Everything you need to know about budget Bill C-38
The 450-page Budget Bill C-38 will make sweeping changes to over four dozen policy areas.
Reform to Old Age Security would increase the age of eligibility for the program to 67 from 65 steadily over a six-year period, beginning in 2023.
The Conservative government said the change will save Canada anywhere from $10 to $12 billion, but Liberal and NDP members oppose the changes, arguing that making retirees wait until they are 67 will hurt the poor and cost the provinces. They also said the changes are not fiscally required.
Restrict employment insurance benefits
The bill would restrict employment insurance benefits by revoking the section of the Employment Insurance Act that allows recipients to reject jobs because they are not their usual occupation, pay less, or involve conditions not expected of a good employer.
The budget bill increases the list of goods and services free of GST and HST, adding some prescription drugs and medical devices to currently exempt items like false teeth and hearing aids. It would also allow literacy organizations to claim a GST rebate or the federal component of HST paid on books they give away for free.
A new cross-border law
The bill creates a new law that would allow US federal law enforcement agents undertaking cross-border operations to arrest Canadians on Canadian soil.
Speed up immigration backlog
Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act include getting rid of a backlog of 280,000 applications under the federal skilled-worker program. Applications made before 2008 would be deleted and application fee refunded.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the department's solution to half a decade of application backlogs is to get more skilled immigrants who can immediately fill holes in the country’s labour market.
The change has received harsh criticism from lawyers who say it's unfair to applicants who followed all the necessary steps to come to Canada.
Reduction in work for the auditor general
Auditor General Michael Ferguson will not be required to annually audit agencies, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Northern Pipeline Agency and the Canadian Polar Commission.
The agencies would submit annual financial reports to the minister instead. The changes were made at the request of the auditor general, according to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Closing old offices
Bill C-38 shuts down several government-funded groups and agencies. These include the National Council of Welfare, the Public Appointments Commission, Rights and Democracy, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal and Assisted Human Reproduction Canada.
Opening new offices
The bill implements a new Social Security Tribunal to hear appeals of decisions made on Old Age Security, employment insurance and other benefit programs, and creates the new Shared Services Canada Department.
No more SIN cards
The government wants to phase out the plastic SIN card. Bill C-38 makes the necessary changes to existing laws so that the card is no longer necessary. Canadians will still have SIN numbers, they just won't have to carry the card.
The bill will require that non-profit groups provide the government with more information "on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources." The sanction represents a compliance crackdown to ensure charities follow the rule that no more than 10 per cent of funds be spent on advocacy.
"It should be crystal clear to the Canadian public what this means," David Suzuki said in an interview with the Globe and Mail. "I mean, the government is selectively going after environmental groups."
The budget bill scraps the office of the inspector general of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The government says eliminating the watchdog will save almost $1 million a year. The role of inspector general will be performed by the arms-length Security Intelligence Review Committe (SIRC).
A raise and a tax return to GG salary
The bill increases Gov. Gen. David Johnston's salary from $137,500 to $270,602 starting on Jan.1, 2013. But the GG is now not exempt from paying income tax. His salary was increased to offset the taxes he'll now pay.
No more pennies
The bill would phase out the penny, but change the law so pennies can still be used, although they will be removed from circulation.