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Dear Ryan: Ominous budget bill C-38

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Ryan Leef
Member of Parliament, Yukon
Open Letter #14
June, 2012

Dear Ryan,

Conservative MP David Wilkes recently told his constituents that he had serious concerns about the omnibus budget bill C-38. He said that backbenchers weren't allowed to look at this 420-page document until it was released to the public. How can any Member of Parliament vote on something this large and important without proper review?

I'd like to bring to your attention a list of worrying Bill C-38 clauses for your perusal.

-  Budgets for Libraries and Archives have been slashed throughout different departments.

Rights and Democracy, an independent agency that monitors human rights and promotes democracy abroad, will be cut.

-  The Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal will be shut down.

National Round Table of the Environment and the Economy is shut down. It was an important round table of industry leaders, environmentalists, First Nations, labour and policy-makers. Their research and advice are being dispensed with because the prime minister is next to God and knows all there is to be known.

-  The Auditor General's area of oversight will be reduced, thus decreasing opportunities for government embarrassment. Reports from Human Resources Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Northern Pipeline Agency and Canadian Polar Commission will report directly to ministers who are not likely to be experts, be willing to listen to experts or be transparent.

-  Charities may no longer spend more than 10 per cent of their budgets on political advocacy. Since the promotion of environmental stewardship is now considered a political activity, this provision will harm environmental groups. (It is important to note that environmental stewardship has only become politicized under the current Conservative government. Both the Progressive Conservative and Liberal Governments, at the very least, pretended to endorse good stewardship.)

Elections Canada has had its investigative effectiveness compromised by a cut by $7.5 million. That is just slightly less than the $8 million allocated to harass environmental groups. (See below.)

-  $8 million in public money has been allotted to investigate environmental charities and organizations. (Now public money will be used by the Conservative Party in its campaign to persecute environmentalists while the Kluane Lake Research Station is scraping by on $80,000 of its $100,000 former budget and must crawl on its hands and knees to beg for adequate funding in the future.)

-  Due to budget cuts, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has ceased funding for the Polar Environment Research Laboratory, the Experimental Lakes Area Research Project and many important scientific research facilities and projects across Canada.

-  The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science, with its economical $1.5 million budget, has been cut.

Adaptation to Climate Change Research has been cut.

-  The group within Natural Resources who maintain Arctic ice cores has been disbanded.

-  The new Fisheries Act will no longer protect fish habitat but will instead focus on the protection of economically viable fisheries.

-  Amendments in Section 142 of Bill C-38 propose that industries are no longer required to notify the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of their projects nor are they held liable for habitat harm, thus exempting them from responsibility.

-  Amendments to the Fisheries Act in Section 35 give industry, developers and provinces the right to authorize adverse harm to waters and wetlands.

-  Bill C-288, the Kyoto Implementation Act, will be repealed.

-  The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act has been repealed and will be replaced by the ineffectual Environmental Effects Act that favours the desires of industry over the health of the land, air and water.

-  The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has been gutted, allowing the federal government to cherry pick which projects will require assessment. Substitution rules allow the federal government to offload assessments onto provinces and territories. (Given the Yukon government's cavalier attitude towards the environment, this is not reassuring.)

-  The Canadian Environmental Protection Act has increased time limits on waste disposal and includes an open-ended clause covering protection for species at risk. This Act has been made toothless.

-  Amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act have exempted pipelines and power-lines.

-  The National Energy Board has been rendered toothless. Its reviews will now be limited to two years regardless of the size of the project. Cabinet is allowed to reverse its decisions willy-nilly.

-  The National Energy Board is exempt from having to protect critical habitat, thereby undermining the Species at Risk Act.

-  Large cuts have been made to Parks Canada.

-  The assessments done by the Nuclear Safety Control Act are to be handled by the Nuclear Safety Commission, a body not equipped to do assessments.

-  The Canadian Seeds Act is to be privatized. It doesn't bode well for heritage seeds.

-  The Wastewater Survey is cut so we will no longer monitor water use in Canada.

-  Environment Canada's Environmental Effects Monitoring Program is to be reduced by 20 per cent so we will have a less effective effluent discharge monitoring.

-  The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is repealed. No longer are contractors who bid on federal projects required to pay fair wages and overtime.

-  The age of eligibility for Old Age Security Pensions has been raised from 65 to 67 years.

-  Changes to the immigration rules and temporary workers program will make it easier to bring in foreign workers.

-  Changes to the Employment Insurance program will force EI recipients to take lower-paying jobs in areas outside of their fields.

-  Amendments to the Employment Equity Act exempt federal contract workers from protection. It is a direct attack on equal rights for women and minorities.

-  $31 billion is to be removed from health-care transfer payments to provinces.

-  The Office of the Inspector General at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been cut, thereby removing an important watchdog.

-  Changes to the Food and Drugs Act, under the guise of "Marketing Authorizations" and "Incorporation by Reference," will allow the ministers to fast-track approvals to new foods and drugs. This leaves Canadians vulnerable to harm caused by hasty and incomplete investigation.

-  Changes to the Telecommunications Act increase opportunities for foreign ownership.

-  Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will wipe out a backlog of 280,000 applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Applications made before 2008 will be deleted and the application fee refunded. Xenophobes everywhere are cheering.

-  Amendments to borrowing limits for the Territories will devolve what used to be legislative power back to the federal government. How different is this from the old practice of requiring federal approval on borrowing for First Nations groups which seriously crippled their efforts towards self-government?

-  The CBC has had its budget cut by 10 per cent. This is on top of previous cuts that have already crippled this national treasure.

-  A 5 per cent cut to the Office of the Information Commissioner will further cripple the already over-taxed Access to Information Office.

Debate on Bill C-38 has been limited. Committee work has been rushed and, in at least one case, sabotaged. Many of the amendments have not been given the thoughtful, research-based work they require in order to make good policy. The bill is an assault on the environment and workers' rights with the intention of promoting industry at the expense of Canadians. "Long-term prosperity," as applied to this bill, is an oxymoron.

In a letter to your constituents, you said: "The environment, particularly as it impacts the North, is an extremely important issue. My commitment is to continue to work towards a sustainable future for Yukon, and ensure that voice is heard in Ottawa."

David Wilkes said that that if 12 other Conservative MPs stood with him and voted against the omnibus budget bill, it would be defeated. Ryan, it is time to walk the walk. Will you please vote against the omnibus budget bill?

May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you walk on the high road.

Respectfully yours,

Linda Leon

Linda Leon is not a member of any political party.

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