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NDP finance critic Peggy Nash speaks during the party's leadership convention in Toronto on March 23 2012. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
NDP finance critic Peggy Nash speaks during the party's leadership convention in Toronto on March 23 2012. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Calling it a 'Trojan horse,' NDP asks to split sweeping Tory budget bill Add to ...

The NDP is presenting a formal motion to have the Conservative government’s budget bill split into several pieces, arguing the legislation is too expansive to be studied by a single committee.

At more than 420 pages, the budget-implementation legislation is attracting considerable controversy for the breadth of measures it includes, many of which have not been clearly explained.

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The NDP argues most of the measures in the Tory legislation have little to do with the budget document that was released in March. By splitting the bill, the NDP argues MPs will be able to hear from more witnesses in committee who have expertise in the wide-range of areas that are affected.

“We feel this bill is like a Trojan horse. ... We’re just discovering all of the implications of this bill,” NDP finance critic Peggy Nash told reporters Monday.

The NDP says the bill includes several measures that concentrate power in the hands of cabinet ministers. “These are radical changes,” Ms. Nash added.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan has responded to previous calls to split the bill by pointing out that while MPs on the finance committee will be responsible for studying the bill, a sub-committee will be set up to examine the parts of the legislation that deal with natural resources.

Mr. Van Loan defended the government’s decision to limit second-reading debate on the bill by saying the legislation contains measures that are important to the economy and that it’s vital that decisions are ultimately taken.

The NDP says it is not releasing the wording of its motion because it wants to see if it can negotiate the language with the Government House Leader.

A spokesperson for Mr. Van Loan said he was not yet aware of such a proposal and the Tory House Leader released a statement in response to the NDP news conference: “Today’s proposal by the NDP is just another attempt to delay this important job-creating bill. The NDP’s opposition is simply an ideological response to the budget which they opposed from the moment it was introduced,” it states.

The Budget Implementation Act, also known as Bill C-38, includes announced changes that will raise the eligibility age for Old Age Security to 67 from 65. It also contains extensive changes to Canada’s environmental laws as part of a stated effort to streamline the approval of natural resources projects. The bill includes changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, the National Energy Board Act, the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act. It also repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

In other sections, the bill contains several changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance and labour laws that the government says it is not in a position to explain because related policies are still being developed.

The budget bill repeals sections of the Employment Insurance Act that currently allow EI recipients to turn down a job if it is not in their field, if it pays less than their previous job or if does not provide working conditions that one would expect from a good employer.

“These aspects are moving from legislation to regulation and further details will be defined in the coming weeks and months,” said Alyson Queen, a spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley in an email to The Globe last week.

There are also changes to the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and repeals to the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act

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