‘Earmarks’ have no place in Canadian legislation

Stephen Harper: The Americanizer

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 Mr. 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 Rabble.ca.

4 Comments on "‘Earmarks’ have no place in Canadian legislation"

  1. Kim says:

    Very good website David, I will bookmark. I thought I saw somewhere in the bill the provision to add the EI insurance fund into general revenues. Did you see that as well?

  2. David J. Climenhaga says:

    With reference to Kim's comment above, what the bill does is wipe out the Supreme Court-mandated obligation for the government of Canada to repay the $57 billion that has been removed over several years from the Employment Insurance fund and placed directly into general revenues. This amounts to making it legal to pay for Paul Martin's and Stephen Harper's corporate tax cuts with money stolen from ordinary Canadian working people. This was necessary from the government's perspective because the Supreme Court said they couldn't do this under current laws. The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff, by the way, support this theft. Remember this the next time you hear that EI benefits "have to" be reduced. And imagine the editorials in the National Pest if the shoe were on the other, corporate foot! (Thanks to a well placed friend for this explanation.)

  3. hernanday says:

    One would expect an author to be informed on what he spoke about, what you are describing is not earmarks, earmarks are parts of bills that send money to a specific mps or congressmens home district. Ie. a MP from Toronto puts an earmark that $50 million goes to his district to xyz company.

  4. edouard decker says:

    Circumventing Democracy has been done since the Egyptian Pharaoh’s Times and till today..
    So in effect we have a Democratic Dictatorship.
    I am afraid very soon the line between true democracy and dictatorship will be so blurred it won’t exist anymore.
    The sad part is the at a next democratic election power hungry politicians will continue the same way because it it so successful to hold on to power. Or vengeance may be part of it just to retaliate to the previous regime.
    Perhaps this is a thing to come if this permeates down all the way down to the municipal level of government.
    I do not fear the future: As the saying goes: A nation is governed badly when the people fear the government. It is governed well if the government fears the people.
    We the people have to dare and stand up for our selves and those who can’t.


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