Canadians Pass $204 Billion Spending Bill by Accident

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Bloomberg News reports this week that the Canadian government’s $204 billion budget package was passed in the House of Commons by accident, after legislators of the opposition parties forgot to stand up to debate it.

Isn’t that what the Democrats say happened on Iraq?  Well, it’s good to know this kind of thing happens in other countries, too.  I think.

The opposition lawmakers said they had been expecting one more member of the Conservative Party to talk in support of the spending plan, but that person did not show up, and so they were not ready and remained seated when the opportunity to debate arrived.  Seeing no opposition, the Speaker of the House moved on to the next item, and presto, legislation was born.

In fact, it was "unanimous," the government finance minister told reporters later.  Sort of.

Canada’s governing party needs support from at least one opposition group to get a bill through, and so any objection could have defeated the budget.  Under Canadian rules, apparently, a defeated budget would be grounds for entirely new parliamentary elections, which were averted by the failure to stand up and say anything.

"Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill," said Bill Graham, leader of one of the two snoring opposition parties.  "We oppose the budget.  [Sitting there on our butts was] an unfortunate error, but it doesn’t change anything."  I guess he’s referring to the fact that they will have another chance in the Senate, which as in most bicameral systems is designed to be the legislative body that pays slightly more attention to what it’s doing.