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This article was published 13/6/2012 (1776 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The tongue-in-cheek nickname for the omnibus Conservative budget bill is "the omni-mess" -- an opposition moniker to describe 400-plus pages of legislation that make widespread changes to almost every facet of Canadian life.
But the term has also been sneaking into Tory vocabulary of late as the government finds itself buffeted by unanticipated political turbulence from the Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity Act, also known as Bill C-38.
For the opposition parties, a marathon vote on more than 800 proposed amendments that won't end until sometime tonight is an effort to prevent the government from sweeping the mess under the rug.
By 9:30 p.m. Wednesday evening, the laborious process of reading the motions into the record was well underway, a dirge expected to take at least two hours. MPs had begun filling their seats in the Commons, carrying plastic bags filled with junk food and iPads loaded with the latest TV shows to keep them busy during an anticipated 24-hour-plus voting run.
An already long haul was stretched out even further by a series of Liberal motions, designed to ensure one of their private members' bills would be dealt with before the budget amendments hit the floor.
And just to add to the day's frenzy, Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled Wednesday evening MPs were not "impeded in the fulfillment of their parliamentary duties" by government stonewalling on the budget bill's impact. The NDP had argued the Conservative refusal to detail cuts to public service jobs and programs was a breach of privilege.
It's all in the name of democracy, opposition MPs argued.
The budget legislation -- which alters everything from the age Canadians will receive Old Age Security to environmental regulations, spy agency oversight and cross-border policing, to name just a few items -- hasn't received the detailed study such enormous changes require, they said.
"We are facing a government that does not respect this institution," said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. "The reason we are elected is to look at the laws carefully and they are refusing to allow us to have a serious look at this bill."
Their criticisms were echoed by a series of protests taking place across Canada, including on the steps of Parliament Hill.
The government has insisted it needs each and every legislated change to follow through on its promise of job creation and economic growth.
"We live in a global economy and global events will affect us here, so we need to have the tools to continue to keep Canada strong," said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. "We need to get the right balance of appropriate resource regulation, sustainable social program and job creation and, of course, fiscal sustainability."
The government refused repeated requests from opposition parties to break up the bill into more manageable sections.
"By refusing to compromise, the Conservatives are setting a dangerous precedent," said Liberal House leader Marc Garneau. "This budget bill goes too far and the Liberal party is using all the tools at our disposal to fight this government's bully tactics."
When the dust settles, the Tories may have a mess of their own to clean up. Party insiders say the government has been getting an earful from constituents who are complaining not only about the major policy changes in the bill, such as streamlining the environmental assessment process and raising the age of OAS eligibility, but the omnibus nature of the bill itself.
The push back is unexpected, the insiders say, given the Conservatives have used omnibus bills with increased frequency and little resistance since they took power in 2006.
On Wednesday night, the focus for all parties was singular: getting through the voting marathon. With no less than 67 and no more than 159 individual votes scheduled, MPs likely will need to stay in or close to their Commons seats until well into this evening.
Notwithstanding the voting showdown, the budget bill will eventually pass, given the Conservatives have a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.
-- The Canadian Press