Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak on the budget implementation bill, Bill C-38, on behalf of my constituents in Vancouver Kingsway and on behalf of all Canadians who want to see democracy, accountability and sound fiscal planning for a fair and prosperous Canada.
I stood in the House three weeks ago and presented what the people of Vancouver Kingsway told me are the priorities they would like to see in a federal budget. Those priorities were things like housing. We know that the government of Brian Mulroney removed CMHC's participation in affordable housing in 1992, leaving only CMHC's role in insuring mortgages to this day. We also know that the Liberal Party promised in three successive elections to restore the federal government's role in housing and never actually delivered on that. It leaves Canada as one of the only G8 countries that does not have a national housing policy.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway said that they needed childcare. Working parents, single parents in particular, have said time and time again to politicians that they need an affordable, accessible, quality childcare system that will not only help them raise their children and make sure they have a good start in life, but also return an economic benefit that has been estimated at between $5 and $7 for every $1 of investment. We know that childcare is one way to unleash the full economic potential of millions of Canadian families so that they can participate in the workforce.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway told me that they wanted to see meaningful and immediate action on the environment. They know that there is no dichotomy between the economy and the environment. People who are thoughtful in our country know that the environment is the basis for all economic activity in the country. Only the most short-term, blinded people would think that not taking care of our environment is some way to develop our economy.
The people of Vancouver Kingsway told me that they wanted to see a meaningful jobs strategy in the country, not jobs that are part-time, or service sector, or temporary, but jobs that one can actually raise a family on. They told me they wanted to see a budget that would take care of our seniors.
Bill C-38 is a bill that, I am sorry to say, fails in every one of those aspects. There is no national housing plan in the budget. There is no national childcare plan in the budget. Far from taking care of our environment, as I will talk about in a few minutes, the budget bill contains one of the most destructive programs of anti-environment policy that this country has witnessed.
Not only does the budget not provide any meaningful program for jobs, but it is going to see some 19,000 public servants lose their jobs. This is a job destroyer.
What did the seniors of the country see? They saw the government introduce a provision that will see seniors, starting in 2023, have to wait two years longer to receive their old age security. This puts in jeopardy the retirement of millions of Canadians, including any Canadian under the age of 54 right now.
We see a massive 421 page bill, which not only contains implementation of the 2012 budget, but that has many provisions on traditional, non-budgetary matters. Those are buried in the bill. We see fully one-third of the budget bill is dedicated to environmental deregulation. A major narrative in the bill removes powers of the Auditor General and removes many staff. I think what Canadians are seeing in the budget is a reduction in the accountability and transparency of their federal government.
Another major narrative in the bill surrounds the creation of a more secretive and non-transparent government through the removal and closure of oversight powers and bodies and a concentration of many powers in the hands of cabinet ministers who make decisions at cabinet, behind closed doors.
I would argue that, far from being a budget bill that is aimed at jobs and prosperity, as the government members assert, it is actually a budget bill that could be more properly characterized as one of destruction and an attack on democracy, accountability and our environment.
Let us see what is actually in the bill with regard to the environment. This bill would gut the federal environmental assessment regime to speed up major projects, notably pipelines. It would delegate environmental assessments to other authorities, including provinces. It would make sure that projects outside Canada are not held to account under Canadian laws, presumably targeting mining companies.
The division in the budget makes related amendments to the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and consequential amendments to other acts and repeals the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act entirely. This bill would give cabinet authority to make decisions regarding major pipelines and would allow the National Energy Board authority over permits related to pipelines and power lines over navigable waters, overriding tribunals that would find those projects unacceptable.
It would change the rules around fish habitat protection and the deposit of deleterious substances in fish-bearing waters. The bill would give sweeping powers to the minister to transfer authorities to other bodies to allow fisheries management. Many have questioned the constitutionality of that provision. It would weaken rules for disposal at sea. It would allow the government to issue longer-term permits under the Species at Risk Act and allow the National Energy Board to issue permits for development when such developments may affect the species listed.
It would change the definition of interested parties to weaken public participation in environmental decision making and exclude anyone not “directly affected” by a project. It would repeal the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, meaning government would no longer be required to report on its emissions under the act. I note that a report of one of the parliamentary officers responsible for environmental regulation is now saying that the government will not even meet its weak environmental targets by 2020. This act would give cabinet the ability to ignore the National Energy Board and any environmental tribunal and approve a project that had been turned down.
Those are not rhetorical comments, those are provisions of this bill. How anybody could read those provisions and not find that this budget bill is a frontal attack on environmental regulation and sustainability in this country is beyond me.
Let us turn to old age security. Conservative members stand in the House weekly and say they received a strong mandate from the Canadian people to govern. In some cases I think they are right. There are things the government campaigned on and delivered what it said. However, during the campaign the Conservatives did not mention one word ever about raising the old age security requirements.
They claim that this is required because of the demographic trend. The demographic trend in this country did not sneak up on them. The baby boom generation and the demographic trend in this country have been known by everybody for years and years. One is left with only one conclusion: the Conservatives did not mention their plan to raise old age security and put it before the Canadian people during the last election because they knew it would be unpopular and that the Canadian people would not give them a mandate to take that step.
Not only is there no mandate for raising the eligibility age for old age security but there is no evidence to support it, there is no need for it and there is no fiscal prudence in doing so. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has been clear. He studied this issue very carefully and found that the old age security program is fully sustainable the way it is. That only stands to reason. The demographic reality is that retirees will peak with the 1964 cohort and then start declining. Since we fund old age security out of general revenues, it is simply a question of policy. If a government wants to fund old age security, it can do that.
What has the current government done? It has cut somewhere between $25 billion and $50 billion of revenue very year over the last five years by reducing the GST two points and reducing corporate income tax. Now the government says there is not enough money to pay for old age security. The government is financing corporate tax cuts today on the backs of our seniors tomorrow. That is irresponsible and unfair.
In terms of the Auditor General, Canadians want to see their government scrutinized. It is what makes us a democracy. We are not a dictatorship. By removing a dozen bodies from scrutiny by the Auditor General, Canadians know what they see, and what they see is a government that is afraid of having its activities scrutinized by the Auditor General, and that is undemocratic.
This budget is unaccountable. It does not reflect the priorities of Canadians. It is undemocratic, and I am proud to vote against it.