Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by setting the table a bit in terms of the budget discussion we are having right now and draw to my colleague's attention the May 3 edition of The Economist magazine article on the Canadian economy, which states:
Maple, resting on laurels
Canada has not learned every crisis lesson...
[Canada's] post-crisis glow is fading.
It credits Canada's success is coming through the downturn better than other countries to three factors: first, a strong banking system, which accredits the previous Liberal government for having maintained a strong prudential regulatory framework and not following the U.S. and European models of deregulation; second, the strong fiscal situation that the current government inherited, the best fiscal situation of any incoming government in the history of the country; and, third, oil and gas and minerals that we have under the ground and off the shore of Newfoundland. I think most of us realize that no single government or party is responsible for putting the oil and gas under the ground and we all know that it is Danny Williams who put it under the water off Newfoundland.
Given the fact that the government cannot necessarily take credit for all the success in coming through the downturn, it is important, though, the government recognize that things are not going so well right now. Hence, The Economist saying that Canada's post-crisis glow is fading. It actually cites the reality that our economy is growing more slowly than the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. It speaks to the IMF projecting growth will be around 2% this year, which is very anemic. Our employment rate is still below pre-crisis levels and Canada ranks fifth in the G7 for job creation since 2008. That is in The Economist magazine.
Just to set the table, it is important that all parties realize that we have our work cut out for us and the economy is not growing as quickly as that of many of our peer countries within not just the G7 but the OECD, and there is a lot of work to be done to develop good, full-time jobs. We have lost 27,000 full-time jobs in the last year. Full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time work.
As I rise to speak on Bill C-31, there is nothing really in this budget implementation act to deal with some of these issues. There are a lot of other things that have nothing to do with the fiscal framework of the country at all. I would like to go back to the days when budget bills were actually about the budget and were actually written by the Department of Finance as opposed to all these other departments and agencies which have only a peripheral connection to budget issues.
The Conservatives have taken to cramming their budget bills full of measures that simply do not belong in them. This year's omnibus bill includes changes to trademark law, rail safety, designations of rank at the Department of National Defence, the virtual museum of Canada, administrative tribunals, and the number of federal judges. It is a bit of a dog's breakfast in a kitchen sink bill. These measures simply have no business being in a budget bill.
It does not make any sense for the finance committee to be tasked with examining rail safety issues. In fact, it should be the transport committee that not only evaluates these measures, but ultimately votes on them at the committee.
To make matters worse, the Conservatives have introduced a lot of these changes without public consultation. They jam a bill to the point of bursting, ram it through Parliament, ignore public consultations, basically avoid real debate and also miss the opportunity for proper scrutiny. Hence, there are measures in this budget implementation act to correct mistakes in previous budget implementation acts.
In terms of trademarks, three weeks ago the Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a call to action to their members in response to the trademark provisions of Bill C-31. Canadian entrepreneurs, who are the real job creators of our country, are concerned that Bill C-31 would remove the requirement to use a trademark before it could be registered.
We have heard from chambers across the country, from Surrey, Burnaby, Kamloops, Leduc, Winnipeg, Sudbury, Sarnia, Oakville, Milton, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, East Kawartha, Haliburton Highlands, Northumberland, Fredericton, Gander, Beaverton, Winkler and the Northwest Territories. These chambers of commerce have contacted us to say that Bill C-31 and these changes to the trademark provisions will increase the cost of doing business in Canada and will make Canada a less competitive country.
They are concerned that Bill C-31 will lead to trademark trolls and greater levels of litigation. They ask that the trademark provision of the bill be removed. They take great exception to the fact that they have not been consulted by the government.
We have heard from specific companies, including Giant Tiger, Sobeys, Credit Union Central of Canada and PepsiCo. These businesses that operate in Canada and employ a lot of Canadians are offering their valuable advice and professional expertise on an issue with which they have great familiarity.
However, instead of listening, the Conservatives have basically ignored their concerns and dismissed them out of hand. In fact, at the finance committee the Conservatives attacked the credibility of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. They actually questioned the chamber's true motives and suggested it was just self-interested lawyers who wanted to maximize fees, not employers who wanted to grow the economy and hire more Canadians.
There has been a lot of discussion on FATCA. Members of the business community are not the only ones who are being squeezed by Bill C-31. Canada-U.S. dual citizens are left out in the cold. The minister and even some finance officials could not actually answer the question of how many Canadians would be affected. The reality is that it is about a million Canadians who are caught in this dragnet.
Bill C-31 includes the intergovernmental agreement, or the IGA with the U.S., to implement FATCA. This should not be in a budget bill; it should be before the justice committee. There are strong foreign policy implications and issues of extraterritoriality. The agreement reached by the government is flawed. There are a lot of Canadians living in Canada with a connection to the U.S. They do not even know they are considered by the IRS to be taxable as Americans, in many cases.
The list includes persons born in the U.S. or born to an American parent, even if they have never lived in the U.S. While there are some exemptions for Canadian banks in terms of reporting, there are no exemptions for the Canadian citizens who happen to, in some cases almost by accident, be considered American taxpayers under this legislation.
One of the concerns that we have is that registered programs, for instance registered disability savings plans and registered education savings plans, these types of programs into which the Canadian government contributes matching grants to the investments made by Canadian citizens and taxpayers, those matching grants, we were told at committee and it was confirmed, will actually be considered taxable income by the IRS.
The intention, of course, of those matching grants by the Canadian taxpayer is to help young Canadians get an education or to help disabled Canadians benefit. It is not to effectively subsidize the U.S. Treasury.
These are some of the challenges in this legislation. Unfortunately with an omnibus bill, we have not been given the opportunity as parliamentarians to do our jobs properly and, at the appropriate committee, to scrutinize this massive, complex and unwieldy omnibus legislation by the Conservative government.