Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Omnibus bill passes, stage set for battle in the fall

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OTTAWA -- Just in time for the Canada Day long weekend, the Senate ended the spring session of Parliament by approving the government's omnibus budget bill -- which promptly received royal assent -- making changes to the environmental review laws and social-assistance programs.

By a vote of 49-31, Bill C-38 passed through the Senate Friday afternoon, with the Tories using their majority to get approval for the government's budget implementation bill.

The vote marked the end of one political battle and set the stage for a fall session that will likely be marked by a sister bill to C-38 that may be just as sweeping and controversial for the opposition parties.

C-38 received a rough ride through the House of Commons, where opposition MPs held up passage of the bill by forcing a 24-hour voting marathon.

The Liberals in the Senate didn't try to delay passage of the bill -- satisfying an agreement they struck with the government to have a detailed pre-study of the bill at five different committees before C-38 arrived in the Senate.

The government, however, didn't take any chances when the bill came up for second and third readings, invoking time allocation to limit the number of hours senators debated the details of the legislation.

"Although our committees did their best, let's not deceive ourselves or mislead Canadians. Our examination was still woefully inadequate for a piece of legislation of such size and far-reaching scope," Sen. James Cowan, the Liberal leader in the Senate, told the upper chamber Friday morning.

"I hope when we return in the fall we will have had an opportunity to reflect over the summer on what it is that we are doing to this institution and to its role in the Parliament of Canada -- and indeed, what we are doing to Canadian parliamentary democracy."

Bill C-38 raises the eligibility age for old age security, reforms the employment insurance system, overhauls environmental protection and fisheries laws, and expedites natural resource development approvals.

The bill also creates a new bilateral agreement with the United States for cross-border maritime enforcement, makes changes to the skilled workers program for new immigrants, including how much they are paid, and makes changes to banking rules and the Fisheries Act.

The opposition parties repeatedly questioned why the sweeping bill had to have all 700 clauses in 425 pages, saying some pieces of legislation, such as environmental changes, should have been brought before Parliament in standalone bills.

The Liberals in the Senate tried unsuccessfully to remove the old age security changes from the bill and amend C-38 to make the minister in charge of EI come to Parliament for approval on a definition of "suitable employment" that will guide what jobs those on EI will be required to take.

-- Postmedia News

Rancorous

session

OTTAWA -- The past week has been busy for the Senate and the Governor General.

Here are the bills that received royal assent in the last seven days, not including two spending bills:

-- Bill C-26: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (citizen's arrest and the defences of property and persons);

-- Bill C-288: An Act respecting the National Flag of Canada;

-- Bill C-278: An Act respecting a day to increase public awareness about epilepsy;

-- Bill C-311: An Act to amend the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (interprovincial importation of wine for personal use);

-- Bill C-310: An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons);

-- Bill C-25: An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts;

-- Bill C-31: An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act;

-- Bill C-11: An Act to amend the Copyright Act;

-- Bill C-38: An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 A21

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