Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-4, the budget implementation act.
For the most hopeful among us, promise was in the air for a little while this past summer. There was talk of reset and of change. It seemed clear enough when this place shut down for the summer last June amid the Senate scandal that there was cause for the Conservative government members to pause and reflect on the way they conduct themselves as government.
I would, however, note that this speech and all speeches on the bill are delivered under time allocation. It is the 50th time the government has moved to limit debate in the House, so there has been no change.
A diagnosis of what is happening to Canadian politics under the current government would identify the same disease infecting all of what the Conservatives do. It is about a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability, and a lack of respect for the process of democratic politics.
Canadians elect us, all of us, to come here to give voice to their concerns and to pursue their wishes on their behalf. When the government will not allow those voices to be heard, what we have at the heart of all of this is a government that does not respect the people whose country this actually is.
Conservatives have become occupiers of the institutions and abusers of the practices that have been established for the collective benefit of all Canadians. We know that these institutions and practices are not perfect and never have been; I would point to the Senate down the hallway. From time to time we need to change so that our institutions and practices keep up with maturing notions of democracy and what best serves that collective benefit.
We would call it modernization, perhaps. Conservatives once called it reform, in a day when we all at least had in common, it seemed, a commitment to transparency and accountability in the institutions of government and the practices of politics.
However, reform has not come from the supposed reformers. Hope has been betrayed by the government again, and there has been more disappointment for any Canadians left whose disposition allows them to remain optimistic about the government.
For those who could not escape the suspicion that the government would not and could not change its ways—and I am among them, unfortunately—the bill we are debating today was so entirely predictable: omnibus in nature, amending 70 pieces of legislation, and burying deep in its 300-plus pages two completely new pieces of legislation. It is legislation, I might add, as with all new legislation, that is worthy in its own right of full debate in this place.
How predictable that one of these pieces of legislation has to do with a gas project. Extraction and the fire sale of Canada's natural resources is all the government knows and all it does in the form of an economic plan. How fitting, especially in light of the evidence emerging every day from the Conservative government with an obsessive-compulsive disorder to control and manipulate, that the Mackenzie gas project impacts fund act would seek to eliminate the independent arm's-length bodies charged with mitigating the socio-economic impacts of the Mackenzie gas project and bring these matters directly under the control of the minister and the government.
Of course, we would not recognize a Conservative budget bill or implementation act without an attack on working people. From the elimination of useful dispute resolution processes to the undermining of health and safety provisions, attacks on workers have become the hallmark of the Conservative budget process. It is attack but never help; destroy but never build.
However, what I want to talk about today is the need to build urban economies and the need to help people who work and look for work in our cities, something Bill C-4 fails to do. I would like to point to a number of recently released studies in the hope of bringing to the attention of the government and Canadians just how far off the mark Bill C-4 is.
One such study, entitled “It's More than Poverty” and carried out by McMaster University and the United Way of Toronto, was released in February of this year. Having found that precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% over the last 20 years, so that barely 50% of people in the study are in jobs that are both permanent and full-time, the authors of this study describe precarious work as “the new normal” for many in the urban workforce.
This new normal is not a good normal. People in precarious work earn 46% less and report household income that is 34% less than those in secure jobs.
Just this month, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity and the Martin Prosperity Institute, both at the University of Toronto, released a study entitled, “Untapped potential—Creating a better future for service workers”. In this study, the institutes point to the increasing precarity of work in the Toronto labour market, particularly in what they call the routine service sector of the labour market, jobs that account for almost half of Toronto's workforce.
Defining precarious work as work that is temporary, part-time and paying below the low-income cut-off, the institutes note that the number of routine service jobs that have become precarious over the last decade has increased by one-third. The point that the institutes want to make with this study of precarity is not just about the implications of these changes for those working in this sector but as the study's title suggests, the untapped potential in this sector from which we can all benefit. The point is that unstable, low-wage and low-skill positions deflate disposable income and overall prosperity. The institutes urge policy-makers, and that is us, to assess what policy tools are needed to boost job security and wages within these occupations.
There has been no such assessment coming from the other side, and there are no such tools in Bill C-4. I am thankful that at least we on this side of the House are on the job. I would point to my colleague, the member for Davenport, and his recently tabled urban workers bill, which I proudly co-sponsor, as a response to the circumstances described in these studies. It is a bill of legislative relevance to Canadians, and particularly to urban Canadians.
Finally, I would like to point the government to a recent study done by the Wellesley Institute in Toronto, called “Shadow Economies: Economic Survival Strategies Of Toronto Immigrant Communities”, also released just this month, which focuses on the economic poverty of newcomers. This study finds that only one-third of households were able to fully cover their household expenses on income through formal employment, forcing people, as both workers and consumers, into the informal economy to make ends meet.
It is in this context that the government enters with an economic plan that according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer would be responsible for 67,000 less jobs by 2017, and a GDP reduction of 0.6%.
I do not know if it is possible for anybody to draft a stronger indictment of the government as economic manager than the one it has penned for itself with this very bill, Bill C-4. It is not just irrelevant to the lives of the vast majority of Canadians, proving once again how remote the government is from the population and their cares and concerns, but it is actually harmful and hurtful to the people I came here to represent.