Conservatives’ Bill C-45 Tactics Add to Fears Re: State of Democracy

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands, today challenged the Harper Conservatives to respond to Canadians’ concerns about the state of democracy.

A spring 2012 poll released by the charitable organization Samara revealed that Canadians are less satisfied with their democracy than they were in 2004. Seventy-five percent expressed some degree of satisfaction eight years ago, but that has since dropped to 55 percent.

“Canadians have made it clear that they are not happy with the way the Harper Conservatives are whittling away at our democratic system,” said May. “This is especially relevant today when C-45, a 457-page bill, is being forced through the House of Commons.”

Bill C-45 is the Conservatives’ second omnibus “budget” implementation bill this year. Between 1994 and 2005, such bills averaged 73.6 pages; under the Harper Conservatives, they have averaged 308.9 pages.

In spite of the fact that it affects 74 existing bills, C-45 was given just six days’ review by parliamentary committees; Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan has invoked time allocation at Report Stage and Third Reading – limiting debate to a few hours.

Time Allocation, the most powerful restriction of debate, allows the ruling party to set a deadline when all motions in a stage or stages must be voted on, leaving the bill’s passage through the House entirely at the minister’s discretion.

According to Michael Behiels, a political historian at the University of Ottawa, the Conservatives regular use of time allocation is an abuse of power. He told The Globe and Mail in September – before Bill C-45 – that they are “using a blunt instrument which is supposed to be used very rarely,”

Before gaining power, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews once said: “For the government to bring in closure and time allocation is wrong. It sends out the wrong message to the people of Canada. It tells the people of Canada that the government is afraid.”