Recently there has been a fair amount of discussion over Bill C-38. For those of you unfamiliar with Bill C-38, also known as the Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, this is the bill that implements the next phase of our Government’s Economic Action as outlined in Budget 2012. Budget 2012 is one of the most comprehensive and detailed economic initiatives in our history. It is not a secret that there remains considerable economic challenges worldwide and many Governments at all levels are facing incredible fiscal challenges and significant cost pressures. These types of problems often lead either to considerable austerity measures or massively increased debt, and more recently a threat of economic collapse in some regions where liabilities and public spending can no longer be covered.
Our Government believes that taking action in these times is critical to keep our Canadian economy moving and ensuring that we focus on keeping Canadians employed and also securing revenue sources that help Government to provide the services that Canadians depend upon. In large part Budget 2012 focuses on responsible resource development initiatives and also tackles measured spending reductions in key areas. Most critics of Budget 2012 that I have heard from either oppose Bill C-38 for a specific reason relating to an identified area of disagreement, or for the fact that they would prefer to see a simpler and more basic budget that dealt with fewer issues in one document. It is true that Budget 2012 is a very comprehensive budget and tackles many different but important challenges. However it is also important to recognize that many of these challenges have been long overdue and require attention.
For example, one area proposed for action under Bill C-38 is much needed changes to our national Unemployment Insurance system, commonly called “EI”. Why is it important to make changes to EI? One example many in the Okanagan are aware of is the “temporary foreign worker” program, referred to as TFW. Many citizens I have heard from support Canadians working instead of bringing in temporary foreign workers. Yet as we know here in the Okanagan, each year many in the agricultural sector are forced to bring in temporary foreign workers, often from Mexico, due to a shortage of local labour being available. At the same time I am fairly certain that most taxpayer’s would be surprised if not shocked to learn that while temporary foreign worker applications are being filed there was recently over 5,700 EI claims in B.C. alone for general farm workers. It is not unlike in Alberta where there have been over 1200 applications for foreign workers in the food services industry while over 350 persons are currently collecting EI in that sector. In most every Province there are trends where there is an increase in the applications for foreign workers in sectors where there are Canadians collecting EI. Our Government believes it is important to connect Canadians with available jobs first as part of our Economic Action plan and that is why proposed EI changes are included in Bill C-38.
Another example of some of the proposed changes is to the Fisheries Act and Navigable Waters Act. Currently these acts suffer from decades old “one size” fits all Ottawa imposed legislation that is outdated and ignores commons sense. To illustrate, look no further then the rather popular Penticton past time of floating down the Okanagan River Channel. Okanagan residents have known for the past 50 years that you could never navigate a sailboat through this channel on account of the flood control work, dams and fixed bridges constructed over the past decades. Yet today any new project is subject to the Navigable Waters Act in a manner as if the channel was actually navigable. Currently the Act does not provide the flexibility to reflect the obvious and trying to resolve these types of regulatory burdens delays important economic projects precisely as is occurring with a proposed economic project that is of significant importance to the Penticton Indian Band.
Unfortunately I am well out of space, otherwise I would share further examples of the need to take action and keep moving Canada forward by supporting jobs and bringing more flexibility and common sense into our regulations to help keep Canada strong.
Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and can be reached at [email protected]
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.