Mr. Speaker, on March 29, the Minister of Finance tabled budget 2012 in Parliament. This budget includes reckless cuts to services that Canadians depend on, such as old age security, health care, provincial transfers and environmental assessments.
The Conservatives claim that their budget focuses on job creation. However, they themselves admit that their budget will result in the loss of 19,200 public sector jobs. The fact is that it will raise the unemployment rate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that this budget will actually result in the loss of 43,000 jobs in Canada. That, combined with this government's previous cuts, brings the total number of jobs lost to 102,000.
Bill C-38 is the 2012 budget implementation bill, but it is about much more than just the budget. This massive 421-page bill includes not only the measures described in the budget, but also many changes that were not previously announced.
This bill is not like other bills. It is over 400 pages long. This bill will have a major impact on Canadians. At least one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to weakening environmental protection and rules.
Furthermore, this bill introduces a series of measures that were not previously announced and that will result in reduced transparency and greater secrecy around the government. These measures include decreasing the Auditor General's powers.
Today I wish to draw your attention to one aspect that I find extremely worrisome. It has to do with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It is clear that several parts of the agency are about to be privatized. These cuts to food inspection represent a step backward. We know that the listeriosis crisis in 2008 came about because of a lack of inspectors. Would hon. members not agree that the government should take the safety of Canadians seriously and that it should be transparent when communicating with Canadians?
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is one of a number of agencies that will be excluded from the Auditor General's supervision. Bill C-38 eliminates all references to the Auditor General in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. For instance, the section of the act that was previously called “accounting and audit” will henceforth be called simply “audit”. Mandatory financial and performance audits by the Auditor General have also been eliminated.
Another important and troubling fact is that Bill C-38 eliminates mandatory financial audits by the Auditor General for 12 agencies.
Bill C-38 also amends the Seeds Act to give the president of the CFIA the power to issue licences to persons authorizing them to perform activities related to controlling or assuring the quality of seeds or seed crops. This amendment opens the door to having private companies do food inspection related work. This also sends worrisome signals about the growing likelihood of privatization of some parts of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
This bill will also significantly change how the Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors and enforces non-health and safety food labelling regulations. In other words, when a company states that its products do not contain any traces of peanuts, for example, the consumer will have no way of knowing whether that is true or not. This government believes that it is up to the consumer to judge the trustworthiness of labels. Parents with children who have peanut allergies will not know whether they can trust what the company is saying.
If they have any doubts, they will have to go online and address their concerns to the companies and associations involved.
In essence, the government is suggesting that we wait and see whether anyone has an allergic reaction. If so, then the consumer will have to go to the company's website to tell the company that it lied. The government is not getting involved.
The government is completely withdrawing from the process and is making individuals responsible for food labelling regulations. That makes no sense. Companies will say whatever they want, in order to sell their products to as many people as possible.
These changes scare me and I know I am not the only one who is scared. A woman in my riding wrote to me to tell me how much these changes would affect her family, as her son has a nut allergy. She is very worried about him and rightfully so.
I would also like to go over some of the comments made last week by my Conservative colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, when talking about budget 2012.
He asked the opposition to at least vote for increased investments in food safety.
I would now like to explain why I am voting against them. First, the government is not giving us the opportunity to vote for individual measures because it has decided to put together a gigantic budget bill that encompasses radical changes, such as the increase in the eligibility age for old age security benefits.
So no, I will not be voting against more investments in food safety; rather, I will be voting against an enormous bill that seeks to change environmental laws, the immigration system and employment insurance, among other things.
Second, what my colleague has not mentioned are the $56.1 million in cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Let us do the math. If we add $51 million to a program and then take away $56 million, what do we have left over? A negative figure, or cuts. It leaves us with a weaker inspection program.
That is why I will be voting against the budget implementation bill.
Canadians need transparency. It is not by sneakily passing measures that will have a major impact on Canadians that the government will earn the trust of the people.
Introducing such a wide-ranging bill and allowing so little time to debate it undermines what Parliament is here to do, because members will not have the opportunity to get all the information they need about the bill's content and impact.
It is sad that the government is continuing to ignore what really matters to Canadians: environmental protection, old age security, health care and job creation.
How can we properly do our job as elected representatives of the people when the government is not giving us the time we need to get all the information we need?
The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said repeatedly that MPs are not getting the information they need for proper oversight. He also released a report clearly showing that the old age security program is completely sustainable as it stands now. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has even said that the program would be sustainable if benefits were increased.
Why is the government continuing to make Canadians pay? Why is it ignoring the various reports that clearly prove certain facts? Why is it so determined to fast-track a bill that includes so many cuts? Who will benefit from these measures?
Those are some of the questions I am asking myself as a mother and an MP. What sort of future do we want for future generations? For all these reasons, I will vote against Bill C-38.