Motion No. 5
That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 233.
Motion No. 6
That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 234.
Motion No. 7
That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 235.
Motion No. 8
That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 236.
Motion No. 9
That Bill C-15 be amended by deleting Clause 237.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-15 at report stage.
I was a member of the Standing Committee on Finance, which studied the bill. Unfortunately, I have to say that history is repeating itself. I was on the Standing Committee on Finance for three years during the previous Parliament. If I remember correctly, in those three years, during which we studied six budget implementation bills, the committee considered thousands of pages of amendments but adopted only one, and that was only after a government MP amended the amendment.
In this case, although we were told the government would be more open and willing to co-operate with the opposition, once again, even though our amendments were totally reasonable and intended to correct certain shortcomings in the bill, not one of them was accepted. In fact, during the three or four meetings we had with witnesses, the committee heard some very interesting things about the bill's content, and more importantly, about some of its flaws. Unfortunately, although these flaws were pointed out to the government, it chose not to fix them. In the end, the only amendment that was accepted was a Liberal member's amendment that simply corrected an oversight in the bill. That is another common characteristic of omnibus bills.
The government claims this is not an omnibus bill. After all, it is only 179 pages long. After all, only 35 acts are amended, added, or corrected. However, it is undeniably an omnibus bill, and this means that it is impossible for the committee to properly study the bill and thoroughly analyze its content. Goodness knows that this bill contains important elements that deserve our attention, but unfortunately, we were not able to give it that attention.
As the opposition, we managed to draw the government's attention to a flaw in this bill, and the government is trying to rectify that at report stage. As far as employment insurance is concerned, 12 regions are being given the option of extending benefits. Again, that is an arbitrary number chosen by the government. On May 13, the Prime Minister made a statement that caught my attention. He announced that three other regions would be added: Southern Saskatchewan, Edmonton, and British Columbia Southern Interior. During clause-by-clause review of the bill, we were quite surprised to see that those three additions did not actually materialize. The government seemed to have completely forgotten its promise.
We did try to make a correction. Initially, we proposed a bill whereby all regions in the country would be eligible, including those in Quebec, where no regions are currently eligible. This was declared out of order by the Speaker of the House. Then, we tried to add an amendment that added all the eligible regions in the pilot project that was abolished by the Conservatives in 2011-12, which extended benefits by five weeks for regions with high unemployment. That amendment was also declared out of order.
We really tried to reach out to the government by presenting an amendment regarding the three regions that it had already announced would be added to the bill. That amendment was also ruled out of order because we did not have a royal recommendation. The interesting part of all this is that the government did not seem to know what we were talking about. The Liberals were completely confused. We asked the official who was there for more information. She was extremely helpful in answering our questions. However, in the end, we still did not get an answer and we do not know whether the government even realized that there was a problem with the provision or that it was failing to keep the promises it had made not during the election campaign, but two weeks before the committee examined the bill.
Most of this bill seems to be improvised. Some of the decisions set out in it are completely inconsistent with the promises that the current government made during the election campaign. We are now making amendments at report stage.
One of the changes we are recommending at report stage is to have the government respect and fulfill the commitment it made during the last campaign regarding small and medium-sized businesses.
In 2008, for the first time, the NDP brought forward the idea of decreasing the tax rate for small and medium-sized businesses from 11% to 9%. We did the same in 2011, and in 2015. Although there was not much that we supported in the Conservative government's last budget, to its credit, it actually announced a decrease to this tax rate from 11% to 9% over a period of four years. Therefore, it was an NDP commitment that the Conservative government decided to implement. We were thankful, but wanted it to be sped up by having it implemented over two years rather than four years. However, at least the gesture was there.
It is not often that all three major parties agree on a single measure, but that was the case for the small and medium-sized business tax cut. We all agreed on it. We all ran on that, including the Liberals.
However, in the first Liberal budget, it states that the tax cut will be frozen at 10.5%. The Liberals even took credit during the budget speeches for that decrease, which was in the previous budget. They basically took credit for not raising it to 11%. I found that disheartening. We brought this topic forward over and over again because small and medium-sized businesses expected it and really counted on that tax cut. They were planning for it because all three parties had agreed. I can say that not one single small and medium-sized business representative, either from the CFIB, my riding, or even other ridings, has applauded the Liberals for this. On the contrary, the comments were scathing. It is disappointing to see the Liberals trying to justify breaking this key electoral promise by talking about anything else.
Although I do not have much time left, I would like to also point out that the Standing Committee on Finance does not seem to understand the key role it has to play in our democracy. This is no reflection on the individual members of the committee, who have actually worked hard and asked good questions. However, the role of the finance committee, like all committees, is to hold government to account.
The government is proposing new laws and amending others. Unfortunately, as we have already said, this government does not seem to listen to the opposition. By introducing omnibus bills, the government is giving us very little time to examine extremely complex measures. That means that we cannot do our job properly, which seems to suit some government members just fine.
Take for example the recapitalization of banks. This measure is extremely important. Honestly, at first glance, I was in favour of it. However, pages 20 to 25 of the bill are extremely technical and they completely change the way that our banks, their shareholders, and depositors are protected if they run into difficulty. We barely talked about that. No witnesses appeared to talk about it. We heard from one official, Mr. Campbell, who was extremely helpful, but we did not have the opportunity to carefully examine, scrutinize, and analyze the ins and outs of that part of the bill, which is extremely important to the future of our country.
I do not think we have managed to do a good job in such little time. I know that Bill C-15 will pass, even though we are going to oppose it, since the government has a majority. However, I would like to tell the government that if it sincerely wants to keep its election promise to increase transparency, it should introduce budget bills that actually deal with budgetary issues. It should not introduce bills that include measures in another law, like Bill C-15, and that include sections that are 25 to 30 pages long on topics that are very important to our country's future. We hope that this government will learn from its mistakes.