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James Cowan

The Hon. James  Cowan, Q.C., B.A., LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. Senator James Cowan has greatly influenced the educational and legal communities of Nova Scotia. He was appointed to the Senate on March 24, 2005 by the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin.

Statements & Hansard

Third reading of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures

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Statement made on 28 June 2012 by Senator Terry Mercer

Senator Mercer:

Honourable senators, there is a dangerous trend emerging in the legislative agenda of the Harper reform government. It started to happen soon after they first came here, and it is getting worse every year. Although it is nothing new, it seems to be getting progressively and dangerously worse. It is the only thing progressive about this government.

What I am talking about, honourable senators, is the fact that bills come to us at the last minute with the expectation that we will somehow be able to do our job properly but, most important, quickly, so that Parliament may recess for the summer.

As we all know, it takes time and considerable effort to properly and carefully study a bill on behalf of Canadians. I repeat: It takes time. These things cannot and should not be rushed.

In the past, we have done a good job to work within our time constraints. We have taken on the role as a chamber of sober second thought and have done so successfully, but, lately, more unnecessary urgency is creating a situation where bills are not getting the due diligence they deserve.

Honourable senators, instead of having separate bills for every distinct section of legislation in Bill C-38, it was all jammed into one huge omnibus bill. What was so urgent that it became necessary to pass everything in one bill? What indeed?

Instead of breaking down the bill to study it and to vote on it properly, we are rushing it through blindly. Please do not say, "Well, we pre-studied the bill," because, while we may have, how much did we get done? Not nearly enough.

I am getting emails every day from groups like the Canada Without Poverty Advocacy Network, a group that advocates for poverty prevention and elimination, that wonders why this is happening.

These groups are all wondering why there are provisions in this bill that change EI and may force more people to visit food banks. These groups are wondering why their government is dismantling environmental stewardship in this country. They are also wondering why employees here on Parliament Hill may not have job security any more. They are wondering why the government is dismantling rescue teams that were so desperately needed and used this week in northern Ontario.

They have every right to be concerned. Having said all of this, honourable senators, our job requires us to do the best with what we have. We have a job to do, and we are doing it with diligence.

Unfortunately, with a piece of legislation this size, with the very little time that we are given to consider it, neither we nor Canadians have enough time to grasp the potential dangers that Bill C-38 may present us with in the future.

This bill and all future bills deserve time and careful consideration. Canadians expect it, and we should expect it of ourselves.

Bill C-38 has not received the time it deserved. It has not received enough of the sober second thought that we owe it. There was no reason to hurry this bill through Parliament. Canadians do not deserve this. They deserve better.

There should never be any further omnibus legislation of this type and, if there was a way of banning it, I would. Legislation like this should never be rushed unnecessarily ever again.

Honourable senators, I will be supporting the amendments and voting against this budget, but I ask our colleagues opposite to think about those people — the people we represent — who will be negatively affected if this budget passes. Honourable senators should think about them as they stand in their place today and tomorrow.

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