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House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was omnibus.

Topics

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to present a petition on behalf of many Canadians who oppose closing the Experimental Lakes Area research station. I am passionate about this because, as my colleagues probably know, I am presently fighting cuts to science at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute. I am pleased to support Canadians by presenting this motion, which opposes the closing of this research station.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am also presenting a petition signed by many Albertans who want the government to reverse its decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area research station in the Great Lakes area. Closing this research station will mean that the data collected and published by many government experts will be lost. The expertise will also be lost. I support all these petitioners.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to also present a petition signed by dozens of Canadians who disagree with the government's decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area research station. The petition basically recognizes the excellent freshwater research carried out at this station, which has gained international recognition for its quality work. We are therefore asking the government to reverse its decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area and to maintain funding in order to continue the research and support the excellent work being done there.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved:

That the House agree with the comments of the Right Honourable Member for Calgary Southwest on March 25, 1994, when he criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put Members in conflict with their own principles and dividing the bill into several components would allow Members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill; and that the House instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study what reasonable limits should be placed on the consideration of omnibus legislation and that the Committee report back its findings, including specific recommendations for legislative measures or changes to the Standing Orders, no later than December 10, 2012.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to once again voice my concern, the concern of the Liberal Party and indeed the concern of a rising number of Canadians about the damage to democracy being done through the use of omnibus bills.

Concerns about the problems posed by omnibus bills have been growing for some time now. However, the lengths to which the current Prime Minister and his government have used—and I would say abused—budget implementation bills as kitchen sink omnibus bills have reached staggering and dangerous levels.

It is rather shocking to see that the Conservative government is continuing to produce bills like this. The government said it was open to suggestions from the opposition on issues affecting Canadians, but how many speeches have we heard this year about this impractical way of examining bills?

I have not compiled statistics on this issue, but we often hear the word “omnibus” in this House, in either statements or speeches during debate or question period, not to mention the many points of order.

In recent years, budget implementation bills have become increasingly long and complex. Although the length of a bill does not automatically imply that it contains a series of unrelated measures, we have seen that the bills introduced lately have covered an increasing number of topics.

Maclean's analyzed budget implementation bills between 1994 and 2005 and discovered that they averaged 75 pages. Since 2006, these bills have averaged well over 300 pages.

We all remember last June with Bill C-38, when we voted for nearly 24 hours on a long list of amendments proposed by the opposition parties in order to show that omnibus bills are essentially anti-democratic.

Given that the government has made it no secret that it intends to bring forward another omnibus bill this fall, I believe it is time for this House to recognize the detrimental effect these bills have on democracy in Canada and commit itself to find reasonable limits that could be put in place to end this practice.

When a government party abuses its power by proposing completely unrelated measures in a single omnibus bill, it deprives parliamentarians of their right to truly debate these various measures and to express their opinions on each of them by way of a vote. This way of doing things also gives Canadians less opportunity to share their opinions about the bill—whether favourable or unfavourable—and thus weakens our democracy.

Omnibus bills can play a significant role in the Westminster parliamentary system, but only when they are used to amend many laws that have a single purpose or, at the very least, a limited number of objectives. The Conservative government has abused its power by introducing several omnibus bills covering dozens of unrelated topics.

Other administrations have resolved this problem by reducing the number of subjects that can be covered by a bill to just one. For example, in 42 of the 50 American states, the constitution prohibits the excessive use of omnibus bills and, although this type of bill continues to be popular in Washington, D.C., Congress is currently examining a bill to put an end to this practice.

To understand the extent of the problem, we need only look back a few months at this spring's omnibus bill, Bill C-38.

Bill C-38 was one of the worst abuses of Parliament we have witnessed in this House. It was 425 pages long, it contained more than 60 unrelated matters, and it amended or abolished 74 pieces of legislation.

Of Bill C-38's 503 clauses, clause 52—a single clause out of 503—contained an entirely new act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, a whole new environmental assessment act contained within a single clause of a so-called budget bill.

On March 25, 1994, a young member of Parliament, who then represented the riding of Calgary West, rose in the House to complain that a budget bill, called Bill C-17 at the time, which was only 21 pages in length, was indeed an omnibus bill and that these types of bills were bad for democracy.

He stated:

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.

He expanded eloquently saying:

...in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.

I heartily agree with these words spoken by the young MP from Calgary West. It makes me wonder how that young eloquent MP could ever have changed his views since becoming the Prime Minister of this country. It defies all logic.

I will give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt that he believed he was speaking the truth back in 1994. Indeed, his criticism back then resonates even more today.

He stated:

...the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.

Let us put that into context with Bill C-38. With Bill C-38, if MPs wanted to vote for improvements to the disability savings plan, they had to simultaneously vote to kill the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. With Bill C-38, if MPs wanted to vote against raising the qualifying age for old age security, they had to simultaneously vote against making the Governor General's salary taxable.

The government tells us that it will bring forward another omnibus budget bill this fall. Liberals have said repeatedly that we would like to tackle MP pension reform. What kind of choice would there be for MPs if those pension changes are included in an omnibus bill that also makes Canada's coasts more vulnerable to oil spills? We must ask ourselves why the government would choose to do that. Why would it cram so many different unrelated measures into a single bill?

I think that the Conservatives like this approach because it allows them to then accuse members of other parties of having voted against their initiatives.

The government claims that the reason is to ensure that it can get its measures passed in a timely manner. Unless several members of the Conservative bench have recently fled their caucus, the Conservative government still has the power to pass multiple separate pieces of legislation. That is what happens with a majority government.

As for timely passage, this is hardly a government that shies away from time allocation and closure. Indeed, it has set the record, so that argument simply does not hold water. That leaves us with two other possibilities. The Conservatives either do not believe Canadians will accept some of their mean-spirited unpopular policies unless they hide them amidst other popular measures, or they intend to attack MPs who oppose negative measures in the bill, accusing them of also opposing positive measures.

No matter which of these two is true, quite possibly both of them, the math adds up to an attempt to obscure the facts from Canadians, an attempt to hide the truth and impugn false motives on their opponents. As such, these represent an attack on transparency and on democracy itself.

The Prime Minister said it very well when he stated:

How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?

We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.

Why will the Prime Minister not listen to his own words?

It is not just the Liberal Party or the younger version of the Prime Minister who oppose omnibus bills. The Speaker's predecessors have expressed similar concerns about the use of such bills and where this could ultimately lead us.

On January 26, 1971, Speaker Lamoureux cautioned the House on the use of such bills and warned:

However, where do we stop? Where is the point of no return? ...The honourable member for Winnipeg North Centre, and I believe the honourable member for Edmonton West, said that we might reach the point where we would have only one bill, a bill at the start of the session for the improvement of the quality of life in Canada which would include every single proposed piece of legislation for the session. That would be an omnibus bill with a capital ‘O’ and a capital ‘B.’ But would it be acceptable legislation? There must be a point where we go beyond what is acceptable from a strictly parliamentary standpoint.

Given what we have seen in the House with the last few budget implementation bills, Speaker Lamoureux's concerns should be heeded. We are well on our way to becoming the “one bill a session” Parliament that he feared.

This Conservative government always manages to take advantage of procedural grey areas. The definition of an omnibus bill given on page 724 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice reads as follows:

Although this expression is commonly used, there is no precise definition of an omnibus bill. In general, an omnibus bill seeks to amend, repeal or enact several Acts, and is characterized by the fact that it is made up of a number of related but separate initiatives. An omnibus bill has “one basic principle or purpose which ties together all the proposed enactments and thereby renders the Bill intelligible for parliamentary purposes”. One of the reasons cited for introducing an omnibus bill is to bring together in a single bill all the legislative amendments arising from a single policy decision in order to facilitate parliamentary debate.

This is a simple and concise definition, which certainly does not apply to the budget megabill that was introduced in May.

Clearly, there is no longer any requirement for bills to focus on single topics, at least in the view of the Conservative government. The government simply lumps them all together and says it is all about economic well-being. The cabinet seems to view parliamentary oversight with great contempt, as an annoying rubber stamp that hinders it rather than the democratically elected body that holds Canada's government to account.

We should not have to remind the government that Canadians elect members of Parliament, not an emperor. Our entire system of democracy is based on our government being required to seek the consent of the democratically elected House. Omnibus bills hinder MPs from performing this elected duty.

Furthermore, Canadians who elect their members of Parliament have a right to know how they vote on different government measures. Omnibus bills deny Canadians that right. Clearly, rules must be put in place to reverse this practice before our democracy is further undermined.

We fully understand that the government has the right to manage the business of the House. It is the government. However, that management cannot be done at the expense of the basic democratic principles of transparency and accountability.

We also recognize that a rule that would arbitrarily prevent a bill from amending more than one act might be unworkable, given the reality of consequential amendments to other acts. However, a balance must be struck.

It is for that reason that this motion would direct the appropriate committee, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, to launch an immediate study to determine what reasonable limits should be placed on omnibus legislation.

While a 21-page budget bill would probably not cross the line, a 425-page bill that amends or abolishes 74 acts clearly would. We should ensure that Parliament does its work here to define that line and to put rules in place to prevent future legislation from trampling upon it.

When Parliament resumed this fall, I raised the specific issue of MP pension legislation. I made the point that the Liberal Party was ready and willing to vote in favour of whatever changes the government decided to bring forward. Given that Canadians had to tighten their belts in these fragile economic times, it is only right that we, as parliamentarians, should also set a good example by modifying our pension arrangements.

In addition to very clearly signifying this willingness to modify our pension package, I urged the government to fast-track a separate bill on this matter so that all Canadians could see how their individual MPs voted. That would have been the preferred democratic approach.

Instead, the government chose to ignore the Liberal proposal and announced that MP pension reform would be buried within the upcoming omnibus bill. Sadly, the government missed an opportunity to show how it cares about democracy.

Two weeks later, a motion that I had put on the order paper, a motion quite similar to the one that we are debating today, a motion for the procedure and House affairs committee to study ways of establishing reasonable limits on omnibus bills, was raised in that precise committee, although in camera. Again, sadly, I must report to the House that the motion has now disappeared from the order paper.

The Liberal Party does not intend to let go of this matter. Democracy is too important to be swept under the carpet. I look forward to those who will follow me today, and I genuinely hope that all of us in the House will demonstrate to Canadians that Parliament sets the example when it comes to putting democracy to the test.

In conclusion, let me read today's Liberal opposition motion one last time to refresh all of us and summarize what we will vote on this evening:

That the House agree with the comments of the Right Honourable Member for Calgary Southwest on March 25, 1994, when he criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put Members in conflict with their own principles.

I hope that the Prime Minister will remember those words today and remind all of his colleagues on the government side of the House.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I looked at this motion today with great interest because, as we well know, we had great difficulties with not just the form but the substance of the Conservatives' use of omnibus legislation in the spring. As my colleague pointed out, a whole number of measures and laws were crammed into one bill purporting to be somewhat supportive of the budget that had been introduced earlier but clearly far beyond the mandate of the budget.

We have had a number of interesting rulings from Speakers and directions from Parliament as to what the use of this tactic should be and should not be. The primary role of any legislature that is built on the parliamentary tradition that we have is to hold government to account. That is not just the role of the opposition, that we faithfully commit to every day, but it is also the role of members of Parliament who presently occupy the government benches. That is their role as well because that is the central construct and belief of Parliament, to hold the government of the day to account. Otherwise, we have a system ruled by fiat and controlled by very few as opposed to the democratic will of the country.

My hon. friend's motion is somewhat specific to the nature of the problem and the question facing us, with the Conservative government abusing its power in the use of omnibus bills, but it is also somewhat vague in terms of what prescriptions my friend in the Liberal Party might be seeking. He says there is a line and when the Liberals used omnibus bills to a certain size, some 20 or 30 pages, it had not crossed the line. However, when the Conservatives went to 400 pages with many clauses to change Canadian laws that was not okay.

Where is the line? Is it the number of clauses? Is it the extent? We have seen Liberal omnibus bills in the past of 126 pages in length and some 120 clauses. I do not know if that was over the line or not.

If my friend is describing what the rules might be to constrain government and the powers that it may have in a majority, could he offer Canadians an idea of where that line to prevent the abuse of power may actually be?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the official opposition also basically agrees with the motion that we are presenting today. How we establish that line is really the work of the committee. We are proposing that the procedures and House affairs committee sit down, study the matter and look at examples of other legislatures where this kind of approach has been taken. I personally look forward to debating this with the hon. member and with the other members from the Conservative government.

This is something that the procedures and House affairs committee can do best, to establish that line in a way that would be acceptable to Parliament and to Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's remarks and agree with him. However, there is an issue that my colleague did not raise. That is that not only is the omnibus bill an affront to the House and how we vote on specific matters, it also seriously undermines the functions of committees.

Bill C-38 was a prime example where environment and fisheries were in the bill, but it went to the finance committee. Committees of the House over time develop some expertise in the subject areas. Committee members when appointed to those committees do research, do background and study the subject for a number of years. Therefore, at the end of the day, members from all parties become much more knowledgeable about those areas and the decisions that are being made.

Does my colleague agree with that? How does he see doing away with the omnibus bill approach strengthening the ability of committees to do their jobs, so that MPs can better represent the various industries and commodities on a committee basis?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Malpeque for bringing up that very important point, which I did not underline in my presentation. He is quite right. If we look at Bill C-38 there were issues dealing with the environment, immigration and a host of other subjects where committees have not only the authority but the expertise to really treat these matters as a bill makes its way through the House.

He is quite right to point out that the authority of committees and the work that is done in committees is extremely important. When we take an omnibus approach and the only committee that ends up looking at it is the finance committee, we are shortchanging Canadians with respect to the democratic process.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this motion is a good one and I certainly intend to support it.

Last spring, with the amendments to Bill C-38, we had almost 24 hours of nonstop voting. All of the Conservatives voted repeatedly and recklessly against amendments that few of them had ever read. However, is this not the tip of an even bigger iceberg?

How can this House and the Liberals help to revamp our electoral and parliamentary rules so that MPs work for their constituents and Canada rather than being whipped into mindless lockstep by their parties?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has indeed touched on something that is even bigger than the discussion we are having today on omnibus legislature, the need for democratic reform. We need to go back to something we espoused many years ago, that MPs represent their constituents. All 308 of us here are duly elected and have a duty to speak on behalf of our constituents, as opposed to simply voting on matters as directed.

In that respect, I think all parties bear some responsibility. All of us need to be thinking and working towards the bigger issue of the democracy that is supposed to exist in this Parliament, an issue that goes well beyond the specific question of omnibus bills.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with my colleague for Westmount—Ville-Marie on the bill being anti-democratic. It does not allow for debate in this House.

It is rare for me to agree with the Prime Minister, but when he was a young man back in 1994 he brought forward similar concerns to those the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie, that the House be given the ability to debate different sections of an omnibus bill. However, when the young Prime Minister made his speech, the Liberals still rammed through their omnibus bill.

Is this motion an acknowledgement of the mistake that the Liberals made in 1994 of ramming through that omnibus bill?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will say that we tested the system for sure back in the time of the Liberal government. Yes, we tested the system and went beyond it. However, I hope that we are not going to take the attitude today of, “Well you did it so we're going to do it”. That is not what we are here to do.

There is a question of degree. In the 1994 case, we were talking about a 21-page bill with five specific subjects in it. However, Bill C-38 was 425 pages long and affected 74 regulations or acts of Parliament.

Yes, we also stepped over the line and we are here to try to correct that, hopefully with everyone's co-operation.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today we get to learn what the Liberal priority is. This is the last day this year on which the Liberals can choose the subject of debate. Is their priority job creation? No. Is their priority economic growth? Apparently not. Is their priority tackling crime? No. Is their priority harnessing our resources to benefit future generations? No, apparently not. The Liberal priority, our subject for today, is procedure, more specifically an effort to make it harder for members of Parliament actually to get things done up here.

In March, our economic action plan was outlined in the House of Commons and it was voted on and approved in April. For decades, it has been the practice to have budget bills to implement budgets. That will continue this autumn. The economic action plan is a comprehensive plan that responds to Canada's fiscal and economic challenges. Our plan has helped create over 820,000 net new jobs since July 2009, of which 90% are full-time and nearly 80% in the private sector. However, as the global economic recovery remains fragile, especially with challenges in Europe and the United States, it is vital that Canada continues to show decisive leadership on the economy.

We will not allow the opposition to threaten our economic recovery with political games and obstruction of bills aimed at creating jobs and growing our economy. The real objective of the members of the opposition is to block our low-tax plan for jobs and growth because they simply disagree with it. The New Democrats, for example, would prefer implementing a job-killing carbon tax that would increase the price of everything, including gas, groceries and electricity. Bigger government would kill job growth. The NDP leader has tried to conscript his friends in the media to say that he has no plan to implement a carbon tax. After all, the NDP opposed the Liberal carbon tax in 2008. We now know why: the 2008 Liberal green shift carbon tax would only have generated $15 billion a year. That is far short of the more than $21 billion in government revenue the NDP has booked for its carbon tax in its platform. Apparently, the New Democrats opposed the Liberal green shift carbon tax because it was too small. The Liberal carbon tax would not have produced nearly as much tax revenue as the NDP proposal would. We will not go down the path of a job-killing carbon tax.

I take this opportunity to outline our priority, the economy and our government's strong economic record.

We have accomplished a great deal. Canada continues to be one of the top performers among the world's major economies. Despite the fragile state of the global economy, over 820,000 net new jobs have been created, as I just mentioned.

Our economic plan is working to help hard-working Canadians and to ensure that the government delivers more value for each tax dollar.

Canadians have made it quite clear that they expect their government to keep taxes low. We agree.

We are helping the average Canadian family to save $3,300 in taxes thanks to about 140 tax relief measures that we have introduced since 2006.

We will not give in to the NDP and the Liberals, who are calling for tax increases—like the $21.5 billion carbon tax proposed by the NDP.

The number one priority of our Conservative government remains the economy. With the global economic recovery still fragile, we are committed to creating jobs and economic growth by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs through innovative measures like the small business hiring credit.

Canada's economic action plan 2012 will ensure long-term prosperity for future generations. Canada is the best country in the world, and we are fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources that the world needs.

Emerging economies such as China and India need our energy, minerals, metals, wood, wheat and grain, and many more things besides. If we can keep our economy moving swiftly forward to meet those needs, we will ensure our future prosperity, even in this time of global economic uncertainty.

That is why our plan works, with responsible resource development and a focus on developing new markets abroad.

This means jobs and prosperity across Canada, and with it the ability to provide first-rate services like health and education. Families will continue to be able to take advantage of the children's arts tax credit and children's sports and fitness tax credit. These credits make it easier for families to get their children involved in important parts of growing up.

Nonetheless, it is not just the youngest members of society who will get the benefit of our tax reductions. The tax burden can be particularly difficult for many seniors, especially those on a fixed income. That is why we have taken measures to remove over 380,000 seniors from the tax rolls entirely.

Employment insurance is an important safety net to help families carry on through difficult times after a job is lost. We believe that hard-working Canadians want to get back to work. Accordingly, we are taking action to deliver results on connecting Canadians with jobs.

We all have unique employment experience. With the changes to EI, this experience will be taken into account to support economic growth and meet the challenges presented by our aging population, not to mention the increasing global competition from specialized labour. We need to do a better job of connecting Canadian workers with available jobs.

The government believes it is important to provide Canadians who want to work with help getting back to work. That is why we are going to send relevant job postings twice a day to Canadians receiving employment insurance benefits. These job postings will come from a broad range of sources, including private sector job listings.

We will also provide Canadians with more and better information to make informed decisions about how best to conduct or expand their job search. The overall objective is to make it more attractive to work than to collect benefits.

We are also making savings to balance the budget in the medium term. The taxes spent to pay the interest on the debt are dollars that could be spent on better things or to lower taxes.

Families have had to tighten their belts through this tough economic period. Our government is doing the same. We have worked to identify waste, overlap and inefficiencies in government services. These act as roadblocks to ensuring real results for hard-earned tax dollars.

The House of Commons, we here in this place, will be reducing our own budget by 6.9%. On top of that, members' of Parliament and senators' salaries were frozen in 2010 and our government has decreased ministerial office budgets by 18% since 2010. Notably, we have had significantly lower expenditures than previous governments and, unlike the Liberals, we have not treated government jets as personal taxis.

We are now concerned about getting expenditures down. I am afraid that the New Democrats would be more interested in getting revenues up and that they would do it through a carbon tax, which would raise the price of everything for hard-working families—

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do apologize for raising a point of order in the midst the government House leader's presentation, but I have been very patient in waiting to hear anything of relevance to the key motion before us on the importance of limiting omnibus legislation. A recitation of the government's virtues is not on the floor for debate at the moment. We are talking about the importance of limiting the misuse and abuse of omnibus bills.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The hon. House leader.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, responding to the point of order and not as part of my speech, I would point out that this motion arises from, as we heard from the Liberal House leader's initial speech, concerns about the government's budget implementation bill. I am reviewing the contents of that bill, the objectives, what it was seeking to do and why it is part of a coherent goal. Therefore, my presentation is quite responsive to the issue before us today.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I am actually inclined to agree with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. The hon. House leader for the government has spent, I think now, 30 seconds responding to the motion that is before the House and over 10 minutes addressing issues in the budget, which I have to say, in my interpretation of the situation, is very far from the motion before the House today for debate.

All of us understand the very wide latitude in the parameters of debate allowed in this House. The comments by the House leader to this point have not been totally irrelevant, but they are a very far stretch and so I would ask him to complete this part of his speech and address the issue before the House.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the greatest respect, I and I think every member of the House will find great challenges addressing the motion before us without addressing the economic policy of the government. The very motion we are debating here today addresses budget implementation acts, which implement the budget, which implement the government's economic action plan. If you, Mr. Speaker, are suggesting that we cannot discuss the very content of the bills that are being disputed on a motion that says that those contents should not be in those bills, you are asking us to debate in the House something which you then say we cannot debate.

I do not know how we can talk around the bills and what is in them without talking about the bills and what is in them and without talking about the economic action plan. If that is your ruling, Mr. Speaker, you should have ruled most of what was spoken by the opposition House leader out of order and every reference to any economic plan, anything to do with the budget or anything to do with the content of the budget will not be allowed today. We are talking about budget implementation bills, with the greatest of respect--

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The House leader for the official opposition is addressing the point of order?

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague across the way goes very close to attempting to challenge the decision that you just made. In your ruling, you talked about the proportionality of his speech and 30 seconds on the actual notion of omnibus bills, not with respect to just what happened in the previous budget, and then 95% of his discourse and everything in one particular budget bill misses the mark entirely of what we are attempting to address today.

What we are addressing today and what I will seek to do in my remarks is the use and misuse of omnibus legislation. There is lots to talk about in that without going into particulars and without attacking other parties for particular economic policies, both invented and real, and have lots of discourse in this place about the use of omnibus bills which members of his caucus had lots of opinions of when they were in opposition and maybe have fewer now that they are in government.

Without challenging the Chair, we are at the point where the House leader for the government can certainly talk a lot about his defence of the use and misuse of omnibus legislation without having to reiterate every talking point about the previous budget.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I will expand on my ruling to this degree. I am not ruling the House leader out of the order. I am simply inviting him, as all other members, to address the issue that is before the House. He is quite within the realm of relevancy with regard to the particular omnibus bill that was before us this past spring and can address comments to that.

I have to say to him and to other members of the House who are thinking along the same lines that you should not spend your whole time allotted to you in your speech to one particular bill. There is a broader issue before the House and that should be addressed as well in your speech.

Opposition Motion—Omnibus LegislationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I shall continue as best I can knowing that the mover of the motion only spoke to two specific bills, one in 1994 and the one earlier this spring that implemented our budget. Within that context, I will attempt to speak to those two bills as you, Mr. Speaker, have limited our debate as such. That will create challenges, I think, for every member of the House and I look forward to seeing how they cope with that, but I will move forward on that basis.

The motion that the Liberal House leader made refers to statements that were made by the then member for Calgary West almost 20 years ago. We should put those comments in context. I also want to provide some other quotes from that debate in which the members of the Liberal Party, now the third party, would, I am sure, be interested.

The original comments were made as part of a point of order to the Speaker. The Speaker did not find in the Liberals' favour at that time. Mr. Speaker Parent ruled:

In conclusion, it is procedurally correct and common practice for a bill to amend, repeal or enact several statutes.

Therefore, the ruling was settled at that time, some 20 years ago almost, and here we are revisiting it today.

Prior to that ruling, members weighed in. d I will remind the House about some of the comments from that debate. Take, for example, the following:

While the subject matter may be diverse, I suggest to the hon. member that given the fact they were all introduced in the budget, they form a whole, unified policy thrust which the government has put forward....

That comment, which talked about it as a coherent economic plan and gave the basis for putting all those measures in one bill, came, no less, from the Liberals' leading parliamentary expert, Peter Milliken, in support of the use of budget implementation bills. He went on to outline some of the items in the Budget Implementation Act, very similar to my comments earlier. He was talking about items like programs to stimulate job creation and economic growth, measures to help balance the budget and improvements to the employment insurance system, all items that were included in that bill. It sounds an awful lot like it addresses the same subjects that economic action plan 2012 does.

What the 2012 budget plan does is cover the exact same subject matter. Of course, Mr. Milliken's comments were on the Liberal 1994 budget, but it is striking how the subject matter of the items covered is exactly the same.

Despite the Liberals' track record, they brought forward this motion today. It runs contrary to their own record and it is not anything more than a cynical attempt to accomplish their actual agenda to try to block our government from implementing our economic action plan.

While our government is focused on creating jobs, economic growth and securing long-term prosperity, the opposition is, sadly, once again focused on political games and obstruction. We will not be sidetracked by those games and obstruction. We will continue to stay the course and implement our plan to continue to build on the 820,000 net new jobs created since July 2009 and get Canada through these difficult times of economic uncertainty.