OTTAWA - The Harper government's massive budget implementation bill is poised to clear its first major legislative hurdle without further attempts by the NDP to delay the vote.
The bill is to be put to a second-reading vote later today, after which it will be sent to the Commons finance committee for more detailed examination.
New Democrats tied the House of Commons in procedural knots last Wednesday in a bid to put off the vote and pressure the government to split up the 425-page bill into more manageable chunks.
But NDP House leader Nathan Cullen says there's little the official Opposition can do to block the vote — barring extreme tactics like pulling the fire alarms, which the NDP doesn't want to employ.
Still, he says there will be more procedural ploys in the days ahead as the bill wends its way through committee and, eventually, back to the Commons.
Cullen says the objective is to buy as much time as possible to rally public opinion against the bill, which is stuffed with a host of non-budgetary measures including overhauls of environmental assessment, immigration and Employment Insurance laws.
"There's a certain inevitability about today," Cullen said in an interview.
"There are some very, very extreme tactics available but we're not taking them. We made our point last week, got some more hours in the day to debate this and increased awareness across the country."
Once the bill returns to the Commons from the finance committee, the NDP, the Liberals and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May are all vowing to introduce potentially hundreds of amendments that could tie up the bill for days or weeks.
In the meantime, Cullen said the NDP will unveil later this week "novel" ways to engage the public in the debate.
"We think knowledge is power on this one. The more people understand, the more people want to resist."
The Conservatives and even the Liberals criticized the NDP last week for creating a parliamentary circus that would do little to delay today's vote to give the bill approval in principle. The Liberals further complained that the NDP tactics prevented eight MPs from speaking during debate on the bill last Wednesday.
However, Cullen said the tactics actually gained a full day of budget debate the following day.
"We've been blamed for a lot of theatrics that haven't been there," he said.
"It'd be a pretty boring circus if this were the circus. I mean, what did we do? We had a couple of votes and we got a few more hours of debate on the bill. That's what everyone's setting their hair on fire about. My goodness."