Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak in the House to discuss and debate the issues of the day. I enjoying listening to the opinions of the members opposite, even though I do not always agree with them.
Every time I rise, I get a sense of déjà vu. Here we are, for the umpteenth time, debating an omnibus bill filled with measures that are in no way related to the government's fiscal policy. As with the other bills, our debate is subject to time allocation that was imposed by the government, of course.
The government likes to brag about its accomplishments and achievements, but it does not like to talk too much about its record-setting use of time allocation. Yes, these former Reformers who swept in from the west promising clean, open government and respect for the taxpayer have instead become what they professed to hate the most.
The scandals of the past month have proved this, complete with senators entitled to their entitlements, $90,000 worth of hush money and the Prime Minister doing his best to avoid answering the real questions.
Limiting debate and trying to run away from transparency is disturbing enough when it is done by trustworthy, competent managers, but it is much worse when it is done by a government that has proved itself to be as ethically lacking as this government has.
Once we wade through this massive document, we can see why the Conservatives would try to keep people from knowing what is in the budget. The bill contains many measures that concern many Canadians and have no place in a budget bill. A government that was confident in its ideas would simply introduce these measures as its own stand-alone pieces of legislation, instead of hiding them away in an omnibus bill.
Given that they have a majority in both chambers, we would think the Conservatives would have the confidence already, but a bill like the budget puts even that into question.
What are the Conservatives hiding in these bills?
Let us start with taxes. This budget contains hundreds of tax hikes on everything and anything, including hospital parking, bicycles, baby strollers, credit unions, safety deposit boxes and labour-sponsored investment funds. These increases will cost Canadians almost $8 billion over the next five years. That is a lot of money for Canadians who are having trouble making ends meet. What is even worse is that the Conservatives are trying to hide these tax hikes in a huge bill.
Like many Quebeckers, I am a member of my local credit union. Credit unions provide important services and are active in our communities. Thus, I am personally affected by the changes that the Conservatives are proposing in this budget, which will increase taxes on these organizations and hinder their ability to compete with major banks.
The Conservatives and the Liberals have done enough to help major banks over the years. Every day in the business section of the newspapers, we read that banks are doing well and do not need the Conservatives to prevent credit unions from competing with them.
What else would Bill C-60 do? The bill would introduce changes that would allow the government to require a crown corporation to have its negotiating mandate approved by Treasury Board when entering a collective agreement with a union.
The Treasury Board could impose any requirement on a crown corporation respecting the terms and conditions of employment on its employees. No crown corporation that is subject to such a government order would be allowed to enter into a collective agreement without Treasury Board's approval, and the bill would also give power to the Treasury Board, on orders from the government, to fix the terms and conditions of employment for non-unionized employees.
The bill is a direct attack on the right to free collective bargaining, while also infringing on the independent arm's-length operation of these crown corporations.
Crown corporations have this independence for good reason, and the Conservatives know this, but in this case they have decided to simply ignore those reasons. This is a dangerous precedent that should concern Canadians of all walks of life.
In this bill, we also see that the government is continuing to take steps to create a securities commission without the consent of the provinces. Although the provinces of Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick have all said that they do not want the commission, the government plans to continue to fund an office whose sole objective is to try to make this happen.
NDP members urged the government to co-operate and to work more closely with the provinces on all types of issues. However, the Conservatives have systematically ignored their suggestion. Instead, they continue to use the “take it or leave it” approach, which has only led to failure in the past. The government must work with the provinces instead of burying such measures in an omnibus budget bill.
Speaking of lack of consultations, let us talk about how the bill would affect aboriginal peoples. We in the NDP have been calling on the Conservatives to make aboriginal issues a priority in this budget. Unfortunately, the budget fails to address the major challenges facing aboriginal peoples in Canada or help move Canadians toward a new relationship with aboriginal peoples.
We have a couple of stark examples of how the budget fails. The budget would provide, for instance, Indspire with $5 million in funding post-secondary scholarships and bursaries. On the surface, that sounds nice, but when we read the fine print of this initiative we see where the other shoe drops. In the budget it states that this money would be for students who are registered as Indians under the Indian Act and for Inuit students.
Indspire offers all aboriginal students funding, yet the government has deliberately left Metis and non-status students out in the cold. This was one of the few places were Metis and non-status students could get some federal government support for their post-secondary education, but the government would take that away.
To its credit, Indspire has stated that it will continue to offer funding to Metis and non-status students out of the money it raises itself, but the fact remains that the Conservative government would put Metis and non-status students at a further disadvantage than they already face.
In this budget, the Conservatives have also allocated funds to build 250 housing units in Nunavut over the next two years. That is a good thing for the people of Nunavut, and I have nothing against that, but there is a problem with this part of the budget.
According to Statistics Canada, overpopulation plagues my Nunavik constituents more than any other group of Canadians. Right now, they need 1,000 housing units. In 2012, over 90 cases of tuberculosis were reported in the region, and the epidemic has not let up. We know that tuberculosis develops in overcrowded dwellings.
Unfortunately, this budget does nothing to help the people of Nunavik. Worse still, when the president of the Makivik Corporation asked for a meeting with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to discuss the situation, his request was denied. The minister's chief of staff sent him a two-line note saying that the minister was very busy and would not be able to meet with him, as though the problem could wait.
Although the people of Nunavut are getting a little of the help they need, I want to emphasize that the people of Nunavik cannot even get a meeting with the minister, let alone any money to address this very serious crisis. This is unacceptable, and it is yet another example of how the government is shying away from the need to create a new relationship with Canada's aboriginals.
I could go on at length about this budget's shortcomings, but I know that my time is almost up. I will therefore conclude by saying that Canadians need to hear that their government is practising good governance. We are part of the G8, and we are a strong democracy that expects a lot from its elected representatives. When the Conservative government passes bad bills, like this omnibus bill, by using time allocation, it insults this country's democratic principles.
It is clear from the people's reactions to scandals associated with this government that these expectations have not gone away. People will not let their government try to hide all of this. These insults to democracy have prompted my colleagues and me to reject this bill because of its contents and the process used to pass it.