Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to discuss Bill C-21, An Act to control the administrative burden that regulations impose on businesses. I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherbrooke.
To listen to the government, and at first glance, this bill seems interesting. The idea of reducing paperwork is important. Before I was elected, I owned a small business and was the only employee. Therefore, I understand that it is important to reduce the amount of paperwork, the forms and procedures for people in business so that they can concentrate on their work.
As an elected official, I spoke with representatives of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and chambers of commerce on Montreal's south shore. I know that this issue especially affects the business world and small businesses. Business people would not have to waste their time filling out forms and doing the administrative tasks of their companies and instead could look after their business and improve their bottom line, as that is often their objective.
However, we must not forget our responsibilities as legislators. I do not want to generalize, but deregulation seems to be the goal of the Conservative government and the Liberals. They are always saying that the market will take care of itself.
For example, in terms of rail safety, the Liberals first privatized everything to do with railways without putting in place regulations to protect Canadians, and that practice continued under the Conservatives. Unfortunately, we saw what happened at Lac-Mégantic.
Let us return to the bill before us, as that is the reason why I am rising today. I will talk about the one-for-one rule. This means that the government will eliminate one regulation for every new regulation it introduces. This rule is rather arbitrary, but we understand its objective. This would stop the government from introducing more and more regulations.
I will once again use rail safety as an example. I often use that, because I am the NDP transport critic, and we are all well aware of the problems caused by deregulation. In committee, the Liberals are still saying that private companies should be allowed to set their own regulations. They believe that companies should use common sense, and then it would follow that everyone would be safe. Of course, the government says the same thing, and says so loud and clear through the measures it adopts.
The goal of the one-for-one rule seems positive. However, it is troubling that the government is granting itself the power to put a regulation in place—yet another one—that allows it to set certain rules aside and decide how it wants to proceed. This gives more powers to the ministers.
Basically, I am worried about how this government manages regulations, particularly when it comes to rail safety, but also regarding food inspection. The government has a strong tendency to allow companies to self-regulate, and this creates situations like the XL Foods crisis, which led to one of the biggest food recalls in Canada.
Another concern is that the bill seems to lump everything together, without taking important public safety regulations into consideration.
As my colleague said, when we talk about safety, we are also talking about the environment and health. Should we put everything in the same basket? The government would say that this bill does not affect health and safety, because it has to do with reducing red tape for small and medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, that is not written in the bill, only in the preamble. As a lawyer who studied and practised in this area, I know that the preamble is supposed to give us an idea of the legislator's intention, but why is this idea not found in the bill itself?
The government simply wants to adopt a measure to remove a rule every time a new rule is introduced. In light of the study conducted by the Standing Committee on Transport following the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, we know that railway safety regulations are inadequate. Since those events, the government has been introducing measures to make up for its inaction and that of previous Liberal governments.
In that case, we are talking about new regulations. If it is not written in Bill C-21, does that mean that according to the government's one-for-one rule, for every new regulation, another regulation that protects public safety will be removed? For example, we could talk about the phase-out of the DOT-111 tank cars.
We will ask questions, since we do in fact support the idea behind this bill at second reading stage. I have worked in business and I know what a burden red tape and forms can be and how much time is spent on administration instead of work.
I absolutely support the principle, but we must find the right way to go about this. I am especially concerned about the powers being given to the minister. This will be part of the concerns we will raise. I will support the bill at second reading, but studies will have to be done.
The NDP is often criticized for opposing everything, but that is not the case. Having been a member of several House committees, I know that we often, if not always, put forward proposals. However, the government, which holds the majority in the House and in committees, constantly rejects the proposals, even though they improve the bill in order to help Canadians and small businesses. There is concern that the government will not lend its support.
Since we are talking about proposals, I want to step away from the bill for a moment. However, my comments will still be relevant. We have talked about credit card fees. I met with people from my riding so they could sign letters to the former finance minister. They wanted him to be aware of their concerns. They were business people who work hard to earn a living. Unfortunately, once again, since the government does not really like to regulate, it adopted a measure that allows credit card companies to act voluntarily.
In the interests of small businesses, some regulations need to be made. However, the government is not listening to us and does not agree.
When this is referred to committee and the NDP and Liberals make proposals, we hope that the government will listen to us.