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Harper Budget Bills “A Disgrace and an Insult to Parliament and to Canadians,” Analysts Write

A new report from policy analysts calls on the Harper government to end the use of overloaded omnibus bills such as C-38 and C-45.

Based on posts originally published on Scott Clark and Peter DeVries’ blog 3D Policy, the report is set to appear in Inside Policy magazine. It harshly criticizes the government’s record when it comes to budget transparency.

“It is now recognized by most observers of the federal budget process, that the integrity and credibility of the process has been seriously eroded in recent years,” they write.

“Less information is now provided to the public in budgets than under previous Liberal and Conservative governments; the authority of Parliament over government spending has been weakened; the understanding of Canadians as to what the government is actually planning to do in the budget has been eroded. Canadians should be concerned not just with the erosion of Parliament’s authority, but also ultimately with their own ability to hold the government to account for its actions.”

Though they keep their comments to fiscal concerns, the issues they target also throw light on the Harper government’s tactics of obfuscation when it came to issues of environmental regulation, specifically in terms of Bill C-38 and Bill C-45.

“The two budget Bills associated with the 2012 budget were, to put it mildly, a disgrace and an insult to Parliament and to Canadians,” the report reads. “The use of Budget Omnibus Bills has grown to the point that they seriously undermine the integrity and credibility of the budget process and the authority of Parliament. Little information is now provided in the Budget, so it has become impossible in reading the budget documents to fully understand what the government is actually proposing to do. There is a clear lack of transparency and accountability.”

This echoes sentiments of protesters in the Idle No More movement who saw Bill C-38, which included changes to 70 federal laws in a single bill, and Bill C-45, which included the sweeping changes to environmental regulations, as directly circumventing their democratic rights.

Clark and Devries size of these bills, their lack of specific detail and the short time frame of their introduction make it impossible to for Parliament to ensure that the premier is accountable to Canadian citizens.

“Budget omnibus bills should be restricted to proposed tax changes only and all proposed spending initiatives should be presented either through the Main Estimates or through separate legislation, submitted to the applicable Parliamentary Committee for review,” they write.

Although this criticism is certainly not new, Harper is not open to it. Yesterday he accused Clark and DeVries of launching a partisan attack, saying that their work contradicted a “non-partisan” report by the CD Howe Institute.

What he did not notice, points out iPolitics's Colin Horgan, is that the CD Howe report contained similar criticism.

For their part, Clark and DeVries deny any partisan leanings. “We have never been members of any political party. We have both served under Conservative and Liberal governments and were never accused by them of being partisan. We provide independent advice to anyone or any organization/party who seeks it,” they told Maclean's Aaron Wherry.

“To date, there are over 100 articles on our blog. The article for Inside Policy brings together observation made in previous blogs – none of which received any reaction from the Government.”

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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