Opposition Motion—Omnibus Legislation

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, we do agree that we need to find limits on the misuse of omnibus legislation. It is not, as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons would have it, a matter of procedure or political games. The motion before us today is, at its essence, about democracy. I commend to my hon. friend this quote from Professor Ned Franks, one of the leading political scientists in Canada, professor emeritus at Queen’s University, who wrote that,

“…budget implementation acts…have morphed from short bills dealing with minor items…to enormous bills”.

He said:

These omnibus budget implementation bills subvert and evade the normal principles of parliamentary review of legislation.

As such, they are at the heart of respect for Westminster parliamentary tradition. I am not going to cite any specific examples of the misuse of an omnibus bill, of which there have been many, but most of them have been in recent years: the 700-page omnibus bill of 2009, the enormous omnibus bill of 2010 and, of course, the most recent one this spring.

I think my hon. friend’s speech has already answered the question of whether we need to get this to a committee. How quickly can we get this to a committee? When can we set these limits?

Nathan Cullen: Mr. Speaker, there are two places where these limits get to be set. One is that, with the good intentions and hope of all members of Parliament, we would suspect that the government would be open to this. This is something that can happen through the Conservatives’ voting for this motion today, and they clearly are vitriolic in their opposition to anything that would curtail any of their power whatsoever, any sensible or reasonable conversation about limitations on power. The Conservatives think it might need to be absolute.

The second place, and this is an important one, is the effort we make beyond this chamber to talk to our constituents. We know some Conservatives actually heard from their constituents and agreed with them that the last iteration of this omnibus bill, this abuse of power, was something that should have been broken up, that it was incomprehensible and not justifiable in its massive form. The member of Parliament from British Columbia who had that moment of reflection, new to the Conservative caucus, had his mind changed for him within a number of hours. I lament that, because we should all be meeting with our constituents and reflecting their interests, not reflecting what the PMO thinks back to them, which is so common a case with my Conservative colleagues.