One day before this month's second protest in front of his Sechelt constituency office, Conservative MP John Weston said his party could have done a better job of selling budget implementation Bill C-38 to Canadians.
“Let me join in the criticism of our own government to say the communication of many parts of this has been poor. That relates to the, I think, the ambitious nature of the bill,” the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky member said in an interview on June 12.
As members of Parliament began a marathon session to consider hundreds of opposition amendments, similar protests were reported across the country. Those amendments, though, were dealt with and the controversial omnibus bill passed third reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday (June 19). It now goes to the Senate.
Those among the Sechelt group called for Weston to oppose the omnibus package and join opposition demands for the legislation to be split into its disparate parts and debated and voted on separately.
As C-38 is a budget bill, its defeat would have risked bringing down the government.
“It's a travesty,” one protester said. “They're trying to pass a budget that makes major, major changes to the Canada we know.”
“It's anti-democratic,” said another.
In Squamish on Friday (June 15), local resident Tracey Saxby staged a one-woman protest in the median of Highway 99 near the Cleveland Avenue turnoff. She carried signs that read, “Stop Harper oil dictatorship,” and “Save Our Democracy. Stop Bill C-38.”
Weston was clear in his support for the C-38 bill. He described it as a package that will benefit Canadians both nationally and in his riding. The MP had shown a particular interest in environmental and fisheries legislation.
In an editorial published on his website (www.johnweston.ca), Weston argued that “more assessments do not equate to better assessments.”
As a politician, Weston said he could imagine lines he would not cross to support a government, and as for C-38, “this is not even close.
“You would be letting down people who voted you in and not necessarily on your own credentials, but on the party and the party platform that was proposed during the campaign. So there's no contemplation of my voting against this,” he said.
Weston said that, like members of the public, he did not have a chance to study the confidential budget bill when it was in draft form.
“Ministers don't even share their proposed deficit reduction approaches with other ministers until the whole thing is finally approved,” Weston said. “I've gone through many pieces of it many times and other pieces of it not so many times, but the ones that I'm most sensitive to are the ones our constituents most care about.”
The protesters who gathered in front of his Sechelt constituency office June 13 took issue with the government's approach in making what they called “the most sweeping set of legislative changes in Canadian parliamentary history.”
The rally in Sechelt was part of a wider campaign across the country organized by Leadnow.ca
Leadnow has contributed to the organization of C-38 rallies across Canada through its social media campaign, #13Heroes. “We're using the term ‘hero' because we know many Conservative MPs have private concerns about the bill,” the campaign's website read.
Leadnow claimed that June 2's “black-mark” days of action saw as many as 107 events and perhaps 3,000 participants.
“I think we would be foolish to consider something as irresponsible as bringing down the government over a budget that's intended, among other things, to continue stimulating the economy,” Weston said.
— With files from Rebecca Aldous, The Chief