Why Canada Needs the Senate: Omnibus Crime Bill

yes, another one... against a cyan sky


In the world of books, an omnibus is a perfectly acceptable way to package a collection of previously published stories, related either by content or author, in a single over sized volume.

black and white head and shoulders photo of uniformed officer from behind

But in government, especially in a democracy, an omnibus bill is problematic.

An omnibus bill is several pieces of unpassed draft legislation lumped together into an unwieldy package, and inevitably fast tracked. Because the original drafts have already been part way through the process, they have received varying amounts of scrutiny and debate. Legislators can have a sense of déjà vu about the disparate parts of an omnibus, even without having completely examined it all.

The sheer size of an omnibus bill makes it difficult or impossible for it to get the same kind of scrutiny any individual piece of legislation would receive. It is allotted about the same amount of time as any individual piece of legislation. It’s one thing to skim a book you’ve already read; but it is something else entirely for a legislature to skim through draft legislation.

Laws need to be debated and weighed to ensure they fulfill the needs of a democratic society.

The problem, of course, is that our less than perfect “first-past-the-post” adversarial political system allows any government that holds a majority of parliamentary seats — the “majority party” — to pass any law it wants.

And they frequently do. This is the government equivalent of a parental rules that exist “because I said so.”

I don’t know about you, but I would rather see laws made with care instead of rushed to completion. Fast tracked laws have more chance of unintended consequences than laws that are more carefully considered.


black and white snap of toddler and mother

Not just as a citizen, but as a parent, Bill C-10 strikes me as totally wrong.
My child was raised with logical consequences, not unreasonable harshness. Punishment should always be a last resort.

Experience has taught me that prevention and inclusion are far more effective than punishment and exclusion — in both parenting and society — because they deter bad behaviour. Isn’t that the point of law?

Child poverty in Canada is as bad — or worse — than it was when first identified as a priority years — maybe decades? — ago. Modern statistics say crime rates have been dropping across Canada. So I don’t understand why our government wants to invest vast sums into building bigger jails and incarcerating more Canadians.

Black and white: looking up at the Don Jail

If it costs around $100,000 a year to incarcerate someone, shouldn’t we be concentrating on prevention? Canadian tax dollars could be better spent on social programs that address child poverty and the appalling conditions in which many of our first nations citizens struggle.

black and white police car parked in a lot

What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.

As a parent I know that the children who are excluded are the ones that become a problem.  The same is true for citizens.  People who do not feel a part of society have no motivation to fit in or follow societal laws.  Harsh punishments result in hardened criminals.

You don’t have to take my word for it: that’s what the experts say, too.

senatorial oversight

The Canadian electoral system is archaic and horribly overdue for reform. Our “First Past The Post” system was established in the days of quill pens, so it isn’t surprising to find it unsuited to the computer age.  Nonetheless we seem to be stuck with this unstable adversarial system that confers an unfair advantage to the political party that achieves the most seats, and thus a majority government even without a majority of votes.

The inequities in our system are so great that it is common for political parties that are not in power to rail against the inequity. They can clearly see how Canada’s outmoded electoral system is detrimental to Canada — until their own party benefits from the inequity and achieves a majority.

It is an adversarial system which has winners and losers. But the biggest loser is always Canadian democracy, particularly when we have a majority government typically elected by 30-40% of the popular vote.  With a system so imbalanced, huge numbers of Canadians vote “strategically” in futile attempts to make their votes count.

Fewer than 30% of eligible voters voted for the Conservatives, who currently hold the majority of seats in parliament. 

Our system makes no provision for a majority of Canadians to oppose any draft legislation. The majority government is vested with the authority to act as an effective dictatorship until the next election.  The majority has the power to pass any law it likes, and there is nothing Canadians can do about it.

Canada is out of luck…

black and white emergency poleOr is it?

Isn’t this why the Senate exists?

Senators are appointed for life which frees them to make their own choices. Senators can’t lose their Senate seats for stopping harmful legislation and sending it back to the drawing board.

Which is why Senators are appointed for life.

Many Canadians question the validity of the Canadian Senate, since succeeding governments have attempted to suborn the institution by “stacking the deck” with patronage appointments intended to turn the Senate into a mere rubber stamp for their party agendas.

sober second thought

The Senate exists to provide necessary checks and balances to our imbalanced system of governance. The Senate has the opportunity to slow or stop laws that may well prove terribly detrimental to Canada.

It is far better to legislate with care rather than with haste. Bundling many different bits of draft legislation together into an omnibus bill is always dangerous; and without proper scrutiny, laws passed hastily can cause harm.

But it is within the Senate’s purview to review the evidence. The Senate’s constitutional role is to make substantive analysis of legislation, especially for bills of far reaching consequence, and then submit needed improvements through amendments which are then sent back to the House of Commons. The Senate’s role is most crucial when we have a majority government.

This is why our Senate has the power of oversight, to ensure that a single political party’s agenda doesn’t act against the public good.

black and white image of a stop sign at an angle

What’s the rush?

We are at the beginning of a new term of a majority government.  We are told that majority rule is “more stable,” since majority governments have both the luxury of time and the last word. So what harm is there in taking the time, doing the research,  listening to the experts and examining the evidence before rushing to legislate?

Bill C-10 has been fast-tracked, and the House of Representatives has passed it hastily in the wake of growing objections from many quarters.

The Crime Omnibus is precisely why Canada need an Upper House. We need the Senate to perform the function for which our Upper House was created. It should not matter which government appointed a Senator; the Senate’s purpose goes beyond party politics, stretching into the wider purpose of serving Canada.

Canada truly needs some sober second thought.

Bill C-10: What The Experts Say

References courtesy of leadnow.ca:

The leadnow.ca page has a form e-letter to make it easy for you to send a message to your senators. For those of us who prefer crafting our own missives for our elected representatives, I’m putting together an online senatorial contact list to allow easy contact with the appropriate senators.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

The Internet IS a Necessity of Life

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"


In today’s world it doesn’t matter if the job you’re seeking is high tech or low tech. Whether you’re applying for a position as team leader at RIM or just looking for work digging ditches, odds are your newspaper will direct you to apply online through Workopolis or the like.


Filing an Income Tax Return? The Canada Revenue Agency (the federal agency formerly known as Revenue Canada) wants you to e-file your tax return. Makes sense; I’m sure the physical printing and distribution cost of printing up millions of income tax booklets every year cost them a fortune. Online filing is far more economical for our government. Expecting a refund? They prefer direct deposit, Same deal; saves them vast amounts of money.

[Some branches of government lose track of the fact that ALL government spending comes directly out of the taxpayer’s pocket. That’s you and me, hoss. Saving money is good for us, too.]

The Canadian Government has invested a substantial amount of money going online. Not only does this increased access make it easy for Canadians to find out about our government, or to find the right elected representatives to complain to, but importance of Canadian Law being available online cannot be underestimated.


Banking? I don’t know about you, but my bank is trying really hard to convince me to go paperless. Less printing means lower overhead.  Think they’ll lower our rates?  Nawwww….


Searching for the elusive Beanie Baby missing from your collection? Or maybe you need someone to shovel your drive? Try Craigslist or Kijiji Because classified advertising is online.

Shopping for a big ticket item? You can house hunt online with the Canadian Multiple Listing Service. Follow the map, see the properties, and save a lot of time for both you and your realtor. Looking for wheels? These days every major auto manufacturer has a website with virtual tours of vehicles on offer. Even the Autotrader is online in today’s world.

Comparison shopping online helps narrow down where you’re going to go for junior’s new 2 wheeler or the bandsaw Aunt Aggie wants for her birthday.


When there’s a big explosion from the direction of the chemical plant it’s a lot safer to close your windows and check the news online to see if you have to evacuate.

But news isn’t just local anymore. The Internet makes it possible to read the news or watch news broadcasts from all over the world.

school bus


Checking the school board website to find out about bad weather bus cancellations/school closures is better than hoping you catch it on the radio while rushing to get kids off to school.

Don’t forget online assignments. Students are expected to do a fair amount of school work in digital formats. Schools, programs and course material are online.  Kids in families without Internet access are at a huge disadvantage which is certainly not good for Canada.


Small businesses in every field need an internet presence. A website is crucial and the Internet can help small businesses lower their overhead and increase their market just the same. The Internet levels the playing field, and thriving Canadian businesses can help build Canada’s reputation and strengthen our economy.

Small business in a retail district
Being online is no longer an option for small business.

Canadians need to stop Usage Based Billing because it will negatively impact on all of these things and more.

When I first learned about Usage Based Billing last fall I began the public service blogStop UBB. As I have learned about the technical aspects of the issue I’ve explained what I’ve learned in an attempt to demystify the Internet and the UBB Issue, since it will have a serious impact on all Canadians. Because the mainstream news media (with the exception of CBC online) has been pretty silent on the issue, for the most part only computer professionals even know this is going to be a problem.

Stop Usage Based Billing Blog logo

Most Canadians won’t find out until we’re hit with the grossly inflated bill.

Probably the best place to start is learning more is Stop UBB glossary, because it explains jargon in an attempt to make the issue intelligible to Canadian Internet Users. The StopUBB left sidebar has a complete Index to help reference the information.

An really important thing we can do is sign the online petition at


To fight UBB you can write to all the same politicians I’ve listed contact info for in the previous article about Canadian copyright Canada don’t need no stinkin’ DMCA