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- Ms. Meredith 9311
- Mr. Gray 9311
- Mr. Williams 9311
- Consideration resumed of budget motion 9312
- Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge) 9312
- Mr. Cummins 9314
- Mr. Schmidt 9314
- Mr. Cummins 9315
- Mr. White (North Vancouver) 9316
- Mr. Schmidt 9317
- Mrs. Gaffney 9317
- Mr. White (North Vancouver) 9319
- Mr. O'Reilly 9319
- Mr. Bonin 9319
- Mr. Mayfield 9319
- Mrs. Hickey 9320
- Mrs. Barnes 9320
- Mr. Godin 9320
- Mrs. Sheridan 9320
- Mr. Schmidt 9320
- Mrs. Guay 9321
- Mr. English 9321
- Mr. Harvard 9321
- Mr. Gilmour 9321
- Mr. Dumas 9322
- Mr. Telegdi 9322
- Mr. Serré 9322
- Mr. Epp 9322
- Ms. McLaughlin 9322
- Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 9323
- Ms. Copps 9323
- Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 9323
- Ms. Copps 9323
- Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 9323
- Ms. Copps 9324
- Mr. Marchand 9324
- Ms. Copps 9324
- Mr. Marchand 9324
- Ms. Copps 9324
- Mr. Morrison 9324
- Mr. Young 9325
- Mr. Morrison 9325
- Mr. Young 9325
- Mr. Morrison 9325
- Mr. Young 9325
- Mr. Loubier 9325
- Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard) 9326
- Mr. Loubier 9326
- Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard) 9326
- Mr. Solberg 9326
- Mr. Jackson 9326
- Mr. Solberg 9326
- Mr. Jackson 9327
- Mr. Crête 9327
- Ms. Copps 9327
- Mr. Crête 9327
- Ms. Copps 9327
- Mr. Williams 9327
- Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard) 9327
- Mr. Williams 9328
- Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard) 9328
- Mr. Laurin 9328
- Mr. Pettigrew 9328
- Mr. Laurin 9328
- Mr. Pettigrew 9328
- Mrs. Parrish 9328
- Mr. Volpe 9328
- Mr. Leroux (Shefford) 9329
- Mr. Gray 9329
- Mr. Leroux (Shefford) 9329
- Mr. Gray 9329
- Mr. Cummins 9329
- Mr. Robichaud 9329
- Mr. Cummins 9329
- Mr. Robichaud 9329
- Mr. Dubé 9329
- Mr. Volpe 9330
- Ms. Meredith 9330
- Mrs. Robillard 9330
- Mrs. Gaffney 9330
- Mr. Pettigrew 9330
- Mr. Gilmour 9330
- Ms. Copps 9330
- Ms. McLaughlin 9331
- Ms. Copps 9331
- Mr. Zed 9331
- Mr. Peters 9331
- Mr. Volpe 9331
- Mr. Zed 9331
- Bill C-91. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 9332
- Mr. Robichaud 9332
- Bill C-392. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 9332
- Mr. Dhaliwal 9332
- Bill C-393. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 9332
- Mr. Dhaliwal 9332
- Bill C-394. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 9332
- Mr. Dhaliwal 9332
- Mr. Harb 9332
- Mr. Bonin 9332
- Mr. Bonin 9332
- Mr. Bonin 9332
- Mr. Bonin 9332
- Ms. McLaughlin 9332
- Mr. Cummins 9332
- Mr. Cummins 9333
- Mr. Cummins 9333
- Mrs. Barnes 9333
- Mrs. Barnes 9333
- Mr. Zed 9333
- Consideration resumed of budget motion 9333
- Mr. Maloney 9333
- Mr. Mayfield 9335
- Mr. Zed 9335
- Motion 9335
- (Motion agreed to.) 9336
- Mr. Volpe 9336
- (Motion agreed to.) 9336
- Consideration resumed of budget motion 9336
- Mr. White (North Vancouver) 9336
- Mr. Dumas 9336
- Mr. Leroux (Shefford) 9337
- Mr. Dubé 9339
- Mr. Telegdi 9339
- Mr. Dubé 9342
- Mr. White (North Vancouver) 9343
- Mr. Telegdi 9345
- Ms. Meredith 9346
- Mr. White (North Vancouver) 9347
- Mr. Crête 9347
- Division on motion deferred 9350
HOUSE OF COMMONS
The House met at 10 a.m.
This morning I was told that I would not be allowed into a preview of a press conference with department officials giving details of proposed changes to legislation or regulations given by the minister. Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer you to Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 14 where it states that the Senate and the House of Commons have the power or right to punish actions, which, while not appearing to be breaches of any specific privilege, are offences against their authority or dignity. Such actions, though often called breaches of privilege should more properly be considered contempts.
I rise because I feel that the actions of the department of immigration have been in contempt of Parliament.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, it is the practice of this place to include opposition members when detailed briefings are given on changes to regulations. I feel that the attempt by the department to deny me access until after the media had received the information is to deny me my privilege to information.
It is time that we as members of Parliament object to departmental officials placing the needs and desires of the media ahead of members of Parliament and the House.
I would like you to consider seriously that this is a contempt of Parliament and of my privileges as a member of Parliament. The media was given information that was going to be denied to me until two hours after the fact.
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I understand the hon. member's feelings and I sympathize with them.
From the point of view of parliamentary privilege I would ask you to consider whether what she is saying applies to matters that are extra-parliamentary or non-parliamentary. We are not talking about a sitting of the House of Commons. We are not talking about a sitting of one of its committees. We are talking about a meeting that officials decided to have with members of the press.
If the hon. member is right, does this mean that any MP has a right to go to any meeting officials have with the press or with interest groups, et cetera? Is there no right on the part of the officials, or the minister for that matter, to say that they are entitled to have under some circumstances what amount to private meetings?
While I understand the member's desire to be informed and it is commendable in terms of what she wants to do as critic for her party, I respectfully ask the Chair to consider whether what she is complaining about is, in fact, something parliamentary, raising all the rules and considerations of parliamentary privilege.
The Deputy Speaker: I wonder if the hon. member who raised the point of privilege would be kind enough to indicate where the meeting was held and who ultimately was present, who arranged the meeting and that kind of detail.
Ms. Meredith: Mr. Speaker, I will. The meeting was called by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration in the press building across the street on Wellington. It was a briefing of the details of the changes to the immigrant investors program. When we asked if we could attend, the department told us that we would not be allowed to attend and that I would be given the same briefing by the same departmental officials after question period, which would be more than two hours after the detailed briefing had been given to the media. The time of the briefing was nine o'clock this morning.
Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, first I would like to respond to the words of the government House leader who talked about private meetings and how they relate to this matter. I cannot imagine how the government House leader would think that a briefing of the media could in any way be interpreted as a private meeting.
I would like to draw the attention of the House to Erskine May's 21st edition, page 115. It states that an offence for contempt may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence. It is, therefore, impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to contempt, the part punished for such an offence being of its nature discretionary.
These situations happen far too often. I refer to Commons Debates of November 20, 1996, at page 6505, when I stated in the House: ``That I had been advised that tomorrow''-being November 21-``members of Parliament will not be given a copy of the report by the royal commission on aboriginal affairs. It will be given to the press, to the media, but not to members of Parliament.
You, Mr. Speaker, in the Chair replied that I would appreciate the word ``inchoate'' because it would not happen until the following day. Because I raised it as a matter of privilege, the government went out of its way to ensure that a few copies of the report of the royal commission were delivered in order that my question of privilege would be negated before the offence took place.
The meeting was at 9 a.m. it is now 10.10 a.m. Therefore I would state that the contempt has taken place and must be ruled on accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to draw your attention to a situation of some time ago where I raised a question of privilege regarding questions I have had on the Order Paper for almost two years. There have been some quotes in the newspapers-
The Deputy Speaker: I do not think that is the matter we are dealing with at the moment. If the hon. member has anything further to say on the precise question that has been raised by his colleague, please deal with that.
Mr. Williams: Mr. Speaker, I was pointing out that the issue of contempt has arisen in this area on numerous occasions. Government staff have been quoted in the media as saying that they have no intention of responding to my question on the Order Paper. These types of offences are happening far too often. Now we have another one this morning from the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley.
I hope you take the matter seriously and report back to the House that there has been contempt.
Mr. Gray: Mr. Speaker, in a constructive way I would like to advance a point that had not occurred to me when I spoke. The premises in question are not parliamentary buildings. They are occupied by the press gallery which I think as part of the traditional autonomy of the gallery runs the press conferences in the press theatre.
It may be that the hon. member has a complaint to the executive of the press gallery which manages the press conferences or briefings. In recent years it has become more strict about how many MPs and their staff it will allow even into the press gallery theatre to listen to open press conferences.
I am just in a constructive way adding a fact that I would have put on the table if I had thought of it when I spoke earlier. Also, do the hon. member and her colleagues intend to say that I will have a question of privilege if I am not allowed into their confidential briefings when they prepare for question period? Mr. Speaker, if that is the case I would be happy to ask you to take that into account as well.
The Deputy Speaker: I am going to reserve on this matter but I will allow the hon. member to speak for a third time on the matter that has just been raised by our colleague across the floor.
Ms. Meredith: Mr. Speaker, it would be very tempting to do what the House leader of the government suggested.
To clarify the matter, because we felt the Department of Citizenship and Immigration did not have the right to deny us access, we did follow up by phoning the press gallery. We were told that the department did not have the right to deny me access to that building.
The point of my concern is that we had departmental officials trying to prevent members of Parliament from getting information at the same time as the media was getting information on the details of government regulations. My objection is to the treatment I was given as a member of Parliament by the staff in the office of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The Deputy Speaker: I thank the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, the hon. government House leader and the member for St. Albert. The Chair will reserve on this and will get back as quickly as it can with a ruling on the matter.
Mr. Ray Speaker (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on the 1997 budget. I will be splitting my time with one of my colleagues, so in my 10 minutes I will talk about an issue that has aggravated western Canadians for years: the endless attempt by successive governments, Tory and Liberal, to buy Quebec's love with large amounts of federal largesse.
To understand the source of this irritation I will point out a few blatant examples from this and recent Parliaments. Second, I will talk about why successive Liberal and Tory governments have felt compelled to perpetuate this habit of favouring Quebec to the detriment of other provinces and other territories. I would like to spend my last few minutes outlining why my Reform colleagues and I feel there is a better way to address the Quebec question.
On the first point, I have watched this dance play itself out between Ottawa and Quebec for the last 30 years. Quebecers say they are unhappy with the federal system and if something is not done they will leave.
Instead of sitting down and addressing Quebec's concerns, the federal politicians in Ottawa are consistent in trying to buy its love instead of dealing with the matter. Here are a few examples.
To put it bluntly, in dollar terms Quebecers benefit disproportionately from the federation itself. For example, Quebec accounts for only 25 per cent of the Canadian population yet it receives30 per cent of all federal transfers to provinces.
The equalization program is supposed to assist the poorest provinces to provide services to their people. Quebec, the fourth richest province in Canada, receives more equalization dollars than any other provinces. It receives more than the four Atlantic provinces combined.
The separatists will dispute these facts and claim that Quebec pays more to Ottawa in taxes than it receives in transfers and program spending. This is not true. The fact is that Quebec paid22 per cent of total federal income tax, which is less than its 25 per cent share of the population and considerably less than its 30 per cent share of federal transfer dollars.
This systemic bias in favour of Quebec is not what really irritates western Canadians. Rather, what galls my constituents in Lethbridge, in southern Alberta and in other places in western Canada is the blatant political pork which successive federal administrations, Liberals and Tories, have shovelled into Quebec.
Let us take some examples. The infrastructure program was supposed to be for roads and sewers, basic infrastructure. The very first infrastructure project announced by the government was a convention centre for Quebec City. Do we need another example? How about the canoe museum in the Prime Minister's home town of Shawinigan? Then there were business subsidies. Last weekend it was $600,000 for a hotel in Shawinigan in the Prime Minister's riding. The next day it was an $8.1 million sock factory for Montreal, with the taxpayers of Canada footing the bill.
How about Bombardier? Over the past 15 years total federal subsidies to this giant corporation totalled $1.2 billion: 1.2 billion of taxpayers' dollars to a company that earned $400 million in profit last year. It had a profit. It could have gone to the market and got the money on its own without the intervention and the handout of the Liberal government in Ottawa.
The final example I would like to use is the allocation of federal funds to assist provinces with the settlement of immigrants and refugees. Under the terms of a deal signed during the Mulroney administration Quebec was guaranteed $90 million per year for that program. In turn Quebec agreed to accept 25 per cent of Canadian immigrants. Quebec has not honoured that agreement. Today Quebec only accepts 12 per cent of Canada's immigrants but continues to receive the $90 million. That is wrong. That represents roughly 30 per cent of the total funds allocated to that program.
To illustrate this geographically, British Columbia receives about $1,000 in federal funds for each immigrant. For the same immigrant in the province of Quebec the allocation is $3,327.
My constituents want to know why there is a double standard. The reason is that successive Liberal and Tory governments-and this one is as bad as the rest-have refused to address the legitimate concerns of Quebecers about the federal system. Their selfish refusal to abandon the status quo and make real change means the federal government has nothing to offer Quebecers except federal largesse. Instead of renewing the federal union to keep them in Canada the government tries to buy their loyalty instead.
It is a losing proposition. After three decades of overspending the federal government simply does not have enough money left. More important, people's loyalty or love for the nation cannot be bought with government money.
The bottom line is that Quebecers are unhappy with the way the nation works and have been for some time. Quebecers object to a domineering federal government that intrudes into provincial jurisdiction. They object to an elitist status quo that vests powers to the Prime Minister and his respective cabinet which not allow them to elect their own senators or appoint their own lieutenant governors.
It is ironic that many other Canadians object to exactly the same things, especially western Canadians. As my leader said last week in Oshawa, Quebec sent 50 BQ members to Parliament and western Canada sent 50 Reform members to Parliament because both parties articulated the contempt felt by Canadians toward the political status quo. The big difference is that Reformers offered a plan to rebuild the federation while the separatists in the House are merely offering to tear it down.
What is the new path Reformers would like to offer Canadians? It should reach the ears of some Liberals who sit rather deaf in the House. What would we like to do?
We would rebalance the federation by transferring control of jurisdictions such as resources, training, culture, housing and tourism back to the provinces where they belong. We would forbid any new encroachments on provincial jurisdiction through use of federal spending power. We would replace federal cash transfers with a tax point system of transfers to prevent future governments from slashing such transfers the way the present government has done. We would reform our democratic institutions to allow for election of senators, freer votes in the House of Commons, provincial input into judicial appointments and much more. We would give the final word on any constitutional amendment to the people of Canada in the form of a national referendum.
The bottom line is that if the next federal government continues to resist fundamental systemic changes to our federation Quebecers will more than likely choose to leave. The concern in western Canada will continue.
If, however, the next government commits itself to real change and offers all Canadians including Quebecers a new deal then the Canadian federation would finally be placed on the foundation it needs to lead us in a confident and united way into the 21st century.
As we move into the possibility of a spring election it is incumbent upon the current members of Parliament to consider that it is easy to play political games and to seek re-election for the sake of having power in the country. However, if parliamentarians and those going into the next election look at their responsibilities and their goals and are unable to say they have a new plan to build a Canada for all Canadians rather than just for a political party, we are doing a major disservice to our history. That will be the challenge of the 1997 election.
Can the Liberal Party and the Tory Party step over the bridge and away from their continuous goal for years of seeking power and of handing out federal government largesse to Quebec and maybe to other provinces just to get votes which allow them to stay in power? Can they cross over that bridge and change their ways and take responsibility for building a better nation? It is time they tried.
Mr. John Cummins (Delta, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, as my colleague suggested, Ottawa seems consumed with appeasing Quebec. Federal funds flow into that province without reason. At the same time provincial policies drive money out of that province.
This enrages many people in the province of British Columbia and weakens the attachment of many of them to Canada. Does the favouritism shown to Quebec strengthen the national fabric of Canada?
Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge): Mr. Speaker, favouritism has been going on for years. Federal largesse has been handed out in an unplanned way to Quebec, the maritimes, Ontario and even to the west in an attempt to buy votes. That is one of the observations I made with respect to the current Liberal government.
When the Liberals were elected in 1993 it was over a year before we saw a budget plan. We heard about studies. We were told they were thinking about things. They were delaying. They were going to hear witnesses. They were going to do all kinds of things but they were not going to implement a plan.
What happened in the 1994-95 budget? The Minister of Finance was not ready with a plan. We lost a year in which we could have reduced the deficit significantly. We could have dealt with it when Canadians were in favour of that type of action. We had to wait until the budget of 1995-96 for the Liberals to do something.
As long as the government has as its priority handing out money to Quebec to get political support and to maintain political power, Canadians will be discontent whether they live in B.C., Alberta or the maritimes. Somewhere along the line that approach to government must stop.
Mr. Werner Schmidt (Okanagan Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Lethbridge mentioned a lot of things about Quebec, the Constitution, the security of Canada and unity. Those are very significant issues. However another area that has been of concern to me has to do with the promise to create jobs.
Could the member give us some examples of measures in the last two budgets which gave encouragement to young people in the area of job creation?
The Reform Party, with its fresh start program, is telling young people that there is hope. There is a vision for Canada which will give them job security, stability and hope. It will give them the things they want for their families and their future.
Could he say a few words about that?
Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge): Mr. Speaker, I reiterate a point I made earlier. If the Liberal government had been elected with a plan to reduce the deficit and bring forward a balanced budget during the 35th Parliament, there would have been a greater amount of stability in the Canadian economy and a greater amount of confidence in the nation.
The 1997-98 budget could have been a balanced budget.
If that happened, the confidence of the investors in Canada would have been greater. We would have had investment in all kinds of small and medium size business across this nation.
The consumers of Canada who would have been more secure in their jobs would have been ready to spend money and buy. However, the problem is confidence is not there. The Minister of Finance stands in the House and says interest rates are low.
We remember what happened in the 1970s when interest rates ballooned into the 18 to 23 per cent range and there was a floating interest rate that a small company or as a small businessman or a farmer took out. It devastated their business. It took all the cash flow and we are scared that that could happen again. This government has not come to grips with its finances. The confidence level in this country is horrible even though it has been glazed over by a good media communications plan by the Minister of Finance.
That is not going to hold water very long. If the interest rates in United States start to increase, we know the Canadian interest rates are going to follow. That, in turn, is only going to reduce the confidence of the investor and the consumer.
That leaves our young people, 25 per cent between the ages of 18 and 25, who are now currently unemployed in a very unstable condition. We must deal with our budget in a more responsible way.
Mr. John Cummins (Delta, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, four years ago I came to this place excited at the prospect of trying to affect some change here. At that time, I shared the enthusiasm of my fellow Reformers for fiscal prudence and for promoting the notion of fiscal prudence and some sort of social responsibility. As well, I came with an interest in the fishery, especially the fishery on the west coast.
Canada's fisheries represent a valuable national resource. The responsibility for that resource is vested in the federal government. It is a constitutional responsibility, one that the federal government cannot ignore. Yet this government has failed miserably in that regard.
It has ignored the best advice of the Supreme Court of Canada. It has ignored countless participants and shareholders in the fisheries who have attempted to offer good and solid advice to the government. Most curiously, it was ignored by a former Speaker of the House whom this government appointed to conduct a review of the Fraser River fishery in 1994.
Why I bring this up in the context of the budget is that the federal department of fisheries has a budget this year approaching $1.2 billion. We are not talking peanuts here. We are talking about a huge budget, one which is not spent wisely and one which puts this valuable natural resource at risk.
Mr. Fraser in his comments suggested the same: ``DFO must formulate a strategy and a plan that will marshal the personnel, facilities, equipment and communications systems needed to re-establish a credible enforcement deterrent. The first step in the process must be a proper assessment of what is required at minimum to ensure adequate enforcement. This cannot be achieved in the context of a budget exercise''.
What the former Speaker was saying was that when there is a department like fisheries and oceans with a constitutional responsibility to protect a national resource, we cannot simply take the accountant's view and start slashing at the budget. We first have to determine what is needed to protect that resource and go from there. In managing the budget this government has not done that.
That is not to say, necessarily, that we are standing here saying that more money must be spent. What we are saying is that a proper assessment must be taken of what is needed. We must ensure that the moneys spent are spent wisely.
In 1994 the government reaffirmed its support for something known as the aboriginal fishing strategy. This was a strategy that established a racially segregated fishery on the west coast which the previous government said was an obligation as a result of a Supreme Court decision and Sparrow. This of course was false.
Nevertheless, a mid-term review was conducted of this program in 1996. In that mid-term review it was noted that reallocation of money from within DFO to the aboriginal fishing strategy starved the real needs of the department such as enforcement.
What we have here is an abuse of priorities. Where the key priority must be enforcing regulations and laws and protecting the resource, the government in its wisdom took money from that critical area and put it into an area which came about as a result of a political need rather than a constitutional need.
Within a year of coming to power, the government reaffirmed its support for this aboriginal fishing strategy and approved the continuation of AFS commercial sales projects and allocated money away from key enforcement areas. This is totally unacceptable.
DFO auditors went over the results of the mid-term review and they noted two things. The first thing they said is that it was difficult to get an overall sense of what had been accomplished through the expenditure of almost $100 million over four years. That $100 million was spent on this aboriginal fishing strategy.
The auditors went on to say that most of the examples used in the document contained no hard data, thus they had no way of knowing the magnitude of the project, whether it was cost effective or how the results were determined.
The government asked Mr. Matkin, former head of the B.C. business council, to conduct a review of this aboriginal fishing strategy. The review was completed toward the end of January and
the government promised that this review would be made public. We are still waiting for the publication of that review.
At the same time as we are waiting, it is preventing the government from doing its job and that is preparing for the upcoming fishing season. In a draft of the Matkin report, Mr. Matkin noted that these pilot sales programs were in a rut and that something must be done. Yet again we are waiting and waiting for something to come about here.
The government further spent money on another study, a study which would deal with the coast wide implications of using the Nisga'a treaty as a model for treaties which would be established coast wide and the impact of using that treaty as a model, especially with this fisheries component. In other words, what is the cost of replicating the Nisga'a treaty coast wide to the commercial fishing industry?
Over a year ago we applied under access to information to get a copy of that study. It took 12 months. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in its wisdom, refused to release anything to us, not even the cover page of that 98 page document. We are still working through access to information to get it. What does the department have to fear from the public understanding of what it is doing and what the cost is going to be in settling these treaties?
My colleague from Fraser Valley East has also asked the department for a study it did on the Sto:lo and their budget. He still has not been able to get that. There was a May report, again commissioned by the department. We are waiting for action on that. It is yet to happen. This report was delivered last December and we are still waiting.
As I said, the department spends about $1.2 billion a year. There is no denying that the problems it faces are complex. Unfortunately the department has not measured up to the job. Time is running out for Parliament to examine the workings of this department and yet examine it must.
Last fall a federal court judge accused the department of a litany of corrupt behaviour which included vote rigging and sham consultative process. This had reference to dealing with the establishment of a halibut quota system on the west coast.
The federal court judge noted: ``A DFO official's unwillingness to face the obvious meaning of his own words caused the court to doubt the reliability of the evidence offered in defence of the minister's, DFO's, and his own position''. This is a tremendous indictment of the department. The judge went on to say: ``Rules were simply broken because it was necessary to do so to reach the planned objective''.
The minister has refused to this point to dissociate himself from the action of the official named by the court.
If the federal court of Canada can come down with an indictment of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans with the intensity it did last fall, why should I or why should the Canadian public have any confidence in the ability of this department to manage this huge budget? It is an issue that needs to be addressed and addressed quickly by this House.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I found the member's speech very interesting because it dealt with an area of waste in the budget where there seems to be no control and no accountability, and the auditor general is very concerned about spending in the whole range of activities of the Indian affairs department.
I would like to ask the member about fishing rights and the cost of those exercises, those legal situations that are occurring on the Fraser River now. I realize he may not be able to speak in much detail about cases. Has he any idea of the cost to Canadian taxpayers for the constant intervention of officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in enforcing what are probably illegal regulations that give fishing rights to a specific group over another group? Yet these officials will keep spending taxpayers' money and forcing regulations that could be illegal and then not carrying them through to get a court ruling to actually prove whether they are legal.
Mr. Cummins: Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for the question. The cost to the Canadian taxpayer for these court cases has been absolutely remarkable. We know that just the operation of this fishery which is operating beyond the law with the consent of the minister has cost Canadian taxpayers well over $100 million in the last few years.
The actual legal costs to the government I cannot recall at the moment. I do know that industry has spent over $1 million of its own money representing itself in an intervener status in pursuing these cases through to the Supreme Court of Canada. That is a huge amount of money.
What is most serious about it is in focusing its energies on this issue, the department is not able to manage the resource for other fisheries. I have an example at hand here right now which we are currently petitioning the minister about. That has to do with the eulachon fishery in the Fraser River. It is a small fishery. There are probably only 25 to 35 participants in it in any one year. This year there were 20 tonnes allocated to that eulachon fishery on the Fraser River.
Because the department could not get a management plan in place to operate this fishery it shut it down this year. It shut it down in spite of the fact that the participants committed that they would pay for an observer to monitor the fishery so that it would not go over the total allowable catch and so that it would not cost the
department any money. Yet the department has refused. It has shut down that small fishery this year and said it cannot fish because the government cannot get a management plan in place.
How outrageous is that? It is like saying to a farmer ``you cannot plant your crops because there may be a snowstorm in the Fraser Canyon that is going to prevent the trains from getting to the coast''. It is absolutely outrageous. Yet this is the kind of thing that goes on in this department time after time. Time permitting, I could give the House example after example just as outrageous as this one.
Mr. Werner Schmidt (Okanagan Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would ask my hon. colleague to explain an area that he probably has not touched on directly, but I think ties into the categories of fisheries which have apparently been created.
I wonder whether within this mismanagement, this lack of planning, there is some sort of perpetuation of inequality among Canadians, of one group of Canadians getting one kind of advantage at the expense of others.
In the time that is left, I wonder if the member could talk about that a little bit because I think equality before the law is a very significant issue. It attacks the very unity of the country.
Mr. Cummins: Mr. Speaker, no doubt the inequality promoted by the aboriginal fishing strategy has driven wedges between communities which have been able to get along for the last 100 years. There was harmony, people worked and played together and now wedges have been driven between these communities.
The industry has no faith in the department. In fact, it has been treated better by the courts than by DFO in the past. Many in the industry say it is preferable to litigate because the courts hear and take into account the arguments of non-aboriginals when dealing with the issue, something the department has refused to do.
Mrs. Beryl Gaffney (Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on February 18, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, presented the government's 1997 budget, its fourth budget. I am pleased to speak on this budget. I will be sharing my time with the member of Parliament from Erie, Ontario.
It is a budget for all Canadians. It is a budget that works. It is a budget that stays the course. It stays the course in a manner that is seeing the deficit fall, but remains true to the ideals that Canadians hold dear. Through this budget the government has not only ensured but strengthened the social safety net for this generation of Canadians and for generations of Canadians to come.
The 1997 budget proposes selective tax cuts for low income families, charities, the disabled, students and workers pursuing higher education, and for parents saving for their children's future educations. But it is not yet feasible to consider a broad based tax cut. When the government does so, it will ensure that a tax cut is affordable and sustainable. Broad based tax cuts would be too costly at this time. They would require additional spending cuts or an increase in the deficit. Neither of these options are acceptable to the government.
The budget continues on the course of putting Canada's finances in order in a manner that is measured, deliberate and responsible. This is an approach that is giving Canadians control of their own finances.
Financial requirements will be eliminated by 1998-99. This means that the government will not have to borrow any new money from financial markets that year for the first time in 19 years. We are restoring self-sufficiency.
Keeping inflation low and progress in deficit reduction have paved the way for dramatic declines in Canada's interest rates. In the past three years Canadian short term rates have fallen close to 5.5 percentage points, the lowest levels in close to 35 years.
By creating a favourable economic environment, the government has enabled Canadians to save thousands of dollars a year on their mortgage payments and the benefits to small business have been even more dramatic. Let me give an example. On a $1 million loan with a 10-year amortization and monthly payments, a small business would save approximately $33,395 over comparable payments in 1995.
It is true that lower interest rates take time to stimulate the economy. However, developments in late 1996 show that the lower interest rates are beginning to stimulate growth. Let me give two examples. Housing sales soared in late 1996, stimulating strong gains in new home construction. This is very evident in the riding of Nepean. Sales of consumer goods have risen strongly, led by motor vehicle sales.
As demand has grown, so too has job creation. In the last five months 61,000 jobs have been created by the private sector, the majority of which are full time jobs.
The government is not alone in its optimism. It is shared by consumer, by businesses and by private forecasters alike. Consumer confidence has risen for four quarters in succession. Business confidence is at a record level with more businesses than ever believing that, now is a good time to invest.
Canadian forecasters expect the economy to grow by 3.3 per cent in 1997 and by nearly 3 per cent in 1998. They expect the economy to create between 300,000 and 350,000 jobs during 1997 with similar results in 1998. That is good news. Even international
forecasters are impressed with Canada's achievements. The OECD expects Canada and the U.K. to lead the G7 nations in growth for 1997 and it expects Canada alone to lead the G7 in job creation this year. The IMF also paints a rosy picture of Canada's economic outlook.
While the budget is helping to create a climate for long term jobs and growth, the government is also investing in immediate job creation, bridging the gap to the stronger growth that will result from lower interest rates. Through the Canadian infrastructure works program, the government has provided $2 billion in partnership with municipalities and provinces for $6 billion worth of investment in 12,000 different projects right across the country.
In the 1997 budget the government proposes to increase this commitment by an additional $425 million. When leveraged with municipal and provincial contributions, this could translate into approximately $1.8 billion worth of new investment and hence new jobs.
To further stimulate job growth, EI premium rates will be reduced by another 10 cents on January 1, 1998 and the new hires program will completely eliminate EI premiums this year for additional employees hired by almost 900,000 eligible small businesses. This reduction of payroll taxes will save both employers and employees, including those in Nepean, $1.7 billion in 1997. That is a very significant amount.
The budget invests in both the construction sector and needy households through a $50 million extension of the residential rehabilitation assistance program.
Tourism will get a further economic shot in the arm with a $15 million injection to the Canadian Tourism Commission. And $50 million to the Business Development Bank will help finance the private sector tourism infrastructure.
Neither is rural business forgotten. The 1997 budget provides $50 million to the Farm Credit Corporation to expand its capacity to support rural economic growth and diversification. Through the community access program, rural small businesses are being helped to plug into the Internet to the tune of $30 million over three years.
Another important initiative in the budget is the reduction of the paper burden for small business. Eligible businesses will be able to file quarterly rather than monthly. Then there are the budget measures that invest in long term job creation and growth. An important component of this long term strategy is the government's support for Canadian youth and for education and skills training.
In addition to the youth employment strategy, the funds for which were provided in the 1996 budget, federal assistance for higher education and skills enhancement will be enriched by $137 million in 1998-99. This allotment will grow to $275 million annually when the full impact of these measures come into effect.
Through the proposed education credit, the tuition credit and the carry forward of the unused portion of credits, the government has demonstrated its commitment to education. Students who need help repaying their loans will have their deferral period extended from 18 to 30 months. The loan repayment schedule will be tied directly to income in co-operation with interested provinces, lenders and other groups. The registered education savings plan contribution limit will double, and parents will be able to transfer unused RESP income into their RRSPs if their children do not pursue higher education.
No long term growth strategy would be complete without investment in innovation. Again, the 1997 budget proposes the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. One of the main budget initiatives, the foundation will help to modernize research infrastructure at Canadian post-secondary institutions and research hospitals in health, environment, science and engineering.
The foundation will help Canadians be at the leading edge of research and technology developments which keep our industries competitive and create the jobs of tomorrow. It will encourage the best and brightest Canadian researchers to stay in Canada. It will assist in generating the kind of technology oriented graduates the future workforce will require. With its vibrant high tech sector, benefits such as these will be invaluable to the Nepean high tech community. The foundation will develop partnerships among educational institutions, research hospitals, business and non-profit sectors, individual Canadians and the provinces which could trigger approximately $2 billion worth of spending in research infrastructure.
These initiatives are all important for the creation of jobs and growth. However, if we lost our compassion in the process it would not be worth the price. I want to stress that the government has not lost its compassion in its fight to bring down the deficit. That is evident in the budget proposals that sustain and strengthen the social safety net. Included among these measures is $300 million which will be spent over three years to improve the delivery of health services to Canadians.
These announcements address a number of recommendations made in the report by the National Forum on Health. That includes $150 million for a health transition fund to investigate new and better approaches to providing health care, $50 million allotted over three years for the Canada health information system and $100 million over three years in additional funding to the community action program for children and the Canada prenatal nutritional program.
The federal government is also providing support for medicare and other social programs through the Canada health and social transfer.
While health is of prime importance, so too is the need to ensure our children's successful passage into adulthood. That is why the budget proposal for a national child benefit system is a major step forward.
Under the national child benefit system, the federal government will introduce an enriched Canada child tax benefit, while the provinces and territories will redirect some of their spending into improved services and benefits for low income working families. The proposal includes a two-step enrichment of the current child tax benefit to create a new $6 billion Canada child tax benefit by July 1998.
Canadians with disabilities have also been addressed by the budget. As well, charities have not been ignored.
In conclusion, we are staying the course on deficit reduction. We are investing in short term and long term strategies to stimulate job creation and growth.
The Deputy Speaker: I am terribly sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but her time has expired.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the member talked about compassion and how wonderful the budget was because it had gone slow. I wonder if the member recognizes that presently the debt is $600 billion and the interest payment on that debt is about $50 billion, give or take, per year at present interest rates. If the interest rates go up by 1 per cent it will add $6 billion a year, 2 per cent will add $12 billion and 3 per cent will add $18 billion.
How compassionate will her go slow budget look when interest rates rise 3 per cent and we have to slash $18 billion more from social programs because her government went too slow?
Mrs. Gaffney: Mr. Speaker, obviously the Reform member was not listening to my speech. We are a very compassionate government. We have dealt with all of these programs in a most compassionate way.
The deficit has to be reduced first. Once it is reduced then we can start on the debt. Until we get the annual operating budget in order, there is no way we can start on the annual debt.
He is quite correct in stating that if interest rates rise and if inflation rises, it would certainly hurt our ability to reduce our indebtedness, both through the annual operating deficit and the debt.
We are quite confident that we have our house in order. Interest rates are down and inflation is under control. Obviously, we are at the mercy of international markets. We hope that what he says will not happen. I really see it as being hypothetical.
Mr. John O'Reilly (Victoria-Haliburton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for her fine approach to the budget and the informative speech which she gave.
I wonder if she could elaborate a little on measures for the disabled which are in the budget.
Mrs. Gaffney: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to speak on persons with disabilities as I did not have time to do it in my speech. The proposed measures in the budget will allocate $230 million over three years to assist the disabled.
The list of expenses eligible for the medical expense credit will be broadened. We will eliminate the $5,000 limit on the deduction for attendant care expenses for disabled earners. Audiologists will be allowed to certify eligibility for the disability tax credit.
The definition of a preferred beneficiary of a trust will be broadened to include adults who are dependent on others because of mental or physical infirmity. The customs tariff will be changed to provide duty free entry for goods designed for use in this area. I could go on and on.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS[English]
We congratulate the pages and we thank them for organizing a fun evening. We also thank the fans who provided the moral support and entertainment between periods.
I would not want to end this statement before recognizing a key figure in the page victory, the referee, our hon. colleague, the government whip.
* * *
In Quesnel and district there are only 44 hospital beds for a population of 25,000 and the sick and suffering are being cared for in the hallways. Unfortunately the Liberals do not seem to care.
While people were hurting they chose to give $221,500 to the Society for Canoe Championships. While people were hurting they chose to give $734,766 to the Majestic Fur Association. While people were hurting they chose to give thousands of dollars to build golf courses, ski hills and club houses.
Canadians believe health care and human life are more important than new golf courses and canoe championships. That is why Reform will reinvest $4 billion into health care and education. We will show compassion to the suffering and we will make the needs of the sick and hurting our top priority.
* * *
Its proud and rich heritage will be celebrated this year during the Cabot 500 celebration when thousands of tourists from around the world will visit the city as Cabot's replica sailing ship, the Matthew, makes its historic landing on June 24.
The harbour clean up is slated to begin as quickly as possible. It is something I have been working toward since I first took office. I commend Premier Brian Tobin's efforts to take this vital step toward addressing a growing environmental concern surrounding the future of the St. John's harbour.
* * *
As a legislator and as a woman I take offence at the Reform member for Beaver River joking about gender equality in the House of Commons, that it would spell trouble at certain times of the month. She said: ``What would happen if we were all PMSed the same week''? I personally had a hot flash when I read this report and it was not hormonally induced.
Women definitely have a place in the House. We work hard and effectively every day of the month for the betterment of our legislature, our constituencies and society.
I now know what Reform women say. I shudder to think what Reform men think.
* * *[Translation]
The public will not be fooled. The government is clearly doing everything it can to try to patch up its defence minister's mistakes. In fact, the Senate committee will be both judge and judged. Think of all the attempts to cover up the truth that have been made under the Conservatives and the Liberals.
We will recall that documents were falsified, and others shredded or otherwise destroyed. We also recall the ``search day'', the big scramble for lost documents. A real farce.
What we want, and all Canadians want, is the truth. Again, the Liberal government, by refusing to extend the mandate of the Létourneau commission, is undermining whatever little credibility it has left.
* * *[English]
Women in all professions have long struggled against the misconception that they are biologically incapable of performing well in traditionally male dominated occupations, accused of being victims of their hormones or too emotional for serious jobs.
Here we have the House leader for the Reform Party perpetuating this myth with her crude remarks about PMS making women unfit for the House of Commons.
My Reform Party colleagues find this wildly amusing. I hope they find their dismal electoral results equally funny.
* * *
Last night in Lausanne, Switzerland, Canadian figure skating champion Elvis Stojko reclaimed his world championship title, his third in four years. Elvis was in fourth place after the short program earlier this week, but last night he delivered a masterful performance that included the first quad-triple combination to be landed in world championship competition.
Elvis is indeed god of the quad. His performance included not only the quad but eight other triple jumps and a virtually flawless performance that led to his come from behind victory against stiff competition from the reigning U.S. champ and strong Russian contingent.
On behalf of the constituents of Okanagan Centre, all members of the House and all Canadians, I congratulate Elvis.
* * *[Translation]
In his analysis, Mr. Jones also claims that the U.S. anxiety about Quebec's sovereignty is an exaggeration and a thing of the past. For example, a sovereign Quebec would pose no threat to American security, since it would be a democratic state with a sound economy. Moreover, a sovereign Quebec would become the fifth or sixth trade partner of the U.S.; politically, socially and economically, it would look like Austria, Belgium or the Czech Republic.
According to this expert on Canadian affairs, it is time the U.S. got used to the idea of Quebec becoming sovereign. Should it happen, the U.S. government should make its own assessment of the will expressed by Quebecers instead of relying on advice from Ottawa. This certainly bodes well for the future.
* * *[English]
Liberal candidate, Elinor Kaplan, is no poor grade eight girl at a sock hop. She was dancing in public life long before the member for Beaver River learned to creep. In the 1970s Elinor Kaplan founded the North York Business Association. In the 1980s she chaired the Management Board of Cabinet in Ontario. In the 1990s she was deputy house leader and chief opposition whip in the Ontario legislature.
In 1997 she will become a member of the House of Commons, one of dozens of new female members of Parliament who benefit from our Prime Minister's efforts to achieve a full role for women in Canadian public life.
* * *
This Reform Party member referred to women candidates appointed by the Prime Minister as ``poor girls''. This member also likened these candidates to ``girls at a grade eight sock hop'' hoping ``if I just stand here he will come and ask me to dance''. This is insulting and offensive not only to women candidates but to every woman in Canada.
My colleague from Saskatoon-Humboldt has distinguished herself as an MP. Before her appointment as a candidate in 1993 she served her community as a lawyer, a business woman and mother, hardly a woman waiting for a date.
The member for Beaver River also wondered what would happen if all women MPs PMSed the same week. She might think that is funny, but the extremism so often exemplified by the Reform Party is no laughing matter.
* * *(1110)
To save face and gain votes before the upcoming election, Liberals and Tories have now come up with a public relations scam they hope will cut off public criticism over the mockery they have made of the public inquiry.
The special Senate committee review of the Somalia mission is nothing more than an election ploy. It is simply a waste of taxpayers' money.
The Senate review of the Somalia affair is hardly independent. How will we get to the truth when Liberal and Tory politicians will
be judged by Liberal and Tory senators? What we are now witnessing is a whitewash of a cover-up.
The public knows about the cover-up. It wants the truth. Canadians will not be fooled by a dog and pony show being led by the Liberals first in the House and now in the Senate.
* * *[Translation]
The fact is that the two airports serving Montreal are federal facilities, that ADM was created by the federal government, and that all the bad decisions which have undermined Montreal's potential in the air transportation sector were taken by the federal government itself. The Viau ruling made on February 12 confirms that the federal government is ultimately responsible for the decision regarding the future of Dorval and Mirabel airports.
If, like me, the hon. member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle does believe in developing Mirabel airport, he should join with Bloc Quebecois members in asking that public hearings be held soon, in order to find the best possible solution to this issue, after 30 years of bad decisions made unilaterally by the federal government, particularly under the Liberals.
The Deputy Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. The hon. member for Waterloo has the floor.
* * *[English]
The member for Beaver River apparently favours discrimination against women when she stated that gender equality in the Commons would spell trouble at certain times of the month. This statement is worthy of contempt but it is in keeping with the extremist, racist and sexist comments made by some members of the Reform Party.
As the ranking female leader of the Reform Party, the member for Beaver River does a disservice to Canadians by pandering to sexist stereotypes.
Referring to women MPs and candidates, the member for Beaver River said that gender equality in the House of Commons would spell trouble at certain times of the month.
``What would happen if we all PMSed the same week'', she was quoted as saying. These are totally unacceptable comments, not befitting a member of Parliament, especially the House leader of the Reform Party.
No wonder women are shying away from the Reform Party. I am sure that women voters will remember her comments at in next election.
We in the Liberal Party believe in gender equality and will take all necessary measures to achieve it, including appointing qualified women as Liberal candidates. I congratulate the Prime Minister for his initiative.
The sad part is that the Reform male MPs are laughing about the whole matter.
* * *
We all acknowledge that our participation in the world economy and our very high standard of living are directly proportional to success in scientific research. Without the contribution of people like Dr. Brimacombe, we would not have the high quality, safe materials that we have to produce our vehicles, airplanes, bridges and buildings.
We would like to add our congratulations to Dr. Brimacombe. His gold medal is well deserved. We would like to thank him for his efforts over the years. His leadership in research and training is of immense value and is appreciated by all Canadians.
* * *(1115)
by train, by boat and by foot to challenge the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup. The team lost those games and today a shameful banner commemorating that Senators victory flies high in the Corel Centre.
As part of the centennial celebrations marking the discovery of gold in the Klondike the Nuggets are back. They are back to revenge those losses.
A new team of Nuggets has retraced the steps of that first team of trekkers. They have travelled by dog sled, train and boat, and on Sunday the Nuggets take on the Ottawa Senators alumni at 2 p.m. at the Corel Centre.
They have been accompanied on the trip by ``Dangerous'' Don Reddick, author of The Silver Seven book on the original game; Diamond Tooth Gertie; and Earl ``Wrong Way'' McRae.
This team not only has true grit. It has true heart. The profits of the trip will go to the Heart Institute and Special Olympics.
I congratulate the Ottawa Senators for all of their assistance but say that we will show no mercy on Sunday.
The Deputy Speaker: And the Nuggets are with us in the gallery.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD[Translation]
My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister. The mandate of Option Canada, this phantom organization to promote Canadian unity, is the promotion of national unity by all means, legal, political and other.
I have no trouble understanding what the words ``political'' and ``legal'' mean, but I would like the Deputy Prime Minister to explain to me what means other than legal and political ones are at our disposal?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are speaking today about the means available to people. We know that on September 12 Quebec Treasury Board President, Pauline Maurois, announced that Quebec's unionized workers were going to be receiving an additional $1 million from the government by 1998.
Going into the referendum campaign, the chief negotiator for the yes side promised unions a $1 million increase, but today he hits them with special legislation forcing them to accept a 6 per cent cut.
So, if the topic is morality and legality, we have to ask ourselves: Who is telling the truth about the unionized workers in Quebec?
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ):Mr. Speaker, it is quite discouraging to see how the Deputy Prime Minister performs in the House.
What goes on within the Government of Quebec is the Government of Quebec's business. If, today, the Government of Quebec is unable to respect its agreement to increase salaries by 1 per cent, it is because of her government, which slashed provincial transfer payments. Let us not confuse matters.
I return to my topic, which she finds very upsetting. Peter White, the president of the Council for Canadian Unity, told The Gazette that Option Canada had been set up specifically to collect funds for provincial and federal Liberals for the referendum campaign.
In response to this statement, the Labour Minister could think of nothing better to say than that Peter White had already said so many idiotic things in his life that one more would not make any difference.
So who can we believe, the chief organizer of the Liberal Party of Canada, who should know what the money paid to Option Canada was used for, or the president of the Council for Canadian Unity, to whom Option Canada reported?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are talking about expenditures. I have with me the Government of Quebec's order in council.
Mr. Dumas: That is not the question.
Ms. Copps: We have read in Le Soleil that the Government of Quebec, not the Liberal Party, spent $83 million on referendum activities. With $83 million, the government could have hired 1,769 more police officers. It could have hired 2,098 additional nurses or another 2,621 teachers.
The PQ government made its choice. It wanted to spend money on the referendum rather than on keeping its promises to Quebec's unionized workers.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ):Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make a suggestion to the Deputy Prime Minister: that she quit running in Hamilton East, resign one more time, run for the Liberal Party in Quebec and tackle Mr. Bouchard in the National Assembly. We have heard enough from her about Quebec. This is Canada here.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata): I will ask her a third question regarding the topic that concerns us and which is seriously worrying Canadians. I ask her to listen attentively. This time, I am giving her a chance to reply on topic. I would like her to consult the right pages among those prepared for her by her assistants.
We learned this morning that Quebec's chief electoral officer wanted to hold an inquiry into this matter, which is of great concern to him. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister, who boasts that her government is completely honest and transparent, whether she is prepared to tell us in the House this morning that she will co-operate with Quebec's chief electoral officer to get to the bottom of this diversion of close to $5 million of taxpayers' money?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, of course I will co-operate with the elections commission in any kind of investigation. But I would also have to underline that if Mr. Coté is really interested in getting to the facts surrounding the referendum, when he begins his investigation I would also ask him to investigate the secret plan of Jacques Parizeau which was revealed in Le Soleil of November 4, 1995: ``Parizeau admitted that he had a special slush fund of billions of dollars that he was going to use to defend the Canadian dollar against a plunge''.
I would also ask Mr. Coté to investigate the fake promise given by the the chief negotiator of the yes side to the unions. On the eve of the referendum he promised them a million dollars and today we saw what the promise meant. It meant zero.
* * *[Translation]
Does the Minister of Canadian Heritage realize that, by declaring that the objective of the official languages program is to promote Canada, she is attacking the political independence of all official language minority groups in Canada?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, those of us on this side do not need any lectures from someone born in Ontario, who learned his French in Penetanguishene, and who now claims that francophones outside Quebec are nothing more than paraplegics in wheelchairs.
His policy is to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada, and to dump the million francophones in the rest of the country. We are never going to just dump one million francophones, who are counting on us and who can count on a Canadian government that believes in two peoples and two official languages.
Mr. Jean-Paul Marchand (Québec-Est, BQ): Mr. Speaker, when Heritage Canada chopped subsidies to official language minority groups, the government claimed it had no choice but to do so. Today, we learn that the government has used that money for propaganda purposes.
Can the Minister of Canadian Heritage make a commitment to reimburse the official language minority groups for the losses they have incurred?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat this in English so the member for Quebec East, who learned to speak French in Penetanguishene-
-who was so fond of the city of his birth that he even ran for mayor of Penetanguishene.
Having been born in Penetanguishene, having learned his english in Ontario, he now is calling the Franco-Ontarians paraplegics in wheelchairs, which we are not. If we are to have two official languages, if we believe in two official languages, we need to have a country that does not believe in separatism.
The hon. member across the way is not interested in official languages, is not interested in minorities. He wants to create a country in which there is but one official language. He wants to dump all of the minorities throughout Canada.
* * *[English]
My question is for the Minister of National Defence. Since the government now believes that the minister was wrong, why will it
not simply let the inquiry fulfil its mandate instead of trying to cover up the cover-up in the Senate?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, members of the Canadian forces look forward to an unequivocal statement from the Reform Party that Reformers believe the Somalia commission of inquiry should continue indefinitely. I hope at some point Reformers will come clean with the Canadian people and say without equivocation that they want the ticker to keep running.
Over $3 million has now been spent on lawyer fees and $15 million to $25 million, depending on how we calculate it, has been spent on the commission of inquiry.
With all due respect to the hon. member, the government has decided that after three extensions the Somalia commission of inquiry should report by the end of June.
The hon. member should respect the fact that this is a parliamentary system and the Senate is allowed to conduct its business as it thinks appropriate, as is the House of Commons.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps it would be better if the minister would come clean.
When it comes to covering up its nasty messes this government is as hapless as a cat on a concrete driveway.
One member of the cabinet, the defence minister, thinks that there was no political cover-up. Another member of cabinet, Senator Fairbairn, thinks there was a political cover-up and wants it investigated.
Who is speaking for the government? Do the Liberals think there was a political cover-up or do they think there was not a political cover-up?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, one of the obvious differences, and the member has recognized it, is that Liberals are able to think, unlike the hon. member and members of his party.
The fact remains that if Reformers believe the Somalia commission of inquiry should continue indefinitely, in other words, never mind the cover-up or the whitewash, but a carte blanche, then that is what they should say.
With respect to the inquiry being terminated at the end of June, everyone knows it has gone on now for over two years. It has heard hundreds of witnesses. It has reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of documents. I think Canadians look forward to the report, the conclusions and the recommendations of the Somalia commission of inquiry.
With respect to what happens in the Senate, the hon. member should respect that the question of looking into incidents surrounding the affair in Somalia was raised by a Conservative member of the Senate several weeks ago. Subsequent to a number of discussions it was determined unanimously in the Senate, as I understand it, that it should look into the Somalia situation. It has a right to do that. Constitutionally we are operating as two separate House, the Senate and the House of Commons. It has every right to look into whatever it wishes.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, since the hon. minister has just implied that he has such a magnificent intellect I want to draw him a little picture.
The government shut down an independent inquiry that was to investigate its political friends and buddies. Then it replaced it with partisan Liberal and Tory senators who will try to whitewash a political cover-up that occurred under Liberal and Tory governments. I hope the hon. minister got that.
Instead of trying to throw up a political smoke screen, why does the government not simply let the independent inquiry get to the bottom of a murder and a cover-up and stop these political shenanigans?
Hon. Douglas Young (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and his party over the last few months have demonstrated exactly what they think of the Canadian forces. They have not told us what they believe should be done for the Canadian forces. They have made absolutely no attempt to provide any input into the very thorough review we have made of the Canadian forces, the military justice system, the military police, all the questions dealing with the selection and promotion of people in the Canadian military organization.
All Reformers have been able to do so far to help the Canadian forces is insist that the Somalia commission of inquiry continue for as long as they feel is appropriate; it could be a year, two years or three years. Reformers might be interested in history but we are interested in getting things done. If they have the interest of the Canadian forces at heart, they should be here next Tuesday when I will report to the Canadian people and to the Prime Minister on what the Liberal government believes should be done for the Canadian forces.
* * *[Translation]
criterion is applied to Quebec's tax structure before harmonization and after total harmonization, Quebec's loss of revenue amounts in fact to nearly 20 per cent''. If there is one person in a position to know the cost of harmonizing the GST and the QST in Quebec it is the Quebec minister of finance.
My question is for the Minister of Finance. How can the Minister of Finance claim that Quebec officials are unable to establish the true cost of harmonizing and why does he continue to insinuate that minister Landry is lying to the people of Quebec?
Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if I may cite the figures for Quebec sales tax revenues, which in fact come from the Government of Quebec, they reveal that, compared to the year preceding harmonization, Quebec's revenues in 1990-91 increased by $240 million. The next year, they increased by $1 billion; the year after that, by $888 million; the next year, by $465 million; the following year, $319 million and, finally by $504 million.
Since Quebec's decision to harmonize, its revenues have increased by $3.4 billion, that is, Quebec has not lost money, it has made money.
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, what the minister is not saying is that, in the calculations to establish Quebec's entitlement to compensation, the Minister of Finance overestimates Quebec's revenues from the harmonized GST and QST by $575 million a year.
Second, he is not saying that to harmonize the QST with the GST Quebec had to cut revenues from other taxes-on tobacco and gasoline, for example-by $355 million. Finally, he is not saying that, to harmonize the GST and the QST, the Government of Quebec had to increase the rate of taxation on corporate profits by 67 per cent.
In other words, if Quebec had been offered the same conditions as the maritimes, Mr. McKenna would not be on the roam so detestably giving Quebec businesses unfair competition.
Will the Minister of Finance finally recognize that Quebec's assessment are the right ones and that he must pay the Government of Quebec compensation of $2 billion, under the same harmonization and compensation criteria used for the maritimes?
Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is an economist, an economist of the right in his field, he should know that the figures I have just given are those of the Government of Quebec.
The hon. member is quoting ministers of finance, so perhaps I could quote the former minister of finance, André Bourbeau-
Mr. Loubier: An incompetent. He put Quebec in the hole.
Mr. Martin (LaSalle-Émard): -and I quote: ``Nevertheless, on the very face of them, the figures published by the Government of Quebec totally contradict what the current minister of finance in Quebec is saying. He cannot prove that the Government of Quebec lost revenues with this tax. He cannot claim reimbursement from the federal government of money he claims to have lost, since the Government of Quebec's own figures prove that it has not lost anything''.
* * *[English]
Somehow he missed the fact that in 1995 he said in his budget speech that he was going to cut departmental spending by 19 per cent. He said these are not going to be phoney cuts, they are going to be real cuts. That is in the budget speech. Today departmental spending has fallen only 8.3 per cent. That is a $5 billion difference.
Why is the minister failing to meet his spending reduction targets in departmental spending just like Michael Wilson?
Mr. Ovid L. Jackson (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are on target. Each and every year we have met our targets. As a matter of fact, the opposition keeps complaining because the minister has bettered his targets.
We have not reached the end of the fiscal year and this government has met its targets each year. The Reform Party is comparing apples and oranges. Our statistics show 18 per cent with program review saving targets that were identified in the 1995-96 budgets. Each one met its target. The required reductions were made in departments and the agency budgets in the time that they were announced. Planned program spending is on track in all years.
In the 1996 budget we forecasted $106 billion and this year it is down to $105.8 billion.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that we do not have the finance minister on his feet. This is an issue that goes right to the credibility of the government's numbers.
In the 1995 budget speech the Liberals said departmental spending will fall 19 per cent. They did not say anything about program review. They said departmental spending will fall by19 per cent. Their own numbers show it has only fallen by 8.3 per cent, a $5 billion difference.
My question to the finance minister is why the $5 billion difference. Why are they fudging their numbers just like Michael Wilson?
Mr. Ovid L. Jackson (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a document before me with the program spending and it has each department. Our statistics show 18.8 per cent.
* * *[Translation]
The hon. member for Québec-Est made an analogy and said that comparing the situation of anglophones in Quebec to that of francophone minorities in Canada was like comparing a Cadillac to a wheelchair. This analogy is not meant to be derogatory to paraplegics. There comes a point where we must leave grandstanding aside and deal with the real issues.
The President of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne, Jacques Michaud, said he did not want their organizations to be used to promote Canadian unity. On the other hand, the federation is quite prepared to protect francophone and Acadian community groups.
In light of this, could the minister tell us whether her statement means that, in the future, these groups will have to pursue the government's political objectives on national unity, instead of promoting the rights of official language minorities in Canada?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to know what the member from Témiscouata thinks of the comments made by the member for Québec-Est. How would you like to be called a paraplegic in a wheelchair?
An hon. member: It is an insult to all Franco-Ontarians.
Ms. Copps: These are the words of the member for Québec-Est, who himself learned to speak French fairly well in Penetanguishene, Ontario.
That being said, it is obvious that if Canada did not exist, there would be no official languages policy.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister can understand the analogy made by the hon. member for Québec-Est, because I am sure Canadians and Quebecers can.
Can the minister assure us that the $4.5 million given to the Council for Canadian Unity and the $4.8 million given to Option Canada, which were diverted from the budget earmarked for official language minority communities in Canada, will be returned to these minorities? This amounts to 22 per cent of the money set aside for minorities. Will the minister give back to official language minorities what she fraudulently took from them?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to point out the lack of logic in the member's question. He claims the Government of Canada has no interest in having a country. How can he claim there will be two official languages if this country ceases to exist? The Government of Canada obviously cares about this issue, considering that, yesterday, it gave an $8 million subsidy to Collège Boréal, in Sudbury.
Similarly, if we support the efforts of those who are fighting to save the Montfort hospital, it is because we believe in the million francophones living outside Quebec, right across Canada.
What is so pitiful is that the same member of Parliament who compared francophones to paraplegics in wheelchairs now claims to be defending their rights, which is absolutely untrue. The only thing he is defending is the separatist cause, which would deprive francophones outside Quebec of their right to live in a truly bilingual country.
* * *[English]
My question is for the Minister of Finance. Is there no limit to the tax he will place on Canadian jobs in order for him to make his deficit numbers look good?
Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we took office unemployment insurance premiums were scheduled to rise to $3.30. We stopped that.
Every year since then we have reduced the unemployment insurance rate. In the last budget we announced that at the end of this year it would be at $2.80. In the last three years of the Tory regime they raised the unemployment insurance premiums every year. In the first three years we have been in office, we have dropped the premiums every year.
This year there is going to be a saving to Canadian workers and companies of $1.7 billion as a result of the actions taken by the government. That demonstrates tax reductions.
Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this minister has built up a surplus in the EI fund like we have never seen before. The surplus this year amounts to a $500 tax on every job in the country. The minister has the gall to stand up in the House and say that he has not raised taxes. That is a disgrace.
The minister said that payroll taxes are a cancer on jobs. Will he announce a cut in employment insurance premiums to give the unemployed some hope that there will be a job created for them?
Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member certainly has a strange way of looking at what is a premium increase or a premium decrease.
When we took office premiums were roughly $3.07 going to $3.30. We stopped that. The next year we brought premiums down to $3.00, then down to $2.90 and then down to $2.80. Those are not increases, those are decreases.
We have stated as a government that it is our intention to continue to bring those premiums down. We will do this responsibly, not in the way the leader of the Reform Party stated the other day, that there would be a massive cut.
Virtually every commentator has said that if there was a recession, the first thing a Tory government would have to do would be to hike those premiums, which was exactly what it did in 1989 and 1990. This is how the Tories put us into a terrible recession.
If members wonder why I talk about the Tories, it is because they are the kissing cousins of Reformers, on the extreme right.
* * *[Translation]
The federal government's financial participation in the agricultural day haul transportation assistance program officially ends on March 31 in Quebec. This program gives labourers living in the city access to farm jobs they could not get if it were not for organised transit between urban areas and rural areas.
Does the minister agree that, by refusing to provide the $350,000 required to maintain this program, he is directly responsible for the loss of thousands of jobs for seasonal agricultural workers and that the resulting social costs will be much higher than the savings?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's concern for this program, which was indeed very useful to many seasonal workers. As you know, in any program review, hard choices have to be made sometimes. Some of the decisions we have made are not the ones we wish we could have made.
Now, of course, we must look at what other programs and active employment measures are available to the workers to make their access to the labour market easier. I think that, on the whole, government policy and programs are quite satisfactory.
Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): That is right, Mr. Speaker. The minister is replacing measures that worked well by ones he is unsure of.
Will the minister recognize that, by refusing to continue funding this program in the future, he will promote the hiring of foreign labour at the expense of thousands of workers in Quebec and Canada who will be denied the seasonal jobs available?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a hard time understanding how transportation could be easier from Mexico to Quebec farms than from one Quebec region to another. The logic in what the hon. member is saying eludes me.
* * *[English]
The American tobacco company, Liggett Corporation, has publicly admitted that smoking is addictive, that it causes cancer and that the industry deliberately targets its marketing at young people between the ages of 14 and 18.
Can the parliamentary secretary tell Canadians the significance of this announcement and how it affects our efforts to curb tobacco consumption among young people?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that this confirms what the Government of Canada has been saying all along.
We presented a comprehensive strategy on combating tobacco use and its very serious and negative health impacts. It is a bad admission to make, but we are relieved that there is an indication, at least by the industry if not by the other parties, that we have been right all along. Tobacco is a cause of cancer and of heart disease and the companies have especially targeted young people.
Our bill, C-71, has attempted to address those issues and we are happy that at least the public is beginning to turn in that direction at last.
* * *(1150)
Recently, a laundry in my riding bid for a contract to service hospitals in Granby and Brome-Missisquoi. They lost to CORCAN, which is connected to the Laval correctional centre and employs people being reintegrated into the work force. The private company, Buanderie Shefford, therefore lost a contract because it was competing with a company funded in large part by the taxpayers, and therefore able to offer a better price.
Does the minister not admit that this is a blatant example of unfair competition on the part of the federal administration, taking major contracts away from companies which are at least as competitive as Corrections Canada?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not accept my hon. colleague's hypothesis, but I would be most pleased to look into these allegations and to report to my hon. friend as promptly as possible.
Mr. Jean H. Leroux (Shefford, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have risen in the House today because I have twice written to the minister, to the minister's office, without any satisfactory response.
The jobs of 15 people in my riding are at stake. The Liberals like to boast of creating jobs, but not in this case.
What guarantees can the minister offer us that CORCAN includes all of its costs in the bids it submits, and respects the same ground rules as its private sector competitors?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, CORCAN operates in compliance with the criteria, according to my information. I am sorry he has not accepted the information I have provided him with. I am, however, prepared to look further into the case, and to provide him with an answer shortly.
* * *[English]
Could the minister confirm that the court's decision in Gladstone led to the creation of these licences?
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Secretary of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food, Fisheries and Oceans), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yes, the Supreme Court clearly established that the nation in question had the right to commercial fishing and it was based on historical facts.
DFO, after several long weeks of discussion have come to some understanding, to an agreement with the nation in question whereby DFO and the Heiltsuk tribal council have agreed to harvest 100 tonnes of unallocated herring available in area eight for 1997, in three open pond licences. The 100 tonnes of unallocated herring now being allocated have a roe content of lesser quality which means, therefore, it is of lesser interest to the commercial fishermen.
Mr. John Cummins (Delta, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, there is no unallocated herring in B.C.
After hearing petitions from all parties, the Supreme Court recommended a judicial process to establish the limits of the Heiltsuk right. Why has the minister sought to subvert the judicially established process to develop constitutional law on the issue of native fishing rights, given that the fishing industry has spent millions of dollars on litigation to defend their rights and to establish sound, legal principles on which to allocate the fisheries resource.
Why has the minister replaced the law book with the red book?
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Secretary of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food, Fisheries and Oceans), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government and the department of fisheries feel quite confident that they are abiding by the laws of the nation when they establish such a fishery for that nation.
However, we sincerely deplore the tone of the hon. member and all members of the Reform Party whenever it comes to discussing aboriginal rights to fisheries. This is really deplorable. But fortunately for those nations the Government of Canada will continue on its present course.
* * *(1155)
positions. This ruling imposes quotas that Health Canada must respect from now on in order to correct this state of affairs.
Will the minister, or his representative, admit that if his government is being told today to promote employees who are members of cultural minorities to senior positions, it is primarily because of its failure or inability to keep its red book promises?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that report refers to situations in 1992. The minister and the department have taken steps since then.
I remind the member exactly what has happened since then. The report already acknowledges that the minister has taken steps. First, he has taken a look at new guidelines for promotions, acting positions and training for supervisors and managers.
What has happened as a result? The member ought to acknowledge that the percentage of people who have come from those minorities, which he rightly defends in this instance, has risen to 5.9 per cent.
A true reflection of the matter is that we are, in the department, moving well beyond expectations that even the member might set.
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Today, it was announced that while Quebec receives 39 per cent of all the money that immigrant investors bring to Canada, only15 per cent of these immigrants choose to reside in Quebec.
Is the minister prepared to instruct immigration officers in the other provinces to refuse entry to immigrant investors accepted by the Quebec government because they choose to invest in Quebec but decide to reside in and use the services of other provinces?
Hon. Lucienne Robillard (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the Reform Party member has problems understanding Canadians' mobility rights, which extend across the country. It is very clear that, when investors come to our country, they may choose to go to another Canadian province, like any Canadian.
We are proud of this right, which forms part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is no question of changing this basic principle.
The government has announced that it will be making it easier for immigrants with high tech experience to enter Canada. The reason given is that there are too few Canadians qualified to fill these jobs.
Canadian university graduates are sitting idle. The government has a youth employment strategy. Should the education process not begin right here at home?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her question. It is a very important one.
The government is totally committed to jobs being available to Canadians first. That makes a lot of sense. There is a great shortage of Canadian workers in the software industry. We lack, some people tell me, about 15,000 to 20,000 according to the industry.
We have had to conduct a pilot project as a short term solution. As a government, we are committed to making sure that the youth employment strategy will provide, in the future, young people with work experience and the right training in that industry.
In the meantime-
* * *
Radar Hill was named for its prominence during World War II and has historical significance to British Columbians. It has now been renamed Kap'Yong Hill, a Korean name, and my constituents are furious.
The Prime Minister overstepped his authority. He failed to consult local residents. He ignored the recommendations of Parks Canada and, to my knowledge, has failed to receive the required agreement of the province of B.C.
Will the Prime Minister agree to a compromise put forward by Parks Canada, and reinstate the name of our local historical landmark, and establish a small memorial to Kap'Yong on the hill instead?
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify, first of all, whether the member is speaking for the entire Reform Party when he announces the renaming of a Canadian monument in
respect of the Korean war service which was carried out by, among others, the Korean War Veterans Association of Canada, of which I happen to be an honorary member.
I know that Canadian Korean war veterans very much appreciate the attention of the Prime Minister to this issue. I am sure the Prime Minister and Parks Canada will do everything possible to ensure that everyone feels included.
I find it rather tragic that the member would decry respect for Korean war veterans, which was the intention of this monument.
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Northern Cross Ltd. is proposing to do resource development in northern Yukon. I would like to ask the government what consultation there has been regarding this application with the Old Crow Resource Council and what work has been done in the United States to clarify that in this area under discussion it does not constitute part of the area of the calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd.
Hon. Sheila Copps (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government has a bilateral treaty with respect to the calving ground. I am sure that any activity we would want to follow very closely.
We will take the request of the hon. member and pursue it to ensure that the calving ground area is not endangered.
I also wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act in accordance with the proposals set out in the attached notes and the accompanying publication.
I ask that an order of the day be designated for the consideration of each motion.
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* * *
The committee unanimously recommends that a question be not ruled out of order on the sole basis that it anticipates orders of the day.
I also have the honour to present the 62nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding its order of reference from the House of Commons on Thursday, February 20, 1997, in relation to the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1998 with regard to vote 20 under privy council Chief Electoral Officer.
The committee reports the same.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the first time and ordered to be printed.)
* * *(1205)
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to rise in the House today to introduce three private member's bills. Today I will be introducing a bill to amend the Income Tax Act which will allow for an increase in the small business deduction from its current threshold of $200,000 to $300,000.
I am introducing a bill to amend the Immigration Act to eliminate the right of landing fees.
I am introducing another bill to amend the Immigration Act to raise the age of dependent daughters and sons from 19 to 21 years of age.
I hope my colleagues will become familiar with these initiatives and that they will support them when they come before the House.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
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(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
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(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
These Canadians call on Parliament to review and change relevant provisions of the Criminal Code to ensure that men take responsibility for their violent behaviour toward women.
Mr. John Cummins (Delta, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions. In the first the undersigned citizens of Canada state that whereas incidents of serious personal injury, crimes and sexual offences involving children are becoming more and more frequent, the petitioners request that Parliament enact legislation to amend the Criminal Code to allow for the post-sentence supervision and/or detention of those who have been convicted of sex offences involving children or of serious personal offences.
They ask that we establish a procedure of public notification of such offenders being released, that we establish a central registry
including fingerprints of all convicted sex offenders, that we amend the Criminal Records Act to prohibit pardons for those convicted, and that the Criminal Code also be amended to prohibit for life all those convicted of sex offences against children from holding positions of trust and responsibility.
The second petition has to do with Canadian law not prohibiting convicted criminals from profiting financially from writing books, setting up 1-900 numbers and producing videos.
The petitioners request that Parliament enact Bill C-205, introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough West, at the earliest opportunity to provide in Canadian law that no criminal profits from committing a crime.
The petitioners respectfully request that Parliament not increase the federal excise tax on gasoline and strongly consider reallocating its current revenues to rehabilitate Canada's crumbling national highways.
Mrs. Sue Barnes (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today I have two petitions from my electorate. The first is respecting the upgrading of our national highway system.
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The Deputy Speaker: Is it agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Volpe: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if there would be unanimous consent to refer the regulations I tabled a few moments ago to the Standing Committee on Health.
The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent that the matter be referred to the committee?
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: We do not have the unanimous consent of the House.
Mr. John Maloney (Erie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to address the House this afternoon on the fourth budget of our mandate.
As with the case of our first three budgets, the good news continues. The fourth Liberal budget continues the plan of competent fiscal and economic management that is reducing the deficit. It creates a climate for jobs and economic growth in both the short and long term and ensures the long term future for effective sustainable social programs and investing in a stronger society through education, health and our children.
Our fourth budget announces that this year's deficit is the lowest in 15 years. It represents the largest ever year over year decline in the federal deficit. By 1998-99 we will no longer need to borrow new money from the financial markets and we will have the lowest deficit in the G7, a truly amazing economic turn around in four short years.
When we took office Canadians knew that tough decisions on fundamental reforms were required. They did not want tinkering. They wanted lasting solutions. They want us to develop a plan. They want us to stick to it. We have done just that. We are continuing the job with our fourth budget.
This budget is a plan for wise and thoughtful investment in Canada and Canadians. It is an investment in post-secondary education. It is an investment in a stronger society. It is an
investment in immediate jobs and growth. Allow me to address some of these points.
The annual costs of post-secondary education are truly astronomical; $10,000 to $12,000 a year for under graduate studies when all expenses are included. Canadians want and deserve the opportunity to equip themselves and their children with the knowledge, skills and education necessary to succeed an prosper in the global world; necessary for Canada to succeed and prosper in the global world.
The measures in the budget designed to ease the financial burden of post-secondary education are commendable. Let me deal with a few.
The budget provides assistance for parents saving for their children's education by amending registered education savings plans, or RESPs as they are commonly called. The full benefits of these tax sheltered plans are reaped by parents who start saving when their children are very young.
The budget proposes that annual contribution limits to RESPs be doubled to $4,000. This will assist parents who are not able to start saving for their children's education when they were young and therefore have fewer years to make contributions. It will also provide major incentives for increased savings for education.
Under current RESP provisions, all RESP income must go for education purposes. The family loses the investment income in its plan if their child does not pursue higher education. Since this can discourage parents from starting an RESP, two measures are proposed to address this problem.
First, individuals winding up an RESP will now be allowed to transfer all or part of their RESP income into their registered retirement savings plans, provided they have unused RRSP room. Alternatively, individuals without RRSP room or who do not wish to make RRSP contributions, will be allowed to change the investment directly, subject to an appropriate charge. This charge will ensure that assistance is not provided to those who might use RESPs for tax deferral purposes unrelated to either education or retirement savings.
This is a tremendous incentive for parents to save for their children's education. This is a tremendous relief for parents who are worried that they will not be able to afford the costs of their children's education.
To assist students currently enrolled in post-secondary education, the budget has further welcome news. The amount used to establish the education credit will increase immediately to $150 per month from $100 and to $200 for 1998 and subsequent years. The budget proposes to extend the tuition tax credit to mandatory fees set by post-secondary institutions to cover the costs of education although this will not include fees levied by student bodies.
To ensure that all students can use these credits fully they will now be allowed to carry forward all unused portions of these credits to be applied against any future income. This measure will also benefit workers who are returning to school.
Through the Canada student loans program the federal government provides financial assistance to students who need help to pursue post-secondary education. Often this is the only avenue that many students have to finance their higher education. The problem arises when our best and our brightest graduate with a heavy debt load but have difficulty obtaining immediate employment or are underemployed. Admittedly students facing hardship are allowed to defer making payments on their loans for up to 18 months. Notwithstanding, some students are still unable to meet their obligations.
To better recognize that some students still may not have the capacity to repay their loans, the budget will extend from 18 months to 30 months the period of time during which students are allowed to defer making payments. The government will pay the interest that the student would have paid over this extended period.
Combined with the initial six months after graduation when no payments are required, students will have up to three years of help in dealing with their loans. This measure will be effective August 1, 1997 and will provide an additional $20 million a year in assistance to students. These measures are investments in our greatest asset, our children.
The budget also reflects a strong investment in the health care of Canadians. Our publicly funded health care is studied and emulated by countries throughout the world. It is one of our finest achievements. We must be ever vigilant against those who would seek to destroy it.
The government is committed to the principles of the Canada Health Act. We must not only protect medicare but work with the provinces to improve it, to strengthen it, to respond to changing health needs and advances in medicine. We must ensure that our health care dollars are spent effectively and efficiently, but we must also ensure that our health care facilities, our hospitals, be kept open to serve our citizens. Canadians deserve not good health care, but excellent health care, the best health care the world has to offer.
In October 1994 the Prime Minister established the National Forum on Health to develop a vision of the health system that will meet the health needs of Canadians into the 21st century. In February 1997 the forum issued its report.
In response to the forum's report the government has acted and acted quickly. The 1997 budget provides $300 million over the next three years for additional health care initiatives. Each dollar of this new money will be devoted to improving the delivery of health
services to Canadians. We will provide $150 million for a health transition fund to help provinces launch pilot projects to investigate new and better approaches to health care. Projects could include, for example, better ways to provide medically necessary drugs and home care services. The assistance regarding expenditures will be made jointly by Canada's health ministers.
The national forum emphasized that health care providers need timely access to quality health information in order to provide the best possible care. We have allocated $50 million over three years to put in place a new Canada health information service. The national forum also spoke in favour of stronger community based programs and the need to invest in a healthy future for our children today. We agree.
We currently fund two community based programs directed at improving the health of children. The community action program for children supports hundreds of groups, for example, in providing parenting education, child development centres and family resource programs, all directed to addressing the needs of children at risk up to the age of six years. As a member of the justice committee, which has just completed a study of the Young Offenders Act, I can confirm that this is a very wise initiative.
The Canada prenatal nutrition program promotes the birth of healthy babies among high risk pregnant women. The 1997 budget increases funding for these two programs by $100 million over the next three years, money very well spent.
Time and time again we are told that our children are our most precious resource and I agree. Yet the country has too many children and their families living below the poverty line. This is not right and this is not acceptable. This must be changed and we must not stop until there is not one single child living in poverty.
The budget is one further step to this end as we propose to allocate $850 million to increase existing spending under the child tax benefit. This includes $600 million of new funds as of July 1998, in addition to the $250 million increase in child benefits announced in the 1996 budget. This initiative will require partnership with the provinces, a partnership on behalf of our nation's children. We will provide additional resources when we can afford it.
Why are we doing this? The reason is clear. I quote the Minister of Finance: ``Opportunity denied in childhood too often means chances lost as an adult. The future of Canada's children is a future of this country itself''. Nothing more needs to be said.
With the new Canada child tax benefit, provinces will have room to provide more services and benefits to children and low income working families. For example, in kind benefits such as medical or dental care that are now available only to welfare recipients could be extended to low income working families. Positive steps, positive developments and a positive budget.
As I conclude, I wish to point out that the government has set its priorities over the last four years and has stuck to them. It is continuing to bring down the deficit, to restore economic stability and vitality to the country by providing substantial new resources to invest in jobs, in health care, in education and in children. The journey is not over. We have come far and our vision will carry this country forward into the next millennium.
Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo-Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the member began by talking about the lowest budget in three years. In fact, the deficit is perhaps about half. The Liberals began their regime with a deficit of about $38 billion which they inflated to about $42 billion for their own political purposes, but the deficit is still at this time only about half of that at $19 billion.
The Liberals also claim that they have brought down interest rates. In fact, the interest rates have come down as a result of market forces. I cannot see how the Liberals can take any credit for this.
However, my concern is if interest rates begin to rise again. The Liberal government has no control over them. What contingency plan does the Liberal government have, if interest rates begin to rise, aside from creating a contingency fund raised by increasing taxes even more and expecting taxpayers to pay for the contingency fund as well?
Mr. Maloney: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. I appreciate the statistics that he has shown us this morning. Indeed, the deficit was $42 billion when we assumed office and it is now down to approximately $19 billion, truly a phenomenal reduction.
Interest rates have come down. Yes, it is from market forces but market forces are the result of stability in the economy and a feeling of confidence once again. All of this contributes to a vibrant and wonderful economic future.
Contingency plans? I think we hypothesize. We do not have a slush fund that we can worry about. We do not have to worry about it. This country is moving forward and moving forward fast. Of the G7, we have the best economy going and it is going to keep on going because of all the initiatives we have taken.
Mr. Paul Zed (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, with reference to Ways and Means Proceedings No. 15 concerning the budgetary policy of the government, I think if you seek it you will find that there is consent for the following motion:
That at 2.15 p.m. or when no member rises to speak, that the question on Ways and Means Proceedings No. 15 be deemed to have been put, a recorded division demanded and the vote deferred until the conclusion of the time allocated to Government Orders on Monday, April 7, 1997; and that following the adoption of this order, the Chair will not receive any quorum calls or dilatory motions for the remainder of this day's sitting.
The Deputy Speaker: Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
* * *[English]
The Speaker: Does the hon. parliamentary secretary now have the unanimous consent of the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to.)
* * *
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it appears that the spin doctors upstairs who are writing the speeches for the government side still have not got the message about the child poverty stuff they are throwing around.
I would like to ask the member for his definition of child poverty. He kept using that term in his speech. I would like him to explain to me what it actually means to him and his constituents.
Mr. Maloney: Mr. Speaker, child poverty is a family who does not have the necessities of life. Each week that family lives from pay cheque to pay cheque which is very little. They wonder where the milk money will come from or extra money, perhaps, for a school lunch. This is child poverty.
Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil-Papineau, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will share my 20 minutes with my colleague, the hon. member for Shefford.
I am pleased to take part in the debate on the budget tabled February 18 by the Minister of Finance. This budget definitely does not help the unemployed or poor children. I agree with my Bloc Quebecois colleagues who have spoken recently on this budget, describing it as a lazy budget, an expression coined by our party's finance critic, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot.
Where is the minister's compassion for these unemployed people, these poor children? The $600 million announced for 1998-99 for the 1.5 million poor children makes a very poor showing next to the billions of dollars slashed from social transfers and pilfered from the employment insurance fund.
Where are the business and individual tax reforms the Bloc Quebecois has been demanding for so long? The Bloc Quebecois has pointed out, in fact, that the government could have freed up $3 billion yearly from corporate taxes to help companies create jobs. What this involved was a reworking of the corporate tax system to eliminate inefficiencies.
The government is trying to reduce its deficit at the expense of the provinces, mainly via a tax burden which has increased by $22 billion in four years.
What has the government done to stimulate employment? Bankruptcies have risen by 22 per cent in Canada, 20 per cent in Quebec, and 22 per cent in Ontario.
What is more, the number of bankruptcies in the National Capital Region has increased even more than in the other regions. The government has at least created one category of jobs, the pawnbrokers, whose business is booming. The Minister of Finance continues to promote family trusts and to promise job creation.
In September 1996, the federal government launched an unprecedented attack on the auditor general in order to try to stifle the scandal on the tax-free transfer of family trusts to the U.S. The government was, and is still, using all the means at its disposal to protect the coffers of the Liberal Party. Canada's rich families continue to enjoy these tax havens, and this budget continues to protect them.
It is not a budget that creates jobs, but purely an election budget. All the government's new initiatives are in the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces, and taxpayers are the victims of the overlap and duplication.
The federal government did however find the funds necessary for the minister of propaganda's flag campaign on the eve of the election.
The government is also helping artists, by subsidizing those who advocate federalism. We must not forget that over 49 per cent of the cuts to the $16.5 billion in program expenditures between 1994 and 1999 come from cuts to transfers to other levels of government, primarily the provinces.
What has the government done for the rural regions? Nothing new yet. In my riding of Argenteuil-Papineau, we have a number of farmers facing major problems. The government is spending only $25 million this year on job search. This means less than $1 per Canadian and less than $20 per unemployed individual.
Since we are talking about overlap and duplication, I would like to point out that the federal government announced in its budget the establishment of an opportunities fund of $30 million a year over three years to give persons with disabilities greater financial independence.
The fund will contribute to supporting innovative projects developed in partnership with groups of individuals with disabilities, the private sector and provincial governments. However, the provinces have always been involved in this area, and here comes the federal government once again to appropriate their clientele.
I have spoken on a number of occasions before this House to underscore my interest in persons with disabilities. In December, I expressed my interest and that of the Government of Quebec in marking the Quebec week of disabled persons, by saying, and I quote: ``The Quebec week of disabled persons focuses on integrating these people into the work place. Presided over jointly by Clément Godbout, president of the FTQ, and Ghislain Dufour, of the Conseil du Patronat, this week is a first of its sort in Quebec and takes place in a spirit of fairness and solidarity''.
I told of the work done by Cécile-Hélène Wojas, a paraplegic teacher in Lachute whose dynamism and courage have advanced the cause of the disabled, not just in her workplace, but also in the Lachute area, which is part of my riding.
I also paid tribute last February to parents of sick children, and particularly to the courage of one family in my riding of Argenteuil-Papineau. The Séguin family of Saint-André d'Argenteuil, two of whose children, Sylvie and Patrick have muscular dystrophy, is a model of love, courage and devotion.
In addition, what has the federal government done to help students? Their debt load has increased in recent years.
In 1994-95, the total amount owed by students under the Canada Student Loans Program and Quebec's loans and bursaries program was over $7 million.
In 1994-95, over 625,000 Quebecers and Canadians paid interest on loans taken out to pursue their education. In my riding of Argenteuil-Papineau, students must often leave home and move to larger urban centres, thus adding to what it costs them to get an education.
Tax assistance for students certainly helps with their tax burden, but these measures were put in place when the economic situation of students was different.
This budget certainly does not create jobs for taxpayers. And what can we say about the mistakes made by the federal government with respect to the Montreal airports, which will mean the loss of thousands of jobs for many, including people in the Lower Laurentians.
I spoke about this scandal this week. I mentioned that the Bloc Quebecois was severely critical of the federal government for its inconsistent decisions and its mistakes, as former minister André Ouellet called them, in the matter of the Montreal airports.
I also referred to the comments made by Senator Pietro Rizzuto, who confirmed that, for two years now, the federal government has failed to assume its responsibilities in looking for a viable solution to ensure the future of air transport in Quebec, hence the current confusion and the mess we are in.
I also said that the Bloc Quebecois condemned the Liberals for trying, once again, to take the people of the Lower Laurentians hostage on this issue by making all sorts of promises on the eve of an election for purely partisan purposes.
In conclusion, with an election in the offing, I urge the federal government to do a better job and to be more honest, because the public will not be fooled. It can read between the lines and sees this lazy budget for what it really is.
Mr. Jean H. Leroux (Shefford, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to participate in the debate on the Minister of Finance's budget. A great many things could be said, but I shall restrict myself to analyzing certain parts of the budget which I feel are unacceptable to the population.
First of all: employment insurance and the future consequences of this budget. An announcement has been made of a 10 cent cut in contributions, 10 cents less per $100. This proposed measure will not have much of an effect, since the reduction could have been50 cents per $100, which might have led to job creation.
At the moment, the jobs that are being created are precarious, poorly paid and short-lived. According to the experts, in the past six years there have been so many cuts in unemployment insurance-renamed employment insurance, which is a hoax, since insurance must insure us when we lose work and are unemployed-that there is a $2 billion annual shortfall in the fund.
This means that, had we maintained the 1989 criteria, we would have had a $3 billion surplus in the fund. What did the Liberal government do? Cut benefits to the least well-off. You will agree with me that people who are unemployed are not considered to be our society's most well-off.
What is sad today in Canada is that there are people who worry about what colour their next Mercedes will be, while others worry about whether there will be anything to put on the table tomorrow. There are fathers and mothers who are constantly worrying whether they will have anything to feed their families with, whether there will be anything to put in their children's lunch boxes. That measure is unacceptable.
I would also like to talk about child poverty. When the Liberal Party was in opposition and debating poverty, there were one million children living in poverty in Canada. The Liberals rose in this House to criticize the fact. Four years later, there are 1.5 million young people and children who lack what is needed to grow up in Canada.
And what did the Minister of Finance do? What provision is there in the budget? An increase of some $30 per child to fix the situation. That is shameful. It is shameful to spend an additional $70 million to help poor children.
We will recall that unemployment insurance was cut by some $2 billion a year. The poor lose $2 billion, and the $5 billion surplus goes to deficit reduction-those worst off pay for this too-and $30 a year more goes to filling lunch boxes. It is a scandal.
I would like to talk as well about the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This foundation will receive $800 million. By chance, transfers to the provinces were cut by $800 million, and here they are going to create a fund.
But, careful, a fund is not spent. The money in a fund is invested, and the interest is spent. So the government will be spending another $180 million a year-on what? It will spend it on education, research and hospitals, all of which come under provincial jurisdiction. Once again, federal Liberals, who specialize in invading areas of provincial jurisdiction, are going to butt in as they always do. This is unacceptable, it must be said.
Members will recall that the red book contained a proposal to create new day care spaces in Canada. The government promised to invest $720 million in day care. They broke their promise. Now there is a plan to invest $600 million of new money in children. As I said earlier, the budget provides for expenditres of only $70 million. Knowing the way Liberals are, we have be wary of what they promise as well as of the promises they keep.
Another point in this budget I did not like at all is the fact the minister refused to compensate us for harmonizing the GST. Members will recall that Quebec was the first province in Canada to harmonize its sales tax. When it did, it received no compensation. And what is the finance minister telling us now? He is saying that, thanks to harmonization, Quebec is making a profit.
Simply by looking at the tax in one province, and in other provinces, how can you say whether or not that province is making a profit? The minister forgot to say that the tax system in Quebec is different from Ontario's and the maritimes'. If the maritime provinces opted for a 10 or 11 per cent tax, it is their choice, but taxpayers there pay lower income taxes, higher sales taxes, but lower income taxes. In Quebec, we pay lower sales taxes, but a higher income tax than anywhere else in the country.
Therefore I think that when the finance minister is telling us in this House that with his new tax, Quebec is making a profit, he is not being honest. He ought to look at the tax system overall, and see how much Quebec has lost. The Quebec Minister of Finance is demanding $1.9 billion in compensation to be on an equal footing with the maritimes, who will be receiving close to $1 billion. I believe that this is important. It is a question of equity with Quebec, and the minister is continually brushing it off as trivial.
Once again, the Liberals are demonstrating that they are sympathetic, that they are willing, but when the time comes to act, they do not. The means were there this year, however, because the annual debt will be lower this year as a result of the lower interest rates, so the minister had the means of doing it, yet he has decided not to. What he is doing is sprinkling a little largesse here and there, a few goodies, just peanuts. What people would like to see, as the official opposition has proposed, is a complete reorganization of the personal and corporate income tax systems. This government has been asleep at the switch for four years, and has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation.
In closing, I wish to state that this is terrible, because there is talk everywhere of sharing, of equity. In Canada at the present time, it is the poor who are getting it in the neck, the poor who are being cut off, in this peculiar view of what equity toward them should be. The poor are bearing the brunt more and more, and receiving less and less. This is totally unacceptable, and I trust that this minister will think things over again, and return with a far more meaningful budget, for this one is a do-nothing budget, with nothing innovative about it. There is nothing innovative in this budget, and the entire population of Canada and of Quebec are bearing the brunt of this.
When the bishops of Quebec speak of poverty, of the role of a member of Parliament, the role of representing the least advantaged members of society, I think that everyone here in this House
has missed the boat here. We are not doing what we were elected to do, and the main responsibility lies with the Minister of Finance.
Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I see that no Liberal member, on the other side, dares respond to the eloquent arguments made by the hon. member for Shefford. I want to commend him, not only for his speech, but also for the concerns that he is always showing in the House and during the discussions we have about the victims of the federal budget, that is, the poor and, particularly, the unemployment.
I know that he did not have time to say everything. I would like him to remind us of what he thinks when he hears the finance minister bragging about reaching, and even exceeding, his budget objectives, when we know that the main reason why he exceeded his objectives is that he cut assistance to the unemployed.
We remember the famous bill on employment insurance, which is essentially similar to unemployment insurance. This legislation reduced the eligibility period and the benefits. It is now more difficult for young people and for women to get back into the work force. A person will now have to work 910 hours to be eligible for employment insurance. Yet, people pay premiums from the first hour and not the 15th hour, as was the case before.
I would like the member for Shefford to tell me what he thinks about these employment insurance cuts. Does he think, as I do, that it is shameful to see the finance minister boasting about his success, when he is achieving it mainly on the backs of the unemployed and with cuts in transfers to the provinces?
Mr. Leroux (Shefford): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Lévis. He also works very hard on these issues. We have only 10 minutes to talk about the budget, and of course, we cannot say much in 10 minutes. But the Liberals will get their comeuppance. There will be an election soon and then we will have our say. We will talk about their achievements, about what they have done, but mostly about what they have not done and how they went about it. They picked on the poor, the disadvantaged in our society, those who need to feel that we are here to help them. But not the Liberals, they are hiding from these people.
I remember listening to the Minister of Finance talk about poor children. What has he done for poor children? He merely injected $70 million. Now, $70 million may look like a lot of money. Mr. Speaker, you and I would feel like rich men if we were to win such a huge amount. It may look like a lot money, but it is peanuts in a country like ours, it only amounts to $30 per child every year. It is a shame. When the Liberals took office, there were 1 million kids living in poverty, now that figure is up to 1.5 million, that is 500,000 more poor children since the Liberals took office.
To resolve this issue, we need to get rid of the Liberals and to replace them by something else. By what exactly, I do not know. But one thing is sure. Historically, the Liberal Party has cared about the disadvantaged, but now they are worse than the Conservatives. The decisions they make are worse. The friends of these two parties are often rich people, contributors, people with money to support them. The poor do not have any money. However, they want to improve their lot. Their children are in an even worse situation. They have rights too.
In our society, we have parents who do not know if they will have a slice of bread the next morning to put into their kids' lunchbox, and that is unacceptable. It is unacceptable and shameful. There is no word strong enough to describe that whole situation.
As official opposition, we will continue to work hard. We will continue to criticize the people opposite. They are not all the same, but they are very much alike. We have to make the decision makers and the ministers aware of the measures that need to be taken in our society and that cannot wait any longer.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Waterloo, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, back in my university days I had some experience with Maoist economics. I just heard some of that come at me from the previous speaker. I understand that is where their leader is coming from in terms of protocol ideology.
Nevertheless I am pleased and privileged to have the opportunity to speak on the fourth budget of the government. My maiden speech to the House was on the occasion of the government's first budget. I vividly recall the challenges we were facing as a new government and as a people.
The previous Conservative government during its nine years in office mismanaged the Canadian economy, gave Canadians record deficits and the debt grew from $208 billion to $508 billion. We were facing a fiscal crisis whereby over one-third of our revenues went to finance the debt.
The challenge for us as a government and the challenge for us as Canadians was to bring the country back to fiscal health and to regain our fiscal sovereignty. As a government we knew that if we failed at this task we would fail at everything else we tried to do.
We have met our deficit targets. We have restored Canada's fiscal integrity. We have united the country in the determination to guard the new fiscal sovereignty we have won.
The proof of our fiscal success is the reality of having the lowest interest rates in 40 years. The Canadian prime rate is at 4.75 per
cent and the U.S. prime rate is at 8.25 per cent. Our prime rate is 3.5 per cent lower than the U.S. prime rate. The U.S. prime rate is 74 per cent higher than the Canadian prime rate. On a loan of $100,000 this represents a saving of $3,500 in annual interest charges.
Because we have our fiscal house in order Canada is viewed abroad as a good place to invest, a good partner to trade with and a great place to live. Everyone is optimistic about Canada's future both in the short term and in the long term. The rest of the community is forecasting improvements and rightly so.
The budget has its priorities in balance. This is truly a Liberal budget for it makes provision for those who need the assistance of their fellow Canadians within the framework of the economic realities. Because of the government's policies which have been reiterated in the budget we the people of Canada are once again maîtres chez nous.
We are investing in ourselves by facilitating the full participation in society of those with disabilities. We are investing in ourselves by taking steps to maintain and strengthen our health care system. We are investing in ourselves by not yielding to the temptation to buy votes with our tax cut. That would be a fool's bargain. That would be throwing away our future, our children's future and Canada's future.
Therefore we have chosen to invest in our future. We are proposing the new national child benefit system to give the children of low income families a better start in life and to fight poverty.
Without a job the ordinary Canadian has no future whether we are speaking of today's adults or today's children when they grow up. Creating a favourable climate for a growing economy has been and continues to be a goal of the government.
The government has taken positive actions to create more jobs for Canadians now and in the future. That is how we will maintain and improve our standard of living and increase government revenues, not by borrowing more money to cut taxes.
The Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister are to be applauded for their leadership in involving the Liberal caucus in drafting the budget. They involved members of the Liberal caucus through caucus committees. The budget is a result of our collective efforts. Along with my colleague from Kitchener I helped establish the eight-member post-secondary caucus, of which we are both members. We see the fruits of our three years of work in the budget.
Canada's bright future depends on our continuing ability to produce the goods and services the world needs. To produce those goods and services we need to invest in ourselves.
My constituency is blessed with two universities and a community college campus with a combined student enrolment of over 40,000. Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College are integral parts of the identity of my riding. I applaud the wisdom of the finance minister in arranging to help students pay for their education. There are three ways in which the budget will benefit those paying tuition for higher education.
The increased tax assistance makes it possible to dedicate more of a person's income to education costs, thus holding down the debts incurred in meeting those costs.
In the past it has been common for students to graduate and find themselves faced with having to pay off their student loans before they could get established in a job. The maximum deferral period will be increased to three years to help them get on their feet.
James Downey, president of the University of Waterloo, and Lorna Marsden, president of Wilfrid Laurier University, have expressed to me their enthusiastic approval and support of the higher education provisions of the budget.
Canadian universities and their presidents have all reacted positively to the budget which identifies investment in university research, university infrastructure and students as key priorities.
The idea for improved student financing was started at the University of Waterloo last spring by two economic students, Chris Lowe and Paul Skipper. Through Kelly Foley, vice-president of education of the Federation of Students, they worked with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations to lobby the government through the post-secondary education caucus.
As a former president of the Federation of Students, a member of the senate at the University of Waterloo and a former board of governors member of Wilfrid Laurier University, I thank Kelly Foley and all members of the post-secondary education community for their help. We did this together. You made a difference. Your lobby worked and I and my colleague from Kitchener look forward to working together with you to ensure the excellence of our post-secondary educational institutions in Canada. This budget is a big step in that process.
It is because of my deep belief in post-secondary education that I support financially all the post-secondary educational institutions in my community and I urge all post-secondary graduates to do the same. The education community supports us in this because it knows the value of education. Like the students and their parents, it does not want to see our young people robbed of their opportunities for higher education because of fiscal barriers. All the people of Canada do not want to see the nation deprived of the talents of the next generation.
I am very happy that the budget is investing in future jobs in Canada for Canadians by setting up the foundation for innovation. This is a very important strategic move to keep Canada in the technological forefront in several keys areas, science, engineering, health and the environment. The dividends of this investment will be huge. By putting funding into education and research and development we are building the bridge to the next millennium. We need jobs and this is where the jobs of the future are.
The key to a person's success in the world is education. Statistics show that the more education you have, the less likely you are to be unemployed. So there is no question that the more of us who obtain a higher education, the better off we will be as individuals and as Canadians.
Where will these graduates work? As I said, here in Canada. I can give a good example on how it works for my riding. There are probably similar situations right across Canada. The University of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier University and Conestoga College have spun off more than 200 companies because of their programs in engineering and computers, environmental technology and business. These companies are located in Canada's technology triangle and in other Canadian centres. They are doing well because they are dealing in the goods and services that are needed.
Because of the constant output of new graduates from universities and because of university research our local high tech sector is going to boom in the immediate future especially in the area of information technology.
Right now Canada has a shortage of 20,000 positions in the software sector that are not being filled. This is clearly hurting our economy. It is hurting us economically as a nation. Clearly there are many places these young people can be trained. Resources spent in our post-secondary institutions will ensure those jobs are filled.
With the notable exception I just stated, we have through our education system a critical mass of skilled labour together with the capability of ongoing research in partnership with the educational sector. Thanks to the new budget the federal government is fostering the growth of both industry and education to the benefit of all Canada. With a new high tech industrial park in place, it is now in the initial stages. There will be less of a tendency for graduates and companies to move south. The facilities for development will be here in the Waterloo region, in Canada's technology triangle.
In the new economy it is an imperative that industry, educational institutions and governments at all levels work together in the fashion of Team Canada. We are doing that in my riding.
I mentioned that we have a high tech sector in the Waterloo area. Students are graduating from the computer engineering program at the University of Waterloo. The biggest recruiter of our students is Microsoft in the United States. Clearly that does not make any sense.
We are spending tax dollars to educate our young people. We get them to the point where they can compete in the world. In too many cases the brain drain goes to the United States.
An hon. member: Why is that happening?
Mr. Telegdi: My Reform colleague opposite asked why this is happening.
In this new economy we need a Team Canada approach. When I say a Team Canada approach, we need educational institutions, industry and governments at all levels to work together to solve these problems. Not one sector alone has the solutions for these problems. In my riding too many graduates are going south of the border.
We are defining the problems, but opportunities are lacking for software industries to expand in our country.
Let me tell the House about a problem. This has to do with government policy overall and how governments involve themselves in the Team Canada approach.
A number of years ago one of the companies in my riding was going public. The technology it produces is Internet communications technology. Its initial development was funded by government research dollars. Its technical expertise was found at the University of Waterloo.
About a year ago, when that company went public, it found it easier to list on the NASDAQ exchange in the United States than to list in Canada. In the United States companies can get listed with a big exchange and cover all their fiscal needs.
Furthermore, not only do we have securities commissions in each province, we have the ridiculous situation that companies have to file with all of them if they want to trade across Canada.
When this company went public and issued warrants, it found it much more difficult to sell in Canada than to sell its warrants in the United States.
Once this company went public it needed to expand very quickly. The American market provided the financing. Two hundred and fifteen of the new employees hired are now in the United States. It still has 100 employees in Waterloo.
Infrastructure funding is of critical importance. We do not have in the Waterloo area is a high tech park which would allow these companies to develop so we can be one of the best software centres in Canada. Not only would we produce graduates from the University of Waterloo, we would keep them in Canada.
This is an exploding sector in terms of opportunity. The projections are that over the next couple of decades, in the Waterloo region, we could add 25,000 new jobs to this sector. That is an enormous payoff for the dollars we have spent on our educational system.
In the new economy it is imperative that industry, educational institutions and governments at all levels work together in the fashion of Team Canada. We are doing that in my riding.
The Prime Minister stated in February 1997: ``I know for someone without a job statistics may not be much comfort. However, I want all Canadians to understand what we are doing to combat unemployment and how I believe our actions will create a stronger economy and more jobs for all Canadians''.
It is important to bear in mind that restoring Canada's fiscal sovereignty is not an end in itself but a means to an end, a job for every Canadian who wants one. Our economy is poised for expansion because interest rates are low, our operating deficit is under control and we are in a position to cope with the national debt.
It is all due to sound management on the part of this government and the support of Canadians from coast to coast.
Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is customary in this House to point out that a member expresses the concerns and interests of his constituents.
In this regard, I think the hon. member for Waterloo deserves praise for expressing the concerns of his region. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. The member also talked about financial sovereignty. Again, we are rarely opposed to anyone seeking greater autonomy.
The member talked about the financial sovereignty of the people in his region, compared to the United States. In stating his concerns, he mentioned that a number of people trained and educated in his province are moving to the United States. This is certainly a serious concern for him and others, since he would like these people to stay. Indeed, when the government puts money into education, it wants to see the benefits of that investment remain in this country. Therefore, the hon. member must be congratulated for his concern.
This is the positive note, the flower-who knows, it might bring spring along. However, when the member mentioned that the government was about to invest $800 million in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, he should have pointed out that this amount will not all be invested this year. In fact, it is believed that only $150 million will be invested in the near future.
The member then said that the Minister of Finance promised to invest in higher or post-secondary education. It is true that $137 million has been set aside for education and $7 million for literacy. While this may seems interesting at first because it looks like more money, we must remember that this same government and its Minister of Finance have cut $800 million more in transfer payments to the provinces for health and education. The hon. member says it is great that a foundation will be created with a $800 million budget. It looks like it adds up, but in fact only $150 million will be invested in the foundation.
In itself, saying $800 million will be invested while the actual amount is $150 million, does not matter that much. What does matter, however, is the fact that this is basically a provincial jurisdiction. The member comes from Ontario, so he must surely be aware of what is going on in Ontario-reaction to the cuts made by the Harris government, a Conservative government-and must know why these cuts are being made. They are the result of the federal government's cuts across the board. Since its election, this government has cut no less than $4.5 billion in those transfer payments referred to by the hon. member.
On the eve of an election, having made all these cuts, the federal government wants to be seen as generous and be able to say it has done something for post-secondary education. It would have been much better for the government not to make such drastic cuts in transfer payments for education and health in the first place, but rather to have let the provinces look after it; then, the provinces would not have been left holding the bag and been forced, as they are now, to make their own cuts. The same thing is happening in Quebec.
A matter of current interest in Quebec concerns the renegotiation of collectives agreements by the government and the major union federations representing health and education workers. It is tough, even fierce. Why? Because the federal government has cut transfer payments back and Quebec has been hit especially hard by the cuts.
I find it incredible that, after having cut transfer payments, the government now forces the provinces to clean up its mess, while it hands out crumbs to hide all the cuts and cover everything up. That is unacceptable. I would like to hear his comments on this.
Mr. Telegdi: Mr. Speaker, the member posed a lot of questions that I will try to answer.
When I talk about my region vis-à-vis the United States I am talking about my country. The Waterloo region is a part of Canada and part of the province of Ontario. Let me also say that Quebec is a part of Canada. It is a part of my country.
When we get to be 50 years of age we begin to reflect on the past. It was 40 years ago that my family crossed the Austrian frontier.
To get there we had to go through minefields. We were fleeing the repression of the Hungarian revolution. I was 10 years old at the time. I remember my parents, my older brother and my sister having to leave. We had all sorts of fears and concerns about what the future would hold but we believed the future would be better.
Canada is the best country in the world. I can say that from all my years of experience. I will do everything in my power to make sure it stays together. Part of the way that can be done is by establishing the financial sovereignty of the country.
When the government took office it was on the verge of hitting the debt wall. It was on the verge of economic doom. We have to recall those times and the 1993 election. We have to recall how some folk thought we should follow the experience of New Zealand. The government chose not to do that.
I reiterate that we as a government knew the finances of the country had to be stabilized. We cut transfer payments. Let me speak to that for a minute because transfer payment cuts have had personal impacts on my life and on people around me.
My wife used to work in the health care sector. A number of years ago because of cuts to the hospital where she was working she had to go back to university and get some additional training. The fact she was a nurse helps her in her new jobs but essentially she is in a new field.
We cut transfer payments. In the case of the province of Ontario we cut to the tune of $1.2 billion. We in Ontario know that a 30 per cent tax cut at the provincial level to give a tax break to the people of Ontario devastated the health care sector and many community organizations that have worked with victims.
I used to be employed by an organization called Youth in Conflict with the Law involved in community corrections. It is slated to end at the end of the month. Twelve programs across the province of Ontario which were a cost effective and humane way to provide protection to communities will be lost. Community resource centres were closed down by the Harris government because they were driven by a right wing ideology that tax cuts are the way to restore the economy.
That was tried by Ronald Reagan. He took the United States of America from being the biggest lending nation in the world to the biggest indebted nation in eight years. He lost more sovereignty for the United States of America than any other previous president.
That is exactly what the previous Conservative government wanted to do. That is exactly what the leader of the Ontario Conservative government wants to do. That is exactly what the leader of the Reform Party and the Reform Party want to do. They want to slash and burn and follow the American model.
The people of Ontario have had the experience of the Harris government. They have seen that right wing approach and they have seen this government's balanced approach. They will respond positively in the next election by supporting our government, not because we are perfect, not because we have a God given right to be here, but because the choices we have made are in the best interest of the country and of Canadians.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the member who spoke just before me on the Liberal side of the House mentioned in his speech on the budget that graduates from his area were going south and jobs were going south. That disturbed him quite a lot. He speculated on the reasons that is happening. It is very obvious why it is happening. There are more jobs in the United States and the taxes are lower. Those things are linked together. Where the taxes are lower, the jobs appear.
In my riding of North Vancouver, which is close to the border with the United States, a whole slew of businesses, thousands of small businesses, have moved across the border into the Bellingham area to operate in the United States where there is a lower tax regime.
Canadian businesses have produced jobs in the United States for U.S. citizens. It happens because of lower taxes. Even when we take into account paying for medical care it is still cheaper to work in Washington State than it is in the province of B.C. It is very clear that is the main reason graduates are going south.
The member also mentioned interest rates, which is something a lot of other Liberals mentioned today. He claimed credit for low interest rates. They must think that the people of Canada have no long term memory at all. Prior to the last election the Liberal Party opposed the policies of the Bank of Canada and the federal reserve in the United States which have led to the low interest rate situation.
Because of the need to beat inflation, which was destroying our economy, the federal reserve and the Bank of Canada took the position they did. The Liberals spoke out strongly against the Bank of Canada. They did not approve the policy at all.
It is just amazing. They did not want NAFTA, which has now produced tremendous export markets for Canada. They did not want the interest rates scenario of the Bank of Canada. Suddenly the Liberals want to take credit for all the things that have been beneficial. It is absolutely amazing.
It is Liberal, Tory, same old story. They really have always been in bed together. They still are. Nothing would suit them better than to have the Tories back in the House because everything would tick
along quite nicely. They would pass the same legislation together. They would have a great time.
During question period today one of our members rose to question the finance minister. He could not even rise to answer questions. We must be getting to them if the finance minister is perhaps incapable of rising and answering questions about the figures and about why government departments have not met the targets set in the budget. Departmental spending has been exceeded by the various departments.
I realize I cannot use props but I will describe an example I have with me today. It is quite a large package of papers about 1.5 times the size of a package of copy paper used for copying machines. About 650 pages of material arrived on my desk.
Mr. Schmidt: I thought that was your speech.
Mr. White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Luckily it is not. On the top there is a computer disk which contains the material in electronic form.
What are these 650 pages of material about? They are about the western economic diversification fund. It is a big propaganda package that is supposed to convince me that the Liberal propaganda machine is something worthwhile having.
There are summaries of press releases from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Half of it is being sent to western MPs in French as well. About the only piece of frugal work in the whole package is the letter from the deputy minister which is actually double sided instead of using two sheets. Everything else is a complete and utter waste of taxpayers' money. There are brochures in French going to MPs in the western ridings.
As soon as I am done my speech today this package is going straight back to the minister. What a waste of money. It is a good example of why the government is over budget on departmental spending.
I can give another example. Yesterday there was a meeting of the heritage committee. One of the matters to be discussed in camera was a new trip around the country, a junket for the people on the heritage committee. What were they to do on this junket? They were to study Canadian culture and try to define it. They were to go to Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal. They were to define Canadian culture. That is like trying to define love or why a cat is a cat. What a ridiculous, stupid exercise.
How much was it to cost? If that had been discussed and passed yesterday, $214,000 of taxpayers' money would have gone down the tubes. If we really need to define Canadian culture, ask people to write us some letters and tell us. We do not need to spend $214,000. No wonder the budget estimates are over budget.
Another example is a letter I received from a constituent. He mentions that according to the attached news report last year Bombardier made a profit of $313 million. In its current fiscal year the Liberal government has made Bombardier a grant of $97 million. That figure is from page 878 of Hansard. This constituent reads Hansard religiously so he has all his ducks in a row.
Adding the $313 million profit and the $97 million grant gives us a $410 million figure. This year ending January 31 Bombardier reported a profit of $406.2 million. Is that not a coincidence? Most of the additional profit came in the form of a grant. Should it be taxable or non-taxable? It is another propaganda give away from the Minister of Industry and a good example of why departmental spending is over budget.
I have another example. The Liberals have been saying how wonderful their budget is and that everybody is falling over themselves with praise for what they have done, conveniently forgetting as I mentioned earlier in the day the $600 billion debt which at the moment costs us about $50 billion a year in interest. If the interest rate went up 1 per cent it would add $6 billion more to that figure; 2 per cent would add $12 billion; and 3 per cent would $18 billion. If we had a 5 per cent jump the whole thing would be totally out of control. We would have the crisis the member before me mentioned we were close to in 1993.
We are not out of the woods yet. If this government had adopted the zero in three plan which Reform promoted in the last election we would be running surpluses today. We would be arguing in this House what to do with the surplus money, like Alberta is doing today, instead of discussing a $19 billion deficit.
Only Liberals would think that a $19 billion deficit is something to be celebrated. When we have a $19 billion surplus we can have a party. However, a $19 billion deficit, give me a break.
Another of my constituents wrote me a letter: ``Last October, I was lucky enough to receive a $300 per month raise in pay. My wife and I considered ourselves fortunate and looked forward to being able to remodel the kitchen. When my end of January pay arrived, there did not seem to be any extra money in there''.
We are not surprised at that because, when my constituent analyzed his paycheque, he found that from the original $300 raise, $162.60 went to income tax and $129.96 went to increased CPP and UI deductions. He ended up with $7.44.
A Liberal answer to that would be borrow the money because interest rates are low. We have these wonderful interest rates. That is typical Liberal speak, Liberal think. There is a benefit in borrowing money.
Does that sound familiar? They started it in the 1970s. Look at the hole they dug for us, the debt hole they dug for us by taking the attitude that borrowing money was good, that there would be a benefit by borrowing money. Absolute rubbish.
If the people of Canada had a surplus running today through their government we could be giving them tax breaks so that they did not have to borrow money to get a break. It would be in their pay packet every week, a meaningful tax reduction.
In July 1996 the New Zealand government gave every average worker $200 a week more in their pockets. It was a tax break for everyone. They do not have to borrow money to get the benefit.
On March 19, one of the talk show hosts in Vancouver, Mr. Bill Good on CKNW, did a poll about the reduction of taxes. He asked people whether they thought reducing taxes would be a good idea. It coincided with the release of the Tory election platform. He took calls for an hour. There was unanimous support. Every single call to that program was in support of Reform's tax cut proposals and the comments that were made, to summarize generally, were do not trust the PCs because it is just more of the same Liberal-Tory, same old story.
Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Waterloo, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, since the Reform member referred to some of my comments, I should respond.
One of the reasons we have for students going south is that the opportunity for expansion was not there to the extent that it should have been in the Waterloo region. That is what you get when you invest in infrastructure and that is exactly what we are doing now.
In the past in my community there were so many good things happening that Canadians did not need the co-ordination between government, industry and the educational sector to the extent that it is needed now. That is important to understand.
I am a little distressed when the member keeps referring to Bombardier because all sorts of money went out under the Canada technology partnership fund. That is a perfect example of a critical investment in research and development in this country which in terms of our new policies is not a giveaway. It is money that we will get back with interest.
The member from the Reform Party talks about having gone to zero deficit in three years. If that plan ever had a chance of happening, it would be worse than what Mike Harris is doing. It would devastate this country. Since Mike Harris began his plan of tax cuts there has been a net loss in jobs in the province of Ontario. It has actually been a drag on overall Canadian job creation.
It is necessary for Reform to understand that by destroying an economy you do not get more tax revenues. You get less. When you destroy an economy you have less tax revenue. I know Reform Party members do not like good news but I recommend that they read the report in the business section of the Globe and Mail because there is good news there every day. The Canadian prime rate, 4.75 per cent; U.S. prime rate, 8.25 per cent; on $100,000 borrowed in Canada, the consumers, the small businesses, save $3,500.
I can also refer them to another happy story. The headline is ``Economy on a Tear. Consumer spending, exports, business investments produce outstandingly strong numbers. Canada's private sector appears to be firing in all cylinders''.
The government's policy was set up to create the climate for the private sector to start creating jobs, and it is happening. In spite of all the cuts governments have made across the country, which have cost overall about 100,000 jobs, because they have had the right climate, private businesses have created 800,000 jobs. So over 700,000 jobs have been created since this government came to office. It all rested on the integrity of our fiscal policies, on the integrity of the finance minister whereby we met our financial targets time after time. It is unparalleled in budget forecasting. That is why the economy is doing that well.
So I suggest to Reform members-
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for North Vancouver has a minute to reply.
Mr. White (North Vancouver): Mr. Speaker, he asked so many questions. It is ridiculous for the member to say that a company like Bombardier which makes $406 million profit needs any money. It does not need a single cent and it is an outrage that this member has been brainwashed, I would have to say, by the spin doctors upstairs who have convinced him that company that makes $406 million should be given $97 million of taxpayer money.
He also made the comment that if we give tax cuts there will be less taxes coming in. Of course there will. The member does not get it yet. Canadians are asking for smaller government. Smaller government does not need as much tax. That is the whole idea and that is why people are so supportive of the Harris government, of the Klein government. They are doing what people want. They are making government smaller and any opportunities that are coming in Ontario are a direct result of the Harris government actions. They are not a result of this government's actions.
When he talks about students going south because there are no expansion opportunities in Waterloo, that again is related to taxes. Companies are moving out of his area. They are taking jobs away
from that area because the taxes are too high. The member should go back to his riding, listen to his constituents and look at the facts. Taxes in Canada are too high. It is a job killer.
Ms. Val Meredith (Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak in the budget debate today. I am delighted to have the opportunity to shed some light on one of the most deceptive documents I have ever seen. Watching the Minister of Finance perform in this house is like watching one of the greatest illusionists since Merlin the magician.
There are claims of no tax increases when the finance minister has introduced 35 tax increases, taking an additional $25 billion out of the hands of Canadians. Imagine what would have happened if that $25 billion had been left in the hands of consumers. Imagine all the spending Canadians would have done with that $25 billion. Imagine all the jobs that would have been created with that $25 billion. For some reason this Liberal government does not want Canadians to spend their own money. Instead the Liberals want to spend Canadians' money.
A movie about a sports agent, ``Jerry Maguire'', contains the line: ``Show me the money. Show me the money''. The finance minister and the Liberal government have adopted a slightly different version of the line. The government's version is ``Give me your money. Give me your money''.
Another example of the minister's smoke and mirrors is how he arrived at the $19 billion deficit.
Let us take a look at the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. In the main estimates which were tabled after the budget the department's spending decreased by $40 million. However, less than two weeks later, the department tabled its supplementary estimates. Instead of a $40 million decrease there was an $88 million increase. It is no wonder the finance minister can claim fiscal responsibility when government departments show their spending has been cut by 7 per cent the week of the budget and then increased by 15 per cent two weeks later.
The finance minister's greatest sleight of hand involves the Canada pension plan. I will go through this really slowly so government members, if they are around to listen, will be able to follow.
With the recently announced increase in CPP premiums, in six years Canadians will see 9.9 per cent of their salary going into the plan. For someone paying the maximum amount, that will mean the individual will pay $1,635, with the employer paying a matching amount.
Let us imagine that we have someone under the age of 30 paying the maximum amount for the next 35 years. That person and their employer will pay about $110,000 in premiums. I have heard that the average length of collecting CPP is 19 years. That means, in today's dollars, that individual would collect $165,000.
Is $165,000 a good return on an investment of $110,000 over 35 years? I would suggest that 99 per cent of Canadians would laugh at the idea that it is a good investment.
It gets worse. Under the provisions of the seniors' benefit which the Liberal government introduced last year, the first $12,500 of income over and above the seniors' benefit will be taxed at the rate of 50 per cent. That is right, 50 per cent. This poor soul who paid $110,000 into the Canada pension plan will not get that cheque for $724 a month; rather they will only receive $362 a month.
If this poor soul lives to collect his pension of $362 a month for 19 years, he will collect a grand total of $82,500. That is an $82,500 return on an investment of $110,000. I do not know what kind of mathematics it takes to show that is not a good investment. Only a member of the Liberal government would think it is a good deal.
Actually under this government's pension policies, it is a good plan for Liberal and Tory MPs. The Liberals have ensured that they will not have to worry about little things like the CPP. No, they do not have to worry about the Canada pension plan when they have their own gold plated pension.
While the average Canadian in the future will be struggling on their skimpy seniors' benefit and half of their CPP, these Liberal MPs will be basking in the glory of the richest pension plan in the country, so rich that it is illegal for any other Canadian to have a similar plan.
The finance minister has made sure that he and his fellow Liberals will enjoy most of their obscene pension.
One may ask, why is that? Under the provisions of the seniors benefit, that 50 per cent tax on pension income only covers the first $12,500. The next $12,500 is taxed at the rate of zero. That is right, there is no income tax on the next $12,500. That means it will completely cover the benefit that someone will receive from the Canada pension plan, but it will only touch a small portion of additional pension income, like the members of Parliament pension plan.
This means that the Deputy Prime Minister will be able to collect her full pension of over $50,000 a year when she reaches the age of 55, a full 10 years earlier than the average Canadian. When she turns 65 her CPP payments will be taxed at 50 per cent. However, that will be just a pittance to her because $12,500 of her gold plated pension plan will be tax free and the rest is only going to be taxed at a rate of about 20 per cent.
So while the average Canadian will have his or her CPP taxed at 50 per cent, these Liberal MPs will be laughing while paying less than 20 per cent tax on that outrageous pension. No wonder the Liberals think that this is a really great budget. For them it is.
No wonder the finance minister has refused to answer the Reform Party's tough questions about the budget. Instead, he uses a typical Liberal tactic of attacking Reform, of diverting people's attention from the real issue, his sham of a budget. Instead of paying his people to come up with a decent budget, he has them all working scouring everything the Reform Party has ever said about finances and then figuring a way to distort them.
Here is something that is not in Reform Party policy that I think I could get my colleagues to approve. While we normally are not in favour of tax increases, we would be prepared to support a very heavy tax increase on Canadian shipping magnates who register their ships in Panama so they can avoid paying Canadian taxes. We would be more than happy to tax these Canadians who export jobs out of Canada and would rather pay taxes in Panama than in Canada.
Perhaps it is time for the finance minister to lead by example. Perhaps it is time for the finance minister and his fellow Liberals to put their hands in their own pockets instead of the pockets of Canadians.
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I thought it was worth mentioning again a part of the speech that the hon. member brought to our attention. It is something that is so easy to forget: that members of the Reform Party made a commitment that they would not take the gold plated pension plan that members of the government side took for themselves.
I would like to ask the member if she could cover a little bit of that ground once again to remind the Canadian public of that commitment, we are not in this place for our long term pensions. We are here because we truly believe that what Reform stands for can make this a better country.
Ms. Meredith: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity to share with Canadians that he is right, 51 out of 52 Reformers did opt out of the pension plan for members of Parliament. It was not easy as a single parent without any pension to walk away from it. However, I felt was not right and because it was not in the same vein as pension plans for the average Canadian in the private sector, I could not in good conscience remain in that plan. Yes, at great sacrifice to myself and my colleagues, we opted out when the opportunity was there. We will not be ripping off Canadians down the road as far as the pension is concerned.
It shows the leadership and the vision we have for the country. I hope that when the voters go to the poll in the very near future they will consider that as an indication of what kind of government we will provide after the next election.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the budget debate that is drawing to a close. We have to wonder about what we should have found in this budget and what was not there.
We have learned to expect some quite original, but not always positive, moves by the Minister of Finance to cut expenditures, reduce transfer payments to the provinces, use the UI fund surplus as public revenues to hide the deficit. This year, however, he could have come up with more original initiatives to deal with our number one problem, the employment situation.
The budget contains no original employment measure on jobs. In my speech, I will point out some initiatives that should have been brought forward, but that were not, which goes to show that the government does not really want to deal with the unemployment problem we are facing in Quebec and throughout Canada.
First, I would like to give you an example of how public expenditures could have been better controlled. It would have been interesting to cut the Senate's budget. All the Senate has done this last year is to reject the Pearson Airport bill.
Because this measure was rejected, the federal government had to go to court and will probably have to pay up to $600 million of taxpayers' money in compensation because of the Pearson airport mess. Perhaps the Senate deserves that we cut its expenses and that we look more closely at what it is doing with our money.
The main issue is that the government has not set an employment target. It has not established specific objectives, as it did for deficit reduction. It has not made a commitment to reduce unemployment by a certain percentage over the next year or over the next two years.
That is what the Quebec government has done. It said that it would meet its job creation target as soon as possible and eliminate the gap between Quebec and the average for Canada. The federal government has not made such a commitment. The Prime Minister is constantly telling us that we must create the proper conditions for job creation, which means keeping an eye on interest rates and other such things. That is good for a certain number of jobs. However, in today's society, I think there are two realities with regard to employment.
There are those people concerned with the new economy, those who just got out of university or college and for whom we must implement new technologies, open markets, increase exports, etc. It is true that we must act on that front, but there is also a segment
of the population that has been abandoned, that is not being taken care of in the present budget as I think it should have been.
There are the solutions I heard about in a workshop held during the Bloc Quebecois convention on the issue of employment. A number of solutions were suggested. One is to turn over management of the UI fund, now known as the EI fund, to those paying into it, that is employers, employees and the unemployed. Chambers of Commerce, the Bloc Quebecois and even the Conservative Party of Canada called very clearly for a significant reduction in UI premiums. This would free up money that could be put back into the economy, thus helping to create jobs.
The federal government made a very timid move in this direction, but without any real results. The 5 cent reduction decided on by the federal government will not have a real effect on employment. It could have been a much larger reduction, something like 40 cents for every $100 in earnings, so as to put a significant amount back into the economy and actually produce jobs.
The most productive money is not the money we invest in the system of government, in the bureaucracies. It would perhaps be more helpful in terms of job creation to invest money directly in the private sector, in the economy.
Another point is that this UI fund should be turned over to those who ultimately fund it. Until then, the emphasis could be on short-term projects. I know there is one in the Lower St. Lawrence to enable forestry workers to have more weeks of work from year to year and less need of employment insurance.
This project was put to the minister long ago. We are waiting to hear from him. Perhaps we will have good news soon. This claim has been pending a long time. It was supported by the Bloc Quebecois. It was regularly part of our arguments against employment insurance. The surplus must serve the community more. It must target a specific clientele, like seasonal workers, people who do not necessarily have specialized training, so as to ensure that they are properly trained to respond to market conditions.
This is another possible use that must be advocated, developed in a proactive approach. The surplus money must be used to provide in-house training and thus prevent people who lost their job from ending up on EI, and provide them instead with the opportunity to upgrade their skills while they are still employed, in order to fill the new positions created by the new economy.
There is a third solution I would have liked to see in the budget, namely stopping the cuts to transfer payments and, if possible, increasing them. The finance minister's documents brush a very revealing employment picture. They show that since 1976 employment has increased in the private sector, but decreased in the public sector. At the end of the day, people who lost their job in the public sector may not have found another job in the private sector, and they may not have found a job with the same conditions. This situation has created insecurity.
This year, if, instead of hiding the lower deficit from us, in order to be able to throw out some election goodies, the federal government had instead decided to inject the money back into transfer payments, the provinces would not be experiencing the difficulties they are at present with their health and education budgets, and would have been able to maintain employment on a more meaningful and more significant basis, while maintaining services at a still more worth while level.
These are, therefore, three approaches to the employment question that are not included in the budget. The reason they are not there is that the government has made no commitment to really tackle this problem of unemployment. This is rather strange since the government was elected on a platform promising ``jobs, jobs, jobs''. Yet, after three years, when the Liberal candidates face their constituents, they will be asked: ``Yes, it is true, you fought the deficit, there were cuts in transfer payments, there were tremendous pressures on the unemployment insurance fund, but what did you do to provide us with jobs? Did you provide a climate favourable to job creation? Yes, interest rates are low, but that did not give me a job''.
The lowering of interest rates is very often good for the introduction of new technologies, but if we do not want that the victim be the person who loses his or her job, we have to find ways to give that person another job, we have to be proactive. This is an element you will not find in the budget.
The workshop participants, Bloc members, people who take this issue at heart, who are aware of the what is really going on around them, also suggested to me other solutions that they thought should be in the budget to help the employment issue.
First, the dramatic reduction of paperwork required from small and medium size businesses. Today, a small business owner who is just starting or is already an owner must go through endless red tape when he wants to create an extra job. He must get employer's numbers, approach health and safety organizations, the human resources development department, as well as many other organizations. This has a demoralizing effect on the business owner, who will tend to ask his employees to work extra hours or try to find other similar solutions, but all this does not allow for a better sharing of jobs.
Therefore, paperwork reduction is a specific point that could have been put forward, but this budget does not consider this as crucial.
The establishment of a progressive retirement plan could have been another interesting point.
It is crucial to follow up on small and medium size businesses during the first three years, the critical years for them. They are now offered interesting start-up programs, but they often have a high rate of failure because there is no adequate follow-up. Is there anything specific to help these businesses? I have not seen anything about that in the budget and I find this deplorable. This would be important, because it is small and medium size businesses that create more than 80 per cent of new jobs in Canada.
Another thing would be to see how we could make retirement plans and mutual funds beneficial to those who invest in Quebec or Canadian businesses. In this regard, as in others, the budget lacks initiative and innovation.
The government could also have found ways to make overtime less appealing for employers and workers, so as to lead them to provide work for more people. A fundamental change is taking place in our society in this area.
There are also other avenues to explore concerning employment that were left out of the budget. We need a well focused strategy for people who do not necessarily have very extensive training, such as literacy programs. Incidentally, this is literacy week. Our society would greatly benefit from investing in that sector, and ensuring that people with reading disabilities have access to all the tools they need to learn and to overcome their difficulties. Thus, they would increase their chances of finding a new job.
Today, most jobs require better reading and mental skills. We must allow those who did not get the chance to develop these skills to do so. A lot of money could have been invested in literacy, but the budget makes no provision in this regard.
The budget also seeks to stabilize the monetary policy. More could have been done in this area. The government realized that it contributed to the recession by being too restrictive in the past. There should be an inflation target range. There must also be some security inthis regard. We do not find these conditions in this budget, and I deplore it.
The minister lacked originality, and therefore the budget is not very interesting. It is rather dull. One of the financial experts invited to comment on the budget before a chamber of commerce said: ``I must tell you that I had prepared myself to give you a lot of information, but this is a non-budget''. Aside from a few crumbs, there are not really any interesting new items in this budget.
There is a matter that is particularly close to my heart. More specifically, it is the issue of rural development. Why do we not find in this budget measures to help build senior citizens residences in small municipalities? Our rural communities are in dire need of that. The population of rural communities is aging. There is a need for 10 to 15 room residences. Seniors could stay in the community where they have lived all their life. It would be easier for their children to visit. The regional economy would get a boost while seniors would have a better quality of life. But there is nothing in the budget about that.
People at CMHC do what they can, but their mandate is to ensure viability in strictly economical terms. The government should have undertaken to build senior citizens homes in towns and villages and contribute that way to keep these communities vibrant. But it shirked these responsibilities. This kind of development would have been quite interesting.
American pensions is another humanitarian issue I have been talking about quite often, and I am disappointed the government did not suggest any solution to that. For more that a year now, the minister has known that the new fiscal convention between Canada and the United States would penalize low income earners. For example, a person who gets an $8,000 pension from the United States had to declare half of this anount in his income thax return at the end of the year. That person only had to declare $4,000 and could get back a portion of the tax he paid because his income was so low. The tax refund gave him a break.
The new fiscal convention signed by the government-and the fincnace minister has already admitted it is unfair-will result in that tax being deducted at source. So the person who gets $8,000 from the American government will now see his cheque reduced by 25 per cent at source. There is no way he can get this money back. Therefore, instead of receiving $8,000, this person only gets $6,000, $2,000 being paid directly to the American Treasury. There is no way for the person to recover that money.
We are not talking here about high income people. In my own riding, some people between 55 and 60 have these pension benefits as their only income. That is all they have to pay their rent and their food. They have been reduced to utter poverty.
The finance minister has acknowledged that problem months ago. I know Canada and the U.S. have a tax convention, and it is very hard to change that. It can take months or years, but, in the meantime, we could have come up with temporary solutions.
When calculating the income supplement, for example, we could allow such a pensioner to report only the real amount he or she is getting from the U.S. But no, the government refused to be flexible, refused to change the legislation in the budget so that only
the net amount would be considered. So, we still have to use the gross amount.
This is sheer nonsense. In theory, an individual who receives $8,000 in revenue from the Americans must report $8,000 as revenue for the calculation of his supplement, even if he is only getting $6,000. This is unacceptable, especially since, to correct this injustice, we only needed a small change, not a major one, for which the government would have got the consent of the opposition, but it was not meant to be.
Other alternatives could have been considered to ensure that the people who receive a small pension are not penalized. Why could we not find a way to reimburse them until the tax treaty with the United States can be amended? Maybe that is why people are more frustrated with the current situation. The government is not acting fast enough to remedy human tragedies like these.
There always has to be political pressure or media coverage, when logic alone should be enough to bring the government to act. But it did not in this case. I think the government should have acted faster and worked harder to remedy the situation.
Thus, this budget does not aim at reducing unemployment. It does not have a clear and definite goal. Neither the finance minister nor the Prime Minister stood to say: ``From now on, our main target will be the unemployment. From now on, we will have targeted strategies to be able to solve our problems. In our capacity as an employer, we, the federal government will introduce measures that will lead to a reduction in overtime and an increase in time sharing. For private employers, not only will we create favourable conditions such as lower interest rates, but we will also introduce measures that will help our young people find a job and build a career. We will also see to it that businesses that have been in existence for a year or two can get adequate management advice to help them through this critical phase''.
We do not find any of these things in the budget, and I think the Liberal government will be judged on the way it has not fulfilled its main mandate. There are still 1.5 million unemployed in Canada. The Liberals condemned this situation in 1993 but nothing has changed.
Is it that the people opposite are not doing their job effectively? I do not think so. I think there is a problem with the system as well, because it is highly complex: there are two labour codes and there are two governments involved in various matters to do with employment. It is very complex. I think all these should be returned to a single level of government to permit effective action.
In the meantime, the federal government has skirted the objective that Quebecers and Canadians wanted it to target: to reduce unemployment. There is no such objective, and for all these reasons, I think we will have to vote against the budget to make
sure people understand clearly who decided what and how the federal government failed to meet its responsibilities in the matter of unemployment.
The Deputy Speaker: Are there any questions or comments?
Mr. Crête: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would seek the unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:
That no vote be taken on the budget so long as the matter of the unfairness created by American pensions has not been resolved by the federal government, at least temporarily, until a new convention is signed.The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent of the House for the hon. member to move the motion?
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: There is not consent.
Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to the order made earlier today, the question on the Ways and Means Motion No. 15 concerning the budgetary policy of the government is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Monday, April 7, 1997 at the end of the time provided for government orders.
The House stands adjourned until Monday, April 7 at 11 a.m., pursuant to the standing orders. I wish everyone a Happy Easter.
Happy Easter to everyone.
(The House adjourned at 2.10 p.m.)