That I am not a supporter of the Harper Conservatives does not blind me to the many deficiencies of the Ignatief-led Liberals. When they had the chance to stop the Conservative omnibus budget bill, which contains myriad provisions wholly unrelated to budget matters (loosening up of environmental regulations and assessments, selling off AEC, privatizing parts of the Post Office service, etc.), the Liberals ensured they had insufficient members in the House so that they could vote against the bill without triggering an election, a budget being a confidence measure.
It then went on to the Senate, which putative Liberal Leader aspirant Bob Rae described as "the best place to amend the bill." Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, when the final vote came in the Senate yesterday, guess what, again there was an inadequate number of Liberal Senators in the Red Chamber to block the bill.
Could this have anything to do with last week's threat by Conservative Senator and former Conservative Party campaign chairman Doug Findley's threat that an election would ensue if the Senate didn't pass the entire bill intact?
Below is the full story from this morning's online Globe:
Senators skip town after Liberals fail budget-bill test
1. School's out for summer. It took a long night and many words of despair from both Liberals and independents but the Senate passed a contentious omnibus budget bill Monday that contains measures its detractors say have little to do with the budget.
Bill C-9 is now law after opposition attempts to amend it were defeated by a vote of 48 to 42. It received royal assent late Monday night and the senators have been released to begin their summer vacations.
The Liberals and three of the four Senators who are not aligned with either major party opposed the bill, saying the minority Conservative government was burying measures within the 900 pages that it could not have pushed through the House of Commons as stand-alone items. Liberals in the House had allowed the bill to pass to avoid an election.
The legislation provides, among other things, for the sell-off of the power division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the privatization of part of Canada Post and a major restructuring of environmental assessments.
Late Monday afternoon, the Conservatives moved to close debate on the issue and listened quietly as Liberals and independents rose to oppose it. Several hours later, the Tories managed to defeat amendments from the Senate finance committee, which would have hived off the controversial portions. And, finally, late in the evening, the bill was passed.
The Liberals say they tried to get enough of their members in their seats to stop the bill. Senator Terry Mercer of Nova Scotia, who has been laid up with a bad back and was not expected to make it to Ottawa for the vote, was in the chamber. But seven of his Liberal colleagues did not show up.
So, even though there were five Conservatives missing (independent Senator Jean-Claude Rivest voted with the Tories to pass the bill), the Liberals could not muster the forces to defeat it or change it.
But James Cowan, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, spoke out against it.
“Selling off AECL, watering down environmental assessments, changing the authorities of the post office – these are significant policy issues that should be brought individually before Parliament so that interested Canadians can make their views known, and then Parliament can decide on their merit,” Mr. Cowan told the Red Chamber.
“Honourable senators, good public policy is not made this way. If these provisions did not belong in a budget bill before, then they certainly do not belong there now.”