After promises of openness and transparency, government proposes a discussion paper that would limit debate and opposition.
Ottawa (31 March 2017) — On March 10, the Liberal government has introduced a discussion paper in the House of Commons that would have serious impact on how parliamentary proceedings would operate.
Liberal discussion paper undermines opposition's ability to hold government accountable
The government has said that the paper is intended to stimulate discussion on how to "modernize" the rules that apply to managing the House of Commons, managing debate and the managing committees.
But many are calling out the government's attempt to undermine the role of the opposition in the House and give more power to the government.
As Andrew Coyne wrote in a column in the National Post, "This is no more aimed at genuine reform of parliament than the Harper government’s Fair Elections Act was aimed at making elections fair."
One of the reforms the government is proposing is to have the Prime Minister in Question Period for only one day per week, and to scrap Friday sittings in the House of Commons.
Restricting transparency and accountability an affront to Canadian democracy
"Many people are seeing these moves as highly reminiscent of the anti-democratic actions of Stephen Harper's government," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
Included in the government's discussion paper are time limits on procedural tactics that allow opposition parties to be heard and hold the government to account, as well as limits to how much time the opposition has to question the government or debate issues. The paper also includes specific deadlines for each stage of the process a bill goes through in the House, and also sets time limits on speeches in committees.
The only positive item in the bill appears to allow the Speaker of the House to break up omnibus bills to separate issues.
Canadians are waiting for action, not self-interested procedural wrangling
"Like the flip-flop on electoral reform, our Prime Minister seems very interested in pursuing changes that will give his government even more power," said Brown.
"Canadians are waiting for the government to move, or move more quickly, on dozens of projects but instead the government throws out these proposals to stifle debate," said Brown. "If they are trying to distract us from the real issues we're facing, they are failing miserably."
"We are keenly aware of what needs to be done — solutions to income inequality, investments in infrastructure, creating good jobs, providing leadership on the Truth and Reconcilliation inquiry, or protecting our ability to trade fairly — and we won't let self-serving maneouvres get in our way," said Brown.
The opposition appears primed to defend their right to hold the government to account in the House of Commons.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE