend money you’ve already spent?