Budget becomes battle of wills

Coquitlam Now, 13 June 2012 By Brent Richter

New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly says he and the rest of Parliament's Opposition MPs will be using every means at their disposal to make changes to the Conservatives' proposed budget before it passes.

That may include a marathon session of up to 30 hours of continuous voting in the House of Commons on a series of amendments proposed by opposition parties.

The Conservative's omnibus budget bill, C-38, has drawn criticism for packing in changes to more than 70 pieces of legislation, many of which have nothing to do with the federal budget.

"This is their hidden agenda. This is what they were hoping Canadians would not find out. The whole reason they're going through a budget implementation bill is because they want to hide these major changes, which they couldn't get done as a minority. They want to do it all in one poison pill," Donnelly said in an interview from Ottawa. "The number of changes that they're going to make in this one bill is breathtaking. It's completely undemocratic. Each one of these deserves to be studied in their own right."

The House is expected to begin voting on a series of 67 to 159 changes to the budget on Wednesday evening. MPs can fit about seven votes in per hour, meaning the amendment process will be a battle of wills between the parties.

Donnelly said there is some chance the opposition will be able to win some of the amendment votes if just seven Conservative MPs are not present for the vote however, the budget will eventually pass.

"We've been doing everything in our power but at the end of the day, this is a majority government. If they have the votes, they carry the day," he said.

Most of the amendments seek to mitigate "sweeping changes" to environmental laws, employment insurance, old age security and government oversight, Donnelly said.

One of the worst changes for Donnelly, who also holds the title of West Coast Fisheries Critic for the Opposition, is the elimination of one section of the Fisheries Act.

"They are absolutely going to gut the Fisheries Act," Donnelly said referring to the section that triggers a federal environmental review of any develop-ment or industrial projects that could harm fish habitat.

James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam whose office has been the scene of small anti-C-38 protests, acknowledged in an interview Tuesday that C-38 is a large bill but, added there has been ample opportunity for debate.

"We recognize that this is a large bill. We recognize that there are a lot of elements to it. That's why we've allocated more time to this bill than any other budget bill before in Canadian history," he said.

He added that the opposition has the chance to offer its input via the series of amendments to be voted on. He said the notion that C-38 was any kind of blindside for Canadians was rubbish.

"We were elected by Canadians and by the vast majority of British Columbians to provide leadership on the economy. This budget does that," he said.

© Coquitlam Now