Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate. I have been listening to different members provide their views on the contents of the BIA. Some members have elected to go with a more generalist approach and have talked about the economy. Others have focused on specific clauses, and I will do the same. I am going to focus in the latter half of my comments on clause 470, which was debated at the Standing Committee on Finance, and the very specific amendments proposed.
For a lot of BIAs I have seen before the House of Commons proposed by the Government of Canada, one could say lose an hour in the morning and then chase it all day, which is a Yiddish proverb. It means that if one wastes a lot of time at the beginning of the day, one is going to wind up always trying to catch up, which is what the government has done over the past three years. It is always playing catch-up and using its BIAs to play catch-up.
We seem to waste an inordinate amount of time in the House speaking to different pieces of proposed legislation, and the government never seems to have all its ducks in a row. We saw it with Canada Post over the weekend. It just does not seem to be able to schedule important pieces of legislation and actually consult with this side of the House on matters that interest us.
I would call the BIA an epic failure of leadership. It was time allocated speedily into committee. Once it reached committee, there was what I would call a guillotine motion imposed on members of the opposition, which quite a few New Democrats complained about. It was very stringent in how we could look at it. If we took any time to translate briefs, translate recommendations and amend proposals for amendments, it left very little time for opposition members to propose thoughtful amendments. We tried. We proposed many, but all of them were voted down by the government. I will focus on clause 470 and a specific amendment proposed by the member for Foothills, which received broad support from opposition parties who were members of the committee.
This particular BIA, again, is coddling and compounding the problem of the deficit we have. There was a promise made by the Prime Minister that the government would run itsy-bitsy, tiny little deficits, and in 2019, in just 30 or so days, it would be running a balanced budget, which it has failed to do. Not only did the Liberals fail to do anything about it, but as far as the eye can see, we will have further and further deficits. The contents of the BIA will compound that problem.
In 2017, the net debt hit an all-time high of $670 billion. If we include Crown corporation debt, we are actually over $1 trillion in debt already. Per Canadian family, that is $47,612. If we look at what an average single family is earning with a single earner, they are very comparable.
I heard members mention that the CRA was getting extra tools and extra funding. However, the CRA was lambasted and heavily criticized last Tuesday in the Auditor General's report, which said that with the billion dollars spent on salaries for extra auditors, there were two systems: one for regular Canadians, and one for the monied elite and lobbyists. If people have a problem with the CRA, like some of my constituents, it will chase them down for every single penny owed and make sure that they pay. It will garnish their wages if it has to and take it straight out of their bank accounts. However, if one happens to have an offshore bank account, perhaps in the Caribbean, and has difficulty completing filing or is not on time, the CRA will give one months or years or maybe just close the file and not bother to follow up. Every single year, for the past three years, the CRA has been ticking upwards in its inability to collect taxes, so it is simply writing off billions of dollars it finds it is incapable of collecting.
Back in my home province of Alberta, “build that pipe” is fast becoming the motto or slogan of our province. The Prime Minister experienced it last week when, for the first time I think in a very long time, we saw thousands of Calgarians take to the streets to protest his speech at the Chamber of Commerce. I can say that he did not do well at all. It was quite a frosty reception he received from the business community. Among the protesters, we saw a lot of people in business suits who had come out at lunch time just so they could protest the Prime Minister. Again, in this BIA, there is nothing for them.
To the clause I want to talk about, I think a lot of Canadians will be quite surprised to learn that there are two different sets of systems for bereaved parents. The first system, we are told by officials, is 17 weeks of maternity benefits if one happens to lose a child through a death. That does not apply to fathers, who get five days. They get three paid days and two unpaid days. That seems patently unfair when the member for Foothills offered up an amendment to provide 12 weeks of bereavement leave, regardless of whether it was a mother or father.
We actually suspended the meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance for it to be dealt with, clause by clause, at the end of the day, which we did. Eventually, the members of the government caucus voted against providing equality for bereaved fathers in a situation where they have lost a child, for whatever reason that is. It was a very reasonable amendment proposed by the member for Foothills.
Certain members of the government caucus questioned how they could make a decision to provide 12 weeks of bereavement leave if they did not have all the information, when there was so much in the BIA they were already doing. There is leave provided, 104 weeks, for instance, that would be adjusted, in cases where a child has been killed as the result of a crime. In those cases, 104 weeks is be provided to either parent.
In a case where a mother loses a perinatal child, a baby, she is eligible for up to 17 weeks, under the maternity benefits. However, after 17 weeks and a day, she is not eligible for more. The Conservative amendment that was proposed would have fixed that. It would have provided either parent with an opportunity to grieve for the child they lost, bury him or her, and take care of the other children, if they had any.
Members will know that my youngest daughter passed away in August. Therefore, this was of particular interest to me, because a lot of dads and moms have contacted me over the past few months, both to share their sadness and to explain their experience with the Government of Canada system and the different workplaces they have been in.
I wonder why members on the opposite side would continue to insist that we vote against this particular amendment on clause 470. It was very reasonable. Again, they said that they simply did not have enough information. I would point out to them that the BIA is almost 900 pages long, and because of the guillotine motion, a programming motion that only provided a few weeks to consider the vast contents of this piece of legislation, it is impossible for any member to honestly say that he or she has read every single line and understood every single component. I will admit to not understanding all the components, and I am focusing on those of the greatest interest to me. When I suggested that we delay clause-by-clause consideration just an extra day to get a Department of Justice opinion on whether the 17 weeks and the 12 weeks conflicted, which was one of the arguments for voting against the motion, I was told that it was unnecessary, and we proceeded to a vote, and it was voted down.
The reason I bring it up here is that I will quite gladly vote against this BIA because of procedural tricks like this, procedural tricks the Government of Canada and the Liberal Party expressly said they would not use. I would remind the Liberal members that I have probably read their platform much more closely than they have. On page 30, it states, “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.” It goes on to say, “We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.” It speaks specifically about omnibus legislation, which they have here again.
The Speaker elected, for the second time now, to split out portions of the omnibus bill because they did not match the budget. In my office, whenever a BIA is presented to us, we go through it to compare it to the budget document to see what is actually in the budget and what is in the BIA to make sure that the Liberals live up to the promise of not engaging in procedural tricks.
I will gladly vote against this piece of legislation, because it is unfair to dads and unfair to those who are grieving for a child they have lost and because the Liberals are again engaging in procedural tricks, which they expressly said they would not do.