Mr. Speaker, here we are at report stage for Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. The Bloc Québécois obviously voted against this Conservative budget at second reading because, once again, it does not meet the economic, social, environmental and financial needs of Quebec.
Nevertheless, with the complicity of the Liberal opposition, the bill was adopted at second reading and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for thorough study.
What I find grievous is that the bill goes against two unanimous votes of the National Assembly of Quebec. We must remember that the Quebec nation was recognized, here in the House, and that this Prime Minister promised that there would be open federalism.
Quebec's unanimous request to the government for $2.2 billion in financial compensation for harmonizing the sales tax was met with refusal even though agreements totalling $6.86 billion were signed with five other provinces .
What can we say about the government's desire to meddle in the jurisdictions of the provinces and of Quebec by creating its national securities commission, even though Quebec voted unanimously against it? Quebec's entire financial sector is mobilizing against this power grab. An editorial in La Presse, a paper owned by the Power Corporation and dedicated to defending federalism in Quebec, stated: “The expression 'predatory federalism' is overused but that is what this comes down to.”
What I find appalling is that the government is using this bill to make significant amendments to other laws. It does not have the courage to introduce and defend these amendments by introducing separate bills according to our democratic parliamentary rules.
At report stage, the NDP is proposing amendments in order to remove six parts of this bill. It makes sense and it is important that we support these amendments.
In the few minutes available to them, the witnesses that we heard in committee told us that they were dismayed by the lack of consideration given to such important matters as Canada Post's exclusive privilege, the privatization of AECL, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Employment Insurance Act.
Part 15 of the bill is entitled Canada Post Corporation Act, and it would allow Canada Post's competitors to collect mail in Canada and Quebec and ship it abroad. The fact that this measure is included in the bill shows the insidious way the Conservative government works and how it wants to completely deregulate the crown corporation.
The Bloc Québécois is strongly opposed to privatizing Canada Post, even partially. This crown corporation must remain a public agency and maintain universal services with uniform rates throughout Canada.
Many Quebeckers are concerned about part 18, which would privatize Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. There are no assurances in part 18 that the federal government will keep doing its duty and providing a supply of medical isotopes. The federal government must keep looking for suppliers of medical isotopes.
Part 24 of the bill amends the Employment Insurance Act. The Bloc Québécois called for substantial improvements to the system, including increasing the program's wage replacement rate to 60% of maximum insurable earnings, eliminating the waiting period, standardizing the qualification requirements at 360 hours of work, basing benefits on the 12 best weeks of insurable earnings and making self-employed workers eligible for regular benefits.
More generally, the government should submit a plan for reimbursing the funds diverted to its own accounts from the employment insurance fund. It should also drop its obvious intention to loot this fund once again; the fund does not belong to the government.
Instead, the current bill imposes the following measures.
The Conservatives' 2008 budget created a new crown corporation, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board, reporting to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.
This board's duties included administering a separate bank account. Any annual surpluses in the employment insurance fund were supposed to be retained and invested until needed to cover the costs of the program.
Budget 2010 closes the board's separate bank account, the EI account, and creates a new one, the employment insurance operating account.
The government is permanently eliminating the accumulated surplus in the EI account, effective retroactively to January 1, 2009.
This account will therefore no longer exist and will be replaced by the employment insurance operating account, which will start from zero. Magically, the EI surplus, which amounted to more than $57 billion on March 31, 2009, according to the Public Accounts of Canada for 2008-09, will disappear for good. I should point out that the money came from employers' and employees' contributions.
That part of the bill absolutely must be removed. It would be scandalous to penalize workers in Quebec and Canada like that.
The Bloc Québécois has a number of reservations about other provisions in the Conservatives' budget implementation bill.
For example, with respect to part 1 of the bill, which covers tax measures for individuals and corporations, the Bloc Québécois is particularly concerned about corporate tax strategies, specifically those involving tax havens.
We must eliminate access to tax havens. The six big Canadian banks reported net profits of $5.3 billion in the first quarter of 2010. That is all very well, but why should they continue to avoid billions in taxes thanks to their subsidiaries in tax havens? The Bloc Québécois wants to eliminate this practice and make the banks pay their fair share of taxes.
Companies use tax havens to evade taxes too. According to the Auditor General's data, companies save up to $600 million per year by doing business in tax havens.
The Bloc Québécois is calling on the government to walk the walk instead of proposing pseudo-solutions made up of nothing but words.
Still on the subject of banking, the Bloc Québécois has serious reservations about Ottawa's centralizing agenda with respect to credit unions.
Part 17 of the bill would amend the Bank Act to enable credit unions to incorporate as banks. This measure amends the Bank Act to create a framework allowing credit unions to incorporate as banks. The model is based on the framework applicable to other federally regulated financial institutions.
Although it is presented as optional, the Bloc Québécois is concerned that the amendment might actually reflect the government's hidden agenda to force credit unions to come under federal jurisdiction.
Once again, the federal government is demonstrating its desire to centralize power and decision-making at Quebec's expense.
The Bloc Québécois will therefore support the amendments proposed by the NDP, but the rest of the bill will still be unacceptable to Quebec.