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Uffish Thoughts: Why all the Omnibus Bills, Mr. Harper? November 25, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Uncategorized.
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Uffish Thoughts: Why all the Omnibus Bills, Mr. Harper?

By Dan Davidson

October 20, 2012

–  768 words –

As much as I hate to repeat myself so soon, there doesn’t seem to be any alternative. I can, of course, say that Stephen Harper made me do it, though that seems to be a little too close in phrasing to that old cliché in which the devil is the subject of the sentence.

I really don’t see the Prime Minister as wearing a red union suit and brandishing a pitchfork, but putting himself at the center of most Conservative pronouncements does tend to paint a target on him.

I mean, nearly every press release or press advisory that appears in my in-box continues to contain the phrase “the Harper Government”, as if the nation had undergone a name change over the last half-decade and the notion of a Canadian Government or a federal government had become passé.

That being said, when the government does something one believes to be wrong, and continues to do it even after repeated admonitions by a whole lot of people, many of whom are not members of Her Majesty’ Loyal Opposition, one feels an obligation to protest.

The subject of the week is omnibus bills, and the question is why?

News reports indicate that we’re now looking at the second of these phone book sized monstrosities in six months. It’s thicker than the last one and, like the last one, it’s full of legislative amendments that have only the most tenuous of connections to the federal budget.

The standout item for the Yukon last time around was the gutting of Parks Canada, but it was also interesting that they altered the protection of fish habitat so substantially that, had this amendment been in place five years ago, Dawson could not have been found guilty of damaging the Yukon River with its waste effluent and there would have been no need to built our new wastewater treatment plant.

I’m sure there were many other items that might have been of interest, and I made an effort to locate a table of contents for the bill so that I could request information about them. I was told that there was no such thing. No table of contents? How is a person supposed to navigate his or her way through all that small print legalese without a finding aid?

This time around Mr. Harper seems out to cut the efficacy of regulations related to navigable waterways by striking most of the lakes and rivers off the list. Why? No one seems to have a clue. This time, at least, the Yukon River has been spared.

In a recent rant, Rick Mercer suggested that Mr. Harper’s approach to governance is like that of a grifter running a shell game or a card con. He is annoying us so much with how he is doing things that we are being distracted from what he is doing.

Certainly he is making a farce out of the very notions of transparent and accountable government. Omnibus bills, as Harper himself once said when he was in the Opposition benches, make a mockery of the democratic process. They derail the whole apparatus of checks and balances that our system is supposed to enable.

The Finance Minister may chide the Opposition for “not doing their homework” over the summer by not reading every small print page of the federal budget, but omnibus bills like these two, tied as the Minister and the PM claim, to the federal budget, mean that Conservative Party members don’t even have to read them.

Budget bills, omnibus or otherwise, are no-brainers for members of the governing party. Your leader and his cabinet hand it to you and you vote in favour of it, whether it’s good for your riding or not, because if you don’t, you get shown the door. And if you sometimes feel like a mushroom on the backbenches, imagine how it will be when you’re a banished independent.

I wonder if Mr. Harper isn’t using omnibus bills at least partly because he’s not sure of his caucus. After the strange voting patterns in that free vote on the definition of a human being last month, when he made it clear how everyone should be voting and even some cabinet members went their own way, perhaps he sees omnibus budget bills as a way to keep everyone in line.

 

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