Why the change Prime Minister Harper?

Hands Off OASMay 9, 2012 – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Government are declining to split the omnibus Bill C-38 into it’s constituent parts, including changes to OAS, which would allow for further debate. Instead, the government is adamant that the bill is in the best interest of Canadians. However, this was not his position 18 years ago when faced down the Liberal Government over a similar omnibus budget implementation bill. This was his well-reasoned argument at the time

Budget Implementation Act, 1994
Government Orders, March 25th, 1994

Stephen Harper Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to make a procedural argument concerning the omnibus nature of this piece of legislation.

This is a new Parliament which I think has been working reasonably well in spite of our recent difficulties. I really would like to call the attention of the Chair to the nature of this particular bill and to urge the Chair to re-examine a practice we have fallen into.

The particular bill before us, Bill C-17, is of an omnibus nature. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that you should rule it out of order and it should not be considered by the House in the form in which it has been presented. I would hope that in making your decision on the acceptability of Bill C-17 in its present form you

will refer to the famous ruling by Mr. Lamoureux of January 26, 1971 in which he said:

However, where do we stop? Where is the point of no return? The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, and I believe the hon. member for Edmonton West, said that we might reach a point where we would have only one bill, a bill at the start of the session for the improvement of the quality of the life in Canada which would include every single proposed piece of legislation for the session. That would be an omnibus bill with a capital O and a capital B . But would it be acceptable legislation? There must be a point where we can go beyond what is acceptable from a strictly parliamentary standpoint.

Even though the Speaker in that case went on to rule that this point had not been reached, I submit to you that it has become a standard practice with governments to bring in omnibus legislation following every budget under what we might call the kitchen sink approach.

Beauchesne’s sixth edition, citation 626 bears directly on this aspect of the matter. It states:

(1) Although there is no specific set of rules or guidelines governing the content of a bill, there should be a theme of relevancy amongst the contents of a bill. They must be relevant to and subject to the umbrella which is raised by the terminology of the long title of the bill.

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.

In this present case, the drafters of Bill C-17 have incorporated in the same bill the following measures: public sector compensation freezes; a freeze in Canada assistance plan payments and Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer Act transfers; extension and deepening of transportation subsidies; authorization for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to borrow money; and changes to unemployment insurance with respect to benefits and the payroll taxes.

First, there is a lack of relevancy of these issues. The omnibus bills we have before us attempt to amend several different existing laws.

Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.

The bill contains many distinct proposals and principles and asking members to provide simple answers to such complex questions is in contradiction to the conventions and practices of the House.

As well this will cause fairly serious difficulties in committee. This bill will ultimately go to only one committee of the House, a committee that will inevitably lack the breadth of expertise required for consideration of a bill of this scope. Furthermore, the workload of that committee will be onerous and it will be very difficult to give due consideration to all relevant opinion.

In concluding my point of order, I would like to quote the hon. member for Windsor West, the government House leader who said on May 30, 1988: “For all the reasons I have given, I respectfully submit that this bill is of improper omnibus nature. This is consistent with what I consider and I respectfully submit to be, the relevant precedents. This is consistent with the traditions of the House and, more important, the purpose of those traditions in terms of the relevance of this House to the life of the country now and in the future”.

This is a new Parliament. I do ask that we take a new approach to this in spite of previous rulings on this matter. I would ask that you give consideration to this, Mr. Speaker. I would also ask the government members, particularly those who have spoken on precisely this question in the previous Parliament with precisely the same concerns, to give serious consideration to this issue of democracy and the functionality of this Parliament now.

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Posted: May 9, 2012
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