Canadian budget implementation acts, such as the one passed by the Senate late Monday night, have morphed from short bills dealing with minor items mentioned in the budget speech to enormous omnibus bills that go way beyond what is mentioned in the budget. They now make profound changes to many unrelated aspects of administration and policy. Parliament cannot study them properly.
Between 1995 and 2000, budget implementation acts averaged 12 pages in length. From 2001 to 2008, they averaged 139 pages. In 2009, the two acts added up to 580 pages – 32 per cent of Parliament’s legislative output that year. The 2010 Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-9, contains 883 pages of varied and unrelated legislative provisions. It could form close to half the pages of Parliament’s legislative output for 2010. These omnibus budget implementation bills subvert and evade the normal principles of parliamentary review of legislation.
In far too short a period, the House and Senate finance committees examining C-9 had to inform themselves and vote on changes and innovations to taxation and other financial measures. They had to consider amendments to the laws governing pensions and the Federal-Provincial Arrangements Act. They had to examine a Canada-Poland agreement on social security, a proposal to eliminate Canada Post’s monopoly over mail to be delivered outside Canada, provisions to permit credit unions to act as banks, and legislation permitting to sell off much of AECL. Other provisions of C-9 permit fundamental changes to the environmental review process.
This is only a few of the topics in C-9. Many of these sections have little if any relationship to the budget – they should have been presented to Parliament as stand-alone bills and examined by the appropriate specialist committees.