Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I just want to thank my hon. Liberal colleague for splitting his time with me, although we will probably take some different approaches on our views on Bill C-15.
Bill C-15, the budget implementation bill, is, as I have heard some Liberal members of Parliament say, where the rubber meets the road for a government's budgetary policy. The NDP has examined some aspects of Bill C-15, and we do agree that there are some positive measures that the NDP has fought for, so we will acknowledge that there are some good things in the bill. However, it is nowhere near what the Liberals promised and it is not what is necessary to strengthen our economy and combat inequality.
For example, one of the major things that I campaigned on and on which I received feedback from my constituents was child care spaces. It is one thing to increase the child benefit, but when families are struggling to even find spaces or they have wait-lists that go on longer than a year, that will not really help two-income families try to find that space so that one parent can have the freedom to find work.
The other major glaring omission is with employment insurance. There was a real opportunity in the bill to make some profound changes to the Employment Insurance Act, to how it operates for Canadians on an equal basis from coast to coast to coast, and that is what was lacking.
In conclusion to my introduction, we will be opposing Bill C-15 because of its content, but also because of the fact that it is an omnibus bill.
The Liberal government has studied a few Conservative tactics from the previous government. The bill has been rushed through. We have had time allocation. The committee meetings that were held were also rushed. We have an act that spans 179 pages. It changes over 30 different statutes that fall under nine different ministries. There are a few things that we argued should have been split off to give proper study, but the committee, when it was studying Bill C-15, had six meetings. Only two had witnesses and the amendments that were proposed by the opposition were all rejected.
The Liberals make a big deal about how they reach across the aisle and they want the opposition to work with them, but when over 35 amendments are proposed by the opposition and all of them are rejected by the Liberals, I do not see that as working together.
It brings to mind the quote from the movie, Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you”. If the Liberals want the opposition to truly work with them, then I think some deference has to be paid to the propositions we are putting forward and not have them rejected out of hand. Those are a few of the reasons.
In terms of the time to adequately review the different components of the legislation, when the Liberals were in opposition and on the campaign trail, I remember they talked about how undemocratic omnibus bills were. They said during the campaign that they would not resort to legislative tricks to avoid the scrutiny of their bills. I think we will see the history of the previous six months shows completely the opposite.
The Liberals promised to change the Standing Orders of the House to bring an end to this undemocratic process of omnibus bills. I just truly feel that if we are to study an omnibus bill that is changing a few different pieces of legislation, it has to be given the proper time and scrutiny. I believe all Canadians and expert witnesses deserve to have their say in things like this.
I will devote a little time to just going over a few of the good things, with the caveat that there will be a few criticisms as well. The NDP proposed in the last Parliament that we would remove taxes on feminine hygiene products because that costs women $36 million a year, so we are happy to see that mentioned in the bill.
We are also happy to see the Liberals recommit to returning the old age security and GIS eligibility back to age 65. I heard my previous Liberal colleague talk about the GIS and what a wonderful thing it was that it would be increased by 10%. Let me provide a bit more of a factual basis to that claim.
The guaranteed income supplement is going to be increased for people in the income range of $4,600 to $8,400. A person with an income of $4,600 per year or less would get an increase of $947 per year, which is less than $100 per month. GIS benefits will be phased out completely at $8,400. Rather than increasing the GIS by 10% across the board for every senior who is eligible for it, the Liberals are targeting a narrow bandwidth. It is important to illustrate that fact because it gets lost in all of the hyperbole about how great the Liberal government is and how it is helping our low-income seniors. We must always read the fine print.
I am also happy to see that the government has committed to enhancing the Canada pension plan. This pension model survived the recession very well. It is a model for the world to see how well managed a pension plan can be. Our interest is in making sure that every worker who pays into the CPP can retire with an adequate income.
One of the biggest broken promises comes with respect to small businesses. Page 10 of the Liberal fiscal plan in the 2015 election specifically mentioned that the Liberals were going to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% from the current 11%. Not going ahead with this reduction is going to cost the small business sector $2.2 billion. It is going to cost $125 million in the next fiscal year, $475 million in the year after that, $770 million by 2019-20, and $825 million by 2021. This is according to both the finance ministry and the parliamentary budget officer.
What am I supposed to tell entrepreneurs in my riding, when I tell them there will be personal income tax cuts that mean income earners in my range will get a reduction but they will not see that? Furthermore, small business owners usually pay themselves a small amount of money to keep their business afloat so they are going to get hit twice. Their business rate is not going to be reduced and their personal income tax rates are not going to be affected. That is a shameful broken promise.
Bill C-15 swallows what was Bill C-12, which dealt with veterans. We were happy to see the changes in Bill C-12 because we agreed with them, but we believe that Bill C-12 should have been made a stand-alone bill so that we could have proposed different changes to make it better. Swallowing Bill C-12 into Bill C-15 creates an omnibus bill and avoids proper scrutiny. The Liberal government's record with veterans right now is absolutely shameful. It has broken a solemn promise that was made during the campaign. The Liberals agreed during the election campaign that the government has a sacred obligation, a social covenant, and now they are taking veterans to court. I would like to see the government take some firm action and stand up for our veterans for once and not use them as campaign props to get votes.
In terms of employment insurance, I suggested to the Minister of Employment that one of the great things the Liberals could do would be to set up the employment insurance fund as a stand-alone fund so that it would be protected from raiding by future governments. Right now, those premiums, which are paid by workers in the event that they might end up unemployed one day, simply get raided as a cash cow. It would set something meaningful up for workers if we put that up as a stand-alone fund. Again the Liberals have taken no significant action on that and we still have an employment insurance system where six out of 10 Canadians will not qualify.
To help my Liberal colleagues understand why we oppose the legislation, it is always helpful to read quotes that Liberals have given in the past. The current Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity said something in 2014 that really sums it up. She said:
...there is so much contained in this omnibus budget bill that it really does not give parliamentarians the opportunity they need to act on behalf of the people they represent. We do not get to scrutinize the legislation.... At the end of the day, we end up voting on a bill that we have had little time to digest.
I could not have said it better myself.