‘Harper Government abuses Parliament one last time,’ says Leader of Opposition in Senate

Senator James Cowan
Senator James Cowan

ABUSING its majority and circumventing the rules of the Senate, the Harper Government has cut off debate to force the adoption of the union-busting Bill C-377, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), said Senator James S. Cowan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, on Tuesday.

“This poorly drafted bill will violate the privacy of potentially millions of Canadians, set back labour relations across the country and is in all probability unconstitutional, violating the division of powers and the Charter,” said Cowan.

Bill C-377 is a highly contentious private member’s bill that has been widely derided by experts as a bad piece of legislation with unintended, far-reaching consequences. Seven provinces, representing 81.4 percent of the Canadian population, have urged the Senate to defeat the bill.

Although the Senate Liberals have been adamant in their opposition of Bill C-377, Conservative senators, directed by the Prime Minister’s Office, have overruled their own Speaker who warned: “Proposing to use a government motion to determine the dispatch of non-government business violates a fundamental distinction in our rules and practices.”

During debate, Cowan observed that “the decision to pass the bill in such a way only feeds into the cynicism of those who do not believe in a role for the Senate, and provides ammunition to those who argue for its abolition.”

“The passage of this bill marks a sad day for parliamentary democracy. The last act of the Harper government in the 41st Parliament is to break the rules. This sums up much of what so many Canadians dislike about Mr. Harper’s government: he ignores the rules to get his way; ignores the views of provincial governments; ignores the Constitution and the Charter; and even ignores the ruling of his own appointee as Speaker of the Senate.”