Roundup: Not all omnibus bills are abusive

As if we needed another excuse for the opposition to blow their collective gaskets, the Liberal budget implementation bill clocks in at around 300 pages, and touches on several different Acts. In other words, it’s an omnibus bill.

“Oh!” They cry. “You promised you wouldn’t use them.”

Err, they promised not to abuse them, and in fact were careful in their language so as to not promise that they would never be used, because anyone who knows a thing or two about the legislative process knows that sometimes omnibus bills are necessary, particularly when it comes to housekeeping bills that clean up language across several acts, for example. What separates a proper omnibus bills from abusive ones are the fact that they are around a common theme, and can be studied by a single committee. This is where the Harper bills failed the test – while they claimed that they were under a single theme (i.e. implementing programmes mentioned in the budget), they touched on all manner of subjects that were not all under the purview of the finance committee, and this is really the key. When they put in sections that rewrote the entire environmental assessment legislation – under the dubious rubric of doing it for the sake of stimulating resource projects and thereby the economy, this was not something that the finance committee could necessarily study, and certainly not when the hundreds of pages and tight time-allocated timelines meant no time to do proper study of the various and sundry provisions. That is abusive.

From everything I’ve seen of this new budget implementation bill, it certainly looks like everything is all related to fiscal matters and would be under the purview of the finance committee to study. Yes, it’s 300 pages, which shouldn’t be the determining factor, and this is more about the opposition torqueing the issue in order to make it look like the government was breaking a promise when in fact they’re not included the kitchen sink into the bills in order to bully them through with as little scrutiny as possible.

What disturbs me more is the fact that like prorogation, “omnibus” is becoming a dirty word because the previous government took it upon themselves to abuse the practice, while my media colleagues haven’t done enough to disabuse the notion that just because a practice has been abused that it’s not actually illegitimate in and of itself. Prorogation is a routine practice for breaking up a legislative session and hitting the reset button in terms of plans and priorities, while omnibus bills have their uses (as we’ve already established). Just because Stephen Harper abused them to his own ends – which is party didn’t seem to be railing about as they are with this current omnibus bill – it doesn’t mean they’re all bad. This shouldn’t be rocket science, and yet, civic illiteracy is rapidly determining the narrative.

Good reads:

  • Here’s a good recap of today’s events with Malala Yousafzai, including her requests to Canada around education of girls in our development assistance.
  • There is some grousing about the new PBO independence bill, from the current PBO, who says he wasn’t consulted, to former PBO Kevin Page, who has concerns.
  • CSIS has been holding off on using their threat disruption powers granted to them under the old Bill C-51 until the Liberals can bring in their new law.
  • Some Liberal MPs have allocated federal summer job funds to pro-life groups, despite the party’s pro-choice stance. (I still have have questions about this).
  • One of the groups vying to become an RCMP union has passed the 50 percent mark for certification.
  • RCMP brass, meanwhile, won’t punish members for their protests around the new pay package.
  • The military is looking to scrap and replace its inadequate Joint Personnel Support Unit, but that may not happen very soon.
  • The final official Conservative leadership debate changed format so it won’t be all 14 candidates on stage at once.
  • Jennifer Robson explains why asking the PBO to cost election platforms will be a problem.
  • Andrew Coyne wonders why all of the Canada 150 histories are omitting George Brown, who had an enormous impact on Confederation.

Odds and ends:

The Citizen tries to fact-check Trudeau’s statement that joints are currently easier for teens to get than beer.

Philippe Lagassé offers a list of reminders of proper terminology to use for those reporters covering the BC election.

Programming note: I am off for the long weekend plus book tour. Regular blogging resumes April 24th.