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Paul Thomas
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Paul Thomas
2012-05-07 17:03
At some point you have to cut off debate. The government's entitled to have a vote on its money. It's not entitled to get its money, necessarily, but it's entitled to have a vote. I don't think you want the spectacle that you have in Washington where you're going month to month with extensions of temporary estimates, or something like that, and public servants are worried about whether their paycheques will arrive. That would not add to the reputation of Parliament if you got bogged down in that way.
A long time ago, in 1968, they did away with unlimited debate on supply on the floor of the House of Commons. Many people say that was the death knell of parliamentary democracy, but in fact it was used as a gimmick by the opposition parties in particular, singularly and collectively, to withhold approval for other actions that the government wanted to take, like integration of the armed forces, which was highly controversial. It was delayed for months simply by prolonging the supply debate.
No attention was being paid to the actual spending that was being approved; it was all about using it as leverage. You just lined up MPs to speak on the estimates, even though they were not making any contribution to more meaningful financial accountability.
I think there has to be a limit.
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