Harper introduces C-43, another omnibus budget bill

The Harper government has introduced another omnibus budget bill. It brought forward the 458-page C-43 bill on Thursday while the country was still reeling from the shootings the day before in Ottawa. It intends to pass the legislation before the December break.

According to initial news reports, the bill would:

  • restrict the ability of refugee claimants to access social assistance
  • reduce Employment Insurance premiums for small business owners
  • amend the temporary foreign workers program
  • revise the Investment Canada Act to allow an additional 30 days in the national security review process of proposed foreign investments
  • revise the Investment Canada Act to allow the government to disclose more information about national security concerns when it rejects a takeover
  • double the amount claimable under the Children's Fitness Tax Credit and make it refundable next year
  • establish the Canadian High Arctic research Station
  • make the Canadian Polar Commission the governing structure for the arctic research station
  • give a tax break for the breeding of bees and horses
  • split the role of the Chief Public Health Officer into two positions, one of which would advise the government on public health issues
  • prohibit cable companies charging for paper bills
  • give a tax credit for interest paid on a Canada Apprentice Loan
  • broaden the scope of the national DNA bank to include DNA profiles from missing persons, their relatives and from human remains
  • expand the size of the Social Security Tribunal
  • revise the Industrial Design Act and Patent Act

It will take time to properly study the hundreds of pages of the bill, identify areas of concern and provide a clear analysis of its implications. The Council of Canadians has been critical of the Harper government's previous omnibus bills, notably:

The 359-page C-31 omnibus budget bill in March 2014 that:

  • made changes to rail safety rules
  • harmonized hazardous goods rules with the United States
  • gave cabinet a say on regulations regarding fresh fruits and vegetables
  • identified which public service jobs and services are 'essential' impacting collective bargaining rights
  • made it more difficult for immigrants coming to Canada to qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement provided to low-income seniors
  • harmonized vehicle safety standards with the United States
  • changed the Trademarks Act
  • introduced taxes for hospital parking
  • required Canadian banks to report the financial holdings of dual Canadian-U.S. citizens
  • required tolls for the bridge replacing the Champlain Bridge and the Nuns’ Island Bridge over the St. Lawrence River
  • dissolved the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Board
  • made changes to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act

The 457-page C-45 omnibus budget bill in October 2012 that:

  • amended the Canada Shipping Act and the Fisheries Act
  • changed the definition of an aboriginal fishery
  • eliminated environmental restrictions for building a bridge across the Detroit River
  • amended the Indian Act to change voting rules for land designation
  • amended the Customs Act for the government to collect information on passengers
  • eliminated the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission
  • limited the scope of the Navigable Waters Act, eliminating impediments to pipelines crossing navigable waters
  • eliminated the Board that set rates for employment insurance premiums
  • set time limits on worker complaints under the Canada Labour Code

The 421-page C-38 omnibus budget bill in March 2012 that:

  • empowered the federal cabinet to approve pipelines and other major energy projects regardless of regulatory board recommendations
  • blocked participation of those 'not directly affected by the project' in environmental hearings
  • allowed the National Energy Board to permit activities that kill or harm endangered species
  • gutted the Fisheries Act
  • scrapped the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act
  • changed Employment Insurance benefits
  • cracked down on charities engaging in political activity
  • axed the federal spy watchdog
  • changed the eligibility for Old Age Security payments to 67 from 65

Many of the provisions of these previous bills - significantly the gutting of the Navigable Waters Act and the Fisheries Act and the blocking of those deemed 'not directly affected' from environmental hearings - have changed the political landscape and served to reduce democratic participation in this country and should give us cause for concern for the implications of C-43.

News reports on C-43:
Conservative government pushes ahead with massive omnibus budget bill
Federal omnibus bill restricts refugee access to social assistance
Budget legislation will end fees for paper bills
Tory budget bill would merge Canadian Polar Commission, new research station
Budget bill: Government refocuses public health czar's job
Parliament introduces Bill C-43: incorporating the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and the Patent Law Treaty into Canadian law
Ottawa tackles benefit-claims backlog