Mr. Speaker, I am in the habit of beginning my speeches by saying I am extremely happy to speak to a bill. In this case, however, with a time allocation motion having been moved, I have to say I am extremely disappointed for my colleagues who would also have liked to make the voices of their constituents heard in this House and who will be unable to do so. It is extremely disappointing to see that for at least the 20th time, time is being limited, and for a bill as gargantuan as this. It is simply scandalous. I am therefore extremely disappointed to be debating a bill that I would also describe as antidemocratic for the two reasons I have just mentioned.
Bill C-45 is the second omnibus bill introduced by the government this year—the second bill of this kind in less than seven months. This is certainly a record. At nearly 450 pages long, this is their second titanic bill. We have to ask ourselves whether the government has an iota of respect for democracy and parliamentary procedure. The answer is self-evident: no, it does not.
Why do I say this bill is antidemocratic? Because Bill C-45 is again going to amend over 40 different statutes, in addition to creating a new one. As was the case for Bill C-38, the various pieces of legislation this bill contains have nothing to do with one another. The bill will amend the Navigable Waters Protection Act, the Pension Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Grain Act, and more.
That is why, since the beginning, we have been calling for this bill to be split into several parts, as the leader of the official opposition proposed. The government quite simply has an obligation to agree to that proposal and refer the bill to 13 different committees, so that each of the parts that relate to each committee can be examined effectively and the committees can be allowed to hear the appropriate experts. This an obligation to which the government should be held, in view of that suggestion. The parliamentarians on those committees must also be allowed to present the amendments that are needed to make this bill acceptable.
The government prefers to bundle all these legislative changes into a single bill that will be examined by a single committee and ultimately submitted to a single vote. This is a farce; it is contempt for parliamentary democracy. This is the same thing that happened when the government forced its elephantine bill through Parliament: it is allowing us no opportunity for a thorough examination. The government is preventing the opposition from doing its job, which is to oversee the work on government bills. Instead of showing Canadians that a Conservative government has to be transparent and accountable, the Conservatives have decided to do the exact opposite. What they are proving, as I said, is the extent to which they hold parliamentary democracy in total contempt.
The Conservatives moved a time allocation motion this morning. I do not know how many they have now made since the beginning of this Parliament; I have simply stopped counting. If it were up to them, they would fax the bills to our offices and we would show up here two or three times a year to vote two or three times on a few bills, without examining them adequately. This is quite simply scandalous. Transparency and accountability, to this government, simply do not exist. They seem to be allergic to those concepts. They simply do not want to hear about it.
The Conservatives are introducing a bill like this to have hundreds of changes enacted, changes that I would describe as completely radical, without consulting Canadians—and yet consultation with voters and accountability of the government to the House that represents them are two of the fundamental principles of our parliamentary democracy.
We are not the only ones who think the government is lacking in transparency and accountability. We need only look at what the Parliamentary Budget Officer is having to do to get the information he needs. His job is to assess the budget measures that are in Bill C-38 and their impact. I wager that it will be exactly the same situation for Bill C-45. The government will do everything it can to throw obstacles in the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s way.
The Conservatives are big on giving bills grand titles that mean absolutely nothing, to my mind, while at the same time spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising for propaganda purposes. They have called this bill the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012. The title they have come up with may be a punchy one, but there is nothing in this gigantic bill that will create jobs or stimulate long-term economic growth.
Working people and their families are still going through hard times because of the 2008 recession and the current economic slowdown. They need the government to do something to help them get through these hard times.
The government’s response to their problems is a wonderful “economic action plan” that is eliminating more jobs than it creates. At the end of the day, the only people who are benefiting from the Conservatives' action plan are their friends in the oil companies. With this bill, the million and a half jobless Canadians are being left completely to their own devices by the government.
Bill C-45 will create no jobs, and we are not the only ones saying that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer contends that the budget will result in the loss of 43,000 Canadian jobs. In reality, the budget will cause the unemployment rate to rise. Canadians deserve a government that can create jobs, not raise the unemployment rate.
The measures in the budget are going to affect millions of Canadians. The Conservative government is imposing those measures at the same time as it is doing nothing to combat youth unemployment. As well, it is asking people to work longer in order to be eligible for old age security benefits.
According to the Conservative government, Canadians do not work enough. It is therefore going to cut paid holidays by changing the method of calculating how they are paid. Employees will no longer be entitled to holiday pay for a holiday that falls within the first 30 days after they are hired. As well, employees who are paid on commission will have to work for at least 12 weeks before they are entitled to holiday pay. Government employees are also affected significantly by this bill—as if they had not been affected enough already by the current and upcoming job cuts.
The Conservatives have poisoned the atmosphere in the public service because of how they have managed these changes. This is very serious, but it does not seem to bother our colleagues opposite. They keep hammering away, raising employees’ contribution rates to 50%, regardless of when they were hired. The retirement age will be pushed back from 60 to 65 for any employee hired after January 1, 2013. At present, public servants can take early retirement with no penalty after 30 years of continuous service. However, with this bill, employees hired after January 1, 2013, will be eligible for early retirement after 30 years’ service only if they are over the age of 60. Employees aged 55 and over with 25 years’ service or more will be eligible for a reduced pension.
We are very concerned about this. One group of workers will have to work longer in order to be entitled to the same pension plan as other employees, which is simply unfair.
The main job creation measure in Bill C-45 is the implementation of a temporary hiring tax credit for small businesses. In my opinion, this measure is insufficient because it gives employers a maximum credit of only $1,000, which is available only for 2012. In other words, once the bill has been passed, the year will be almost over and the measures will have a very limited application. Despite its flaws, we support this provision.
All these measures, which will be of no help to Canada's labour market, come on top of the major cuts the government is making to employment insurance. We questioned the Minister of Human Resources to try to make her listen to reason. She did an about-face and changed her approach, but the new approach is not much better.
The cuts to old age security will cost people up to $34,000 in benefits. Health transfers to the provinces will also be reduced by $31 billion.
It is important to remember that 100 inspectors lost their jobs and 300 positions at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were cut, which led to the biggest tainted beef crisis in Canadian history. Why? It is because the Conservatives did not listen to Canadians when making these many changes. This is no longer the Canada that Canadians believe in.
We will not let the government change the laws, policies and programs that Canadians believe in and that they are entitled to. We are going to stand in the government's way. The NDP has an economic plan to improve the health care system and services for Canadians. We are therefore going to oppose many measures in this bill.