Mr. Speaker, I too want to rise to speak to Government Motion No. 10, a motion to cut short the debate on the latest government crime bill, Bill C-59, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act . The bill itself addresses accelerated parole review. That is not the substance of the motion before us in the House today.
What we are debating today is the government's draconian use of House rules to stifle debate, to undermine the democratic process and to push through its agenda without regard to due process and without giving interested Canadians the ability to engage in the policy process.
Under this motion, the Conservatives are allowing just one day of debate on second reading, a mere four hours in committee, and one day for the report and third reading stages combined.
Canadians have seen this movie before. This is hardly the first time the government has expressed its disdain for the democratic process. I do not need to remind anyone in this House about the most egregious example, the government's prorogation of Parliament.
The Prime Minister has shown himself willing to shut Parliament for reasons ranging from the politically existential to the merely expedient and, of course, he had hoped that Canadians would not notice, or at least that they would not care. However, huge demonstrations and rallies from coast to coast to coast proved him wrong. Canadians did care, because they understood they were being silenced.
By having their elected representatives silenced, Canadians lost their voice in the single most important democratic institution in this country, and they were enraged. Canadians angrily denounced the Prime Minister's secretive behaviour and for not meeting even the minimum standards of parliamentary accountability and democracy. The reaction caught the Conservatives off guard. They were counting on the fact that Canadians would not care, but they did care, and post prorogation polling showed that the government was paying a price.
Yet here we are just a few short months later and the government has not learned a thing. It is still intent on silencing its critics. While the Conservatives may not be doing it by shutting down Parliament altogether this time, they are invoking archaic rules to ensure that their legislative agenda cannot be debated properly. They always do it when they are trying to pull a fast one.
Ontarians will remember only too well when the Conservatives pulled the same manoeuvre to silence opposition to the HST. They used a time allocation motion then too to try to sweep their culpability under the rug as quickly as possible. Ontarians were outraged. No other issue has generated as many phone calls, as many emails, as many letters or as many faxes as that reviled tax. My office was swamped with feedback in opposition to that tax hike in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. People were angry, and their anger was exacerbated by the way the government tried to silence their opposition by rushing the bill through the House.
In the end, the people who wanted to have their voices heard were right. The HST did not help them to survive the recession, and the much touted rebate for some families fell far short of making up for the increased tax burden that every Ontario family now has to bear. In fact, the average tax increase as a result of the HST is now costing Ontario families $1,200 more a year.
Instead of pursuing its headlong rush to get the HST passed, the government should have listened more carefully to what thoughtful Canadians were saying. The HST is not an issue where businesses are on one side and Canadian citizens are on the other. Businesses too are feeling the impact of this tax.
I had the privilege of being invited to an annual get-together by the Concession Street Business Improvement Association in my riding of Hamilton Mountain. This association represents small businesses on the oldest commercial street in my riding. I had barely been there for five minutes when the then president of the association made it absolutely clear that he was 100% opposed to the HST. The additional cost imposed on his operations, on everything from heat and electricity to the cost of transportation, was making it increasingly difficult for his family-run business to survive. That sentiment was echoed by dozens of other businesses represented at the event.
Emails continued to flood in to prove that the HST should never have been rushed through the House. Here are the comments of someone who has been running a financial advisory business for over 10 years. His business not only contributes directly to the economy, but also helps local residents plan for and achieve their financial goals. He described the HST as a new tax on savings. The combined 13% tax directly impacts the savings of all Canadians who own investment funds. It costs Ontario residents hundreds of millions of dollars every year in extra taxes that otherwise could be put into their retirements savings.
Since it is tax time, let me spell it out for the House. Consider a small investor who has $20,000 in mutual funds and contributes $4,000 each year. Over a 20-year period, the HST would mean an additional $4,000 in taxes. This investor would lose an entire year's worth of savings. Because the HST is being applied to the cost of managing the mutual fund, investors would have to pay it each and every year. It is ironic that the more people save, the more tax they will pay.
At a time when the finance minister is on the record as wanting to find a solution to the crisis in retirement income security, it is mind-boggling that he implemented a tax that only makes things worse. Considering that he still suggests that businesses in Canada wanted the HST, it is clear that he did not do enough listening.
Instead of rushing the implementing legislation through this House by means of a time allocation motion, he should have allowed for comprehensive committee hearings so that he could have had the benefit of learning from the experience of businesses of all sizes and from Canadians, particularly in Ontario and B.C. However, when the government curtails debate, it deprives itself of that opportunity and Canadians are worse off for it.
Here is what one senior told me:
I am a senior that must work part-time to be able to maintain my home and sustain a reasonable level of daily living and I am very concerned with regard to the blending of the two taxes.
Every day we are hearing that this utility, (hydro, water, sewer rates, bus fares, garbage collection, etc.) or real estate taxes are going up and we are just expected to be able to find the money from our megre income to meet these new obligations. If we are able to drive a car the ever increasing cost of gasoline with the government taxes makes it almost impossible to utilize the vehicle without being required to sacrifice somewhere else in the household budget. With the cost of heating fuels going through the roof it is becoming almost impossible to heat your quarters without being deprived of some other part of your budget.... Do these people have any idea what the average senior lives through each month just to get by. Where in God's name do they expect seniors to get the extra costs from - when the well is dry—the well is dry!!
Clearly, both the Conservative government here in Ottawa and the McGuinty government provincially are still paying the price for the rushed implementation of the HST, and there is absolutely no doubt that it will be front and centre in the upcoming election campaigns.
Rushing legislation through the House has a political cost. Issues cannot just be swept under the rug. Canadians demand to be heard and Canadians deserve to be heard.
For the Bloc to be complicit in muzzling elected members by teaming up with the Conservatives on this motion is shameful. Bloc members have always expressed their outrage at time allocation motions when they have dealt with back-to-work legislation and other matters of public interest. Now that it serves their own political agenda, they are selling out their principles for the sake of expediency.
Canadians want their elected representatives to study and debate bills, not to run roughshod over Parliament to play wedge political games, as the Bloc and Conservatives are doing here. It is important to study the bills that come before us. In fact, as elected members of Parliament, that is our responsibility.
While this is not the time to debate Bill C-59 itself, let me be clear that of course Canadians want to see white collar criminals who have defrauded Canadians serve appropriate sentences. We all get angry when someone like Vincent Lacroix defrauds people of tens of millions of dollars and then walks out of jail early. The law should come down hard on white collar financial crimes and sentences should be tough on criminals like Earl Jones whose actions wiped out people's life savings.
However, working for fair and appropriate sentencing that keeps our streets safe requires striking a balance. That means bringing bills to committee and hearing from expert witnesses. That is how we make Parliament work for Canadians. It is not by bringing in draconian time allocation motions that try to muzzle MPs, but by debating legislation in committee and in the House so that the interests of Canadians are heard and protected.
I urge all members of this House to vote against Motion No. 10 and allow the legislative process to proceed as it should.