Budget process leads to parliamentary bust-up

| 27/05/2014

(CNS): The premier and opposition leader were in a legislative stand-off Monday over the process of how the budget will be debated on Thursday. The state opening of parliament for the budget meeting began with an exceptionally short Throne Speech from the governor, but the Policy Statement behind the PPM government’s 2014/15 spending plan was delivered by the premier ahead of the finance minister's Budget Address. Although Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush began the practice of delivering a policy statement with the budget when he was premier, he objected strongly to the plan to merge the debate with the budget address, saying government would get to “talk twice” when once was “enough for most people".

When Bush was premier he was also minister of finance, and so he delivered a merged address and was then the only minister to respond to the debate on the Throne Speech, the policy document and the Budget Address. However, in the PPM government Premier Alden McLaughlin is not finance minister and, as a result, after the conclusion of the debate on government’s policy and budget, which starts Thursday, both Finance Minister Marco Archer and the premier will deliver responses to the LA.

When McLaughlin proposed the motion Monday after the budget that members would be given several days to digest government’s spending plans and then return to the LA Thursday to debate it, the opposition leader objected.

In a lengthy speech Bush said he had researched the Commonwealth and could find no parliament where a government was allowed to speak twice and accused the administration of undermining democracy. He said that two ministers could not both respond to one debate, and with no precedent and no justification for his actions, the premiercould not manoeuvre himself into position to close for the finance minister on the debate when it wasn’t the premier’s job to do so.

Bush said that when he had introduced the idea of a policy statement, there was still no minister of finance, and with the Throne Speech delivered by the governor and the budget by the financial secretary, the premier began delivery a policy statement on behalf of the elected arm of government. But what McLaughlin was now doing, he claimed, was abusing the parliamentary process. The opposition leader said if the government wanted to review how the budget was delivered that was one thing, but he accused the premier of changing things ad hoc and disregarding democratic principles.

“We shouldn’t change rules on the fly to suit the government or the premier’s personal whims,” he said, adding that parliamentary procedure simply does not allow government to speak twice. He said one minister alone should reply at end of the debate, speaking for all of government. He said government did not need “to speak twice as once was enough for most people".

McLaughlin then accused Bush of ignoring the facts, since he had set the precedent. The premier also pointed out that the speaker ruled on the issue last October when the decision to merge the debates was agreed as a result of time and practicality.

The premier said that parliament should not allow “the opposition leader’sparanoia to go against good sense and reason”, as he urged the deputy speaker, Anthony Eden, not to overturn the ruling made by House Speaker Juliana O’Connor Connolly, who was absent Monday.

McLaughlin explained the thinking behind the move as he pointed out that the Throne Speech was exceptionally short, providing just a review of government’s position while his speech provided the policy behind the budget. Then Archer’s speech addressed the practical application of the policies in the financial plan – essentially three elements of the same thing, making it sensible to debate the issues together.

However, the opposition leader objected further to McLaughlin’s justifications and the two men engaged in a heated argument across the chamber, with both refusing to give way to the other as they yelled incoherently.

Interrupting the shouting match, Eden stepped in and said he was upholding the previous ruling that the budget debates would be merged but acknowledged this was another area where the parliament’s Standing Orders needed to change to represent the constitutional position.

Eden said that at the risk of “being crass”, he urged both leaders to get to the point where they stopped “playing last lick”.

See Throne Speech below.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Peanuts says:

    Bush was right and Alden know's better, however he was trying to get some of Marco's spotlight to shine on him. His Ego had to be fed, after all he is Premier.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm apposed to all Zoo's This is just another fine example of the aggression that builds up in a caged animal, ,,,,,,,, their little brains can't handle it…..poor thing's


  3. Knot S Smart says:

    For a minute there your title caused me think that Alden McPacquiao had finally put a right-left-right on Mac – just like Foolio got that time…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Mac's version of parliamentry process: My way or else.

  5. Anonymous says:

    McKeeva was right about the process on this occasion the problem is that it was a case of "pot cussing kettle black." there is no difference between how the ppm are running the affairs of the LA, in fact it's exactly like the udp 

    • Anonymous says:

      Mac is not right cause his previous head priestess who learned her lesson said he is not right. But nice try on equating PPM to UDP – every single day is replete with examples of why that is BS!

  6. Knot S Smart says:

    Dont worry Mac – you will get to ignore Parliamentary procedures when you become Premier again.. Which will be NEXT NEVER….

  7. Anonymous says:

    i guess what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.  What comes around goes around.

  8. And Nother Ting says:

    Now ya see why we we are whete we ate, people laughing at us, for we can't debate without shouting at each other. Great example you elected members, and you wonder why Caymanians can't unite, farming egoes and uncompromising ignorance .

  9. Anonymous says:

    Mac…"whats good for the goose is not good for the gander, especially if I dont like it". Oh boy, he really needs to finish his schooling and get out of that playground mentality…

  10. Anonymous says:

    When McKeeva's trial ends, then I might startlistening to what he has to say. Until then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz