The Liberals will join forces with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to introduce amendments that could delay the passage of the Conservative government’s omnibus budget bill and another piece of legislation that would change Canada’s refugee system.
“We very clearly indicated that we are the real opposition here because we found that the best way to deal with this is to work with other parties, in this particular case with the Green Party,” Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau told reporters Monday morning after the House of Commons returned from a week-long break.
Because the Greens do not have official party status, Ms. May is not given a seat on parliamentary committees. As a trade-off, she is permitted to propose substantive amendments to bills that have come back to the House after the committees have completed their study – an option that is not open to MPs who are part of a recognized party.
“We have sat down with her and we have gone over those report-stage amendments and we will be supporting [them]” Mr. Garneau said.
The Liberals proposed 28 amendments to the refugee bill when it was at the committee level, he said, but the vast majority were rejected by the Conservatives, who hold a majority on Commons committees.
The refugee bill could come back to the House of Commons for a vote on Tuesday evening unless a bill to force an end to the labour dispute at CP Rail intervenes. The legislation introduces several reforms to the refugee system the Conservatives say are designed to crack down on bogus claims.
The Liberals say they will invoke the same delay tactic on Bill C-38, the 400-page budget bill that would rewrite about 70 laws, from environmental assessment, to Employment Insurance, to Old Age Security. The opposition parties argue that many of the 752 clauses have no business being included in budget legislation and they want the bill broken into smaller pieces so it can be examined more carefully. The government has refused the request.
New Democrats, who are the Official Opposition, held their own news conference Monday to report the results of cross-country hearings they staged over the past week to get input from Canadians on the budget bill.
Splitting the bill would have allowed parliamentarians to do their jobs and study various sections of legislation which will “affect millions of Canadians, now and for a generation,” Opposition House Leader Nathan Cullen told reporters.
Hundreds of people appeared in person at the hearings and thousands voiced their opinions online, Mr. Cullen added.
“People are concerned about the budget and worried about the changes that are going to be happening to their lives,” he said. “Conservatives have a majority and will pass their bill. Our goal is to make sure that they aren’t allowed to just sneak through these changes without the voices of Canadians being represented.”
The New Democrats said they will propose “constructive” amendments to the bill, which is now before the Commons finance committee. But the Conservatives can easily dismiss them. Which is why the Liberals say they will be acting in concert with Ms. May when the legislation comes back to the House.
“We have already indicated that we will be putting report-stage amendments forward to delete clauses in this very, very large bill,” Mr. Garneau said.
The Liberal House Leader added that his party believes this is the only way to deal with an “abusive” government that has repeatedly invoked time allocation to shut down parliamentary debate. “We feel this is the best approach rather than to hyperventilate and make lots of noise.”