Mr. Speaker, today I will join many of my colleagues in opposing the legislative monstrosity that is Bill C-38. The stated purpose of this omnibus bill, which is over 420 pages long, is to implement budget 2012, but it contains numerous measures that have nothing to do with the budget per se and that were never announced to Canadians.
Bill C-38 constitutes a direct attack on transparency, in terms of both its substance and the way the government is imposing its ideological vision of the country on Canadians by attempting to stifle and discredit all opposition to its dogmatic approach.
The Conservatives began by limiting the amount of time opposition parties could spend studying and debating this massive and destructive bill. They know that the devil is in the details, and they do not want to give us a chance to warn Canadians about what they are doing.
The fact that members had very little time to carefully review and analyze this bill makes it practically impossible to get an accurate picture of how Bill C-38 will affect people. This way of doing things is unacceptable and proves the government's contempt for Parliament and our institutions.
The Conservatives also have an unfortunate tendency to make fun of those who oppose their vision and their way of doing things, which, frankly, are better suited to an autocracy than to the Parliament of Canada. Those who oppose Bill C-38, whether they be parliamentarians or ordinary Canadians, are often described by the members opposite as people who are trying to create division in Canada or who simply do not understand what the government is trying to do.
Opponents are described as big bad socialists who are manipulating the media and public opinion and who simply want to impose their will on Canadians no matter what the cost and with no thought for the common good. This typically Conservative way of talking about opponents is an insult to Canadians' intelligence.
Did the fall of the Wildrose Party not teach them that Canadians do not like mean-spirited generalizations? In my riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, I have even met people who were members of the Conservative Party but who sent their membership cards back to the party in protest at this way of doing things. They approve of the ideas being put forward by the Conservatives, but they refuse to support this lack of democracy and the way the Conservatives are forcing positions on Canadians that they do not share.
Canadians have the right to accurate and honest information about what the government is doing on their behalf. In its election campaign, this government promised everyone that it would be a transparent and accountable government. But that has not been the case since it came into power. Quite the contrary.
Bill C-38 is further proof that the Conservatives cannot be trusted. Canadians hesitated for a long time to give a majority to this government because they were afraid of its hidden agenda. They were right to be afraid.
As I mentioned before, this budget implementation bill goes well beyond the budget and contains a number of important changes that were not mentioned in the election campaign or even afterwards. This bill will forever change Canadian society, and it will not be for the better.
At least one-third of this bill seeks to greatly undermine if not virtually decimate the system of environmental protections, assessments and regulations that protect Canadian fauna, waterways and ecosystems, to permit the unrestricted development of our natural resources, just like in the Duplessis era.
The Conservatives do not have a strategy for developing renewable energy and reducing the use of fossil fuels. Pipeline projects, which are so near and dear to the Conservatives' hearts, will be imposed on Canadians against their will in order to export our natural resources. Decidedly, with this government, the great darkness is back.
Bill C-38 considerably diminishes the Auditor General's oversight powers, including by eliminating his mandatory review of the financial statements of 12 government agencies. In light of the giant fiasco that is the F-35 procurement process and the lengths this government has gone to in order to hide the real cost of this purchase from Canadians, I can see why the government does not want the Auditor General to have too many powers.
This legislative Trojan Horse also seeks to raise the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. This change, which will not affect many MPs here right now, will directly affect my generation and will make our seniors in need even more vulnerable. The Prime Minister knows full well that the current system is still viable for many years to come and that these draconian cuts are unnecessary.
The government would save more money if it stopped wasting money on its plans for building megaprisons and on its questionable military procurements. It would not have to punish future generations, as it is doing right now.
We understand why the Prime Minister wanted to escape to Switzerland, rather than make that announcement here in Canada.
I could go on for hours about the devastating effect that budget 2012 and Bill C-38 will have on Canadian society and its institutions.
However, I would now like to focus more on how this bill will affect the people of my riding, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
Contrary to what the Conservatives seem to believe, not everyone in this country shares their vision and supports their way of governing—far from it, in fact. Every day, people come and see me and tell me how ashamed they are of this government, of Canada's image in the rest of the world and of the Conservatives' lack of environmental conscience.
The people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier cannot relate to this government, since it does not share their values and it prefers to ignore their needs and requests. People are feeling betrayed and abandoned by the Conservatives, who appear to be governing only for the benefit of their friends.
This government keeps repeating that the budget focuses on job creation, yet the Parliamentary Budget Officer has confirmed that over 43,000 jobs will be lost, including over 19,000 in the public service.
The fact is that this budget forecasts higher unemployment, of all things. How is that good news for the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier who have lost their jobs or are about to? It is very hard to follow this government's logic.
The first round of cuts at CFB Valcartier has been announced. At least 160 military support jobs will be lost, and that is just what we know so far.
The government is so stingy with the details that information comes out in dribs and drabs. That makes it very hard to get a clear sense of how their decisions will affect people.
With its 7,000 employees, CFB Valcartier is the largest federal employer in my riding, and I know that job losses there will have a very negative impact on the region's economy.
The cuts will affect about 100 families in my riding and the surrounding area, and merchants in neighbouring municipalities will feel the pinch as well, because local people will have less and less money to spend on their products and keep the economy going.
I cannot understand how Conservative members from the Quebec City region can endorse measures that will have such a negative impact on the local economy in their own ridings. That makes no sense to me.
In addition, if these cuts in support services to the military are combined with the cuts in direct services provided in the offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, questions may well be asked about the real consideration that this government has given to the military in the Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and Quebec City regions.
Furthermore, absolutely nothing has been done to help the forestry workers in my riding, who have seen their mills go bankrupt one after another and who find themselves unemployed and unable to support their families.
There is no investment in helping the forestry industry, which is a very important sector of Quebec's economy, and particularly in the Portneuf region.
The Conservatives boast about having done more than anyone else to create manufacturing jobs, but where are the results? Where are the jobs in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier?
Finally, the residents in my riding are particularly concerned about the major changes that this government wants to make to our system of environmental assessments for the benefit of big oil companies.
Have the Conservatives learned nothing from past experience? This week, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reported that there are tens of thousands of contaminated federal sites, whose decontamination would cost more than $7 billion.
One of these sites, located in Shannon, is well known to Quebeckers. This tragic story of groundwater contaminated by TCE is unfortunately still going on today, and this government is refusing to live up to its responsibilities and take quick action to decontaminate the affected sites.
All possible measures must be taken to prevent toxic chemicals from finding their way into our ecosystems. One of the best ways of doing so is to ensure that comprehensive environmental assessments are carried out before each new natural resources development project. The time period over which these assessments are carried out must never be reduced, and the opportunity to speak out on such projects must never be restricted, yet two of the new measures this government wants to impose on us would do just that.
The residents of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and particularly the residents of Shannon know only too well the devastation caused by the contamination of water and soil and do not want these sorts of tragedies to happen again.
How can this government justify putting the lives of Canadians in danger with Bill C-38? It is absolutely unthinkable.
In conclusion—and I know I only have a little time left—I want to use my time to congratulate my colleague from Parkdale-High Park, who proposed a first-rate motion to amend this bill, which is totally unacceptable in its current form. I would like to congratulate her on her outstanding work on this issue. The solutions she is putting forward are sensible, rational and reasonable and should be implemented. My colleagues and I will continue to work with this aim in mind.