Madam Speaker, I am happy to add my voice to the debate on the omnibus budget implementation act, Bill C-38. The budget is being described as a Trojan Horse, and for good reason. It is yet another omnibus bill from a government that favours broad, sweeping legislation that defies appropriate scrutiny and oversight. It is another attempt to baffle Canadians with a huge bill that does too much.
To top it off, we have time allocation on it, which is no longer a surprise from a government that seems to consider closure as a normal feature of the parliamentary cycle. That is why we say it is a Trojan Horse, and it is on a fast track to boot.
However, as the official opposition we have given the government the opportunity to appear to be a little more democratic and have proposed a solution to make Bill C-38 better match the way that Parliament is supposed to work. In fact, New Democrats are really just calling for respect for Parliament and long-standing tradition when we say that the budget should be split into five separate, manageable pieces of legislation.
It is the right thing to do. At the very least, it would allow for proper scrutiny by this House and from the appropriate committees. Sadly, we know that the government feels the need to rush this bill past Canadian eyes and will not consent to the reasonable oversight that is the job of Parliament and parliamentarians. In that respect, we are not being allowed to do our job, and that is a shame.
Before I go any further, there is something I would like to address right away, and that is how the Conservatives apply their own logic to NDP decisions. I am sure there will come a day when the Conservatives will point out the few useful measures in this budget and criticize the NDP for not supporting them.
However, I would like to point out that we absolutely cannot support the budget because this is really an omnibus bill—and it is therefore impossible to study it thoroughly—and because blind environmental deregulation is the dominant theme.
I hope the Conservatives will remember this before they engage in their revisionist history, but I might as well believe in the goose that lays the golden eggs; there are so many other things that I would rather see and hope for. The NDP understands that this budget does not at all reflect Canadians' priorities.
New Democrats are listening, and we know that Canadians do not want their environment gutted in the name of economic expediency. Canadian families do not want regulations tossed aside because they are not convenient for big oil and foreign investors who only want to export Canada's resources with a minimum benefit to Canadians, but that is what the budget does.
Canadians do not believe there should be a time limit on processes designed to protect our environment. That speaks to a mindset that does not appreciate nature's delicate balance. I am reminded of the phrase “fools rush in”; those words are not the lyrics of a song, but an age-old maxim that speaks to the wisdom that time and perspective allow for. When we are dealing with things as sensitive as the great salmon and steelhead rivers that are part of the constituency represented by my friend the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, there can be no such thing as taking too much time to make the right decision, and I am sure that the majority of Canadians feel the same as we do in the official opposition feel.
New Democrats know that Canadians do not want to gamble with our children's future, but that is what a full one-third of this budget does.
New Democrats get it. They get it that Canadians do not want power concentrated more and more at the cabinet level, but that is what this budget would do by allowing the cabinet to overturn National Energy Board rulings that it does not like. These are not the priorities of Canadian families, who want their environment to be protected; they are the priorities of investment bankers, who want to win at any cost, and that is not the Canadian way.
We are being asked to gut environmental regulations and legislation that other Parliaments have carefully considered. We are being asked to undo years and decades of work in just one week of debate. How is that reasonable? It is not, and Canadians will not be fooled.
Over these past few weeks we have watched the Minister of Natural Resources rushing about, claiming that the sky will fall if Parliament does not fast-track the budget and that somehow our energy reserves—the ones that the government cannot get out of Canada quickly enough—will be cast aside as undesirable by big oil and international investors if we do not move fast.
However, that is not the case at all. The only thing that will happen if we do not swiftly gut our environmental regulations and rig the deck for big oil is that Canadians will pay attention to what the government is up to and rain down a chorus of disapproval.
It shows us how the government is worried that downloading federal environmental responsibilities and dumping those costs onto the provinces, territories and future generations will come under the watchful eye of most Canadians who actually care about the environment, and that what is left of their support will disappear.
The government is worried that anglers will figure out what is happening to the Fisheries Act and that cottagers and campers will start to wonder if their lake is next. I know this much: Canadians did not want protection of fish habitat removed from the Fisheries Act and replaced with market-based language. Canadians get it. They understand that fish live in ecosystems that are complex webs of food items and interdependencies.
This is knowledge shared by elementary school students who study basic science, but it is ignored by a government keen to remove all barriers to development so that it can please its friends who want to fast-track a pipeline through some of the most pristine parts of British Columbia.
It is a bit much to see the changes to the Fisheries Act. They came just days after I received an update from the Bright Lake Association celebrating the fact that the water in the lake was so pure that it could sustain a population of northern redhorse suckers, a fish that can be considered an indicator species for excellent waterway health, much like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Those suckers will not receive any protection under the amended Fisheries Act; the preoccupation of the act is now commercial and sport fisheries, not habitat and systems.
If we ask someone who fly-fishes about how fish habitat works, that person will tell us about bugs that grow under rocks and mate in trees. They will tell us about prey fish, like sculpin and stickleback, that will lose protection if the Fisheries Act is changed to discard the protection of fish habitat. The government claims it is only helping farmers who have been hamstrung by the Fisheries Act, but the government is not acknowledging that there are other ways to fix those problems. It claims it is stopping the Fisheries Act from protecting unnatural habitats; we know that the government knows all about unnatural waterways and fake lakes.
We also know that the government has spent more hard-earned tax money for self-promotion in the past few years than it has for protecting the Great Lakes. I and my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River and many communities across northern Ontario know that the government has actually cut funding for the Lake Superior Binational Forum, and we are extremely concerned.
It had no end of cash to tell us what a great job it was doing to build that infamous fake lake. I say Great Lakes over fake lakes every time, and the government should get back to protecting fish habitat in Canada or the anglers of this country will be casting for something in the next election that the Conservatives will not like at all.
What is obvious is that the budget marks a crossroads in Canada. It attempts to put an end to publicly scrutinized development of resources and puts blind faith in private sector self-regulations and regulators. It marks the end of a national vision and the ascent of a mindset that sees Canada as a corporation.
We now have two very distinct political parties in Canada. One believes in science-based, carefully considered regulatory practices and reporting. It is a party that sees the benefit of careful consideration and long-term planning for our natural resources. It cherishes the treasure we have inherited and must carefully steward and ultimately deliver to future generations.
The other party wants to rig the deck for its corporate friends. It guts our environmental legislative and regulatory framework. It wraps itself in small, divisive issues, but it sets to work on great sweeping changes that cut to the heart of the Canada most of us cherish.
The Conservatives see only opportunity and blind themselves to negative outcomes while they deafen themselves to dissenting opinion. They have little regard for things like endangered species, and are well on the way to becoming as--