The grab bag

Ned Franks takes on the blight of omnibus legislation.

In far too short a period, the House and Senate finance committees examining C-9 had to inform themselves and vote on changes and innovations to taxation and other financial measures. They had to consider amendments to the laws governing pensions and the Federal-Provincial Arrangements Act. They had to examine a Canada-Poland agreement on social security, a proposal to eliminate Canada Post’s monopoly over mail to be delivered outside Canada, provisions to permit credit unions to act as banks, and legislation permitting to sell off much of AECL. Other provisions of C-9 permit fundamental changes to the environmental review process.

This is only a few of the topics in C-9. Many of these sections have little if any relationship to the budget – they should have been presented to Parliament as stand-alone bills and examined by the appropriate specialist committees.

This could all be dismissed as somehow arcane, but, as noted a couple months ago, a suggestion from the Liberal leader at an event here in Ottawa that Parliament cease with the practice of omnibus legislation won fairly substantial applause from the brothers and sisters of Canada’s trade unions. Note too, roughly along these same lines, that when Mr. Ignatieff took questions yesterday, two Kingstonites rose with questions about relatively obscure bits of legislation.