Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa's Budget Bill Is Shorter but No Sweeter

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa's Budget Bill Is Shorter but No Sweeter

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Ottawa's budget bill is shorter but no sweeter

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 27:

When Parliament votes on the omnibus federal budget bill Tuesday, MPs will be dealing with legislation that's shorter, less far-reaching and in many ways more innocuous than its recent forerunners. But that's not saying much.

At 111 pages, Bill C-60 is dwarfed by its immediate predecessor, the 443-page 2012 budget implementation bill, which reshaped Canadian policy in ways that, by virtue of its length and diversity, parliamentarians could not have understood when they passed it. Yet the two budget bills have at least one unsettling commonality. Each amends or abolishes dozens of varied pieces of legislation, many of which, contrary to the purpose of budget bills, are non-fiscal in nature.

That means the House of Commons finance committee is charged with examining parts of the bill on which it has no expertise. In the case of Bill C-60, the committee was given only four days to hear expert testimony on the consequences of the legislation -- an impossibly tight time-frame in which to do a job already beyond its competency. This is government by what Liberal MP Scott Brison calls "kitchen-sink committee," and it's what NDP Finance critic Peggy Nash rightly calls "a sham."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is used to these criticisms. At this time last year, under pressure from opposition parties and pundits of every political stripe, the Conservatives agreed to hive off some parts of the budget bill and submit them to five relevant committees. The same has been done with Bill C-60. That's a good first check on the power of the omnibus tool, but it's not nearly enough.

Take the case of the latest bill's most controversial measures -- unprecedented provisions that will allow the government to intervene in the collective bargaining and executive salary negotiations of more than 40 Crown corporations. …

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