Westminster system
2 min

Treating the supply cycle with contempt

The government introduced its fall budget
implementation bill today – while the entire finance committee is on
tour doing pre-budget consultations around the country. Even more galling –
they’ve put said bill up for debate tomorrow. You know, while the
finance critics are out doing those pre-budget consultations and giving their
staff some 24 hours to digest 650 pages so they can create briefs for the
other MPs who will have to debate it. Oh, and the briefing with department
officials? Won’t happen until Oct 18, which is when the finance
committee members will be back, after the break next week.

Added to this, the government unveiled the ways-and-means motion as part of the supply cycle yesterday – and gave MPs
six whole hours to read over all 250 pages of said motion before they had to vote
on it. While the finance committee, including the critics, are not in the House.

In other words, the government has decided
to thumb its nose at the fundamental basis of parliamentary democracy in this
country. Sure, they have a majority and these bills are going to pass – but
that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be robust and informed debate. That’s
the whole point of Parliament. If the government is going to release budget bills
and supply motions – you know, the kinds of confidence measures that governments
live and die by – and stymie the ability of the opposition to examine
these bills and motions and give them robust and informed debate, then why
bother having a House of Commons at all?

Yes, these motions will pass, but debate is
important. Informed, robust debate is important. The ways-and-means motion
passed without MPs knowing what they were actually voting on. This budget
implementation bill isn’t going to see informed debate, but we’ll get the
Conservative MPs reading prepared statements about how the opposition needs to
support the Economic Action Plan™, the NDP saying that the government needs to
create jobs and fix pensions, and the Liberals tutting at both sides about
being “too ideological.” And the debate will not be robust, informed or worth
the time of our august institutions.

The Conservatives are treating our
parliamentary democracy with contempt. And I fear that Canadians simply don’t
care.

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