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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30, 2016

 

For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Governing Liberals Use Majority to Ban Future Filibusters in Legislature

 

Keith Hutchings, Opposition House Leader, says, "The Ball Liberals are using their majority to prevent future filibusters - a legislative process that all parties have used in the past to draw greater attention to public issues of concern and force changes to legislation or budgets that respond to public concerns."

 

"Any opposition has a limited ability to influence house proceedings and use legislative proceedings to bring attention to government actions. A filibuster allows that ability. This is an issue of respecting the fundamental processes of parliamentary democracy. Governments bring forward legislation and opposition ‎parties challenge it to make it better, showcase its impacts, give voice to the people and suggest alternatives. We have seen this process in action with the Budget 2016 debate which led to changes to the Liberal levy, school library closures ‎and others.

 

"Legislation introduced in any assembly is a powerful instrument that impacts people's lives and flawed legislation can seriously harm people and our economy. If an opposition believes a contentious Bill should be debated longer, and further engagement with people and revisions should be considered, that is our role under the Constitution. Any opposition in the legislature cannot fail to fulfill its role, nor should any government try to prevent an opposition from fulfilling it because it makes a governing party uncomfortable," said Hutchings.

 

"The continuous filibuster in the House of Assembly is one of the most effective means of shining a spotlight on what ‎the government is doing. While the filibuster mechanism is rarely used, we used it very effectively in the spring to draw attention to the severe impacts on people and our economy as a result of the Liberals' spring budget. The current Liberal government wishes to clamp down on any protest in the parliament not within their complete control in the legislature.

 

"In past years, the Liberals and NDP used filibusters to challenge legislation and they praised the filibuster mechanism, making no apologies for using it. But now that the Liberals are in office, they seem to want to silence all opposition and govern‎ without protest. That's not how democracy works.

 

"If the government does not want all-night sittings, they already have the power to adjourn debate at any time and resume the debate on the following day. They already have the power to determine when the House opens and closes. They choose not to use their current authority as the governing party but instead to blame Opposition parties for all-night sittings when control of the legislature is entirely theirs. If any Opposition party sees flaws in Bills, or hears from the public, it would be wrong to let them pass those Bills without protest, and the Liberal government is wrong to prevent those debates from happening.

 

"We were indeed surprised to see the NDP Party support the Liberal government in banning filibusters as well as the Independent member of legislature‎, as they have participated fully in the past," said Hutchings.

 

"The Liberals are banning filibusters at a time when we see this process as an engagement process for the people of our province. By passing the motion they did Tuesday in the House of Assembly by using their majority in the House, they have crushed a valuable instrument of democracy," added Hutchings.

 

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Media Contact: Heather MacLean, Director of Operations and Communications, Office of the Official Opposition, (709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

 

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