Mr. Speaker, I feel especially privileged to have the chance to speak twice on Bill C-48, which amends the Income Tax Act. Not everyone has an opportunity to address this highly charged issue.
As I mentioned the last time, this bill is nearly 1,000 pages long and makes a number of very technical changes to Canada’s tax system, changes that have accumulated over more than a decade. It seeks to obtain official approval for the various technical measures that have been put forward by the Minister of Finance over the years, over more than 10 years now, in fact.
We in the NDP believe that the technical changes proposed in Bill C-48 will be good for the Canadian tax system and will generally reduce tax avoidance. This is why the NDP will be supporting the bill at second reading.
The NDP believes that, as parliamentarians, as the elected representatives of Canadians, we have a duty to do whatever we can to minimize tax evasion and get rid of loopholes in our legislation, to ensure that the government has all the resources it needs to provide Canadians with the government services and institutions that they depend on and, more importantly, that they deserve.
Because of the Conservative government's budgets, we are facing drastic service cuts that will affect the Canadians who need those services the most. Money that is in the system could be invested in our social programs and in the institutions Canadians depend on, such as the universal public health insurance system. Ultimately, we could even set up other programs. Instead of being used to benefit the most privileged among us, this revenue should benefit the whole of Canadian society. It is important to do everything we can to bring the money back into the system so that the government can use it.
It is all well and good to cut a little bit here, there and everywhere, but we must be able to generate the revenue we need so that we can maintain what we have achieved, improve and enhance existing programs, and then come up with new programs that meet the needs of Canadians. I think that if a government is not able to do this, it is not doing its job. Unfortunately, this is true of the current Conservative government. This is what the NDP will be changing in 2015, when it forms the government, of course.
Since the Conservatives would have us believe that they are good managers of public funds, I find it really surprising and very disappointing that they waited so long before doing what was needed to get the technical amendments in Bill C-48 through Parliament.
In fact, the most recent technical tax bill was passed in 2001. That is more than 10 years ago. By 2009, at least 400 technical amendments had still not been enacted.
Bill C-48 is huge, nearly 1,000 pages, and it clearly shows that this government must be more responsible in managing tax legislation.
It is absolutely unacceptable to penalize taxpayers and the business sector by perpetuating so much uncertainty and unpredictability in Canada’s taxation amendment process.
Furthermore, because the Conservatives are so slow, we are once again dealing with a massive omnibus bill and we have very little time to really study it and to examine the implications of its legislative measures.
It really is a shame that the Conservatives persist in using this strategy, which, frankly, hinders the work that we in the House must do, that is, to study and consider bills and their impact on the Canadian public. The fact that we are prevented from conducting our parliamentary work properly has a direct impact on Canadian democracy and Canadians’ trust in their elected officials.
At least things are a little better this time around because the Conservatives had the decency to combine a series of bills dealing with the same subject in Bill C-48. It is actually quite refreshing compared to Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, bills that sought to hide a raft of drastic and socially harmful changes in areas such as environmental protection, immigration, employment insurance, old age security and many more.
Despite all that, although tax measures are involved and it is all one subject, in general we are in favour of the bill’s content. However, the fact remains that we are dealing with a document that is incredibly long. We do not have much time to study the amendments, which are technical and relatively complex and merit careful study. A number of them have already been implemented by tax professionals, accountants and businesses, but some things are still not clear and should perhaps be given further consideration. Once again, we do not have an opportunity to do so, because this is an omnibus bill.
Every week, my constituents come into my office in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier to tell me that they are tired of seeing these kinds of bills in the House, tired of seeing these huge documents and tired of seeing that their elected officials, whom they elected to represent them, are incapable of doing their job.
Canadians are fed up with the way this government operates. Things have to change and quickly. The government needs to stop dragging its feet and establish a truly efficient process for quickly and regularly enacting the technical amendments in the comfort letters issued several times a year by the Department of Finance.
I think the message is clear. I will repeat what a number of my colleagues have already said: we will be supporting the bill. However, we must ensure that a situation like the one we are faced with today will not occur again, and we must ensure that the government will present us with technical amendments on a regular basis so that we can do our job properly.