New omnibus budget bill part of a hurry-up offense that goes way too far

This week the Conservatives brought a 450 page budget update bill to the House of Commons.  It is obvious they have not learned a thing after the fallout from the Trojan Horse budget last spring because this document is more of the same.

If you haven’t seen the play book, here’s how it goes:  Create a huge bill that goes well beyond the scope of a budget – usually by amending existing laws and regulations.  Refuse to break it up for further study or to allow non-contentious elements to be supported.  Claim that anyone who has any criticisms or ideas to improve any part of it is out to destroy the economy.   Use majorities in both the House of Commons and Senate to get it out of the news cycle as quickly as possible.

This makes almost a thousand pages of budget for 2012 alone.  The Conservatives are using this budget to further erode environmental safeguards to make way for the export of Canadian oil.   This time the Navigable Waters Act is under the knife to take out parts that make it difficult for pipelines.   They are renaming it the Navigation Protection Act and limiting its application to just three oceans, 97 lakes and 62 rivers across Canada – for outdoors enthusiasts who counted on the tradition of navigable waters to grant access to rivers for hunting and fishing this is a major blow that will only show itself over time.

Incendiary and arbitrary changes to the Indian Act are sure to be met with opposition.  Granting the Minister absolute power over internal band matters and governance is a step back in time.  This is so far offside that can only be viewed as designed to create unrest.  

The budget bill also deals with MP pensions, which the NDP are demanding be put into a separate bill so it can be debated in an honest manner by parliament.  You can guarantee they won’t do that.  They will use the MP pensions as a communications tool to blunt any criticism of other items in the budget.    You can imagine the lines now.  Every opposition objection to the budget will be met with government claims that we just want to protect our pensions.

New Democrats have been up front and open in our belief that the job of setting MP pensions shouldn’t even be left to parliament.  The Conservatives couldn’t resist the easy talking points and will milk this to death.  But they are not even being terribly honest since the changes they propose will not affect many of their current MPs whose pensions will be set by the time the next election rolls around.  They made these changes for the distant future and made sure to take care of their own first.

It will be a real shame if the Conservatives get an easy hearing on this second omnibus budget bill in just one year.  They are quite obviously doing most of their dirty work up front and hope that most people will forget by the time the next election rolls around.  It is a cynical way of doing politics and I am hopeful that Canadians show them we have a long memory.