I stand today in opposition to Bill C-38 — An Act to Implement Certain Provisions of the Budget Tabled in Parliament on March 29th, 2012, and Other Measures.
Let me be clear from the get-go, Mr. Speaker, not only do I rise in Opposition to the Conservative budget, which is a backward step in so many ways for Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of Canada.
Then again step isn’t the right word — backward leap seems more appropriate.
A backward leap for Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of Canada.
I also rise in opposition to, and I quote, “Those other measures.”
Because this bill is an omnibus bill — a massive 421-page bill that not only contains the implementation of the 2012 budget.
But contains dozens of other measures buried in its page, hidden in its pages.
Measures that included everything but the kitchen sink — from increasing the age of eligibility for Old-Age Pension to 67 from 65, to gutting the federal Fisheries Act.
But then the kitchen sink may be in the bill somewhere — maybe that’s why the Conservatives are so set on limiting debate.
Maybe that’s why the Conservatives are so set on ramming legislation through this esteemed House so quickly, legislation that wasn’t even hinted at in the 2011 federal election.
As a means to sneak through their secret agenda.
As a means to sidestep democracy.
I can tell you this, Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives will have a hard job getting anything past my party, Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
What’s more, Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives will have an even harder time getting anything past Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — and Canadians everywhere.
The Canadian public is starting to get a pretty good idea of what the Conservative party and the Prime Minister are about.
They’re about big business and the corporate agenda.
They’re about big business and the corporate agenda at the expense of the average Canadian, at the expense of the environment, and at the expense of real meaningful jobs.
The face of Canada is changing, Mr. Speaker, I’ve heard that said in my riding.
The face of Canada is changing and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — Canadians — don’t like what they see in the Ottawa mirror.
Mr. Speaker, I have three perspectives on the Conservative budget implementation bill — the Newfoundland and Labrador perspective, the Atlantic perspective, and the national perspective.
To my home province first, Mr. Speaker — most people where I come from are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians first, Canadians second.
They’ll tell you that to your face if you ask them, and even if you don’t.
Bill C-38 will have huge negative impact on my province in regards to federal job cuts, more of the few federal jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador are being moved to Halifax.
The mayor of St. John’s — Dennis O’Keefe — has gone so far as to say, “If this continues, we’ll end up being a colonial outpost — not of Ottawa, but of Halifax.”
Another quote from the mayor of St. John’s: “Maybe it’s happened so often, since 1949 with Confederation that we’re used to getting a kick in the rear end.”
And a final quote from the good mayor: “I don’t mind if we got our fair share, but we’ve never had our fair share of federal jobs in this province — period.”
There’s no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that there’s resentment in my home province towards the Government of Canada.
The federal presence in my province is but a shadow — a faint shadow — of the federal presence in other provinces.
Not a single federal Crown corporation is headquartered in my province, Mr. Speaker.
There’s resentment toward Ottawa, but there is particular resentment towards the Conservative Prime Minister of this country, who, to quote my people, is no friend to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Let me highlight some of the federal jobs that will be lost in my province as a result of this latest Conservative budget:
• The Veterans Affairs office in Corner Brook will be phased out.
• The Canada Border Services Agency is losing its director in the province.
So while the province is trying to build its cruise-ship industry, the federal Conservatives are doing their best to stop it dead in the water.
• Border Services is also losing its only dog trained to sniff out drugs and guns in Newfoundland and Labrador — maybe we can get some psychics to step forward and volunteer their time.
• Seafood inspection provided by the Food Inspection Agency will move to Prince Edward Island.
I can see the sense to that though, Mr. Speaker, the federal Conservatives have written off the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, so why not move seafood inspection to PEI.
• The St. John’s Food Inspection Lab is slated to close with transfers to other provinces.
There are cuts to Marine Atlantic — which operates the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry link — that will likely drive up fares and the cost of … well, the cost of everything, Mr. Speaker.
There are also cuts to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, although not in the riding of Labrador, which a Conservative member represents — it’s all good there for some reason.
Public Internet will shut down at 96 provincial libraries around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Parks Canada is also cutting back at national parks and historic sites in Newfoundland and Labrador — so while the province spends millions on tourism campaigns to try and get Canadians to come to Newfoundland, the Conservatives cut back the amount of time the parks are open and increase ferry rates.
Among the cuts to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans — nearly $80 million over the next 3 years.
DFO is closing the Marine Rescue sub-centre, transferring the jobs to Halifax and Ontario.
I don’t know if all Canadians realize this, Mr. Speaker, but Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have a unique dialect.
A skipper from outport Newfoundland with seconds to send off a mayday before abandoning ship may not be understood by a mainlander — that’s the simple fact of it.
Here’s a quote from Merv Wiseman, who worked at the marine rescue sub-centre, although he’s retiring today: “We know as professionals that people will die and we’ve expressed that view right up to the line, right up to the ministers themselves — to no avail.”
People will die, Mr. Speaker.
What could possible be more important than the lives of our mariners, Mr. Speaker?
The answer — a dollar.
The answer — the desire to stamp out a culture of defeat, as the prime minister has described us.
I can tell the prime minister this — there’s fight yet where I come from and he’ll see that in 2015.
On the national level Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are pushing through their plan to raise the age of eligibility for Old-Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 67 from 65.
That’s not on with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Mr. Speaker, they say Canada is in danger of losing its soul, they say that Canada is in danger of losing its social programs that separate our great country from so many others.
They don’t like what they see in the Ottawa mirror.
The Conservative face is frightening.
The budget implementation act will also see the word habitat removed from the federal Fisheries Act.
Here’s a quote from Otto Langer, a renowned fishery scientist, who came out recently against changes to the act: “This proposed move by the Harper government is a travesty for our fishery resource and the health of the entire ecosystem and it ignores the needs of our future generation.”
A full one-third of Bill C-38 is dedicated to the gutting of the environmental legislation and protection.
Then there’s the massive gutting of the powers of the federal Auditor General of Canada.
Again, Mr. Speaker, Bill C-38 is an absolutely massive bill.
And what do the Conservatives do to ensure the debate is healthy and the best interests of the country are looked after — they limit debate.
(The speech, which was limited to 10 minutes, ended here, but I’m including the remainder of the prepared text.)
Moving on to the Atlantic coast.
Of the 19,200 federal jobs that will be slashed, an estimated 2,300 will be lost from the Atlantic.
I happen to be critic for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the regional development agency that often treads where chartered banks fear to go.
ACOA will be cut by almost $18 million by 2015.
So with an economy not quite steady, on an Atlantic coast where the fishery — especially the groundfish fishery — is still in tatters, with fish plants closing left, right, and centre, the Conservatives are cutting back on ACOA.
Can you explain that to me, Mr. Speaker, because I don’t quite get it?
I repeat, Mr. Speaker, the face of Canada is changing, and Canadians don’t like what they see in the Ottawa mirror.
The Conservative face is a scary, unCanadian face.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.