Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-45, the second budget implementation act. This is yet another massive omnibus budget bill, which is 414 pages in length with 516 separate clauses amending more than 60 different laws. It is simply too big for Parliament to consider properly in just a short period of time. The Conservatives are counting on us rushing this through at record speed and they are trying to avoid real scrutiny in this Parliament.
The Conservatives are continuing their reckless abuse of power by using these huge omnibus bills and underhanded procedural manoeuvres to force unpopular policies through. They are doing this despite public outcry from coast to coast to coast. They are using this so-called budget bill to gut the Navigable Waters Protection Act, redefine aboriginal fisheries and amend the Indian Act without consulting first nation communities, despite the government's constitutional responsibility and duty to consult. They are using this so-called budget act to shield the government from lawsuits by creating loopholes in Canada's environmental laws and retroactively changing the Customs Act. They are eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission and implementing an overhaul of the Canadian Grain Commission.
These are just a few examples of elements of the bill that are significant and have nothing to do with the fiscal policy of the government, which is actually what a budget and a budget implementation act ought to be focused on. The Conservatives are rushing through these changes so that Canadians will not realize what has happened until it is too late. They have established a pattern of overwhelming our democratic system with overloaded budget bills that have nothing or little to do with the actual budgets themselves.
Buried in these massive bills are a number of mistakes. In fact, the Conservatives are already using Bill C-45 to correct mistakes they made in Bill C-38 last spring. The mistakes range from poorly written transition provisions in the new environmental assessment law to reinserting protections in the Fisheries Act that were mistakenly or inadvertently erased, to clarifying rules for approving foreign investments in our banks. These were mistakes in Bill C-38 in the spring. They slipped through the cracks because they were in a huge omnibus bill that denied Parliament the opportunity to thoroughly study and more importantly, not just to study but ultimately to vote on these changes individually.
Now the Conservatives want to fix some of these mistakes with measures in yet another omnibus budget bill that they want to rush into law. In this budget implementation bill the Conservatives are breaking promises made in budget 2012. The Conservatives want to use Bill C-45 to take public policy decisions that are contrary to what was in the budget in 2012. It is a farce when the Conservatives say that everything in Bill C-45 can be found in the budget. The reality is that some of what is in the legislation is completely opposite to what was promised in the budget of 2012.
Page 146 of the budget states that “[O]ver the next few years, the Canada Employment Insurance Financing Board...will continue to set the rate” for EI premiums. However, Bill C-45 explicitly gets rid of the board's authority to set EI rates.
Here is another example. Page 268 of the budget keeps the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission, but Bill C-45 actually eliminates the commission altogether. We all remember how earlier this year the Conservatives broke their promise not to cut old age security.
It is also important to realize what is not in Bill C-45. Despite the size and breadth of this omnibus budget bill and the promises it breaks, Bill C-45 is remarkable as well for what it does not address. There is nothing in the bill to address some of the most serious challenges facing Canada. Canadians have identified growing income inequality as one of the biggest challenges facing the country, but there is nothing in Bill C-45 to address growing income gaps. There is nothing in Bill C-45 to address growing gaps between the provinces.
Canada's resource-driven recovery has increased, in fact, inequality among the regions in many ways. While it is positive that we have all of these natural resources, they are largely concentrated in a couple of provinces and the gap between those provinces in a resource-driven recovery and the other provinces is growing. I will give an example.
A province like Alberta is increasing education spending dramatically and I commend it for doing that. Investing in education is a good thing. At the same time, Nova Scotia's provincial government is cutting funding for public education by 30%. Therefore, it is not just a question of income inequality, it is a question of equality of opportunity. This is where we need a robust federal government that is working with the provinces, meeting with the provinces and ensuring that we do not see today's income inequality become tomorrow's inequality of opportunity.
This growing divide between the provinces is a major issue in Canada. In the last 12 months, over 40% of Canada's new full-time jobs were in just three provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador. These are the provinces with the greatest wealth of natural resources. It is where we can find 40% of the new jobs, but only 15% of the population. Provinces without resources are losing workers and being forced to slash funding for social programs. These are the programs that ensure equality of opportunity for the next generation.
There was a time when the Prime Minister said he would meet regularly with the premiers to discuss these types of issues. There was a time that ministers of intergovernmental affairs were senior members of the cabinet. People like the right hon. Joe Clark served as an intergovernmental affairs minister in the Mulroney government. Lucienne Robillard was a former minister in the provincial government in Quebec. The member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, a very senior expert on intergovernmental and constitutional affairs, was a minister of intergovernmental affairs.
Under the Conservatives, the minister of intergovernmental affairs is, effectively, a minister without portfolio. The minister of intergovernmental affairs does not have any standing in the Conservative government. That is not purely a reflection of the current minister, it is a reflection of an attitude toward the provinces that pervades the government.
The Prime Minister's refusal to meet with the premiers, his my way or the highway approach, has created a vacuum of federal leadership on these issues. Now we have a budget bill with no serious plan to work with the provinces on programs that would deal with issues such as income inequality and the growing inequality of opportunity, programs like a national early learning strategy or a national lifelong skills development strategy or federal leadership in working with the provinces to restore the honour of skilled trades, which is something that is incredibly important in Canada at a time when we have people without jobs and jobs without people.
Despite the uncertainty of the economy and the enormity of the challenges we face as a nation, there is precious little in Bill C-45 to help create jobs for today and jobs for the future. In fact, the spring budget bill actually made income inequality worse with cuts to OAS and EI. Bill C-45 would actually cut the very programs that encourage job creation and help our economy grow. It would cut SR&ED tax credits.
We have heard from industry, the science community, the biotech community and the manufacturers that the SR&ED program is important. The government would actually cut it. It would kill the corporate mineral exploration and development tax credits, which is dangerously short-sighted at a time when it is difficult for the mining and junior mining industries to raise money.
It also would kill the Atlantic investment tax credit for oil, gas and mining at a time when the Atlantic Canadian economy is still facing significant challenges. It would do nothing to address Canada's dangerously high levels of household debt. The fact is that for every $1 of annual income, Canadian families have $1.63 of household debt.
There is nothing to address these major and important issues that are actually related to the fiscal priorities of Canadians in the budget bill. Instead, the Conservatives are addressing a lot of other issues that have nothing to do with the fiscal reality of the country or the fiscal priorities of the government.