After the Harper government introduced the 2012 Economic Action Plan (read: budget), they had to introduce the budget implementation bill to Parliament. That implementation bill is numbered C-38 and titled by the government ‘The Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act.”
This bill also happens to be 452 pages and contains some things that weren’t really mentioned in the budget itself. Much has been said about the omnibus bill, including the fact that Stephen Harper blasted such bills before he was in government and discovered that they’re a useful tool — put any sort of nasty thing in a bill like this and the opposition will have to vote against it, and all the juicy stuff you’ve hidden that taxpayers like.
The opposition tried to negotiate with the government to have the bill split into smaller bills so they could go through the appropriate committees, but the Conservatives declared it would be a waste of time since the opposition would be voting against everything anyway.
This is true, but the point is for Canadian citizens to find out about all the little details that the Conservatives are trying to push through. So here are a few things hidden in ‘The Jobs, Growth and Long-Term Prosperity Act’.
Nothing says long term prosperity like cutting back the environmental assessment of development projects. Which projects might need environmental assessment can be left up to the Minister himself, and approval of new pipeline projects to the Cabinet — and this government doesn’t have a great track record on the science behind climate change.
A cynical Canadian would point out that these changes are probably aimed at speeding up the Keystone pipeline and new oil sands development. I am that cynical Canadian. (Our Natural Resources Minister would call me a left-wing radical).
C-38 also puts the final nail in the coffin of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, but the Environment Minister had already announced that Canada was giving up any appearance of trying to match the Kyoto targets, being, as they were, a socialist scheme).
The budget also provides for larger fines for those who break environmental laws, but the 776 job cuts at Environment Canada mean that many won’t face regular environmental reviews.
2) Changing the level of support for seniors
The Prime Minister already announced — in Davos, Switzerland — that there would be changes to Old Age Security (OAS) payments, but refused for months to give detail about their plans. The budget and bill C-38 confirms what was rumored — that the age of eligibility for OAS would be raised from 65 to 67, in an effort to keep it sustainable, according to the Conservatives. Though the Parliamentary Budget Officer has numbers that indicate the OAS is in no danger of becoming unsustainable at current levels, and many seniors in Canada live under the poverty line with this change making it more difficult to feed themselves and pay their heating bills.
Of course, this particular change doesn’t come into effect until 2023, and who knows who will be in government by then? We know that Prime Minister Harper doesn’t believe that current governments should be held to decisions made by previous governments.
3) Create changes to Employment Insurance because “The only bad job is not having a job.”
The Harper Conservatives have a long history of attacking employment insurance — Finance Minister Jim Flaherty saying that he had worked driving a taxi to pay his way through law school (as though that means it should be easy for every adult Canadian to do the most menial task to put food on the table and pay their mortgage), and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley called EI “lucrative.”
This government tends to ignore the fact that to be eligible for EI, you have to have held a job and paid into the program for a certain amount of time.
One might also point out that being a minister in this government has proven to be pretty lucrative for some.
4) Silencing agencies and charities that say things you don’t like
The budget implementation bill shut down several agencies, including:
National Council of Welfare, the Public Appointments Commission, Rights and Democracy, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada.
It also changes the rules about acceptable donations to charities, reducing the amount of money people can donate to charities that are considered too politically active and allowing the minister to withhold tax receipts from a charity if he or she feels the money is being used for political campaigns.
5) Declares that companies bidding on federal contracts no longer have to pair “fair wages.”
6) Eliminates almost 300,000 immigration applications so that the government can start off with a clean slate. It also robs those 300,000 people of the hope and time they’ve dedicated to trying to get into Canada. Not to mention the salaries of those workers paid to process the applications being tossed, and the refunds of immigration fees the government will have to pay out.
And so much more.
Photo Credit: Ontario Chamber of Commerce