Could you vote yes or no on a multifaceted bill that is over 400 pages long? This is what we are asking our MPs to do with Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill. Categorizing it as a budget bill means a finance committee will study it. This committee hears financial testimony, debates financial aspects and recommends financial amendments. What happens to the non-financial aspects of the bill, particularly the environmental and societal aspects? As the committee hears little or no testimony on these aspects, it cannot debate them nor can it recommend amendments to improve the bill.
If the omnibus bill is all good things, each of these good things can be examined by the appropriate committee. While Harper's Conservatives feel an economic urgency with this bill, democracy takes time. It is a slow process because our representatives need time to articulate all their ideas and to listen to all the ideas of others. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening means our MPs, individually and as committees, are open to being influenced by all the ideas of others.
If only the financial aspect of Bill C-38 is examined in committee, we as Canadians will have missed the chance to tune up strong legislation, repair weak or junk bad. If passed, this full-sized omnibus bill might carry us all kinds of places where we do not want to go and leave us stranded with no return ticket.