NDP call for 850-page omnibus budget bill to be divided
The government is kicking off House of Commons debate on the massive new piece of legislation on Wednesday.
Published Tuesday, October 30, 2018 7:04PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2018 6:32PM EDT
The federal NDP are calling for the divvying up of the government's latest, and largest yet, budget implementation bill.
The government attempted to kick off debate on the massive new piece of legislation on Wednesday, but other procedural matters arose. Though, kicking off the series of other issues that occupied House of Commons’ time, was NDP MP Peter Julian.
He rose to ask the House of Commons Speaker to split up the bill for the purpose of voting on it, saying that he had asked finance officials how many clauses and sub-clauses were in the bill, and nobody was able to tell him. Julian said when even the department is not aware, it calls into question how MPs would have enough time to scrutinize its contents.
He called Bill C-86 “clownish” in size, and much more than an omnibus bill.
“Surely Mr. Speaker we have reached a point where you must intervene. We have reached a point where this is over the line in what is acceptable in any parliamentary democracy… if not where will this end?” Julian said.
The Speaker will be taking his ask under advisement and will respond to Parliament at a later date.
In an interview with CTVNews.ca on Tuesday, Julian said that his party has been parsing through the hundreds of pages, he doubted any MP would be able to confidently say they’ll have enough time to go over the bill in its entirety to speak to the implications of it.
Monday afternoon Finance Minister Bill Morneau tabled Bill C-86, the second budget implementation bill, to put in place further and yet-unfulfilled aspects of the Feb. 27, 2018 federal budget. It is 850 pages long, amends dozens of different laws, creates new Acts on topics ranging from pay equity to expanded parental leave benefits, amends the Access to Information and Copyright Acts, and makes changes to Canada’s tariff, charitable activity, and First Nations land management regimes.
In the interview, Julian said a bill of this size disrespects Parliament, and will mean only "a few seconds" of debate on each of the clauses within it.
Last year, the government amended the rules of the House of Commons to allow the speaker to split up omnibus bills for votes when there isn't a common thread through various parts. This was meant to exclude budget bills, however on one of the 2017 budget bills, Speaker Geoff Regan found it to be an omnibus, and allowed it to be divided up on the opposition's request.
Julian also sought to have C-74, the last budget implementation bill split up. It was at that point, their biggest yet. That plea was denied, with Regan finding "a direct link between what was announced and what is contained."
When Morneau came under fire earlier this year for the first 2018 budget bill, his office defended the legislation, saying "our bills are big because they are getting a lot done for middle-class Canadians," and that everything in the bill reflects 2018 budget measures.
In an emailed statement Tuesday, Morneau's office doubled down on this message, saying that "everything in this bill reflects budget measures."
Press secretary Pierre-Olivier Herbert said this bill takes the next steps towards "building an equal, competitive, sustainable, and fair Canada."
Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen referenced the bill in jest after question period on Tuesday when she tried to table an unrelated document that was also over 800 pages, and said, "No, it's not the Liberal's omnibus budget implementation act."
The previous Conservative government also had a reputation for bringing forward sizeable budget bills that made other policy changes not directly linked to the budget, like amending environmental regulations. That budget bill -- titled: C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act -- spanned 425 pages.
The Liberals came into power promising to end the use of omnibus bills, which they said were used "to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating" matters, calling it "undemocratic."
For the Liberal's first two budgets, the implementation bills were also tabled in two parts.
In 2016 the government tabled:
- Bill C-15, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1, which was 179 pages
- Bill C-29, Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 2, which was 234 pages
In 2017 the government tabled:
- Bill C-44, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1, which was 290 pages
- Bill C-63, Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2, which was 317 pages
In 2018 the government tabled: