The Conservatives were intent on ramming through an ideological agenda this fall and shut down democracy in the process, Liberals said Tuesday.
At a press conference in Ottawa to review the fall session of Parliament, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and other Liberal MPs said the Conservatives regularly abused their power and that Canadians should be concerned.
"This is a government that abuses power on a regular basis like everyone else eats breakfast; that's what these guys do, and there's something wrong with that and it's something we need to talk about," Rae said.
"This is a government that is marked by excessive partisanship, a narrow-minded ideology, an attempt to control the agenda of Parliament without consultation, without discussion," he said.
The Liberals gave a number of examples to back up their claim that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is leading a majority government that is misusing and disrespecting Parliament.
Liberal House leader Marc Garneau said the last time there was a majority in the House of Commons, Jean Chrétien's government from 2000 to 2004, 153 bills were debated during 419 sitting days. Time allocation, a procedural tool used to cut debate short, was invoked 10 times during those four years.
'Disturbing trend developed rather quickly'
Harper is on track to tie that number in only 66 days, and he's using time allocation to avoid debate on controversial proposals, said Garneau.
"A disturbing trend developed rather quickly in this session. Prime Minister Harper, armed with a majority, proceeded to sledgehammer every piece of his agenda through the House of Commons, and any oversight or debate of his legislation was met with frustration and disdain from Stephen Harper," said Garneau.
The Conservatives have also used their majority on committees several times to force the meetings in camera, meaning the media is not allowed in the room.
The government's handling of the omnibus crime bill, now in the Senate, is a perfect example of how the Conservatives abused their power, the Liberals said. They limited debate at every stage of it, preventing a proper examination of major changes to the justice system, they said. They also rejected Liberal-proposed amendments, and then tried to propose the very same ones.
"At every turn, Stephen Harper is trying to stifle democracy," Garneau said.
Passing legislation on the crime bill, the long-gun registry and the Canadian Wheat Board were priorities this fall for the Conservatives, but not for Canadians, who are more concerned about jobs, health care and the economy, according to Rae.
A spokesman for Government House Leader Peter Van Loan says each of the bills were extensively debated, including in the last election, in the House of Commons and at committee hearings.
"We will not allow the opposition to continue playing political games and delaying these important pieces of legislation that creates jobs and improves the safety of Canadian families," Fraser Malcolm said in a statement.
Instead of focusing on the economy as they had pledged to do, Conservatives were busy playing "dirty tricks" on Canadians, the Liberal leader said. He was referring to calls made by a research firm in Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's riding asking constituents if they would vote Conservative in an impending byelection.
Cotler has no intention of resigning his seat and filed a question of privilege with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, arguing that his work as a member of Parliament was impeded because of the campaign. During debate on that question of privilege, Conservative MP Peter Van Loan said it's a right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a pollster to talk about rumours, and asked Scheer not to side with Cotler.
Rae blasted the government for not condemning the activity.
He said he has never seen a government operate the way Harper has conducted business this fall and he wants Canadians to pay attention to what's happening on Parliament Hill.
"Canadians deserve to know the kind of government that they have, and a government that treats Parliament this way is a government that ultimately will treat its citizens this way," he said. "A government that does this to Parliament will do it to Canadians, and that's something that people need to wake up and think about."