Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and finish my intervention from last week on this important bill.
Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses, known as the “red tape bill”, is an interesting idea, an idea that has been tried by a number of governments at all levels. It comes up especially when parties are campaigning, when candidates go out and talk to small business people. They say they are going to get in there and work to get rid of red tape and bring the cost burden of red tape down for people with small businesses. They are going to make a real difference.
It should be the goal of all governments to ensure that any regulations that exist are up to date and current and accomplish what they set out to accomplish. Otherwise, they should be jettisoned. They should be revised or just gotten rid of. Any government worth its salt would do that as a normal administrative practice within its responsibilities.
However, sometimes, mainly for political reasons, governments like to trot out a particular catchy phrase in the way that this bill does. It talks about one for one. It talks about how the Conservatives have communicated with public servants within the bureaucracy and have told them that if they are going to bring a regulation forward, then they have to get rid of a regulation. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the regulation they are bringing forward has any merit or whether the regulation they want to get rid of does not have any merit; it is simply on the basis of one for one. It is nothing more and nothing less than bald politics. It has nothing to do with proper administration.
An issue that we have raised here on a number of occasions is that there are many good reasons for regulation. The government has a role to play beyond just ensuring that businesses are able to operate effectively and efficiently and that the rules and regulations that affect them are appropriate and efficient; on behalf of the public interest, the government also has to ensure that there are good health and safety regulations. It ensures that there are good regulations that protect Canadians in the area of food safety and good regulations to ensure that the immigration process works smoothly. There is an important role for regulations to play in the process.
My concern with a bill like this is that the Conservatives are just looking for numbers and looking at being able to roll out a banner during the election campaign to say what they have been able to accomplish with their one-for-one campaign. If the Conservatives were truly serious, then they would prove to small business and to Canadians by their actions that they were in fact administering the federal government effectively and efficiently.
I took the opportunity over the past year and a half to communicate with small business people on the issues they were most concerned about as they related to the role of the federal government. The top of the list tended to be taxation. That is why small business people in my community in the constituency of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour have responded so well to the announcement by our leader that when we are elected in 2015, we will bring forward a reduction in the small business tax from 11% to 9%.
That tends to be at the top of the list of small businesses in my community. That is why they have responded so well.
The second item that tended to be important was cracking down on anti-competitive credit card merchant fees. That was something that the government had talked about doing. It talked about it in the Speech from the Throne last year. It talked about it before in the election campaign, saying that it was was going to bring down the cost of the use of credit cards for merchants.
What happened? The government bowed to pressure from the big banks. It decided in favour of the wishes of the big banks, which make billions of dollars in profit every year as a result of many of the things that the government does. The government decided to land on the side of the big banks rather than the small businesses, and it has not done anything with the credit card merchant fees.
That is another commitment that the New Democratic Party has made to Canadians.
The small business people in my community are always concerned about paperwork and regulations that are useless or do not make sense. They are concerned about them, but those matters fall well down the list in terms of priority.
If I may, allow me to bring up a couple of other points. In this bill, what the Conservative government talks about is a focus on inefficient and unnecessary regulation. It also talks about the bureaucracy and the burden of paperwork.
As I was thinking about this, I thought about the infant from Egypt who was prohibited from travelling with her family to Canada simply because of unnecessary, unfair, and unrealistic policies made by the Conservative government. I see it in my office all the time, whether it is with immigration, employment insurance, the Canada pension, or Canada pension disability. The Conservative government is not doing Canadians any favours when it comes to dealing with the kinds of forms, processes, policies, and regulations that ordinary Canadians need to deal with in order to access some of the programs that still exist in this country. If the government were truly concerned about getting rid of inefficient and ineffective regulations and policies, it would pay much more attention to the ones that we have brought to the attention of members here in the House.
This bill, unfortunately, could be much more than it is. It is no more than political rhetoric on behalf of the government. If it was truly concerned about dealing with regulation, it would simply do it and prove to Canadians through its actions that it is making a difference on the issue of regulation.