Yesterday, critics accused the official opposition NDP, third-party Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party of presenting “frivolous” amendments to the Conservative budget omnibus bill.
Speaker of the House, Conservative Andrew Scheer, announced at noon on Monday, June 11, that he had grouped the amendments into 67 groups, which could increase to 159, depending on earlier votes. Once voting begins, it does not stop, which means the MP’s could be in the House for more than 24 hours straight. Typically, the House can move through six votes every hour. Had the Liberal legislation not been in place, the 871 proposed amendments by the opposition could have taken more than 128 hours.
These numerous proposed amendments have been referred to as a filibuster: an attempt to delay the action of the government via debate and procedural motions. In total, the collective opposition has proposed 871 amendments to the so-called “Omnibudget.” The C-38 Budget is 425-page omnibus bill, which is a bill that covers diverse topics, and is passed with one vote. According to the National Post, this particular omnibus bill addresses 70 different laws, but that is too many for just one vote. The opposition was not able to persuade the government to split the bill into multiple pieces of legislation, nor accept any of their recommended changes. As a result, the opposition has decided to protest through procedure.
The Federal Budget is a motion of confidence for the government when Members of Parliament vote on the bill. If the Prime Minister fails to receive a majority vote on the budget, the government will be dissolved and an election called. This occurred in March of 2011. In the case of majority governments, such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s current government, it is highly unlikely that the vote of confidence will fail.
Party discipline will be integral to the vote, as party whips are responsible for ensuring that the members of their party attend specific votes and vote in a certain manner. This is vital for this particular budget, as there are so many votes on the proposed amendment s to this budget. It is vital that the Members stay present during the long string of votes, as mistakes in planning could lead to a vote being lost by the Conservatives. Last year, the NDP filibustered Canada Post back-to-work legislation for 58 straight hours.
Liberal Party house leader Marc Garneau admitted that these votes diverge on relevance. “There are a lot of votes in here that, by our own admission, have nothing to do with a budget, so it’ll be interesting to see how that’s interpreted if it turns out that we win a vote or several votes during the course of the marathon of voting,” he told the CBC.
Technically, any vote during the Budget voting can be considered a vote of confidence; however, it is at the Prime Minister’s discretion to decide whether a lost vote will be considered one of non-confidence.
The budget addresses changes to Employment Insurance, Environmental Assessment, Border Law, HST, and Old Age Security to name a few topics.
Check back here for more information as voting continues!
Megan (CIVIX Intern)
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