The House resumed from October 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, my speech was split into two parts because of last night's votes. I will quickly come back to what I talked about yesterday to complete and conclude my remarks this morning. Yesterday, I mentioned that the Conservative government seems to use eight criteria when introducing a budget bill. We have seen these eight criteria in all of the budget bills that this Conservative government has introduced to date, at least since the last election, in this Parliament.
I would like to quickly list those eight criteria. First, the bill must be big. This one is 460 pages long. In fact, it is 78 pages longer than the last one, which was the first budget bill for 2014. The bill must amend at least a dozen laws. In this case, there are about 40 laws that are being created, eliminated or amended. The bill must deal with many subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with the budget, including some subjects that may appear to be related to the budget—such as the amendment to the fiscal arrangements between Canada and the provinces—but that, in the end, have no impact on federal finances. The bill must create a number of non-budgetary laws that should be examined outside the Standing Committee on Finance as stand-alone bills.
A perfect example of that is the creation of a DNA data bank to facilitate the search for victims or missing persons. That has no place in the budget. It should be studied thoroughly, on its own. I will come back to that.
The fifth criterion is that this type of bill must concentrate powers in the hands of the ministers. We have seen that with every budget bill, and we are seeing it again, particularly in the changes being made to the Aeronautics Act and the provisions of the new Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act and the Canadian Payments Act. More discretionary power is being given to ministers when it should be here, in Parliament.
The final three criteria focus on including legislative amendments to restrict the rights of workers and immigrants, as well as a law and order measure. All of these measures, these eight criteria, can again be found in this bill.
I want to come back to the question of law and order because we are once again talking about a proposal, found in a division of part IV, that would create a DNA data bank. We are in favour of the measure from a philosophical point of view, and we proposed this same tool in the past.
However, creating this type of data bank raises some major ethical issues. That is why a committee such as the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security or the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights should have the opportunity to closely examine the consequences of creating a data bank like this. Right now, it is buried in part IV, where there are 31 divisions and this one, with respect to creating a data bank, is only one of those 31 divisions. I am not even talking about all of the tax measures in the first three parts.
We are MPs in the House of Commons. We represent our constituents and all Canadians. Despite the fact that most of the parties in the House cannot oppose these things as a matter of principle, we could strongly oppose them if the consequences of including these things presented a major ethical problem regarding the privacy of Canadians and the security of their person. Why, then, include such a measure? I can already hear some Conservative members telling us it will be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. It will not be referred. The committee might discuss it quickly at one meeting, or two at the most, given that the time allocated to the minister in question already takes up much of the meeting. This usually comes back to us without amendment and without any opportunity for the members of the Standing Committee on Finance to really understand the nature of the committee's deliberations.
Contrary to what the member for said yesterday evening, these measures were not included innocently and without consequences; quite the contrary. This is not the usual practice. Before the Conservatives came to power, omnibus bills were about 100 pages in length, at most. Now we are routinely asked to study bills that are between 400 and 800 pages long and sometimes up to 950 pages.
It is impossible to govern or demonstrate good governance by taking an attitude like that and introducing bills that ultimately form the cornerstone of how the federal government operates. Debating such bills is something that not only the opposition, but also the Conservative Party members who are not cabinet ministers should be able to do; however, they refuse to engage in real debate. In the end, they simply repeat the talking points given to them and support the bill without even reading it. I can guarantee that out of the 160 or so Conservative Party members, only about 15 really understand the contents of this bill. They will not gain a better understanding through debates in this House, either, because they do not listen to the debates. Nor do they read the committee evidence to find out about the main issues discussed.
This government tends to view this side of the chamber as a non-essential part of House operations. It does not see the opposition as being able to assist in better governance. As the official opposition, quite often our role is to oppose, but we diligently fulfill another more fundamental role, and that is to point out to the government flaws in its regulatory or legislative proposals.
To the government, any proposal from the opposition is an obstacle, even if after multiple warnings, the details we submit to them or the flaws that we point out in the bills end up being authentic and valid.
In those cases, the government makes the necessary changes itself, or has them made by the other place, or uses subsequent budget bills to correct the mistakes that it made and we pointed out.
We see very little that is positive, despite what most Conservative MPs will say. Very little has anything to do with job creation. Very little has anything to do with economic growth. There certainly is not much that has anything to do with Canada's long-term prosperity. The only measure they can debate is the small business tax credit, and even then they are wrong about it, since it targets only those employers that pay less than $15,000 in employment insurance premiums. As government officials and the government itself have confirmed, this measure will cost at minimum more than half a billion dollars in lost revenue for the federal government.
What will we get in return for this lost revenue? According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, this measure will create 800 jobs, at a cost of $700,000 per job.
The government says that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is very much in favour of this measure. Naturally it did a study and found that this measure will create 25,000 jobs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says it is more like 800 jobs. The government's only argument is the consent or approval of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which, at the end of the day, represents the people who are going to benefit from the half a billion dollars.
What we want, in the House, is an independent study to prove that this is an appropriate and effective job creation measure. The people in this chamber know very well that this measure will not achieve the objectives set by the government. Therefore, we are rejecting the only measure that even comes close to being a job creation measure or an economic measure.
We will have no choice but to oppose this budget bill at second reading. Given that the government has a majority, the bill will be passed and go to committee with the same shortcomings and the same mistakes.
We, the opposition, will continue to work diligently. We will point out the shortcomings and the main problems in this bill.
We hope that as the election approaches, MPs, especially the Conservatives who are not in the cabinet, will realize that this is not a good budget bill and that at least the shortcomings must be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am privileged to rise today to speak to the second budget implementation act, 2014. I would like to share with the House some of the important measures contained in the legislation that stem from budget 2014 and other important actions of our government.
In the 2011 election campaign, our government made a number of promises to the Canadian people that we said we would bring in once the budget was balanced. We are well on our way to fulfilling our promises. One of the first promises we are fulfilling is the doubling of the children's fitness tax credit from $500 to $1,000 and making it refundable.
It is well known that regular exercise is essential to the successful development of children. It is a great way to get them started on a lifetime of healthy, active living. That is why our Conservative government introduced the children's fitness tax credit in the first place. This measure makes it affordable for Canadian families to register their kids in fitness activities. This tax credit currently benefits approximately 1.4 million Canadian families by providing them with much-needed tax relief.
With the doubling of this tax credit to $1,000 and making it refundable, it would become even more beneficial to low-income families. These enhancements to the children's fitness tax credit would help bring further tax relief to about 850,000 families that enrol their children in sports or other fitness activities. As a government, we have been strongly committed to making life more affordable for hard-working Canadian families, and doubling the children's fitness tax credit and making it refundable does exactly that.
Our government has also committed to supporting job creation and economic growth in Canada's economy. We recognize that the most important driver of Canada's economic growth and success is the private sector, small businesses and entrepreneurs. These companies and individuals are the ones driving our economy forward, putting in long hours, and hiring our friends and neighbours.
According to the Business Development Bank, small and medium-sized enterprises make up 99.8% of all Canadian companies. It is because small businesses are so important that our government has introduced the small business job credit. The aim of this measure is to help small businesses save money and therefore have more resources to hire more workers. The small business job credit would apply to employment insurance premiums paid by small businesses in 2015-16.
The credit will be calculated as the difference between the premiums paid at the legislated rate of $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings in each of those years. Since employers pay 1.4 times the legislated rate, this reduction in the legislated rate is equivalent to a reduction of about 39¢ per $100 in insurable earnings. That is in EI premiums paid by small employers. The 39¢ premium reduction would apply in addition to the premium reduction related to the Québec Parental Insurance Plan. Any firm that pays employee EI premiums equal to or less than $15,000 in 2015 or 2016 will be eligible for the credit in those years.
As an example, a small business employing 14 employees each earning $40,000 would ordinarily pay about $14,740 in EI premiums in 2015. However, since the total EI premiums paid by the employer are less than $15,000, it would be eligible under the small business job credit for a refund of about $2,200. That is the difference between the employer premiums paid at the legislated rate versus the premiums calculated under the reduced small business rate.
Businesses will not have to apply. The small business job credit will be automatically administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, which will determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the credit. Once calculated, the credit will be applied against any outstanding debt and then the remaining amount, if any, will be refunded to the small business. We expect this measure to save small employers more than $550 million in 2015-16. This is just another way that our government is helping foster the conditions for private sector jobs and growth in the Canadian economy, which is the foundation of our long-term prosperity.
The budget implementation act would also take action to help amateur athletes and students, and I want to highlight those measures briefly as well.
First, for amateur athletes, the budget implementation act would permit income contributed to an amateur athlete trust to qualify as income earned for RRSP contribution limits. This is another important way we can help encourage and fund our young athletes on their journeys in their respective sports.
The budget implementation act would also extend the tax credit for interest paid on government-sponsored student loans to interest paid on a Canada apprentice loan. This is also vital in encouraging young Canadians to consider the trades as they prepare to enter the workforce or prepare for their post-secondary education. It is well known that there is a shortage of skilled tradespeople in the country and this is another important step in encouraging young Canadians to consider a career in that field.
I would like to turn to a subject that is close to my heart. Anyone who has spent time with me knows my passion for caring for men and women in uniform, and for continuing that care once these individuals are out of uniform and become part of Canada's veteran community.
With so many young veterans now, our care for them must change, it has changed, and it continues to change and improve.
One of the primary goals of the government and of the Department of Veterans Affairs is care for our veterans, helping them transition to a new career and establish a new life with as much independence as possible. This includes helping the seriously ill and injured veterans have their house renovated to accommodate diverse needs, such as wheelchair access and things like that, as well as providing up to $75,800 in career retraining funding for either the injured forces member or their spouse.
The aim of that fund is to get veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces working again in meaningful and gainful employment. We want them to use their trade, leadership and people management skills in the public or private sector where they can be put to good use.
For our part, our government is taking action to ensure that veterans are welcomed and hired into the public service in a way that recognizes the service they have already given to the country.
Each year, approximately 7,600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel leave the service, including about 1,000 individuals who leave for medical reasons beyond their control. Finding meaningful employment for them is a very important factor in them making the successful transition to civilian life.
In recognition of their service to Canada, budget 2013 promised to enhance employment opportunities in the federal public service for medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel by creating a statutory hiring priority in the Public Service Employment Act for forces members who were medically released for service related reasons and by extending the duration of priority entitlements from two to five years for all medically released Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
Our government also proposed, in budget 2014, to amend the Public Service Employment Act to give preference to eligible veterans in external public service job competitions and to allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel with at least three years of military service to participate in internal public service job competitions.
To that end, our government has tabled Bill , the veterans hiring act. That bill would build upon our previous commitments and previous legislative, giving honourably released forces members better access to job openings in the federal public sector. This is all part of our efforts to ensure there are more opportunities for Canada's veterans to build meaningful second careers as they transition from military to civilian life.
As part of this effort, veterans and Canadian Armed Forces personnel with a minimum of three years service would be allowed to participate in advertized internal hiring processes for a period expiring five years after their release date.
This measure would be in addition to a previous announcement by our government that eligible veterans whose military service was cut short by a career-ending illness or injury suffered in the line of duty would be given statutory priority access to job opportunities in the federal public service.
The duration of priority access for all medically released personnel would also be extended from two years to five years.
These are clearly all initiatives designed to help our veterans achieve “re-establishment in civil life”. That short quote comes from the list of responsibilities that the , and therefore the Government of Canada, is charged with in relation to Canada's veterans. These priority hiring measures are simply another way that our government is trying to help our veterans successfully re-establish themselves in civilian life.
This is the key concept in the overall philosophy of service to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs
The aim of veterans programs is not lifelong financial dependence, unless that is the only option. The aim of the programs is to give the veteran every support possible to help those who cannot or do not wish to continue to serve in the military the tools they need to succeed in carving out a good future on their own terms. It is a goal I know all members of the House and all Canadians share.
The measures from the budget implementation act that I have highlighted today are ones I believe are in the best interests of all Canadians, whether they be children, amateur athletes, working moms and dads or veterans.
Where government can help Canadians, we want it to help and be as effective as possible. Where it is simply in the way of ordinary Canadians achieving their best possible quality of life, we want government out of the way.
The bill would help us improve that balance. That is why I am pleased to speak to it and support it.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House and speak in favour of Bill , also known as budget implementation act number 2.
Since 2006, our Conservative government's budgets have consistently delivered for Canadians by always putting their priorities first. Canadians have told us that they want a strong, stable economy and access to good, well-paying jobs.
Each budget has done exactly that. Since 2006, Canada has one of the best economic performances among all G8 countries, particularly during the recession and current recovery. During this period we have created more than one million net new jobs, the overwhelming majority of which are full time. We have accomplished this without introducing new taxes, in direct contrast to the policies that the opposition parties advocate. In fact, Canadian families pay about 10% less in personal income tax. Adding all the various tax reductions we have introduced since 2006, the average family of four pays $3,400 less in taxes each and every year.
Our strong economic performance has come without increasing the deficit. In fact, we have progressively been reducing the deficit and the size and cost of government. We are now in a position to balance the budget in 2015, as well as deliver a surplus.
Our budgets have achieved these goals without sacrificing the quality of federal services or investments. Various federal services have been streamlined over the years to provide the same, if not better, services to Canadians for lower costs. As well, our Conservative government has been carrying out the most ambitious infrastructure investment plan in our nation's history. In 2007, we introduced $33 billion in flexible and predictable infrastructure spending. Recently we committed another $70 billion over the next decade to continue investing in world-class infrastructure. These funds have supported dozens of important projects in my riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, particularly municipal priority projects.
Therefore, consistent with the successes of our previous budgets, Canadians can be reassured that the 2014 budget will continue to be more of what they have come to expect from their government: responsible, targeted, accountable, and inclusive of the necessary changes to keep taxes low and our economy growing.
Although there are many components to the budget, I will focus on measures most relevant to the needs of my constituents in Nipissing—Timiskaming. One of the important measures is the small business job credit, which has recently been announced by our government. This credit would lower payroll taxes for small businesses by 15% over the next two years.
Overall, it is estimated that Canadian small businesses would save $550 million, thanks to this measure. For the many small businesses in my region, this would mean increased capacity to grow their business, as well as more money becoming available for investments, as opposed to paying employer payroll taxes.
Our government recognizes the fundamental importance of small businesses in fuelling the Canadian economy. ln my riding, small businesses employ thousands of people and are the backbone of our communities.
The introduction of this credit would further build upon our government's strong support of small businesses since 2006. We froze El premiums to provide certainty and flexibility for small businesses. We have cut red tape by eliminating more than 800,000 payroll deduction remittances to the CRA made every year by more than 50,000 small businesses. We reduced the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%.
We also increased the small business limit to $500,000 in taxable income, which had the effect of expanding the number of businesses that could take advantage of these benefits and save costs, costs that could be reinvested in growth and job creation.
The results are clear. A typical small business is now seeing savings of approximately $28,000. Since we took office, small businesses have seen their taxes reduced by 34%.
While we are discussing measures in the budget that would help small businesses, here is another measure in the bill that I would like to highlight, as chair of the clean-tech caucus in Parliament.
Bill would expand the eligibility for accelerated capital cost allowances for clean energy generation and conservation equipment. Let me quickly outline what capital costs are.
Capital cost allowance is a mechanism by which businesses can lower their taxable income by claiming the cost of depreciation of their equipment. Accelerated capital cost allowances simply allow companies to claim more of their costs. This measure is important because it incentivizes businesses to use cleaner technology and equipment. The health of our environment is very important to my constituents, and I know they will appreciate these measures.
The next measure I would like to highlight concerns families, particularly children. Our government believes that fitness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a habit that should be encouraged, particularly in childhood. That is why we introduced the children's fitness credit in budget 2006, which provides non-refundable tax credits of up to $500 annually in fees for the registration of a child under the age of 16 in an eligible program of physical activity.
In October 2014, our announced that our government would double the children's fitness credit from $500 to $1,000 and make it refundable, which would increase benefits to low-income families claiming the credit.
The increase of this tax credit would greatly benefit families in , many of which have very active children. In our communities, it is commonplace for children to enrol in hockey, soccer, or baseball camps. The increase of this tax credit would make it affordable for families to get their children involved in all these physical activities. Ultimately, greater access to physical activity would improve the health of children in my riding, but also their social skills, as very often physical activities are team or group activities as well.
Since 2006, Canadian families have benefited from significant, broad-based tax cuts introduced by our government. For example, we have reduced the GST to 5% from 7%; increased the basic personal amount, the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax; reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%; and introduced the tax-free savings account, which has helped thousands of families save money.
These and other actions have given individuals and families the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them. This is why, as I mentioned earlier, Canadian families pay on average $3,400 less in taxes every year.
Bill C-43 includes an important measure that would assist law enforcement in locating missing persons. Many constituents have expressed concern over various disappearances of Canadians, particularly first nations Canadians.
I know many of my constituents will appreciate Bill 's amendment of the DNA Identification Act to create new indices in the national DNA data bank. This would contain DNA profiles from missing persons, from their relatives, and from human remains to assist law enforcement agencies, coroners, and medical examiners to find missing persons and identify human remains.
The bill also includes various changes to the income tax and excise acts and various other statutes; however I will leave those changes for my honourable colleagues to address.
At the outset of my speech, I articulated the intent and record of our government's previous budgets, and I stated that from Bill Canadians could expect a continued focus on keeping taxes low and improving the economy. From the main measures I highlighted, it is clear that as a result of the budget implementation act, families would save more money through an increase in the children's fitness tax credit. Also, business would benefit from reduced costs through the changes in payroll tax and capital cost allowances. These changes would help businesses invest more of their money in expanding their businesses and, as a result, create more jobs for Canadians.
Whereas our honourable opponents continue to propose various tax hikes and increased intervention into the lives of Canadians and businesses by government, we on this side of the House continue to focus on jobs and the economy in a responsible, pragmatic, and non-intrusive manner. We firmly believe that Canadian families and businesses, not Ottawa, know what is best for them and their interests.
We are, and have been since 2006, able to help remove obstacles, regulations, and unnecessary and restrictive taxes on Canadians and businesses.
I encourage all members of the House to support the pragmatic and necessary measures in Bill so that we may continue to grow Canada's economy for the benefit of all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to stand in the House and speak on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.
Before I go on, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Where do I start? Let me start with this omnibus business. The Conservatives brought in this massive bill, which has, as we have heard before, more than 450 pages and more than 400 clauses. Everything is in there but the kitchen sink. The Conservatives are trying to make changes to many different laws in this omnibus bill.
I have heard Conservative members talk about the importance of moving some of this legislation. They have said that it is consistent with the norms of the House to bring in omnibus bills. The norm is just starting. It is actually the Conservatives who started this business of omnibus bills in which they combine 50 or 60 bills in one so-called budget bill. A number of the clauses in this bill, Bill , have nothing to do with the bill itself.
On top of this, we have had time allocation, which was moved this morning. Time allocation basically shuts down the debate. The Conservatives do not want Canadians to know what is in this bill. We have had two days of debate on 400 pages of very technical language. I know that you know, Mr. Speaker, that these bills are very complex and that we have to dig deeper to find out exactly what is in them, because the government is not telling us.
As the opposition, we have an obligation to Canadians to ensure that whatever the government brings in, and it has tried to rush it through with time allocation, we rip it apart. We have to look at it in great detail so that Canadians know exactly what is going on.
I am fortunate enough to have time this morning to talk about some of the provisions in this bill, but other members in the House, whether they are Conservative members or members on this side of the House, would surely like to represent the people who elected them. Actually, the Conservatives may not want to talk about this bill. Unfortunately, because of time allocation, members on the opposition side are not going to have enough time to speak to the bill, especially about what their constituents are saying in their communities.
There are a number of concerns I can bring up in the short period of time I have. One is the small business job credit. Basically, it would provide small businesses with $550 million in tax credits. The Conservatives claim that this would create 25,000 jobs. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is independent and is appointed by the Conservatives, said that at a maximum this would create 800 jobs. We would spend $550 million and create 800 jobs. That translates to roughly $700,000 per job. Any Canadian would understand that this is not an efficient way to invest in creating jobs in this country.
What the Conservatives could have done in this bill is look at youth unemployment and underemployment. There is nothing in this bill that would generate jobs or create jobs for our youth. That is where we need to make investments, yet the Conservatives are going to use $550 million and maybe come up with 800 jobs.
There are experts that have spoken up on this. I will quote Mike Moffatt, from the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. He said:
...the proposed “Small Business Job Credit” has...structural flaws that, in many cases, give firms an incentive to fire workers and cut salaries.
Not only would it create 800 jobs at a cost of $750,000 in taxpayers' money each, it may even cut some jobs. That is the kind of math the government works with.
There is also nothing in the bill on youth unemployment and youth underemployment. There is nothing to enhance opportunities for our young people to get into the workforce.
My second point is on the pay-to-pay issue. Lately we have seen the telecom companies, the banks, and other companies charging Canadians for sending them bills that they are expected to pay. The official opposition has advocated the elimination of this pay-to-pay billing practice. The Conservatives have listened a little bit. They would eliminate it for the telephone companies. What about the banks? Canadians will still have to pay the banks for the bills they will be receiving.
This morning I went to the bank machine, because I needed money. I deal with a credit union. I went to get some money out and was charged $2.00. Some ATMs charge $3.00 and $4.00. We have been asking the government to put a flat rate on ATM fees so that the banks are not gouging or nickle and diming people when they want access to their money. That happened to me this morning. Canadians and people in my community are asking about changes with respect to banks and telephone companies. These companies are nickle and diming our citizens.
The Conservatives say that they want to put money back into people's pockets. On the other hand, they are giving billions of dollars away to their friends in the oil industry. When will they eliminate the $1 billion in subsidies to the oil companies? They are saying that they want to give money back to families, yet they are giving billions of dollars away to their friends in the oil industry. We have been asking the government to eliminate tax subsidies for the oil companies.
Since the Conservatives have been in government, they have accumulated not only a deficit but also a debt that future Canadians will have to pay. They will have to pay that debt because of its incompetence in handling the finances of Canadians.
I could go on, but the limited amount of time I have will not allow me to even scratch the 460-odd pages of this omnibus bill. The Conservatives want to ram this through. They do not want to discuss the nitty-gritty of it, because they know that would expose what is not in there.
They could have borrowed the ideas we have. We have laid out a plan for a child care program for under $15. We would be more than happy to support them if they borrow our idea. Those are the kinds of changes and programs we need in the community.
Research has shown that for every dollar spent in child care, we get close to $2.00 back. We believe in the kind of math where if we make an investment, we get a return on every dollar and double our money. The Conservatives' math is to spend $550 million to create 800 jobs. That is $750,000 per job. That is the kind of math we do not need. That is incompetence in trying to manage our economy. Canadians expect better. They expect us to scrutinize these bills and everything that comes through.
Unfortunately, the Conservatives are trying to ram this through without any solid discussion in the House. That is not acceptable to the official opposition and I can assure members, it is not acceptable to Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed emotions that I rise to speak to Bill C-43. First of all, I would like to sincerely thank my colleague from who agreed to share his time with me so that I could rise in the House to speak to a bill as important as the budget implementation bill—or at least, that is what it is supposed to be.
At the same time, I am extremely frustrated, because not only will I not have enough time in these 10 minutes to say everything I have to say and speak on behalf of my constituents in the House on this measure, but many of my colleagues are also being muzzled and will simply not be allowed to speak—not to mention that this is the 80th time this has happened in this Parliament.
The democratic rights of all Canadians are being trampled here, not just those of the members who represent them in the House. It is frustrating. I hope the message is being heard and that in 2015, we will have a government that respects democracy under the leadership of the member for , who has proven himself in the past and who upholds the values that Canadians and Quebeckers want to see reflected in their democratic institutions.
The budget bill is without a doubt a fundamentally important tool that allows Parliament to debate the government's fiscal policies and its public policy decisions. However, the form of the bill has to be conducive to transparent debate and consistent with our democracy, as I was saying earlier.
Once again the government is introducing a mammoth piece of legislation with only one objective, namely to stifle debate and prevent us from truly discussing the scope of this bill. In this bill we find another series of features that are the hallmark of this government's bills, namely time allocation motions for the most important bills, which we should be discussing for much longer. We have spent more time in the House debating bills that are just a few pages long than this one, which is between 400 and 450 pages.
I am certainly not saying that a bill that is just a few pages long is less important, but it is easy to see how the math works. We should devote less time to studying five pages than 400 pages. It makes perfect sense. Anyone who knows basic math can figure that out.
There are also many laws that will be affected, amended or even created by this inappropriate bill that introduces new measures that were not announced in the budget. Furthermore, the bill concentrates powers in the hands of the minister and also includes some bills that, logically, should not be studied by the Standing Committee on Finance, but by other House committees that carry out in-depth studies of important issues concerning the environment, transportation and other areas.
We will have one vote on the set of measures contained in this bill, and we will say yes or no. We no longer have any illusions, and everyone figured out years ago that the Conservatives' strategy is to stuff as much as possible into one bill, including bills and reasonable amendments that deserve to be supported as well as bitter pills that obviously are unacceptable.
The ultimate and purely political objective is not to put in place the best law with the best amendments, but to rise as often as possible in the House to say that the NDP voted against it. However, the solution is quite simple: we should split this bill and study the different measures on their own merits.
If we were to do that, Canadians would see two things: the NDP will support measures that make sense and can amend bills in order to improve them, and our democracy and our system can function properly. However, the government does not seem to want that.
As my party's employment insurance critic, I want to focus on one specific proposal in this mammoth bill.
In keeping with its firmly entrenched practice, the Conservative government, through this bill, is once again using the employment insurance fund for something other than its intended purpose. This time, the government is creating a tax credit for small businesses whose EI premiums are less than $15,000 a year. The claims that this measure will create jobs.
This measure for small businesses is the same one that was brought in a few months or even years earlier to grant credits to big businesses. The former minister of finance urged big business to reinject that dead money into the economy. The government does not seem to learn from its mistakes; it is taking that measure for big business and applying it to small business, even though it will get the same poor results.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is neutral and capable, has flat out denied this claim. He said that just 800 jobs will be created at the expense of workers' contributions, and he provided figures to support this statement. Furthermore, each of these jobs would cost on average $555,000.
If I were given $550,000 to create jobs in a struggling region like mine, where the unemployment rate is high, I would not be creating one job—I would be creating 10, 12, 14 or 15 stable, permanent jobs.
However, it seems that, once again, that is not the path that the Conservatives chose to take. In other words, the Conservatives are attacking employment insurance on all sides. What is more, they froze employment insurance contribution rates. That may seem like a good idea, but in reality, 10,000 jobs will be lost in 2015 and 2016 because of the current employment insurance measures and the frozen contribution rates.
I am not the one saying this. I also took this information from a report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. The Conservatives have maintained artificially high employment insurance contribution rates, which means that the amount of money going into the fund will be much greater than what is necessary to cover the benefits that will be paid out under the Conservative reform.
Some might say that it is good that the fund is running a surplus. However, workers will be contributing more than necessary, which will weaken their purchasing power and decrease market opportunities for the products produced by these same companies.
I have a lot more to say, but since time is short I will just comment briefly on the measure pertaining to the Social Security Tribunal. Bill C-43 indicates that new money will be invested in hiring people to deal with the backlog of cases before the tribunal.
This seems like a good thing, and it seems as though the Conservatives have finally understood what is needed, but the problem is much more serious than that. The Social Security Tribunal has such complex measures that since it was created, many workers, who are unfortunately without jobs, have given up their right to benefits.
What is more, just this morning, a report published in Le Devoir by a research group at the Université du Québec à Montréal indicated that:
...the avenues for redress are less accessible and less effective, which is depriving even more people of their right to benefits and forcing them to accept whatever job they can get because they do not have any other source of income...
The government therefore has not fixed any problems in Bill C-43.
It is all well and good to hire a few extra people, but how long will it take to train them before they become effective? We saw how long it took to fill all the positions.
I will stop there, but there is still so much to say and there are so many criticisms I could make. Clearly, I am going to vote against this bill. I will now let some of my other colleagues speak. I hope that they will be given 10 minutes to express their views.
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak to this budget implementation bill. Before I start, I will be sharing my time with the remarkable, hard-working, thoughtful member for .
I am here today to talk about the budget, but before I start I want to talk a bit about the amount of time the opposition members spend on complaining about not having enough time to talk about various pieces of legislation. If they added that up, it would be hundreds if not thousands of hours of House of Commons time, precious time that we need in the House to talk about important legislation. It is thousands of hours they spend complaining about not having enough time. Does that make sense?
It maybe does to the New Democrats and maybe to some Liberals, but it certainly does not to me. They could just talk about the issues at hand, about which they have several opportunities to speak in the House and when it goes to committee where they have all kinds of opportunity to propose amendments and to talk about the issues. Instead of that, they complain about not having enough time. I think the public has seen through that and people really will not buy into it anymore.
I will mention a few things about what past budgets leading up to this budget have really done for Canadians. Then I want to talk a bit about a couple of specific changes that apply to farmers and fishermen. These are not changes that may be important to hundreds of thousands of people, but they can be very important for family farms and for families involved in the fishery. However, I will talk about that at the end of my presentation.
As Canadians know, since taking office eight years ago, the Conservative government has been focused on jobs and the economy. We have focused on lowering taxes to families and to businesses, which are the job creators in our country. We have focused on making things better, allowing families to move ahead and to do better, have a little more money in their pockets and have more opportunity for them, their children and their grandchildren.
We have looked at protecting the incomes and opportunities for seniors as well, making the point that just because they are seniors does not mean they can no longer contribute to society. We have made several changes that make it a little easier for seniors to continue to contribute to society over the long term. That is important too.
We have focused on these things, and we have done it in a very organized fashion, one budget building on the next.
I take a lot of pride in what we have accomplished. However, it is not just me saying that. I can refer to several different think tanks and world-renowned agencies like the International Monetary Fund, for example, and the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which expect Canada to be among the strongest growing economies in the G7 over the next couple of years. In fact, I do not remember the details and the year, but I remember a study predicting that Canada would be the number one economy in the world well in the future. The OECD is saying that what we are doing now is setting a foundation, not only to create jobs now, because our government has put in place the environment that has allowed business to create 1.2 million jobs since this recession was at its worst, and we should take a lot of pride in that. It is good for us and good for Canada.
The OECD and the International Monetary Fund think tanks recognize that we have set this foundation that makes things better for Canada than for most countries that went through the recent recession, In the decades ahead, Canada will stand in good stead.
The leader of the third party had focused for the longest time on the middle class in Canada, saying that it was not doing as well as it should be. If we want to have a look at that, here is what an analysis in The New York Times has said, “After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada”, substantially different from the way it was in 2000 when the Liberals were in government, “now appear to be higher than in the United States.”
The leader of the third party talks about middle-class incomes and wants things to be better, but he should realize that they are much better relative to our competitor nations than they were just a few years ago, when the Liberals were in office.
Those are some things for not only the opposition parties to think about, but for Canadians to think about as well.
I know I have taken a little long getting to the particular details that I want to talk about, but I want to mention a couple of issues to do with farming and fishing. These are issues that are not, as I say, important to a large number of Canadians, but they are certainly important to certain Canadian farm families.
Before I got into politics, I farmed, and I still have farms, but I also worked as a farm economist. I worked with farm families on how they could grow their farms and in some cases, unfortunately, how they could exit the farming business in the best possible way. In the eighties, in particular, it was a very difficult time for grain farming and for the livestock sector. Certain things were in place that clearly were there only because of technical reasons.
I want to mention a couple of those things.
The first has to do with the tax deferral or the rollover provision for capital gains. This was put in place a long time ago. It gave farmers and fishermen the ability to pass the capital property over to the next generation without being taxed on it at that time. In effect, the tax liability was passed to the next generation so the current generation, let us say the parents, could exit the industry and be paid off in some fashion, but in a way that would allow the farm to continue. That was extremely important.
However, there were certain quirks about that which did not make any sense. We have fixed those in this budget. For example, if people were both farming and fishing, which is the case certainly in Atlantic Canada, in a lot of cases in the west and even on the Prairies, where there are some various commercial fishing operations, the rules were set for either farming or fishing. They had to have a substantial part of their income, 90% or more, from either farming or fishing. However, if they were farming and fishing and they had income under that percentage, then they simply did not qualify.
We have changed that so they can put the two together and if they qualify with both the farming and the fishing components of their business, then they qualify for these rollover provisions. It is an extremely important change that would allow many farming and fishing families to pass this on to the next generation.
One final thing is that in many years, parts of our country are hit by drought, floods or by excessive moisture. There has been a provision in place that can be enacted by governments to allow farmers to, in severe cases, where they simply cannot keep their livestock anymore, to sell off their breeding stock and not have to pay tax on it that year. That tax would be paid the year after. If they sell off their cow herd, for example, they are not taxed on it that year and that allows them to buy back breeding stock the year after, if there is grass again because it has rained or the fields have dried. In effect, the purchase price of the replacement breeding stock is balanced off against the income from the breeding stock they sold a year earlier.
In 2014, our government has extended this tax deferral to bees and to all types of horses, which may not sound very important. We have a lot of horses in Alberta. It is very much a commercial business. Horse owners have been asking for this for some time.
Again, these things are very important to those particular farm families that are directly affected by this. Our government takes care of this kind of detail.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the budget bill. I very much look forward to questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today and contribute to the debate on Bill , economic action plan 2014 act, No. 2.
I will be focusing my remarks today on three fundamental components of economic action plan 2014. It will have a true and lasting impact in Canada and in my riding of Don Valley West, namely by investing in skills and training, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, and providing support for small businesses.
Since 2006, our government's top priority has been jobs and economic growth. While Canada has the best job growth record in the G7, too many Canadians are still looking for work or are underemployed. Indeed, an increasing number of jobs across Canada are going unfilled because of a lack of people with the right skills. That is why economic action plan 2014 introduces new measures to support skills training and to connect Canadians with available jobs.
This includes implementing the Canada job grant, which will connect Canadians looking for skills training and a job with employers looking for skilled workers. It also includes creating the Canada apprenticeship loan, which would provide apprentices in registered Red Seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year.
Economic action plan 2014 would strengthen the apprenticeship system by introducing the flexibility and innovation in apprenticeship technical training pilot project to develop new approaches to expand training for apprentices. It would also ensure that Canadians are first in line for available jobs by launching an enhanced job-matching service to match job seekers and employers on the basis of skills, knowledge, and experience.
On this note, the government has a strong record of support for apprentices and for the employers who hire them. Through the apprenticeship incentive grant, the apprenticeship completion grant, the tradesperson's tools deduction, and the apprenticeship job creation tax credit, our government has provided tangible support for apprentices and the employers who hire them.
That is not all. Our government has also extended the fees eligible for the tuition tax credit to include those for examinations required for certification as a tradesperson in Canada. We have made an effort to use apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts, and we have encouraged provinces, territories, and municipalities to support the use of apprentices in infrastructure projects that receive federal funding.
Our government is also supporting Canadians with disabilities who are looking for meaningful and fulfilling work. We are doing so by making key investments in the ready, willing, and able initiative. By the same token, our government will create vocational training programs for persons with autism spectrum disorders.
Further, in 2013-14 our government invested $2.7 billion to support skills and training programs. This includes $1.95 billion to provinces and territories through labour market development agreements, $500 million to provinces and territories through labour market agreements that were introduced in budget 2007, and $218 million to provinces through labour market agreements for persons with disabilities.
Since 2006, our government has provided support for skills training for youth through the youth employment strategy, with investments of over $330 million per year. We have also provided skills training for persons with disabilities through the opportunities fund, with annual investments of $40 million per year, and for older Canadians through the targeted initiative for older workers and the ThirdQuarter project. Economic action plan 2014 would build on these successes.
Our government recognizes that entrepreneurship and innovation are key to Canada's future prosperity. By supporting innovation, our businesses will become more productive and continue to fuel job creation and economic growth in Canada. That is why economic action plan 2014 introduces new measures to support entrepreneurship and innovation by making a landmark investment in post-secondary education.
Through the creation of the Canada first research excellence fund, $1.5 billion will be made available over the next decade to Canadian post-secondary institutions. This investment would secure Canada's international leadership in science and innovation.
Economic action plan 2014 also supports leading-edge research by investing $46 million a year, ongoing, to granting councils across Canada in support of advanced research and scientific discoveries. Further, our government will be fostering world-leading research by investing $222 million in the TRIUMF physics laboratory to support leading research and the launch of cutting-edge spinoff companies.
Our government will also support technological innovation by investing $15 million in support of the Institute of Quantum Computing for research and commercialization of quantum technologies and $3 million to support the creation of the open data institute.
These and other investments build on our government's strong record of supporting entrepreneurship and fostering innovation in Canada. Since 2006, our government has invested over $11 billion in new funding to support entrepreneurship and innovation, including more than $2.3 billion to support advanced research through the federal granting councils.
Our government has also provided funding to support cutting-edge post-secondary research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and has provided funding to universities and colleges for repairs, maintenance, and construction through the knowledge infrastructure program.
Our Conservative government recognizes the vital role small businesses play in the economy and job creation. That is why we are committed to helping them grow and succeed. Through economic action plan 2014, our government will invest $15 million for up to 1,000 post-secondary graduates to intern in small and medium-sized businesses across Canada. We will also maintain the freeze on employment insurance premiums in order to provide certainty and flexibility for small businesses in the years ahead.
Our government is also working to cut the red tape burden. We are doing so by eliminating over 800,000 payroll deduction remittances to Canada Revenue Agency made every year by over 50,000 small businesses.
Economic action plan 2014 builds on our government's significant actions to support small businesses since 2006, which included reducing the small business tax rate from 12% to 11%, lowering the federal corporate income tax rate to 15% to help create jobs and economic growth for Canadian families and communities, and eliminating the corporate surtax for all corporations in 2008. This change was particularly beneficial to small business corporations, as the surtax represented a larger proportion of their overall payable tax.
All this is to say that a typical small business with $500,000 of taxable income now saves $28,600 as a direct result of our Conservative government's low-tax plan. Economic action plan 2014 is great news for my constituents in Don Valley West and to all the small and medium-sized businesses that sustain our growing economy.
I urge all members of the House to join me in supporting jobs, growth, and long-term economic prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is Halloween, and the monsters are back. This is a monster budget. I rise today to speak in this debate to oppose Bill C-43, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, as well as the undemocratic process being used by this government and the to amend 30 or so pieces of legislation.
As the member for and the official opposition's critic for co-operatives, I would like to express my deep concern about this shocking process, which consists of forcing the approval of hundreds of changes without giving members of the House or the stakeholders involved time to study them.
I am especially concerned about the changes included in division 22 that will have an impact on credit unions. However, before I go into detail about division 22 of Bill C-43, I would like to remind members of the House, especially government members, of the important role our credit unions play in Canada.
Excluding Quebec, there are 317 credit unions in Canada with 1,740 branches and over 5 million members. They have assets worth over $165 billon and are present in every province of this country. The Mouvement Desjardins has 360 credit unions in Quebec with 6 million members and over $212 billion in total assets. It is the largest private sector employer in the province, supporting 40,000 direct jobs and 25,000 indirect jobs.
The numbers speak for themselves. Credit unions are a big part of our economy and financial landscape, and their contributions are extremely important. I can assure everyone that every member of the House has thousands of constituents who are members of a credit union and/or use their services.
Nonetheless, beyond the numbers, credit unions really matter to all our communities. They are in the municipalities or regions of Canada that the traditional banks have abandoned. They offer products and services that meet the needs of the people and they reinvest in their community.
What is more, credit unions are more resilient to economic uncertainties. With regard to the riding of , I can attest to how the LaSalle caisse populaire contributes to the vitality of community organizations. It contributes a great deal to the vitality of our community organizations and our community.
Despite the major growth in credit unions and their significant financial performance, the Conservative government is introducing another bill that does not take into account their needs or the differences between them and the banks.
I have said before that the Conservative government is incapable of taking into account the unique characteristics of credit unions or recognizing the benefits of that uniqueness. The same goes for SMEs. When drafting bills, the government is incapable of taking into account the inherent differences between large companies and small and medium-sized businesses. The same goes for the co-operative movement.
This proves it. Division 22 of Bill C-43 seeks to makes changes to the regulations on credit unions. More specifically, it amends the Bank of Canada Act by eliminating the central bank's role as lender of last resort for credit unions, forcing them to rely on provincial guarantees in order to get a loan.
It also amends the Bank Act and the Co-operative Credit Associations Act in order to facilitate the entry of provincial cooperative credit societies into the federal credit union system and to discontinue supervision of provincial central co-operative credit societies by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
Instead of addressing the reality and the needs of credit unions— especially their request for the creation of a new tax credit enabling them to access other sources of capitalization—these amendments seek to make our financial system homogeneous by trying to subject credit unions to the same conditions and rules that apply to major banks.
Do members acknowledge that we can have a multi-faceted economy and financial system? That is what the regions, credit unions and big cities are asking for. We have to recognize that credit unions meet community needs and that chartered banks and credit unions can co-exist.
The proposed measures are once again in keeping with the Conservatives' philosophy of opposing, for ideological reasons, the expansion of the Canadian co-operative movement. The 2013 budget measures unfairly increased taxes on credit unions. The proposals in this mammoth budget bill represent an effort by the government to subject credit unions to the same rules as banks.
In other words, and I have said this before, the Conservatives are not taking into account how credit unions are inherently different. In Canada, chartered banks have their way of operating and they are favoured by the government. Meanwhile, the government does not stop creating obstacles for credit unions thereby preventing them from growing and meeting the needs of regions and communities that are not served by large financial institutions.
I am wondering whether the government would dare demand that banks rely on the same type of guarantee from the province where their head office is located in order to access Bank of Canada loans. I am also wondering whether this government consulted the provinces before proposing the risk transfer resulting from the amendment and whether it assessed what impact this measure would have on their finances.
I am concerned that the government seems to want to encourage provincial credit unions to transition to the federal system without taking into account their unique characteristics and the challenges they would face in making such a transition.
Finally, we must remind the government of the importance of working with the credit unions to find solutions that will help them to grow. This government cannot continue to ignore the demands of a sector that plays such an important role in our economy.
This government did not even include in these 460 pages provisions that would help promote the capitalization of credit unions and give them the means to assist families and small and medium-sized businesses, namely through a capital growth tax credit.
The government did not consider modifying the legal framework, which would have allowed credit unions to compete with the big banks without losing their status as a co-operative and while maintaining their commitment to serving their members.
Once again, these 460 pages do not take into account credit unions, which contribute to a sustainable, democratic and 100% Canadian economy.
I bitterly regret it, but I must oppose this monstrous bill that does not in any way take into account the interests of Canadians, co-operatives or credit unions.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague for her excellent speech on this omnibus bill—or mammoth bill, as we say. I think that is what it is.
I have a question for the government about this policy and credit unions. They are very different from banks. A number of Conservative members think that credit unions and banks are exactly the same. The new changes are harmful to credit unions, which use a lot of their money to help small and medium-sized businesses in Canada to create the jobs we need.
My question very specifically is this. Conservative MPs in particular who have said, in committee and other places, that they do not see any difference between a chartered bank and a credit union expose a grave concern for me, because last year the government inadvertently—maybe by accident, we do not know—heaped millions of dollars of extra taxes on top of credit unions through one change. Now they are coming in with something else that will deny credit unions access to funds.
It should be noted that credit unions, much more so than chartered banks, move money to small and medium businesses, particularly in smaller communities, many of which have lost their chartered bank representatives entirely.
If an economy like Canada's right now has not created virtually any new jobs in the private sector industry, and small businesses create upwards of 80% of all jobs in Canada, why would the government not take the initiative to help out groups like the credit unions, which do great good for our communities and help move money, loans, guarantees, and what not to the small businesses, the true job creators in Canada?
Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to speak in the House since the events of last week. I am proud of how the House conducted itself in the wake of such terror, such atrocities, such shocking tragedy. It was good for Canada that we resumed sitting the very next morning, that we stood strong, that our leaders addressed Canadians, and that our leaders embraced. It was good for the nation to embrace.
It has been three years, and last week was the first time as a member of Parliament that I felt partisan lines dissolve, momentarily at least. I felt somewhat that way after Jack Layton died and after the passing of Jim Flaherty, but not to the degree I felt it here a week ago today. The House came together as one.
It is not every day that I stand up and applaud the Conservative . It is not every day that the Prime Minister stands up and applauds the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada, or the third party Liberals. It is not every day I personally compliment the Prime Minister. In fact, it never happened until last week.
The Prime Minister made a statement in the House last Thursday that I have since repeated a number of times, because it struck a chord, and I agreed with the statement. The Prime Minister said, “In our system, in our country, we are opponents, but we are never enemies.”
We are united in the House by the desire to better our country. As opponents, we disagree on how to get there, but we all strive for a better Canada, for this country to be the best country it can be. We are opponents, but we are never enemies. That is why it is so infuriating to see the government introduce, yet again, an absolutely massive anti-democratic omnibus bill. It is a bill that amounts to an affront to the principles and spirit that this precious institution was built on.
The said we are opponents but we are never enemies. I say we are Canadians but we are never fools. We are members of Parliament, but we are never puppets, at least we should never be puppets. We are elected to serve, to stand on guard for the Canadian way, for democracy, for our communities and our constituents. However, omnibus bills such as this are an attack on Parliament. Omnibus bills undermine Parliament.
In the words of former auditor general Sheila Fraser, “Parliament has become so undermined it is almost unable to do the job that people expect of it.”
Bill is a budget bill, but it is so much more than that. It is an omnibus bill, meaning it is a proposed law that covers a number of diverse or unrelated topics. In this case the number is a truckload. It could fill a boat to the gunwales. The bill is 400 pages long. It has more than 400 clauses. It amends dozens of acts. The bill contains a host of measures that were not even mentioned in the original budget. This is the Conservatives' sixth straight omnibus bill. It is too much for one bill.
There are some things in it that we like, such as ending pay to pay billing so Canadians are not forced to pay for a paper copy of their bills. We like that, although even that does not go far enough. The bill only bans pay to pay billing for telecom and broadcast companies. What about banks? Why should banks still be allowed to gouge Canadians? That is what they are doing. By charging Canadians for their paper bills, they are gouging Canadians, and the Conservatives are letting them get away with it.
There are also some things that we outright disagree with in this omnibus bill, like denying access to social assistance for refugee claimants. What else do they live on if not social assistance, in so many cases? This attack on the most vulnerable comes on the heels of Conservative cuts to refugee health care, a move that the Federal Court called “cruel and unusual”.
Denying access to social assistance for refugee claimants was a backbench private member's bill that was rammed into this omnibus bill after the media and anti-poverty and labour groups tore it apart.
There are parts of this omnibus bills we like; there are more parts of this omnibus bill that we do not like; and there are more parts of this bill that I will not even get to. It is not possible. In the end, there is no way that I, as the member of Parliament for , can critique this omnibus bill, let alone analyze details of more than 400 clauses, given such limited debate and limited time, with so much stacked and rammed into one bill.
Here is how one parliamentarian described the use of omnibus bills. This is from a column by Russell Wangersky in today's The Telegram, the daily newspaper in east coast Newfoundland. This parliamentarian stated:
In the interest of democracy I ask: how can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and such concerns? … I would argue that the subject matter of the bill is so diverse that a single vote on the content would put members in conflict with their own principles.
Who was the parliamentarian who was so outraged about the Liberal blockbuster omnibus bill? It was none other than the of Canada himself, when he was in opposition in 1994.
When the Conservative government and the Liberal governments before it ram so much legislation into omnibus bills it leads to mistakes. Who pays for those mistakes? Canadians pay for them. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay for those mistakes.
The Conservative government used a 2012 omnibus bill to create the new Social Security Tribunal, which hears appeals related to the Canada pension plan, disability benefits, employment insurance, and old age security. My constituency office has officially been told that the backlog of cases is one year. Unofficially the backlog is three years. That 2012 omnibus bill capped the size of the tribunal at 74 full-time staff. It also removed limits on the number of hours part-time staff can work—thus, the backlog.
Now the Conservative government is using this latest budget bill to expand the Social Security Tribunal. The government has said that the change would allow it to add employees to respond to a backlog of nearly 11,000 cases across the country related to CPP and OAS. That mistake would likely not have happened if that piece of legislation had not been lost in an omnibus bill and if members of Parliament had been given an opportunity to better scrutinize the bill. However, we were not given that opportunity, and Canadians have paid the price.
The journalist Michael Harris, who is well known in Newfoundland and Labrador for his work with the Sunday Express newspaper and for books such as Unholy Orders and Lament for an Ocean, has a new book called Party of One, reflections on a prime minister.
He quotes Peter Milliken, former speaker of the House of Commons, who stated:
Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. [The Prime Minister] can't go much further without making the institution dysfunctional....
Michael Harris also quotes the late Farley Mowat, who stated that the is “The most dangerous human being ever elevated to power in Canada.”
We are opponents; we are never enemies. The is right. We are opponents, and the Prime Minister has to stop treating us with contempt. The Prime Minister has to stop treating us like fools.