It’s budget voting time! The breath-takingly sweeping omnibus budget is currently being voted on, and the opposition parties have put forward hundreds and hundreds of amendments that all need to be voted on before the budget itself can be passed. Considering that this budget has enormous ramifications for everything from Old Age Security to environmental vetting processes, here’s a brief list of some of the most noteworthy clauses of the budget.
Before we get into this, can I just say that I <3 Elizabeth May? She’s got 330 amendements to the NDP’s 506 and the Liberal’s 503, and she’s got a tiny fraction of of the resources they have. She’s done a fantastic job of speaking up, calling the government on their, and she’s gotten a ton of press. I am so glad she finally got a seat in the House.
So, some notable aspects of the budget. (Note that the budget bill is about 500 pages long, and I haven’t read the whole thing.)
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- Employment Insurance is getting an overhaul, with new limits placed on how long a person is eligible for EI and new restrictions on what jobs a person is obligated to take if available. EI seekers are now split into several categories depending on the amount of work they have just been laid off from. Much of the guidelines around what constitutes an “appropriate” job (and to what degree this varies between tiers of applicants) remains vaguely defined.
- The Governor General must now pay income tax, though he got a raise to offset it because he’s clearly hard up for cash.
- Environmental assessments for oil and gas pipelines now have an override switch, which can be thrown by any federal cabinet minister. This effectively guts any environmental regulation board, and dangerously puts a lot of power in a very few peoples’ hands. (Lots of links and opinion in the link above.)
- The penny is being phased out. No more pennies will be made, though the ones currently in circulation will be legal tender for a few years.
- Massive cuts to the civil service. I know it’s all the rage these days to expound about how bloated the civil service is and how they’re all layabout good-for-nothings whose cushy jobs are expendable, but we need scientists and experts and administrators to make sure that our government agencies are functional and efficient. And heaven forfend that they be paid reasonably for their work!
- Many watchdog organizations, councils, and tribunals are being eliminated, including CSIS’s watchdog organization. The appeal boards of Old Age Security and EI are being lumped together into a judicial (rather than a non-judicial, and thus easier to access, council) tribunal. This makes it more difficult to access the only way to dispute a ruling on either OAS or EI.
- The Immigation Act is being ammended considerably, and the applications of around 300,000 people who have the misfortune of having their application in the lengthy queue for processing for more than four years are being thrown out unconsidered. (Apparently this is the only way they know how to deal with a backlog of applications, which says quite a lot about this government’s approach to administration.) Those people can reapply, but I’m guessing that the government is banking on many of them not having the patience or resources to jump through all those hoops all over again.
- A cross-board law enforcement framework is legislated. While there is a clause that both Canada and the US’s soveriegnty must be respected by the other nation, this raises my eyebrows. Canada does not wield, generally, the balance of power in Canada-US negotiations. Explicitly offering what soveriegnty we do have (with no explicit description of what the framework absolutely cannot include) is at the very least troublesome.
These are far from the only worrisome bits, and I’m sure there’s lots of other sneaky bits that’ll come to light either too late or not at all.
So, what did I miss? What’s got your hackles up about this budget?