EDITORIAL: Omnibus legislation must stop

If the Conservative government hasn’t already thought about its penchant for omnibus bills in Parliament, it needs to.

The Idle No More movement has focused its attention on changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act, which are rolled into an omnibus bill. These bills give MPs  little chance to debate important issues because there are so many items jammed together.

Omnibus bills began appearing during the five years the Conservatives had a minority, and were often crafted to keep at least one opposition party from voting against the government.

While this was an understandable strategy, the need for omnibus bills does not exist when there is a majority government. But the government likes the approach, because it limits the usefulness of Parliament and the ability of critics to draw public attention.

That worked fine when the critics were solely from the opposition parties. But when they are from outside Parliament and are energized by a variety of causes, omnibus bills have the potential to do a great deal of harm.

The harm comes from emasculating legitimate opposition in Parliament, where democratic differences need to be discussed. If too many people believe Parliament doesn’t work, and this leads them to damage Canada’s economy because of their frustration, omnibus bills become very dangerous.

The Conservative government has nothing to fear from its opponents in Parliament. It has a majority, and it should be ready and willing to hear criticism of its plans within an elected assembly.

Idle No More may be a loose and disorganized movement, but it has the potential to serve as a force for either positive or negative change. The federal government needs to choose a path which is working towards positive change — on all types of issues.

— Langley Times



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