OTTAWA — The federal Conservative government moved Thursday to limit debate on its omnibus budget bill, sparking outrage from opposition parties.
A government motion was adopted Thursday in the House of Commons, by a vote of 145-122, to limit second reading debate on budget bill C-38 to six more days (seven in total), before it's voted on and sent to committee for further examination.
The government's Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act is more than 400 pages long and includes sweeping changes to such things as employment insurance, environmental protection, national parks, border security and approvals for natural resource projects.
"While this may be legal, it's certainly unethical and it's certainly undemocratic," NDP House leader Nathan Cullen said in an interview following the vote.
"This prime minister . . . used to rail against this exact tactic because it's unfair, it's undemocratic and doesn't allow MPs to do their job," he added.
"They put time allocation that Conservatives, in a previous life with previous convictions, would have set their hair on fire."
Opposition parties are demanding the government split up the omnibus budget bill into separate pieces of legislation so parliamentarians can properly debate the myriad changes.
"It's one of those bizarre omnibus bills in which the government has made the determination today, what I believe is a cowardly act, in terms of bringing in to this (bill) legislation that should have been standing on its own," Liberal deputy House leader Kevin Lamoureux said in the Commons, specifically targeting the government on its changes to environmental laws.
"What the government is doing through the back door and by putting in time allocations, I believe, is undemocratic."
The government, however, insisted that even with the motion passing, the budget bill will receive more debate at second reading than most fiscal blueprints over recent decades.
Shelly Glover, parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, maintained that over the past decade, there wasn't a single budget bill debated longer than the seven sitting days (28.5 hours of debate) the government is allowing at second reading.
The longest a Liberal budget was debated over the past decade was in 2005, at 21.8 hours (over seven days), she argued.
"In the last 10 years, there isn't a single — a single — other budget bill that was debated longer than the seven days we're about to do," Glover said in the House.
Conservatives limit budget debate