Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak at third reading of Bill C-4, an act to implement measures contained in budget 2013. The bill fails to address the very real challenges faced by the middle class in Canada and those wanting to join the middle class.
For the past 30 years, governments of all stripes have been elected and re-elected in Canada on a similar economic platform: fiscal discipline; investment in infrastructure, research and skills; openness to trade; and tax competitiveness. Middle-class Canadians and those wanting to become part of it supported this agenda because they were promised it would create shared prosperity; but this has not happened. While the economy has more than doubled in size in the past 30 years, middle-class incomes have increased by only 13%. If we do not solve this problem, Canadians will eventually withdraw their support and we will all be worse off as a result.
Canadians who have lower incomes have an even greater stake in the well-being of the middle class. Today, Canadians feel it is more likely that they will fall from the middle class into poverty, rather than rise out of poverty into the middle class. The bill does little to help the economy and to create jobs. In fact, the so-called job measures in the bill are just a continuation of the status quo, which simply is not good enough. My riding needs jobs, and our young people need jobs.
Previously the government introduced a jobs training program, shortly after the last budget, but the program is still not running because the government forgot to talk to the provinces. Therefore, there is no jobs training program. While the government spent millions of dollars advertising the program, I repeat, there is no program. This is a government that invests money in self-promotion, but does not “get the job done” when it comes to putting in place the kinds of measures to create jobs and good training to help close the job skills gap.
The only indicator that has grown apace with GDP for the middle class is household debt. Middle-class Canadians are rightly worried about their finances as they face record levels of personal debt, amounting to $1.66 for every dollar of disposable income. They are struggling to make ends meet while interest rates are low and are rightly concerned about what will happen in the future if interest rates start to rise.
One of the driving forces behind this accumulation of household debt is the financial subsidization of adult children who cannot yet make it on their own. These young people are unable to pay rent and are forced to live at home. In fact, 43% of Canadian families have financially subsidized young people who have lived for extended periods of time at home with them because they cannot make ends meet. Sadly, young Canadians have been left behind during this so-called economic recovery. That is, they still have 225,000 fewer jobs than before the downturn.
I saw the lack of jobs for young people first-hand, day-after-day this summer. I had university graduates who came in to get help after being out of school and out of work for two years. I had grandparents who came on behalf of their grandchildren, the first in the family to graduate from university and college, asking why they had fled their country of origin to come to Canada, the land of promise, so their children could have an education. Now they have education and they still do not have a job.
The people in my constituency need jobs, and I have worked hard to get them jobs. In fact, I obtained funding for a completing the circle program, a $500,000 jobs program in our community. I personally review and edit resumés late into the night, sometimes doing two and three drafts. We get our people into jobs programs. We follow up with them to make sure their job searches are going in the right direction, and while they search, we help them with food, clothing and whatever other supports they might need. We should all remember that we have seen a 31% increase in food bank usage since 2008. At critical times, I have personally bought bedding, food, furniture and medicine.
Therefore, it was particularly hard to hear from service providers that federal funding was being cut for job and training programs in our Etobicoke North community. My community depends on these jobs programs. We cannot afford to have them shut down. That is why I contacted the minister's office. I hope this will be rectified.
What I was looking for in the budget, first and foremost, was real help for the people of Etobicoke North for jobs. Instead, we have 308 pages, with 472 separate clauses amending dozens of different pieces of legislation. It is another anti-democratic omnibus bill meant to limit debate and ram through as much unrelated legislation as the government can get through Parliament.
Once again my constituents are saddened by the fact that this is an omnibus bill with multiple sections that were deserving of full and proper hearings in committee and full parliamentary scrutiny.
While Conservative members claim, based on their talking points, that omnibus bills are nothing new, it is only under the current Prime Minister that we have seen omnibus budget bills that top 200 pages. The 2010 omnibus budget bill was almost 900 pages. In 2012, the Conservative government started a new practice of putting forward two omnibus budget bills. Canadians will remember Bill C-38, the 400-plus page omnibus budget implementation bill, which sprung sweeping changes on our country, affecting everything from employment insurance, environmental protection, immigration, old age security to even the oversight that charities receive. None of these changes were in the Conservative platform. They were rushed into law by “an arrogant majority government that's in a hurry to impose its agenda on the country”.
One newspaper stated that omnibus bills are:
...political sleight-of-hand and message control, and it appears to be an accelerating trend. These shabby tactics keep Parliament in the dark, swamp MPs with so much legislation that they can't absorb it all, and hobble scrutiny. This is not good, accountable, transparent government.
Canadians should remember that in 1994, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, today's Prime Minister, criticized omnibus legislation, suggesting that the subject matter of such bills is so diverse that a single vote to the content would put members in conflict with their own principles and that dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent the views of their constituents on each part of the bill. The right hon. member is now using the very tactics he once denounced. It is a shame that he changed his tune when he was elected to the highest office in the land.
There are similarities among the government's omnibus bills. Over and over we see, for example, increasing ministerial discretion, reducing objective criteria, and removing agencies and boards. Canadians should be deeply concerned by these similarities in different omnibus bills and by yet another of the government's end runs around the democratic process.
For the people of Etobicoke North and for young people across Canada, Bill C-4 offers very little. My constituents and Canadians need better and deserve better.