It was the classic curse of the commentator. No sooner was Monday’s oeuvre published, commending Justin Trudeau for ditching wedge politics, than word started to leak about a Liberal plan to effectively neuter Parliament for 21 months.
The draft bill that magically found its way into the hands of reporters, after the government shared it with the opposition, was sweeping in discretion and duration. It allowed the finance minister to tax, spend and borrow with impunity, but without parliamentary approval, until the end of next year.
The furor was immediate. Scott Reid, the Ontario Conservative MP, said the bill was so outlandish it provoked spontaneous outrage in every opposition MP who read it. “I think the key offense is the ridiculously long time-line. Extreme measures may be warranted in the short-run. But the de facto suspension of our system of government for nearly two years is way, way too much,” he said in an email.
Like Captain Renault entering Rick’s Café in Casablanca to discover illicit gambling, Liberals pronounced themselves shocked, shocked that anyone could suggest they were taking advantage of a crisis for partisan gain.
One senior Liberal said the government needs flexibility to increase benefits or cut taxes without returning for parliamentary approval, although even he conceded a 21-month period with no spending oversight was probably excessive.