Maybe I'm starting to sound like a shameless Elizabeth May fanboy but that's only because...I'm a shameless Elizabeth May fanboy! How can you not be when she gets up in the House, as she did Monday, and makes an epic speech like this?
The main point of her "point of order" is that the Conservative government's budget bill C-38 isn't fit to be called an omnibus bill, which is a bill that groups together changes to different legislation under a common theme. Bill C-38 changes so many different bills and aspects of government that it is more like a multi-year party agenda lumped into one yes or no question. May has put the question to the Speaker of the House to rule the bill "imperfect" and send it back to the government to be reworked.
The speech is one of the greatest pieces of parliamentary argument we've seen in a Ottawa since forever. The best part is that it's not just a cobbled together last-ditch argument. According to this fascinating discussion she had with Aaron Wherry she's been researching this issue of budget omnibus bills for over a year based on the previous growing size of these bills! She said,
"I expect that Speaker Scheer will do it justice. And that means listening to the arguments from the other parties in the House, constructing, researching and writing what will be, one way or the other, a precedent-setting decision."
Well let's hope so, either way, it's going to make next week an important one for our democracy.
So that's what Elizabeth May is doing to stop this insult to democracy. The main opposition parties will be trying other approaches to slow or split the bill such as putting forward hundreds of amendments and trying to filibuster the process. Ironically, they have less flexibility in the House than May because they were on the committees discussing this bill, they raised their arguments, were voted down by the majority Conservatives and get less chance to complain now that it's back in the House. Don't you love our system?
So you may be asking, "what can I do if I'm not a sitting member of parliament?" Well, the independent progressive activist organization LeadNow has an idea. You see, while the Conservatives have a majority of seats in parliament they only have 13 more seats than the other parties combined. Many Conservatives are just as upset about this budget fauxmnibus bill as progressives. Red Tories and Libertarians alike have lots be worried about with a huge bill that cuts social programs, undermines the good image of our nation and reduces the ability of opposition voices to be heard.
That's why LeadNow is calling for organized protests and letters next week targetting 13 Conservative party MPs to get them to be "heroes" and voice opposition to the budget. The idea, as I understand it, is not to get them to vote against the bill as a confidence motion, but rather to state that they would vote against it. This would force the government to withdraw the bill and rework it or split it up to satisfy the opposition.
Next week could be a great week for Canadian democracy, if any of these attempts to stop C-38 succeed then opponents will have demonstrated the robustness of our democracy; that a mere majority of seats isn't enough to steamroll over debate, tradition and fairness. On the other hand, if all these attempts fail and the bill passes it will send a chill over the country and set a precedent that will only be reversible by a significant electoral defeat four years from now.
So you know, no pressure.
Follow Mark Crowley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rateldajer