Calling it a “Trojan Horse,” the federal New Democrats are demanding the government’s omnibus budget bill be broken up to allow more detailed scrutiny.
But the MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo promised each section of the 420-page document will get the scrutiny it deserves.
The New Democrats say the bill is supposed to be budget legislation, but much of it deals with changes to the environmental process.
Former federal NDP candidate Michael Crawford said Monday the bill is structured in such a way that it prevents experts from examining it in detailed fashion.
“I think there’s almost 800 clauses in the budget implementation bill. I think, as they look at it, there’s everything including the kitchen sink in there,” said Crawford.
Crawford said there are elements in the bill that need to be dealt with individually, changes to environmental legislation being one of those items.
This is something the Conservatives have done since taking power. He said the Tories lumped changes to the Health Transfer Act and immigration laws in with budget items in hope of storming them through the House of Commons.
“That’s why I think the Trojan Horse metaphor is extremely well chosen,” he said.
As far as Guy Dauncey, spokesman for the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association, is concerned, the bill is unCanadian. He said omnibus bills are not uncommon in U.S., with dozens of items tucked into one document for approval.
He said the U.S. political system has become undemocratic and influenced by big business, and he’s afraid this will become the norm in Canada.
“It seems really sneaky, as if they are afraid of debate,” said Dauncey.
The NDP said Monday they will bring a motion before the Commons urging that the bill be broken up, a measure the Conservative majority could easily defeat.
Ernie Cordonier, president of the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Liberal riding association, hopes the New Democrats will be successful.
He believes the House of Commons environment committee should debate changes to the environmental assessment process. The Conservatives, however, will put the bill before the finance committee.
“The way they are trying to ram this through and cut out proper assessments . . . that’s just undemocratic,” he said. “It’s really time for a change.”
What upsets Cordonier even more is the Conservatives have a majority in the house, which limits the opposition’s influence, he said.
“It’s a train going down the wrong track. What do you do?” he asked.
Tory MP Cathy McLeod maintains the bill will strengthen Canada’s environmental laws where they count.
She said the bill will be heavily debated by the finance committee — which McLeod is a member of — and a subcommittee of parliamentary members who will focus on the environmental component.
“It’s going to have more scrutiny within Parliament and more scrutiny within an enhanced committee structure than any budget bill has had within 20 years,” pledged McLeod.