Sunday, May 27, 2012

Parliament in Review: May 2, 2012

A combination of the one-year anniversary of Canada's 2011 federal election and a relatively short day in Parliament left little room for a lot of debate on Wednesday, May 2. But the day did see some serious questions raised about the Cons' rush to pass their budget without debate.

The Big Issue

Before debate actually started on Bill C-38, Scott Brison pointed out that a couple of different drafts of the bill had been circulated - making it unclear whether the bill introduced in Parliament was even the same one provided to the opposition parties. Nathan Cullen echoed that concern, only to be met with repeated declarations of "just trust us!" from a government that's gone out of its way to make sure nobody paying the slightest bit of attention feels safe taking its word for anything. And so it took confirmation from the office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel to clarify just what was being debated in the first place.

Of course, it's probably fair to say that few MPs were going to be reading the bill as they went in order to debate it. But that only highlights the fact that the omnibus bill is designed to cram more content into a single piece of legislation than can possibly be scrutinized properly. Which made it particularly galling that before the end of the first shortened day of discussion about a bill whose contents hadn't even been confirmed, Peter Van Loan moved to close down debate.

Meanwhile, Peggy Nash questioned why massive environmental deregulation was being pushed through in a budget bill, then put that concern in context alongside the Cons' general distaste for accountability and debate. Brison pointed out the fact that Joe Oliver's selection as the Cons' lead speaker just highlighted how clear it was that the bill wasn't really budget legislation, and slammed the Cons' laughable insistence that handing money to the corporate sector will somehow serve to alleviate inequality. And Oliver kept up the we-know-best line by confirming that the Cons want to give Peter Kent the sole authority to determine what review will be carried out for any project.

In Brief

Alexandre Boulerice criticized the Cons' "aristocracy" for keeping limo drivers on standby up to 360 days a year while calling for everybody else to put up with austerity. Niki Ashton pointed out that the Cons' budget will do direct damage to Canadian women. Sadie Groguhe contrasted the treatment of Code Pink activists who were refused entry into Canada against the open arms extended toward Conrad Black. Robert Chisholm invoked the words of former Conservative fisheries minister Tom Siddon to question the gutting of fisheries regulation, while Fin Donnelly noted that the Cons' omnibus attack on fisheries legislation is being rammed through Parliament just months before we receive a key report on B.C.'s wild salmon fishery. Peter Julian summed up the NDP's dissent from the Cons' tar-sands boosterism through the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. And in adjournment proceedings Carolyn Bennett asked the Cons to explain their characterization of First Nations as "adversaries" in contrast to their "allies" in the oil industry (with little success), while Carol Hughes challenged the Cons' planned cuts to OAS.

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