I gave the following 10-minute speech today in the House of Commons on Bill C-60, the so-called Budget Implementation Act.
The last speaker, the Conservative speaker (Pierre Poilievre, representing the suburban Ottawa riding of Nepean-Carleton), began his speech with talk of kings and queens and crowns.
My speech will focus more on mere mortals – ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Canadians.
The people the Conservatives forgot.
I had a public meeting in my riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl just this past Sunday.
To start the meeting, a woman, aged 65, approached me.
She pulled me aside, wanting to speak to me privately about her problem.
The woman, who’s single, rents an apartment and the company that owns the apartment just raised her rent by $45 every two weeks.
That’s $90 a month.
Or $1,080 a year.
Mr. Speaker, here’s the problem: she’s retired and on a fixed income, a small pension, and he has no idea how to pay for the increase in rent.
Question: What’s in this bill, this Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, this Economic INACTION Plan 2013 Act, for that senior from my riding?
No help whatsoever.
The lady asked me NOT to forget her, to do something about housing.
To do something for people like seniors, like people on fixed incomes, like low-income earners who are having a harder and harder time getting by.
I’m doing it right now, and I’ll do it at every opportunity, every chance I get to speak about the Conservative Economic INACTION Plan 2013.
What is in this budget for low-income earners to help keep a roof over their heads?
In fact, the Conservatives voted down the recent New Democratic bill for a national housing strategy, the plan to fix Canada’s housing crisis.
What does this government do?
What does THEIR budget do?
The Conservatives go a step further than just voting down the NDP plan for a housing strategy.
Starting next year, they will cut homelessness funding by $15 million a year.
This budget does nothing for that senior in my riding.
And seniors are suffering, Mr. Speaker.
There’s a story in the news back home in the last few days about an 82-year-old man from the Corner Brook area of Western Newfoundland who was charged with theft for stealing food from a grocery store.
The police say this type of incident is rare, but a seniors’ advocate says this is only the beginning.
To quote the advocate: “More seniors will start to resort to petty crime, as they cannot afford to eat by the Canada Food Guide.”
Eat by Canada’s Food Guide?
They can’t even afford to pay rent.
They can’t afford to turn on the heat in their own homes, that’s what this country has come to.
That’s what they’ve done to OUR country.
What does this budget do for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Of all the things in this budget, Mr. Speaker, what resonates back home?
What have people been talking about?
They’re talking about how the price of hospital parking is going to increase.
About how the poor and the sick — the most vulnerable in our society — will have to feed even more money, more money they don’t have, into parking meters.
Mr. Speaker, they can cut taxes to big business, to industry, but who pays?
The sick and the poor, that’s who pays Mr. Speaker.
That’s who pays under this Conservative government?
What’s in this budget for Labrador specifically, Mr. Speaker.
Status quo, more of the same.
Dirt roads and poor Internet.
But who knows what goes on behind the scenes, Mr. Speaker.
We know that when Peter Penashue was OUR representative in the federal cabinet he pitted the Big Land against the island.
Penashue actually BOASTED about his divisive politics, the worst kind of politics.
Penashue held up infrastructure projects on the island — he actually admitted to that — in an attempt to move forward projects in Labrador.
This is the type of politicking that goes on behind the scenes with the Conservatives.
But they’re also in our faces with it.
This is the 3rd omnibus bill, and it includes 49 pieces of legislation – from increased user fees (hospital parking) to cuts to health care to damaging cuts to credit unions.
Most Canadians won’t realize the ramifications of this budget because it’s so big — 49 pieces of legislation.
And because there’s so little time to debate it that it denies MPs the ability to thoroughly study the bill and its implications.
New Democrats would like to send so much of this omnibus bill to various House of Commons committees, so we can bring in experts and analyze the true implications.
But Conservatives deny us that opportunity, they deny us that right, because they don’t want the scrutiny, they don’t want YOU to know.
They don’t want you to know what’s happening to YOUR Canada.
The Conservatives are trying to tell Canadians that there’s NOTHING TO SEE in this bill.
In a way that’s true, Mr. Speaker, there’s NOTHING for job creation, NOTHING to make life more affordable, NOTHING to strengthen the services families rely on.
There’s little in this budget for youth, Mr. Speaker.
In fact, youth unemployment stands at more than 14 per cent.
Fourteen per cent, Mr. Speaker, and while the Conservatives just announced another 5,000 paid internships in this budget that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the need.
You don’t hear the Conservatives speak much about the $14,000-a-year those internships actually pay.
$14,000 a year isn’t enough to pay your student loans or participate in the economy.
It’s not enough to live on.
There’s not a word, not a breath, Mr. Speaker, in this budget about student debt.
The average student debt in this country stands at $28,000.
How can students participate in the economy — the economy that the Conservatives like to trumpet as their success — when they begin their working lives with no work.
And a $28,000 anchor around their necks.
Let’s move on to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, I worked almost 20 years as a journalist.
Twelve years as a daily newspaper reporter, 5 years as an editor-in-chief, almost 2 years as a radio host.
Most of those years were with private media outlets.
I know the kind of pressures that can be exerted on a paper or news outlet to RUN — or NOT run — a story.
Incredible pressure — by advertisers, government, and industry.
That’s why the CBC is so important.
I see the CBC as the jewel in Canada’s democratic crown.
The Conservative government is taking a harder line on collective bargaining, giving itself sweeping new powers to steer independent Crown corporations on their negotiations with employees over wages and benefits.
The main targets are the CBC, Canada Post and Via Rail.
The bill gives the government the power to have a Treasury Board official sit in on collective bargaining negotiations at Crown corporations.
The union representing employees at the CBC warns the new powers are a “ridiculous” infringement on the independence of the CBC.
Here’s a quote from Marc-Philippe Laurin, CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, a union that represents most CBC employees:
“I don’t know how anybody looking at that cannot see this as turning the PUBLIC broadcaster into a STATE broadcaster.”
Can you imagine the CBC being turned into a state broadcaster, a mouthpiece for the Conservative party?
Can you imagine a Crown corporation changing the terms and conditions of employment for a non-union worker at any time?
Can you imagine a day — a day in Canada — when workers and pensions are under constant attack?
Can you imagine a day — a day in Canada — where post-secondary graduates are crippled by debt.
Can you imagine a day — a day in Canada — when a government would ignore a housing crisis …
Can you imagine a day — a day in Canada — when an 82-year-old man is forced to steal for his supper.
Because that day — that day in Canada — has arrived under this Conservative government with their new Conservative INACTION plan.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.