Stop Bill C-38: The Harper Agenda

C-38 Budget Bill Protest
Thursday, June 14th, 11:00am
23 Alison Blvd. (Keith Ashfield’s Office)

David Coon, CCNB
Maria Recchia, Fundy North Fishermen’s Association
Matt Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper
Janice Harvey, Green Party Fisheries Critic
…and more speakers to be confirmed.

If you are concerned about Bill C-38, we invite you to attend our media conference and gathering outside the office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Keith Ashfield on June 14th.

Fundamental changes to the country are being snuck into Bill C-38, amendments and new bills that have no business being in a federal budget bill or an omnibus bill, let alone a bill that is both. The government has intentionally created a confusing legislative hodge-podge designed to minimize debate. The Fisheries Act was not even mentioned in the Federal Budget. What business do changes to the Fisheries Act have in the C-38 Budget Bill? In fact, roughly 30% of the 420 page bill in no way relates to the budget. These are sweeping changes that will undermine environmental protection, healthcare, labour standards, our sovereignty, and our arts and culture. Whether one voted for the Conservatives or not, one must acknowledge that surely this is not what they were mandated to do.

Here is a brief introduction to disconcerting aspects of the bill.

Are you particularly concerned about labour?
– C-38 contains no comprehensive plan to create jobs at a time when unemployment, particularly among youth, is high and wages are not keeping up with the cost of living.
– C-38 forces Canadians to work two years longer, to age 67, to qualify for Old Age Security.
– C-38 cuts workers’ access to Employment Insurance benefits if they don’t take any job the Minister of Human Resources deems ‘suitable’.
– C-38 repeals The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which sets minimum standards for hours and wages of construction workers working on federal projects.
– C-38 removes federal contractors from the protection of The Employment Equity Act.

Are you particularly concerned about wildlife and the environment?
– C-38 eliminates funding for Canada’s National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, discouraging viewpoints that are outside the Conservative Party line.
– C-38 reduces environmental protection by completely repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Canada`s central piece of federal environmental legislation, and replacing it with an entirely different legislative scheme. ‘Environmental effects’ under the new CEAA will be limited to effects on fish, aquatic species under the Species at Risk Act, migratory birds. No other species or ecosystems are included, nor are health, socio-economic effects, physical or cultural heritage or any other elements that have traditionally been part of environmental assessment.
– National Energy Board reviews will be limited to two years, and it also gives Cabinet ultimate decision-making power on major energy projects, not the NEB or any other regulatory body, which means that politics will predominate over independent expertise. Projects previously deemed to be environmentally devastating will get the green light. For example, this change will allow the Northern Gateway oil pipeline to be built.
– The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will be seriously weakened. The agency will have 45 days after receiving an application to decide if an assessment is required. Environmental assessments are no longer required for projects involving federal money. The minister is given wide discretion to decide. New “substitution” rules allow Ottawa to download EAs to the provinces; “comprehensive” studies are eliminated. Cabinet will be able to over-rule decisions. A retroactive section sets the clock at July 2010 for existing projects.
– The Canadian Environmental Protection Act will be undercut. The present one-year limit to permits for disposing waste at sea can now be renewed four times. The three and five-year time limits protecting species at risk from industrial harm will now be open-ended.
– The Parks Canada Agency Act would be trimmed, and staff would be cut. Reporting requirements are being reduced, including the annual report. Six hundred and thirty eight of the nearly 3,000 Parks Canada workers will be cut. Environmental monitoring and ecological restoration in the Gulf Islands National Park are being cut.
– C-38 repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.
– Changes to the Species at Risk Act include exempting the National Energy Board from having to impose conditions to protect critical habitat on projects it approves. Also, companies won’t have to renew permits on projects threatening critical habitat.
– The Fisheries Act will be seriously weakened. Fish habitat provisions will be changed to protect only fish of “commercial, Aboriginal, and recreational” value and even those habitat protections are weakened. If a human isn’t catching a fish, there is no protection for its habitat. The new provisions create an incentive to drain a lake and kill all the fish, as long as it`s not in a fishery, in order to fill a dry hole with mining tailings. Four former Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans said, together, that the changes to the Fisheries Act in C-38 should not be allowed to happen.

Are you particularly concerned about healthcare?
– C-38 shortchanges cash-strapped provinces of expected health transfers by $31 billion.
– C-38 weakens food and drug regulations to allow the Minister of Health to exempt products from regulatory oversight at her discretion.
– C-38 ends vital Auditor General oversight of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
– C-38 paves the way for private contractors to perform food safety inspections.

Are you particularly concerned about government accountability and oversight?
– C-38 earmark’s funds for CRA to scrutinize charities on political activity (silencing dissent, especially from environmental groups).
– C-38 removes the Auditor General’s powers to hold government accountable through independent oversight over 12 key government agencies including the Northern Pipeline Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canada Revenue Agency.
– C-38 eliminates CSIS’s Inspector General, who provides oversight on the intelligence agency’s activities and who recently released a report critical of CSIS activities.
– C-38 eliminates organizations that produce independent policy research including Rights & Democracy, the National Council of Welfare, and the First Nations Statistical Institute.
– C-38 dissolves the Public Appointments Commission designed to ensure key positions are assigned based on merit instead of insider connections.

Are you particularly concerned about sovereignty?
– C-38 would allow US law enforcement to enter Canada to arrest Canadian citizens under US law.

Are you particularly concerned about arts and culture?
– C-38 includes a $115 million (10%) cut to the CBC budget, meaning less Canadian programming, more ads on the radio, less support for arts and culture and 650 jobs lost.
– C-38 causes a loss of access to our historic and artistic heritage through cuts to Library and Archives.
– a $10.6 million cut to Telefilm Canada, and a $6.7 million cut to the National Film Board, and the elimination of the Canada Music Fund’s Creator Assistance Program.

Are you particularly concerned about agriculture?
– Under the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act, publicly-owned grasslands have acted as community pastures under federal management, leasing grazing rights to farmers so they could devote their good land to crops, not livestock. This will end. Also, the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., an important site for quarantine and virus-testing on plant stock strategically located across the Salish Sea to protect B.C.’s primary agricultural regions, will be moved to the heart of B.C.’s fruit and wine industries.

The bottom line is that this bill is going to make changes to Canada that I don’t think even those who voted for the Conservatives would want, and it has to be stopped. Nationally, organizations participating in the protest include the David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Environmental Defence, Sierra Club of Canada, and Greenpeace. Over 500 organizations across the country have replaced their websites with the Black Out, Speak Out message, and a link to the group’s website.

Read the bill here:

Please contact Conservative MPs and ask that they ‘do the right thing’ and call in sick on the day of the budget vote. Contact information for MPs can be found here:

Keith Ashfield, from Fredericton, is the Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. His contact information is:

Telephone: 613-992-1067
Fax: 613-996-9955

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