Sunday, March 09, 2008

Senate must vote down C-253

You may have missed this very important editorial by Finn Poschmann, because it was tucked way at the back of Saturday's Financial Post - Misbehaving MP's pass RESP bill.

Poschmann, who is director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute, was on MDL Friday and called the way Dan McTeague's private member's bill (C-253) was pushed through Parliament without the approval of the government an 'abuse of Parliamentary procedure'. (Sorry no direct link to that but I made note of it while watching the show).

In his Saturday FP article Poschmann follows the historical development of PMB's over the last several years, and the issue of whether or not those that affect the government's budget and bottom line should be considered votable.


C-253 may or may not contain solid policy, but that is not the point. The fact is that by pushing a financial bill through the H of C, the opposition parties have expressed a tacit lack of confidence in the Government.

...Hence Bill C-253 on RESPs. Presumably the committee looked at the bill, which passed on Wednesday evening--making contributions to an RESP tax-deductible -- and either did not look hard, did not recognize it was a money bill, or felt that because it represented a tax decrease rather than an increase, it was on side. Whichever the case, it was a mistake to let the bill arrive in the House as a votable bill.

With the mistake made, it was the House of Commons' duty not to pass it. For a group of MPs to band together to seek to override government policy is no small thing. The fact that MPs let it happen is a disturbing turn for those of us concerned about responsible government...


Poshmann calls for the Senate to scrap the bill:


As things stand, if the Senate passes the bill that the House has now passed, we will be in a position where federal budget policy has been set by parliamentarians, not by government. This would be problematic, as I said, because it is tantamount to an expression of non-confidence in the government's ability to govern.

The situation cannot be helped by passing countervailing legislation, say by way of an amendment to a budget implementation act. That would be a rearguard defence by government, rather than assertion of its authority to govern.

The more dignified resolution would be for the Senate simply to vote down the bill. Partisan sentiment will militate against this responsible course, but it is the route that will preserve the notion of responsible government.

Of course the Liberal-dominated Senate and the present government are involved in a never-ending spat so it's hard to say what might happen.

If the Senate does pass this bill then I think we need an election. This Parliament has become dysfunctional.


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Update: Via COTM - Great column by Angelo Persichilli: Afraid of the electorate? Keep throwing mud.


39 comments:

Cool Blue said...

While I support fixed election dates, this government is an example of why fixed election dates weren't a part of the parliamentary system.

Fixed election dates work fine when there is a majority, but I believe that if there is a minority the PM should still have the power to ask the GG to dissolve parliament.

Otherwise, you get what we've seen here, opposition parties hijacking the government agenda without any recourse available for the party in power.

Platty said...

If the Senate does pass this bill then I think we need an election. This Parliament has become dysfunctional.

Exactly, those BT bloggers that are saying we should support this bill and stop being so partisan, just don't get it.

The ends do not always justify the means.


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Anonymous said...

Yes, we need an election.
The government should dissolve parliment and go to the people on this.
But, this RESP idea seems to be very popular so it certainly wouldn't hurt the Conservatives to make this one of their platform planks.
Takes the wind out of the sails of the opposition.
NeilD
I'm going out to shovel my drive.

Gabby in QC said...

For those who are interested in seeing/hearing Finn Poschmann's views on this procedural mess, I posted this info. on Friday over at COTM:

The discussion that MaryT and Joanne referred to on Newman’s Politics (Newsworld) can be seen here:

http://www.cbc.ca/politics/

Just click on Friday.
 The interview with Finn Poschmann from the C.D. Howe Institute runs from the 15:43 to the 24:40 mark.

You may only hear the sound, without the video. That’s been happening to me with those CBC sites today.

It is a very interesting and informative interview, despite the fact Newman was defending the bill without mentioning its author. Newman should be convinced to run FOR the Liberals, since he’s such an unabashed apologist for them.

Alberta Girl said...

So we have a Liberal opposition who only a week ago "voted" (well-sort of)to accept the Tories budget and then this week puts forth and passes a bill to change the budget.

This makes no sense and the fact that the speaker allowed it shows partisanship on his part.

I don't hold out much hope this will be defeated in the Liberal senate - it will go through with lightening speed.

The Liberals are daring SH to call an election because they don't have the balls to call one themselves - if he calls it they can go to the people saying SH lies broke the law because he didn't wait until 2009.

Jeff Davidson said...

harper's been outflanked in a big way.

beyond the predictable position of a partisan think tank, what other good reasons do you have for the senate to obstruct the will of the house?

further, why is stephen harper and his supporters against canadian families and tax breaks?

the cadman bribe, the nafta leak and now this....

an election? why not? the worst that could happen is another harper minority which would be blessing in disguise. it would mark the beginning of the end for one of the most despicable politicians in recent memory.

ps. harper's failure to win a single seat in next week's byelections ain't gonna help much either.....

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Cool Blue, good point about Fixed Election Dates in a minority situation. Very good point...

Platty, exactly. It's not about the bill. It's about the opposition highjacking the bottom line, which is supposed to be under the jurisdictional of the government, which presents money bills which are voted on accordingly.

What needs to happen is a change in Parliamentary law where anything affecting the finances cannot be a votable bill. Otherwise we have chaos.

Ardvark said...

How can this NOT be a money bill? The logic to reach this conclusion is very flawed and sets a very dangerous precedent. Remember dear Liberal friends that one day in the future* that you will again form the government of this country, and you can safely wager that the conservatives will be submitting all kinds of motions to cut taxes/revenue out of your budgets.

* I predict at least 9 years and at least 2 different Liberal leaders before this happens.

biff said...

Harper's been outflanked?

Last I checked it was Dion who:

- has horrible leadership numbers (critical to an election victory)

- has senior liberals waiting to stab him in the back

- has a fraction of the funding Harper has for an election

- has been avoiding an election like the plague for the reasons above.

Stumbling into an election Dion's been rightfully fearful of (but Harper doesn't want to be seen to provoke due to his fixed election law),

somehow has put HARPER in a bind?????

Gabby in QC said...

"this RESP idea seems to be very popular so it certainly wouldn't hurt the Conservatives to make this one of their platform planks."

It may be popular, but is it a measure that would be good for Canada's treasury?

The Conservatives brought in the TFSAs in their budget: that's a TAX-FREE Savings Account which would not be limited to parents planning for their children's education.
It would be available to ALL, and for ANY purpose, including saving for children's education.

See, Jeff Davidson, the TFSAs would benefit ALL Canadians who would take advantage of this measure.

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=350839
"In one fell swoop, [Finance Minister Jim] Flaherty has set the stage for a much simpler tax system and a much more advantageous investment environment for income-oriented Canadian investors," says Andrew Teasdale of the Tamris Consultancy. "There is no reason why most investors should not be able to avoid tax completely on non-RRSP holdings."

And, as pointed out by Finn Poschmann, the Liberals "seek to override government policy" with their RESP bill.

Platty said...

Biff

Don't waste your time responding to the one hit wonder, the guy doesn't have a clue.



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Joanne (True Blue) said...

Don't waste your time responding to the one hit wonder, the guy doesn't have a clue.

Yeah. I only saw him return after a drive-by smear once. And the comment wasn't particularly illuminating, as I recall.

Ruth said...

"TFSA's would benefit all Canadians".
This is so right especially since RESP's right now are only good if your child goes on to school. Guess this new scheme would be taxable if not used for school. Is that how it would work once the grant portion was dropped.
Put the money in the TFSA instead and use it for whatever.

kursk said...

Politicians like Stephen Harper are always 'despicable' to Leftist dimwits like Jeff Davidson.

I love it! The Jeff Clarks of the world worship dictators and murderers, and yet Stephen Harper is the bad guy..

Conservatives take away your right to be stupid yet?

wilson said...

Private Member and Senate bills can not collect nor disperse government funds.

IMO, any bill that would result in the Federal Government handing out (DISPERSE) a cash tax refund (or result in a larger refund, or smaller tax payment required) is a money bill.

I can not see how the Senate would find otherwise.

If this bizzare bill passes the Senate (without amendment) it certainly is proof positive that the Liberals and their Senate would for the sake of vote buying/muscle flexing, undo all that the Martin government did, and plunge the country into deficit.

If the Senate amends the bill, the House gets another crack at it.
And it would go back and forth for years.

wilson said...

Dear Jack,
This bill widens the gap between the rich and the poor.
This bill dooms the poor into debt for a decent education,
while rewarding high wage earners with a cash reward.
this is typically Liberal.
But.
What in the hell are you thinking?

Annie said...

And.. it's a tax break for those that have children.

Those that don't have children, or those who's kids don't go to post secondary, or those who have children older than 16 (ie: seniors) don't get it.

caz said...

No worries>>>just take funding from any number of agencies that feel entitled and put it towards the RESP plan and voila! The budget was passed...can't afford the iniative ao "YOU GUYS MADE ME DO IT!" OhI can hear the howls of indignation now! Election in the air perhaps???

Joanne (True Blue) said...

So the mystery Conservative that's jumping ship to the Liberals is Mark Warner. (Just announced on QP)

Big deal.

WCTeddi said...

who is mark warner?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

He was a Conservative candidate in Bob Rae's riding and he was replaced.

West Coast Teddi said...

sorry ... is Warner the one who was nominated then refused by the CPC executive?

I would watch QP but I HATE the program and it isn't on "out here" for a couple of hours yet. Janie Ta-boor must be having a giggle fit.

Anonymous said...

Jeff seems to be having memory problems. Let me help: Jean "Shawinigate I-never-made-no-phone-calls" Chretien.

If, in fact, passage of the bill can be interpreted as nonconfidence in the government is it not incumbent upon the GG to act even if not approached by Harper?

johndoe124

wilson said...

Mark Warner is the red tory who had tea with Bob Rae, came out in support of Bob Rae, seeked out advice from The Garth, before he was 'replaced'.
He was likely planning a 'floor crossing' before the Cons got wind of it, and 'replaced' him.
No loss.

So is Dion going to give Warner a riding instead of a women?

I'm glad it wasn't Bill Casey, that would have been such a waste of a good man.

wilson said...

'is Warner the one who was nominated then refused by the CPC executive?'

That was Bill Casey.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

No loss.

You got that right. Warner was never a good fit for the CPC.

Jeff Davidson said...

i'm the last one to call dion's leadership a runaway success at this point, however...

harper has had 2 years to impress the vast majority of us who DO NOT vote conservative.guess what gang? he has failed in a big way.

his govt has lost it's way and has spent a great deal of time trying to figure out it's raison d'etre.

folks here in the echo chamber may think haro's the bee's knees but the rest of us see him for what he is.

if you all can't see the major hypocrisy of this govt trying to get the senate to block the legislation in question....well sadly, you're beyond help.

ps. joanne is correct. i rarely drop by after leaving my initial comments. the discourse is generally juvenile and short-sighted. however, occassionally i think it's necessary to throw the echo chamber a bone or 2.

pss. platty, the fact that you question my intelligence hurts me....very deeply. i have so much respect for your insights.

Ruth said...

I had to shut QP off. How could Craig Oliver make such a big deal about a Conservative moving to the Liberals when it was nothing at all. No move, just Mark Warner voting another way. Big deal!
After the guy telling everyone to mellow out about NAFTA and stop talking about it, Jane went on and on again. That's when my t.v. went off.
The reporters are creating the stories instead of reporting the news.

maryT said...

The conservative war room should be vetting this bill and putting the consequences into everyday language voters can undertand, with examples.
They should get ads out pdq before the senate passes it. If the senate passes it very quickly it will give PMSH more ammunitions to campaign on abolishing, setting term limits, or electing senators.
The conservatives should also introduce a bill asap to outline what will be cut to finance said RESP bill. First to go, millions for the cbc and all multicult programs across canada.
Then again this bill, if passed, could linger for 5 years like the liberal bill to abolish tax credits for certain cdn movies that is in the news again.
I would like an election, but it might be fun to watch Iggy and Rae outshine Dion for a few weeks.
It would also be fun to see if the Iggy/Rae war heats up.
Of course, voters in TO could do canada a great favor by voting against Rae.
But, with thousands of Ontario tradesmen coming west to work, they wont be there to vote March 17
and will vote for PMSH once they get here.

Platty said...

pss. platty, the fact that you question my intelligence hurts me....very deeply. i have so much respect for your insights.

That would mean that I would have had to acknowledge it first Jeffy, and believe me, that is the last thing I would ever do.

However, I have questioned your courage in the past....


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wilson said...

'...harper has had 2 years to impress the vast majority of us who DO NOT vote conservative.guess what gang? he has failed in a big way...'

Prove it Jeff.

-Dion and the LPC don't agree with you, or we would have had an election loooooong time ago.
Dion passed Harpers THIRD budget, he thinks Harper is doing a great job of running the country,
so great, he will not challenge him for the top job.
Headline should be:
'Dion gives Harper the nod of approval for the 3rd time in 2 years'

-If you are referring to the polls, explain Outremount and Alberta, where the results contradicted the pundants and the polls, big time.

Polls are a snapshot of how those Canadians who will answer their phone when they see an unfamiliar ph number, or are interested in politics enough to join an online group, say they will vote, or not.

If Outremount and Alberta are any indication, Liberal support is grossly OVERSTATED in polls.

Swift said...

I have not seen anybody think about what the result would be if more PMBs are introduced that take advantage of this loophole in Parliamentary procedure. The first three I thought of would probably cut the revenues from personal taxes by at least 40%. Add in a couple more if necessary and you can boost that to 50%. Faced with this shortfall the government would have three choices: declare bankruptcy, make massive cuts to programs, or raise taxes.

Some people will not qualify for any of the three tax breaks, but will of course be subject to the tax hike. And there is no guarantee that these people will not find there taxes going up more than the average, in fact it is likely that their taxes will go up more than the average. For those of you that think the RESP tax break is a wonderful idea you could be on the outside looking in on succeeding bills. If so you just might have any money left after your greatly increased tax bill to put in the RESP.

The effects of a series of such bills would not be limited to just government finances and taxes. A stock market crash is a virtual certainty costing Canadians hundreds of billions of dollars. Almost as certain would be a jump in inflation if only because our dollar will plummet driving up the cost of imports. Nearly as certain will be a rise in unemployment. Depending on how severe the above are and what the exact strategy of the government is, we could also see bank failures. In short this gives the opposition the power to cause economic chaos.

I can hear the objections already. No one would pass legislation that would cause that kind of devastation. Just look at Zimbabwe. 80% unemployment, over 100.000% inflation, and a GDP that was cut in half in one year. But government caused economic disaster is not limited to third world countries. The Great Depression was caused by a 1919 law that, over the following decade saw banks forced to make money loosing loans to industries. A few small banks failed and this led to an ever growing financial crises and the stock market crash that ended the roaring twenties and ushered in the dirty thirties.

The left always seems to think the same actions will produce different results. Not long ago the Democrats sponsored a bill that forced banks to give mortgages to high risk individuals. Of course this meant these mortgages lost money, and now the US is scrambling to avoid another depression.

Ruth said...

Garth is telling the world tonight how good this RESP plan will be, but that nasty PM is trying to stop it. We need a few of these comments sent to his site.

Möbius said...

Ellen Roseman wrote a great summary of how the RESP works in the Sunday Star. (Yes, the Star). She's not a big fan of the proposed changes.

Rosie said...

How can this bill be bad? This bill targets middle class families. Those that will not be able to afford the skyrocketing tuition fees in the future. Doesn't Harper stand for the hardworking average middle class family?

I think the conservatives are just mad they didn't think of this first. Of course they wouldn't because their support for the average Canadian family they seem to pontificate about is mostly lip-service and they are no better than Liberals when it comes to pandering to the rich.

Perhaps the onus is on the irresponsible spending and tax cuts put forth by our finance minister. I mean the GST cut was the stupidest thing ever....there goes our cushy surplus! A surplus that could be used to improve the lives of Canadians in a multitude of ways is now being used to promote mass consumerism by rich people. I sure as heck don't see a difference in our bills with the GST cut.

And don't get me started on that ridiculous taxed $100 a month. While every little bit helps, I'd have way more choice if I could actually afford to put my child in daycare so I could actually save for their education, and wouldn't be relying on this proposed tax cut as much. Or if more people were encouraged to open daycares....my friend JUST got her daughter into daycare.....the kid is 2.5 years old. I am enrolling my embryo right now so that he/she might get a spot before the age of 3. Not all of us have the option of staying home with our children.

Thats my rant. so accuse the liberals of whatever, but I'm sure as heck glad someone had the guts to bring this bill forward.

Möbius said...

How can this bill be bad? This bill targets middle class families. Those that will not be able to afford the skyrocketing tuition fees in the future. Doesn't Harper stand for the hardworking average middle class family?

I think the conservatives are just mad they didn't think of this first. Of course they wouldn't because their support for the average Canadian family they seem to pontificate about is mostly lip-service and they are no better than Liberals when it comes to pandering to the rich.


This bill would clearly help people with money more than people without. In a progressive tax system, those at the top of the scale pay more than those at the bottom, so benefit most.

If you don't see the benefit of a (minimum) 20% grant on your RESP investment, tax-free upon withdrawal, there's not much I can say.

Möbius said...

And don't get me started on that ridiculous taxed $100 a month. While every little bit helps, I'd have way more choice if I could actually afford to put my child in daycare so I could actually save for their education, and wouldn't be relying on this proposed tax cut as much.

You could actually do what we did, survive on one income, and raise your own kids.

For this, I get taxed the same as a two-income family.

Möbius said...

Sorry, actually I get taxed at a higher rate than a two income family making the same amount of money.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Sorry, actually I get taxed at a higher rate than a two income family making the same amount of money

Yeah, that's really not fair. Sara at Choice for Childcare is a strong advocate for income splitting but I suspect that's a way's off yet.