Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill of more than 450 pages. Not only is the bill's content an affront to the democratic process, but so is the way in which the government intends to ram it through without proper examination. The Conservatives know it is inappropriate to make so many sweeping changes to so many different areas in a budget bill.
They know it is inappropriate to include a series of previously unannounced measures in a budget bill, like the measures that contribute to a less transparent and more secretive environment, including a massive gutting of the powers of the Auditor General.
They know it is inappropriate to give themselves the power to change employment insurance rules without the approval of Parliament. They know it is inappropriate to gut environmental protection and rewrite Canada's fisheries laws in a budget bill. But they do not care.
The Conservative government members have made it very clear over and over again that they do not respect this House and, by extension, they do not respect the very people we were all elected to represent in this House.
I was elected to represent the people of my constituency and my community. They expect more from the current government, which does not even blink while undermining this Parliament by tabling a massive bill that goes far beyond the budget. Clearly, its objective is to ram through its radical Conservative agenda while hiding from oversight and avoiding accountability.
In an attempt to restore some sanity to this House and ensure a proper review of this bill, which is mostly made up of non-financial elements, the New Democrats have asked the government to work with us. That is why yesterday we asked Parliament to split the bill in order to allow for an appropriate review of it, which must include relevant committees hearing from experts about these sweeping changes being proposed.
Instead, what the Conservatives have proposed is to create a monster subcommittee to study all the changes, which is just another way to avoid accountability for measures they are hiding in this Trojan Horse budget bill, a budget bill that does not help our economy or get people back to work. It most certainly does not represent the priorities of the people in Surrey North or people across this country.
Last month, I held a public forum on the budget in my riding to ask my constituents what their concerns and priorities were. They said they did not understand why the government would add two more years before they could qualify for the OAS, when the program has been proven to be sustainable. Both the PBO and the government's own research team has shown that the program is sustainable.
They could not comprehend why the Conservatives would cancel the long gun registry when it helps to save lives. They thought that the government's insistence on destroying the registry records is ridiculous and reckless.
My constituents further told me that they did not understand why the government is paying lip service to the problem of foreign credential assessment and recognition, and not addressing the real shortage of doctors, nurses and medical professionals in our hospitals.
They want a national transit strategy and effective transit to facilitate economic growth in our region. They do not understand why the government would not make that a priority when every other G8 country but Canada has a national transit strategy.
They were very concerned about the protection of salmon habitat and the small and medium-size fishing industry in coastal British Columbia.
They want the government to protect our food security and implement the labelling of GMO foods.
They also do not understand why the Conservatives would dismantle the Wheat Board that was protecting our farmers.
They further told me that they do not want the gutting of environmental protection and removal of accountability that we see in Bill C-38.
However, the Conservatives are not listening to Canadians; they certainly are not listening to the people of my community or the full 80% of the British Columbians who opposed the northern gateway pipeline.
Instead, the Conservatives have done exactly what we have come to expect from the government, exactly what they want with no regard or respect for the people of the country or the democratic process by which they should be governed.
We all know that, when Conservatives do not like rules, they either break them or they undermine Parliament to change them, like changing the rules to undermine an entire environmental review and oversight so they could ram through a reckless pipeline project that puts the coastline of B.C., communities and local economies in peril; or like changing the rules so they could attack charities that target the organizations that are standing up to protect our coasts; or like gutting the office of the Auditor General so we will not know when they break the rules.
Those are just a few of the highlights of what we see in the bill. It is clear that the priorities of the people in my community are not represented by the government and they are most certainly not represented by the contents of the bill.
The Conservatives claim that budget 2012 is about job creation, but the PBO says the budget will cost 43,000 Canadian jobs. In fact, the budget actually plans for unemployment to rise. When the PBO's estimate of 43,000 lost jobs is combined with previous rounds of cuts, this number is closer to 102,000 jobs lost. Still the Conservatives stand in the House day after day, blustering about how the bill is about job creation. It is truly unbelievable.
One-third of the bill is actually dedicated to gutting important environmental protection regulations, so I would humbly suggest to the members across that they cool it on their talking points and admit what the bill is really about: ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who peacefully protested on Earth Day to show their support for expanding environmental safeguards; showing contempt for Canadians by taking this country backward when it comes to environmental protection; and creating a less transparent and more secretive government so they can lurk in the shadows and get away with their dirty tricks.
Proper oversight is a cornerstone of our parliamentary democracy, of any democracy, and New Democrats will fight for proper oversight and accountability. We will not allow the Conservatives to quietly sneak through these far-reaching changes. Trojan Horse budget bills cannot become the new norm, so if the government is not afraid of being held accountable, it should agree to work with us to split the bill into proper committees.
Separating the bill makes sense. It would allow for a full study with proper expertise at the table, and we would be able to make decisions that would benefit our country. It would allow opposition members to do their job and provide proper oversight. It would also help the backbenchers in the Conservative government to have input into this budget bill.
My sincere hope is that the Conservatives will take a step back and think about the consequences of undermining Parliament and removing oversight and accountability from our democracy.
I hope they will consider the consequences of seriously eroding the trust Canadians have in this House, which is precisely what they are doing with the bill.