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Canada: Liberals Submit Thousands of Budget-bill Amendments
Source: canada.com
Source Date: Monday, November 19, 2012
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement
Country: Canada
Created: Nov 19, 2012

OTTAWA — Another budget bill showdown and marathon voting session is looming in Parliament, as the federal Liberals said Monday they have submitted more than 3,000 amendments to the government’s second omnibus budget implementation bill.

The NDP and Green party are also promising to fight the many changes within the 414-page Bill C-45, which was introduced last month in the House of Commons and has faced fierce criticism from opposition parties and environmental groups over changes to the protection of waterways, among dozens of other measures.

There are 11 House of Commons committees and six Senate committees examining the hundreds of clauses contained in the second budget implementation bill. The Liberals on Monday submitted more than 3,000 amendments to Bill C-45 to the House of Commons finance committee, which has until 11:59 pm on Wednesday to end consideration of opposition amendments, before moving to clause-by-clause votes on the bill.

With no possibility of voting on all the amendments before that time, the Liberals believe parliamentary procedure may allow them to propose eligible amendments once the Tory-dominated finance committee sends the bill back to the House of Commons on Thursday.

Some of the Liberal amendments include expanding the hiring credit for small businesses, extending the phase out period for the scientific research and experimental development tax credit, and improving the definition of aboriginal fishery to ensure it includes the right to earn a “moderate livelihood.”

“These substantive amendments and many others are critical to improving this very flawed omnibus legislation,” Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said Monday in a statement. “As we did last spring, the Liberal party will continue to lead the opposition against the Conservatives’ anti-democratic budget bills.”

The NDP and Green party are also vowing to introduce what, combined, could be hundreds of amendments, but nothing as extreme as the thousands submitted by the Liberals.

“We’ve gone after substantive amendments rather than volume,” said NDP finance critic Peggy Nash. “We’re focused more on key areas on where we had disagreements in the bill.”

Opposition parties fought for the second budget bill to be sent to Commons committees but were unsuccessful in having the government separate many of the controversial measures into individual bills that could be more thoroughly debated by MPs.

Nash said the NDP is particularly concerned with proposed changes the party says further guts environmental oversight, including overhauling legislation protecting Canada’s waterways.

Green party officials said leader Elizabeth May will likely introduce around 100 budget bill amendments of her own, including on environmental protection and aboriginal fisheries.

The Harper government’s second budget bill proposes to eliminate one of Canada’s oldest laws protecting bodies of water across the country.

Bill C-45 would replace the Navigable Waters Protection Act, first introduced in 1882, with a new Navigation Protection Act covering a list of 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans on Canada’s coasts.

The government maintains the reforms could ease the burden on companies seeking approval on new industrial projects such as oilsands development or mining extraction.

Bill C-38, the Conservative government’s initial 425-page budget implementation legislation passed in the spring sitting, eliminated about 3,000 federal environmental assessments, weakened protection of endangered species and limited public participation in consultations and reviews of proposed industrial projects.

The initial budget bill also gradually increased the eligibility age for Old Age Security, reformed the employment insurance system, overhauled environmental protection and fisheries laws, and expedited natural resource development approvals, while rewriting dozens of laws in the process.

Ultimately, MPs voted for nearly 24 hours in the House of Commons on more than 150 consecutive votes, covering more than 800 proposed opposition amendments to the majority Conservative government’s Bill C-38.

(By Jason Fekete)
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