The federal opposition parties couldn’t prevent the Conservative government from sending a massive budget bill to a Commons committee in one piece but say the fight to break the document into smaller sections and shed light on its contents is just beginning.
The Tories used their majority in the House of Commons on Monday to ensure that the 425-page legislation moved to the next stage of its journey through Parliament. It will land at the finance committee on Tuesday.
But the New Democrats are promising to unleash a series of actions in the coming days to alert Canadians to the size and scope of the bill and to delay it from being passed into law.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters on Monday that those kinds of tactics could lead to the sort of economic instability that is plaguing countries in the European Union.
“It is important to pass this bill and continue with our work, particularly in the light of what is happening in the euro zone,” he said at a news conference. “We see the results of delay and inaction in Europe today so I encourage the opposition to be wary of counterproductive political theatre at this serious and fragile time.”
When asked what the budget bill would do to create jobs, the Finance Minister replied that the most important thing it contains is sound fiscal policy.
But the New Democrats and the other opposition parties in the House say the bill is too large for one committee to scrutinize. They want it divided into a number of parts to be analyzed in depth.
The legislation rewrites about 70 laws. Among other things, it would dramatically overhaul environmental-assessments, alter the administration of parks, revise immigration rules and change the laws concerning assisted human reproduction.
The most controversial clauses include those that would increase the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and make it more difficult for recipients of employment insurance to turn down jobs that are not in their field.
Peggy Nash, the NDP finance critic, said Mr. Flaherty could not answer a direct question about how jobs would be created through this budget “and he’s very vague on why he needs the changes and what the EI changes are going to mean.”
New Democrats have promised a “crescendo” of response to the government’s unwillingness to break the bill into manageable chunks. They will hold a news conference on Tuesday morning to outline their next moves which, they say, will continue throughout this week and into next week when MPs return to their ridings.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair accused the government on Monday of using excessive power to prevent parliamentary oversight in its handling of the bill.
“The population speaks as much through the opposition as the government,” Mr. Mulcair said during Question Period in the House. “Why is it that the government does not respect these principles?”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, who answered on behalf of the government, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mr. Flaherty are “focused like a laser on the economy, they are focused on economic growth, on job creation, and not on partisan games.”