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Tories refuse to split up budget bill in face of NDP sabre rattling

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan announces the government's intention to press ahead with its omnibus budget bill in the foyer of the House of Commons on May 9, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

New Democrats are promising a strong reaction to the Conservative government's refusal to split an omnibus budget bill into a number of parts to allow for more thorough debate.

"This is not a good day for democracy," Opposition House Leader Nathan Cullen told reporters after his Conservative counterpart publicly rejected a proposal to divide the 420-page bill – much of which involves major changes to environmental law – into at least five pieces.

"The government has chosen arrogance over negotiations, has chosen to shut Canadians out further from the plans that they have for this country," Mr. Cullen said.

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Earlier Wednesday, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair threatened that his party would engage in a number of unspecified hard-line tactics if, after two days of negotiation, the government decided not to compromise.

The NDP response will become apparent in the next hours and days, Mr. Cullen said. "This is a result that the government brought upon themselves. This was not out intention. This is not why we proposed what we believed to be a reasonable solution to the impasse."

The bill is its sixth day of debate in the House of Commons. The government has imposed time limits which will see the legislation before the House for just two more days before it is sent off to the Commons Finance Committee.

There had been rumours Tuesday the Conservatives might be willing to cede some ground in the request to divide the bill. But Government House Leader Peter Van Loan put those to rest Wednesday at a brief news conference of his own.

"We have set out a fair process for considering this bill that includes the longest second-reading debate of any budget in at least the last two decades," Mr. Van Loan said, pointing out the government has already agreed to allow a special sub-committee to take at look at the environmental measures.

It is unclear just how far the NDP will go to thwart the government's plan to push the bill through Parliament.

Already, Mr. Mulcair's MPs have entered motions at 20 different Commons committees asking that sections of the budget bill that are germane to each committee's mandate be extensively examined. The intent is to force the government to publicly reject, over and over again, the proposal for further study.

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Mr. Mulcair said his party will no longer put up with tactics that shut down debate and close the door on public scrutiny. "You are going to see a crescendo of reaction to the government's actions."

And that reaction will apparently not be limited to the handling of the budget legislation, the NDP Leader said.

"They have been trying to move parliamentary committees behind closed doors, frustrating the ability of Canadians to know what's going on in their own government," he said. "The press is being kept out but the public is also being kept out. So that's not going to go on for very long."

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Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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