Madam Speaker, the member knows I am the runner-up this year, so I am going to get a chance to get my speech.
But I congratulate him on the honour that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance received this week. He has a good speaking voice, too.
In any event, in this bill we know there are some items that were not pre-disclosed. It is an 880-page bill.
That bill went to committee, but if that bill includes a number of items that are not included or not part of the mandate or the discipline of the members who are at that committee, how could they possibly give it the due diligence? How could they possibly give it the attention? It is like having a dozen serious, detailed pieces of legislation all put into one bill and treating it as if it were one. That means the whole process of second reading, referral to committee and hearing of witnesses, report stage, third reading, all of these things, are done once. Yet in the budget implementation bill, there are items that in themselves could have been a separate bill and would have required substantial debate within the House at second reading, substantial review and due diligence activity at committee to ask the tough questions of the government, as well as the making of amendments at report stage, and then, of course, the rest of the legislative process.
The government has preempted that. It has preempted that process by including these pieces of legislation.
One of the big changes we have, as I referred to in a question earlier, is significant changes to the rules, the laws of Canada, as they relate to environmental assessments. Our environment committee would have liked to have had an opportunity to call experts and Canadians and to promote public participation in terms of significant environmental issues. Buried in Bill C-9 are provisions that would preempt the five-year review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
That is a legislative review. It is something that we do very often.
As a matter fact, I have one coming to my ethics committee, hopefully early in the fall. It is a legislated, mandated review of the Lobbying Act.
These are important pieces of legislation and they are to be reviewed to ensure that they continue to provide the representation of the public interest.
Bill C-9 also allows the minister to dictate the scope of environmental assessments. It leaves it up to the minister, delegated authority, effectively, that the minister can truncate the scope of work that would be done. Environmental assessments are done because Canadians have said we need to know what will be the consequences of a variety of initiatives or projects that may take place.
This now gives the authority to the minister to limit the scope and the number of environmental assessments that will take place. Does it paint a picture? It is going to weaken the public participation.
We always talk about the importance of representing our constituents. Yet the government, through this ploy of an omnibus bill and throwing this in and not allowing the full amount of debate, has destroyed the opportunities that Canadians have to deal with important issues such as the environment.
The government does not have the environment as a priority. It thought that Kyoto was a socialist plot trying to transfer money from the rich to the poor. It embarrassed us at Copenhagen. It has no priorities and no plan on the environment, yet it is going further to weaken the legislative tools and the rights of Canadians with regard the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
That is not accountable. By burying it in this bill, it is not transparent. It is not plain, it is not open, it is not clear, it is not concise, it is not correct. It is wrong. The government boasts about accountability but does it with its fingers crossed behind its back. It does not want to be accountable.
As a matter of fact, the government is even ordering witnesses not to appear before committees, who have been summoned under the law to appear before those committees. It is telling them not to appear, because it does not want the committee and Canadians to hear what witnesses have to say about the obstruction of the Government of Canada in terms of the release of public information under the Access to Information Act.
Is that accountability? No. It is not accountable. In fact, it is promoting secrecy. It is promoting, “I'm doing it our way and we are not going to tell anybody anything”. This is the kind of attitude that the government has shown.
There are many other examples. We have Canada Post Corporation. One of the changes that is going to happen as a consequence of Bill C-9 is that buried in it is a little clause that is going to change the Canada Post Corporation Act to say that the exclusive privilege referred to in subsection 14(1), which is the privilege of Canada Post to collect and deliver the mail, does not apply to letters intended for delivery to an addressee outside of Canada.
Can we imagine the impact of that? Can we fathom the reason that the government would bury this amendment in a budget implementation bill?
Is there more? Of course there is.
How about Atomic Energy of Canada Limited? Its offices are located in the Sheridan Park research centre, a couple of hundred yards behind my home. It employs a very large number of engineers, technicians and experts. They work on projects, whether they be related to Candu or other reactors where we are dealing with the production of medical isotopes or whatever. Somehow the government believes it can take pieces out of AECL; it can privatize it; it can sell it off.
We do not have the confidence. The government is saying by this bill and how it has handled AECL that it does not care about AECL anymore. It does not care about how we are going to provide for medical isotopes. It does not care about the reputation of the extraordinary technological knowledge, experience and expertise we have in Candu reactors and AECL's future.
All the government cares about is that it can sell off an asset and get some capital injected by someone else, not by the government. Why? It is because it has destroyed the fiscal position of the country.
The Conservative government inherited a $13 billion surplus from the prior government in 2006, and now it has driven it down to a $50 billion deficit. It is going to go higher and unemployment is still going to go higher, notwithstanding the recent reports.
This is a government that is scrambling with the lamest of approaches to try to capitalize on asset sales or on disposing of other rights or authorities of the government, passing on future profits for cash today so that it can say it is getting the deficit down.
The bill should be defeated because the government has not been accountable.