The Conservative government is set to pass Bill C-38, an omnibus budget bill which includes amendments and changes to many statutes.
This has prompted a massive backlash from a number of groups, notably environmental groups. One aspect of their protest was the voluntary blacking out of a number of websites on June 4.
While some of their rhetoric is overblown, it is puzzling why a majority Conservative government feels it needs to proceed in this way. If it wishes to amend specific statutes, why not do so, without packaging a huge variety of changes in one bill?
The Conservatives got used to doing this in their five years as a minority government. It was one way to keep at least one opposition party on side — put something in the budget bill that they wanted, and they would vote for it.
It was an understandable tactic. The government had to compromise to the degree that it would propose legislation that one of its opponents would back. In fact, the Conservatives did have to go to the polls in 2008 and 2011 after it became clear that no opposition party was willing to back them any longer.
Now there is a majority government. No longer does the government have to keep one opposition party on side. And that’s fine. The parliamentary system is an adversarial one, with government and opposition on different sides of almost every issue.
That’s why such omnibus bills don’t seem to make senese. All they do is hamper the public from paying closer attention to what the government’s plans are, and at the same time, raise fears which in many cases are exaggerated or non-existent.
If the government doesn’t want to spend too much time on any given bill, it can invoke closure. There is no longer any stigma about doing so, and the public recognizes the need for the government to be able to enact its plans after there has been reasonable time for debate.
It seems that, with some moves like this omnibus budget bill, the Conservatives are deliberately provoking their opponents. While there may be a desire for political vengeance, they need to remember that their majority was granted to them by voters in 2011, only after a five-year testing period.
That majority can easily be taken away by voters in the next election.