Government's budget bill passes despite opposition outrage

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) receives a standing ovation while voting in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa



OTTAWA - The government's second budget passed in the Commons Wednesday despite outcries from opposition parties, First Nations chiefs and other critics who say the bill is bad for democracy.

Bill C-45, which is more than 400 pages long, will now make its way to the Senate for a seal of approval.

Opposition parties proposed hundreds of amendments to the legislation and hammered the government for failing to listen to suggestions.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had urged MPs to quickly pass the bill.

"It's important that the bill pass. It's about jobs, growth and long-term prosperity," Flaherty said earlier this week.

On Tuesday, dozens of First Nations chiefs rallied against changes entrenched in the bill including the gutting of the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Changes to the act will allow construction of bridges, dams and other projects without federal approval.

Chiefs, who attempted to enter the chamber of the House of Commons and were physically blocked by parliamentary guards, say they are serving "notice" to government about the need to consult with First Nations on legislation which impacts their communities.

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen says taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for the legal battles set to ensue.

"The courts have been clear. Consultation and accommodation is essential for First Nations," said Cullen. "All these changes to protection of our waterways, change to pipeline regulations, to environmental standards... they have a legal case to stand on."

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