Originally published on the DaninOttawa.com site on November 28, 2012.
“99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall. 98 bottles of beer on the wall, 98 bottles of beer. Take one down and pass it around, 97 bottles of beer on the wall.” - Author unknown
It was once pointed out to me that each day literally thousands of flights successfully take off and land every hour all across the globe and seldom do we hear about it, or much less even think about it. Yet the moment that there is a crash of any kind, it will become front page news. The point being made and the reason why this particular story was told to me, was to serve as a reminder that in public office it is often not the successes but rather the failures that are most newsworthy.
During my time spent as a Member of Parliament I have noted a similar trend with the subject of debate. As long as debate is occurring, at times it would seem regardless of the content, there is little media attention as to what is actually being said (unless it involves profanity). However the moment it is suggested that debate is not occurring on a particular subject, whatever the topic may be, the lack of debate be it real or perceived becomes newsworthy very quickly. More importantly I have also heard from a number of local constituents who have also expressed views in support of increased debate in the House of Commons. As a result of hearing those concerns last week I made a point of attending the committee stage review at the Finance Committee that was examining Bill C-45, otherwise known as the Jobs and Growth Act.
For those of you unaware, a Liberal MP had tabled a large number of amendments to Bill C-45 – in fact there were roughly 3,000 different amendments contained in a 488 page document– or were there? I will come back to this point in a moment. As a result of the thousands of amendments in order to perform clause by clause review, the Finance Committee would be sitting throughout the evening. I volunteered to provide coverage as a member of the Finance committee for the graveyard shift; that is from 1 AM until 5 AM, providing four hours where I could learn more about the amendments being put forward on Bill C-45. During much of the time I was in committee the vast majority of the amendments were not as I had expected. For the record, here is an example of the amendments…
LIB-165-1 That Bill C45, in Clause 165, be amended by replacing lines 13 and 14 on page 197 with the following: “(2) Subsection 163(3) comes into force on the day following the day this Act receives royal assent.”This particular Liberal proposed amendment in effect suggested that proposed changes in Bill C-45 pertaining to the Canada Shipping Act, (in this case pertaining to subsection 163 (3) ) would come into force on the day following royal assent. In other words this Liberal proposed amendment would delay the coming into force on this particular change by one a single day. Now let’s look at the next Liberal proposed amendment…
LIB-165-2 — That Bill C-45, in Clause 165, be amended by replacing lines 13 and 14 on page 197 with the following: “(2) Subsection 163(3) comes into force two days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”You might notice that in fact the wording of this amendment is precisely the same as the previous amendment with the exception that this amendment proposes to delay the coming into force date by two entire days instead of one day as the previous amendment proposed. I suspect by now you might be able to speculate on what the next Liberal amendment proposed…
LIB-165-3 That Bill C-45, in Clause 165, be amended by replacing lines 13 and 14 on page 197 with the following: “(2) Subsection 163(3) comes into force three days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.”If you speculated that the next Liberal proposed amendment would propose precisely the same thing only for three days, you will have speculated correctly. It’s not unlike 99 Bottles of beer on the wall only in this case the proposed Liberal amendments did not stop at 99 days they went all the way to well over 350. In fact, here is proposed Liberal amendment 350…
LIB-165-350 That Bill C-45, in Clause 165, be amended by replacing lines 13 and 14 on page 197 with the following: “(2) Subsection 163(3) comes into force 350 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.” For the record there was a vote on each and every one of these Liberal proposed amendments throughout the four hours I sat on the Finance Committee- in fact each recorded vote was conducted by the clerk with swift and unrelenting accuracy. As you can see the theme of these particular Liberal proposed amendments was not unlike singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. I even came in for second time for two hours the following Friday morning and it was still going strong.You likely may not have heard in the media what the contents of some of these Liberal proposed amendments that occurred throughout the prolonged day and night Finance committee process were, however I suspect had this clause by clause review not occurred it most certainly would have been a more newsworthy event. I am not for a moment suggesting that debate, discussion and clause by clause review is unimportant but I do feel it is also important to recognize that in order to get things done and through the House of Commons there are times when some debates will take priority over others. These particular Liberal proposed amendments I believe illustrate why at times some discussions will take precedent over others, and more so when the intent of the author is clearly to delay rather than to debate. In this case instead of proposing over 350 amendments all in effect propose the same outcome, a singular amendment could have proposed the same outcome without consuming so much valuable time and resources of the House of Commons including Parliamentary staff. On that note, I would like to sincerely thank the House of Commons staff who gave so generously of their time to accommodate the needs of the committee.
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