Blog post for March 28, 2017

What a week it was in Ottawa! Last week was supposed to be all about the presentation of the Liberal government’s Budget 2017, which happened on Wednesday, March 22nd, but the carefully planned week did not go as expected. As is the case every year, there was much speculation on the government’s fiscal plans and on whether or not there would be any kind of roadmap laid out to get us out of deficit spending in the future.

Unfortunately, this budget was simply a reannouncement of many provisions from the 2016 budget, and much of the new spending that was announced is backloaded to 2018, 2019, and even further. I was disappointed to see no plan to reverse the trend toward part-time and precarious employment, no small business tax cut to support Canada’s job creators, and nothing to address the fact that 6 in 10 unemployed Canadians cannot access EI benefits when they need them. Additionally, and in spite of the fact of what human-caused climate change is doing to our planet, Budget 2017 actually cuts funding for the Pan-Canadian Clean Growth and Climate Change framework by more than a billion dollars over the next two years and delays action and investments. Another important item to take note of is the fact that the government’s fiscal projections show Canada posting deficits of more than $30 billion/year all the way to fiscal year 2021-2022.

There were two other notable events that occurred last week. A very important government bill, C-22, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act, was being debated in the House of Commons. This bill, for the first time ever, will create an oversight committee of parliamentarians to hold our main security and intelligence agencies to account. My colleagues and I support the bill in principle, but we cannot ignore the fact that the government has refused to heed the advice of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and has reinstated clauses in the bill that would allow for a minister to withhold information from the oversight committee. There is also the fact that the government imposed time allocation on the bill to limit the ability of the opposition parties to debate it. You can watch my speech on this bill at this link.

The other event was the Liberal government’s attempt to unilaterally rewrite the Standing Orders of the House of Commons without the consent of either the NDP or the Conservatives. Using the distraction of the budget as cover, the Liberals released a discussion paper on reforming the way the House of Commons operates, including taking away measures that the opposition can use to hold the government to account. We welcome a discussion on this topic, but not when the government decides to try and ram it through the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with an arbitrary due date in June. The NDP and Conservatives have joined together on the committee and are filibustering to stall the Liberal majority from forcing this through without all-party consent. We have been successful at using the procedural tools at our disposal to interrupt the routine of the House of Commons, which has finally caught the attention of the media. Good articles on this cynical power grab have been written by John Ivison, Andrew Coyne, Campbell Clark, and Rachel Aiello.

This week I’m back in the riding, catching up on important constituency business and meeting with constituents before I head back to Ottawa on Sunday. After last week’s heated atmosphere in the House, it is good to be back home for a little while!