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NEWS: Senate vote on crucial budget bill on Tuesday

The Harper government’s C-9 budget implementation bill is 880 pages long and has 2,200 sections.

In June, Progressive Conservative Senator Lowell Murray introduced a motion to divide C-9 into five smaller bills. That’s because the legislation also contains provisions that would severely limit environmental assessments, allow for the privatization of parts of the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., end Canada Post’s monopoly in overseas mail delivery, and enable retroactive changes to some excise taxes (the imposition of the HST on financial products).

We noted in an earlier campaign blog that the Globe and Mail had reported on March 31 that, “The federal Conservatives are giving Environment Minister Jim Prentice clear legal authority to avoid ordering full assessments of environmentally controversial projects, such as major mines and oil sands operations, according to a provision contained in the bill implementing details of the government’s new budget. The new provisions weren’t publicly announced at the time the budget was unveiled (on March 5), and only came to light (on March 30) after the release of the bill implementing financial aspects of the government new economic measures. Federal environmental assessments are usually applied to big and controversial industrial projects, such as pipelines, mines, and marine terminals. They’re typically ordered in cases where a project might harm fish habitat or have other impacts on wildlife. The key provisions of the legislation will give Mr. Prentice the power to order reviews of only small aspects of potentially damaging projects, and not the entire undertakings, as is now usually the case.”

Analysis from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers on the Canada Post provision in C-9 can be read at http://www.cupw.ca/1/2/3/9/1/index1.shtml.

This past Thursday, the four clauses were deemed “deleted” by the Senate finance committee. A vote in the full Senate is expected this coming week, likely on Tuesday.

Conservative Senator Doug Finley has threatened an election if the Senate rejects C-9. On Friday, the prime minister appointed a new Conservative senator – Salma Ataullahjan – to gain another vote in the Senate.

In the 105 member Senate, the Conservatives have 52 senators (one short of a majority), the Liberals have 49, and there are 4 Independents (two of which are Progressive Conservatives).

If the vote next week is a tie or the government loses the vote, the budget would be sent back to the House of Commons.

A Toronto Star editorial says, “By bundling together vital areas of public policy… and then linking them to a budget bill, Harper is riding roughshod over legitimate debate.” The Globe and Mail says, “Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with these moves, all properly deserve attention as standalone bills. …Loading much of the government’s agenda into one omnibus bill and then demanding its passage on threat of an election is entirely inappropriate in a mature democracy.”

To contact the senators in your province to tell them that environmental assessments should not be limited, that Canada Post should not be deregulated, and that C-9 should be sent back to the House of Commons as five bills, go to www.parl.gc.ca/common/senmemb/senate/isenator.asp?Language=E.