What’s the rush?

A pattern is developing in this parliament that is disconcerting at best.  That is the use of time allocation to prematurely stop debate on legislation that will have a big impact on Canada for years to come.   The Conservatives used to complain bitterly about how often Jean Chretien used the tactic, but so far they are on pace to out-do everyone who has governed before them when employing this heavy-handed tactic.

This government has used time allocation 5 times in the first 38 sitting days of the 41st parliament.  The omnibus crime bill and the bill to dismantle the wheat board are prime examples of this hurry-up approach.  Both are pieces of legislation that will bring about sweeping changes and are being, for lack of a better word, rushed.

The input of the governing bodies that will have to go about implementing big changes to our justice system should be a no brainer.  The head-down approach on the omnibus crime bill is particularly irresponsible, given that this bill will have huge consequences for the provinces that are constitutionally charged with administering justice.  So far three provinces have stirred the pot by indicating they won’t go along with the bill citing the substantial cost associated with the measures as the primary reason.

But despite their protests, the provinces will have to enforce the criminal code, which the Prime Minister pointed out when responding to their concerns.    Amazingly, these barbs are being traded in the media.  We have to ask ourselves if this is the best a parliamentary democracy has to offer when these kind of discussions are not taking place in a committee room studying a bill?   That is the biggest problem with rushing legislation through.  Debate would certainly have raged outside of parliament as well, but the federal government gives the provinces more ammunition when it curtails debate in the name of expediency. 

Ultimately the question becomes, what is the rush?  On that we can only speculate.  It would seem the government is hurrying for a reason.  Speculation ranges from a parliamentary reset with another Throne Speech to a long (and familiar) prorogue in order to avoid sitting during what appears to be the onset of a double –dip recession.  Whatever the government’s reasoning, they certainly don’t want anyone’s input on their agenda, which is partially what closure ensures – at least in parliament.

For Canadians, only time will tell.  These bills will pass – that has never been in doubt.  Without proper study we will find out how they affect Canada in real time and can only hope that regret doesn’t become the unifying feature of this unnecessarily fast-paced parliament.