Editorial: Democracy wilting in Ottawa

While lumping numerous pieces of legislation in one giant omnibus bill may not be precedent-setting, we fear it threatens our democracy.

While the lumping together of numerous pieces of federal legislation in one giant omnibus bill may not be precedent-setting, we fear that doing so threatens to reduce our democracy to mere window dressing.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, still relatively young in its first majority, is attempting to reduce the level of debate on specific issues relating to everything from environmental protection to military spending to multiculturalism. No aspect of governmental operations is being spared here.

Our concern is that sections of the bill pinpointed by hard-working MPs as troublesome – remember, this bill affects every ministry – cannot possibly be given the time they need to discuss potential problems with implementation before regulations and budgets get put in place.

It’s not just opposing MPs who have been left scrambling by this tactic. Even Conservative MPs are forced to bone up on all aspects of the government’s budget legislation. Who’s got time for that? And how can we expect any of our elected representatives to be well-versed on even half of the legislation tabled?

Meanwhile, Opposition and other MPs have tabled 800 possible amendments to the bill, which will no doubt cause further confusion and anxiety among this country’s lawmakers as the bill goes through the debate process.

The feds have argued that time is of the essence as they work to keep our economy from spiralling as a growing number of European countries are experiencing.

Still, that is not reason enough to subvert the democratic process and allow for the kind of proper debate that Canadians have come to expect.

To use a well-used phrase, this can only end badly, both for the continuity of services, checks and balances in this country and the preservation of the type of democracy we all voted for – Conservatives, New Democrats, Liberals and Greens alike.