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UPDATE: Council of Canadians continues to oppose C-38, the budget implementation act

The Globe and Mail reports, “An omnibus budget bill that will affect many aspects of Canadian life faces a rocky ride over the next four weeks as opposition members try to thwart Conservative plans to have it passed into law before Parliament rises for the summer (now scheduled for June 22 at the latest).”

As we have noted in the campaign blog NEWS: Bill C-38, the destructive ‘budget implementation’ act, the budget bill, “empowers the federal cabinet to give the go-ahead to pipelines and other major energy projects regardless of the conclusions of regulatory hearings on the feasibility of the projects; provides timelines for environmental hearings on pipelines and will block participation in the hearings by those not directly affected by the project; permits Ottawa to bow out of the environmental approval process in cases where a provincial government could hold the needed regulatory hearings; (alters) the process for issuing permits under the Species at Risk Act (allowing the National Energy Board to permit activities that kill or harm endangered species); (streamlines) the Fisheries Act so only major bodies of water used for commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries will be protected; scraps the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, putting an official end to Canada’s commitment to the international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions; changes Employment Insurance benefits; cracks down on charities engaging in political activity; axes Ottawa’s spy watchdog; introduces changes that beginning in 2023, will gradually increase the age of eligibility for Old Age Security payments to 67 from 65; among numerous other measures in hundreds of pages of non-budgetary items.

The newspaper notes, “The budget legislation is before both the Commons finance committee and the Senate at the same time. …The government has refused to allow the bill to be divided in the Commons, but a subcommittee of the finance committee has been created to look at the changes to environmental-assessment legislation. The government plans to allow between 50 and 60 hours of debate at the committee level – to be spread between the finance committee and the subcommittee. The legislation will then be returned to the House for a final vote…”

The procedural clerk of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has written, “The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance will be holding hearings on Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the Budget and other measures, during the week of May 28 to 31, 2012. The Committee would like to invite the Council of Canadians to appear before the Committee in Ottawa to take part in a panel of witnesses in relation to Part 4 (Division 17) of this bill and most likely in a televised meeting. …The meeting is scheduled from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 31, 2012 in room C-110, 1 Wellington Street (near the Château Laurier) close to Parliament Hill.” The Council will appear before this Committee.

Today’s news adds, “Once the bill goes to the House, Green Party leader Elizabeth May will “propose an unlimited number of amendments to bills that have come back to the House from committees”. She is permitted to do so “because the Greens do not have official party status in the House of Commons, Ms. May is not given a seat on parliamentary committees. All she needs is the support of five other MPs. And the Liberals have agreed to do that in the case of the budget bill. ‘The aim is to create such a substantial logjam that the government will have to negotiate removing the environmental and other non-budgetary matters from Bill C-38,’ Ms. May said Monday. Each vote on an amendment takes 15 minutes, there could be hundreds of amendments, so ‘you do the math’, she said.”

To respond to the Council of Canadians action alert directed at all Members of Parliament drafted by trade campaigner Stuart Trew – ACTION ALERT: Split up the budget: Environmental and border policy changes need a full debate – please go to http://canadians.org/action/2012/Bill-C38.html. Trew writes, “We need to put pressure on the Conservatives to do the right thing by democratically debating all of these non-budgetary, highly controversial items separately instead of rushing them into place in an anti-democratic omnibus law. …The Harper government is refusing to split up the budget bill, which is expected to pass by June 8 or by June 22 at the latest.”

The Council of Canadians will also be participating in the June 4th ‘Black Out, Speak Out’ campaign against the Budget Implementation Act. We believe that environmental laws must be strengthened, that public participation should be encouraged, and that Indigenous rights must be respected. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has written, “The Harper government appears intent on systematically dismantling the few protections that have been put in place at the federal level to protect our freshwater heritage. To read Barlow’s full commentary on the Budget Implementation Act, which also highlights the gutting of the Fisheries Act, the weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the killing of the Global Environmental Monitoring System and more, go to Harper and the Environment are Like Oil and Water at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15233. For more, see UPDATE: Council of Canadians supports ‘Black Out, Speak Out’ initiative at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15461.

For numerous other blogs noting our opposition to the Budget Implementation Act, go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=budget+implementation.