Monday, 11 June 2012

The Bill That Couldn't Happen Here

Back when I worked for the House of Commons, every time an Omnibus Bill was proposed (and the usual discussions and negotiations around splitting it were occurring) we would joke about the ultimate Omnibus Bill - An Act for the Government of Canada, with everything a government wanted to do in one bill. Of course, we never believed it would ever happen in our democratic system. But that is essentially what Bill C-38 is about.

Omnibus bills were always controversial, but in comparison to Bill C-38, always focused. They might, for example, amend several crime and justice related acts in one bill or several pieces of environmental legislation in one bill. But they were still controversial and often divided into more reasonable groupings of legislation by means of multi-party co-operation. Yes there used to be such a thing, even during majority governments.

Budgets themselves would always result in numerous bills, usually an Income Tax bill, a bill related to other tax measures, and specific bills for specific policy measures included in the budget. It is unprecedented to include everything mentioned in a budget, and some things not mentioned in it, in a budget bill. It is unprecedented not only because no government thought they could get away with it but because all previous governments knew it was inappropriate and undemocratic.

This was back in the days when governments did not believe that democracy involved 40% of the people electing a dictator who would virtually govern by decree for four years, but when governments believed in Parliamentary democracy.

This was back in the days of the Progressive Conservative Party when government and opposition Members of Parliament may have differed on what the thought were the best policies for the country but respected each other because they all wanted what they believed was best for Canada. This was back when all political leaders believed in Canada and we did not have a Prime Minister who wanted to make this country something that Canadians would not recognize.

1 comment:

Ev said...

Well spoken, Richard. As a Canadian citizen, I also remember those days. Little did we imagine the remote possibility of our democracy being so attacked and compromised. May we find a way to gain it back.