CAUT’s blacked out website on June 4, 2012. Hundreds of websites across the country went dark in a ‘Black Out, Speak Out’ campaign against proposed changes to federal laws included in Bill C-38, the government's budget implementation bill.
CAUT is calling on the federal government to break up its omnibus budget bill and allow Canadians to have their voices heard over the controversial changes being proposed.
Weighing in at nearly 450 pages, Bill C-38 is ostensibly intended to install the legislation required for budget measures unveiled in March.
But the legislation goes far beyond this by amending and repealing dozens of pieces of Canadian law and making fundamental changes to everything from Employment Insurance rules and Old Age Security eligibility, to environmental review processes and employment equity requirements.
Speaking before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in late May, CAUT executive director James Turk said Bill C-38 is unprecedented in terms of the sheer number of changes to legislation and regulations and policy it proposes.
“The scale of the changes being proposed in one piece of legislation raises serious concerns not just about the substance of the bill, but also the process and lack of transparency,” Turk said.
A section of the bill, if passed, contains changes to the Federal Contractors Program implemented in 1986 by a Progressive Conservative government to further the goal of achieving workplace equity.
Under the program, organizations that have 100 or more employees and want to bid on a federal government contract or standing offer of $200,000 or more must first sign a certificate of commitment to implement employment equity. More than 50 universities and colleges are among those covered by the program.
“Bill C-38 proposes to remove the equivalency requirement that the minister of labour ensure the FCP meets the same standard as the Legislated Employment Equity Program,” Turk told the committee. “The proposed amendment simply states the minister will administer the program. We take this to mean the minister can set any standard she or he likes, including no real standard at all.”
He also reiterated concerns that Bill C-38 will lead to a further erosion of Canada’s scientific and cultural knowledge base as a result of the elimination of programs such as the National Council on Welfare, the First Nations Statistical Institute, the National Archival Development Program and the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.
“This follows on news of Statistics Canada’s elimination of important surveys, including their online publication Education Matters and the University and College Academic Staff System,” he added. “The latter was the only data source we had about teachers in post-secondary education and that every other OECD country collects. How are policymakers expected to make decisions about post-secondary education when there is no longer a sufficient evidence base?”
On June 4, CAUT joined more than 500 organizations blacking out their websites to protest the anti-democratic nature of Bill C-38.