Madam Speaker, first of all, allow me to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Frontenac—Mégantic, on what I would call an excellent speech.
When I see government members, from their seats, lapse into vulgarity as they did during my colleague's speech, I think that he is on the right track. He is an opposition member, he says the right things. We are here to express our views and that of our constituents. I wanted to congratulate him on the excellent speech he made earlier, in spite of what the member for Verdun—Saint-Henri said.
My reasons for taking issue with this bill are many. I counted six, but I am sure I could find many more. In my ten minutes, I would have approximately one minute and a half to cover each of the six. I think I will address them globally, to say that this bill represents some kind of loss of control by the Canadian government and indeed Parliament.
Since this government took office, we have witnessed a major increase in the number of agencies and commissions created. As a result, when we want to question the minister responsible, in our capacity as MPs, we are told “Look, it is at arm's length from the government, it is a private corporation now”.
Nav Canada is a good example. In my riding, we have a control tower at the Saint-Jean airport. I cannot even question the minister on the future of this tower. His answer would be “As the member for Saint-Jean, you know full well that Nav Canada is in charge now”.
ADM is in charge of airports. The Canadian Wheat Board looks after wheat. Any time we question ministers, they run and hide behind the screen of agencies, commissions and the transfer of their current responsibilities to semi-private organizations.
Where do the interests of private enterprises lie? Often with their pockets and their shareholders. Very rarely are their interests common ones. Very rarely are they the interests of voters and of the public in general. Their goal is to make sure that shareholders and directors earn as much money as possible.
I support capitalism. There is nothing wrong with the government making money, but it has responsibilities. What I cannot stand is watching this government continually handing over its responsibilities to private enterprise or to agencies. That is my first reason for opposing the bill.
As for anti-union measures, rarely has a government pushed so hard—probably because it was being pushed by the Reform Party, a party of the far right—for anti-union legislation, return to work legislation, legislation suspending the right to strike, and I could go on. I have spent 20 years of my life defending workers, and I find it outrageous that the first thing this government wants to do is to get rid of its public service.
What is more, it is very close to doing so because, in my riding, at least 30% go 40% of those who used to work for federal institutions located in the riding of Saint-Jean no longer do so. It is the same throughout Canada.
With an anti-union provision, the government is getting rid of employees and paving the way for poorer working conditions and lower salaries. What will become of government employees? They are being told “Leave, but it is not certain the agency will rehire you. Are you a Liberal? This will help when we decide whether we can rehire you”.
We also know the patronage havens of the Liberal Party. How much will the commissioner of the customs and revenue agency earn? Earlier, I heard the member for Verdun—Saint-Henri hurl insults at my colleague. He is probably interested in getting the job of commissioner of the agency after his political career. Quite a few are appointed by the governor in council, actually by cabinet.
We also know that the salaries paid to these people are much higher than that of a member of parliament. In their career plan, many members of the Liberal Party sincerely hope that, after their stint in the House of Commons, cabinet will say something like “The member for Verdun—Saint-Henri was a good member. He used to lash out at opposition members because they were telling the truth. Therefore, we will appoint him commissioner and we will make sure that his salary reflects the fact that he is a friend of the party”. The agency will be a patronage haven and this is another reason why I oppose the bill.
It is also a problem for Quebec. I represent a Quebec riding. The government introduced this bill, even though no province has said “we would agree to let the federal government's agency take over collecting our revenues”. No province has said that, and this is particularly true in the case of Quebec, because we have always been proud of the fact that we kept our revenues in the province.
We even have agreements under which we collect the GST. In this regard, Quebec has always followed the same logic, namely that if it is going to control its fiscal policies, it must not let the federal government decide what to do and then say “I am the one collecting the money now. If you don't like it, re-establish Revenue Quebec”. That would not be an easy task, because everything will have been handed over to Big Brother in Ottawa. This is not in keeping with Quebec's history or culture.
Quebec agrees on the harmonization of tax legislation, but it must be the sole collector. That is what Quebec wants. Quebec is never going to say “Take our money, collect Quebeckers' taxes via the federal agency”. I say to the House, no one in Quebec would agree with that.
Now, to look at small and medium size businesses. Of those surveyed, 40% see no advantage to this agency, and 68% feel that it is going to cost more. Some might react by thinking “This is just a jurisdictional problem with Quebec, the other provinces and the federal government”. But that is not what the problem is. It goes further than that. Even the private sector does not agree with the government's way of doing things.
Another very significant aspect is the problem of privacy. When one looks at the bills introduced by the government, there is a strong tendency to give more and more control to super-agencies, which are going to control a lot of information that concerns pretty well everyone. This is what I would call the “Big Brother syndrome”. The federal revenue agency will come along and say “Well now, Mr. Bachand, you took out a loan a few years back”. This is monumental interference in the privacy of all Canadian taxpayers.
Imagine if this agency controlled all of Canada. They would call upon the services of the Department of Justice and the RCMP to do a kind of giant information collection, and we would end up with unacceptable interference in our private lives.
“Big Brother is watching you”. With the federal government's ultra-centralist tendencies, it is not surprising when bills like this one crop up.
It runs counter to public opinion. The public is tired of being watched all the time. People are tired of having to deal with super-agencies, where there is nothing but a huge muddle and a total lack of sensitivity toward those who have to deal with government.
The agency will serve as a sort of cover. People with tax problems will have to take them to this huge agency whose employees will be working for low salaries and to low standards. Job performance will deteriorate. Employees will adopt inflexible policies and the poor taxpayer will once again be victimized by the system.
This agency will be a patronage haven, like all the agencies created by the federal Liberal government in the last few years. There are members in the House who look forward to a long career as public servants, people who will earn high salaries and wield considerable power.
Imagine the power of the commissioner of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. He will decide that he is entitled to as big a salary as the director general or the president of the Royal Bank, because the agency's budget will be much larger, and the value of its shares much higher as well. It will be a patronage haven and the delight of our Liberal friends, but it is not in the interests of voters and taxpayers.
I therefore agree with my colleague that the bill should be withdrawn. If it is not, I will vote against it, as I imagine all Bloc Quebecois members will do.