I recently emailed all members of the Canadian Senate expressing my concerns over the massive omnibus Bill C-38. Although I have not personally read all 425 pages of the bill, I am very concerned about the effect many of the legislative revisions will have on the environment and hard earned labour rights for workers. I am also extremely troubled by the time frame in which this Bill was presented in parliament and fear that the rushing through of such far-reaching revisions to Canadian policy without an adequate platform for necessary and thorough debate contributes to an erosion of the democratic process.
Two senators responded to my concerns; Elaine McCoy and Céline Hervieux-Payette.
Thank you for your message and your responsible position against Bill C-38 of the Harper government. Unfortunately, C-38 has just been adopted.
As Deputy-Chair of the Standing Committee on Banking and member of the Senate Committee on National Finance, I went through 425 pages of the bill. I heard dozens of witnesses: government ministers, NGOs, consumer groups, think-tanks, teachers etc.. Now, I come out of these many hours spent in committee with more fears. You are right to be worried because I know how dangerous C-38 is! Let me tell you why.
I have already seen how the Conservative government has abused of its majority ram their bill through parliament. 425 pages, 753 items, about 70 modified laws, major changes to the lives of all Canadians rushed in 4 weeks. What contempt for Parliament and democracy!
But the Conservatives have attacked the provinces as well. Not only did they choose not to consult them, but they decided to encroach on their jurisdiction. For example, Bill C-38 adds a clause declaring that the federal government will have more power in the banking sector and eliminate provincial laws relating to consumer protection.
Bill C-38 is, in my opinion, an attack against the jurisdictions of the provinces. I would like to refer particularly to the employment insurance because it introduces subjective rules that will establish whether the work is up to standard and what is required from a worker. Note that, generally, we do not talk about workers earning $ 100 000 and more per year.
C-38 will create serious problems for provincial budgets since certain measures of the Act will increase the cost of provincial social programs. These include changes to employment insurance, Old Age Security Programs and even measures that will aim to reduce tax revenues such as the right to buy more duty-free goods at the border.
The Conservatives, by abusing their majority, have shown Canadians that there is no room for social justice in their reformist agenda. They decided to remove the requirement that federal contractors comply with the Employment Equity Act for employment that benefited the most vulnerable in our society. By removing the requirement that corporations doing business with the State respect the Employment Equity Act, the Harper government literally abandoned women, Aboriginal peoples, disabled persons and visible minorities and destroyed decades of social progress.
This Budget Implementation bill is also an attack against human rights. I do not need to tell you that representatives of the Public Service Alliance of Canada opposed the abolition of the requirement for federal contractors to follow the Employment Equity Act in respect to employment. The reason is simple: there are clients who have difficulty finding jobs, and whose unemployment rate is higher. We need measures and, especially, to lead by example. We give a good example when we force a company who has over 100 employees and a 200 000$ contract with the government to respect the legal obligation of having an equity plan for employment to ensure equal rights for Aboriginal people, visible minorities, the disabled and women.
You’ve probably already realized that the Conservative government does not support views that are contrary to their own. Bill C-38, authorizes the Minister of National Revenue to suspend the issuance of tax receipts for charities when he believes that charitable organizations spend too much for political activities. The Minister may also suspend their charitable status if it finds errors in their reports to the Canada Revenue Agency. Basically, the adoption of Bill C-38 will now allow the Conservatives to use this law to intimidate their opponents, reducing their numbers and weaken the quality of democratic debate.
With respect to human rights, there is the issue of Aboriginal land management including First Nations and the First Nations Statistical Institute. In both cases, we did not hear Aboriginal representatives say that they were consulted on these subjects. As for the First Nations Statistical Institute, it relates to all organizations, such as Statistics Canada, which paint a portrait of the Canadian reality. In the case of First Nations, they need to have accurate data to ensure that they have policies they put in place are based on objective data. The Conservatives decided to abolish the institute.
As for the environment, it is equally dramatic! Studies of the National Energy Board (NEB) are capped at two years, the Conservatives will ignore the decisions of the NEB to approve projects, and assessments are no longer required for projects receiving federal funds, the definition of “environmental effects” only covers the impact of projects on fish, on some aquatic species and migratory birds; permits for littering at sea, currently limited to one year, can now be renewed four times , the Endangered Species Act is being amended to provide the NEB the ability to impose conditions to protect critical habitats, the Coasting Trade Act is amended to facilitate the holding of seismic tests, a measure that could facilitate oil exploration. The repeal of the Act implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which required Canada to meet the targets of the treaty and to report its GHG emissions to the UN, Fisheries Act is amended to target only those species that are subject to a commercial, recreational or indigenous; the construction of pipelines and power lines is no longer governed by the law that protects waterways, Environment Canada removes several programs related to water; abolition of the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which had the mandate to advise the federal government …
C-38 is also an attack on Canada’s international reputation.
The liberal minority voted against Bill C-38.
The Conservatives will be held responsible for the profound effects that Bill C-38 will have on the lives of Canadians. Let us remember these facts at the next election! In the meantime, I invite you to share this message with your friends and family. Together we will stop the destruction of Canada by the Conservatives.
The Honourable Céline Hervieux-Payette, P.C.