Opponents of the federal government’s decision to package of a broad range of controversial measures in one massive budget bill are preparing to demonstrate publicly against the legislation – both online and at the offices of Conservative MPs.
A group of young Canadians that was formed to promote democracy will hold protests outside the constituency offices of 54 Tory politicians on Saturday.
And nearly 400 charitable groups and environmental activist organizations will reroute their websites Monday to BlackOutSpeakout.ca, which tells visitors the budget bill will “weaken environmental rules and silence the voices of those who seek to defend them.”
Gillian McEachern, deputy campaign director of Environmental Defence, which is one of the organizations leading the web “black out,” said the aim is to raise public awareness.
“This is in response to the budget bill that not only guts environmental protection measures that Canadians rely on to keep them safe,” Ms. McEachern said in an interview, “but also attempts to shut civil society groups like environmental charities out of big decisions.”
The government has accused some environmental foundations of laundering money for U.S. groups and the budget bill provides $8-million to enforce existing restrictions on the political activities of Canadian charities.
When opposition MPs challenged the Conservatives again on Friday over the provisions of the bill, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the government’s aim is a healthy economy.
“We want to focus on building a long-term prosperity for this great country,” Mr. Baird said during Question Period in the Commons. “We are pleased with the economic growth we saw in the first quarter of 1.9 cent. More work remains to be done. Let’s focus like a laser on job creation and on economic growth.”
The 425-page legislation is now in the hands of the Commons finance committee and a sub-committee that has been formed to examine the environmental ramifications. It is expected to report back to the House of Commons in time for the bill to be passed into law before MPs depart for the summer break.
Opposition parties say the bill should have been split into a number of sections that could have been studied in greater dept.
The leaders of Leadnow.ca who are organizing the demonstrations at MPs offices on Saturday say they would also like to see the bill broken into sections.
Jamie Biggar, one of the co-founders of Leadnow, said the intent of the rallies, which will take place in cities across Canada, is to let the Conservatives know people are paying attention in areas where it could hurt them politically.
“Being able to show both a significant shift in national public opinion around their policies and also organizations in Conservative incumbent ridings, especially where they won by only a narrow margin, I think is speaking a language that this government understands,” Mr. Biggar told The Globe.
The size of the bill has been a focal point for criticism. But it is apparently not the largest budget bill the Conservatives have introduced.
Aaron Wherry of Maclean’s magazine recounts an exchange that took place at the Finance committee Wednesday night in which Conservative MP Shelly Glover points out that nine other Tory budget bills have actually been bigger.
Mr. Wherry did his own calculations to show that the 12 budget bills tabled by Liberal government between 1994 and 2005 averaged 73.6 pages while the 11 budget bills tabled by the Conservatives between 2006 and 2011 averaged 308.9 pages.