Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 is the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. Much of Canada now knows that Bill C-38 goes well beyond tax and monetary measures to make major changes in dozens of policy areas, including the environment, natural resources and human resources. The previous speaker talked about being best positioned, that his party received 39% of the vote in the last election, which indeed gave it a majority. However, the Conservatives never once told people they would change EI. They never talked to the Canadian people in that election about changing the fisheries or environment acts.
Recently, the NDP, throughout the finance committee hearings, were clear that we believed that parliamentarians should not be asked to vote on legislation that granted cabinet power to make far-reaching regulatory changes as granted through Bill C-38.
Canadians now also realize that Bill C-38 has well over 400-plus pages. However, I also want everybody who happens to be at home watching tonight to understand that this is just the beginning. There will be another budget bill in the fall with further changes.
Our concerns, and those of many Canadians, go along these lines.
I would state quite categorically that the overhaul to the Environment Assessment Act does not belong in a budget bill. The government wants a one project, one review environmental assessment system, so it is repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that Canadians have known for many generations and replacing it with an environmental assessment act 2012.
The official opposition contends that this type of decision does not belong with the finance committee. The finance committee does not have the expertise, nor the time to bring before it the people required to complete a proper view. Bill C-38 sets out time limits for the completion of reviews and the minister will have the power to shut down a review panel if he thinks it will not finish on time. Before it can finish on time, it has to do a proper assessment for the benefit and protection of Canadians. That type of decision needs due diligence supplied by comprehensive reviews by experts, not by a minister, and certainly not five-minute rounds of questions in the finance committee.
Bill C-38 contains changes to employment insurance that are particularly concerning to maritimers. We all understand and know very well that our friends on the east coast have a different lifestyle. Our friends on the east coast are subject to the whims of part-time employment.
How does studying the proposed new EI definition, a suitable work, belong with the finance committee? It does not. It clearly belongs before the human resources committee. Bill C-38 would remove the definitions of suitable work from the Employment Insurance Act and would give the federal cabinet the power to create new regulations about what constituted suitable work and reasonable efforts to find that work. This budget bill, Bill C-38, gives no details on what the new criteria will be.
I will move to another section of Bill C-38.
How does the decision on removing the oversight of the Auditor General belong here? The Auditor General will no longer be required to annually audit several agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Northern Pipeline Agency and the Canada Polar Commission. These agencies will now submit annual financial reports to the minister or ministers instead. How does putting these foxes in charge of the henhouse do anything for jobs and prosperity?
Bill C-38, with the swipe of a pen, would eliminate tens of thousands of backlogged immigration applications. Among the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is a move to wipe out the backlog of 280,000 applications under the federal skilled worker program.
These are people who placed their faith in Canada. They could have applied to other countries that needed their skills. These are skilled individuals. They made applications to become Canadian citizens because they trusted Canada. They were told that we needed their skills. We hear it in this House regularly how we need skills, but now those who applied before 2008 would have their applications deleted and refunded. The hopes and dreams of these qualified potential new citizens with skills that Canada needs would be set aside by a budget bill. This issue clearly belongs in a committee other than finance.
These changes would not only destroy the dreams of people who trusted Canada, but imagine what would happen to Canada's once trusted reputation in these countries. How in the world can the government justify doing this within a budget bill, with the claim that it would improve our prosperity?
One of the more ludicrous parts of Bill C-38, which one of the previous speakers mentioned, is how the Fisheries Act changes came before the finance committee. Even if we have concerns, and I trust the word of members on the other side when they say they have concerns with the Fisheries Act, the finance committee is not the place to turn to.
I happen to be the NDP human rights critic for international affairs. I shook my head with dismay when I read that Bill C-38, the budget bill, would scrap the office of the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. We have good people in our police services and we have good people in CSIS, but this office is meant to be the public safety minister's eyes and ears overseeing CSIS. In my opinion, in the shadowy world of CSIS, it is critical to have civilian oversight.
Bill C-38 would shut down several government-funded groups and agencies, such as the National Council of Welfare, the Public Appointments Commission, Rights & Democracy, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada.
Bill C-38 would create a new social security tribunal to hear appeals of decisions made under the Old Age Security Act, the Employment Insurance Act and other benefit programs. The bill would create a new Shared Services Canada department. We had people who were part of tribunals looking into the situation of appeals for people on Employment Insurance. They were experts and had jurisprudence in that area. Now that would be done away with and these same people would be lumped in. These are good people who have worked hard for us. I have no doubt that some of them would apply, but it would be housing too much responsibility for too broad a front with too few people.
Bill C-38 would change the age of accessing OAS from 65 to 67. I will not say very much about that because I have spoken in this place many times on it. I will simply say that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD pension review team said it was sustainable. There is a clear disagreement.
Government members will say that this is not the longest budget bill in history. That is true. They will say that it is receiving hours of debate. That is also true. However, what they do not say is that the changes I have outlined and others should have been before a number of different committees of Parliament.
My rights as a member of Parliament have been pushed aside and the rights of every member on both sides of this House have been pushed aside by the bill. We are not able, nor allowed, to do the due diligence necessary to protect the rights of Canadians. In my opinion, when Canadians look at the bill and see what it actually is, they will see that the better name for the bill is the “eliminating transparency and settling old scores act”.