Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to speak to budget implementation bill C-43. This bill of more than 460 pages is divided into four parts and will create, amend or eliminate about 400 sections. Most of the laws amended have absolutely nothing to do with the budget.
The Conservatives have rushed through many omnibus bills without enough analysis and without respect for the democratic process.
We deplore the fact that this is happening again with Bill C-43. One would think that it is groundhog day in the House of Commons. It is always the same. This is another Trojan horse, and we truly oppose it because we cannot debate all the measures it contains. This is what always happens.
A fine example of the undemocratic process that goes along with this Conservative government's omnibus bills is the new section 27.2 of the Telecommunications Act. This section states that any person who provides telecommunications services shall not charge a subscriber for providing the subscriber with a paper bill. This measure has the full support of the NDP. We support it because the NDP has been fighting for years to stop this pay-to-pay practice.
Unfortunately, I cannot vote for this measure because it is buried deep in a mountain of changes that I completely disagree with. I think my frustration is clear. This situation comes up again and again, every time the Conservative government introduces an omnibus bill. That is the most pernicious part of all this.
This situation will probably give the minister the opportunity to repeat again and again that our party did not support eliminating fees for paper bills and that the opposition voted against it.
Let us look at the facts, the situation here, and be honest. We want to support that provision, but only if it is removed from the omnibus bill and voted on in another bill. Once again, this government prefers pettiness to genuine democracy.
I still want to take the time to say, in the House, that I will vote for a proposal to eliminate fees for telecommunications bills. At the very least, I will have said it.
We support other amendments set out in Bill C-43. In fact, Bill C-43 also includes measures to improve the integrity of our tax code, which is certainly a step in the right direction, although there is still a lot to be done to combat tax evasion.
The bill also puts in place a DNA data bank to help in missing persons cases. This is another measure the NDP has long been calling for.
Let us now talk about the negative aspects of this bill. Unfortunately, there are far more negative aspects than positive ones. First, Bill C-43 does not honour the Conservatives' promise to put an end to the exorbitant fees charged by banks. If the Conservatives agree that it is not right for the telecommunications companies to charge billing fees, then why do they allow the banks to keep using this completely unjustified practice?
Omnibus Bill C-43 also has provisions that would amend the federal-provincial fiscal arrangements to allow the provinces to impose minimum residency requirements on immigrants before they can access various benefits. Asylum seekers and others without permanent resident status could be denied access to social assistance benefits.
The Conservatives' goal is to encourage the provinces to reduce the costs related to paying social assistance, at the expense of the most vulnerable residents in our society. Those people already face major obstacles, including the sluggish labour market, discrimination, and lack of experience, to name a few.
Restricting access to social assistance will only hinder the integration process of these vulnerable people and increase poverty and its many symptoms. Society will be left paying the bill.
Moreover, these measures are highly discriminatory and a blatant violation of human rights. Over 160 Canadian organizations sent an open letter to the Minister of Finance voicing opposition to the government's decision to restrict refugee claimants' access to social assistance. Bill C-43 also changes the rules for credit unions, and they have had no say in the matter. We do not yet know the exact consequences of these changes, but this is just like the 2013 budget, in which the Conservatives unfairly increased the taxes payable by credit unions.
Bill C-43 also institutes the hiring credit for small businesses, a measure that many economists consider wasteful. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the program will create no more than 800 jobs despite its enormous cost.
Nevertheless, it is what this famous budget implementation bill leaves out that is so problematic for the Canadian economy. Private sector growth has been virtually moribund for 18 months. Not a single job has been created. Approximately 300,000 people lost their jobs in the last recession, but there is nothing in this bill to help them find new work or to help replace the 400,000 manufacturing sector jobs lost on this Prime Minister's watch.
Currently, the youth unemployment rate is twice the national average; that has not changed since the depths of the recession. For young people entering the workforce, getting that first job is a crucial step that enables them to become productive and useful members of society.
Furthermore, we are seeing record levels of personal debt, much higher than what we used to see. In 1980, the ratio of household debt to personal disposable income was 66%, and now it is 164%. That is an incredible increase. The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, has stated that household debt in this country is a major risk factor for the Canadian economy. Society is living beyond its means. Our families are in too much debt.
When people have been having a hard time making ends meet for a number of years, they are no longer able to pay their bills. They underestimated how much money they would need to make ends meet. It happens to many people. In Quebec, rent went up by over 40% in 10 years. When rent represents 30%, 50% or 70% of a person's income, that is a lot. It prevents them from being able to pay their electricity bill and buy food. Those are basic needs. I am not even talking about entertainment. Many people can no longer afford entertainment, not even cable.
If we do not acknowledge that situation and if we do not listen to families who are having trouble making ends meet, we cannot come up with effective policies that reflect this reality. It is shameful that this government does not understand the extent of this problem at all.
The NDP has real solutions to help Canadians. We want to bring in new regulations to put an end to the abusive practices of banks, money lenders and credit card companies. We want to ensure that all Canadians have access to a credit card with a reasonable interest rate that does not exceed prime plus 5%, and we are going to cap the fees charged at ATMs at no more than 50¢ per transaction. An NDP budget would immediately put a stop to the federal government's plan to raise the retirement age to 67 and would reverse the $36 billion in cuts to provincial health transfers.
To balance the budget, we are instead proposing to phase out subsidies for the oil and gas sectors, which amount to over $1 billion. We also want to hire the resources necessary to recover the billions of dollars that are lost because of tax evasion and the use of tax havens.
Right now, the federal government is hardly operating like a real democracy.
Since winning a majority, the Conservatives have passed 2,190 pages of omnibus bills. The NDP always opposes the Conservatives' omnibus bills, just like we opposed the Liberals' omnibus bills in the 1990s.
The government is using the House of Commons to impose its omnibus bills. Canadians deserve better from their elected representatives.