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- Bill C-48. Report stage (with amendments) 8015
- The Speaker 8015
- Motion No. 1 8015
- Mr. Caccia 8015
- Mr. Morrison 8016
- Ms. McLellan 8016
- Amendment 8016
- Mr. Tobin 8017
- (Amendment agreed to.) 8017
- (Motion as amended agreed to.) 8017
- Mr. Canuel 8017
- Motion No. 3 8017
- Mr. Morrison 8019
- Mr. Deshaies 8019
- Mr. Thalheimer 8020
- Division on motion deferred 8020
- Mr. Deshaies 8020
- Motion No. 4 8020
- Mr. Canuel 8020
- Motion No. 5 8021
- Mr. Deshaies 8021
- Motion No. 6 8021
- Mr. Serré 8022
- Mr. Morrison 8024
- Mr. Canuel 8024
- Bill C-53. Consideration resumed of motion forsecond reading 8025
- Mr. Fillion 8025
- Mr. Gagnon (Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine) 8026
- Mr. Scott (Skeena) 8027
- Mrs. Bakopanos 8027
- Mr. de Savoye 8028
- Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood) 8029
- Mr. McKinnon 8030
- (The sitting of the House was suspended at 1.16 p.m.) 8032
- The House resumed at 2 p.m. 8032
- Mr. Maloney 8032
- Mrs. Picard 8033
- Mr. Scott (Skeena) 8033
- Ms. Guarnieri 8033
- Mr. MacLellan 8033
- Ms. Fry 8033
- Mr. Paré 8034
- Mrs. Hayes 8034
- Mr. Blaikie 8034
- Mr. Knutson 8034
- Mrs. Bakopanos 8034
- Mr. Caccia 8035
- Mr. Duceppe 8035
- Mr. Gouk 8035
- Mr. Discepola 8035
- Ms. Brown (Oakville-Milton) 8036
- Mr. Harris 8036
- Mr. Bouchard 8036
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8036
- Mr. Bouchard 8036
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8036
- Mr. Bouchard 8037
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8037
- Mr. Gauthier (Roberval) 8037
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8037
- Mr. Gauthier (Roberval) 8037
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8037
- Mr. Harper (Calgary West) 8037
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8037
- Mr. Harper (Calgary West) 8038
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8038
- Mr. Harper (Calgary West) 8038
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8038
- Mr. Bachand 8038
- Mr. Massé 8038
- Mr. Bachand 8038
- Mr. Collenette 8038
- Mr. Hart 8039
- Mr. Irwin 8039
- Mr. Hart 8039
- Mr. Irwin 8039
- Mr. Rocheleau 8039
- Mr. Manley 8039
- Mr. Rocheleau 8040
- Mr. Manley 8040
- Mr. Frazer 8040
- Mr. Collenette 8040
- Mr. Frazer 8040
- Mr. Collenette 8040
- Mr. de Savoye 8040
- Mr. Rock 8040
- Mr. de Savoye 8041
- Mr. Pillitteri 8041
- Mr. Rock 8041
- Mr. Hanger 8041
- Mr. Marchi 8041
- Mr. Hanger 8041
- Mr. Marchi 8041
- Mr. Jacob 8041
- Mr. Collenette 8042
- Mr. Jacob 8042
- Mr. Collenette 8042
- Miss Grey 8042
- Mr. Rock 8042
- Miss Grey 8042
- Mr. Rock 8042
- Mr. Dromisky 8042
- Ms. Fry 8043
- Mrs. Gagnon (Québec) 8043
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8043
- Mrs. Gagnon (Québec) 8043
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8043
- Mr. McClelland 8043
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8043
- Mr. McClelland 8044
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8044
- Mr. Blaikie 8044
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8044
- Mrs. Cowling 8044
- Mr. Axworthy (Winnipeg South Centre) 8044
- Mr. Guimond 8045
- Mr. Young 8045
- Mr. Solberg 8045
- Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice) 8045
- Ms. Catterall 8045
- Motion for concurrence in 49th report 8045
- (Motion agreed to.) 8045
- Mr. Richardson 8046
- Mr. Serré 8046
- Mr. Serré 8046
- Mr. Serré 8046
- Mr. Williams 8046
- Mr. Jordan 8046
- Mr. Jordan 8046
- Mr. Benoit 8046
- Mr. Benoit 8046
- Mr. Gilmour 8046
- Mr. Ramsay 8047
- Mr. Ramsay 8047
- Mr. Gagliano 8047
- Consideration resumed of motion 8047
- Mr. Mills (Red Deer) 8047
- Mr. Bryden 8049
- Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood) 8050
- Mr. Fillion 8051
- Mr. Discepola 8052
- Mr. Benoit 8052
- Mr. Bernier (Gaspé) 8053
- Mr. Harb 8055
- Mr. Rideout 8058
- Mr. Fillion 8059
- Mr. Gouk 8059
- Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood) 8062
- Mr. Fillion 8063
- Mr. St. Denis 8063
- Mr. Fillion 8066
- Mr. Discepola 8066
- Mrs. Hayes 8067
- Mr. Bryden 8069
- Mr. Fillion 8070
- Mr. Valeri 8071
- Mr. McClelland 8072
- Mr. Dromisky 8073
- Mr. Benoit 8073
- Mr. Keyes 8073
- Mr. Gouk 8074
- Mr. Rideout 8075
HOUSE OF COMMONS
The House met at 11 a.m.
There are six motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources and to amend related acts.
Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted on separately. Motion No. 2 proposes to delete certain lines from the bill, but since the committee's minutes of proceedings indicate that these lines were deleted at the committee stage, Motion No. 2 is therefore redundant and will not be selected.
Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted on separately.
Motions Nos. 4, 5 and 6 will be grouped for debate but voted on as follows: (a) a vote on Motion No. 4 applies to Motion No. 6; (b) Motion No. 5 will be voted on separately.
I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-48, in new clause 6(a), be amended by deleting the words ``integrated management and''.He said: Mr. Speaker, in setting the major goal for the new Department of Natural Resources, I would like to commend the minister for having made a change in committee following second reading debate in this House.
At that time the many goals of this bill included sustainable development but it came further down in a long list. Therefore it was almost interpreted as being an added on consideration of a low priority and prompted interventions to the effect that sustainable development ought to be the top priority of the newly established Department of Natural Resources.
Considering what has happened in the fisheries and considering the debates and the controversies in forestry, and considering the overall commitment by this government to the concept of sustainable development as announced and defined in 1987 by Madam Brundtland in the report entitled ``Our Common Future'', it would only stand to reason that sustainable development be given priority in the function and goals of the minister of this new department.
I am very pleased to congratulate the minister for having made this change in committee and having brought sustainable development into a place that corresponds to its importance for the future activity of this department.
I have to draw attention to the clause as presently drawn in the bill. It contains two concepts. It gives the natural resources minister responsibility with respect to integrated management of Canada's natural resources and sustainable development. In other words, it does two things in the manner that it is drafted now. It puts sustainable development in a secondary position to integrated management. Integrated management in the clause as it stands now, the goal as now defined, is first. It is followed by a subsequent secondary consideration in the way it could be interpreted in a court or by a judge or anyone who reads the bill, from the deputy minister to you name it, as a consideration that comes after integrated management.
I submit respectfully this sequence is to be examined and possibly reversed. I appeal to the minister to give this her closest positive consideration.
The second point that has to be made in this connection is that these two concepts, integrated management and sustainable development, could at times come in conflict and could not be neutrally supported.
Third, in the bill sustainable development, if it is not clearly defined, is clearly understood by way of the definition given in the Brundtland report and virtually universally accepted. Therefore we have as the major goal for the department a concept that is well defined, sustainable development. However, we cannot say the same for integrated management.
A situation could arise in forestry, in fisheries or in any other natural resource tomorrow, in 10 years or in 100 years whereby pursuing the principles of integrated management as it is proposed now would not be in the interest of sustainable development.
When there is such a conflict which of these two concepts will the minister of the day choose? Therefore to remove this ambivalence, to remove this dichotomy, to remove this uncertainty I am submitting by way of this motion an amendment to the particular portion of the bill whereby the Minister of Natural Resources has as a main responsibility the implementation of the principle of sustainable development and the clarification of other considerations related to management. I think it will make the task of the minister of the day clearer, politically saleable and also less in conflict with other considerations.
We have had too many experiences in recent years with natural resources where there was a visible conflict between a natural resource, concepts of management and sustainable development. It is time to cut this umbilical cord and give very clear direction to the department in charge of such an important natural resource for the long term.
We have sufficient examples that have already brought about the adoption of long term considerations on the part of this government, and I am glad to see the minister of fisheries in the Chamber who has done so already on a number of occasions, and very courageously so.
To support my argument I bring into the House the red book and the fact that one of the main chapters in the red book is devoted to the concept of sustainable development and not to integrated management. Sustainable development is one of the pillars of the policies of this government. It was our commitment during the election and today it is our commitment as well.
It would be a great pity if in launching the new Department of Natural Resources this commitment would be somehow derailed by considerations of integrated management of which we do not know the definition and of which there is no definition in the bill. It could be the detracting factor in the long term interest of natural resources which this department is expected to protect and enhance.
This is my argument and I rest my case.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, we are debating something which is a little more fundamental than semantic.
The basic premise expressed in this amendment is that sound management practices and sustainable development are mutually exclusive. This I cannot accept, nor can my party. If we remove the two offending words, integrated management, what we will be suggesting to the department is that the traditional and honourable concept of multiple use of resources is to be thrown out the window.
I maintain that all that will be left is the equally undefined concept of sustainable development. Sustainable development is in the eye of the beholder. Surely if it is to be sustainable it must be properly managed. On that basis and that basis alone the Reform Party will oppose this amendment.
Hon. Anne McLellan (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest this morning to the discussion of my hon. friends and particularly to the comments made by the hon. member for Davenport.
Let me say that I appreciate the interest and time he has taken in relation to Bill C-48 which creates the new Department of Natural Resources. I want to point out that I have listened very seriously and have taken very seriously his concerns in relation to this government's commitment to sustainable development. Because I take that commitment very seriously, I instructed my officials to reorder clause 6 of Bill C-48 in such a way that our commitment to sustainable development became clause 6(a).
This morning the hon. member for Davenport indicated he would like further amendments to clause 6(a) of Bill C-48. Again I think my hon. friend raises some very important considerations for all of us. If it is appropriate at this point I would like to proceed with moving an amendment. I move:
That Motion No. 1 be amended by adding:
(b) by adding immediately after the word ``resources'' the following:``and the integrated management thereof;''.
Clause 6(a) would indicate that the minister shall have regard to sustainable development and to the integrated management thereof. Let me explain why I am proposing such an amendment. It is because I think the paramount consideration and concept is
obviously that of sustainable development and therefore sustainable development should have pride of place in clause 6(a).
My commitment as minister is to the sustainable development of Canada's natural resources, but integrated resource management is the means by which we deliver on that commitment. It is the how of the implementation of the concept of sustainable development.
My opinion is it is important not only to include the commitment to sustainable development, but also to indicate how in the resource sector we achieve and deliver on that commitment. We do it through integrated resource management, the integration of the values of economic, social and environmental considerations. Therefore I have proposed the amendment as outlined.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Is there any further debate on the amendment by the hon. minister? If not, I will just take a few moments to consult with the table and then we will proceed. Debate is on the amendment of the Minister of Natural Resources.
Hon. Brian Tobin (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Just a few short comments, Mr. Speaker. I rise in my place to support the amendment to the amendment proposed by the Minister of Natural Resources.
In the 15 years I have had the pleasure of knowing the hon. member for Davenport he has consistently displayed and exhibited in his participation in public life an absolutely unyielding and uncompromising commitment to the principle of sustainable development. To borrow a phrase from Jeffrey Archer it is no exaggeration to say if it can be said of anyone among us in this place he is the first among equals on the question of sustainable development. That is without question. It is also true for those of us who have been here for some time if there has been one who has enlightened and educated us and painfully and patiently explained the value of this principle over the years, it is indeed the member for Davenport.
I am not surprised to see that the member wants to give the Minister of Natural Resources, as the minister would want, the greatest possible obligation and commitment first and foremost to the principle of sustainable development. All else must flow from that. I said I have known the member for 15 years. I have known the Minister for Natural Resources for a year. In my judgment, after sitting with her in council for a year, the minister shares the great commitment of the member for Davenport to sustainable development.
In the amendment moved by the minister and which I was proud to second, the minister has reflected the kinds of standards and principles the hon. member for Davenport has always exhibited in this place. The hon. member is a fair-minded and principled man. I hope he will find the amendment acceptable. I hope we can proceed with this amendment with all reasonable and proper haste.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The question is on the amendment to Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Amendment agreed to.)
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The question is on Motion No. 1, as amended. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion as amended?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion as amended agreed to.)
Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia-Matane, BQ) moves:
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-48, in clause 7, be amended by replacing lines 27 to 35, on page 3, with the following:
``7. The Minister shall cause to be laid before each House of Parliament, not later than the fifth sitting day of that House after January 31 next following the end of each fiscal year, a report showing the operations of the Department of Natural Resources for that fiscal year.''He said: Mr. Speaker, I and my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois find it easy to speak to Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources, because we, as a sovereignist party, were elected by Quebecers to defend the interests of Quebec and to initiate dialogue with the rest of Canada.
The purpose of the amendment we are now proposing is to ensure that we will have all the information necessary at the right time, in order to better defend the interests of the Quebec taxpayers who elected us. Before we become autonomous, I must ask and ensure that this government respect Quebec's jurisdiction and that there be no reduction in our existing authority through unilateral action by the federal government.
The purpose of this amendment is to eliminate unjustifiable delays. We are bound to defend Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction with respect to natural resources. However, in order to fulfil our mandate, we need all the information available. We would be remiss not to ask for this information, and we would not be serving those who elected us if we remained silent before this bill, which does not set out any specific date for the tabling of its annual report and which therefore leaves the administration with full latitude in this regard.
In Quebec, the electorate's choice in the last federal election could not have been clearer. For the first time in our history, a sovereignist party formed the official opposition in this House. In addition, we were elected with the mandate to monitor as
closely as possible the administration of the public interest. This means that Quebecers are calling for more autonomy, more sovereignty, more independence and, above all, greater transparency. They are demanding that our governments be increasingly transparent and that nothing be hidden from the taxpayers. This is the object of our amendment.
An end must be put to the proliferation of structures, to duplication and especially to cover-ups. Can it be held that the taxpayers or their representatives, which we are, have all the facts in hand before it is too late?
Unless complete information is provided by a given date, how do you expect us, elected representatives, to serve the people adequately? Our proposal has no other purpose but to serve the people adequately. We cannot allow this department not to be accountable to the people of Quebec and Canada. Quebecers and Canadians alike have had it; they are fed up with paying twice for the exact same services, services that cost $3 billion in Quebec alone. Imagine what this amounts to Canada-wide.
The requirement to table an annual report by a certain day will ensure that the effects of duplication cannot be concealed from the taxpayers and enable us to react much more quickly. We, Quebecers, would be much better off financially if we gained independence and had only one level of government. In the meantime, it is our duty to make sure that we get our money's worth. Rest assured that we will carry out our duty and demand that this government be as transparent as can be.
If public funds were managed better, we could do more for rural regions where unemployment has taken on nearly catastrophic proportions as well as develop our natural resources better. We could take care of our own business much more efficiently. Never will this government accept any real decentralization of its powers. It is therefore imperative that it be forced to report on scheduled dates.
I would just like to remind this House that the Department of Natural Resources has, in actual fact, been in operation since the summer of 1993. The provinces were not consulted beforehand.
I will also remind you that, under the existing Constitution, natural resources are an exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Could at least the Constitution that governs this country be abide by, so that we can serve our taxpayers better? No, this government would rather continue its flag fight. It will do its best to conceal as much of the facts as possible. So, the requirement for tabling an annual report by a certain day will give us a better chance of getting at least a minimum of information. This is an absolute necessity in a democracy to account to those who have elected you.
This government prefers to make its presence felt wherever it can, at any cost, while we are unable to react because more often than not, we do not have the information required to react at the right time.
As the Auditor General of Canada pointed out in his 1992 report on page 342 about the Department of Natural Resources: ``Prudence in administration requires that outcomes and results be scrutinized in the context of their costs to determine whether Parliament and taxpayers are receiving what was paid for''.
Once it is passed, Bill C-48 would invest the minister responsible with the powers, duties and functions now assigned to the Minister of Forestry and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The structure being established is therefore quite significant.
Our amendment, which is aimed at creating more openness and requiring this new or modified structure to table regularly scheduled reports, is totally justified in our opinion. The current government is hiding behind the principle of good government management established by the former government in 1993 as it sets out to create an independent Department of Natural Resources. The federal government is hiding behind the principle of good government management as it is about to interfere in another area of provincial jurisdiction.
The requirement to table the annual report by a certain date will probably bring our worst fears to light. It will become impossible to hide reality. This requirement will confirm that there is indeed encroachment and duplication and that taxpayers do not really receive what they pay for.
This government is hiding behind the principle of good government management to create another area of dual jurisdiction. The first amendment we want to see adopted-and I hope we will have the full and total support of this House and the government-reads as follows:
The Minister shall cause to be laid before each House of Parliament, not later than the fifth sitting day of that House after January 31 next following the end of each fiscal year, a report showing the operations of the Department of Natural Resources for that fiscal year.Knowing how slow government administration usually is, we cannot leave it up to the minister to table this report before each House of Parliament as he or she sees fit, as soon as practicable after the report is prepared.
What does ``as soon as practicable'' mean? What does it mean to the government machinery? Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker. It means absolutely nothing. I will give you an example: I asked the Minister of Natural Resources for a report she had asked experts to write about the Eastern Quebec Development Plan, which should have been renewed months ago. The minister has
had this report for a long time. Although I have asked for it nearly every day, I still have not received it. That is government machinery for you.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): I would just like to remind hon. members that those who speak on these motions have 10 minutes. For this reason, I would ask the member for Matapédia-Matane to kindly conclude in a minute or two, because he has already gone beyond the 10 minutes allowed. The hon. member for Matapédia-Matane.
Mr. Canuel: Mr. Speaker, I shall conclude. When there is no precise date, we notice that it takes a very long time to get information.
By setting a precise date, our amendment would enable us to have more information and thus report back to our constituents and to taxpayers, who are entitled to this information. We want that information and that is the purpose of our amendment.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have listened with considerable impatience while the hon. member for Matapédia-Matane weakened the case for his eminently sensible amendment with a lot of separatist cant and whining provincialism. Surely we can debate matters of this nature without constantly getting off track and riding that horse into the sunset.
With respect to the merits of his amendment and without any special reference to Quebec, I agree it is not good enough that information be provided piecemeal by the departments to members of Parliament. There should be an annual report.
The suggestion in the hon. member's amendment that this be in a fixed timeframe is also excellent and the Reform Party supports this. We are aware that there will be costs involved but it is important that the principle of accountability to Parliament be maintained.
However, I hope that future Parliaments will not be satisfied with reports of the nature that I have seen from previous years where we are given a bunch of pretty pictures and platitudes. I would like to see some meat in these reports.
However, with that caveat, the hon. member's amendment is a good one and we will support it.
Mr. Bernard Deshaies (Abitibi, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a few comments to the speech made by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois. The hon. member referred to a quantitative report, that is a document which would contain sufficient data to inform every Canadian.
I also want to say that this report should also be more qualitative, or more specific. In the past, as the Reform Party member just pointed out, a very thick document would often be released but would not include truly relevant information on the appropriateness and the efficiency of the department's operations.
Through clause 7 of this bill, the government indicates that it might be sufficient for a minister to table Part III of the Estimates, to demonstrate the good work of the department for which he or she is responsible. This is not good enough and that is why, through its motion, the Bloc Quebecois is asking that that clause 7 be amended to require that an annual report showing the department's operations be laid before the House.
That department must have a specific mandate as well as defined objectives; it must demonstrate its usefulness and show that the budget allocated to it was well spent. Many Quebecers and Canadians question the role of various departments.
Indeed, the role of too many departments is being questioned and, at a time when the Minister of Finance wants to cut $9 billion from the federal budget to make ends meet, one cannot help but think that other departments, not the Department of Human Resources Development but others like the Department of Natural Resources, should do their part and at the very least justify their expenditures.
Quebecers and Canadians have a right to ask if the budget of that department was really spent on valuable projects, and they have a right to demand that the minister make sure the money goes to the right place; after all, it is his duty to do so.
The public also has the right to know if the programs which the Department of Natural Resources wants to develop, and which are the very reason for such spending, are useful and efficient. Consequently, we could obtain from that department, every year, a report on its programs and objectives, on the way it has tried to achieve these objectives, as well as on the money spent on each project. It will be possible to determine whether the department provides a worthwhile service to the people of Canada and Quebec.
At the present time, the advisability of cutting certain social programs is a frequent topic of debate, and such discussions are entirely appropriate, considering what we want government to do. In the end, however, perhaps a cost-benefit analysis of each program, and not only of the Department of Natural Resources, should be done for the benefit of the public.
I think it is appropriate to require that in Section 7 of the bill, to minister produce, in future, an annual report to inform both Houses whether his department did what it set out to achieve and whether its budget takes into account the interests of all Quebecers and Canadians.
There are people, including other members, who may see this as an additional expense. I do not agree. I think that a report on operations fills a need. In most cases, this kind of report is already produced for departmental use, in other words, senior executives review their programs and make recommendations for improvements. The same report could be made available to us, which means we would no longer have to wait for months to get information on a particular subject or project, as the hon. member just said.
Releasing this departmental review to Parliament would enhance the quality of management in the department and increase much needed transparency in government. I realize that such action may take some political courage on the part of the minister, but citizens have a right to demand this kind of forthrightness of their minister, especially considering the national debt and our annual deficit.
In concluding, I want all members of this House to realize that we do not necessarily want a detailed and wide-ranging report, because the departmental reports we get at our offices are often terribly discouraging for the person who has to read them. All we want is a report that gives us some insight into the government's activities and a chance to evaluate its performance. I think that any department that has done a good job of identifying its objectives and managing its current programs has no reason to be ashamed of publishing this information and should even be proud to do so.
It is therefore entirely appropriate to amend this clause, and I hope that the majority in this House will agree.
Mr. Peter Thalheimer (Timmins-Chapleau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the motion of the hon. member. He seeks to make it mandatory that the minister provide the reports.
I submit that the answer is clearly there. In conjunction with the budget speech normally delivered in February each year, the President of the Treasury Board tables on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources part III of the estimates which reports on the operations of the preceding fiscal year and the current fiscal year and as well includes proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. Therefore the intent of this amendment is already being met by those provisions. However, flexibility is needed as to when the report is delivered to Parliament so as to conform to the budget process.
We may ask why the obligation to table an annual report is not contained in this bill. Section 153 of the Financial Administration Act was amended on May 1, 1991 to permit statutory reports to be discontinued by order in council when they contained the same or less information as the estimates frompublic accounts. This provides a streamlined reporting to Parliament while ensuring no less information.
The cost savings as a result of this continuation of 23 statutory reports is estimated to be in the neighbourhood of $500,000 annually. Is the tabling of an annual state of forests no longer obligatory? The obligation to table this report in Parliament has been removed. This does not preclude the minister from tabling a report in Parliament. In addition the report could be required by regulation of the governor in council. The clause as written provides greater flexibility for parliamentarians to request changes to reports and timing of these reports.
The CFS has indicated that it may be more useful to see and measure progress on forest management and other forest related issues if such reports are every two or three years. If circumstances require, shorter time frames for reporting to Parliament on specific aspects of natural resources could be identified.
Changing a regulation is less cumbersome and consuming than changing the act.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The vote is on Motion No. 3, standing in the name of Mr. Canuel. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): In my opinion the nays have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Pursuant to Standing Order 76, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred.
Mr. Bernard Deshaies (Abitibi, BQ) moved:
Motion No. 4
That Bill C-48, in clause 27, be amended by replacing lines 13 and 14, on page 9, with the following:
``government of any province for forest protection and manage-''.Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia-Matane, BQ) moved:
Motion No. 5
That Bill C-48, in clause 35, be amended by replacing line 39, on page 11, with the following:
``ter may, at the request of all the provinces''.Mr. Bernard Deshaies (Abitibi, BQ) moved:
Motion No. 6
That Bill C-48, in clause 35, be amended by replacing lines 25 to 33, on page 12, with the following:
``plans under subsection (1), the Minister
(a) shall cooperate with the provinces;
(b) may enter into agreements with the government of any province or any department, branch or agency of such a government;
(c) with the agreement of the concerned province, may make grants and contributions and''.Mr. Deshaies: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to seek my colleagues' support to amend two clauses of Bill C-48, which, I believe, distort the very nature of this department by not explicitly recognizing the overriding authority of the provinces over natural resources.
First, clause 27.(2) is theoretically aimed at allowing the Minister of Natural Resources not to seek the approval of the Governor in Council when entering into contracts or agreements. This change is said to be in the interest of streamlining public service operations. Keeping in mind this laudable intention, let us look at the effects of the following few words included in clause 27.(2), page 9, line 13:
-government of any province or with any person for forest protection and management or forest utilization-The words ``or any person'' cannot be legitimately included since only the provinces have the authority, the right to define their own forest policy.
Therefore, even though the legitimacy of the Canadian Minister of Natural Resources is very much in doubt, it is still important to correct those clauses having an impact on the provinces' authority in matters of exclusive jurisdiction. Under subsection 92(a) of the Constitution Act, 1982, natural resources are described as exclusive provincial jurisdiction, in particular with regards to development, conservation, and management of non-renewable and forestry resources, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production therefrom.
These few words open a wide door to interference by the federal government in the area of forestry which could be perceived by provincial governments as contrary to their policies or discriminatory towards some provinces.
The issue is not the value of the federal involvement, the point is to make sure that the federal government remains within its areas of jurisdiction. The federal Minister of Natural Resources must consult and obtain the consensus of all provinces before promoting a so-called national policy. For example, Quebec never signed the National Forest Strategy, therefore, the federal government cannot, unilaterally, intervene on its territory with policies, however well intentioned, actions or agreements not endorsed by Quebec.
Quebec has its own forest management strategy, like many other provinces. Trying to harmonize the different policies is the responsibility of the provinces themselves. Any interference on the part of the federal government, if it is not the result of a unanimous request from all provinces can only be a source of duplication and waste.
The people of Canada, like the people of Quebec, should not have to pay twice because of the squabbling between the two levels of government since the rules are clear: natural resources belong to the provinces.
The provinces have precedence in the area of natural resources, yet, it is quite clear that the words ``any person'' put the provinces on the same level as any given person selected by the minister. It is obvious, therefore, that such equality between a person and a province cannot stand: these words must be deleted.
To continue with this same motion, I now move on to the explanatory notes on clause 35, section 6, which state that the new section 6(a) provides clarification by allowing the Minister of Natural Resources to conduct or co-operate with persons conducting applied and basic research programs instead of only conducting such programs.
The word ``co-operate'' seems quite appropriate in a piece of legislation requiring the federal government to co-operate with the provinces in areas of provincial jurisdiction. It seems quite appropriate that this clause should reflect this willingness to cooperate by incorporating the proposed amendment, which merely states that, at the provinces' request, the minister may recommend, promote or co-ordinate a Canada-wide policy or any basic research program needed.
These few added words clearly show who should give directions and identify needs so that the federal government can be instrumental in helping the provinces in these fields instead of taking the lead.
This clause should clearly reflect the federal government's willingness to co-operate by recognizing the provinces' supremacy in identifying their needs, the openness to receive provincial requests as an established fact, as well as the minister's ability to honour these requests in the provinces' interest depending on available resources.
I do not want to elaborate needlessly on this amendment, but the federal government's willingness to co-operate should allow it to accept this amendment. I do not want the amendment to be redundant either.
On the last point, namely clause 35, lines 21 to 39, I want to talk about something that reflects very well Canada's constitutional problems. Clause 35.7(2) proposes that in carrying out
any plans coming under the Department of Natural Resources, the minister may-repeat, ``may'':
(a) cooperate with the provinces and with municipalities;
(b) enter into agreements with any person or body, including the government of any province or any department, branch or agency of such a government, respecting the carrying out of those plans; and(1200)
(c)make grants and contributions and, with the approval of the Governor in Council, provide other forms of financial assistance.I think that these three proposals contain the seeds of federal-provincial disagreements on many issues.
First, the federal government, through its Department of Natural Resources should, and not just may, co-operate with the provinces. The federal government has no legitimate authority over the provinces' natural resources. If it absolutely wants to be involved in provincial fields, it should do so with their consent and for the greater good of all, of course. However, where their resources are concerned, the provinces would certainly want to discuss what is good for themselves in order to have the program that suits them.
Second, the federal government must not conclude any agreement to implement federal programs with anyone in the provinces unless the provinces are informed and have agreed. Provincial consent must be required for any private agreement to take effect. It is hard to imagine anyone changing a province's natural resource management policy without the province's consent.
So, any agreement between an individual or group and the federal government can only be made with the agreement of the province concerned. Again, why duplicate and risk wasting money, despite good intentions?
Third, in the same vein, if the federal government, through a joint policy, wants to promote a particular sector or project, it should do so with the consent of the province concerned, so that the federal government can make the grant or contribution.
Nothing in clause 35 says or indicates that the provinces have priority when natural resources are involved. As the Official Opposition in this House, we can only call attention to this fact, which is not something the provinces are demanding but a basic agreement of this Canadian federation. Under these circumstances, how could we not insist that many federal bills or laws lack legitimacy?
Several federalist members point out that the federal government must do this or that for the general welfare, without hurting the provinces. These members may be in good faith, but imagine what the federal government would say if provincial legislators intervened in federal programs and set conditions for them. The federal government would be the first to talk about interference and want to put them in their place.
The Canadian system defines the roles of each level of government and changing them requires reopening the Constitution and new negotiations. That may not be a bad idea. The Canadian Constitution needs many adjustments. Quebec's idea of ``opting out'', that is, the provinces' ability to withdraw from a federal program with full financial compensation, is one that could meet its particular needs and show the ability of this federal system to adjust.
For these reasons, we believe that putting our terminology in clause 35 7(2) would much better reflect the provinces' needs and the federal government should consider it an improvement and support it. I think that my motion as a whole justifies the necessary amendments to the clauses previously mentioned and Bill C-48 would correspond more closely to the reality of Canada as a result.
Mr. Benoît Serré (Timiskaming-French River, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-48 and on the amendment tabled by the hon. member for Abitibi.
For one year now, I have been hearing Bloc Quebecois members talk about duplication, overlapping, waste and the need to make cuts. I find it very disappointing, and also very prejudicial to Canada, to see Bloc members use any bill to try to promote their only objective, namely the separation of Quebec, instead of dealing with the real issues and improve the situation of Quebecers.
Bill C-48 amalgamates two previous departments, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and Forestry Canada. This is a logical and practical step that demonstrates the government's commitment to Canada's resource industry and to good government.
I understand that the amalgamation of these two departments has already saved some $16 million, c'est ça couper dans le gras, messieurs les députés.
In the debate on Bill C-48 it is essential that we keep in mind the vital contribution that the energy, mining and forest sectors make to Canada's economic health and to the high standard of living that Canadians have come to enjoy. Together, these industries represented $86.2 billion or 13.4 per cent of Canada's GDP in 1993.
Canada's advantage in international trade is tied almost exclusively to natural resource based goods. These three sectors provide jobs for 700,000 Canadians and sustain the economies of almost 500 communities across the country. In many regions of Canada, natural resource industries are not only the principal vehicle for economic development, they are the only vehicle for highly skilled jobs.
Energy, mining and forestry are high-technology industries which are essential to Canada's prosperity in the future. If only we can have an adequate policy developed and implemented by a single department, these industries will keep contributing to job creation and economic recovery for a long time to come.
Bill C-48 sets out the minister's duty to promote sustainable development regarding energy, mineral and forest resources in Canada. This means that the economic, social and environmental objectives of the government will have to be taken into account in every decision related to the development, the management and the use of resources.
In its quest for sustainable development, the new department will rely, among other things, on the work done in these scientific sectors. The Canadian Forestry Service, the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology, and Geomatics Canada will remain dynamic activity centres in the field of science and technology.
Bill C-48 officializes the grouping of two statutes of the Parliament of Canada which exist, under one form or another, since many years. Consequently, that legislation does not in any way increase the power of the government of Canada. The duties, the authority and the functions of the Minister of Natural Resources will only apply to those areas that come under the jurisdiction of Parliament.
This new department will continue to work in partnership with the provinces to make our natural resource sectors both sustainable and competitive.
There are many examples of such partnerships. For instance, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers has recently agreed on a framework for future co-operation in the areas of science and technology, international and trade issues, regional development, aboriginal forestry and national co-ordination.
In the mining sector, the Whitehorse mining initiative represents a valuable partnership that unites the efforts of federal and provincial governments, industry, labour, aboriginal people and environmental groups. In fact, for Canada's mining and mineral sector, the Whitehorse mining initiative demonstrates the commitment by all the stakeholders to co-operation and dialogue to improve the future prospect of mining for the country.
On this point, I am proud to note that on September 13, 1994 the Whitehorse mining initiative leadership council accord was signed in Victoria, British Columbia. This accord sets out principles and goals designed to assist all stakeholders in their efforts to ensure a prosperous mining industry that is committed to sustainable development.
Another of the department's agencies, the Canada Centre for Mineral and Energy Technology, has set up a successful partnership. In an editorial published on November 7, the newspaper The Northern Miner reported that co-operation projects undertaken by this agency positively contributes to our economic growth and job creation in Canada.
Also, partnerships between federal and provincial governments in the goematics area allow Canada to help other countries. For example, last month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced new initiatives to help the Ukraine.
Among these initiatives was a $2.3 million contract awarded to an Alberta company for the second stage of an important land registration project in the region of Kossiv, in the Ukraine. Following this project, private interests in this country are expected to be able to purchase land. This project is the result of close co-operation between the industry, the Alberta government and Natural Resources Canada.
In closing, Bill C-48 demonstrates the government's commitment to good government. It is a bill that emphasizes progress toward sustainable development of Canada's energy, mineral and forest resources. In addition, Bill C-48 emphasizes co-operation, la coopération entre les provinces, which own the natural resources, on le reconnaît, so Canadians can move together into the next century and beyond.
I urge all members to defeat these amendments.
Mr. Morrison: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member for Abitibi seemed to be addressing portions of Motions Nos. 4, 5 and 6. The hon. member for Timiskaming seemed to be addressing none of them.
Before I make any comments, I would like to know if this is going to be the end of the debate on the motions? Will we be voting on the motions immediately after?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The debate is on Motions Nos. 4, 5 and 6. Members can choose to speak to one or all collectively. Yes, on completion of the debate I will put the question.
Mr. Morrison: Mr. Speaker, I assume we will be voting on the amendments separately but I would like to speak on all of them in the interest of time. Is my assumption correct?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Yes, when we get to the votes, as I understand, Motion No. 5 will be voted on separately. The vote on Motion No. 4 will be applied to Motion No. 6. There will be two votes. I hope that is of assistance to the member and others.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to hold up the business of the House with my questions, but it is nice to know where one is going.
With respect to Motion No. 4, the principle that the federal government does not interfere in matters under provincial jurisdiction without first gaining the co-operation of the provinces is a well-established Canadian custom.
I do not see any harm in spelling this out by insisting on the word ``shall'' in paragraph (1)(a). It appears to belabour the obvious but since the motion will be voted on with Motion No. 6, in order to support Motion No. 6, I will support Motion No. 4.
Motion No. 6 is an amendment that would restrain the federal government from entering into forest protection and management agreements with private entities. I hope the object of this amendment, although the mover did not spell it out, would be to restrain federal porkbarrelling. Certainly it will have that effect if passed. Therefore we support the motion.
The object of Motion No. 5 seems to be to prevent the federal government from acting on purely technical matters without a unanimous request by the provinces. In a federal state this is absurd. The 10 provinces of Canada can never agree on anything. We are not talking about policy. We are talking about simple technical decisions.
An excellent case can be made for reduced federal government in technical activities under provincial jurisdiction but this is a matter of policy. It requires no changes to the act. It only requires a change to the government.
Therefore I will have to oppose Motion No. 5 because it is so couched that it would hamstring or put into a straitjacket the functioning of this department.
Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the hon. member for Abitibi on presenting these amendments.
Earlier, in this House the Bloc was accused of playing politics. I do not think standing on our rights is playing politics. I do not think talking about Quebec's history is playing politics. To support my case, I would refer hon. members to a federalist and a Liberal to boot, but a great man just the same: Jean Lesage. In 1960, Mr. Lesage said that resource development was exclusively a matter of provincial jurisdiction and that it was part of the rights and priority requirements of the provinces, which were in a better position than the federal government to take effective and lasting action. That was Jean Lesage, who sat in this very House.
He also said that one of the fundamental rules of our federalism should be that Parliament's exceptional powers should be just that and not be used to encroach on areas that were normally the responsibility of the provinces. Some people might say, sure, but what about the development plan for Eastern Quebec? Is that not a valid exception? They are right, but it should remain an exception, as Mr. Lesage said.
I could also quote what was said by two of his predecessors. Daniel Johnson senior, certainly more of a nationalist than his namesake, referred to exclusive jurisdiction over the exploration, conservation and development of natural resources. I could also quote what was said by Jean-Jacques Bertrand. In any case, what we in Quebec want, and I hope the other provinces do as well, is to prevent the federal government from dealing directly with individuals, because when I read the bill, it says the federal government would be able to deal with the provinces or with persons. I think eventually, this would mean not duplication but three levels of intervention, not all of which would be governmental, since it would be possible to deal directly with individuals, over the heads of the provincial governments, and we object to that.
When it talks about co-operation, the federal government should say to the provinces: What are your demands? What do you want? In that case, the lines would be clearly drawn. Co-operation would be on a fair and equitable basis, which is what we want, and that is also the purpose of the amendments we proposed. I hope that everyone in this House will realize that this is not just for Quebec and that these amendments are useful for Manitoba, Ontario and all the other provinces, and I would ask both sides of the House for their support in adopting these amendments.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The vote on motion No. 4 will also apply to motion No. 6.
Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): In my opinion the nays have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Pursuant to Standing Order 76, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred.
The next question is on Motion No. 5. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): In my opinion the nays have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Pursuant to Standing Order 76, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred.
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred divisions at the report stage of the bill now before the House.
Call in the members.
During the ringing of the bells:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Pursuant to Standing Order 45, I have been requested by the chief opposition whip to defer the division until a later time. Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division on the question now before the House stands deferred until tomorrow at 5.30 p.m. at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.
* * *[Translation]
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-53, an Act to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage.
It is a very interesting bill, except it comes at a time when the Minister of Finance has just realized, a year too late, that Canada's economic situation is unbearable, at a time when the Minister of Finance has just declared we should cut expenditures and at a time when interest on the debt has exceeded the GDP.
This is the moment when the Liberal government chooses to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage and increase duplication and overlap, thus increasing expenses. Indeed, the Liberal government stubbornly insists on making unilateral moves in the cultural area in Quebec.
This has been going on far too long. Enough with the unilateral approach of the federal government. There is a reality here, there is a francophone nation in Canada, with its own cultural values and its own language, a nation that has been claiming its own rights for too long.
This House must remember all the representations Quebec has made over the last thirty years in the cultural sector. Since 1966, all of Quebec's premiers have asked that the cultural policy and related budgets be repatriated to Quebec. All were unanimous in stating that the social, economic and cultural development of the Quebec people should be under Quebec's jurisdiction.
Should I go over it again? In 1966, Mr. Johnson demanded decision-making authority in the area of cultural development. In 1969, Mr. Bertrand claimed that cultural affairs were under Quebec jurisdiction. In 1971, Mr. Bourassa asked for a review of constitutional powers in the area of culture. In 1973, he requested a transfer of cultural policies and budgets. In 1975, Quebec asked for exclusive law-making rights. In 1978, Quebec requested the opening of negotiations between Ottawa and Quebec. In 1985, Quebec was still raising the need for a constitutional agreement. In 1991, the Bélanger-Campeau Commission stressed the need to give Quebec exclusive jurisdiction and responsibility over its social, economic and cultural development, as well as over linguistic matters.
Successive federal governments systematically ignored those requests. The present government is no different. Incapable of recognizing Quebec's distinctiveness, it tends to oppose its development.
In 1994, the federal government introduced a bill, the sole objective of which was to deny the distinctiveness of our society. Yet, our society is distinct! The government is rejecting a series of claims.
Liberal members must lift the veil covering our cultural reality. The bill mentions the Canadian identity, something based on the primary characteristics of Canada: bilingualism and multiculturalism.
First of all, we have to wonder whether there is a Canadian culture. Is there really such a thing? I ask you! Such a definition of Canadian culture negates the existence of the other culture, the Quebec culture.
Instead, the Liberal government should be working at balancing the CBC's budgets. To share the budgets fairly between the French and the English networks, fifty-fifty, is a must derived from bilingualism. Before we can believe in the subject-matter of this bill and in its implementation, there is still a long way to go.
The sharing of responsibilities between the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Canadian Heritage is simply incoherent, a fact we have been witness to in this very House. Both ministers have authority in the same areas, but have different visions. Moreover, there is no consultation whatsoever between the two of them. We were given the opportunity to come to that conclusion on several occasions, particularly with respect to the information highway advisory committee.
The Liberal government must get its priorities straight; the interests of the industry and those of a people, a language, a culture, are not the same and cannot be dealt with from the same perspective.
It is inhuman to keep writers, creators, performers waiting for over six years for a reform of copyright and intellectual property. It is crazy to want to turn these creations into an industrial market. I say an industrial market, because the Minister of Industry prefers the American copyright system to our copyright and neighbouring rights system; there is no clear choice yet, even though the Minister of Canadian Heritage must favour the latter since it is the only one which recognizes creators' efforts and highlights culture.
All these considerations and a lot of others, which could be debated for months and months, make it only more apparent that the bill, as tabled, does not give the Department of Canadian Heritage the mandate it should have. Given this fact, the Bloc Quebecois supports the motion that Bill C-53, an act to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage and to amend and repeal certain other acts, be not now read a second time but that the order be discharged, the bill withdrawn and the subject-matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
Mr. Patrick Gagnon (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today and share with the members of this House my views on Bill C-53, an act to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage.
It is my firm belief that the passage of this bill is essential to the promotion of Canadian identity and the development of our country. The Department of Canadian Heritage has been working for over a year now in a variety of areas important to all Canadians. It has pursued its mandate with confidence and success, in all its areas of activity. The bill, which officially establishes the Department of Canadian Heritage, is a housekeeping measure.
The department works in several areas of responsibility that are not just important, but vital to Canadian identity. Whether it be in cultural development, the arts, official languages, multiculturalism, conservation of cultural property, national parks, national historic sites, or amateur sport, the Department of Canadian Heritage is called upon to play an essential role in the life of all Canadians, in all regions of the country.
The Department of Canadian Heritage develops policies and manages programs the objectives of which include promoting a greater understanding of our diversity, encouraging the participation of all citizens in the life of our society and ensuring an increased awareness of our abundant cultural and, of course, natural resources.
The department is of major importance to Canadians. We can all identify the various ways in which this department has an impact on us. All its policies and programs have a bearing on our daily life and our identity as Canadians. For example, the multicultural make-up of Canada is one of the most enthralling features of our society and it reflects the fundamental values of this country.
This diversity that characterizes the Canadian society is valuable and we have every right to be proud of it. Several countries are attempting to bring closer together population groups of different ethnic, cultural, linguistic and racial backgrounds and turn to Canada to look at the Canadian model.
We have built a country in which French and English-speaking minority communities can develop and make a full contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of the society. Linguistic duality is part and parcel of what constitutes the very essence of Canada's identity. This duality is deeply rooted in the very nature of our country. A Canada whose values would not recognize the importance of our two official languages would be unthinkable. With its official languages programs, the Department of Canadian Heritage gives Canadians the opportunity to appreciate this rich legacy and to benefit from it to the fullest.
Protection, conservation and development of our natural sites and national historic sites are closely linked to our national identity. Parks Canada, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Canadian Heritage, plays a prominent role in that regard. Our 36 national parks and 750 historic sites as well as our heritage canals and marine conservation areas are precious national treasures that all Canadians can appreciate. These illustrate the sort of cultural and natural heritage that we can all enjoy.
Parks Canada's heritage conservation work is recognized world-wide. Parks Canada is leading the way in terms of protecting commemorative and economic unity by complying with international conventions.
Obviously, the policies and programs of the Department of Canadian Heritage are powerful tools for promoting Canadian values and they incorporate responsibilities that make Canada a unique place to be.
The contribution of the Department of Canadian Heritage is essential to the development of our country and the survival of Canadian values.
I urge all the hon. members to support this bill, to allow the department to pursue its mission and promote Canadian identity, so that Canada can continue to develop in the era of globalization we are now entering.
Mr. Mike Scott (Skeena, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on this bill. I note that recent disclosures indicate that the Liberals plan to spend $24 million of taxpayers' money to establish a Canadian race relations foundation in Toronto.
Not only will this entail an immediate cost to the Canadian taxpayers, but it will entail an ongoing cost. This is just the latest example of the absurdity of government funded multiculturalism.
Hospital beds are being closed in this country. Social policy review is under way right now. All kinds of government services are being eliminated or reduced to the taxpayers. In the same breath we have this government telling us that it is going to spend $24 million to establish the Canadian race relations foundation in Toronto.
Does the Liberal government really believe that Canadians agree with the expenditure of this kind of money for this purpose? Does the Canadian government really believe that the taxpayers of this country would ever agree to support such an expenditure? If the taxpayers could check off on their income tax returns whether or not they agree to having a portion of their contributions going toward this expenditure, how many Canadians would actually tick off the box and say: ``Yes, send my money to pay for this new $24 million race relations foundation in Toronto''.
This is another example of how badly out of step this government is with the Canadian people and how badly it has its priorities organized.
We are in a deep fiscal crisis in this country. The Canadian taxpayers know that and the government knows that. We see evidence of that every day. In the face of that, because we have this philosophical conviction on the part of the Liberal government that these things must be funded, they are being funded to the exclusion of other programs.
In concluding my short remarks, I must say that this government once again demonstrates and makes it very clear to all members of this House and to the Canadian people that this entire rationale for the heritage ministry is undermined by the very actions that this government is engaged in even as we speak.
Mrs. Eleni Bakopanos (Saint-Denis, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in today's debate and to support the bill introduced by my colleague to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage.
First of all, I want to specify that the purpose of this bill is essentially to grant official status to an organizational structure created over a year ago and to provide legal means to transfer employees to this new department.
I really believe that each and every member of the House of Commons should realize like me that the time has come to straighten out the status of these departmental employees in order to give them a sense of belonging.
This government firmly believes in transparency, justice and full participation of all Canadian citizens in our society. This government also believes that multicultural communities play a crucial role by contributing to the economic, social and cultural wealth of our country. The concept of Canadian identity is at the centre of all the responsibilities and duties of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
This is why heritage must first and foremost demonstrate the relationship between members of a community, as well as its distinct characteristics and its milieu.
Consequently, the range of responsibilities and activities assigned to the Minister of Canadian Heritage under this bill is justified. The Department of Canadian Heritage is active in three main areas that have a common objective. First, there is the management of the natural and physical heritage comprising our national parks and our historic monuments and canals. Second, the management of programs which protect our official languages, promote amateur sport and ensure other cultural contributions that can make our society better. Finally, the management of cultural development in Canada and of means of communication that are essential not only to preserve our uniqueness but also as a powerful instrument of economic development.
Such are the functions of this department and what our national heritage is all about. Now I would like to examine in more detail certain aspects of each of these three main areas.
Our heritage is first of all a collection of sites full of history, which include 36 magnificent national parks, 750 historic sites and nine canals located throughout Canada. This is a significant economic sector generating annual revenue of more than one billion dollars, including $275 million come from foreign visitors, and employing approximately 30,000 Canadians.
A single figure speaks to the popularity of these sites with Canadians and foreigners: in 1992, some 27 million people visited our national parks and historic sites. Therefore, this sector is at the heart of our tourism industry and makes the envy of the international community, since we are at the forefront of what can be called ecotourism.
The multicultural policy is for all Canadians; it is based on the principle that social change is needed to overcome difficulties and that society as a whole must assume responsibility for it. The diversity of the Canadian people must be recognized and appreciated not only by the government but also by the institutions, including the media, the health and education communities and the private sector.
Therefore, the federal government's responsibilities in this area relate to human rights, equality, equity and access. They are aimed at eliminating discrimination and building a multicultural Canada that is vibrant and harmonious.
As far as culture is concerned, the notions of culture and identity must be considered in the light of the new realities of our world if we want to have a broader and more relevant conception of Canada's cultural life.
Above all, culture is a window on the world. It is not the business of the happy few, to use a popular expression. It encompasses all the characteristics that are representative of a community or even a country. Culture is an integral part of our social fabric and our identity.
So, without culture, we have no identity. It must be emphasized that culture is not an abstract concept but a vital bond that joins us together. Canada's cultural policy was built on that premise.
I will use the economic argument by reminding you that, in 1991-92 the total contribution made by the cultural sector to the GDP was $22 billion or 3.7 per cent of the GDP. Moreover, this sector employs close to 500,000 Canadians. Therefore, it is fitting that the government should pay close attention to it.
I would go as far as to say that it is more important than ever that the government intervene judiciously in this sector, again for economic and cultural reasons. At a time when borders are becoming less clearly defined and it is imperative to protect our identity, the concept of a national cultural policy takes on a whole new meaning.
After all, let us ask the question in plain words: what is the purpose of this government's cultural policy? It is not to impose actual choices to Canadians but to ensure that quality Canadian cultural products are available on our own market. That is why we must provide to our creative artists a favourable environment for the production of their works, and safeguard our Canadian culture and truly Canadian cultural industries.
In summary, I have to say that I understand the logic behind the establishment of this department. It groups together the components of the Canadian identity and by the same token gives Canada a vision of its future identity.
It is with pleasure that I support Bill C-53.
Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I already had the opportunity to speak on the amendment by my colleague from Rimouski concerning this bill.
Today, I would like to expand on what I have already said and also remind the hon. members of the context under which I am examining this bill.
First of all, the bill proposes that the Minister of Canadian Heritage be responsible, among other things, for cultural heritage and cultural industries, including performing arts, visual and audio-visual arts, publishing, sound recording, film, video and literature.
Having said that, we must realize that the powers given to the minister extend to all matters not assigned by Parliament to other departments, and I am referring here to clause 4.(1) of the bill.
The last time, this had led me to conclude that, for all intents and purposes, this bill gives the minister of Heritage the power to talk about heritage, but no regulating power, no intervening power, no real power whatsoever to ensure the protection of Quebec and Canada's values at whatever level. However, in the last minutes, I have been listening to my colleagues claiming that this bill will have many benefits for the heritage issue.
Today, I would like to give you a concrete, specific example which illustrates that this bill does not address in any way the potential threats to our heritage. This example came to me after reading a recent article written by Mr. Henri Lamoureux in Le Devoir, entitled ``Indecent Proposals for Artists'':
``Indecent Proposals for Artists''. ``The HRD minister's plan stems from a desire to make the poor foot the bill for extravagant government spending''.
By the way, Mr. Lamoureux is an author, a member of the board of UNEQ and a member of the Quebec social development council. He teaches at the school of social work of the Université de Montréal. He also sits on the federal sectoral council for culture.
You see, Mr. Speaker, now is the time to cultivate, to build tomorrow's heritage. But the minister of Canadian Heritage leaves a number of matters in the hands of his colleagues, the minister of Human Resources Development in particular, the net result being that culture and Canadian talent are in jeopardy.
Author Henri Lamoureux says that the social security reform proposal put forth by the Chrétien government may well affect creative artists at many levels. If it were to be implemented as is, it would make life quite unbearable for a number of us.
Let us try and set this in context. Creative artists are professionals with self-employed worker status. Bear in mind also that some are free lances who lend their services to producers for a fee. Take authors for example. In their trade, they have to sign contracts whereby they assign part of their royalties in exchange for a cut on the sales of their books. The sad reality is that most of them live in conditions that border on poverty and must rely on some other generally insecure and low-paid job to survive, perform their art and build our future heritage.
Allow me to complete this picture by adding that in many cases, more often than not, they have to go on welfare, but this is not of their own free choice.
So, how can the heritage minister ignore this reality? Why does he not have a word with his colleague, the HRD minister?
Allow me again to quote Mr. Lamoureux, who said this: ``For example, how can we reconcile the need to be available for work with the requirements of the novel- or poetry-writing process? How can we allow artists to use the resources allocated to job training, when we know that artists will train while practising their art, generally among peers?''
Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to remind the heritage minister of some realities he seems to be unfamiliar with. You see, reading, writing, observing, realizing are research activities which to a writer are practical, professional and learning experiences.
The actress learning a role she hopes to play some day, familiarizing herself with an author, paying for dancing or singing lessons, learning while practising her art, is working on her art. To engage in these activities, artists must learn how to negotiate contracts, how to sell their products or services, even how to use computers. Artists must be versatile.
Mr. Speaker, allow me again to quote Mr. Lamoureux for the benefit of the heritage minister: ``The Liberal government's narrow economic and strict industrial vision of job training suggests that we as artists can expect little from this government''.
That is not all, as the heritage minister should note. As far as their access to social programs is concerned, artists are in dire straits. For instance, a writer who accepts small jobs in order to practice her art will see her eventual UI benefits reduced in proportion to her spouse's salary. This is a totally unacceptable form of supervision not only for artists but for everyone. We know that, unfortunately, this measure would affect mostly women.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote Mr. Lamoureux for the benefit of the heritage minister:
``As for artists collecting UI benefits, how will the government manage the requirement to register for job training or retraining programs that the minister wants to impose on those who get so few contracts that they are condemned to precarious employment? Will a famous author who takes three, four or five years to write a novel be penalized because he takes short-term jobs to pay the rent, thus frequently having to rely on social security?''
He goes on to say: ``The real motivation behind the proposed reform is to make the poorest pay for government extravagance''.
My colleague from Rimouski questioned the heritage minister's ability to play tough with the industry minister. Now we have to add the human resources development minister. With the bill before us, we really do not have to wonder any more: the game is becoming quite illegal. Again, I quote Mr. Lamoureux:
``It is not right. No more so than Jean Chrétien's contemptuous mantra that individual dignity is wholly dependent on work, taken to mean some stable, paid, taxable activity''.
I would really like to appeal to the Prime Minister himself to support his heritage minister and revise this bill, but I fear that I would be wasting my time.
In conclusion, I could not do better than to quote Mr. Lamoureux again: ``Needless to say, in this field as in others, Quebec artists will massively side with their national government in Quebec City''.
Mr. Dennis J. Mills (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak on second reading of Bill C-53, an act to put into law the organization of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
This bill, as previous members have stated, includes responsibilities in the areas of cultural development, multiculturalism, official languages, heritage conservation, national parks, national historic sites and amateur sport.
I would like to address from this responsibility of the department two areas that are particularly sensitive in my riding of Broadview-Greenwood, which is downtown Toronto. The first has to do with cultural industries.
I have in my riding close to 14 motion picture sound stages. This is where Canadians are busy working sometimes two and three shifts a day manufacturing motion pictures mostly for export, and not just the North American markets. As of just recently, as you know, Mr. Speaker, ``Degrassi Junior High'' can be watched in China. When you are in your hotel room you can use your channel server. There are not very many channels in Beijing. When a group of us went there a few months ago, we noticed that Degrassi was being aired in China.
I want to talk about this industry because I think there is a great misunderstanding in the minds of Canadians about the value that the motion picture industry brings to the economy of Canada. Quite often Canadians will only focus on that part of the industry that they tend to see in lights. They tend to see the actors and actresses, the Academy Awards and the long limousines. Yet there is very little time and energy spent on appreciating what goes into making up that great industry which is so much a part of our culture.
We are talking about cameramen and women, set designers, costume designers, costume makers, lens grinders, carpenters.
These are craftsmen recognized right now as being the best in the world. The Canadian motion picture factories are recognized by the Germans, by the Americans as being an elite manufacturing force. It has taken many years to build that industry in this country. It has been this department of heritage that has really traditionally provided a lot of the seed money that went into supporting the artists and the craftsmen and women who go together and who today have made a world class industry.
I think it is important for all members of this House to realize that when we are speaking to the importance of this bill we never forget that the motion picture industries, the cultural industries, are a tremendous economic impact in a positive way to our GNP. The fact that this bill is going to make this department of heritage much more efficient is a credit to this government because with such limited fiscal resources these days we have to make sure that we do not do anything to diminish the support for this industry which is integral to the job creation commitment we made in the red book during the last election.
The second part of my remarks, Mr. Speaker, is something that is a little closer to your heart and it has to do with amateur hockey. I believe that Canadians need a wake up call when it comes to amateur hockey. It is not just hockey, it is amateur sport generally. Too often in the past amateur sport has been taken for granted in this country and once again we are facing a crisis with sport in this country. As most Canadians can see right now we are going to have our first ever Grey Cup final as a Canadian and American event. We have watched the demise of the Canadian Football League.
I know that is professional but the reason I think it is important is that the underpinnings of whatever sport we have in this country at the amateur level must be sustained because ultimately if our amateur level is in good shape then that will have a profound impact on the professional experience that happens in our country with whatever particular sport it is.
I would like to spend a minute or two on amateur hockey. More than ever at this moment in our history Canadians have to rally around hockey in our country because we have actually no set of books on what is going on in hockey. We do not know the number of jobs involved in Canadian hockey at the amateur level. We have no complete analysis of this. We have no idea in terms of what is happening in terms of exports related to the hockey industry.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are in danger right now of losing hockey as one of our prime movers and as one of our prime galvanizers. Let us take for example the teams in Atlantic Canada, in Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton and there is also a team in New Brunswick. I think those teams are vulnerable and I think we stand a very good chance of losing them. I link the relevance of that to amateur sport because once again I think that we as Canadians have to make sure that we do not do anything in this country to diminish our commitment to amateur sport in general.
Sometimes when we get involved in sport or cultural industries we enjoy them so much that we do not focus on the economic side of it. I believe we have always taken these industries for granted. If we are not very careful we are going to be in danger of losing these industries and the next thing you know, Mr. Speaker, you are going to see hockey not being run out of Canada, but out of New York.
I think one way we can ensure that industry along with all the other cultural industries that are part and parcel of this bill is for Canadians to look at them not just in terms of our Canadian identity, not just in terms of holding this country together, but also looking at them in terms of the economic impact they have in making sure we have a very vibrant economy for Canada.
Mr. Glen McKinnon (Brandon-Souris, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity. I agree with the comments of the previous speaker from Broadview-Greenwood that hockey does need some fortification. As a former principal of a high
school in which hockey has just become an athletic sport in rural Manitoba, I subscribe very much to that enterprise.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to join the debate and speak in support of Bill C-53, an act to establish the Department of Canadian Heritage. Passage of this bill will enable the department to continue to successfully pursue its mandate.
Bill C-53 is a part of a greater reorganization of government that will provide streamlining of services and will allow for a more efficient organizational structure which will prove of greater benefit to the Canadian taxpayer.
Although this department has its origins in the steps taken by the previous government in 1993, the current government has improved on these changes which are reflected in the accomplishments the department has achieved in one full year.
The Department of Canadian Heritage reflects the sweep of the new department's mandate, a mandate that includes responsibilities in the areas of cultural development, multiculturalism and official languages, heritage conservation, national parks, national historic sites and amateur sports. In these areas the department has a common objective of promoting Canadian identity.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is the chief custodian of our natural parks, parks preserves, national historic sites, heritage railway sites, historic railway sites, historic canals, marine conservation areas, heritage rivers, federal heritage buildings and of course historical markers.
These national symbols contribute to our national identity in many ways. They depict a diversity of cultures and natural environments. They are national symbols and yet they can be located in virtually any part of this country, urban, rural and remote. They are tangible links to our illustrious past and help us to understand where we as a people have come from.
The traditions of Parks Canada began in 1885 and are now embraced by the Department of Canadian Heritage. These traditions will continue to protect, preserve and promote these natural parks and sites which are important to Canadians.
Another key aspect to Canada's parks and historic sites is the importance to the Canadian economy. National parks and national historic sites generate annual revenue in excess of $1 billion, including some $275 million from foreign tourists, and provide jobs for some 30,000 Canadians, both men and women.
Heritage tourism in Canada is also a major job creation activity. Taking national parks and historic sites as an example, it is estimated that for every person year of employment generated as a result of Parks Canada expenditures, between 2.5 in the Atlantic regions and 12.5 in the Alberta region person years are supported as a result of investment by partners in sectors directly or indirectly linked to tourism.
A large portion of these jobs are generated in economically less advantaged areas of the country.
The Department of Canadian Heritage recognizes the cultural diversity of Canada through its multiculturalism policy. I have heard the members opposite denigrate the efforts of the multiculturalism sector of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
The sector works in partnership with Canadian institutions, ethnocultural communities, individuals, immigrant serving agencies and other organizations to eliminate racism and promote integration of ethnocultural minorities in Canadian society.
Certain members opposite would have us believe that multiculturalism is multimillion dollar boondoggle. However, I would point out that on a per capita basis multiculturalism grants cost each Canadians less than $1. The multiculturalism program has the aim of promoting equal opportunity for all Canadians to participate in the social, cultural, economic and political life of this country.
It would be foolish to get rid of multiculturalism on the mistaken notion that it exists to finance ethnic folk dances. The aim of multiculturalism is to help immigrants fit into Canadian society.
I might also point out to the members opposite that they say the multiculturalism model does not work. I would like them to become aware and consult with those Canadians who are grateful for the multiculturalism policy and its benefits.
The Department of Canadian Heritage not only recognizes the Canadian diversity among Canadians but also our linguistic duality. Canada's two official languages are intrinsically linked to Canadian identity and culture.
Canada's linguistic landscape is dominated by our two official languages, as English or French is spoken by 98.6 per cent of the Canadian population.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is committed to supporting the development and enhancing the vitality of linguistic minority communities in all sectors and encouraging Canadians to learn their second official language.
The Department of Canadian Heritage, with its official languages policies, provides funding for second language instruction for all provinces and territories. The French immersion experience constitutes the most studied phenomenon in the recent history of education in Canada and it is the consensus of experts that it is an excellent method to learn a second language.
Another facet that fosters the Canadian identity is the amateur sports component of which I spoke briefly a moment ago, which is also a valued component of Canadian heritage. Games and
related events like the Canada Games and the 15th Commonwealth Games held this summer in Victoria are a fundamental vehicle for fostering and illustrating important Canadian values such as the pursuit of excellence and cultural diversity.
Finally, the Department of Canadian Heritage has focused its efforts on the management of cultural development in Canada. The Department of Canadian Heritage nurtures and supports culture. It does so because it not only enriches our lives, it also improves the economic well-being of Canadians.
Despite what other members would have us believe, culture adds richness to our lives, giving people a way to express creativity and at the same time creates jobs and wealth. Bringing the cultural functions together in a single department will enable the Government of Canada to take more concrete action, making it possible to defend the interests of cultural minorities across this country.
In addition, the department is responsible for providing funding and encouraging cultural agencies that have a national mandate such as the CBC, the National Arts Centre, the Canada Council, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.
Clearly the mission of the Department of Canadian Heritage is closely linked to the major issues facing Canada today. It is more important than ever to start thinking of the importance of Canada's cultural complexity as an asset at a time when economies are opening up in different countries and around the world. That is why I strongly urge the quick passage of this bill.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): In my opinion the yeas have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Call in the members.
And the division bells having rung:
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): Pursuant to Standing Order 45 I have been requested by the deputy government whip to defer the division until a later time. Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division of the question now before the House stands deferred until tomorrow at 5.30 p.m., at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.
Mr. Boudria: Mr. Speaker, because of the rapid progress made this morning I think you might find unanimous consent to suspend the sitting until 2 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger): The House has heard the terms of the motion by the chief government whip. Is it agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(The sitting of the House was suspended at 1.16 p.m.)
The Speaker: It being 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to statements by members pursuant to Standing Order 31.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS[English]
After reading the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Henri Daviault case I find that I must agree with the dissenting view. Although I can understand the legal arguments put forward by the six Supreme Court justices I do not accept them. I believe there is a point where common sense must be used instead of common law of this nature.
It has been suggested this defence would be so rare that corrective measures would be unnecessary. In the two months since the decision there have been four successful uses of the drunkenness defence. The dike is about to open.
The point is simple. Individuals are accountable for their conduct notwithstanding their intoxication. The message must be loud and clear: Drunkenness is not a defence. I ask the Minister of Justice to promptly legislate this common sense rule for the integrity of our justice system and for the good of Canada.
This result could not have been achieved without the protection provided by the Drug Patent Act, which encourages multimillion-dollar investments in this field in order to increase the potential of biomedical research. Nevertheless, prudence is in order and we must not raise false hopes. Our society has a moral obligation to act cautiously, in a way that respects AIDS patients.
* * *[English]
I must say that these Liberal MPs must be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Their red book promises seem to jeopardize their pensions, but the Prime Minister being the good guy that he is has come through for them. His inaction on MP pensions has guaranteed that the trough is in fine working order in spite of the red book rhetoric.
Oh what a happy day for all the newest members of the pension payoff as they witness the old trough filled to the brim with hard earned taxpayers' dollars.
A word of warning to our gleeful colleagues though. These pensions are not regarded as a sacred trust by either the Reformers or the taxpayers. We will use whatever legal means are available to dismantle the trough and end this shameful abuse of taxpayers' money just as soon as we are sworn in as government after the next election.
* * *
November 20 also marks the adoption, by the UN General Assembly, of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. That convention is important because it deals with every aspect of the life of children and youth. It recognizes that, to reach his full potential, a child needs to grow in a climate of happiness, love and understanding. In short, the convention provides a framework to value and respect children and youth as full-fledged human beings.
I call on members of this House to join in the celebration of children and to think about some of the more pressing issues still facing children and youth in Canada. By working together we will realize the full potential of the convention on the rights of the child.
* * *
According to Statistics Canada a woman is shot to death every five days in our country. Guns are the weapon of choice by husbands who kill their wives. Indeed, almost half of the women killed by their partners are shot and 78 per cent of the guns used are legally owned.
We believe that enhanced gun control will go a long way toward reducing the number of women killed by their partners.
* * *
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada today. More than 80,000 Canadians will die this year from heart attacks and strokes.
CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a simple life saving skill learned in less than four hours, yet less than 3 per cent of Canadians know how to perform it. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada in co-operation with the Canadian Red Cross Society, St. John Ambulance, the Canadian Ski Patrol, the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada and the Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation encourage all Canadians to take the time to learn CPR.
CPR efforts complement cardiovascular disease strategies implemented under the Canadian heart health initiative. These
have been developed between the 10 provinces and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
I ask members of the House to support the initiatives and programs of CPR Awareness Month and to urge all Canadians to familiarize themselves with CPR. A few hours of your time could save a loved one.
* * *[Translation]
What a nice attitude on the part of the Prime Minister towards a country whose population is three times that of Canada. His paternalistic feelings towards such small countries are quite something, especially when it comes to raising the issue of human rights. The Prime Minister expresses his democratic convictions much more timidly when he is with the biggies.
Indeed, during his trip to Asia, the Prime Minister insisted to fraternize with several heads of state who systematically violate human rights, thus showing very little consideration for the victims.
* * *(1405)
Canadians want changes to the Young Offenders Act calling for greater deterrentce and accountability of the offender and greater protection for the rights of the victim. One petition printed one day just over one month ago in the Vancouver Province resulted in over 13,000 letters and faxes sent into my office from across B.C. They were from concerned citizens who chose not to just read about but act upon their concerns for our youth.
I am pleased as their representative that the minister has agreed to accept their many testimonials, letters and petitions in a presentation in the House lobby today.
On behalf of those Canadians I call on the Minister of Justice and all members of the justice committee to look past social philosophy and respond to the concern in our communities.
* * *
I hope this comes to be seen as a watershed decision after which our civilization's energy problems will come to be solved by changes on the demand side through conservation and the pursuit of soft energy paths. The Government of Quebec is to be congratulated on this decision.
This decision is a great victory for environmental groups and natives in the region who fought against the project. On behalf of all Canadians, I thank them for their courageous efforts and for giving us hope.
* * *[English]
Bill C-41 clearly states that acts of hate shall be considered for additional punishment over and above the original crime that has been committed. In other words if the intent of assaulting an individual is not only to inflict pain but to intimidate others, then two crimes have been committed, one of violence and one of hate.
I fully support this legislation. It will benefit all Canadians since every Canadian has a colour, religion, age and sexual orientation. I urge all members to support Bill C-41.
* * *[Translation]
National Child Day is an opportunity for us to emphasize the importance of children in our society. We must all work hard to ensure that our children can lead happy and productive lives, because they are Canada's future.
It is our responsibility as members of this House and for many of us as parents to ensure that no child in Canada should have to live in poverty, die of hunger, suffer from sexual abuse or be a victim of child pornography or prostitution.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that community organizations in the riding of Saint-Denis are doing an incredible job in working with children. I would like to refer more particularly to what is being done by the Jouthèque de Villeray, which assists disadvantaged women and children in many ways.
Finally, I wish to commend the hon. member for Ottawa Centre on his contribution towards creating this important day.
* * *[English]
Let us hope its cancellation will lead to the future adoption of policies whereby the environment will be taken into account before decisions are made. In this case no consideration was given to the fact that flooding would once again lead to the formation of methyl mercury which in turn poisons the fish and those who eat them.
Let us also hope that the era of large hydroelectric projects in Canada has come to an end and that future energy needs will be met through greater energy efficiency and conservation, through greater discipline in energy consumption and through intensified research on alternative and renewable sources of energy.
* * *[Translation]
Thanks to the agreement, they obtained what they never had before: full responsibility for education, through the Cree School Board, for social and health services, for the management of their land, and a strong voice in the approval of new developments on their land, rights that respect the land's resources, rights that guarantee police protection and a justice system adapted to their needs, and guarantees that they will be able to participate fully in the development of sub-arctic Quebec.
The speaker was none other than Matthew Coon-Come.
* * *[English]
Large sums of the very taxpayers' money the government claims to be concerned about is now being spent on ineffective legal roadblocks trying to delay the court action. If the minister had agreed to the proposal I sent him last month, funds could now be spent determining the truth instead of trying to cover it up.
There are many ways in which the claims against the government could be effectively reduced, particularly in the case of third party contractors. These solutions will never be found if the government continues to try and protect itself by changing the laws instead of seeking practical solutions.
I now call on the minister to meet with me so that we can arrange an alternative that will see justice done without unnecessary expense for the Canadian taxpayer.
* * *[Translation]
Does the minister not admit that his attitude in the youth service matter clearly shows that he is trying to muzzle the Quebec government?According to the Quebec newspaper Le Soleil, because of the enthusiasm created by the first two parts of Youth Service Canada some 52 schools and community agencies proposed projects.
But we also learn that two weeks ago the assistant deputy minister of education, Mr. Jacques Lanoue, wrote Mr. Michel Walsh, director of adult education at the Portneuf school board, one of the 52 organizations wishing to benefit from the Youth Service program, to ask him not to sign any agreement with Ottawa. This request by the Quebec deputy minister is disquieting because it will prevent young Quebecers from getting an important part of the budget of $15 million.
* * *[English]
New contracts lead to new jobs and help us in our task of getting Canadians back to work. But this mission achieved something even more impressive. It re-established an atmosphere of co-operation in federal-provincial relations. It showed Canadians that the premiers and the Prime Minister can work together. It showed them that federalism does work.
Nothing succeeds like success. I for one am hopeful that this new sense of co-operation is the basis for future success stories and that Team Canada carries on.
* * *
Today 46 more Liberal trough feeders are joining the crew. The golden pension for these 46 will cost Canadian taxpayers almost $1 million when they leave Parliament.
The government had to borrow $158 million to top up the pension plan in 1992. The Prime Minister should end this lunacy and live up to his promises of past and present. Regardless of what his 46 new trough feeders think, he should make any new pension reform retroactive to election day, October 25, 1993.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD(1415)
People will start wondering why the government did not concentrate on developing our trade relations with the United States now that NAFTA has been ratified.
My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Does he endorse the misgivings of his members who see trade relations with the United States as a problem rather than a benefit, and should we see this as lingering Liberal opposition to the free trade agreement?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, certainly not. However, everyone realizes that the Pacific is becoming increasingly important. At the APEC Conference held in Jakarta, where the United States and Canada were represented, everyone was in favour of free trade in that area, because that is where the world's population and economic growth are concentrated. And that is why Canada wants to participate. In fact, the Americans do as well. This will not affect our trade relations with the United States. There are considerable opportunities there for Canadians and Canadian industry. I think this was a joint decision by all Canadians, since nine Premiers representing three political parties were there, and they all agreed with our decision to take advantage of expanding markets in the Pacific to create jobs in Canada.
Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister knows perfectly well that 80 per cent of Canadian exports, and a little more last month, go to the United States, while the figure for Asia is about 7 or 8 per cent.
That being the case, I would ask him whether he endorses the suggestion made by members of the committee who, now that NAFTA has been ratified, recommend eliminating trade commissioner posts in the United States and Mexico.
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we signed NAFTA, and I have had discussions with, for instance, the President of Chile and the President of Mexico, and in those discussions we supported the inclusion of Chile in NAFTA, because we believe it is important
to have more than just three countries in this association, and we will definitely talk about this at the summit next month in Miami.
Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Leader of the Opposition, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we do not need good intentions. We need concrete action on government policies. I would ask the Prime Minister whether he does not consider it essential to maintain the network of Canadian trade commissioners in the United States in order to support the efforts of Canadian businesses, especially SMEs that want to take advantage of new markets that have opened up as a result of NAFTA.
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is always looking at our country's needs everwhere in the world. Of course with the restriction that every department is facing at this time there is a review of all the posts that are open. We will keep those that are absolutely needed in accordance with the amount of money we can spend.
There is no such proposition whereby we want to reduce the level of trade with the United States. At the same time we want to increase trade with the Pacific rim. Our economy will benefit through good trade relations with the United States and better relations than now with the Pacific where the growth and potential is at this time.
* * *[Translation]
Does the Prime Minister dissocate himself from Mr. Coo Come's untruthful remarks? Does he intend to instruct the Canadian embassy in Washington to intervene and set the record straight concerning the Crees' situation in Northern Quebec?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I did not read this speech by the chief of the Crees of New Quebec. I believe that it is not the government's role to go and make speeches whenever someone says something we do not quite agree with.
This Cree chief makes speeches; he has opinions and he expresses them. This does not mean that we must agree with him. In a country where freedom of speech exists, all citizens are entitled to express their own point of view. When someone says things with which the Bloc Quebecois does not agree, it can respond. It has the right to do so. If the Liberals do not agree, they can do the same.
Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we noticed that the Prime Minister neither completely agreed nor completely disagreed with Mr. Coon Come. It would be interesting if he could tell us what he agrees with.
Would the Prime Minister not agree that instead of hunting separatists, his ambassador in Washington should spend more time putting the facts straight, since the Cree defamation campaign is bad not only for the image of Quebec in the U.S., but also for the image of Canada as a whole?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I was saying earlier that there is freedom of speech in Canada as well as in the United States. No one, anywhere, is supposed to have his or her speeches cleared by the ambassador. People make speeches and if the hon. member does not agree with them, he can answer them. The audience of the Cree grand chief is known. The hon. member can write and put the facts straight.
I know that Crees in Canada have many long-held grievances. I was Minister of Indian Affairs and I know that the citizens of the First Nations have been complaining for a long time. They did not always get justice, and they have reason to complain.
As for his choice of words, when I was minister, I was the target of some inflated vocabulary but I am not the one to rescind their freedom of expression.
* * *[English]
For over one year the Prime Minister has promised to allow MPs to opt out of these obscene pensions and to make private arrangements on the same basis as other Canadians.
Does the Prime Minister agree that MPs pensions should be brought in line with private sector standards or not?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we said clearly in the red book that we would deal with some problems regarding pensions of members of Parliament. We talked about double dipping and the situation that prevails when some retire very early in life and get a very big pension.
These two problems are mentioned in the red book and will be corrected when the President of the Treasury Board will introduce legislation within a month or two in this House.
Mr. Stephen Harper (Calgary West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister mentions correcting the age problem. It has been suggested that the government may raise the age of eligibility for the MP pension to 55. On this basis alone, the MP pension would still be more generous than 99.9 per cent of all private sector plans.
Will the Prime Minister admit that such tinkering is totally inadequate to deal with the problem?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have always defended the compensation that members of Parliament receive.
I understand the Reform Party believes that they are overpaid. I do not understand why. They look at themselves and they think they are overpaid.
Mr. Stephen Harper (Calgary West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister's salary were tied to the financial performance of the Government of Canada, he would be overpaid by about half a billion dollars a year.
In recent years both the Alberta and Prince Edward Island governments have made significant reforms to their pensions, reforms that affected past members already benefiting from the excesses they had voted themselves.
Will the Prime Minister commit in principle to applying any reform to MP pensions to past MPs as well as to sitting MPs?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): I have to smile, Mr. Speaker, because some of these members were grandstanding when they offered to cut their pay by 10 per cent. Now they say that they have not received any credit for that so they will stop. I think they are just grandstanding again. The people of Canada understand that that party has been a complete failure since the election.
* * *[Translation]
Last week, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs stated that, with only minor modifications, the facilities at Kingston would be able to accommodate all Canadian Forces officer cadets as early as next year. For this reason, he dismissed the proposal for a gradual transition that the mayor of Saint-Jean had made and that was perfectly acceptable to the Quebec government.
Can the minister tell us if there is any truth to the rumour that the government plans to build additional facilities next year to accommodate some 700 officer cadets to meet the requirements resulting from the closing of the military college in Saint-Jean?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Public Service Renewal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government of Quebec keeps playing with the lives of members of the community in Saint-Jean and with those of the teachers.
We have an agreement in hand, an agreement signed by both levels of government, ensuring that the college in Saint-Jean can survive, while the community continues to prosper. There are no hidden costs. All costs are in the open and there are substantial savings to be made by concentrating our military college operations in Kingston. The situation remains unchanged. All I am asking from the Quebec government is that it honour its signature on this document, which constitutes an agreement in due form between the governments of Quebec and Canada.
Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if I interpret correctly what the minister said, additional facilities will indeed be built next year. That is what I understood.
Does the minister recognize that, in spite of the major outlay of capital forecast by the government to increase the accommodation capacity of the college in Kingston, existing facilities will definitely not meet the needs during the transition period, while the officer cadets population is brought down from 1,200 to 900, this being the opinion of the commanding officer of the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean himself, Colonel Parisien?
Hon. David Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, all of the financial facts dealing with the closure of the two colleges were tabled at the standing committee some months ago. They were not challenged by members of the opposition. They were not challenged by other members of the public.
There were expenditures that were authorized by the previous government to begin construction in 1995. These had nothing whatsoever to do with the consolidation of the colleges into Kingston but had to do with the need for ongoing repairs and new facilities that would have been required in any event.
With respect to some allegations that we will have to build a dormitory, that is entirely false because there are enough dormitory beds available at CFB Kingston to accommodate the overflow until we get to a steady state of about 700 to 800 cadets, which will be within three or four years.
Feelings in the non-native and the native communities are running high and the battle lines are being drawn in a dispute that I fear is headed for violence. Yet the minister of Indian affairs has refused to act.
Will the minister live up to his constitutional responsibilities and take immediate action to end this dispute peacefully?
Hon. Ron Irwin (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member stated this has been going on for about three weeks. The deputy minister, John Walsh, who is also my nephew by marriage, by Ojibway custom, has been meeting with senior officials of the band. Some proposals have been put forward. I am not at liberty to state what they are. I do not think negotiations are going well and the province of B.C. is bringing injunctive action this morning.
I do not know the results of the injunctive action. My hon. friend and I will probably hear at the same time and we will know the results of the injunction later today.
Mr. Jim Hart (Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, this situation is reaching near-boiling point and something is going to happen unless the minister takes immediate action.
This dispute over the Apex resort is only a symptom of a deeper long-standing problem. This year federal government funding to the Penticton Indian Band is more than $2.5 million. In spite of denials by the band, some of this money is being spent to pay those manning the illegal blockades $10 an hour. Meanwhile the 250 employees at the resort are paying a terrible price and some have to draw UI at the taxpayers' expense.
Will the minister of Indian affairs immediately suspend all funding transfers to the Penticton Indian Band, as he did recently with the Lower Similkameen Band election dispute, until the illegal roadblocks are removed and the band sits down at the bargaining table?
Hon. Ron Irwin (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is a man in my friend's riding named Tom Landecker. He wrote a letter. I adopt the method he is proposing. He uses the ski area. He says: ``Every time I do so I am reminded of the 100-year history of the relations between our two communities, a history littered with broken promises and missed opportunities''.
At the end of it he says: ``The only resolution to this situation is through mediation of the provincial government''. I think it is appropriate and is something that is being done. If it breaks down then there is the recourse to the court, which is happening as we speak.
* * *[Translation]
During the Prime Minister's recent trip to Asia, a group of his Liberal members from Ontario proposed to the Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations that the regulations made pursuant to Bill C-91 be abolished. This unusual procedure used by the committee could have jeopardized major investments by brand-name drug manufacturers.
Is the Prime Minister dissociating himself from his colleagues' initiative and does he promise to immediately allay the concerns-
Some hon. members: Order!
The Speaker: My dear colleagues, from time to time, questions are asked which do not deal with the government's administrative responsibilities. Perhaps the hon. member could rephrase his question a little to make it admissible.
I would ask him to rephrase his question a little so that it deals with the government's administrative functions.
Mr. Rocheleau: Mr. Speaker, is the Prime Minister dissociating himself from his colleagues or does he intend to keep the regulations made pursuant to Bill C-91?
Some hon. members: Order!
The Speaker: My dear colleagues, I will allow the question if the Prime Minister is willing to answer it. The Hon. Minister of Industry.
Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that questions must deal with matters for which the government is responsible and not with committee matters.
I would like to point out to the hon. member that if the Bloc Quebecois does not believe that parliamentary committees should scrutinize regulations, its members ought to say so. For my part, I believe I have stated many times in the House the position of the government on Bill C-91. Despite the fact that we have continually reiterated that position, the Bloc has difficulty understanding it. That I find very strange.
The Speaker: Does the hon. member have a supplementary question?
Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the regulations made pursuant to Bill C-91 cannot be reviewed before 1997. The Prime Minister said last spring that the government would not touch Bill C-91.
Can the Prime Minister assure us that the law will not be reviewed before the spring of 1997?
The Speaker: Again, dear colleagues-
The government does not control what is going on in the committees per se. However, in a very general way I will accept the question.
Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if I understood the question correctly, the member was asking whether we intend to reform
-Bill C-91 before the parliamentary review already provided for in the bill. We answered this question several times. We will honour our international commitments under NAFTA and under the Uruguay Round agreement.
As far as the matter of regulations is concerned, there is a parliamentary committee with the authority to review the regulations. This committee has the jurisdiction to do what it wants.
* * *[English]
However I am concerned that he seems determined to delay this inquiry for several months. Such a delay will inevitably involve the events becoming more remote, the trail more cold and the truth more difficult to ascertain.
Why will the minister not initiate this inquiry immediately so that all the facts can be determined and the cases evolving from it settled in the full light of public scrutiny?
Hon. David Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I answered this question in reply to the Leader of the Opposition last Thursday when I announced the inquiry.
It is imperative that all of us ensure that justice be done and the judicial proceedings involved with the court martials be concluded before any inquiry takes place. I have given assurances that once the judicial process is completed, the inquiry will be open and civilian, and will answer all of the questions that the hon. member has.
Mr. Jack Frazer (Saanich-Gulf Islands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the minister misses the point. No one questions that the military justice system is constitutional and generally effective, but the Somalia situation seems to be an aberration.
There is concern that evidence has been deliberately suppressed or destroyed. Some aspects have been described by Kyle Brown as a turkey shoot. Both those accused and the Canadian forces themselves have come under suspicion which can only be resolved by a prompt, open and absolutely unbiased investigation.
To ensure justice is done and seen to be done, will the minister order that the now scheduled court martials be delayed until after the civilian inquiry is completed?
Hon. David Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for the reasons I have already stated, no.
* * *[Translation]
Does the Prime Minister intend to demand a party vote on Bill C-41 or will he submit to the sixty or so members of his caucus who oppose this bill and are calling for a free vote on this issue?
The Speaker: Once again we are getting into party things as opposed to administrative functions of the government. I would ask hon. members if they could raise their questions so that we deal directly with the administration of a particular department of government. It would facilitate matters.
I will permit the Minister of Justice to respond if he so wishes.
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, may I make it clear that the Prime Minister has already said that this is a government bill and it will be presented to the House on that basis.
Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf, BQ): Mr. Speaker, am I to understand from the minister's answer that the Prime Minister will force the sixty or so members who oppose the justice minister into line, reminding them that this is a government bill as well as a party promise?
The Speaker: I rule this question out of order.
* * *
The provincial government announced new measures which would crack down on under age strippers by fining club owners and having their licences suspended if they continue with their hiring practices.
In keeping with the Liberal red book promise of stricter penalties against youth exploitation, can the minister tell us what he plans to do?
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, like all Canadians I was appalled to learn that adolescent or juvenile girls might be exploited in these strip clubs. It has to stop. All levels of government have to collaborate in making it stop.
As the hon. member knows, there are provisions in the Criminal Code which make it criminal conduct to present an obscene performance. The participation of a juvenile girl in such a show might itself be sufficient to render that performance obscene.
I would hope that those sections already in the criminal law would be enforced vigilantly by the province through prosecutions.
As the hon. member pointed out there are also provincial steps that can be taken in relation to licensing. Last, there are municipal zoning that steps can be taken. Working together all levels of government must bring an end to this deplorable practice.
* * *
Despite the minister's call for a judicial inquiry into the performance of vice-chair of the Immigration Refugee Board, Michael, Schelew, it looks as though it might not get off the ground. After the announcement of the inquiry Schelew said he would not co-operate.
Given that Schelew thinks he is above the law, will the minister of immigration admit that the best way to deal with Mr. Schelew is not send a pretty please invitation to a judicial inquiry but send him a pink slip and immediately demand his permanent resignation from the board, like he did with his other friend, Inderjit Singh Bal?
Hon. Sergio Marchi (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on Friday we made public the fact that I had recommended under section 63(1) of the Immigration Act that we move to a judicial inquiry because enough questions had been raised about the response by the deputy chair and the initial report by the chair.
The matter is now in the hands of my colleague the Minister of Justice. The terms of reference and the judge will be appointed by him. No one is above the law. We are following the law and we expect everyone to participate.
Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I trust that the minister will recommend that the judge hold Mr. Schelew in contempt of court for refusing to appear.
Given that the minister has called a judicial inquiry, will he expand that inquiry to include IRB members who have been artificially inflating acceptance rates? Will the minister refer an investigation of the entire IRB executive to the Standing Committee on Immigration?
Hon. Sergio Marchi (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for weeks on end that party has lectured the House about quasi-judicial boards. Now the member suggests that I call a judge and give that judge direction. I will do no such thing. The Minister of Justice has the responsibility. He is a responsible minister.
* * *[Translation]
Last Friday, the defence minister touted the merits of Unisys, which he said was the best company in the world for providing computer services for Canadian frigates. From 1992 to July 1994, defence department officials in charge of this issue denounced Unisys's incompetence and inability to meet the terms of the contract and deplored the waste of public funds.
How does the minister explain his refusal to follow up on the recommendations of his officials who have repeatedly denounced the waste of public funds in the Unisys matter?
Hon. David Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times one has to repeat answers to get through to the hon. members opposite. This was essentially the same question that was asked by one of his colleagues on Friday. I gave the answer.
If the hon. member still does not accept the answer then I would invite him to attend a briefing to be given by national defence officials. We will lay out all the terms of the contract, how it was renegotiated, how the concerns were met. I am sure the hon. member then will not continue to do what his colleagues started on Friday, denigrate a very worthy company based in Montreal which happens to be in his province, Quebec.
Mr. Jean-Marc Jacob (Charlesbourg, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I would like the defence minister to understand that whether it is a Quebec company or not, if public funds are wasted, we will denounce it. If officials have told the department that the company was not fulfilling its mandate, the department ought to let the company know.
Are we to understand that in order to hide this waste of public funds, his department has decided to remove the officers responsible for monitoring contract compliance?
Hon. David Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the department did not put aside any officials. There was a problem with the development of the specific combat training systems. I explained that on Friday. It is not unusual when you are dealing with high tech, highly specified equipment. The terms of the contract were renegotiated and the first tests are under way right now with the Canadian patrol frigate and I do not see where any problem remains.
I would invite the hon. member to be briefed by my officials and after that briefing I would challenge him whether he will ask these same questions in the House because I think he will be entirely satisfied.
* * *
The Criminal Code in this country states that people should be punished for rape, physical assault and battery except, it appears, when the criminal has had too much to drink or is too stoned to realize what he is doing.
The justice minister does say he is concerned. Is he concerned enough to end the drunk defence now?
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am concerned enough and this government is concerned enough to end it as soon as we can responsibly prepare a provision for the Criminal Code that will withstand an attack under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that will achieve the objective we all have in mind which is accountability in the criminal law.
Miss Deborah Grey (Beaver River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, where there is a will there is a way and this government, with all the resources at its fingertips, could have that thing ready by week's end.
The minister quickly put an end to the possibility of a cultural defence when he thought perhaps it could hurt his political career. The minister could close this loophole today if he wanted to.
The Speaker: I invite the hon. member to get to her question.
Miss Grey: He would have support across this House. Will the minister put an end to the drunken defence today? Justice should be blind, not blind drunk.
Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, since the publication of the consultation document 10 days ago I have heard from among others women's groups from across the country that are very anxious to speak with me in detail about the proposals because they are very concerned about the suggestion of a criminal intoxication offence.
I want to hear them out. I want to listen to the provincial attorneys general who will enforce this law. I want to discuss this with the people who participate with the federal government in the administration of the justice system and I want to prepare a law that is going to get it right. That is my opinion.
* * *
Natives in northwestern Ontario are experiencing a fourfold increase in heart attacks and kidney disease compared with average Canadians. These medical crises have a preventable cause, that is type II diabetes.
What are the government's plans for preventive measures which will reduce the negative effects of type II diabetes among First Nation populations?
Ms. Hedy Fry (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that question because Health Canada has a great deal of concern about type II diabetes among aboriginal peoples as well as the complications of type II diabetes.
We have worked specifically in northern Ontario to deal with Sioux Lookout where there is a dietitian right now who works for the hospital and with the community. Regular sessions are held to meet with the people, to educate them with regard to their diet.
More generally, however, we are working with First Nations people to deal with prevention and treatment at the community level and the national level so that we can provide the kind of culturally sensitive prevention and care that is necessary.
* * *[Translation]
The Director of Communications for the Department of Human Resources Development said that the project has nothing to do with the referendum, and she added: ``We are not getting involved in politics''.
If this is not a pre-referendum operation, will the Prime Minister tell us why these documentary films on federal services will only be aired in Quebec?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, over a year ago a communications firm approached a number of federal departments to suggest that with the major reorganization of departments going on it would be very helpful for Canadians to understand the range of services provided by integrated departments such as human resources, heritage and others.
As a result a series of information documentaries is being prepared that will be shown across Canada. It will be available to help Canadians understand the availability of services and how they can effectively use them, how they can make the best use of the resources we have. That is the whole purpose.
The program is being paid for out of a reallocation of existing communications money. No new money is being added. It has nothing to do with the referendum. It has something to do with good service to Canadians.
Mrs. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is for the Prime Minister. Are we to understand that this advertising campaign is in response to a Prime Minister's request that the communication services of each department submit promotional projects on Canadian unity?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the comments of the hon. member.
As I said in my opening response, what happened is that last fall of 1993 an independent communications firm made a proposal that was originally directed toward my department as a way of providing proper information services for all Canadians right across Canada. We thought it was a good idea to work with other departments to provide a joint program. That program is now being implemented to ensure that all Canadians understand just what good services they receive from this government.
* * *
In actual fact the federal government lays off over 70,000 persons every year at a cost of $400 million to the program; that is more than five times the cost of the auto industry. Yet the minister is not shy about pointing an accusing finger and singling out the automobile industry for abusing the system.
Why is the minister singling out any specific sector of the economy and how does finger pointing at any specific sector improve the problem or help solve the problem?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are not pointing an accusing finger at anybody. We are simply tabling the facts. In the last 10 years the frequency of use of unemployment insurance has gone from about 13 per cent to 40 per cent.
I want to inform the hon. member that I had a very useful meeting this morning with representatives of the automobile industry and the unions in that industry. We agreed that it is something that we should jointly look at. We have agreed that we will collaborate and co-operate on sharing information. It shows that this government is interested in co-operating with people and working out solutions to our problems.
Mr. Ian McClelland (Edmonton Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of Canadians who are really distressed with what has happened to the unemployment insurance system in the country.
It is passing strange that someone earning $20,000 a year is subsidizing people who could make up to $40,000 a year through the unemployment insurance system which has really become income redistribution.
Will the minister ensure in the forthcoming program review that unemployment insurance is returned to its original mandate, that is to protect employees from transitional or temporary harm due to temporary job loss, and remove it from being a make work project or an income supplement project?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, certainly one of the major objectives is to have an unemployment insurance system that is both efficient and cost effective.
At the same time one of the most important ways of ensuring it is cost effective is to ensure that we use resources from that fund to help retrain and upgrade many workers who do need to face the adjustments that the work place poses, especially now when we are going through such massive changes.
I simply point out to the hon. member that we have presented a series of proposals as to how we can use the unemployment insurance system to turn it into an employment insurance system to give people a much better chance of having the opportunity to be employed.
It is really getting a job, holding a job and improving that job that is the primary purpose of our review.
* * *
For obvious reasons, this House is often preoccupied with one of Canada's largest provinces, Quebec, but I would like to ask the Prime Minister a question about the province of Ontario today.
It concerns the fact that Ontario is increasingly being treated unfairly by the federal government with respect to the diminishing share of social assistance costs that the federal government is picking up. The federal share is now down to 29 per cent when in eight other provinces it is at 50 per cent.
We know why Quebec gets the attention but why has the bloc Ontario that is in his caucus not done anything about the way the federal government is treating Ontario the way it did under the Tories and the way it is now doing under the Liberals?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would refer to the green paper that we tabled dealing with reform of the social system he would recognize that we put in that paper an objective to ensure a much fairer distribution of benefits throughout Canada.
I have had discussions with ministers of the Ontario government to say that the best way that they can ensure that Ontario does receive proper attention is to become a part of the process of review. That is what we want to do. If we could have the full collaboration of the Government of Ontario we could work out those formulas.
In the meantime I would say to the hon. member that he might want to direct the question that he has raised to his own leader who seems to be opposing the benefit it would bring, close to $3 billion worth of jobs to Ontario in developing the Candu reactor.
* * *
As part of these reforms, a new approach to addressing student needs was developed. However, as the minister knows, students are concerned that the new needs assessment approach was too harsh, that the contribution by parents was too high for many families and too much emphasis was placed on student income.
Will the minister take immediate action to address this growing concern?
Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, because of certain events the announcement we made last week concerning the improvement to the student loan program was somewhat overshadowed by an impromptu lunch I had in the front yard of Parliament Hill.
I would like to point out that the federal government has met with its provincial counterparts. We have come to an agreement that we will provide for a very different set of rules as applied to the existing student loan program which will allow part time income to be more broadly accepted, to allow parental income to be revised in a different way and to ensure there is much better flexibility.
I can report to you, Mr. Speaker, because I know you are very interested that it was very broadly and strongly endorsed by students' associations in this country.
Over the weekend, VIA Rail experienced two incidents: one in Brighton, close to Toronto, and the other close to Rimouski, in Quebec. Both could have resulted in tragedies. Luckily, no life was lost, although 44 people were injured in Brighton. These incidents, which appear to involve mischief, raise questions about the security measures taken by VIA Rail to ensure the protection of the public.
Will the minister confirm that the two incidents involving VIA Rail trains, which almost resulted in tragedies, were due to vandalism and will he demand that VIA Rail, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific improve their security system in order to better protect the lives of passengers and the public?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, everyone who is aware of what happened on the weekend in the Gaspé and on the route between Toronto and Montreal is obviously very, very concerned. The matter is under investigation. It is being investigated by the appropriate police forces and by the transportation board.
What is very important in matters of this kind, because we are dealing with literally thousands of miles of rail in this country, is to make sure that every precaution is taken by the appropriate authorities and that we not raise unnecessary fears but that we do maintain every degree of surveillance we can to ensure that these very unfortunate incidents do not reoccur.
Particularly to those people who were injured in the incident on the VIA line between Montreal and Toronto, we extend our deep concerns. I agree with my hon. colleague that everything that can humanly be done should be done.
I do want to say to my hon. colleague, to members of the House, and to Canadians generally that in dealing with matters of this nature it does not serve any useful purpose to speculate. We can only hope that if there was any mischief involved in it that it will not be repeated. I want to assure the House that every appropriate step will be taken to ensure the safety of Canadians travelling on VIA and by other modes of general transport in the country.
* * *
This time I want him to answer this question: Does he agree that allowing MPs to take a fat pension at age 55 would be to mock taxpayers?
Right Hon. Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have replied to that question. I said that there was a commitment made by this party that some elements of the pension plan would be reviewed in legislation that will be introduced in the House of Commons in the next couple of months at the latest.
Mr. Gagliano: Madam Speaker, may I ask the House if we can return to an item later. You may continue with the rest of Routine Proceedings while I find out whether we have any answers to petitions.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu): Does the House give its consent to come back to Questions passed as Orders for Returns later on today?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
* * *[English]
If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 49th report later this day.
Madam Speaker, I move that the 49th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House this day, be concurred in.
(Motion agreed to.)
The first petition deals with sexual orientation. The petitioners pray that Parliament not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase of sexual orientation. The petition contains 77 signatures.
These petitioners request that Parliament not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality, including amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.
Not only am I pleased to present this petition but I endorse the petition as well.
The petitioners ask that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and that Parliament make no changes in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia.
I concur with all three petitions.
The petitioners request that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and that Parliament make no
changes in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia.
The first is signed by over 300 constituents of Crowfoot. The petitioners would like to draw our attention to the fact that a natural and fundamental relationship exists between grandparents and grandchildren. However, grandparents as a consequence of the death, separation or divorce of their children are often denied access to their grandchildren by their guardians.
Therefore, they call upon Parliament to amend the Divorce Act to include a provision similar to article 6(11) of the Quebec civil code which states: ``In no case may a father or mother without serious cause place obstacles between the child and grandparents'' so that grandparents who are granted access to a child have the right to make inquiries and be given information as to the health, education and welfare of the child.
They therefore ask that Parliament not repeal or amend section 241 in any way and that it uphold the Supreme Court of Canada decision of September 30, 1993, to disallow assisted suicide.
* * *
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu): Shall all questions stand?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Ref.): Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to speak on the social policy review. This is something that touches everyone. I think all of us from talking to our constituents know just how much people are concerned about this entire review that is taking place.
During the break when I was back in my constituency, I had the opportunity to conduct a number of town hall meetings. I started on Monday with a group in an agricultural community. Many people came out and we had a great discussion. From there I went on to service clubs and a couple of other town hall meetings.
In all cases the approach that I found worked was to first talk to people about the real financial problem in which we find ourselves. Most people have just a fleeting concept of what a billion dollars is and exactly how serious the situation is.
To put it all into perspective, if you tell people we are spending in excess of $160 billion and we are only taking in $125 billion, they very quickly get the message. If you go further and say that of the $160 billion, roughly $80 billion goes to social services, $40 billion to other government services and $40 billion in interest payments, you will get their attention. They will have an understanding of just how real the social reform package is and how serious they must take it when they look at plans the government has.
I talked to a group of people who were discouraged because they did not get any real answers from government. Instead they got another discussion paper, one which gave them only a few highlights of what the government might have in mind three, four, five years, or whenever down the road. They want to hear some hard facts. They want to hear the suggestions that the government might have with regard to these changes.
As far as the interest payments are concerned a lot of people ask why we would not just write off the debt and the deficit. Very quickly we ask them if they have any Canada savings bonds, T-bills or pension plans that might be part of this Canadian investment. They answer that they do so the interest payments must remain. Obviously, the single biggest threat to our social programs then are those interest payments themselves which we must get under control.
As far as the social programs are concerned all of us value them as Canadians. We all feel they are an important part of being a Canadian. We would like to maintain as many of the social programs as possible but we recognize it must be done within our budget. I believe all Canadians know the programs must be changed. Ask any group. They will tell you that there are abuses and there are areas which have to be changed.
Looking at the ongoing studies the one thing we have learned more than anything else from Alberta is that you have to take action; you know what you have to do and you do it and then you show people how it will benefit them. It seems the longer we study something the longer it is put off. The longer it goes on and
on the less likelihood there is we can ever change it. There have been enough studies and enough input. Everybody knows about the problems and abuses. It is time to get on with the necessary changes.
I would like to quickly look at some of the areas of our social safety net and examine them briefly as to what some of the problems and possible solutions might be.
Certainly from the standpoint of OAS it is rather dangerous to say that we are going to cut pensions. When we approach it by asking whether those over 65 earning a family income of over $54,000 need to get OAS, most will answer that no, they really do not need it. In other words, while the idea of universality is very nice, it is something we cannot afford any longer. If people understand that, they are prepared to accept that as their portion of the cut.
We must also remember that in the next 15 years the number of people over 65 will increase by 40 per cent and the burden on others will be unbearable. Obviously we have to come back in terms of pensions and seniors and promote everything we can to help people realize they have to take care of themselves.
We have to show them that RRSPs are the way to go. Certainly taxing them will be the most disappointing, negative and reactionary thing that could ever happen from this House. We cannot let that happen because it flies right against people taking care of themselves.
Let us look at the Canada pension plan. When it was started in 1965 we were basically told: ``Give your money to government. Government knows how to take care of it for you better and will guarantee the return of this money when you retire''. I was one of those people just starting in the workforce. I was told that I should give my money to the government, that it would take care of it and guarantee a pension to me.
It was an insurance plan but now people are saying: ``Let us take care of our own pension plans, but obviously we want back what we paid into Canada pension''. Remember there is an unfunded liability of close to $500 billion. It is like the airlines with their frequent flyer points. Those are real liabilities. Whether you like it or not those are going to come back to haunt future generations. We must address the problem of Canada pension self-sufficiency.
Of course UIC has major problems. Again, I do not know many who would not tell you they have a problem with UIC or that they know somebody who has had a problem with it. All kinds of things crop up: seasonal workers, false claims, abusers, people who lie and cheat with regard to claiming UI. There are no free lunches. We have to change the attitudes of people toward this whole program. It has to be an insurance program, one that is there for between jobs, not instead of jobs. All of us have said that. We are going to have to act on that and very soon.
What concerns me most in this House is that I hear a minister who sounds almost like a 1970 socialist and believes in a utopia out there where everybody can have everything they want and somebody will pay the bills. That somebody is finally not going to appear. We are going to have to look at this from a real solid standpoint. We have studied it enough. Let us fix the problem. Let us not study it any further.
What kinds of things can we do? The first is to provide more jobs. We need more jobs in our society so that we do not have to depend on things like UI. How are we going to do that?
First we are going to lower taxes. We can lower taxes and reform the whole tax system and look at a flat tax. If the system is considered to be more fair, more people will be providing jobs, there will be more small businesses and the whole system should improve dramatically in the area of jobs.
We must break down the existing interprovincial trade barriers. We lose some $6 billion a year just from interprovincial trade barriers. Those are negative to jobs and negative to getting this whole economy rolling and not so dependent on UI.
We have to destroy the massive bureaucracy. If you visit companies in any area of Canada you will find they have one or two and sometimes three levels of management, but they never have six, seven or eight levels of management as you find in the bureaucracy. We have to get some efficiency into our system. Obviously as a result of seeing that businesses will say that now that we have our act together the jobs will come.
We have to break down the regulations governments seem so set on putting into place. Of course above all we have to destroy the underground economy which saps dollars from our entire system of our social safety net. I come back to tax reform and a flat tax system. If people saw a fair tax system they would not mind paying the tax. It would be lower and they would not need to be part of the underground economy. Things like the GST have driven people to become criminals. That will continue unless there is a massive reform of the tax system.
We need to look at self-funding of the whole UI program. It should never have to depend on government. It should be a temporary program. Above all, we can certainly consider the concept of working for UI. I do not believe UI is something someone should expect. People could easily work for it and it would then start to mean something.
We must lower federal taxes. We must return a lot of the programs to the delivery level which is at the provincial and municipal levels of government.
Let us look at the fourth area, social programs and the welfare area. There will always be people in our society who need help. The problem is that number has grown. It is like the Australians. For so many years they brought their young people up to say: ``I do not mind going on pogey. It is expected of me and I can enjoy the beach''. We have to change the atmosphere and environment which creates that sort of thinking. Everyone knows about the abuses. It is the government's job to provide an environment in which jobs can be provided for the people.
Through our education system we must provide the pride of a work ethic and certainly in some cases even prime the pump through training. Above all we have to get people off the dole and out working with some pride for their country.
On the health care system Canadians want the very best. If there is one area we really do not want to sacrifice that certainly would have to be it. I do not believe we need to sacrifice it. It seems so often when we downsize in the health care system we go after the beds and the nurses instead of going after the other end. A great deal of savings could be had from looking at the administration end of things rather than the other end.
Post-secondary education is our future and another area we cannot sacrifice. From working in the foreign affairs area many of us realize what we have in terms of our advanced education system. It was probably best brought home to me this summer when I was visiting with Swedish businessmen in Stockholm, Sweden. They said that over the course of the last three years they had hired 700 Canadian graduates to work in Swedish invested companies in Canada. They said that they would always hire Canadians over Americans or anybody else because of the training and reliability of the Canadian graduate. That is something we should be proud of.
For the last seven years the Reform Party has had the voucher system as part of its program. This system should be examined and looked at. It might not be the answer to everything but it should at least be looked at as another way to provide some accountability in our advanced education institutions. There should be some competition for the students. It is a more positive system if students are controlling that through vouchers.
Again we come back to the top heavy nature of administration. I am sure that in examining our educational institutions savings can be made and efficiencies can be found.
In conclusion, instead of carrying on more and more studies, I say for the hon. member across the way that he missed my portion on the flat tax-
Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood): I watched it on television.
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): Certainly we need to have that flat tax system. We do not need to study it any more. We need to change our UI system. We do not have to study that any more. We need to change and reform these systems, but we do not have to study any longer. We need action.
There are 295 MPs who can bring here the words of their constituents through town hall meetings. We do not need to have high priced studies nor listen to a bunch of special interest groups and academics tell us how to do things. The people will tell us how to do things. It is the job of the 295 MPs to get out there and find out about it.
There is a questionnaire from the Minister of Human Resources Development. That is a pretty good item. The only thing is we can predict every single answer we are going to get because we have already done that.
Above all we need to destroy party discipline in this House. We need to go to a free vote system whereby we can really get into voting the way of our constituents. Rather than sending people across this country at a cost of $800,000, $1 million or whatever, we have the information and we know what people want. Now is the time to act on it. In terms of social reform, that is what I encourage the government to do more than anything else.
Mr. John Bryden (Hamilton-Wentworth, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer. I found that his remarks other than the free vote remark were very well thought out.
It is a pleasure to see that everyone in this House has taken this issue of social security reform seriously. It is very important for Canadians to see that.
I have a question for the member, a very serious question coming out of his remarks that I would like him to consider. He mentioned in passing that he thought that the delivery of programs should be downloaded to the provinces rather than the federal government.
I just wish to say that I had trouble with that. I know it is the Reform Party platform point but I have trouble coming from Ontario where I am not entirely satisfied with the way the Ontario government handles education for example.
There is a lot of unevenness in the way various provinces handle various programs. I would like him to consider that. Does he not think that actually it is preferable and more efficient if the federal government keeps as many programs as it can to itself and make them more efficient rather than relying on the provinces to do so?
Mr. Mills (Red Deer): Madam Speaker, the point that I would really like to make about offloading from the federal government is getting down to the actual delivery level, particularly in some of the areas like welfare.
Those sorts of areas lend themselves probably the best to getting them down to the very delivery levels themselves. Obviously that means that the federal government has to give up something. It has to give up the collecting of that money to the level that is providing the service. As so often would happen, we would not want to go that step. We would just want to give them things to do to keep the money for ourselves. That will not work, obviously.
They can feel part of it by cutting out those tiers of administrators. So often we have that. In Ottawa they think they know how to do it this way and that message then comes down to the province and the province then translates it to its particular political bent. Then it goes down to the municipality and it delivers the service.
By the time one gets all that bureaucracy, one has lost the efficiency, lost the true delivery to the people. That is what I am getting at. I can understand the member's point. Certainly some provincial governments are less desirable than others and that would be a concern but I guess we have to trust the people to simply replace that government if that were the case.
I would much rather trust the local officials to deliver than I would somebody here in Ottawa.
Mr. Dennis J. Mills (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Madam Speaker, it is nice to have you back here in the House. We have not seen you for a while.
I would like to begin by reading from the conclusion of this working document that was given to us by the Minister of Human Resources Development. It is the chapter entitled ``What can be accomplished by reform?''.
The purpose of this paper is to stimulate interest and debate among Canadians over the coming months about how together we can reform one of our great national institutions, the social security system.
It is a system, a set of programs and services that reflects the best of who we are, our compassion for those less fortunate in our society and a commitment to equality of opportunity and our belief in the dignity of work.
As times change, so must our institutions. Without exception provincial governments have recognized this and many of them have launched discussion papers of their own, setting out reform priorities. This is the federal government's contribution.
I want to congratulate the Minister of Human Resources Development for undertaking such a comprehensive push on reform to our social security system. I believe, quite frankly, that very few men or women in this House could actually take this challenge on other than the minister. I say that because I think most members of this House and most people in the country who know the minister realize that his history, his tradition in public service over the last 25 years has characterized him not only as a strong Canadian nationalist but also as someone who has always been there for the most disadvantaged in our communities.
I can remember in the last government when we were in opposition whenever the minister would speak it would drive the Conservative Party nuts because many viewed his vision, his feeling, his caring for the country as a sort of radical left position. I never viewed his position as radical left. It is very important that someone who has won the trust of our communities in caring for people who are disadvantaged lead this charge. This is a very comprehensive review.
We are talking about reviewing a program of reform that is almost $39 billion in taxpayers' money. We are talking about the Canada assistance plan of $8.2 billion; the Canada student loans program of $.5 billion; the post-secondary education established programs financing of $6.1 billion; the UI administration of $1.2 billion; UI maternity, parental adoption and sickness, $1.7 billion; unemployment insurance regular benefits, $12.4 billion; employment programs for developmental uses, $1.9 billion; employment programs consolidated revenue fund, $1.4 billion; vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons, $.2 billion. That is a total of $38.7 billion.
Obviously I cannot in this short time take on every aspect of this particular reform initiative. I would like to address my remarks to a very special, very tight area of this debate, women in poverty.
All the statistics of children in poverty and women in poverty have been talked about in the last few months before this House. I believe it is incumbent upon all of us who are involved in this creative exercise of reform to really make sure that when the recommendations for renewal come forward at the end of this debating exercise, we make sure we have the most enviable program in the world for women who are involved at the lower end of the income spectrum.
We cannot miss this opportunity. I say that because I believe that women in the entrepreneurial sense and in the business sense are one of the great untapped markets of opportunity to help revitalize the economy of this country, and in so doing bringing dignity not only to themselves but to their own families, especially their children.
I want to remind colleagues in the House about something that is happening in the United States right now. Women owned or partnered businesses in the United States are employing more
Americans today than all the Fortune 500 companies combined. That is a staggering statistic.
The force of women in the United States is becoming a recognized fact. I do not believe that it has hit the consciousness of this country yet or sunk in to all of us in this Chamber who are presently charged with redesigning the social security system.
As the minister has asked us for ideas during this debate, I would like to present the idea that we consider as a Chamber and as a government to set up women in business centres all across Canada. I am talking about centres the purpose of which would be to offer women training and support in developing businesses. We are talking about centres that would facilitate access to capital for women in business, centres that would be test sites for innovative, educational and technological efforts. These centres would also act as a catalyst for business and entrepreneurial opportunity. It would ultimately improve the business and entrepreneurship capability in Canada.
I have to talk about a personal experience for a moment that is driving me in this direction about women in business. My grandmother was a widow at age 48. She had 14 children but at age 48 she still had eight of those children at home. Four of her sons had gone off to join the RCAF, one of them being my father.
This single mother was left with eight children at home. We are talking now about the early 1940s. She had a small, home based business. It was a very simple business. She rented tables and chairs for banquets, weddings and social functions. My grandmother managed, because of her own creativity and her hard work, to raise that family of eight children under her roof and to provide a respectable living for all of them. As time went on she eventually developed the business and it grew into something that looked after many other families other than her own children.
My point in bringing this example up is that this happened at a time when there was absolutely no unemployment insurance and no welfare system. There was no social security system to look after a single mother in the early 1940s who had eight children. They had to use their own creativity, their own work ethics and had to rely on their friends and neighbours. Certainly there was not a lot of support from the banks for a widowed mother with eight children. That just was not part of the scene in those days.
That example of what an individual can do under great stress for me has always been testimony that if there is a will there is a way as long as there is some kind of support system from your friends and community.
I think what the minister of human resources is saying to us in this debate is that defending the status quo which is not working is not in the cards and by wanting to defend the status quo we are defending a decline, not to mention the fact that we are spending almost $40 billion a year and we are not getting the results.
When we go through this exercise we have to look at every idea presented to us. I use as an example my grandmother who was a single mother with eight children at home. She built a family business from her home with no government grants, no support. It shows me that if we give a little bit of support to women in business throughout the country, we can probably get a lot more Canadians working. The most important thing is to raise the standard of living of a lot of women who are currently trapped in a welfare system that is certainly not working. It is a system that none of us in the House wants to defend.
I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. It is a comprehensive challenge that the minister has placed before us but if we use the premise that we put all of the ideas on the table and keep an open mind concerning those ideas, then I believe at the end of this exercise we can create a new social security system that will be the envy of the world.
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Madam Speaker, I am also glad to see you again. We did not forget you while you were away.
I listened very carefully to what my colleague had to say. Of course, in 15 or 20 minutes, he could not touch on all the various aspects. Given the examples he used concerning the family, the underprivileged women and all the problems he mentioned, I would have liked to hear his views on education.
Unemployment is the big problem. It is an economic problem and we have to pay for it. Unemployment causes other problems to develop. For example, our youth are faced with problems like dropping out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. In the reform currently under review, we are being asked to reconsider student loans. I, for one, say that education is the cornerstone of the whole system.
If we do not invest in areas like human sciences, where we should inject a lot of money into research and development when, in fact, we are cutting research, if, as I said, we do not give education all the tools needed to catch up in this area and to undertake important research projects, we are heading not only for bankruptcy, but for real chaos.
I would like my colleague to comment on these cuts in education and research and development, which the government wants Canadians to swallow.
Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood): Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for his question.
As I stated in my opening remarks, the minister responsible for human resources is calling for a debate where we advance ideas on how we can take the current $38 billion expenditure and redesign it in a way that we can get a better bang for the taxpayers' buck.
I believe that education is paramount in this debate. No one is questioning that. In fact there are no further cuts. It is a redesign of the current system.
I share the member's view. Education is something to which we must continually commit ourselves and of course the R and D that the member mentioned as well.
In order to make sure that the resources are there, to make sure our educational system can handle not only the R and D aspect but also make sure that our younger people have access, we have to create an economy where they have income so that they can afford to pay for their tuition rather than take student loans. The greatest problem that our young people have had, especially in the last three years, is they have not been able to get decent work to pay for their university education. The whole economy has been flat.
The member knows full well that if we can create a more vibrant economy where younger people can get work it does not take long for a student, working part time and in the summer, to raise $6,000, $7,000 or $8,000 a year which goes a long way toward paying for his or her education.
We are going to have to put more emphasis on the macro economy rather than just the old system where we would automatically write cheques.
Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments.
I want to state categorically that the question of status quo is not only unique to Quebec, as I found from travelling with the pre-budget consultation hearings on the finance committee. It is a preoccupation throughout Canada from one coast to the other.
I would like to bring to the attention of my hon. colleague two valid ideas that surfaced from a workshop in my riding this week on the reform of human resources. One was that small business people who are unemployed and try to start up a business find that they cannot collect unemployment insurance. The suggestion was brought forward that perhaps a person who is on unemployment insurance should be allowed to collect their benefits at the same time as starting up a business.
The other question I would like the hon. member to comment on is this. He mentioned the need for assistance for women in business. Another suggestion from our workshop was that the older group, the 55 year plus, have a wealth of experience and cannot find jobs. They would be willing to work 5 to 15 hours a week to help the women that he mentioned and youth who want to start up small businesses. Could he put in his idea the concept of allowing older people to give the benefit of their experience to the young and the women to start up their businesses? Could he not consider these two ideas in his proposal also?
Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood): Madam Speaker, I want to say to my colleague this is when a debate becomes most enjoyable. We are advancing ideas. We are building on ideas.
The idea of taking a counsellor assistance program, not unlike the one in the Federal Business Development Bank, and marrying that with the youth and my pet project, women in business, is a great way to go. That is a way of using up the great wisdom and experience that exists from people who have taken perhaps early retirement from a 70 to 80 hour a week job but want to only work 10 or 12 hours a week.
I would certainly support that idea. It is a great one. That is the kind of thing I believe our minister needs to hear.
Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Vegreville, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I appreciated the hon. parliamentary secretary's comments, especially with regard to his grandmother and the eight children.
I have two questions stemming from that. The first one is a question on welfare and whether he thinks there is a possibility that had welfare, as it is now, been available to his grandmother that instead of finding her own way she might have gone on to welfare and become a burden to taxpayers. That is the first question.
The second question is about programs for women. Had it been your grandfather with the eight children in the same situation, the same difficulty, would he have been any less deserving than your grandmother?
Mr. Mills (Broadview-Greenwood): Madam Speaker, first I want to answer the question about welfare.
I knew my grandmother because she looked after me. Probably she would have figured out a way to avoid the welfare option. However that is my own declared bias for my grandmother. Maybe she could have fallen into that trap as well.
That is one of the real problems we have in our society today. The system is set up in such a way that it becomes the thing to do, and people are not challenged to their depths in terms of their work ethic or their creativity. We have to redesign this program in a way that the basic inner strength of people, their creative
skills and work ethic are maximized. By changing the welfare system that will happen.
As to the second question, I do not differentiate because we are all equal. However society is much more receptive to men who are involved in the business realm than women. As a government we have a chance to do something unique in this mandate by moving women in business from the back burner to the front burner. If we were a House of Commons that did that, it would be one of the great experiences we could leave this place.
Mr. Yvan Bernier (Gaspé, BQ): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on the social programs reform. I did not think this issue would show up so soon on the Order Paper, but I am glad it did, because I spent last Thursday, November 17, working with my riding assistants to organize public hearings, since I feel that the Gaspé constituents will be hard hit by the measures proposed in the social reform.
So, along with my assistants, I decided to hold public hearings, because the closest the Parliamentary Committee will come to my area is Rivière-du-Loup, a one day journey away. As you can understand, my constituents wanted to be heard on this issue. However, because of the distance, few will able to make it to Rivière-du-Loup on December 11.
I organized these hearings with the firm belief that this social programs reform is such a crucial issue that it goes beyond partisanship. With this in mind, and that will make some of the members opposite smile, I asked the director of an hospital centre, a known Liberal, as well as a former PQ minister and MNA for Gaspé, to give me a hand. With these two commissioners on board, we heard something like 18 witnesses, including representatives of at least 16 social organizations.
If only to pay tribute to these people, since this had to be organized rather quickly because I also thought crucial to start the discussion in my constituency, I would like to mention them in this House.
So, the following have made themselves heard: the Regional Municipality of Côte de Gaspé, the Gaspé Chamber of Commerce, CRCD, the concertation committee of the Regional Municipality of Parbock, the Regroupement contre l'appauvrissement dans l'est du Québec, the United Church, CASA, the Anglophone Social Action Committee, the Ralliement gaspésien et madelinot, the Anse-à-Valleau Development Committee, the Denis Riverin Unemployment Action, the Regional municipality of Parbock Work Action, the Gaspé CNTU, the Association des capitaines propriétaires de la Gaspésie, the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie.
We also heard from Rural Dignity and the Regroupement des femmes and others whose name I forget. These are either regional or local groups and this was reflected in their comments. But they are all wondering if after the reform proposed by the minister the safety net which we have now in Canada will still suit Gaspé constituents. Madam Speaker, allow me to state at the outset that people are very sceptical about that.
I would like to state a few facts. First of all, people from the Gaspé Peninsula know how to read. They heard about the leaks in the Toronto Star regarding the possible cuts of $7.5 billion and another $7.5 billion that would accompany this reform. Every time they were questioned about their briefs, they would talk about these cuts. They would tell us also that, from their viewpoint, the objective of the reform is not to improve assistance to the needy, but rather to cut assistance to the disadvantaged. To them, it is absolutely inconceivable.
Some facts about our riding are in order. As I have already mentioned to the Minister of Human Resources Development, the riding of Gaspé receives approximately 27,000 unemployment insurance applications a year. About 33 per cent of those applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks. It is not because they do not want to work longer. There are no jobs. Our region has to live with the seasons.
If I look at the situation in some areas in particular, in the Chandler area for example, 38 per cent of UI applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks. These figures were provided to me by the employment centres for the Gaspé Peninsula and the Islands. In the Magdalen Islands area, and my colleague opposite can correct me if I am wrong, close to 40 per cent of UI applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks.
I used to work for the fishing industry, representing fishermen, and I wonder where these people could go to work more weeks, especially considering the fact that this resource has been scarce. When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans declares a moratorium on fishing, his goal is the conservation of stocks, but the Minister of Human Resources Development is telling us we should be working more. In the Madgalen Islands and the Gaspé Peninsula, our economy is seasonal in nature. Tourism is a seasonal industry, although we have started to take action in order to extend the season. We have yet to reap the full results of those measures and reach our ultimate goal, which is to have people work during at least six months each year in viable businesses.
Forestry workers would also like to work more. The problem they face is winter conditions. When winter begins, at about this time of year, at the beginning of December, there is already a fair amount of snow high up in the mountains beyond Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. It is very difficult to work in the snow, not onlybe-
cause of the cold, but also because it is hard to haul the timber out.
Of course, we could use heavy equipment, but it gets expensive for businessmen to clear bush roads every time there is some timber to haul out whereas, during the summertime, roads are always open and accessible. Springtime conditions are no better. It is hard to work in the bush when the snow is melting. When you are using a chain saw, you need to have your two feet on solid ground. There is also the haulage problem, which can be serious in the spring.
I have already dealt with fisheries, but I could add the example of lobster fishing. The data on resource preservation show that, for as long as I can remember, at least since the beginning of the 1970s, lobster fishing has been limited to ten weeks. The resource itself makes it impossible to fish for a longer period. Around the Gaspé Peninsula, they go lobster fishing from Mother's Day to the beginning of July. In Nova-Scotia, they go a bit later. For example, some areas are still open around Nova Scotia. However, the resource is subject to a limit of ten weeks.
How can we find a way for these people, who have a highly specialized job, but one which does not provide them work for any longer than that, to continue to earn a living? In the past, they used to rely on cod fishing, but there is no more cod to be caught. We worked with these groups in order to create other projects for them to start fishing other species and diversify, but it is not an easy task. The first years when you start working under a federal program made mostly for shore workers, there are no incentives that would allow for a lucrative kind of fishing to emerge, such as soupfin shark, or spiny dogfish as we call it in my region.
However, I will admit this is a remarkable effort and I know the people opposite in the government co-operated. I hope we will get the same kind of co-operation next year and the following years. The Gaspé Peninsula needs tools like this. It is not because we did not reach the objective this year that we should forgo the experience next year. On the contrary, we should profit from what we have learned this year.
I am going from one subject to another, but I would like to mention some other points. First, I am somewhat moved by this because life in that region flows with the seasons. We need this form of support. If we want to do without social programs like unemployment insurance, the question is: Are you people listening to us this afternoon willing to pay two, three, four times what you are paying now for your seafood? Maybe you are, maybe not. One thing is certain, we will have to be given time. What we want are the tools to give more responsibility to people in the industry. Marketing tools, of course, but also tools to clean up the industry, in particular as regards incidental captures.
Last spring I attended hearings where I heard a number of groups from the Atlantic region. Whether they were from Quebec, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, people wanted to be part of the discussions on their future. People wanted to be consulted. More than that, they wanted to be able to intervene locally on matters of interest to them. Unfortunately, this is not possible under the present system.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Human Resources to the fact that a debate on this subject is forthcoming. Last week, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recognized that we would have to review the whole fisheries administration in Canada. I congratulate him for acknowledging that we have a problem. I also let him know that the province of Quebec had submitted a project that might solve the problem. He told me that, naturally, he had to consult the other provinces. During the next few weeks I will follow up on that, to make sure that the minister has, indeed, started discussions with his counterparts and that officials of the two levels of government are doing the necessary groundwork. It is most important.
I would like to go back to what my constituents said because it touched on all of this. They said: ``We do not understand this reform. We are in dire straights, and we would like the government to help the poorest members of society, to give us the necessary tools to break this vicious circle''. Before, it used to be called the 10/42, from now on it will be the 12/38. The government is tightening eligibility, increasing the number of work weeks, while shortening the benefit period. It is very disappointing for people.
People would like to have the tools to take care of themselves. But the government is not providing them. With respect to the unemployment rate in the Gaspé Peninsula, the government came to the brilliant conclusion that we do not have too many people out of work, we have too many people for the number of jobs available.
The second point which really irks people is the matter of employability. A fisherman told me this: ``In our village, with a population of 200 to 300, should everyone become a welder?'' It does not make any sense to retrain some 30 fishermen to all become welders. What I want to point out with this story is the fact that we need the tools to modify the economic structure of our regions.
We will not be able to transform the Gaspé Peninsula overnight into something like Montreal. Montreal also has its share of problems. The unemployment rate in this city is somewhere around 13 per cent, I believe. People are warning me that if this reform goes any further, it will trigger an exodus. Where will people go, if they have to leave an area where the unemployment rate is now 17 per cent to go to an area where it is 13 per cent? It is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
But this will not solve the problem; our problem is one of structural unemployment. We are not showing our people how to become self-sufficient. We are not giving them their own decision-making tools, we are not allowing them to manage their own affairs. These tools should be transferred to them, people should be consulted, and yet it is not done; it is one of their main comments.
I would like to point out that I will supply the Minister of Human Resources Development with a summary along with these briefs. I will also give it to the parliamentary committee, which is on the road right now.
But I would still like to raise a few points. As I believe was mentioned by some hon. members a few minutes ago, shared time is one solution to the employment problem being used by the CNTU in the Gaspé Peninsula. People are ready to discuss solutions, to look at all the possibilities. As I said earlier, fishermen throughout the Atlantic provinces, not just in Quebec, mentioned that they are hoping, and indeed are asking, for a bigger share, for permits with more variety.
Some of the things I heard were amusing. There was one woman who said: ``The Liberals are forever consulting, but we need more than that right now. The barn is on fire and we need a fireman who knows what to do''.
Madam Speaker, as I told you earlier, I was accompanied by two commissioners. I am merely repeating what people told me. One woman asked: ``Why are we reforming social programs, when the problem is elsewhere?'' The problem is in the lack of employment, in the fact that the government is facing excessive debt, that over half this debt is owed outside the country and that we are going to be in serious trouble if we do not get our finances in order soon.
The message is that the Bloc Quebecois agrees that the deficit must be reduced and said so during the election campaign. However, we do not want cuts to be made blindly. We want there to be respect for the public. If there is an objective to be met, people should be asked what tools they need to reach it, and whether it is feasible. If it is not feasible then, as a society, we will have to make a choice. We will always need fishermen.
One of them told me: ``I am willing to work 12 months a year, but is the Minister of Human Resources Development willing to thaw the gulf in the wintertime? Is he willing to stock it? If so, I could fish 12 months a year''.
Of course, we had a bit of fun. In spite of the seriousness of the problems, people in the Gaspé Peninsula came to these hearings with a smile on their face and kept their cool. They suggested solutions. They also sent a serious warning to the government. If it realizes what their needs are and gives them the necessary tools, they will meet the objectives that the government wants to set behind their backs.
Mr. Mac Harb (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Madam Speaker, let me begin by congratulating the government and the Minister for Human Resources Development on his initiative. Indeed, it is a bold approach that in my view will respond to the nineties and beyond.
This is one segment of an overall strategy and overall action plan which will be proposed by this government over the next year or so in order to respond to a commitment made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada as well as on behalf of the people who elected him. Those commitments were made in Creating Opportunities or the red book as people might call it.
There are three aspects of the proposal. One looks at the whole way in which we deliver our social programs in Canada, as well as human resources training and development. The second aspect will look at the overall industry in Canada and the way we deliver our goods and services here and abroad. The third aspect is to try and put our house in order in terms of looking at the overall finances of the government.
There is no doubt in my mind that if one is to look at Canada from the outside, which the United Nations has done on a number of occasions, one would come to the conclusion that we live in the greatest country on earth. I knew that 20 years ago when I came here. I knew I was going to heaven on earth. I am sure that my colleagues in this House and all Canadians would agree and would know that we live in the greatest land on earth.
To keep Canada in the forefront in terms of equality of social programs that we provide our citizens, the quality of education that we provide and access to the finest medicare in the world, we have to do a number of things.
Before I enter into a detailed explanation I want to share with you some statistical information in terms of the status quo, the situation that now exists in Canada.
Today approximately 10 per cent of the Canadian population are considered to be senior citizens. By the year 2031 that number will double to the point where more or less about one in every four Canadians will be a senior citizen. In parallel with that if we are to look at the number of people who are entering the workforce, we have a shrinkage. Today there are a lot less people in the workforce than there were 10 or 15 years ago.
The challenge is to use the output or the productivity of those people who are in the workforce to try and support all of the programs, social benefits and everything else in order to contin-
ue to provide the quality of life that we have been providing to Canadians for the past 100 or so years.
To that extent one would say that we not only have to work harder but we have to work smarter.
I would be misleading the House and Canadians if I were to say that at the turn of the switch things are going to be better. Canadians know that in order for things to get better we all have to make sacrifices. We all have to take a bold approach toward changing not only the appearance but the fundamental structure when it comes to the kinds of things we do and the programs we provide.
The reason I say this is because if we look at the programs that we have today, many have been in existence 25 to 50 years in some cases. Some of those programs have kept up to the demand and to the technological changes and have been updated. Other programs definitely require a closer look.
I am going to give a couple of examples. Let us look at the figures for 1972. In 1972 the Canadian government spent $3 billion on unemployment insurance and social assistance. Guess how much we spent in 1993? We spent $33.4 billion. Looking at how much we spent on education, it is interesting to note that Canada spent perhaps more than any other country in the world on education. All governments together spent in excess of $50 billion a year on education.
When it comes to the overall expenditure on all of the social programs, that would put Canada behind Sweden as the country that spent the most on social programs of any country in the world. That is why we have the finest support services anywhere on the globe. That is why we have to make sure we do everything we can to continue to provide the quality services that are required.
If we look at what we are spending in terms of resources, gross, financial and otherwise versus in terms of how much we need in order to continue to support those programs, the devil will show up. That devil is a tremendous amount of debt that totals in excess of $700 billion if we combine the federal as well as the provincial governments' debts.
To support that debt in terms of the deficit it is in excess of $37 billion to $40 billion on an annual basis. If we add this to the amount of funds we are putting in to support social programs and our educational system and if we continue to do the kinds of things we are doing today without some major overhaul, it will take us quite a while to catch up. I might suggest that we will never be able to catch up because, as my colleagues know, cutting services alone is not going to solve it.
If the government was to fire every public servant we would still have a deficit of approximately $20 billion a year. Cutting programs is not going to solve it. What will solve it is if, as the Minister for Human Resources Development has suggested, we look at the way we provide those programs and services to the community and try to fine tune those programs and services so they will meet the needs and the challenges of the 1990s.
Second, we have to improve our productivity and our standing on the international scene as well as here in Canada in order to create wealth. The NDP's theory of redistributing wealth failed. We have seen it in Ontario as well as in Saskatchewan and British Columbia when they were in power. It does not work.
The second theory of ultra independent capitalism without government being at least there in order to provide a fair and proper environment also does not work because the private sector alone will not solve it. As well, if we leave it up the public sector alone it will not work.
Historically, the best approach to solve our socioeconomic problems has always been the Liberal approach. Would the House not agree?
Mr. Rideout: Absolutely.
Mr. Harb: That is basically what this government is doing. We are looking at the way we deliver our services and our programs. We are trying to put in place a mechanism that will help us move ahead to control the deficit, reduce the national debt, eventually eliminating it, and continue to provide quality social programs for people, including our seniors, and continue helping our youth so they can obtain the kind of education they need.
There are some challenges. I would like to share some of those. Now in Canada over 38 per cent of the Canadian population is considered to be functionally illiterate. In other words, these people may have difficulty to calculate properly, read or write properly, fill out an application form properly and/or properly read manuals that might relate to their daily work.
The cost to the business community alone on an annual basis is over $4 billion. It costs the government $10 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and other accessories that go along with it. Looking at the national deficit of $40 billion alone, it costs us about 25 per cent of that. If we lived in an ideal world with no illiteracy, we would not have a problem. I know we have to catch up in order to reach that particular state.
I spoke earlier about the fact that there is a shrinking in terms of the number of people who are entering the workforce. That is a result of two things. First, the productivity rate in Canada is decreasing, not increasing. Second, there is a major problem in our educational system. Out of every three students now there is one student not finishing high school. Did anyone know that?
About 33 per cent of our youth are not completing high school. Instead, they are getting low paying jobs at Dairy Queen or at McDonald's. As a result of that eventually, if they are unlucky, as are many of our youth, they will find themselves in the unfortunate situation of not finding the job they need. They go on welfare or UI. They find themselves outside of the safety
net this country has provided its citizens for the past hundred years or so.
We have to make sure the system is open, accessible and ready to provide opportunities for those who would like to take advantage of them. On the other hand I will look at the overall situation in terms of the opportunities that exist for us as a country.
Let us have a look at the other programs. I want to share some figures. We spent about $33.7 billion annually on UI in 1993. In 1972 we spent something like $3 billion. One would think if we had spent more in 1993 that the figures in terms of unemployment would improve. In other words we should have less people on unemployment.
Unfortunately, the numbers of unemployed since the fifties until now have not been improving. They have been going backward. In the 1950s, the number of unemployed people in Canada was in the range of 4 per cent to 5 per cent. In the 1990s unfortunately that figure exceeds 10 per cent of the population. That does not include the people who are on welfare.
We have to work harder and we have to work smarter. I have said that 33 per cent of our youth are not completing high school and 38 per cent of the population is functionally illiterate. Our world is changing. My colleague from the Atlantic provinces would know that in the past in order for us to support our social programs all we would do was get a back hoe, dig some gold or metals and raw material and sell it. That was easy. We would take a few chain saws, cut a few trees and sell wood. That was easy. Or fish.
However the fish are being depleted, the number of trees is declining as are our raw materials. If we sold all the raw materials we could it would not be sufficient to support the expenditures our government and past governments have made. To that extent we have to do things a little differently.
According to a study published by employment and immigration in the past three years, by the year 2000 approximately 67 per cent of all jobs in Canada will require at least a grade 13 education. Looking at the present situation we will not be able to catch up. We will have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister of Human Resources Development is taking. We will have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister of Finance will be taking when he delivers his budget next February. We will have to take the same kind of bold approach the Minister of Industry will be taking. We will also have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister for International Trade or the Minister of Health will be taking.
We have to look at the way we do things. The Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs has been embarking on a major undertaking to look at the programs the government is delivering and to see if those programs can be better delivered by another agency or another level of government. We will see what we as a federal government can do and what the provincial and municipal governments, agencies or crown corporations can do. That review will definitely lead to a more efficient and dynamic, a more progressive and upbeat government that can move forward with flexibility.
We will never abandon our social programs. The Liberal government will never abandon its commitment to those who need assistance and support. However, we have to look at things and see if they still meet today's needs. I will give some examples.
Despite the fact that we spend some $34 billion on UI and social programs I am amazed there are still 1.3 million children living below the poverty line. A large number of single mothers still cannot find work and cannot make ends meet without a social support network. They cannot get the education required to make a better life for themselves and their children.
There is no doubt in my mind that a review is needed as the Minister of Human Resources Development has stated, that will be effective, affordable and fair. I am very much interested in the aspects of the proposal the minister has put forward which deals specifically with child care and child poverty.
In Canada approximately 450,000 lone parents are on welfare. Ninety per cent of them are women who could work if they had the right support, such as child care. Instead of helping single mothers and their children to get out of the welfare trap the percentage of single mothers who work is actually declining rather than increasing. The problem is that good quality child care is expensive and not readily available.
Most parents are in paid employment. In 1993, 63 per cent of women with children under the age of six were actually in the workforce, up from 47 per cent in 1981 and up from 35.5 per cent in 1976. Despite this increase the supply of licensed child care spaces in Canada is limited. Only 28 per cent of children six years and under with working parents are in licensed day care. I am sure that many of my colleagues know of some people who experience those kinds of difficulties.
The shortage of affordable child care could keep parents, especially lone parents out of work. As well, the lack of flexible work arrangements such as job sharing and compressed work weeks make it difficult for working parents to balance work with
family needs. One would ask how we can help those families and those parents do better.
The minister came up with a number of options. He proposed that we can and should work with the provinces to increase the number of child care spaces. The government already has set aside new funding for up to 150,000 new child care spaces and we will work with the provinces to decide how the money will be spent. Also the government could work with employers to find ways to encourage flex time and a shorter work week.
Also we can invest to help meet the child care needs of parents in paid employment. That makes good economic sense. Some of the benefits would perhaps include more productive employees, jobs for child care workers and less pressure on welfare programs.
Those are some of the things we can do. I could go on but I see that my time is coming to an end. I conclude by congratulating this government on a job well done and I welcome the Prime Minister home after a wonderful trip. It is going to create many jobs for now and the future.
Mr. George S. Rideout (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Madam Speaker, first I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary on an excellent and insightful discourse. The sheer volume of facts, figures and information was quite edifying for all members of Parliament I am sure. I would like to ask a couple of questions in two areas.
With his experience in international trade as parliamentary secretary to the minister, I am sure he is aware of the types of educational requirements needed. If we are going to make this economy work, not only do we have to make government function better but we have to make the economy grow. The Prime Minister in his trip to China and the Asia-Pacific has shown the opportunities that are available to Canadians. We have to make the Canadian workforce ready for those opportunities. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could show us how the social safety net could be utilized in order to take advantage of those international opportunities.
Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could also discuss some of the things experienced in New Brunswick. There are disincentives built into the present system. I am thinking particularly of the UI system in which it is better to stay on UI than to go out and get a job. I am thinking of the welfare system in which it is better to stay on welfare because after taking a low paying low skilled position and getting off welfare the benefits available under the welfare system such as dental care, clothing allowances and allowances for single parents are lost.
For anyone to say that the status quo is acceptable, that we can leave things exactly the way they are obviously has no real understanding of the tremendous change that is necessary and which this government has embarked upon.
I would ask the parliamentary secretary to comment on the disincentives in the UI system and in the welfare systems in the different provinces and also to offer some hope to Canadians through the opportunities in the international marketplace.
Mr. Harb: Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. It was because of his effort and his former experience as a mayor on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that I was inspired along with my colleague from Nepean to co-chair the Liberal infrastructure task force which went across the country. It visited his home province. The task force came back with a report that was adopted by our caucus. I thank him again for his interest in the well-being of his constituents.
The hon. member asked me to mention the kinds of things we could do to prepare our workers and industries. We have to focus on training. Training and retraining is the key. People might ask: Training for what? That question deserves an answer.
The global economy as they call it and you can call it whatever you want, but every country in the world economy is using high technology tools such as computers, robotics, machinery with advanced technology. Canadian industries have not adapted to that. About 50 per cent of Canadian companies do not use advanced technology instruments to help productivity.
After Belgium, Austria and Australia, Canada's expenditures per capita on research and development are the third largest in the world but the private sector is nowhere to be seen. Canada's private sector, industry in Canada is not spending enough money on research and development. Because the job market is going to require at least a grade 13 education and the required information base, understanding and knowledge, we have to invest in the areas of research and development, education and training.
The member asked what we could do to improve employment services. The minister is already looking at ways and tools to improve these services such as individual job counselling, helping people develop their own employment plan, providing information about the job market, pointing people in the right direction, giving them access to basic skills training, and helping them with reading, writing and math. We must give them better training programs to acquire skills that match-a key buzzword-the local labour market. That is very important. Train them for what? That is the key. Many of my constituents ask what they are being trained for.
We must work in co-operation with the private sector. It takes two hands to clap. You cannot clap with one hand. Government cannot do it all by itself. We need the co-operation of the private sector. We have to work with it hand in hand.
With respect to trade this government has probably done more in that area in a short period of time than any other government in the history of Canada.
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Madam Speaker, let me go back to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said at the beginning of his speech, namely that it must be recognized that the reform under way is aimed at reducing the debt and the deficit. I do not want to repeat the figures, but he admitted that this reform was a total package in relation to the existing economic situation.
He confirmed that the debt and the deficit will be reduced at the expense of the less fortunate, that is, the seasonally unemployed, students-some of whom we saw last week on Parliament Hill-, single mothers, high school drop-outs, to whom he also referred in his undoubtedly accurate figures. It is true that over 33 per cent of our students drop out of school. We must of course put our fiscal house in order before it goes bankrupt, but not at the expense of the less fortunate.
I wish he had mentioned other ways to reduce the deficit. There are other ways such as family trusts, to name just one. What is keeping them from taking action on this front? What is keeping them from going after the millions of dollars we are losing because the GST is poorly administered? We could then achieve the same goal, that is, reducing the debt and the deficit, but not at the expense of the less fortunate.
Mr. Harb: Madam Speaker, I would like us to reread the ``blues''. I never said that all this government wanted to do is to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor. On the contrary, I will again repeat what I said, in case the hon. member did not hear me. We will continue to set up and launch the necessary programs to help Canadians. Let me quote what the minister said in English:
``A hallmark of our Canadian society is our commitment as a government to people who cannot work because of illness or injury, low income families struggling to make ends meet, people with disabilities or chronic illness and children living in poverty. Our social programs are the way in which we offer protection and hope to Canadians''. He goes on to list some of the social programs that we have in place.
Madam Speaker, the minister is dealing with the needs of people who ask for help.
I especially want to point out to the hon. member that I never said in my speech that we would reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor. I am sure he agrees with me that we must control the deficit. To control the deficit, we must act more intelligently. If the hon. member tells me that $50 billion a year is not enough spent on education, well, I do not know, but we spend more than any other country in the world.
Probably what we need in the end is to harmonize the systems, eliminate duplication and deliver services better, and I am sure that we will end up saving money, but never on the backs of the poor and those who need assistance.
Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay West-Revelstoke, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I have a number of areas that I wanted to touch on but I keep adding as I listen to this debate here today.
One of the areas that I would like to touch on briefly are the comments made by the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood. I listened with interest to his heart warming and somewhat inspiring story of his grandmother. I believe that many people have similar stories. It does show what people are able to do under adverse conditions when the need is really there.
One of the interesting things is that we have gone too far. I think the pendulum has swung the other way. I do not think we want to return to conditions under which he mentioned where there is absolutely no help for anyone under virtually any circumstances. It is very warming that his grandmother was able to persevere in the face of that kind of adversity.
Nowadays we have a different situation. I have one friend as an example who has a son who plants trees. This may be alien to some of the people in some regions of the country but in British Columbia tree planting is a very active profession during the summer months. Someone who is a good tree planter can make a great deal of money during that season; $35,000, $40,000 or more in a three or four month season for those who are very good at this. It happens that his son is one of these who is very good at what he does and he makes very good money.
During the balance of the year under the existing system he collects unemployment insurance. When I talk in terms of the pendulum swinging too far the other way, this particular individual belongs to something that is known in my riding with some satire, with tongue firmly in cheek, as the UIC ski team. He is an avid skier. This particular individual spends a lot of time at the local ski hill and to his credit volunteers a lot of his time to the voluntary ski patrol which is very worthwhile.
The interesting story that his father conveyed to me is the fact that this individual one season was offered a job at the mountain to be on the regular ski patrol and to be paid for it. He went home that night and pondered his situation. He looked at his UIC benefits and looked at what he would be paid as a member of the ski patrol.
He weighed all the factors and he went back to the ski hill the next day and told them that he would be happy to remain a volunteer at the ski hill, but if he took the job he would give up his UIC and his net benefit would be a drop in income. He did not particularly care to do that.
We have improved over the hardships that people like the hon. member's grandmother had to live under and deal with. As I say I think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way and these are the kinds of things we are going to have to look at when we talk in terms of social reform.
One other factor that I want to touch on while still on the subject of the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood is that of women in business. Once again it is something that is moving in the right direction but with a potential problem as well.
We saw recently in the province of Ontario a provincial government ad that said in essence white males need not apply. There is no question that women, whether it be in business or in any other area, have been discriminated against in the past. I hope that time is coming to an end. I am sure there is still discrimination out there but it is being reduced, it is being dealt with and it is something that people are now very much aware of.
However, it is hard to really properly deal with it by introducing various types of reverse discrimination. There is a risk in doing that if you can help a woman to go into a business, to assist her and give her some benefit that is not available to other people. We see this not only in the area of women in business but we see it in many things. It applies in general business without categorization-it might be men to men-but nonetheless we have to take a very cautious look at any area which offers specialized help for any one group no matter what it happens to be.
We obviously have to reduce the amount of money we spend, the payments that we make, as it were, under social programs. It has been said by very learned people that by some time in the next decade the cost of our social programs combined with the interest on our debt-those two factors alone-will exceed the government's income. Obviously reductions can be made in other areas but if you eliminate everything, if you eliminate the departments of agriculture, fisheries, defence, foreign policy and all other departments, totally eliminate them, we still would not deal with our debt problem. Obviously changes have to be made under social programs.
However, before we start reducing payments made under these programs we have to first reduce costs in other areas. These costs have to certainly be in the delivery of social program benefits. Not just under that, we have to look at all the other programs and all the other departments as well.
One of the things that will happen is if we stop removing so much money from people in all the other areas it puts less pressure on the social programs.
Something we might want to look at under agriculture, for example, is grain car allocation so that the farmers are better able to get their grain to market; likewise, the labour disruptions at ports. These are problems that affect the revenues of farmers. Not only that but as we saw in the last labour disruption in the port of Vancouver, it had a spinoff effect that started to shut down factories in other parts of the country that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with farming or grain. It is a matter of problems that tie up the ports and then start to affect people in other areas.
In my own riding Cominco Ltd. had I think about three days worth of supplies left before it had to start providing layoff notices. These are things that we have to look at.
On business subsidies, we are talking in terms of women in business. These business subsidies also apply in other areas. One of the problems with business subsidies is that not all people get them. How do we reconcile the fact that we give a subsidy to one business and not to another? We could end up with a government subsidized business competing directly with a similar business that receives no subsidy.
The hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood had a question after his talk about why there cannot be some form of program that allows people on unemployment insurance to start a business of their own while collecting it.
There is such a program called SEAP, the self-employment assistance program, which does exactly that. One has to be on unemployment insurance in order to apply for it. The benefit that one gets is one year from the point of time that one's program is approved one gets to remain on unemployment insurance for one year while one starts his or her business.
That has some potential but again it is one of these things where one cannot just arbitrarily say what a wonderful program. I have had cases come up in my riding recently in which people who were on unemployment insurance were given the opportunity to start a business and had their unemployment insurance benefits continued while they did this for one year. However, two cases have come up in which they are in direct competition with existing businesses.
The latest case that has come up has resulted in the person getting this assistance dropping his prices to carve his niche into the market which will result in the other competitor who is already there and did not get assistance before and is not getting
assistance now probably laying someone off. Our program in this particular instance does not work.
We also have to look at such things as interprovincial trade barriers. The Atlantic provinces, for example, receive economic development grants as do other regions of Canada. Just to put it into perspective, the cost to the Atlantic provinces of interprovincial trade barriers exceeds the benefit they get from the economic development grants. Obviously we have some changes we could make there that will enhance the prosperity of the region and take the pressure in some areas off of the social programs.
We have the salmon fisheries on the west coast. The salmon fisheries are now headed down the road that many of the Atlantic fisheries have already travelled. We have a problem out there and this problem has to be dealt with. It has to be dealt with openly and quickly or we are going to have the same kind of problems in the west, at least in the fishing industry, that Atlantic Canada has experienced for many years.
We then have the firearms legislation. We are now talking it seems about the registration of rifles and shotguns, anywhere from seven to twenty-one million of these rifles and shotguns depending on whose figures one uses. Let us say it is probably somewhere in the middle between those two figures. The expected cost of that could run as high as a billion dollars or even more. That is a cost to the taxpayer.
Even if we charge an amount for each registration that is equal to the cost of the government registering them, it is still removing a billion dollars out of our economy that is doing absolutely nothing to resolve any of the other pressing problems of government or the deficit and debt problem.
RRSPs are probably one of the most dangerous things that the government is playing with right now because it is trying to get some revenue out of possibly attacking RRSPs, the cost of which will be future problems down the road. If we have a shortage now because we are trying to pay pensions and other benefits to people who in some cases do not need it, think of the problems we are going to have further down the road when we are telling people they have to be more responsible for themselves, they have to look after themselves if they are able to do so when we potentially may set in force legislation today which will affect their ability to look after themselves somewhere down the road.
On the unemployment insurance commission, before we can go out to industry and start attacking industry that we feel may not be acting in the country's best interest, the government has to get its own house in order. The minister responsible for UIC specifically singled out the automotive industry. Maybe he should. Maybe there is a problem there. I am not an expert in that area but what I do know is that there is five times the cost that the auto industry causes the unemployment insurance program right in the government to the point that it is costing some $400 million a year because of seasonal benefits in the government. The government cannot attack industry until it has its own house in order.
Under the question of consultation there is a problem that I have seen. I realize that this is my opinion and the government is free to counter it. I have seen a lot of instances in different bills in which the government loves to have a long list of all those groups it has consulted with. When we see this list of businesses, organizations and individuals who have been consulted with, we are supposed to assume that the government then automatically has listened to the input from these people it has consulted with and drawn its legislation based on that.
We know the reality is that does not happen. The most prime example is the Minister of Justice again. The Minister of Justice has been quoted as saying with regard to the firearms lobby: ``I will not produce legislation on the basis of head count. I will do what I believe is the right thing''. This could be very easily interpreted as: ``I do not care what you want, I know better''.
Reform consultation is ongoing on this particular thing as it is with the Liberal members in their various ridings. We are going to great length in trying to consult with people to find out what changes they will accept, what alternatives they have to suggest and how they see we should deal with the problem. The question is will the government consider our input after we have had this consultation or will it continue with its own agenda?
I am having quite a number of meetings in my own riding. I am setting up to meet with pension groups, medical professionals, education professionals, labour groups, employer groups and student associations. In addition, to get a feeling of the general constituents in my riding I am holding ten town hall meetings over the winter break.
With regard to dealing with student groups, I have a particular concern that we do not make significant further cuts to transfer payments in support of post-secondary education. We talk about government spending in the past. Whether it be Liberal or Conservative does not matter. We are here now and that is what happened in the past. Nonetheless we are in a situation in which we have mortgaged our children's and grandchildren's futures.
When we start dealing with student groups we have to recognize that we have already placed a huge penalty upon these people. Let us not add to that by placing another obstacle in their way to their getting the implements they need to deal with the legacy of debt we have left them.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, you are not quite out of time.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke, Pearson International Airport.
Mr. Gouk: Madam Speaker, my colleagues are pointing out that I have placed you in a position in which you have to interrupt me to tell me that I will be speaking further after I finish speaking.
I am pretty well wrapped up on this, other than to say that consultation will take place. The very first thing I said when I rose in this House for the first time at the beginning of the session in the spring was that I am not here to oppose for the sake of opposition. I will be the first to applaud the government when it brings in legislation I or my constituents agree with. If I do not agree with its legislation then I hope I would be able to offer some constructive alternatives. That is what we are trying to do in terms of meeting with the people.
I have my own certain ideas. I am not trying to sell these at town hall meetings. I am trying to explore with people what types of alternatives are out there, what the bottom line is that we have to reach, what the government is proposing and then listen the kinds of choices they make. I hope we will have good opportunity for consultation. We will not take an adversarial roles, saying we cannot accept anything you do because it makes less of our plan or vice versa. In the end we want what is going to work for the people of Canada. I trust we are all working toward that goal.
Mr. Dennis J. Mills (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke for his comments on my earlier remarks.
I assure the member that we are sincere. The Minister of Human Resources Development is someone I have watched in this town since 1980. He is someone who respects good ideas. Without ideas we are dead around here.
The members opposite should feel that any good ideas they put forward here, no matter where the members come from, if they will make the fabric of this country better we are going to take them.
I want to pick up on the member's comments about the unemployment insurance ski team member. I have problems with the UI ski team. I have problems for a number of reasons. I think the member said this person was making approximately $40,000 in three months working in his forestry career. If someone is doing that in three months and then all of sudden going on this unemployment insurance system, I think of the ski unit, if it happens at a time when it might displace someone else who needs more than the basic minimum wage that a UI cheque would give I think we are putting that other person at a disadvantage.
In other words if I were looking for a job on the ski slopes and needed to get $15 or $20 an hour because I did not have the $40,000 income for the three months, and if all of a sudden I do not get the job because here is a fellow who is volunteering his time and it is not costing the employer a nickel, we are working against ourselves.
Does the hon. member not think that when a firm receives the benefit of having someone contribute toward the health and viability of his business where it is being funded by the taxpayers through the UI system perhaps there should be some accountability so that we are not working at cross purposes?
Mr. Gouk: Madam Speaker, I am not sure exactly where we ended up with that question. I am sure the member will correct me if I get too far off the track.
In the case of this particular individual I mentioned in my example, there are both volunteers anyway and full time people they are required to have as part of their licence. This individual by volunteering was just that, a volunteer who would if he had taken the full time job hopefully have been replaced with another volunteer. The full time job that he did not take because he was a volunteer still existed and still had to be filled by someone else. In that particular example he was not taking away someone's job by volunteering while supported by his unemployment insurance benefits.
I think where the problem comes overall is we have taken some of the incentive away. It is not just a matter of policing. Some would argue that if there is no work for this individual and he is getting unemployment in any event he might as well be on the ski hill.
The argument is that one of the things we are looking at in our policy dealing with unemployment insurance is if someone makes $40,000 a year, should he be able to collect benefits which are paid in part by someone who has a $27,000 a year job and works 52 weeks of the year paying premiums so that individual can be off.
There has to be some cut through which we say you have made over a certain amount, you have gone beyond what we have guaranteed you would make and therefore you are not eligible for further benefits or at least it would be at a severely reduced point.
I am sure the hon. member is aware of our concept of old age pension for people with high income. If we applied the same type of principle to the unemployment insurance program, the saving would run to quite a few billion dollars.
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Madam Speaker, first I want to emphasize a positive point made by the Reform Party member. I agree with him when he says that, as regards post-secondary education, the federal government should not put students deeper into debts. Consequently, the hon. member would oppose a reduction in federal transfers to the provinces for education. I hope his views are shared by the rest of his caucus.
The hon. member approves the reform and every measure related to it. In fact, he said that on top of implementing this reform, we should also look at program expenditures. I agree that many departmental programs should be reviewed. However, my question is: Before implementing a social program reform which targets the poor and the unemployed, does he not think that we should take a look at foregone tax revenues for the government, because of family trusts, because of a major shortfall in GST collection, and because of subsidies granted to industries which do not appear to need them? Does he not agree that, before implementing this reform, the government should try to recover all the money it is losing right now?
Mr. Gouk: Madam Speaker, certainly there are problems. I assume the hon. member was referring largely to such things as the underground economy and how a lot of revenue the government should be collecting is disappearing. There are two ends of the scale. There are allegations that at the top end of the scale there are people who use tax loopholes to escape paying their due portion and at all ends of the scale from the bottom up there are people who are using this underground economy to escape paying high taxes and particularly the GST.
These are things that definitely have to be addressed. One of the ways we are looking at addressing the tax system is using a flat tax type of system. Interestingly, one of the models I have looked at was originally devised by a member of the Liberal Party. Unfortunately it did not get a lot of response at the time.
We have system that we have devised in which we will ensure that each person pays a fair share. The only deductions that will be allowed are those that apply to the most general population across Canada. With regard to the money we are losing in things like GST and so on with the underground economy, one of the problems is if we put so much burden on people, they finally will get to a point at which they justify in their own mind that it is proper, that it is actually the right thing to do to avoid paying taxes wherever possible. We saw this in the case of the cigarette tax in the east where people openly flaunted the fact that they were buying cigarettes that did not have the tax paid on them. People will get to the point at which they say enough is enough.
These are things that have to be dealt with. We think the only way that will be dealt with, rather than extracting more money or enforcing under GST, is to get government's end under control, which is the spending. We have to reduce the government's need for those tax dollars. We have to deal with the tax burden that is placed on people so we are not taxing people to the extent that they find every loophole they can get, legal and otherwise, to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma, Lib.): Madam Speaker, it is a special privilege for me to participate in this debate. I am going to spend my time talking about what this government has been doing and proposes to do in support of older workers who sadly find themselves displaced from a job at a time in life when it is not easy to find a new job.
I want to preface my remarks by saying that I have tremendous confidence in the Minister of Human Resources Development. He has put a set of options on the table that I believe are historic. They are based on extensive consultations which took place earlier this year. They are packaged in a format that Canadians can easily understand. I am confident that when the message is fully out and all the options are fully explained, Canadians will significantly support what it is we need to do to put Canada's social security safety net on a solid foundation for the future.
I have had a number of round table discussions in my riding of Algoma over the last few weeks. I have met with a wide cross-section of the community to discuss how these options might affect them and to elicit their feedback. I have been most impressed with some of the things I have learned. I will not dwell on those items today. I am not finished those consultations and in fairness to the participants, I want to give them a summary of those meetings. I will report their comments, the consensus and disagreements to the standing committee and to the minister by early December.
I get the sense that Canadians agree something has to be done to improve how we take care of those in need, how we make sure our young people get a proper education, how we take care of older workers who find themselves displaced. I am confident that the proper choices will be made when legislation is proposed next year.
I especially want to spend time talking about the men and women who have devoted their lives to building this great nation. I know hon. members will agree that older workers deserve the same consideration as do all Canadian workers. Of course older workers generally find change much more difficult to deal with than younger workers, which is quite understandable.
In years past workers could count on being at a job from their late teens or early twenties until it was time to retire. Unfortunately and regretfully times have changed and the world of work has changed. Our country is very much enmeshed in the global
economy and it is not so easy for people now to look forward to a lifetime of work at the same workplace.
We require of our citizens and of ourselves a lifetime of learning and adaptation, but there are older workers who find themselves trapped. We are all creatures of habit. After spending 25 years or more at one job it is quite a challenge to suddenly be out of a job and faced with finding another job. This is usually a shock to the worker and his family. If it is part of a large lay-off in the community it is a shock to the entire region.
Canadians are resilient. We have adjusted over many decades and I am sure we will be able to do so in the future. This government is certainly not abandoning older workers during the reform of our social security system. They are very much full participants in the reform process.
This stage of social security reform is a learning process and we are learning from the measures we have already taken for older workers. For example, I remind hon. colleagues that the government did not abandon older workers who were hard hit by the decline in a large number of this country's industries. We have seen tremendous dislocation over the last 10 years. We have not and will not abandon those in need. The coming changes will ensure that those in need are protected.
One program that has been most helpful and has come into play in a number of difficult situations is the program for older worker adjustment, commonly known by its acronym POWA. Through absolutely no fault of their own many older workers find themselves out of a job and sadly with very little chance of finding a replacement job. This is where the program for older worker adjustment can be so helpful.
Canadians want us to show compassion for those individuals, those hard working men and women who have contributed to the economy of Canada for the greater part of their lives. Let me emphasize that POWA is not a disincentive to seek work. By helping older workers adjust because they cannot find a job is not keeping them away from the workplace but simply providing a safety net or a bridge until they can make an adjustment or until their old age pension comes into play.
This program is only one of a broad range of options available to older workers. As I say, it is only one measure the government has taken to support older Canadian workers. POWA has been a carefully crafted program that addresses the needs of workers. It is a fine example of government innovation and partnership between the federal government and various provincial governments to provide long term income assistance to older workers with little or no re-employment prospects.
I can say from personal experience and the experience of hundreds indeed thousands of workers in my riding of Algoma that a number of laid off workers have benefited from the program for older worker adjustment. Since 1990 we have seen the loss of nearly 4,000 mining jobs in the community of Elliot Lake. In this group of nearly 4,000 workers many hundreds have been in the awkward age of 55 to 60.
The program for older worker adjustment has been of significant help to many hundreds of laid off workers in Elliot Lake and the north shore region of my riding. While POWA cannot solve the financial problems of every individual family, it can play a major part in making life a lot easier during a very difficult time for these laid off workers.
I would like to point out another example of where this government has exhibited its extreme interest in older workers. In the province of New Brunswick there is the New Brunswick job corps program. It is a proactive program that helps older workers get back into the labour force. It is different from the program for older worker adjustment. It recognizes the need to try different things in different areas and is a newer initiative.
I will explain how the New Brunswick job corps initiative works. I will use the example of Gilles, which is a name I will use for the purpose of this discussion. He is a 53-year old worker who was on social assistance. Like many others his age, he had years of work experience but could no longer find work. At 53 it was very difficult; the new technology had simply pushed him aside. He was in danger of getting caught in the welfare cycle and Gilles being a proud person did not want to be on welfare.
Thanks to the federal government's strategic initiatives program, we have been working in partnership with the New Brunswick government and since last July Gilles has been employed through the New Brunswick job corps. This older worker is now employed by the city of Bathurst in its parks, recreation and tourism department. How does Gilles feel about this? To quote him he says: ``I would rather be here than on welfare''. I do not think it matters so much the kind of work Gilles is doing.
I am certain all of my hon. colleagues will agree that very few people who find themselves on welfare, family benefits or unemployment insurance actually prefer to receive their income through those programs. As the Prime Minister has often said the very best form of assistance and the best form of income is a job. One can achieve the dignity of bringing home a paycheque with which to purchase the family's food and shelter.
People like Gilles, and there are many thousands, can benefit from the kinds of initiatives this government is bringing forward
that will give people a chance to have dignity each day as they bring home a well earned paycheque.
The strategic initiatives program is a partnership with the provinces and territories. Together we are funding projects on a 50:50 basis. In the New Brunswick example it is a $40 million investment over five years. This new kind of partnership, along with POWA which has been in existence for a number of years, is an example of the leadership of this federal government in trying to get this country back on the right road. Another example is job link in Ontario, a creative idea to allow welfare recipients broader opportunities to get back into the workplace.
Gilles is only one of about a thousand participants in the New Brunswick program. Older displaced workers between the ages of 50 and 65 are given a guaranteed annual income of up to $12,000 in return for a minimum of 26 weeks of work. It gives these deserving men and women the opportunity to feel good about themselves. They are doing meaningful work and contributing to the prosperity of their province.
The strategic initiatives program is enabling us to test innovative and cost effective ways of reforming our social security system. It is helping us to determine the best approach to creating lasting employment, to understanding what is needed in education and training and to adjusting income security measures so they address the realities of the 1990s.
Of course the question often comes up: What have you done for us lately? This past Friday on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development I was involved in the announcement of a major study that will eventually help us to understand measures needed to assist older workers and other laid off workers.
This major study was announced in Elliot Lake. It will provide valuable information, research that is available nowhere in the world on what happens to the community, the businesses, older and younger workers, families, spouses, children, teenagers, when there is a major layoff in a community.
The study will be undertaken by a research team from Laurentian University in Sudbury in co-operation with the community. It will study the long term effects not only on displaced workers but on their community.
Something like 4,000 jobs have been lost since 1990 in a community where the population was roughly 18,000 and several more thousands in the nearby north shore. There is only one mine left with about 550 workers. In spite of that some marvellous things are happening in the community of Elliot Lake and the surrounding area. You would be surprised at how vigorously the community has responded to the tremendous challenges it faced when the major layoffs occurred. I am very proud to have this community and this region in my riding.
I believe this study will show that this occurrence and the response of the community will be an example to the rest of the country on how to deal with major layoffs. Imagine nearly 4,000 workers out of a population of 18,000. That is nearly 25 per cent of the entire population. They had good paying jobs in the mining sector. Take 4,000 jobs out of a community and see what happens if there is no creative response.
Come and visit the area and see the miracle that is occurring, the response. In fact the population did drop a little bit. It is about 13,500 now. Projections are that it will soon start growing if it has not already done so.
This research announcement is again a partnership initiative with the province. The federal government will invest a little over $2 million under the innovations program. I believe great things will be learned from this exercise.
In Quebec the federal government recently announced joint assistance to help eligible unemployed older workers between the ages of 55 and 59 whose benefits after unemployment insurance and other normal assistance programs had run out. Major lay-offs which meet the program criteria are designated by federal, provincial and territorial ministers on a case by case basis after being assessed according to a range of socioeconomic factors.
The government is not sitting back, lying down and waiting for things to happen. We are acting proactively to anticipate what Canadians need.
This is all part of social security reform. Older workers are invited, in fact encouraged to give their views to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development during the committee's current public hearings. Their input is welcome and will be given as much consideration as that of any Canadian. Of course all citizens are entitled to express their views to their member of Parliament. I am sure that each member will ensure the minister and/or the committee will hear their views. It is important that we reach a consensus on how to repair the social safety net.
As I said earlier, older workers are full participants in social security reform. Through the various programs and services that address their needs we will gather valuable information. I assure the House that the information will be reflected in our development of new social security policies and programs.
I have been focusing on older workers particularly. The critical needs of our older workers must never be forgotten. The workplace has changed permanently and we must be creative in our search for solutions.
I would like to conclude there. I mentioned earlier the round tables that I have had in my riding. I have been amazed at how much I have learned sitting around a table with average Canadians. We were all equals at the table. With all due respect to this place, I have learned as much around the table over a cup of coffee with average Canadians as I often have at meetings here in Ottawa. It is amazing the insights that one can get and garner
from the experiences of folks who are living with their problems in their communities every day.
I encourage those members who have not already planned their round tables or public meetings to do so. They are well worth the trouble.
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Madam Speaker, throughout his speech, the hon. member had nothing but praise for his minister, the Minister of Human Resources Development. I wonder whether tomorrow morning he will go to his office to receive a token of appreciation.
The hon. member said that the document we are discussing was the result of extensive consultations, and that is the point I would like to discuss: those extensive consultations that produced a reform to be implemented at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society-the unemployed or the beer drinkers, as they call them.
If these consultations were so meticulous, why, when we are consulting the public, does the minister send his go-between to do the ground work in our regions? The hon. member for Outremont is now scouting around Quebec to get the pulse of the people. In my own riding, in Chicoutimi, only fifteen people turned out.
This is a waste of taxpayers' money. In Jonquière, the number of spectators, because that is what they were more than anything else, was even lower, and in Roberval they had to cancel the consultation. Since people do not want to hear about this reform, because it will be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society, I think the minister should do his homework all over again. The public consultations being conducted by the committee across the country are a sham.
Mr. St. Denis: Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Chicoutimi for his comments and his question, although I believe he has it wrong. To suggest that the member for Outremont needs to go out, scout around and prepare the way for the Minister of Human Resources Development misses the point.
First, I would suggest that a turnout of 15 at the meeting he refers to might also suggest that people are satisfied with the options that have been put on the table. They were not so worried that they had to go out and participate. I put that forward as a possible explanation for the low turnout. In polls that I have read, something in the order of 60 to 65 per cent plus Canadians support the initiatives we are taking in repairing and renewing our social safety net.
Canadians have confidence that we will not take measures that will hurt those in need. To suggest we are doing this on the backs of the needy flies in the face of the philosophy on which our proposals are based. It is an attempt to deploy dollars in a more effective way so that those truly in need can get the help, retraining or assistance they need in order to become players in the workplace.
The hon. member really has it wrong. I would suggest that he re-read the documents. The pulse I get from talking to the people on the street is to keep going for the changes. Move ahead. Do not be worried about our detractors, those who would speak negatively of our initiatives. We all agree changes have to be made. The status quo is not acceptable.
Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I listened with enthusiasm to the report by the member. I would like to participate in the debate by sharing what my hon. colleague already knows, that I get a little bit upset when I hear day after day, when the government advances any type of reform, we are doing it on the backs of the least fortunate. To use this as an occasion to exploit those more unfortunate for opportunistic reasons I find is self-serving.
My colleague and I both sit on the finance committee and we listen intently to the debate that is going on about the deficit. We both know that if we were to attack or remove outright the subsidies to small businesses, as business has told us, if we were to tax lottery and gambling winnings, and simply do as members of the Bloc Quebecois have said: ``Cut government spending and defence spending'' by 25 per cent, I put it to the House that the $3 billion the finance minister needs this year and the $6 billion the finance minister needs next year, the $9 billion could come from these.
How can members of the opposition continually stand in the House and say that we want to reform social security on the backs of the unemployed, students and the least fortunate? As the member knows, the status quo is not acceptable, not only in Quebec, it is not acceptable anywhere in Canada.
Does he not agree with me that the present programs are outdated, no longer respond to the needs and aspirations of Canadians and Quebecers alike?
Mr. St. Denis: Madam Speaker, my colleague is dead on. He has in very few words concisely put our government's agenda in the proper perspective.
My colleagues-at least the colleagues who would admit it, which would be the members of my party-and I are not receiving from our constituents the complaints about leaving programs exactly the way they are. ``Do not touch them''. We are not receiving those kinds of comments. People generally recognize that change has to take place. To argue: ``Don't make
changes because this will happen or the sky will fall down'' is totally inappropriate.
Those in need, the poorest of the poor, need us to make changes so they can more properly take their place in the work place. One of the previous speakers from the governing party mentioned literacy for example. There is a 38 per cent illiteracy rate in Canada. Almost four out of ten Canadians experience some serious degree of illiteracy where they have difficulty functioning in number or language skills.
This is part of what we are talking about in dealing with a redeployment of human resources. To say that we are doing this on the backs of the needy is churlish in my view. It is complaining for the sake of complaint. Let us get on with the job. Let us recognize and acknowledge that what we have done, as my hon. colleague said, for 20 or 30 years is not acceptable anymore.
Times have changed. The world is changing. We do not want huge sectors of our society being left behind as we move into the next century. If we care about our fellow Canadians, we must gather them up and move together. If we do not take action now and improve our safety net programs, we will leave those folks behind. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions. We have to take action.
I suggest the options that have been placed before Canadians are the right place to start.
Mrs. Sharon Hayes (Port Moody-Coquitlam, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the government's proposed social policy review today. I have been pleased to take the charge the government has suggested to participate in fostering informed public debate by taking up the debate in my constituency in the last several weeks.
Today I would like to spend the majority of my time on the issue of the family as it relates to child care. First let me echo the surprise and concern of some of my constituents as I talked to them in the past while.
First, when the whole social security program was presented, including old age security, the CPP and federal government transfers to provinces for established programs and equalization, the people in my community were convinced that surely we cannot avoid reducing expenditures in social program areas, as this represents a very major portion of government expenditures.
In fact at present rates of growth in these very programs, social program expenditure and debt service charges alone will exceed our total revenue in government within just a few years. Cuts must be made. However, they feel that taxes must not be increased, specifically as relates to our CAP. They were shocked to hear that the federal government forbids a work component in any welfare assistance.
There were a few things they were shocked about. They were shocked to hear of the unsecured liability of over $500 billion, as great as the federal debt, in the CPP program alone. They were angry at a government that would possibly consider taxation of RRSPs when its own security programs for seniors, including the old age security program, are becoming totally unsustainable.
Changes must be made to provide a social security system that addresses the real needs now and for the future of our citizens.
As we speak of the future, I would like to spend the majority of my allotted time on the foundation for that future. The Reform Party believes in the importance of strengthening and protecting the family unit as essential to the well-being of individuals in society.
The family, I believe, is the fundamental building block of our society. Not only is it the best institution for the transfer and protection of values, of culture and of social stability, it is the very best institution for the practical realization of our social policy renewal.
I stand distinct in this House today in the fact that my background has basically been one of a homemaker. I have heard in this House people complain about different programs that government proposes or that are actually in existence that make one spouse dependent on another.
I am not sure that is always a bad idea. A dependency in our social structure between people especially if those people can create a unit that will indeed strengthen the base of society is not a bad thing. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in combination of talents. There is strength in bringing viewpoints together.
Our society must be built on values such as commitment and understanding, shared goals and willingness to sacrifice. These things are epitomized in our families and they should be honoured in that situation.
Recently while attending the Standing Committee on Justice concerning changes to the Young Offenders Act I was not at all surprised to hear a witness remark that he felt that government legislation had worked against families.
I see it often in my constituency office in stories from distraught parents as to how those provincial and federal laws, their programs and their bureaucracy have affected their children, their ability to make a living and even their hope for their future.
Short term planning and ever escalating government programs have removed authority from parents. They have skewed their responsibilities in all directions and even hinted that perhaps they should not even work together in the home, it is better to work outside the home, and then they diverted their energies from their families into basic economic survival.
With the social policy review, once again the government proposes new and bigger programs that will adversely affect
families. Even presently according to the children's bureau federal spending on children exceeds $15 billion a year.
Again much of the government's social policy focus is not on families but on children and more specifically to our discussion today the issue of the best care for our children. Like all Canadians, I would like to see the most effective means available to create opportunity for the families of these children.
This solution, however, may not be-I do not believe it is in government programs-only addressed to children. Children are a part of families.
Specifically as relates to child poverty, the backgrounder to the discussion paper reads: ``The very best way to fight child poverty is for parents of poor families to have a job''. Given the present levels of government debt and spending, potentially made even worse as I have mentioned by increased government programs, let us take a closer look at this statement.
What happens when a family gets a job, particularly when a single parent family gets a job? May I suggest that single parent families or one earner families have a very difficult time in making ends meet even now. Let me explain.
Recent statistics out of Port Moody-Coquitlam, my home riding, tell us that over 80 per cent of families are composed of a husband and wife and 12 per cent to 16 per cent, depending on the community, are single parents. Surprising to some, this actually is quite consistent with out national statistics.
Nationally approximately 80 per cent of families are dual parents. Twenty per cent are single parents and that is up from approximately 17 per cent in 1981. Of concern are the low income families, that is those that fall below the StatsCan low income cut off point.
What I found interesting was that over one-half of single female parent families, precisely 51.6 per cent, are low income when they work. They have a job but they are still low income. Almost one-quarter of one earner dual parent families are low income. These tell me that a job alone is not enough. One earner is not enough.
What is there in this make-up that encourages the single parent to actually get a job? There is not much. Over half of them will still be in a low income category.
Given our present unacceptable high taxation directly resulting from continued government debt, spending and continued government program creation this poverty trap cannot be solved by a job alone.
Recently during consultations in my riding I had a long discussion with a single mom. She already was having to do dishes at two o'clock in the morning after juggling work, child care and unfortunately right now time with a sick elderly parent. She was asking me what more can she do. When I said to her that the family should be the primary care giver she asked me if we were asking her to do more. She just could not comprehend her ability to do more than she is already doing.
However, it is ever increasing government spending that will end up asking her to do more in the long run. Less and less of what she earns when she is working will be put toward her family. It is decreased government spending, decreased government programs at all levels that will actually free her to make more decisions and to apply her time the way she should.
We are simply asking that the government do less and allow her greater choices with her consequently saved tax dollars. Such savings would allow individuals such as this single mom to be more self-reliant. Families would be able to choose their child care. Communities would benefit from the increased local resources and businesses would thrive and share in programs to support their local needs. This is a real long term and far reaching solution.
Government economic and fiscal policies not only affect the income levels of Canadians, StatsCan figures reveal the average middle class after tax income was $39,500 in 1980 and by 1991 that figure had dropped to $37,200. Government economic policies have actually been instrumental in forcing dual parent families into dual earner families simply to make ends meet. Presently most Canadian parents are in the workforce including those with preschool children because of the demands of taxes in their lives.
The federal government presently spends more than $400 million every year on institutionalized day care. Its red ink book promises $720 million more tax dollars over three years on subsidization or the creation of up to 150,000 new child care spaces. The 1994 budget promised $360 million tax dollars toward a national day care program over two years if economic growth hit 3 per cent this year.
Reformers totally reject such a program regardless of our economic growth. Child care should be a personal choice. I along with many Canadians believe that the very best care is in the home. Canadians reflect that in their present decisions. According to a 1994 Statistics Canada report less than 40 per cent of child care presently takes place in day care centres.
In my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam the clear choice of child care for most parents is to have their children in the care of a sitter, a neighbour or a relative. Private child care is a natural part of many neighbourhoods. Moms with young children can opt to care for their own children and the children of working neighbours. Communities can work together. Child care needs are met in the communities.
The government's proposal would create unnecessary spaces at a high cost to the taxpayer. Subsidization exclusively for their programs would coerce participation in government facilities over more casual arrangements as well as create yet another
penalty against that parent who chooses to stay home to raise his or her own child out of their own convictions.
Relating to the government child care activities in the national day care program, let me read yet another interesting quote from the social policy review discussion paper: ``Linking child care and child development could represent a comprehensive and preventative approach to social problems at the earliest point in life. Rather than using our money to rectify social problems which eventually occur as a result of a lack of support or security for young children, investment at the front end could save us enormously in both human and financial costs 10 to 20 years down the road''.
The parent state seems alive and well in this government's agenda. What I read here is a government that feels it is a better parent than a parent of the child. It is no secret that failed full employment policies and failed nanny state systems of the past 10 to 20 years are now being lived out through social turmoil in the former Soviet Union. It proved, and it will be proved again, that the state is not the best parent. A healthy family with a full choice for child care is the very best way to create a healthy society.
We propose that child care programs must subsidize financial need and not the method of child care chosen. Any such subsidy must be directed to the children and to the parents, not the institution and professionals, in order to allow a full choice of that care including the choice of the parent to stay home.
Surely a government which would consider direct payment of fees to students in its latest program of student fee transfers would consider the validity of a direct payment of child care costs to the parents of the child.
We support the regulation of day care standards but at the provincial level. It is at this level that medical and social services and the decisions that go with them are made. These relate directly with the needs of day care regulations. More fundamentally, as so much of the issue of the need for child care stems from economic factors, we support the concept of income splitting between legally married couples to help support and nurture families. Why should a family with a single wage be penalized with higher taxes than dual earners with the same total income?
Another more possibly distant solution would be a system of flat tax for all Canadians. I am encouraged as members from both sides of the House investigate this as a possibility. Within such a system accommodation could be made for the needed care of children through social assistance program support where it is needed, at the level closest to that need.
This government can continue to promote short term solutions. More government programs will demand more taxpayer dollars. The need for the increased taxpayer dollars means less money for individual use. Decreased disposable income will create fewer real jobs and less incentive to work and in turn will create more poverty, which in turn will create more poor children.
We need long term vision for the solutions. We reject a national day care program. Fewer government programs will allow individual Canadians to have choice and self-reliance. Families and their importance in our society will be enhanced for stronger communities.
We speak often of citizenship and the necessity of participation in the community. It is time the government dropped the rhetoric and faced reality. I believe, and may I add that single mom agrees with me, that our sense of citizenship and belonging will come through our strength as families and our participation as families in our communities.
Mr. John Bryden (Hamilton-Wentworth, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Port Moody-Coquitlam for her remarks. I have to say that I think she makes some very good points. The member talked about a national day care program. There are still a lot of questions that have to be answered with respect to day care.
If I may, I will point out to her a little experience I had just recently with respect to that issue which might throw some light on it for her. It concerns a meeting I was at where a for profit lobbyist found her firm in a confrontation. They were hired by a private day care centre in a community to get established in that community. They were up against a publicly funded day care advocacy organization, in other words a special interest group. This special interest group which was supporting national day care and government controlled day care won the issue and the privately funded day care centre was forced to close.
When we approach the issue of a national day care program, I think we all agree that the opportunity must be there however the opportunity is expressed. I think government has to be alert to the fact that we have a lobby group out there now that has for many years been funded by government and that lobby group is very alive and active.
I certainly agree with the member that this is something we should debate. I certainly do not have my mind made up on it. I think we can carry it forward but I hope the debate will be done between ourselves or out in the community rather than without the intervention of special interest groups.
I do not know whether the member would like to comment on that but I would invite her to do so.
Mrs. Hayes: Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. I certainly am interested in the anecdote that he mentioned.
This is probably the way things will progress given the present scenario of government involvement in day care. It will become increasingly impossible for an alternative to exist. This is the point I was trying to make. It will take away the choice from parents in communities and force on them a government dictated and funded program which will end up being more expensive.
The root of this problem and so much of what has happened with government funded programs is around those special interest industries, shall we say, the very people who are employed and get their future security rally around the programs that the government proposes and then build their industry on that. I have seen it in immigration and in different areas of government involvement. If there is money to be had, security of employment and an opportunity for garnering government funds, we can be sure hands will be out and people will be there.
This is certainly a problem with national day care especially as the government funds the institutions and the professionals that are involved rather than the families. Maybe that comes back to me underlining what I mentioned in my talk. If funds are needed to support child care that money should go to the parents for them to make the choice and be able to put wheels on that choice by choosing what they feel is the best care.
Giving the money to the professionals, giving the money to the day care centres simply creates that special interest environment. Those people will be there to encourage a self-perpetuation of that system. That is not to the betterment of our families, our kids or our communities. I thank the member for his comment.
Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi, BQ): Madam Speaker, I was interested to hear what the hon. member had to say, especially when she talked about preserving the family unit, which is the nucleus of our society, and I think everyone in this House would agree wholeheartedly with that view.
Today, however, we must realize that as a result of this reform, the family as we know it will change. We will be left with only two kinds of families. We will have very rich families with a lot of tax shelters and very poor families. The middle class will disappear altogether. What kind of country will we have as a result? A very wealthy class and a very poor class. No more room for the middle class.
You also pointed out that you were against introducing measures for spouses. I respect that, and I agree.
Today, employers and employees pay very high unemployment insurance premiums. You said that to help families, it was necessary to create jobs, and not temporary jobs but well-paying jobs. In that case, in order to create jobs and to help employers and SMEs create jobs, present UI premium rates should be reduced.
I would appreciate hearing the views of the hon. member and her caucus on the possibility of reducing UI premium rates for employers and employees in the very near future.
Mrs. Hayes: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. There were two major points made. I will address the first one. There are two kinds of families, the wealthy and, increasingly, the poor as indeed the middle class seems to be buffeted on all sides.
What is it that is destroying our middle class? The very thing that is taking the power and the resources from that middle class is the increase in the government programs that are ever increasing its taxes.
The poor become trapped in a cycle of not breaking out of poverty because, for instance, single parents families get jobs but earn hardly more than they receive on welfare. They choose not to because it works against themselves to do so.
I believe the best way is a fair taxation system and government only doing what it has to do so that the resources are left in the hands of Canadians. A fair taxation system, for instance the flat tax system I suggested, would fairly treat wealthy and middle class, and allow and accommodate for poorer people so that Canadians would be able to use the money to address the needs they have. That way I believe the middle class can survive and the families of the middle class can survive. The more government we have the worse it is.
I am not sure I quite understood the second half of the member's question. Again it may go back to the same philosophy. I agree we should not be asking for more government assistance for programs. The government money should go to people who need that money. Our social assistance programs should be designed to be targeted only to those who need them and if it is a social program, whether it be day care, UI, or any of the other many programs that are there. We could take it right to the equalization to provinces. Social spending should go only to the people who need it. Perhaps then employees and employers and indeed the families represented in those relationships would have more money to do what they need to do.
I am not sure I answered the question but again it goes to less government involvement, therefore less government spending, better targeting for government spending long term. That is a solution to most of these problems.
Mr. Tony Valeri (Lincoln, Lib.): Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to rise today and speak to this motion. I would like to focus my comments on the opportunities that Canadians have for input into the social security reform process and to encourage Canadians to participate.
Certainly, social security reform is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by government in many years. Canadians have an unprecedented number of ways of making their voices heard on this particular subject. All Canadians must be able to have their say on how we should rebuild the Canadian social safety network for the 21st century.
Let me outline the many ways in which Canadians will have an opportunity to share their concerns, ideas and solutions on how to redesign our programs. These consultations will help to make our programs not only more efficient but certainly more effective, which is one the big goals of this whole social security reform.
It has been about six or seven weeks since the launch of the discussion paper. Public interest in the document has certainly been quite high and remains high. Since October 5 the ministry has received over 12,000 calls requesting material and information. In total, we have distributed about 114,000 copies of the discussion paper and almost 210,000 copies of the summaries of that discussion paper.
We want a mutual exchange of ideas with the public on the federal government's initiative to reform social security and we want to hear from as many Canadians as possible. To encourage this we have recently released a workbook called ``Have your say'' which seeks the public's input on our social security reform options. We supplied a postage paid envelope in each workbook for the return of the response. All answers mailed prior to January 16, 1995, will be part of a final published report on what Canadians have said.
As well we will be sending the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development an interim report in late December. The analysis of the responses will be conducted by D.R. Harley Consultants Limited, an Ottawa based firm which assisted in the development of the workbook to ensure its objectivity.
The workbook is widely available through postal outlets, Canada Employment Centres, many grocery stores, the YM and YWCAs across Canada. It is also available by calling the 1-800 number, a toll free number, or by calling your local member of Parliament.
The 1-800 line is a source of information and an avenue for Canadians to express their views on social security reform. Canadians have already made extensive use of this line and it continues to be heavily used. I think this alone is a prime example of the importance that Canadians place on social security reform and the government's commitment to hearing their views.
In addition to the workbook and the 1-800 line, Canadians have an unprecedented number of ways to make their voices heard on social security reform.
The Department of Human Resources Development Canada has produced a wealth of information on the reform that is available to the public. The information is not only available in print and alternative formats, but much of it is also available to Canadians on the information highway.
The Standing Committee on Human Resources Development is the focal point for the consultations on this reform. All other forms of consultation will be fed into the standing committee for its final report.
We should not forget that the committee is comprised of members from the three largest parties represented in this House. I am pleased to say that there is significant interest in appearing before that committee. More than 80 national organizations appeared before the committee between October 26 and November 8 of this year. In general, these national organizations supported the need for reform and the principles laid out in that discussion paper. Most groups expressed a wide range of concerns about the specific options available in that paper.
The committee has now started its consultations with Canadians. Fifteen members of the committee will travel for five weeks to 22 cities and towns in provinces across this great country. This will present Canadians, whether they live in an urban or rural setting, in the far north or in downtown Toronto, the same opportunity to participate. Once again, interest from the public has been overwhelming. Nearly 500 requests came into the committee from the western portion of its trip. The committee is making every effort to hear from as many groups and individuals as possible.
Those who cannot appear have the opportunity to submit a brief before December 9, 1994, so that committee members can benefit from the widest range of views and ideas. We would encourage Canadians who may not be able to appear before the committee or attend any of the local workshops presented by members of Parliament to submit a brief to the committee before December 9.
Social security reform consultation encourages each member of Parliament to become involved in these consultations. Working within their own constituencies to inform the electorate, MPs provide Canadians with yet another avenue to express their concerns, ideas and solutions on how to redesign Canada's social security system.
Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a social security workshop in my riding of Lincoln. Approximately 70 constituents took the time to come out and address their concerns. They raised a number of important issues.
They felt that government must remove the disincentives to work and that government should provide some sort of income supplement but only to those individuals who need it. We must stop duplicating training programs. We need to work with industry and the provinces to ensure that they are efficient and practical. Industry and government have to work together to ensure that programs meet the needs of tomorrow's workers. We should look at more effective ways of forecasting for jobs. We also had widespread endorsement for the idea of restructuring student loans based on the ability for students to repay those loans.
Since the release of the discussion paper more than 190 public town hall meetings have been planned by members of Parliament, including several members from across the floor. The feedback we have been getting is that Canadians understand the need for reform and recognize that change is not only inevitable but essential. Canadians may differ on the solutions but whether these town hall meetings are held in Bridgewater or Whitehorse, Canadians want to be an integral part of the dialogue and the debate.
Community agencies are getting involved in the consultation process. Agencies such as the United Way, the Laurier Institute, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Agency and the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg are organizing seminars across the country on social security reform. The seminars are designed to provide Canadians some of whom are the individuals most affected by social security reform with an opportunity to offer their views. I am pleased to report that some 500 Canadians are taking part in these seminars.
Finally, a series of four policies colloquia will provide an opportunity for experts to brainstorm on some of these options in the areas of lifelong learning, post-secondary education, training and employment development services and child poverty. These colloquia will take place in January 1995 and are being organized by institutes such as Caledon and the Conference Board.
The purpose of these colloquia is to broaden the dialogue on some of the more contentious issues associated with social security reform. These issues are identified in a discussion paper but have not to date been fully addressed in briefs, submissions or other forms of consultation.
As this update illustrates we are serious about consulting with Canadians. The public may be heard through the 1-800 number, the workbook, the standing committee, their MPs at town hall meetings, in consultation seminars and through policy colloquia. In addition, Canadians are encouraged to write directly to their member of Parliament or to the Minister of Human Resources Development or to fax or send electronic mail to the minister. We want as many Canadians as possible to take part in rebuilding our social security system to meet the needs of Canadians today and into the 21st century.
I want to make a couple of points based on the discussion I heard today from a number of colleagues from across the floor. One of the first speakers today from the Reform Party had indicated they wanted government to say more on this consultation process. The purpose of the consultation is to hear from Canadians and not to bias the discussion in any way, to make sure that the whole process is very transparent and open. We are doing that.
The other comment was that we need to act now and that we do not need to consult any more. I do not believe this type of consultation has happened before. It has never happened before. Government will show leadership by taking action after listening to Canadians. We will be acting in a way that reflects Canadians' concerns.
Another comment made was that taxpayers' money was being spent uselessly. I beg to differ. As I mentioned in my discussion constituents in my riding came out to speak with me. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development came out to meet with the people of Lincoln to discuss and consult on what the options were. We heard what some of those options were and received feedback from constituents.
I will close by saying that our government will listen and lead. That is the leadership Canadians have asked for and that is the type they will receive from this government.
Mr. Ian McClelland (Edmonton Southwest, Ref.): Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House after listening to the Liberals describe how they have discovered consultation after 125 years of sharing power with the Conservatives. It is long overdue but a very welcome discovery. We would recommend it to them at any time.
It begs the question of course: What were they doing for the previous nine years as they sat in opposition? What were they doing with their red book? It is a good thing it did not take them as long to organize the red book as it has taken them to organize what needs to be done here. It could be that what we have in front of us is a softening up process.
Everyone agrees that changes have to be made. Everyone in the country knows we cannot go on the way we have been and that changes are required and must be made. We all agree on the principle, it is the policies that are going to be a little difficult.
I would ask my hon. colleague from Lincoln who has delivered such an impassioned, reasoned address: What should be the criteria? He mentioned in his discourse that the criteria for social benefits must be based on need which would preclude then that social benefits should be determined by want. They should be addressed on need and certainly I think most members in this House would concur. What will be the criteria for need? Has the hon. member opposite given any thought to what the criteria should be for those who are to receive social benefits from the taxpayer?
Mr. Valeri: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I would certainly like to recognize once again that the hon. member does agree with the whole process and I thank him. We are certainly on the right track. I am hearing from my constituents that consultation is long overdue and is something our government is moving on quite rapidly.
When I reflected in my discussion on what the town hall participants said I was reflecting what my constituents have said to me. One of those things is to assess our programs and try to make them more effective and more efficient.
When it comes to need, we are absorbing that information from the constituents and from the various sources of information and different processes that are available. Once the consultation period is over we will be coming forward with very concrete responses to that question.
Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay-Atikokan, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I was most impressed with the delivery and the content of the message given by the hon. member for Lincoln, as well as the hon. member across the way from Edmonton Southwest.
Mr. DeVillers: Somewhat less.
Mr. Dromisky: But somewhat less.
However, the member across the way recognized the importance of the red book this government has been using for guidance, a bible as one might call it.
This publication is the result of the efforts and contributions of tens of thousands of people over a two year period. It is a beautiful example that for the first time in the history of this country the democratic process was put into operation prior to an election over a very lengthy period of time. It produced an enlightened document and provides us with the guidance we so require in order to guide this country out of the turmoil it is presently in.
I would like to point out, as the member for Lincoln has pointed out, that the democratic process we have been using is very time consuming. It is true. If this was a dictatorial system, we would have an answer immediately. Because we adhere to basic, democratic principles, we will always listen to the people for guidance. That is exactly what we have been doing with the document pertaining to our social network and social services.
As a result, from coast to coast, a multitude of strategies have been put into operation. We are, as our eloquent speaker has already pointed out, receiving the type of guidance that is required to be sure that no one is suffering because of drastic changes in financial support or human resources or any kind of policy whatsoever.
Mr. Valeri: Madam Speaker, I can only repeat once more that the whole process is about listening first and then leading. That is the leadership Canadians have asked for and that is the type of leadership they will receive from the government.
Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Vegreville, Ref.): Madam Speaker, I too have a question or some comments for the hon. member. We have seen two types of consultation take place in regard to this process. The first type is members of Parliament consulting directly with their constituents. Certainly Reform has been doing that for some time. I am pleased to see that the Liberals have picked that part up. That consultation has been very useful.
The second type of consultation has been through the human resources development committee. That is the travelling road show. It has been much less successful. I liked the hon. members comments on that.
A young person approached me in my constituency. He said he had been invited first of all to Calgary to meet with the minister to discuss advanced education on less than 24 hours' notice. This young person was then invited to the meeting in Edmonton. He was cancelled from the meeting in Edmonton. The person who told him he was cancelled said to him that the committee is in a shambles.
I would like the hon. member to comment on that.
Mr. Valeri: Madam Speaker, I want to address the hon. member's comment on consultation. Certainly he realizes that he does not have a monopoly on consulting with his constituents. The Liberal Party has been doing that for some time.
As far as the committee is concerned and whether it is working properly, nearly 500 requests came into the committee for the western portion of its trip. The committee is functioning. Canadians have an opportunity to appear before the committee and I encourage more to do so.
Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Lincoln for his speech this afternoon. Obviously the hon. member has a firm grasp on the importance and relevance of this issue to Canadians and to his constituents in the riding of Lincoln.
As far as the member from Windbag, Saskatchewan, what is it, Gasbag, Saskatchewan, I have to say that I find it somewhat humorous if not ironic, maybe even hypocritical, when we hear the reforming social security part of this agenda for growth here in this great country of Canada-
Mr. McClelland: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My hon. colleague opposite referred to Windbag, Saskatchewan. I wonder if the Chair might ask the member opposite to be a bit more explicit. Did he mean Windbag, Alberta?
Mr. Keyes: If there was time allowed, I would get into much detail on this hon. member's riding. As I said, the hypocrisy I see here is that we are talking about reforming social security as part of our agenda for growth.
This is a concept that the Reform Party does not quite grasp. We know the Prime Minister, the Minister for Human Resources Development, all Canadians, those in my riding of Hamilton West, or in the riding of Lincoln, where the hon. member hails from, realize that these programs put together will put people and jobs together. The programs we have today do not do that well enough and we are making sure that it will be working for Canadians in the future.
Mr. Valeri: Madam Speaker, I certainly concur with what my hon. friend has said in that there is much need for reform of these policies. These policies have been in existence for a long time, for decades. Canadians are looking for more effective ways of dealing with these policies. This reform process and the consultation process will point us in that direction.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
The question that brought me here tonight is can the Minister of Transport advise the House how he justifies denying any Canadian the right of due process? It is not the first time I have asked that question and it is not the first time that the minister has declined to answer.
The minister instead came up with his usual type of rhetoric. One of the comments he made, which of course I have heard before, is that I want to help my friends, that I want to help my Tory friends.
I would deal with that the same way I would deal with it when it has been brought up before. Only 18.5 per cent of those on the Pearson consortium were known to have close Tory ties, while over 50 per cent are known to have close Liberal ties. I have never heard the minister suggest that I am out to help the Liberals, although God knows they could use some help.
What I would ask instead is with regard to due process. How can he justify denying it to any Canadian?
Had the Pearson consortium been made up of American companies or Mexican companies, the minister would have had to give them the right of due process because it is guaranteed under the North American free trade agreement signed by the Liberal government.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister rose in this House in early October and stated for the record that José Salinas Mendoza, a sexual predator who has been deported from this country and is back again now claiming refugee status, has the right to due process.
I had a conversation on air with the chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport who says that is not valid, that is criminal law and we are not dealing in Pearson with criminal law, while the NAFTA argument was civil law.
Civil law or criminal law notwithstanding, it seems that everyone including foreign companies and illegal immigrants have the right of due process. Why will the minister not grant that to Canadians?
This could set a dangerous, unbelievable precedent for all kinds of different companies and organizations throughout Canada that have contracts with government.
Where is the actual break point between what happens with Pearson and what happens with any other company in Canada that has a contract with the government?
The minister said in answer to my question, an alleged answer, that if this thing ends up in the court the court could find that the contract was valid and entered into in good faith, in which case damages would be awarded, and we do not want to pay that money, so consequently we will ban them from the court.
He also said Reform has no respect for the court or the law. On the contrary, we have respect for both of those institutions and, more important, we have respect for all Canadians and their right to due process.
I will repeat my question to the minister, hopefully to get an answer. How do they justify denying the right of due process to any Canadian or Canadian company?
Mr. George S. Rideout (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I stand here amazed by the member's approach to this issue. The real question must be is anybody on the top side of God's green earth prepared to defend this deal on its merits? Is the member defending the way the members of the now defunct Conservative administration set up this deal? Do we understand from this that the member is defending the consortium's right to $445 million of taxpayers' money when it did not put one new nail in the terminal, did not paint a wall and did not pour a drop of concrete?
It is up to Parliament to decide on the public policy and to defend the interest of taxpayers. Out of curiosity, is there anyone else on that side of the House who would believe that we should increase the deficit by $445 million in one fell swoop?
The Reform Party decries the length of time it takes to go through due process for individuals, wanting us to tell judges what they should be doing. When it comes to taking care of the taxpayer, after this government reviewed the process and public policy questions on this deal, the Reform Party cries for due process.
Sure, the member wants due process for his new found Tory friends who are anxious to protect their claim for $445 million of taxpayers' money. People on the west coast must be reeling trying to keep up with the Reform Party and its new found ties to the erstwhile targets in the Senate. They have had the experience of watching their members embrace a $445 million Tory trip to the trough and now we have the incredible sight of the Reformers in bed with their Tory bosom buddies in the other place taking a final fling up the coast.
I can promise that we will be vigilant in protecting the taxpayers' interests especially in light of the apparent abandonment of any fiscal responsibility by the party opposite.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu): Pursuant to Standing Order 38(5), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 6.36 p.m.)