More Details on Bill C-38
1. This Bill is bad for democracy.
If s/he isn’t one of 39 cabinet ministers, your Conservative MP is likely being excluded & silenced, and won’t represent your voice in this crucial decision-making process – unless you encourage him or her to speak out. This situation will only get worse if this bill passes.
By giving Prime Minister Harper and cabinet sweeping new powers, Bill C-38 would make it even easier for PM Harper and his Ministers to decide the future of our country on their own. Ministers would get to create new classes of foreign workers with limitations on their rights, and decide who gets access to employment insurance. By shutting down environmental review processes, Ministers would ultimately decide whether a corporate development is safe for the environment.
The Bill would “eliminate the requirement” for oversight by the Auditor General, who performs a crucial role as an independent watchdog reporting back to citizens on government action.3 The Auditor General would stop performing financial and/or other audits of over 20 government agencies, including those responsible for monitoring workplace, transport and food safety, and will lose 10% of his staff. These agencies would submit financial reports directly to ministers instead.4
Conservative MP David Wilks describes the power being used by Harper and his Ministers: “The decisions are made predominantly by cabinet and then they come back to [other Members of Parliament] informing us how this is going to move forward…at the end of the day they have made up their mind.”5
This bill is a power grab – if passed, it will undermine democracy far beyond the Harper years.
2. This Bill threatens our economic and social security.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer says that this budget could cost 43,000 Canadian jobs in 2 years.6
Canadian seniors would be prevented from accessing old age security support payments for 2 more years, until age 67. As John Haggie, the president of the Canadian Medical Association points out: “Many seniors have low incomes and delaying this relatively modest payment by two years is certain to have a negative impact…the costs will be inevitably higher, both in dollars and in human suffering.”7
Employment insurance would be more difficult to get for those in need, as Harper and his ministers can “establish criteria for what constitutes suitable employment”8 – the government could make people travel hours away from their home to work, or lose their support.
This bill isn’t about jobs and prosperity – it is about making us dependent on exporting oil, exploiting natural resources, and taking advantage of low wage earners. As the National Post describes it, it is a “blueprint to increase the labour supply to the…natural gas industry and… oil sector.”9
3. This Bill takes a reckless approach to the environment.
The economic vision in this Bill depends on a smash-and-grab approach to our natural resources.
The Bill seeks to deny the words of Prime Minister Harper’s own Governor General David Johnston: “Our desire for a modern economy and our duty to a sustainable environment are not mutually exclusive — they are mutually reinforcing.”10
The National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy will be shut down. According to The Globe and Mail: “this group was apparently imagined to be a threat simply because, as its name implies, the economy and environment are equally important. Perhaps its very name made it vulnerable.”11
Oil pipelines would be exempt from special laws to protect our water (the Navigable Waters Protection Act). Prime Minister Harper and his Ministers would have power to override expert decisions about energy use, to shorten the list of protected species, and to abolish the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.12
In an open letter, four former Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans raise the alarm about the impacts of the bill on our fish and the places they live. These ministers say the bill would “inevitably reduce and weaken” protection of our fish.13
The bill would also “amend the rules for determining the extent to which a charity has engaged in political activities” and devote $8 million to investigating the activity of charities, likely with a special focus on charities that protect the environment.14 According to the National Post, the overall effect of the proposed Bill “tossed roses to [the] resource-based economy and lobbed a political grenade at the environmental movement.“15
4. This Bill attacks science and public information.
Bill C-38 proposes changes that will weaken our ability to hold government accountable.
More scientists would lose their jobs as a result of this budget, particularly those who monitor our oceans.16 The only national study of Canadian water use would be eliminated, and the budget for monitoring discharge from mines and pulp mills would be cut by one-fifth.17
The budget would cut the bodies responsible for producing the only systematic study of social assistance and welfare in Canada18, and for getting a clear picture of data to measure progress in addressing the needs of First Nations.19
The budget would cut the CBC by 10%, shutting down foreign bureaus and cancelling investigative news programs.20 The Bill would weaken independent oversight of CSIS, the government surveillance agency, and allow Prime Minister Harper to appoint his own intelligence review committee.21
The budget would cut funding to Elections Canada as it investigates electoral fraud.
The Budget Bill not only proposes dramatic changes – it would also make it more difficult for us to understand whether or not those changes are in our best interest.
5. This Bill is the wrong way to make these decisions.
Omnibus bills lump dozens of unrelated and crucial changes into a single yes or no vote.
In 1994, Prime Minister Harper himself said he was opposed to omnibus bills: ”In the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns?…How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse?”22
Before PM Harper and his Ministers took power, budget bills averaged 74 pages. Bill C-38 is 452 pages long. This makes it easy for Canadians to miss short amendments with far-reaching implications. 10 words would wipe out an entire law regarding fair wages and overtime. This is not the way to make major decisions about the direction of our country.
By working together, 13 Conservative MPs can make sure Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet have to change plans or lose the support of the majority of votes in Parliament they need to pass the Budget Bill.
More and more Canadians, including many conservatives, are rallying to defend our democracy and stand together against the Federal Budget Bill.
Let’s keep building on this momentum and show our MPs that Canadians will stand up for their democracy.
3. Bill C-38, Part 4, Division 1 http://parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Docid=5524772&file=4
8. Bill C-38, Part 4, Division 43 http://parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Docid=5524772&file=4
14. Bill C-38, Part 1 http://parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Docid=5524772&file=4