Marathon vote on omnibus amendments takes more than six hours
Published Tuesday, December 4, 2012 1:09PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2012 10:49PM EST
After more than six hours in the House of Commons, MPs finished voting on 47 amendments to the contentious omnibus budget bill late Tuesday night.
The majority Conservative government didn’t allow any of the amendments to pass.
Opposition parties and citizen groups fought the massive bill, saying it was an affront to democracy because it aimed to change key pieces of legislation without public input.
But the Conservatives said the bill will spur economic growth in Canada and criticized those who attacked it.
Bill C-45 was more than 400 pages long and, like its predecessors, made changes to a myriad of rules and regulations.
The most contentious amendments were those to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which removed thousands of lakes and streams from federal protection under that law.
The Conservatives said the changes streamline regulation and remove red tape that held up projects along waterways, however, opposition parties argue that it removes environmental oversight of some of Canada's most valued lakes and rivers.
First Nations groups are also opposed to the waters protection act, among other legislative amendments.
A group of First Nations chiefs frustrated with what they say is a lack of consultation over measures in the bill attempted to get in the chamber of the House of Commons earlier Tuesday and had a brief confrontation with security staff.
Pam Palmater, chair of indigenous governance at Toronto’s Ryerson University, said aboriginals are staging a series of protests throughout the country to voice their concerns over changes to the Indian Act, some of which may affect the leasing of reserve lands and how decisions involving band territories are made.
Palmater told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday that Prime Minister Stephen Harper specifically promised First Nations leaders that his government would not approve any unilateral changes to the Indian Act, but “he has broken that promise with at least eight pieces of legislation since.”
Palmater said aboriginal groups are considering “all options,” including seeking a court injunction.
In the meantime, she said, the “core message” to all Canadians is that the omnibus budget bill is unfair and undemocratic.
Among the provisions in Bill C-45 is an extension of the small business hiring credit and green-lighting the creation of a new cross-border bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit.
“In this fragile economy what this House needs to do is have the NDP stop fighting the job creating a hiring credit for small business, stop fighting the new, economically vital Windsor-
Detroit crossing and get behind the minister of finance’s budget bill,” said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird during question period on Tuesday.
However, following news that the Canadian economy stalled in the third quarter to 0.6 per cent, opposition MPs blasted the government’s economic management.
“Two years ago the Conservatives had predicted that in 2012 economic growth in Canada would hit 3 per cent. The Conservatives have had to admit they couldn’t be more wrong,” said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. “Job opportunities are not as good. At the same the employment insurance eligibility rate has reached its lowest level in 10 years.”
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale questioned why the Conservatives’ policies tend to have the greatest impact on low-income Canadians.
“For them, vital front-line services are eviscerated, but what’s more, there’s a bizarre attack on public health and safety,” said Goodale, pointing to cuts in environmental science habitat protection, food safety product labelling and aboriginal health.
“None of these cuts are in the so-called back office, they’re all front-line services that keep Canadians safe,” said Goodale.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives said strengthening the economy is the best way to protect social services.
“We’re dedicated to insuring we have excellent services for Canadians, at the same time it’s important for growth and jobs and opportunity to get to a balanced budget in the medium term,” said Conservative MP and Treasury Board president Tony Clement. “That is the best guarantee to continue to pay for our social programs.”
With files from The Canadian Press