Madam Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to speak in this debate about Bill C-63, the second act implementing the budget tabled last March in this place. It is a big bill. It is 329 pages and would amend 19 pieces of legislation. It is unfortunate that in recent years budget implementation bills have become so enormous, and the government has allowed so little time for their debate and study, that we cannot possibly discuss them effectively.
This bill changes labour laws. It lays the foundation for Canada's membership in the Asian infrastructure bank. I know there have been points of order raised about whether the bill can be legally considered an omnibus bill under the new Standing Order 69.1. I will not comment on that, but its sheer size is concerning.
One would think that in all those pages, there would be a lot of good news for Canadians. There are a few bits of sunshine there, particularly in provisions that would change the labour code to make the workplace a more flexible place and put in place some protections for unpaid interns. We in the NDP would like to see some of these provisions go a bit further, but in general, we salute any measures that recognize the difficulties workers face these days. These changes are certainly a step in the right direction.
There are some other things I was happy to see, such as support for geothermal projects, although it is tepid, as my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands said. There is a reduction in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
There are some good issues raised in the bill, but really, there could have been so much more good news in such a huge bill. We are very disappointed about what is actually missing.
Before the budget was tabled last March, the NDP sent the finance minister a letter outlining some of the things we thought could and should be done to really help average Canadians, really help the middle class and those wanting to join it.
I would like to talk a bit about the items that are missing from the budget. These are truly missed opportunities to help Canadians. First is pharmacare. I know the parliamentary budget officer came out with a report only recently that showed that we could save over $4 billion a year in Canada if we instituted a universal pharmacare program that offered free prescription drugs to all Canadians. That is right. We could save billions of dollars while providing free prescription drugs. Canadians would be wealthier and healthier.
The finance minister did not have access to that report, so perhaps that is why he did not include it in the budget, but there were other, earlier reports, just as credible, that estimated even larger savings, more than $11 billion a year, under the same program. The Liberals voted against an NDP motion last month that simply called for talks with the provinces to begin within a year to look at how such a program could be structured. I am hoping this is not a case of the government not wanting to give credit to the NDP for such a good idea, which would make life better for all Canadians, and that by next spring they will quietly slip universal pharmacare into the 2018 budget. Better late than never.
Another item the Liberals forgot to include in the 2017 budget, and the 2016 budget for that matter, was their promise to do away with the CEO stock option tax loophole. That would have saved Canadians over $750 million a year. The Liberals promised that in the last election. They decided not to go after CEOs. Instead, this summer they went after small businesses across the country. They are going after the small fry, the minnows, instead of the big fish.
Speaking of big fish, we also asked the finance minister to enact legislation in the budget to close down offshore tax havens. Now the paradise papers have shown us why they might not have wanted to do that. It was to protect the Liberals who are using these offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in Canada.
It is a little ironic to hear the Conservatives asking the finance minister about Morneau Shepell's tax shelter in Barbados, when it was their government that signed the tax treaty with Barbados to allow Morneau Shepell to avoid paying its fair share. However, the inaction on the part of the Liberals is just as disappointing. In fact, they keep on creating offshore tax havens. They just signed a new treaty with the Cook lslands.
We also asked the finance minister to institute a $15-an-hour minimum wage for federal workers. This would have been a great signal to the country that the federal government recognizes that many hard-working Canadians cannot possibly live on the minimum wages they receive for their work. Now the move for a $15-an-hour minimum wage has been taken up by the governments of B.C. and Alberta, and hopefully that good policy will spread across this country. Hopefully, the federal government will make that move for federal workers in next year's budget.
We also asked the minister about the eco-energy retrofit program. I would like to spend some time on that subject. It is one that is close to my heart. I actually tabled a private member's motion that called on the government to reintroduce the eco-energy retrofit program, because it is one of those government initiatives that is actually a win-win-win-win for the government, the economy, homeowners, and the environment.
This popular program ran from 2007 to 2012 and helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians retrofit their homes, lowering their energy bills by 20%. It created thousands of good local jobs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by three tonnes per year for each house.
While the program cost the federal government $900 million over five years, it leveraged more than $4 billion in retrofit investments by Canadian families. The government got five times the economic impact from its investment. When homeowners invest in new windows, insulation, and other energy-saving projects, when they shop at building supply stores in their own communities, that money circulates through their communities and across the country.
When I talk to the Canadian Home Builders' Association here or in my riding, they remind me of the huge positive impact that program had on their members and homeowners everywhere. They really noticed the negative impact when the program was, unfortunately, cancelled.
The government wants infrastructure investment. It wants to reduce carbon emissions. It wants to help the middle class. The eco-energy retrofit program would be a perfect way to do all of that, a proven way, something the federal government could get started on right away, because it has been done before. I know it was the Conservative government that did it before, and the NDP have been reminding the Liberals that it is a good idea, but it is really too good an idea to let partisan politics get in the way.
I could go on, but I think I will stop here. Suffice it to say that Bill C-63, like the budget itself, has been a huge missed opportunity for the government and for all Canadians. We will all have to wait until next year for an improvement, but it will be more than a day late and a dollar short.