Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
October 30th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
Megan Leslie Halifax, NS
Mr. Speaker, I, along with my NDP colleagues, oppose this monster budget bill. I oppose it on both content and process. First I will talk about the process.
The Conservatives talk about the unprecedented level of debate and hours of debate on this bill and the previous budget bill. Even the member for Crowfoot, who spoke before me, talked about unprecedented debate in the House. Let us review that to see if they are right.
Bill C-20, which was what the budget bill was called in 1991, was six pages long and between first and third reading in the House of Commons, there were 192 days of debate. In 1995, it was Bill C-76 and it was 48 pages long. There were 78 days of debate in the chamber. Bill C-32 in 2000 was 29 pages long, it went down a bit in size, and there were 60 days of debate. Bill C-33 in 2004 was 76 pages long and it received 79 days of debate in this chamber.
What happened this year? This spring the omnibus budget bill touched or outright repealed over 70 laws. A third of that budget bill was about gutting environmental legislation. Most pieces of the budget had not been debated in the House before and most of those pieces were not campaigned on.
I do not remember the Conservatives campaigning in the 2011 election saying that they were going to increase OAS eligibility from the age of 65 to 67. I do not remember them campaigning on the fact that they were going to diminish health care transfers. In fact, during that election, I was the health critic for the NDP and I remember the opposite. The Conservatives campaigned on maintaining and increasing health care transfers.
We also cannot find any of these pieces in Conservative Party policy. If we turn to its policy, we will not find the Conservatives saying that they believe they should raise the age that people can collect their OAS.
The member for Crowfoot said that we had this budget. that this stuff had existed for so long and we should have read it. I would love for any member on that side of the House to tell me anything, even one word, about what the changes were to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act in the last omnibus budget bill, never mind what that had to do with the budget. I think most Conservatives would be hard pressed to even repeat the phrase “assisted human reproduction”.
We had Bill C-38 in the spring that was 425 pages long and there were 54 days of debate. Here we are again this fall with the second omnibus budget, the son of omnibus. I do not know how long this debate will go, but the government has already moved time allocation. I cannot imagine it will be very long. I cannot imagine it will be the heady days of 1991 when there were 192 days of debate, I highly doubt that, and we have a bill that is over 440 pages long.
The length of debate is important. Maybe the Conservatives do not think it is important because they do not like to listen when the NDP brings forward reasonable ideas. They just want to sit with their eyes closed and their hands over their ears. However, the length of debate is important for democracy because it allows entry points for civil society to engage with the legislative process. Think about it. How does civil society actually engage with this process? People cannot come here to vote or give speeches in the House, but there are entry points for them. They write letters to their MPs. They write letters to the editor. They testify at committee. They come up with good ideas and send them to us via social media. They phone us and have meetings with us in our communities. They have brown bag luncheon seminars in their workplaces to talk about how this will impact them. Sometimes they even take to the streets. The length of debate allows that process, that moment for civil society to engage with the legislative process.
The NDP brought forward amendments to the bill at committee based on what the community and civil society had told us. The opposition brought forward over 800 amendments in the House based on what civil society said, but we had 54 days of debate where that entry point for civil society was eliminated because not one amendment was made. What is the result because the government did not listen? In this omnibus monster budget, there are amendments to amendments that were made in the last budget bill.
Can members imagine amendments to amendments in the same year, as if we needed more evidence that the Conservatives are bad managers?
The process is undemocratic. Bill C-45 is a massive omnibus budget bill that makes amendments to a wide range of acts. Once again, the Conservatives are trying to ram the legislation through Parliament without allowing Canadians and their MPs to thoroughly examine it. They need to remember that we are their members of Parliament. It is our job to look at the bill properly, make amendments and suggest ideas. New Democrats are proud to stand in the House and actually do their job.
I fear that I am quickly running out of time, and I wanted to share some words from Canadians. I know the Conservatives will not listen to the NDP, because they do not like reasonable, good, sound ideas, but maybe they will listen to Canadians.
I have some letters I received from constituents.
The first is from Rebekah Hutten, who wrote:
My name is Rebekah Hutten, and I am a university student deeply concerned about [the budget].
I am writing to let you know how disturbed I am by this furtive endeavour to use an omnibus budget bill to completely wipe out years of progress Canada has made on environmental protection.... For the sake of the environment, I implore you to demand the non-budget matters—all environmental changes—be removed from C-38 [the last budget bill] and put forward as stand-alone legislation.
We took that advice and tried to do that, but the Conservatives refused to listen. We are trying to do that with this budget bill as well. We will see if they come around to their senses.
I received another letter from Bill Davidson, who wrote:
I am one of your constituents in Halifax, and I wanted to write to you to express my displeasure, or rather horror, about bill C-38, the conservatives' omnibus “budget” bill. This is not a budget, it is one of the most anti-democratic pieces of legislation ever tabled in a Canadian parliament, complete with wholesale destruction of anything resembling environmental policy. It is anti-environment, anti-science, anti-common sense, and insulting to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.... Please [member of Parliament for Halifax], don't let these guys get away with this without putting up a fight.
Leagh and Diane Colins wrote:
Our fathers and grandfathers fought for Democracy—many giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives against tyranny and government control. Censorship against free speech and the right to protest against that which we deem to be detrimental to our society is what they fought against. This current government disrespects their memory.
Our children and grandchildren will not have much of a world to grow up in when we allow the short-sighted goals of profit to overwhelm Canada's proud legacy of its environment and wildlife.
We most emphatically urge you to speak out against this bill and these measures to still the voice of opposition to environmental destruction.
In closing, I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion: That notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, clauses 316 to 350 and Schedule 2 related to changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, and clauses 425 to 432 related to the changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 be removed from Bill C-45, a second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures and do compose Bill C-47; that Bill C-47 be entitled “an act to amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012”; that Bill C-47 be deemed read a first time and be printed; that the order for second reading of the said bill provide for referral to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development; that Bill C-45 retain the status on the order paper it had prior to the adoption of this order; that Bill C-45 be reprinted as amended; and that the law clerk and parliamentary counsel be authorized to make any technical changes or corrections as may be necessary to give effect to this motion.
We are proposing this motion to ensure that the bill is split for proper study at the correct committee, and specifically to ensure that the Navigable Waters Protection Act is reviewed at the environment committee, where it belongs, and which government websites would have supported until about seven days ago.