Tories methodically voting down opposition efforts to alter 400-page budget bill | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Mainly Sunny  25.9°C

Tories methodically voting down opposition efforts to alter 400-page budget bill

The House of Commons calendar still reads Wednesday, June 13, as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Duncan, left to right, Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Heritage James Moore, Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney, and Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz are recognized as they continue to vote on amendments to the budget Bill C-38 in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 14, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA - "Mr. Hawn, Mr. Alexander, Ms. Rempel, Mr. Rickford, M. Goguen, Ms. Findlay Delta-Richmond East, Mr. Del Mastro...."

The names of members of Parliament reel out like a metronome, already hypnotic 45 minutes into what is expected to be at least 24 consecutive hours of voting in the House of Commons.

MPs are still at it this morning, with the Conservative majority methodically voting down 871 opposition motions — grouped into 159 voteable packages — that are designed to thwart, or at least publicize, the Harper government's sprawling omnibus budget implementation bill.

The legislation, dubbed the Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act by the ever-marketing Conservatives, contains a bewildering maze of changes to dozens of statutes, ranging from employment insurance and public pensions to environmental assessments, border security and spy agency oversight.

Critics say such omnibus bills amount to a massive abuse of Parliament — an argument a young Stephen Harper once made with some conviction as a backbench Reform MP.

Now his Conservative government says the 400-page bill is "responsible, necessary and will make Canada's economy stronger," in the words of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

And they don't want a single comma altered by the elected representatives on the opposition benches.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May combined with the NDP and Liberals to propose hundreds of amendments.

At 12:59 a.m. ET Thursday morning the Conservative majority began systematically voting them down.

"I think everyone's pretty pumped, at least on the NDP side, about standing up for Canadians and making sure they have a voice here today," New Democrat John Rafferty said as the House of Commons bells rang to start the marathon.

MPs' desks were littered with books and papers, laptops and notebooks, pillows and even a couple of stuffed animals. Michel Rempel, the dimpled Tory from Calgary, had a half dozen containers of brightly coloured Play-Doh for amusement, while cabinet member Rona Ambrose was wrapped in a Hudson's Bay blanket.

The first vote took just over seven minutes to complete, each MP rising and sitting again at their seat, with the Conservatives prevailing 150-133.

The disciplined Tories could have flexed their muscles, but elected to split their caucus into 11 groups and rest out one for each 30-minute block of votes, thus reducing their margin of victory.

It made no difference. The outcome is preordained, if not the timing.

Just sorting out the 871 motions, reading them into the record and a series of theatrical but otherwise meaningless voice votes chewed up four hours Wednesday night before the recorded votes even commenced.

Deputy Speaker Barry Devolin received a round of applause from the couple of dozen MPs on hand when he read Motion 500, but the House fell back into a torpor as the remaining 371 droned out.

Zorya Baskier-Pasternak, 22, was in the gallery with friends Sarah Helmer and James Thomson-Kacki, giddily taking in the seemingly endless dirge before the voting ever began.

"It's great," said the Winnipeg dancer, in Ottawa for the Canada dance festival.

"I've never been to Parliament before, never seen a debate. I think everyone should see how (screwed) up it is. Because this is how we run our country!"

Outside, a half dozen Conservatives stood near the MPs' entrance smoking cigars, the fragrant clouds hanging in the night air all the way to foot of the Peace Tower.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, his jacket off and tie askew, hurried through a basement corridor for an office pit stop before midnight.

"I'm a night owl," Kenney laughed. "I usually leave the office at three or four (a.m.), so I might was well get some work done."

Inside the limestone walls of the gothic Centre Block, it might have been mid-afternoon, but for the lack of tour groups and the eerily silent back hallways.

And in fact the parliamentary calendar remained frozen in time, with the desk calendar in the centre aisle continuing to read June 13 as the rest of the country woke to Thursday's dawn. Wednesday won't end for MPs until the last vote is counted and the House adjourned sometime this evening or early Friday morning.

By then, clerks in the House of Commons will have recited almost 50,000 names in a repetitive roll call, each as predictable as the last.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

  • Popular kamloops News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile