Points of Order – Bill C-38

[Context: This is in response to Elizabeth’s Point of Order of June 4th.]

Marc Garneau: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the point of order that was raised earlier this week by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands concerning Bill C-38.

Simply stated, I wish to reiterate that we in the Liberal Party also have deep concerns about this legislation. That the government’s argument for putting it forward in its current form is that it is all essential in order to help us stimulate our fragile economy is completely disingenuous and frankly very misleading.

For example, the government’s plan to change the age for receiving old age security from 65 to 67 beginning in 2023 is hardly a critical budget decision that must be taken at this time and within this bill. I dare say most of us will not even be here 11 years from now.

Another example has to do with all of the changes to environmental and fisheries legislation. The government would have us believe that these changes have to happen right away to protect our fragile economy, but these laws will have serious repercussions and must be debated in the context of their own bills.

What has happened with Bill C-38 is quite astounding. This now infamous budget megabill has caused outrage from one end of the country to the other and the remarks of the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands certainly mirror the concerns expressed by Canadians. Simply put, there is no common thread uniting all the elements of this massive bill. What is more, many of the elements are not even of a budgetary nature, even by the wildest stretch of the imagination. As such, Bill C-38 is not a legitimate omnibus bill.

We know that budget bills can be quite lengthy, but clearly, this government has brought the meaning of the term “omnibus” to an unprecedented level.

The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons can tell us that the bill does have a common thread—the budget—but I beg to differ. The government should not be using the budget as a catch-all to introduce everything including the kitchen sink.

For example, if we look at clause 52 of the bill, we will see that it enacts an entirely new piece of legislation called the Canadian environmental assessment act, 2012, within a single clause of a 753 clause bill. This clause only received a maximum of 15 minutes consideration at committee.

The rules and practices surrounding omnibus bills are in place for a reason. How can members of Parliament adequately study such a bill when its content is so wide ranging and disjointed. Dare I say it, perhaps that is what the members on the other side were counting on.

I must underline, in the strongest possible terms, the fact that legislation such as this makes it almost impossible to scrutinize properly. A budget bill dealing with financial measures and taxation is one thing. The hodgepodge of clauses impacting more than 60 pieces of federal legislation before us is a completely different proposition.

In conclusion, I truly hope that the government splits this bill into several parts, because the fact is that Canadians want several parts of Bill C-38 to be addressed separately. I trust that you will rule accordingly, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for that.

The Speaker: I receive the hon. member’s further contributions on this point.