OTTAWA– The Liberal Party used a rare opportunity today to introduce a motion calling on the House of Commons to impose limits on the use of omnibus bills, a strategy abused by the Conservative government to limit Parliamentary scrutiny of their legislation.
“When Stephen Harper was a Reform Party MP he complained that a 21-page bill containing just five measures was too complicated for him to vote on,” said Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau. “Yet since coming into office, his government has committed some of the most abhorrent abuses of Parliamentary procedure, including last year’s omnibus budget bill which was 425 pages in length, contained more than 60 unrelated matters, and amended or abolished 74 pieces of legislation.”
As the Conservative government prepares to table their new Budget legislation, the Liberals are using their Opposition Day motion to ask Parliament to study what practical limits can be placed on the consideration of omnibus legislation, and make specific recommendations on how to prevent further abuses. Though some omnibus bills serve a legitimate function, past Speakers of the House have acknowledged that there is a point where such legislation surpasses what is acceptable from a strictly parliamentary standpoint. Liberals have repeatedly called on the government to split their omnibus bills in order to ensure that Parliament can provide effective oversight on issues as diverse as Employment Insurance, Old Age Security, environmental regulations and criminal justice reform.
“Our job is to scrutinize legislation, and to make our laws the best and most effective they can be, but it is impossible to do when so many different issues are lumped together in one omnibus bill,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Liberal Senator James Cowan. “But it is clear that this Conservative government doesn’t want Parliament to scrutinize their proposals closely or allow Canadians to express their views before Parliamentary committees. That is undemocratic, unacceptable and exactly why this motion is needed.”
The Liberal Opposition Day motion is as follows:
That the House agree with the comments of the Right Honourable Member for Calgary Southwest on March 25, 1994, when he criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles and dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill; and that the House instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of omnibus legislation and that the Committee report back its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, no later than December 10, 2012.