Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had an opportunity with this implementation act to build an economy that would lift everyone up, people who counted on them, instead of just the wealthy few at a top with their tax havens. Unfortunately, the Liberals decided instead to defend the interests of their corporate and privileged, consigning the rest of Canada to the back seat.
Budget 2018 and Bill C-74 reveal once again the Liberals' true nature.
I remember in 2004 the damage done to our country after 13 years of Liberal rule, most of those years in majority governments that accomplished little to nothing in the way of fairness and equity for working Canadians. Those Liberals made the most drastic cuts to our public broadcaster, did little to nothing in the way of implementing a universal child care program, nothing to reverse the devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples, except as a last ditch effort to stay in power, and undermined the health care system with cuts to transfer payments to the provinces.
We hoped for more progress than setting the bar at red book promises unfulfilled. For close to three years now, the NDP caucus has been calling on the Liberals to actually be the progressive, positive government they promised us in 2015.
This bill betrays all women who believed the so-called “gender budget” would include much anticipated pay equity legislation, because it does not. The Liberals promised pay equity 40 years ago, again in 2016, and again a month ago in the budget speech. Canadians want to know when the Liberals will finally deliver pay equity.
Despite the smearing of its image by right-wing ideologues, the fact is that the public service has done more than the private sector in achieving gender equity in Canada. While there is still work to do on the equity front, women and men from historically disadvantaged groups, such as disabled persons, indigenous peoples, single parents, seniors, young people, and people of colour, are all represented in the public service workforce in greater percentages than they occur in Canada's population. They are employed at all levels of management and labour in the workforce more proportionately than in the private sector.
Labour researchers and academics have pointed out that this advantage is at least in part the result of the fact workers in the Canadian public service have union representation guaranteed under our Constitution. However, recent reports indicate that the equity and fairness established in the public service is eroding as a result of austerity measures, privatization, and contracting out. The effect of this offloading, besides being inefficient, is that public sector workers are beginning to experience greater levels of workplace precarity. We know too that this precarity impacts diverse members of the workforce who can least afford it.
We need to consider the legacy we are leaving to future generations, those who leave post-secondary and graduate schools with a burden of debt that is insurmountable only to face a world where jobs are scarce. When work can be found, it is more often than not part-time, underpaid, without benefits, and short-term. We need to give future generations more than the finance minister's statement, telling them to suck it up and get used to a lifetime of precarious work.
Future generations will need a robust economy because they will incur the burden of supporting us in our dotage with their tax dollars. We need to seriously consider the legacy we leave. However, we also know it is bigger than that.
We need to take care of each other for everyone to thrive. We need to create a Canada where no one experiences the isolation and degrading health consequences of homelessness, poverty, or mental illness, a Canada with free and equal access to education, health care, child care, pharmacare, housing, clean air, and clean water.
We know what works and what does not. If what we want is to create a healthy sustainable equitable economy where every citizen has equal access to opportunity and is able to thrive and prosper, the Canada we know is possible, the Canada that can be, the work begins now, with federal budgets. Sadly, the Liberals' budget implementation act is even more timid than the budget. It offers no real plan to reduce inequities or build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity today to speak about the ways in which Bill C-74 could have addressed inequalities and build an economy that would benefit all Canadians.
This legislation could have contained provisions to assist rural communities. It does not. The Liberals had an opportunity in their 2018 budget to help rural communities, but instead chose to focus on the interests of their rich friends and their own ridings. In the meantime, they tell people in rural communities to wait for improved employment insurance, cellular infrastructure, and broadband Internet access.
In just the past few days, we have seen announcements from big banks about closing branches in Burford, Blyth, and Clifford in Ontario, and Kipling and Preeceville in Saskatchewan. These closures will leave Blyth and Kipling with no local banking options. In Saskatchewan, the nearest TD branch to Preeceville is an hour to an hour and 45 minutes away.
All of these communities have post offices. A postal banking system would allow members of this community access to banking services that are affordable and competitive, not to mention profitable for Canada Post. In the U.K., corporate banks have actually reversed their opposition to postal banking, because they know it absolves them from the community ire they would experience when they close branches in rural and remote communities, which these banks say do not reap enough profit.
When will the government see the postal banking light? We will have an opportunity in that regard later this session when my motion M-166 comes to the floor of the House for a vote. I urge every member here to support it. We have the opportunity to make effective and progressive change, even if the government avoids it in budget implementation acts. We will have that opportunity very shortly.
A postal banking system would address inequality in this country, something Bill C-74 does not do, even though that should be the goal of government in a social democracy such as ours. Instead we see Canadians who live in rural and remote communities, Canadians with low income, and first nations peoples living on reserve forced to use predatory lenders or to rely on the whim of a local business person or local variety store to access their own money.
A universal pharmacare program would create equal access to life-saving and life-enhancing medications for all Canadians as well. I see nothing in this legislation that addresses that need. In fact, we continue with a patchwork system of access to abortion and birth control that creates inequality and forces Canadians who require those services to either pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs or travel unreasonable hours to access these services. Monday was International Birth Control Day. It is the federal government's responsibility to ensure equal access for all Canadians needing birth control, but the government has failed. Access is neither universal, equal, nor affordable across this country.
I give the the following by way of example: the NuvaRing is available on public formularies in five provinces and one territory, but not the others; IUDs are available in 3 provinces, but not everywhere; emergency contraceptives are covered only in Alberta; and Quebec covers the patch, but no other province or territory does.
Canada has a human rights obligation to ensure that everyone in every province or territory has the same access to the highest quality medications. Why then does a woman in Manitoba and Quebec have access to more birth control methods than a woman in Saskatchewan? Making all birth control and all sexual and reproductive medications free for all of us is about fairness and gender equality. That is the reason I introduced M-65 to continue the push for equal access to birth control for all Canadians.
My constituents in London-Fanshawe do not believe the economy is working for them. What they see instead is an uneven playing field, where only the few at the top can benefit, at the expense of everyone else. They struggle to pay their bills and care for their parents and children in a community gutted by the loss of well-paid jobs moving offshore as a result of globalization, with no protection from either Liberal or Conservative governments.
Finally, this 556 page-long bill amends 44 pieces of legislation. During the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to abolish omnibus bills because they are undemocratic, yet they chose to restrict the length of debate on this substantial bill at the finance committee. This is not democracy and it is a far cry from the sunny ways promised to Canadians in 2015.
We can do better. We are here to do better. Canadians demand better. Do not let the Liberals tell us it cannot be done.