Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this House and speak to Bill C-38, a bill that fundamentally attacks the Canada of yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is an attack on who we are and what we have built together.
As a result of the bill, the government is turning the clock back on Canada's reputation, holding back our country in terms of research and innovation while lowering not only the standard of living that Canadians face today but that Canadians will face tomorrow.
The budget also speaks to the two-faced approach the government has taken. At election time, the Conservatives said one thing and now in government they do another.
I will go through the budget and see who is not a priority and who is not spoken for.
Who is not a priority in the government's budget? It is northern and aboriginal people. Many northern and aboriginal people who I represent have spoken to me about the real concerns they have vis-à-vis Bill C-38. In fact, I had the opportunity to hear from people participating at the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs gathering and there is united opposition to Bill C-38. Why is there t opposition? I am sad to say that there are many reasons.
First, cuts to employment insurance will have a disproportionate impact on northern and aboriginal Canadians, particularly seasonal workers, fishers, forest firefighters, construction workers and people who work in tourism. It will impact the people who make the economies in some of the poorest communities in our country operate. For example, people may simply leave and abandon critical services like forest firefighting, something that we all depend on for public safety, as they will have no ability to look at other options. In fact, due to these cuts, people may need to turn in a much greater way to welfare. We will see increased social turmoil and a continuation of government neglect for first nations. There will be a lack of options for people to become re-educated and skilled in other areas to have the ability to move on. It is simply not be a reality in northern and aboriginal communities.
When it comes to the changes in EI, many people are worried because they simply do not know what will happen. They have been told to trust the minister but the reality is that the employment insurance money is the money of these very workers and of all Canadian workers. They must be seen as the priority and not be influenced by the ideological slant of a certain minister.
Another area the bill would have a disproportionate impact is on the changes to the EI tribunals. The elimination of a specific workers' representative would have a disproportionate impact on working people. For those who live in remote and rural Canada, the ability to connect in person to these tribunals is critical. With this streamlining, the option of using the phone or travelling to the tribunal is simply not an option for so many Canadians.
The change to the OAS would also have a disproportionate impact on northern and aboriginal people. Many already live in higher conditions of poverty than in other parts of Canada.
We have the loss of environmental assessments and environmental reviews. Many first nations, including the AFN national chief, have spoken out clearly against the rolling back of environmental legislation. They have spoken of the importance of the fiduciary obligation that the federal government has to first nations and of the importance that the federal government must place on the duty to consult, which is something that did not happen in the formulation of Bill C-38 but something that will continue to not happen in the case of environmental development that will have a direct impact on first nations and their lands.
There is the loss of the National Aboriginal Health Organization that did critical work across the country both in terms of research and advocacy when it comes to aboriginal people. As well as the loss of the First Nation Statistical Institute which provides information that we need when it comes to first nations and aboriginal peoples, some of the most marginalized people in the country. This information would no longer be at their fingertips.
There are cuts to Aboriginal and Northern Affairs and the continued inaction to deal with the shocking housing crises, the need for repairs and the building of new schools, the need to support infrastructure in the northern and first nation communities that I represent and in so many aboriginal and northern communities across the country.
This is also the further attitude by the contempt that the government showed when just a few short weeks ago the UN Special Rapporteur spoke of the extreme poverty that aboriginal people face and the fact that so many of them are unable to access healthy foods, something that there is no action on in this budget.
There are cuts to VIA Rail that connects northern aboriginal and remote communities across this country. Without the support that is needed for our national rail service and without a vision in this area, many people will be left out in the cold.
Another set of people and communities left out of this budget are rural and agricultural people and communities.
In addition to the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board, the government has compounded the insecurity faced by rural people, particularly on the Prairies, through the loss of the Shelterbelt Centre in Saskatchewan, the loss of the community pastures program and the withdrawal of commitment to the cattle enhancement program in Manitoba leaving many cattle ranchers in the lurch who were counting on a federal partnership when it came to such an important program.
There are the amendments to the Seeds Act that potentially allowed private contractors to perform something as critical to our public safety again as food inspection.
There is the closure of the Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, an institution that performed world-class research.
Now we see that the government is even failing to truly stand up for supply management and continuing to not be transparent in terms of its trade negotiations on an international level.
I would also add that in my province of Manitoba there has been a particular blow in terms of immigration to the successful provincial nominee program that has built my province over the last number of years. Unfortunately, the federal government is unwilling to see a success story and support it.
Who else would be left behind through this budget? Canada's women, the 51%.
The changes to employment insurance would have a disproportionate impact on Canadian women. The changes to OAS will also have a disproportionate impact upon Canadian women because about 38% of women get more than half of their income from OAS or GIS. Then there is the loss of public service jobs. Many of these jobs are held by women. As we lose these good paying jobs, so many women and so many families will be made even more vulnerable in today's economic situation.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated, “In total, federal spending cuts could lead to the elimination of over 70,000 full-time equivalent positions”.
While others have said more.
We have the loss of the Women's Health Network, the loss of the National Council of Welfare and the amendments to the Employment Equity Act that will leave women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and visible minorities in the lurch.
Who else does this budget leave out? It leaves out young people.
It lowers our standard of living through the changes to OAS. It destroys the environment through the loss of the Experimental Lakes Area which conducts such critical research on the well-being of our ecosystems and the future of our economic development. We have loss of the Kyoto agreement, the gutting of the environmental assessment regime and fish habitat protection and the loss of research by removing, privatizing, muzzling and silencing those who tell us who we are and where we are going.
Perhaps the most insidious are the changes that would be made to our history and our identity.
Whether it is the cuts to Parks Canada that lead to the de-funding of Louis Riel House or the lack of leadership shown in making a commitment to La Liberté, the francophone newspaper in my home province, trying to rewrite history by the current government also means trying to change our future for the worse.
However, in this devastation, there is hope, hope in the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have spoken out and hope in the outcry we have seen in and out of this House.
I am proud to be part a strong NDP team that is presenting a vision of a country where we are all part of it, where we are all better off and where we can be a model on the world stage in terms of the environment, equality and dignity, a vision we hope Canadians will choose to make reality in 2015.