In 1994, Stephen Harper, then a Reform Party MP, attacked the use of omnibus legislation in an intervention in the House of Commons.
Mr. Harper was referring to Bill C-17: the Budget implementation Act, 1994. Bill C-17 was 21 pages long including appendices and tables. It addressed five measures, all budgetary in nature, and had an impact on 11 statutes.
In contrast, Prime Minister Harper’s omnibus bill last spring (Bill C-38) was 425 pages long, contained over 60 unrelated matters and amended or abolished 74 pieces of legislation.
“The particular bill before us, Bill C-17, is of an omnibus nature. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that you should rule it out of order and it should not be considered by the House in the form in which it has been presented.”
“Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.”
“Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns? We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.”
“This will cause fairly serious difficulties in committee. This bill will ultimately go to only one committee of the House, a committee that will inevitably lack the breadth of expertise required for consideration of a bill of this scope. Furthermore, the workload of that committee will be onerous and it will be very difficult to give due consideration to all relevant opinion.”
“I would also ask the government members, particularly those who have spoken on precisely this question in the previous Parliament with precisely the same concerns, to give serious consideration to this issue of democracy and the functionality of this Parliament now.”
(Stephen Harper, Hansard, March 25, 1994)