Mr. Speaker, I rise yet again to speak on Bill C-60, another Conservative omnibus bill that crams changes to more than 50 pieces of legislation into it, and which ought to have been split up and studied at various different committees.
This bill will have wide-ranging impacts, affecting everything from the price of an iPod to credit unions to foreign aid to journalistic freedom of the CBC. This omnibus budget bill makes changes to the temporary foreign worker program, to the Investment Canada Act, and it merges the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade with CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency.
This bill also raises taxes on Canadians by introducing tax hikes on credit unions, increasing the taxes on small businesses, and increasing the taxes on thousands of products that Canadians use every day.
It took generations to establish institutions like the CBC and the central bank, and some of these institutions are the envy of the world. However, this bill would undermine the collective bargaining process at many of our Crown corporations, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Via Rail, Canada Post, the CBC and the Bank of Canada.
These institutions have always been ambitious, but theirs was a vision grounded in hope and optimism. Canadians have always known that as a country we are stronger together.
Our leaders once had the wisdom to accept the independence of the Bank of Canada and the integrity of the CBC. They saw this independence as an asset to our country, not a threat to the power of government.
However, the Conservatives do not trust Canadians. Bill C-60, like omnibus bills before it, are evidence of this contempt. Many of the changes in Bill C-60 are cynical measures that will give more power to the Conservative government's inner circle while taking away the voice of Parliament from independent bodies, and ultimately from Canadians.
The Conservatives are making rash and ideological choices to push omnibus 3.0 through Parliament without talking to Canadians. If they had, they would have heard the kinds of things that I have been hearing from my constituents.
Parkdale—High Park, the electoral district I represent, is home to many Ukrainian credit unions. I recently met with representatives from the Council Of Ukrainian Credit Unions Of Canada, which has a combined membership of over 60,000 people across the country. The representatives I met with were shocked that they were not consulted in advance about these changes. These tax code changes were absolutely unexpected, and there was no comprehensive review of the sector before these changes were introduced in the budget.
The changes have surprised people and created worry and uncertainty for credit unions and the many Canadians who rely on their services. In my riding, the Ukrainian credit unions invest nearly $1 million annually in community programming, projects and educational initiatives, which will simply disappear as a result of these changes.
There is also a great deal of concern from credit unions from coast to coast about the long-term impact of these changes. We appreciate diversity in the financial sector and the banking sectors of Canada. They are part of modern economy, but I share the concerns of my constituents, and many Canadians, that these changes put that diversity at risk. However, the Conservatives would have had to talk to Canadians to know this.
My office has also been flooded with letters and emails and phone calls from constituents concerned about how Bill C-60 will impact the CBC, our national broadcaster. Thousands of Canadians are writing to tell Parliament that sections relating to the CBC alone are reason to stop this omnibus bill, to make changes to it. Last week I received a letter saying:
I do not want any politician exercising this kind of control over our national public broadcaster.
It is not a state broadcaster.
Another letter put it succinctly, saying, “What can I do; Where do I protest..”.
Canadians have made it crystal clear. They do not support these measures, so why are the Conservatives not listening?
Respected members of the Canadian media are telling Parliament that this omnibus bill needs to be intercepted. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, the Canadian Media Guild, the Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada and ACTRA are urging all of the Conservatives to use common sense.
On issue after issue it is clear that Bill C-60 is not what Canadians want, and if the Conservatives were listening they would know that. If they had talked to Canadians, they would be hearing the advice of experts like George Smith, who has decades of experience in Canadian business. Smith was once the chief management negotiator for Air Canada, Canadian Pacific Railway and the CBC. At the finance committee Smith stated:
These proposed amendments to the Financial Administration Act, buried in Bill C-60, contradict both the spirit and intent of the Canada Labour Code...and create a role for government in crown corporation collective bargaining which is not contemplated in the Canada Labour Code.
Another issue of serious concern is the impact that this omnibus bill would have on the independence of the Bank of Canada. Last week, I tabled a motion at the finance committee to study the impact of this bill on the Bank of Canada, but the Conservatives voted against it, as they vote against every proposed amendment. However, in a recent article in the The Globe and Mail, Kevin Carmichael, one of Canada's most respected financial reporters, discussed my motion and affirmed that measures in this bill could gravely impact the independence of the bank. Again, the Conservatives are willing to sacrifice the independence of our central bank and the national interest, if it means giving more power to the Prime Minister's Office.
Another measure in omnibus bill 3.0 makes changes to the temporary foreign worker program. These measures are a band-aid solution that does not get to the heart of the government's mismanagement of the temporary foreign worker program. Experts and community groups across the country are speaking out against this band-aid solution.
When is it enough? Canadians are saying, once again, that they do not support this omnibus budget bill. Canadians have serious concerns with the measures in Bill C-60, and until those concerns are addressed, we cannot support this bill and we will not support this bill.
There are serious issues facing our country, but budget 2013 does not rise to meet these challenges. It does nothing to address unemployment, record levels of household debt or rising inequality. Instead, the Conservative government is more concerned with rearranging power to give more power to its inner circle and less voice to Canadians.
Let us not forget what this budget is not doing. It is not getting Canadians back to work. It will not stimulate growth. Instead, this budget is squarely focused on a job-killing austerity agenda that has made major cuts to the services that Canadians rely on. Putting people to work is clearly the best way to reduce our deficit.
There is no need to play big brother with the Bank of Canada. There is no need to trample on credit unions that so many communities rely on. There is no need to spend millions on an advertising budget that Canadians do not agree with.
Instead, New Democrats know that investing in education and infrastructure, making life more affordable for Canadians, supporting small and medium-sized businesses and creating high-quality, high-paying jobs is the best way to get our economy back on track.
Canadians are counting on us. They are counting on New Democrats, and I dare say all of this Parliament, to show leadership and bring forward the ideas and proposals that will work in the public interest, not the private interest of a few insiders. We need to put Canadians first. This budget does not do that.
I see that my time is up. I look forward to the questions and comments from my colleagues.