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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Globe editorial

Globe editorial: Trudeau boards the omnibus-lite Add to ...

If it’s not an omnibus bill, it’s definitely omnibus-ish.

In size, the Trudeau government’s 294-page budget implementation bill, tabled this week, is not significantly out of whack with legislation of its type.

The government’s first implementation bill last spring, for instance, weighed in at 234 pages on first reading, and the opposition parties weren’t flinging about the dreaded O word the way they were on Tuesday.

Plus, this bill is anemic compared with the 880-page brick the Conservative government of Stephen Harper tabled in 2010, or its 458-pager from October, 2014. Both were attempts to slip politically and ideologically motivated amendments into giant bills that overwhelmed the single committee that examines budget legislation.

The Liberal bill isn’t as underhanded – but it does contain at least two consequential changes that should be presented in separate legislation so that they can be studied by the proper committees.

One is a series of amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act that would give more power to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but which critics are already saying is badly flawed.

The other is the Canada Infrastructure Bank Act, which creates the Liberals’ promised investment bank aimed at encouraging private-sector participation in major public projects.

Budget bills are supposed to focus on supply – how, where and how much the government will tax and spend. The more they include other items, like this one, they more problematic they are.

The Liberals, who decried the Harper government’s omnibus ways, risk becoming just another opposition party that, once in power, discovers an affinity for these undemocratic beasts.

The Trudeau government hasn’t passed much legislation recently, and it would like to end the spring session with something to show voters. A dash of many-bills-in-one legislation is a chance to push through major initiatives in the shortest time, with the least possible resistance or scrutiny.

No, the Liberals’ budget bill it’s not the worst example of omnibus legislation ever tabled. Yes, that’s damning with faint praise. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should show more respect for Parliament, as he promised, and break it up.

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