For the past month, the Senate National Finance Committee and the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce poured over the Conservative government's 425 page omnibus budget Bill C-38. These committees interviewed dozens of witnesses ranging from government ministers, NGO's, consumer rights groups, think tanks, professors, etc.
After hours of committee hearings we were both left with more questions than answers. Above all we saw how the Conservative government was abusing its majority by shoving more than 70 different laws down the throats of Canadians.
The Conservatives decided to reserve the same treatment for the provinces. They chose not to consult them and to encroach on their jurisdiction. For example, Bill C-38 adds an enacting clause that will give the federal government more powers in the banking sector and eliminate provincial laws relating to consumer protection.
C-38 will also wreak havoc on provincial budgets through measures that will shift costs onto provincial social programs, such as changes the to employment insurance and old age security benefits, and measures that will reduce provincial tax revenues, such as the increase in cross border duty-free shopping limits.
The conservatives' abusive majority has made it clear to Canadians that their reformist agenda has no place for social justice. For example, they decided to remove the obligation for federal contractors to respect the Employment Equity Act. By removing employment equity from the Federal Contractors Program's requirements, the Harper government is abandoning women, Aboriginals, disabled persons and visible minorities and destroying decades of social progress.
As most Canadians have come to realize, the Conservative government has a problem with opinions that are different from their own. Case in point, Bill C-38 will allow the minister of national revenue to withhold emitting tax receipts of charities deemed to be spending too much on political advocacy and suspend their charitable status if they make errors on their reports to the Canada Revenue Agency. More importantly, the passing of Bill C-38 will allow the Conservatives to use legislation to bully their opponents, reduce their numbers and weaken the quality of democratic debate.
Canadians have long stood up against abuses of power around the world; let us not let Stephen Harper do it here. Canadians need to speak out against this government's regressive and archaic laws, and their anti-democratic actions.