"We have a chance to right some of the wrongs and some of the questionable practices we have fallen into, in particular the practice in recent years of presenting omnibus legislation with respect to budgetary matters." Stephen Harper, MP
"I submit to you that it has become a standard practice with governments to bring in omnibus legislation following every budget under what we might call the kitchen sink approach." Stephen Harper, MP
Spoken like a true democrat.Conservatives now defend their use of omnibus bills by pointing out they have been used by other governments, or more often, by saying Canada's economy requires the quick passage of these big bills.So how is it that in the space of 15 years Stephen Harper can go from staunch critic of mega-bills to their biggest proponent in parliamentary history? That's a complicated question. Better call Saul.John Ralston Saul is one of Canada's foremost intellectuals and author of The Comeback, a recent book about the legal triumphs of aboriginal groups and the failure of our governments to recognize reconciliation as "the greatest issue of our time.""These enormous anti-democratic bills have nothing to do with the Canadian tradition of what used to be called Omnibus Bills, which simply gathered together legislation dealing with a single area of interest such as trade or criminal justice reform," Saul told VICE. "And they aren't budget bills. They are like a thick jungle hiding dozens of dangerous traps."In fact, in The Comeback, he goes as far as comparing Harper's reign to the tyrannical but efficient regimes of Napoleon, Mussolini, and Peron."Their view was that debate wasted precious time and brought unplanned results. They argued that patriotism, along with centralized power, the heavy use of secrecy, and an emphasis on self-interest should replace such things as debate, the public good, and the concept of citizen responsibility." Sound familiar?"Bill C-51 has already been questioned or condemned by a very wide range of legal and other experienced figures who are known to believe in democracy and the rule of law. They come from the right, the centre, and the left. The biggest concern today in western democracies is that governments are attempting to make use of fear in order to increase their prospects in elections."And the fear-mongering is definitely a tactic that the Conservatives have not hesitated to employ is the C-51 debate."The most worrying thing is that the principal outcome of a strategy, which was clearly formulated by Bin Laden, has led western democratic governments to cut back on free expression and citizens' rights," said Saul. "Our own democratically elected governments have set about undermining the role of citizenship and the complexity of democracy. This is exactly what people like Bin Laden wanted."Unregulated spies, aboriginal rights, and mandatory jail for marijuana possession might all appear unrelated on the surface, but looking at these issues from the omnibus perspective shows a direct link between political hot potatoes and the Harper government's willingness to avoid debate and ram the bills through the House. And unless the rest of Canada mobilizes as effectively and as vocally as aboriginal groups did during Idle No More, that tactic is unlikely to change.
"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? Stephen Harper, MP