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NDP's Bill C-38 Consultations On Omnibus Budget Bill Released

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NDP House leader Nathan Cullen discusses measures the party will take to ensure oversight of the federal budget in Ottawa Tuesday May 15, 2012. (CP/Adrian Wyld)
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen discusses measures the party will take to ensure oversight of the federal budget in Ottawa Tuesday May 15, 2012. (CP/Adrian Wyld)

Ottawa -- Canadians may not be protesting in the streets against the Conservatives' massive omnibus budget bill, but they will when they notice its impact on their day-to-day lives, the NDP warns.

NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen released his party's report on its cross-country budget bill consultations Tuesday morning and said the NDP is still hoping the federal government will come to its senses and agree to split the bill up to allow for further study.

People passionately care about what's been buried in the budget implementation act, Cullen said.

Canadian singer Sarah Harmer urged her Twitter followers Tuesday to "Get up stand up" and start banging pots and pans across Canada in protest of the bill.


Sarah Harmer
Get up stand up "@AntounEzzy: time to start banging pots and pans across canada vs c-38!#CasserolesNightInCanada "

Tens of thousands of Quebecers are taking to the street banging "casseroles" to protest Premier Jean Charest's proposed tuition hike and new law enacted to deal with the students that is largely seen as draconian. The protests on the budget bill, however, have failed to mobilize many Canadians. The NDP said that's because the Tories tried to hide the bill's unpopular changes.

"It's a tactic that has been used by the government to avoid public outcry. If they had any courage or pride about what they were doing these would be stand alone laws that they would celebrate, each and every one," Cullen said. "Are we expecting rallies and hundreds of thousands of people marching on Parliament Hill? No. But when people start to see the impact on their pensions, on their employment insurance, on environmental standards that get completely blown out of the water, you will see all of theses and they will point back to this moment, they will point back to this moment as something fundamental that changed."

While the NDP is pushing for more discussion, the Conservatives say the bill has already received the longest debate and committee stage consideration of any budget bill in the last two decades.

NDP finance critic Peggy Nash said the budget bill represents an abuse of process and undermines democratic accountability.

"This bill has 753 clauses, it will impact over 70 existing laws and it is flying at breakneck speed through the Finance committee even though it touches so many areas outside of finance," she said. Everything from old age security to health transfers, to EI, to reduced oversight for CSIS and by the auditor general, is included in this legislation, she said. Expert witnesses told MPs that environmental assessments would drop from 6,000 a year to about 20 a year, she added.

"We've had many witnesses from all ends of the political spectrum argue that this bill should be broken up so that it can be properly deliberated, reviewed by the experts, so that Canadians fully understand what is happening in this bill," Nash said.
The Commons' Finance Committee is expected to wrap up its clause-by-clause analysis of C-38 late Tuesday evening. So far the government has refused to accept any of the approximately 50 substantive amendments the NDP proposed or the seven the Liberal Party has tabled.

The Liberals are collaborating with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who as an independent MP has the ability to bring forward substantive amendments at report stage which would force the entire House of Commons to vote on her proposed changes. May's office told The Huffington Post Canada it has drafted 100 amendments and plans for more.

Daniel Lauzon, Liberal interim leader Bob Rae's director of communications, said the full extent of the party's report stage strategy would be discussed with MPs in caucus Wednesday morning. But, he said, the Liberals will not only cooperate with May on the drafting of her amendments, they also plan to table up to 700 of their own to delete certain clauses of the bill.

The NDP said it would also bring in deletion amendments at report stage.

While the results of the votes are nearly certain, the opposition parties' tactics will drag voting on for days.

The move could put MPs' patience, strength and, not to mention, bladders to the test.

Cullen suggested the Tories better be prepared to count every single vote properly to ensure enough MPs are in their seats because a single miscount could cause the fall of the government.

"The government has put itself in jeopardy and we don't know why," he said, suggesting the Tories should not have made changes to the Fisheries Act a confidence measure.

"If they make a mistake at any point in these hundreds of votes, they put themselves in peril," he said.

The Conservatives' House Leader, Peter Van Loan, dismissed the oppositions latest tactics saying that what Canadians want is for the government to move forward with creating jobs and economic growth.

"It’s time for the NDP to put Canada’s economy first, instead of filibusters and other partisan, procedural games," Van Loan said in a statement emailed to HuffPost.

The Conservatives have a 22 person majority.