Resolving Timeline Issues

This goes deeper than what the pundits say

Posted on: June 1, 2008

On Thursday, the BC Liberal government forced the adoption of 7 or 8 bills prior to the prorogue of the Spring session of the legislature, among them, the carbon tax and the election gag laws.

According to the Canadian Press:

The Liberals came to an agreement about three weeks ago with the Opposition NDP regarding the passage of 15 remaining bills, but there was no deal on eight others which the government has said will be passed “no matter what.”

So how can they do this? Well, in legislative procedure, there’s a little motion called “closure” which shuts down debate and forces a vote. Its designed to prevent prolonged sessions of the legislature (so that, you know, elected officials can have a summer vacation), while allowing government to take action as necessary. Its quite controversial as it limits any sort of meaningful representation in the legislature. In other words, using closure has a direct impact on your democratic rights. Closure effectively limits your MLA’s ability to advocate on your behalf. When a motion to close debate is moved and approved, all the opposition can do is vote against the item of debate.

I wrote earlier about the budget and the carbon tax (which is now recovered, minus comments) and how it’s a great big fuck you very much to BC citizens.

Apparently, the Liberal government has decided to fuck us a second time. Mike Farnworth (leader of the opposition in the House) said it quite well:

 “The government is ramming through eight bills, two of them particularly controversial,” he said, referring to the carbon tax bill and the so-called election gag law that places spending limits on third party advertising for the 28-day campaign period and for 60 days prior to the writ being dropped.

“That is just wrong, it is undemocratic,” he complained.

And it is unprecedented for a budget bill to be rammed through by the use of closure by any government in the history of this province,” said Farnworth. (emphasis added)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a particular fan of Mike Farnworth. In fact, I find him generally annoying. But he hit the nail on the head with this one.

In our rather messed up, toe the party line (or is that tow?) system, budgets are supposed to be free votes – this is a time for debate and to use knowledge and effective arguments to try to sway people to what you believe. By limiting debate, this isn’t allowed to happen. Whichever way you look at it, your rights are being eroded. And you should be angry about this.

Vaughn Palmer, in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun (page A3, Saturday May 31) has a couple of lines at the end of his column about this*

Gratuitous insults notwithstanding, the Liberals are surely guilty of reckless disregard for due process.

They set a precedent Thursday that could readily be abused by future governments of any political stripe.

Palmer’s column also includes a blow-by-blow of how it went down. In one hour and seven minutes, because of the closure motion, the following were passed:

  • Bill 20, Oil and Gas Activities Act (I really have no idea what that one’s about, but it ran over 200 sections and took 8 minutes)
  • Bill 21, Medicare Protection Amendment Act (took 6 minutes; a bit of squabbling here and there)
  • Bill 24, E-Health (15 minutes, due to a series of amendments)
  • Bill 37, Trade Investment & Labour Mobility Amendment Act (10 minutes)
  • Bill 37, Carbon Tax Act (runs 60 pages and 157 sections, 10 minutes or so)
  • Bill 42, Election Amendment Act or “gag law” (about 10 minutes, Minister Oppal had some amendments)

It started at 5pm and ended just after 6pm.

It is apparent this government, or maybe it’s the system, really has no regard for any sort of due process or democratic rights.

*the Canada.com website is currently down or busy or something, so I can’t link to it.

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