Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-31, even in a context of limited debate, unfortunately. Obviously, the Conservatives have not changed their ways. As usual, they have introduced a massive bill, an omnibus budget implementation bill designed to make us adopt hundreds of changes before they can even be studied properly.
This bill is over 350 pages long, has nearly 500 clauses, amends 60 laws and includes measures that were never mentioned in the budget speech. To ensure that this bill is passed as quickly as possible, the government is limiting debate in the House and not giving enough time for the committees to thoroughly review it. That way, many clauses are adopted quickly. The Conservatives are doing everything in their power to avoid being accountable to the House for their budgetary measures.
True to form, the government prefers to undermine the democratic process. That is beneath the dignity of a government of a democratic country like ours. We have the facts to prove it. For example, the hon. member for North Vancouver moved a motion whereby at 11 p.m. on May 29, 2014, all clauses that had not yet been voted on would be deemed adopted and all amendments not yet voted upon would be deemed rejected.
This does not live up to Canadians' expectations. They deserve better than this government that has no respect for democratic, parliamentary institutions. It is incredible that the government is pushing the passage of bills that have not been properly studied by Parliament and the Standing Committee on Finance, as is the case here.
No one will be surprised to learn that we will not support this budget, because it places Canadians in a position where their privacy could be violated. The bill contains nothing to support SMEs. Even worse, there is nothing in this bill to help the additional 300,000 Canadians who have become unemployed since the recession to find work, or to replace the 400,000 manufacturing jobs lost under the current Prime Minister.
Small and medium-sized businesses have been hit hard by this government. Many owners of SMEs have pointed out that the bill does not renew the hiring credit that the NDP was the first to propose in 2011 and that has now disappeared, unfortunately. However, changes were proposed to the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations tax credit.
Canadians deserve better. They deserve investments, economic development and high-quality jobs for the middle class.
We would have liked to have seen measures to help Canadian businesses grow, create jobs and increase their exports in this budget implementation bill. The government should have devised a comprehensive strategy for tackling youth unemployment and underemployment. One solution would have been to create a credit to encourage businesses to hire and train young people. By cracking down on unpaid internships, we would have ensured that young people were paid for their work.
If this government really wanted to work with the provinces to create jobs, it could have established a long-term strategy to address the shortages of skilled labour in order to support workers who want to move to another part of the country to take a long- or short-term job.
It is asking far too much of this government to bring together the provinces, employers, unions and educational institutions in order to improve the existing labour market development agreements. The government obviously prefers to establish policies behind closed doors, without any consultation.
Canada is a federation and the government, in many respects, seems to have forgotten the principle of co-operative federalism.
This bill is also a slap in the face to our veterans. Instead of compensating disabled veterans for the unjust deductions from their pensions since 2006, the government plans only to offer retroactive compensation for deductions that were made after the Federal Court ruling against the government in May 2012.
That is six years of deductions that the Conservatives do not have the decency to reimburse to these cheated veterans. It is beyond comprehension.
The government managed to find $36 million to challenge the veterans' case before the courts before being set straight. It found $28 million to fund celebrations of the War of 1812. Recently, it found $103,000 to promote tweets by Veterans Affairs Canada. It also found $4 million more this year for advertising so that the government and the minister could inform veterans. Inform them about what? Just a phone number is provided and very often no one even answers. The government prefers to pat itself on the back rather than compensate our veterans properly.
Veterans obviously deserve to be compensated adequately for their sacrifices, a principle this government seems to have forgotten yet again, given the lack of measures in this budget to help veterans.
I would like to quote something that retired captain Sean Bruyea said about this bill:
The omnibus budget bill does not meet Canada's democratic standard. It allows many changes to Canada's laws to enter the back door of government policy without full participatory and democratic due process. Ramming through legislation without proper scrutiny is an insult to the dignity of all that the military has sacrificed in Canada's name and at Parliament's order.
I could not summarize the situation better than Captain Bruyea does in that quotation.
For all Montrealers, and for the people in my riding listening to us, the bill also includes provisions about the Champlain Bridge. Bill C-31 exempts the Champlain Bridge from some of the key consumer protection and safety requirements in the User Fees Act and the Bridges Act, and gives the minister in charge the power to exempt this project from all federal laws.
We might mention, for example, the requirement to consult the public, to justify setting tolls, to establish an independent body to examine complaints, to reduce fees deemed to be excessive, and to ask the Department of Public Works and Government Services to verify the completeness and the safety of the project.
This government has therefore reiterated its desire to impose tolls on the new Champlain Bridge with no consultation, dismissing out of hand the interests of Montrealers and everyone in my riding, who will have to pay for the replacement of existing infrastructure. The effect of that will be to clog other bridges; it makes no sense. This government keeps working behind closed doors to impose the tolls. More than 1,000 people have written to tell me that they are absolutely opposed to such a provision. This infrastructure is essential for the economy of the Montreal area and also for the economy of Canada as a whole. The Conservatives consider the bridge to be a piece of local infrastructure. It does not span a little stream; it spans one of the biggest and most important shipping routes in Canada. It is the busiest bridge in the country.
We in the NDP listen to our constituents. This is why we proposed four amendments in committee to prevent tolls from being imposed. Of course, those amendments were dismissed outright by the Conservative members on the committee. We will continue to fight, come what may, to stop the government from imposing tolls on the new Champlain Bridge.
Canadians deserve a budget bill that supports our businesses, which are the engine of job creation. Canadians therefore expected measures that would make their lives more affordable and that would help them save for their retirement. They expected funding for veterans' programs that reflected the sacrifices these people made for their country. Instead, the Conservatives decided to cut programs and tax credits so that they could balance the budget and hand out goodies to their target demographic just before next year's election.
Canadians deserve better than that, and we obviously do not support this bill.