Madam Speaker, the good news is that despite this “man cold”, as my wife calls it, my voice seems to be back. I hope it will stick around for the next 15 minutes so that I can speak to budget implementation act, 2018, No. 2. Before getting to what is in the bill or, more to the point, what is not, which might make up the bulk of my comments, I want to talk about the process.
After all, this is an omnibus bill, like the ones we saw so often under the previous government. The current government actually campaigned on a pledge to end the use of omnibus bills. The Liberals not only broke that promise, but they are constantly introducing omnibus bills. They use them not just for budgets, but also for other areas like public safety, transport and justice. We keep getting bills that are harder and harder for parliamentarians to study in any meaningful way.
I may be mistaken about the numbers, which we can check, but the mere fact that we can evoke this type of image says a lot. The Conservatives' first omnibus bill, Bill C-38, which was introduced in 2012 in the last Parliament, showed how abusive this practice had become. The bill was the nadir of this anti-democratic tendency, seeking to undermine the employment insurance program and eliminate the already inadequate environmental assessment process. The bill was hundreds of pages long.
If we were to combine the Conservatives' first omnibus bill from 2012 with the Liberals' first omnibus bill—not the one we are currently debating—we would have a bill the same size as the one before us, which is over 800 pages long.
That is completely ridiculous. I gather some of us are burning the midnight oil in our offices to read the bill. Some members say that they are sick of looking at the four walls of their offices, so they go read it at home. However, let us be honest. The idea that we have the time to consult our constituents, speak to stakeholders on the various files that critics are responsible for, read up on subjects of interest to MPs, and also read Bill C-86, including all the acts it amends, is simply unrealistic.
Some might say that this violates our parliamentary privileges. I am not looking to start a debate on privilege, but I do think it is important to point out how hard this makes it for us to do our jobs.
Even setting aside the size of the bill, the weight of it, and the rule against using props during debate in the House, I would advise my constituents not to print it out. It would be a waste of paper. The thing is massive.
On top of introducing a massive bill, the government has moved time allocation. Not only is it limiting debate in the wider sense by introducing a bill that is extremely difficult to study and therefore to debate, but it is also limiting the time for debate. In 10 or 20 minutes, the normal length of a speech in the House, it is impossible to address every issue. Plus, the government wants to limit the time for debate. This means that we, as the second opposition party, get to put up about eight speakers at most, out of about 40 or so MPs.
Some might say that the budget process, and therefore the budget implementation bill, are among the most important duties of the federal government. The fact that less than one-third of the members of a recognized opposition party get a chance to speak is a real problem.
Let us put the procedural issue aside, since we could talk for ages about this broken promise. I also want to talk about what is missing from this bill and, by extension, from the Liberals' budget. Unfortunately, the Liberals have neglected these elements too often over these past few years, since they came to power.
I would like to focus on a few aspects in particular. First, the government is still not charging web giants sales tax, even though that is a relatively simple matter. It is a matter of fairness and common sense.
When I was in my riding during the last parliamentary recess, I spoke with a constituent who told me that that is today's reality. We now get services via the Internet. That is how we download music, movies and television shows.
We are not asking the government to reinvent the wheel or to go against an existing trend. We are asking it to do two things. First, we are asking it to put all businesses on a level playing field. If Canadians order goods or services online, then they should have to pay sales tax the same way they would in a regular store. That may seem obvious to those watching at home, but the Liberal government has failed to do anything about this for far too long.
The Government of Quebec has led the way, and we hope that the other provinces and territories will follow its lead. However, with all due respect for our National Assembly colleagues, I have to say that it is not enough. The federal government has economic levers that it must use to level the playing field for businesses so that Canadians can benefit from the revenue generated under the law. That is what is lacking right now. However, it is not only the web giants, such as Netflix, Google, and Facebook, that must be required to charge sales tax. All the other digital platforms on which people can purchase goods must be, as well. The government is currently relying on the good faith of some stakeholders who have chosen to proactively charge sales tax.
Second, an agreement needs to be made regarding the future of our culture, specifically with regard to Netflix. I am not as familiar with this topic as my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, who I am sure would have a lot to say about music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. For now, I want focus on Netflix because I do not have much time.
I will not discuss the sales tax for now. I have no doubt the former heritage minister had a rough time in Quebec. Pretty much everyone unanimously agreed that her Netflix deal fell short, not only because of the percentage of francophone and Quebec content, which is nil, but also because the government asked so little of Netflix. The government is counting on the company to operate on the honour system and obey the law proactively.
Madam Speaker, I see your signal that I have just two minutes left. What better proof that it is impossible to study an omnibus bill in the time provided.
France and other countries offer examples of different ways to do this. We can also come up with our own model to acknowledge that this is the new normal without letting Internet giants rake in the profits while crushing our culture. We need to promote our cultural sector so that it can continue to make all of its unique offerings available to us with content that is our very own. This is about quality content and our duty to remember and share.
I will now move on to something else that is missing from the Liberals' budget.
The Minister of National Revenue keeps talking about a $1-billion investment. The only thing that investment did was rub salt in the wound by uncovering the billions of dollars that are lost to tax evasion and tax avoidance. We see that cronyism is alive and well in the Liberal Party. The issue of the Panama papers and the paradise papers has not been resolved. Nothing has been done to recover those billions of dollars. Again, it is a matter of fairness.
In closing, I would say that the omnibus bill does very little to address the problems that the supposedly progressive Liberals promised to fix and this is their third attempt at it. That is three attempts and three failures.