OTTAWA – At 125 pages Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is calling his latest budget bill a “minibus.”
“We did a lot of the heavy-lifting last year,” Flaherty said Monday, referencing his previous two budget bills, which topped 400 pages each.
Regardless of length, the opposition is still calling out the government once again for cramming changes to two dozen, diverse laws into one bill. Among the changes were highly-anticipated reforms to the temporary foreign workers program.
Peggy Nash, NDP finance critic, called the bill “omnibus 3.0.”
“There are many things in this omnibus 3.0 that we do not like,” said Nash, specifying increased taxes for small businesses, cancellation of deductions to credit unions, and tariff increases.
“Budget 2013 is filled with austerity measures. These austerity measures are killing thousands of jobs in Canada,” she said.
In the past, the government raised the ire of the opposition parties, who said the bills should have been split up so that committees could have studied the changes to laws covering the environment, Employment Insurance, fisheries, navigable waters and aboriginal affairs.
This time around, Flaherty promised to ask the finance committee to break up the work between other committees so the bill can move through committee stage more quickly.
Nash signaled the NDP would be introducing a motion in Parliament calling for the bill to be separated so that it can be studied as separate pieces of legislation by the relevant committees.
While all eyes Monday were on reforms to the temporary foreign workers program, Global News took a look at some of changes – expected or not – fleshed out in the bill.
1. National securities regulator: Despite six years and a Supreme Court opinion, Flaherty made it clear in Budget 2013 that he would continue chasing his dream of a national securities regulator. The top court put limits on how much Ottawa could do nationally, but the budget implementation bill removed the office tasked with the job of establishing a national body. The dissolution date was July 12, 2013, but now it is up to the Minister.
2. Investment Canada Act: After approving the takeover of Calgary-based Nexen by state-run Chinese company CNOOC in December, the government promised to “modernize” the Canada Investment Act. The budget bill amends the law in four ways: by defining “state-owned enterprises,” setting the monetary value of what would be considered a net benefit for private and for state-owned investors, permitting the extension of timelines for national security reviews and allowing the Industry Minister to determine if an entity is controlled by a state-owned enterprise. The NDP is crying foul, saying they want the changes written into a stand-alone bill.
3. Temporary Foreign Workers: The government promised reforms to this program and the bill outlines the changes will allow Citizenship and Immigration to revoke work permits if a foreign national is subjected to humiliating or degrading treatment. It also allows the Minister of Human Resources to revoke, suspend or refuse to process request for a work permit. A final change amends the user fees paid by employers.
4. Holocaust monument: Along with wresting control of Canada Day and Winterlude from the National Capital Commission, the Minister of Heritage is also getting responsibility of the National Holocaust Monument. The bill, however, only extends that responsibility to the construction of the monument, stripping him of responsibility for maintaining it.
5. Collective agreements for Crown corporations: Treasury Board is getting more power vis-a-vis employment at Crown corporations, making good on the government’s promise to rethink compensation levels and pension plans at the arms-length employers. Treasury Board may get involved in the negotiating process, approving the mandate, sending a representative to observe negotiations and okaying the final agreement. A Crown corporation may also have to seek Treasury Board’s approval before finalizing employment terms of non-unionized employees as well.
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