Mr. Speaker, I stand today in opposition to Bill C-38, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
Let me be clear from the get-go. Not only do I rise in opposition to the Conservative budget, which is a backward step in so many ways for Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada, or then again step is not the right word, backward leap seems more appropriate for Newfoundland and Labrador and all of Canada, I also rise in opposition to those “other measures”. The bill is an omnibus bill, a massive bill, 421 pages long. It not only contains the means to implement the 2012 budget, but contains dozens of other measures buried in its pages, hidden in its pages, measures that have nothing to do with the budget, measures that include everything but the kitchen sink, from increasing the age of eligibility for old age pension to 67 from 65, to gutting the federal Fisheries Act, to ripping apart environmental legislation that may leave our country, when the Conservative government is done with it, in a mess.
I take back what I said a second ago about the kitchen sink. The sink just may be in the bill somewhere. Maybe that is why the Conservatives are so set on limiting debate. Maybe that is why the Conservatives are so set on ramming legislation through this esteemed House so quickly, legislation that was not even hinted at in the 2011 federal election, as a means to sneak through their secret agenda and to sidestep democracy.
I can tell members that the Conservatives will have a hard time getting anything past my party, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, try as they may. What is more, the Conservatives will have an even harder time getting anything past Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians.
The Canadian public is starting to get a pretty good idea of what the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister are about. They are about big business and the corporate agenda at the expense of average Canadians, at the expense of the environment and at the expense of real, meaningful jobs.
The irony is the budget is described as a job-creating budget at the same time that it kills more than 19,000 federal public sector jobs.
The face of Canada is changing, and I have heard this in my riding, and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians do not like what they see in the Ottawa mirror. It is not who we are.
I have three perspectives on the Conservative budget implementation bill: the Newfoundland and Labrador perspective; the Atlantic perspective; and the national perspective.
I will speak about my own province first. Most people where I come from are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians first and Canadians second. They will tell people that to their face if they are asked and even if they are not.
Bill C-38 would have a huge negative impact on my province with regard to federal job cuts. More of the federal jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador that we have are being moved to Halifax. We will lose more jobs and we have few already. The mayor of St. John's, Dennis O'Keefe, has gone so far as to say, “If this continues, we'll end up being a colonial outpost — not of Ottawa, but of Halifax”. He further said, “Maybe it's happened [so] often, since 1949 with Confederation, that we're used to getting a kick in the rear end”. The final quote from the good mayor was, “I don't mind if we got our fair share, but we've never had our fair share of federal jobs in this province, period”.
There is no doubt that there is resentment in my home province toward the Government of Canada. Our fishery has been destroyed under Ottawa's watch. The federal presence in my province is but a faint shadow of the federal presence in other provinces. Not a single federal crown corporation is headquartered in my province.
There is resentment toward Ottawa, but there is particular resentment toward the Conservative Prime Minister who, to quote my people, “is no friend of Newfoundland and Labrador”.
Let me highlight some of the federal jobs that would be lost in my province as a result of the latest Conservative budget.
The Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook will be gone. The Canada Border Services Agency is losing its director in my province. While the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is trying to build its cruise ship industry, the federal Conservatives are doing their best to stop it dead in the water. Border Services is also losing its only dog, trained to sniff out drugs and guns in Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe we could get some psychics to step forward and volunteer their time.
Seafood inspection provided by the Food Inspection Agency will move to Prince Edward Island. I can see the sense in that, though. The federal Conservatives have written off the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, so why not move food inspection to P.E.I.?
The St. John's food inspection lab is slated to close with transfers to other provinces. There are cuts to Marine Atlantic, which operates the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry link, which will likely drive up the fares and the cost of everything. There are also cuts to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, although not in the federal riding of Labrador, which a Conservative member represents. It is all good there for some reason.
Public Internet will be shut down at 96 provincial libraries around Newfoundland and Labrador. Parks Canada is also cutting back at national parks and historic sites in Newfoundland and Labrador. While the province of Newfoundland and Labrador spends millions of dollars on tourism campaigns to try to get Canadians and the world, to come to Newfoundland and Labrador, the Conservatives cut back on the amount of time the parks are open and they increase ferry rates. I do not get that.
Cuts to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans will amount to nearly $80 million by 2015. DFO is closing the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John's, transferring the jobs to Halifax and Ontario.
I do not know if all Canadians realize this, but Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a unique dialect, a lot worse than mine and a lot better than mine. A skipper from outport Newfoundland, with seconds to send off a mayday before abandoning ship, may not be understood by a mainlander. That is the simple truth of it. Here is a quote from Merv Wiseman who works at the marine rescue sub-centre, and retires today. He said, “We know as professionals that people will die and we've expressed that view right on up the line, right up to the ministers themselves — to no avail”.
People will die. What could possibly be more important than the lives of our mariners? The answer is the dollar. The answer is a desire to stamp out a culture of defeat, as the Prime Minister has described us. I can tell the Prime Minister this. There is fight yet where I come from, and he will see that in 2015.
On a national level, the Conservatives are pushing through their plan to raise the eligibility age for old age pension and guaranteed income supplement to 67 from 65. That is not on with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. They say that Canada is in danger of losing its soul. They say that Canada is in danger of losing her social programs that separate our great country from so many others. They do not like what they see in the Ottawa mirror. The Conservative face is a frightening face.
The budget implementation act will also see the word “habitat” removed from the Federal Fisheries Act. Let me quote from Otto Langer, a renowned fisheries scientists who came out against the changes to the act. More than 600 scientists actually came out against changes to the act. He said, “This proposed move by the Harper government is a travesty for our fishery resources and the health of the entire ecosystem and it ignores the needs of our future generations”.
A full one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to the gutting of environmental legislation and protection.
Again, Bill C-38 is an absolutely massive bill. What do the Conservatives do to ensure the debate is a healthy debate and in the best interests of the country they look after? The Conservatives limit debate and that is not good enough.