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Bill C-9: 'Earmarks' have no place in Canadian legislation

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The party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his band of angry radicals should be known as the "American Party of Canada."

The latest pernicious Americanism that they have imported into Canada is the use of omnibus legislation to circumvent democracy and suppress democratic debate about spending priorities.

In the United States, such legislative sleights of hand are known as "earmarks." While Harper's "American Party" government has avoided the use of the term, which has been in bad odour among our American cousins for some time now, the technique used in the budget implementation act, Bill C-9, is essentially the same.

By burying unrelated spending provisions in a large and complex piece of legislation, the government hopes to achieve several goals, among them:

-To avoid public scrutiny and commentary on specific buried provisions.

-To enable the government to operate largely in secret.

-To permit the government more easily to reward its supporters covertly.

-To make it politically difficult for opposition politicians to derail bad policies buried in legislation that also contains popular provisions.

Canada has been largely spared this anti-democratic Americanism to date. Now the prime minister's former Reform Party -- for whom "reform" meant the Americanization of everything and very little else -- has brought this noxious approach to creating legislation to Canada.

The government calls this piece of legislation the "Jobs and Economic Growth Act." The act will do little to promote the growth of jobs or the economy, of course. However, labelling legislation with intellectually dishonest and deceptive titles is another Americanism beloved by the Harper Tories and their sympathizers in various provincial governments.

Buried inside Bill C-9 like roadside explosives are provisions that would allow the government to sell off Atomic Energy Canada to its corporate supporters, to take away Canada Post's monopoly on overseas mail and to permit the environment minister to waive legislated environmental assessments.

A case can be made for and against each of these ideas, of course. However, the purpose of hiding them within Bill C-9 is to ensure that those cases are never made. Rather, the intent is to force the legislation through without debate, then let the new policies advance safe from public scrutiny.

Other Canadian governments have used omnibus bills to push through legislation -- but rarely has the use of such "earmarks" been so shameless, or the intent to circumvent the democratic powers of Parliament so transparent.

But, really, what do you expect from a government that would prorogue Parliament to prevent a vote of confidence by Canadians' democratically elected representatives?

Bill C-9 is both disturbing and disgraceful. It is, however, completely unsurprising given the undemocratic impulses and the penchant of this prime minister and his misnamed party for importing the worst American political ideas to Canada.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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