Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to voice the serious concerns that the residents of Sudbury have with Bill C-10.
As I rise to speak to the bill, for some reason I have the strangest sense of déjà vu, like I have seen and heard this all before. These issues I rise to address now are the very same issues that the entire opposition rose to speak up against only a few short months ago in reaction to the November economic statement.
The opposition's unified stance forced the Conservative government to act and retract its outdated and out of touch analysis of the economic downturn. The opposition spoke with a united voice against the Conservatives attack, against women and pay equity and negotiated collective agreements and their flawed approach to getting Canada out of this economic recession.
The opposition's unified actions backed the Prime Minister into a corner, forcing him to act. Though instead of action in the best interests of Canadians, he acted in his own best interests and those actions closed down the nation's government when its people needed it the most.
There is only one real difference between last November and today. The difference is not with the Conservatives. They have continued their partisan-driven policies. The Conservatives are still up to their old tactics as the implementation bill shows. The most unpalatable of the economic statement's measures have reappeared, though buried in the Conservatives Bill C-10
In the budget implementation bill the Conservatives have included a number of ideological riders, all in an attempt to sneak through a series of harmful, ideologically-driven measures that have nothing to do with the proposed stimulus package.
The real difference today is that the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals will not oppose the Conservatives and this harmful implementation bill. Tonight will mark the 50th time that they will support the Conservatives. The Liberals will be supporting the very same issues they decried back in December. The issues are under a different name now, Bill C-10.
Just as I did in November, I will be voting against the implementation of these harmful measures. I will justify my reasoning for each measure in my address this morning.
The first and a concerning part of Bill C-10, given the most recent series of events in my riding, is the proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act regarding foreign ownership. Included in Bill C-10 are amendments that would weaken controls on foreign ownership, making our accountability to Canadians all the more problematic.
This week has shown my riding first-hand the dangers of lackadaisical regulations on foreign companies.
When Xstrata announced it would be laying off nearly 700 workers in my home riding of Sudbury, it was a huge blow to the community. Sudbury is a sizeable city, but these layoffs touch everyone. Each of the 686 people laid off was someone's parent, a friend, a co-worker. What is worse, these layoffs are in violation of an agreement made with Industry Canada back in 2006.
The Xstrata layoffs are a tragic example of the importance of tighter controls on foreign ownership, not looser ones as the Conservatives have proposed.
My constituents will be glad to know that their representative will not vote in favour of measures that will make the events of this week a more frequent occurrence. They will not, however, be pleased when these measures are implemented due to the inaction on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, who will, along with his party, be supporting these measures.
Another huge issue for my riding, especially as it suffers more job losses, is employment insurance.
The budget implementation bill would end pilot project number 10 under EI, which was aimed at assessing the costs and impact of extending the number of weeks of benefits in selected economic regions. The cut is salt in the wounds of those recently laid off at Xstrata and elsewhere in northern Ontario and right across the country.
When they need their government most, when employment insurance is needed to get families through these hard economic times, the government has given them an opportunity to build a deck.
This is not the kind of action Canadians need in times like these. The government should be improving access to EI and reforming the system so that more than 50% of those who need it can qualify. It is unfortunate that some opposition parties have lost the backbone to stand up to these harmful measures and deliver the EI reforms so desperately needed for their constituents and for all Canadians.
Another hugely detrimental issue in my riding is the proposed changes to the Canada student loans programs. In Bill C-10, the program is amended to require anyone who receives a Canada student loan to provide any documents the minister requests. This creates a host of new penalties for omissions. It also seems to allow the minister to retroactively punish students for making a false statement or omission in an application for a student loan.
I should not need to remind anyone about the already burdensome and punitive process that students in my riding go through to access this program. Students at Sudbury's local universities and colleges, such as Laurentian, Cambrian and Collège Boréal, are already deeply burdened by student debt. Given the increasingly difficult reality students are facing with escalating tuition costs and the lack of affordable student housing, the government should not be positioning itself to make student life harder.
The government, faced with these challenging times, should be investing in its future and ensuring that students have access to high-quality, affordable post-secondary education. Canada will recover from this economic crisis and it will need a skilled and educated generation to move our country forward.
Though I could tell my students that the opposition parties wholeheartedly oppose these changes to the program, I wish I could tell them that all parties will be voting against this measure. Unfortunately for them and the rest of the debt-burdened student population, the Liberals will be supporting these punitive measures.
Another hugely and increasingly important focus, as we learn more about our effect on this planet, is the environment. Unfortunately, measures in Bill C-10 will move our nation backward in terms of environmental assessments.
Recently Sudbury was featured on George Stroumboulopoulos's program in relation to the “One Million Acts of Green” initiative. In the program a Sudbury woman described how she came to live in Sudbury. To the shock of some, she and her family had moved to the riding for her daughter, who suffered from asthma. The feature documents the huge steps Sudbury has taken to increasingly green the community and lessen harmful environmental practices.
As a result, the quality of air in Sudbury is far better than many other regions in Ontario. The people in Sudbury certainly know how to do their part for the environment and ensure the future for their children. It is unfortunate the government, propped up by the Liberals, is unable to do the same.
Pay equity is another concern that is just as important as the other issues I have raised with Bill C-10. Within the Conservatives' bill are proposed changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent women from taking pay equity complaints to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. If Bill C-10 passes, complaints about pay equity will no longer go through the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but through the Public Service Labour Relations Board. If women have a bargaining agent working on their behalf, it will result in a $50,000 fine.
Pay equity was attacked in November's economic statement, and it is attacked again today in Bill C-10. Our caucus was and continues to be wholeheartedly against these proposed amendments, as are the other opposition parties. I am outraged by the proposed cuts to pay equity. I am saddened that these cuts, strongly condemned in the last session, are now okay enough for the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party to vote for their implementation.
Sudbury, like many other northern Ontario communities, draws its community spirit and cooperative nature from local unions. Sudbury is a better place because of the support and solidarity among the workers who characterize my community. This is another reason I cannot support Bill C-10.
Within the pages of the bill is a legislated public sector wage freeze for years. This measure could serve to invalidate the recently agreed collective agreements that secured wage increases above the austerity measures announced in budget 2009. This section also rolls back the RCMP's pay--