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So much for summer slowdown

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The heat is on in Ottawa and it’s not just because of this scorching heat wave.

Although the House of Commons rose for the summer three weeks ago, the Senate has still been kicking around to deal with a government budget implementation bill. The Senate finance committee has been sitting to deal with the bill which opposition parties criticized for containing a number of items somewhat unrelated to the budget or its implementation.

So today opposition Senators (five Liberals and one Progressive Conservative) voted to remove four of those controversial items from the bill before passing it. They include privatizing Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., ending Canada Post’s monopoly on international mail, cutting back on federal environmental assessments and changing some excise taxes retroactively.

Not surprisingly the Conservatives threw a hissy fit and threatened to call an election in the fall.

I’m doubting it’s a coincidence that the election threat happened the same day this happened.

What’s disappointing is that any time the government of the day doesn’t get its way because it is in a minority, it throws down the election gauntlet, instead of having an adult conversation about the issues, potentially even compromising and putting the controversial items in separate bills that can be debated on their own merits, separately from whether or not budget measures can go forward.

The U.S. Congress has a long history of trying to sneak completely unrelated measures onto bills that everyone wants to pass, quite often budget bills.

It’s a ridiculous practice that means policy gets made without proper debate.

And it certainly should not be the reason Canadians would be forced to go the polls for the fourth time in eight years, and two years ahead of when the prime minister’s own (though clearly unenforceable) fixed election date law would require it.

On the other hand the Liberals are trying to put the heat on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, demanding he be the first witness to appear at a committee meeting to discuss the G20 security issues.

One has to wonder if the federal Liberals will turn equal spotlight to Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose cabinet passed a law amending police powers within the G20 barricades but never corrected the misunderstanding the change gave cops the power to stop and demand ID from anyone coming within five feet of that fence, and arrest them if they refused to provide it.

t was disconcerting enough that people who lived inside the perimeter had to pass security checks and show ID just to go home. To allow anyone refusing to show ID just for coming within sight of the fence chills me to the bone.

McGuinty apparently now concedes he was wrong but if his federal counterparts really want to get to the bottom of what unfolded in Toronto, they’d do well to demand the Ontario premier show up and explain himself. To demand Toews and the federal Conservatives take all the heat would be little more than more partisan pandering.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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