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36th Parliament, 1st Session


EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 151

CONTENTS

Friday, November 6, 1998

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1000

VJUDGES ACT
VBill C-37. Second reading and concurrence in Senate amendments
VHon. Don Boudria
VMs. Eleni Bakopanos

. 1005

. 1010

VMr. Chuck Cadman

. 1015

. 1020

VMr. Richard Marceau

. 1025

. 1030

VMr. Peter Mancini

. 1035

. 1040

VMr. Mark Muise

. 1045

VDivision on motion deferred
VFIRST NATIONS LAND MANAGEMENT ACT
VBill C-49. Second reading
VMr. Roy Bailey

. 1050

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VISLAND OF KOS
VMr. John Cannis

. 1100

VTERRORISTS
VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VDR. HARPAL S. BUTTAR
VMr. Eugène Bellemare
VCANADIAN FILM CENTRE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
VMs. Carolyn Bennett
VTHE PARLIAMENT OF CANADA
VMr. Reg Alcock
VREMEMBRANCE DAY
VMr. Roy Bailey

. 1105

VTHE NISGA'A AGREEMENT
VMs. Sophia Leung
VSEMAINE MONDIALE DE LA MARIONNETTE
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold
VREMEMBRANCE DAY
VMr. Mark Assad
VABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
VMr. Philip Mayfield
VJOB CREATION IN QUEBEC
VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1110

VJACQUES PARIZEAU
VMr. Denis Coderre
VFRANCOPHONE AND ACADIAN COMMUNITIES
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VELECTION CAMPAIGN IN QUEBEC
VMr. Robert Bertrand
VCANADIAN FARMERS
VMr. Mark Muise
VREMEMBRANCE DAY
VMr. Paul Mercier
VUNEMPLOYMENT
VMr. Janko Peric

. 1115

VEMPLOYMENT
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Grant McNally
VMr. Tony Valeri
VMr. Grant McNally
VMr. Tony Valeri
VMr. Grant McNally
VMr. Tony Valeri

. 1120

VMr. Paul Forseth
VMr. Tony Valeri
VMr. Paul Forseth
VMr. Tony Valeri
VHEALTH CARE
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Stéphane Dion

. 1125

VMrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Don Boudria
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Don Boudria
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Rick Borotsik

. 1130

VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Rick Borotsik
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Howard Hilstrom
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Cliff Breitkreuz
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VAPEC INQUIRY
VMr. Richard Marceau

. 1135

VHon. Andy Scott
VMr. Richard Marceau
VHon. Andy Scott
VLUMBER INDUSTRY
VMr. John Duncan
VMr. Gerry Byrne
VMr. Gurmant Grewal
VMr. Gerry Byrne
VICE BREAKING IN PORTS

. 1140

VMr. Wayne Easter
VMr. Wayne Easter
VABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
VMr. Derrek Konrad
VHon. Allan Rock
VTRANSFER PAYMENTS
VMs. Val Meredith
VHon. Allan Rock
VHEPATITIS C
VMr. Serge Cardin
VHon. Allan Rock

. 1145

VKUALA LUMPUR APEC MEETING
VMr. Hec Clouthier
VHon. Lloyd Axworthy
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Leon E. Benoit
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE
VMr. Chuck Cadman
VHon. Andy Scott
VHEALTH CARE
VMs. Judy Wasylycia-Leis
VHon. Allan Rock

. 1150

VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMs. Bev Desjarlais
VMs. Paddy Torsney
VCANADA POST
VMr. Gilles Bernier
VMs. Bonnie Brown
VMr. Gilles Bernier
VMs. Carolyn Parrish
VNATIONAL REVENUE
VMr. Carmen Provenzano
VMs. Beth Phinney
VRURAL MUNICIPALITIES
VMr. Lee Morrison

. 1155

VHon. Don Boudria
VCANADIAN PASSPORT
VMr. Daniel Turp
VHon. Lloyd Axworthy
VCAPE BRETON DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
VMr. Peter Mancini
VMr. Gerry Byrne
VTRANSPORT
VMr. Bill Casey
VHon. Lawrence MacAulay
VEMPLOYMENT EQUITY
VMs. Marlene Catterall

. 1200

VHon. Marcel Massé
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Mauril Bélanger
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VIndustry
VMr. Eugène Bellemare
VPETITIONS
VCruelty to Animals
VMr. Nelson Riis
VInternational Trade Agreements
VMr. Nelson Riis

. 1205

VTaxation
VMr. Nelson Riis
VFirearms Act
VMr. Mark Assad
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Mauril Bélanger
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VFIRST NATIONS LAND MANAGEMENT ACT
VBill C-49. Second reading
VMr. Roy Bailey

. 1210

VMr. John Bryden
VMr. Ken Epp

. 1215

VMs. Bev Desjarlais

. 1220

VMr. Howard Hilstrom

. 1225

. 1230

. 1235

. 1240

VMs. Libby Davies

. 1245

. 1250

VMr. John Bryden

. 1255

VMr. Ken Epp

. 1300

VMr. Leon E. Benoit

. 1305

. 1310

. 1315

. 1320

. 1325

VMr. John Duncan

. 1330

VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
VACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT
VBill C-208. Report stage
VMotion for concurrence
VMs. Colleen Beaumier
VThird reading
VMr. Gilles Bernier

. 1335

VMs. Eleni Bakopanos

. 1340

. 1345

VMr. Janko Peric

. 1350

VDivision on motion deferred
VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 151


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, November 6, 1998

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1000 +

[English]

JUDGES ACT

 

Hon. Don Boudria (for the Minister of Justice) moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act, has come back to this House with amendments from the other House. The Senate and the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs gave serious consideration to all aspects of this important bill and heard from a number of witnesses who contributed a range of perspectives on certain issues of concern to the Senate.

On behalf of the government and the Minister of Justice I want to commend the senators for their diligent review of the issues. Here is an example of the necessity of having a Senate to review House legislation. According to this government the Senate did an excellent job.

The key elements of Bill C-37 were passed by the Senate, including important improvements to the judicial compensation and benefits commission process, necessary increases to current judicial salaries after years of salary freezes and a major expansion of unified family courts in Canada.

However, the Senate proposed and passed two substantive changes to Bill C-37 that relate to the definition of surviving spouse and the mandate of the new judicial compensation and benefits commission. The government is prepared to support these amendments for the following reasons.

With respect to survivor benefits, the Senate did not pass the provision in the bill relating to the change in definition of surviving spouse to include common law spouses. The Scott commission recommended that survivors' annuities be extended to common law spouses “where legally appropriate”.

 

. 1005 + -

However, the commission did not systematically review all of the ramifications of extending the entitlement to survivors' annuities. It was these ramifications that gave rise to concern and debate at Senate committee.

I want to point out that no one disagrees with extending the benefit to common law spouses. Rather, the issue that caused some public debate and a lot of debate in the Senate is the method by which this recognition is implemented.

[Translation]

In accepting the recommendation made by the Scott commission, the government had to consider its impact on specific cases, including the formula to be used when there are two surviving spouses.

In the public service sector, the solution chosen is to divide the pension between the two surviving spouses. This is the approach taken in the public service pension plan and in the pension plan for members of Parliament and senators. We felt this was a reasonable solution which ensured consistency with other federal pension plans.

[English]

However, before the Senate committee there was much discussion and disagreement on what was the best approach to be used in this case.

After due consideration the Senate committee did not feel that all of the issues had been sufficiently resolved and recommended that the new judicial compensation and benefits commission take a fresh look at the issue of judicial pensions and their treatment after marriage breakdown.

The Senate also heard arguments which suggested that the federal government has no constitutional authority to legislate over survivors' annuities.

It is important to indicate that the government's concurrence in this amendment is not to be taken as agreement with such a suggestion. The federal government does have the clear authority to deal with pension matters, including matters ancillary to the creation and administration of those pensions. We do not accept the argument that the government is acting outside of its jurisdiction on this matter.

[Translation]

However, in light of the concerns expressed, we accept that it would be useful to have the new judicial compensation and benefits commission look at possible solutions for the specific case where there are two surviving spouses.

The purpose of this commission is to remove the political element in determining the benefits and compensation to be paid to judges. The commission will hear the opinions of a number of experts in pension plans and family law, and those of other concerned parties, before making recommendations on a formula for surviving spouses that is fair and consistent with the general practices in the area of pensions.

[English]

The Senate also gave very careful consideration to and ultimately approved the new commission process in Bill C-37. However, the Senate was of the view that the process would be further strengthened by the inclusion of certain express statutory criteria that would help define and clarify the scope of the mandate of the new judicial compensation and benefits commission.

The Senate amendment will provide, in the statute, for objective criteria that the commission must consider in reaching its recommendations.

[Translation]

The objective criteria cited were the following: the state of Canada's economy, including the cost of living, as well as the government's overall economic and financial situation; the role played by the financial security of judges in maintaining judicial independence; the need to recruit the best candidates for the bench; and any other objective factor it deems pertinent.

 

. 1010 + -

[English]

As a matter of practice, the mandate letters of prior triennial commissions have always specified express objective criteria that should be considered.

For the government and the minister there was never any doubt that this practice would continue. However, putting these criteria into the statute will make it clear to everyone that objective criteria will continue to be used in coming to recommendations on judicial compensation.

This amendment will, therefore, reinforce the objective nature of the mandate of the new judicial compensation and benefits commission.

[Translation]

The Senate also proposed a number of technical amendments regarding the wording of provisions in the bill, which do not change its content but which clarify the original intention of the bill. The government also supports these amendments.

In conclusion, the government is in favour of these amendments to Bill C-37. Eliminating the definition of surviving spouse will allow the new commission to examine all the options for recognizing common-law spouses and to make recommendations for a fair and logical approach in cases where there are two surviving spouses.

The inclusion of obligatory criteria will help to clarify the mandate of the new judicial compensation and benefits commission and, as a result, will enhance the credibility and independence of this commission.

[English]

Bill C-37 will strengthen what is already one of the best judicial systems in the world. The improvements to the judicial compensation process will ensure continued public confidence in the independence of our judiciary.

The bill provides reasonable and fair compensation for our judges consistent with the important role they play in protecting the key values in our democratic society.

Increased judicial resources for unified family courts combined with provincial commitment of support services will improve the way our courts respond to families and children in crisis. The increase in the number of court of appeal judges will improve access to justice generally.

This bill will both enhance the independence of our courts and improve access to justice. These are goals which I am sure all Canadians support.

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate the government's concurrence motion on Senate amendments to Bill C-37.

For the record, this is the second occasion I have had the opportunity to state Reform's opposition to this bill. This is a bill which grants judges an unprecedented salary increase of 8.3% and establishes a judicial compensation and benefits commission.

The official opposition is grateful for the amendment put forward by our colleague from Crowfoot. We are grateful that it was supported and passed in this House during report stage of Bill C-37.

The Reform amendment ensures that every four years the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has the opportunity to review the report of the commission on judges' salaries and benefits. This task will not be left solely to the Minister of Justice as originally contemplated by the government.

However, this amendment has not swayed our opposition to the bill. It has simply made it more palatable. The Reform Party still stands firmly opposed to Bill C-37.

As stated repeatedly in this House during all stages of the bill, other public servants and Canadians in general have not been afforded the same wage increase as that granted to the judges by Bill C-37. At a time when Canadian incomes continue to decline we cannot support such an unprecedented hike in salary.

According to a June 10 Ottawa Citizen article, family incomes are still dropping and as a result Canadians need to stretch the family budget to keep a roof over their heads. While housing costs eased during the first half of the decade, family income declined even more. That nudged a proportion of Canadians who spend at least 30% of their income on shelter to one in four households, or almost 2.8 million households. These findings, released by Statistics Canada, were derived from the 1996 census.

Another Citizen article, published on the same date, revealed that more and more two-parent families had both parents in the workforce in 1996, while at the same time the number of children left at home was increasing.

 

. 1015 + -

Statistics Canada reported that the overall lower income among Canadians in 1996 was the reason both parents were being forced into the labour market. Stats Canada has also reported that the majority of Canadian children, 4.8 million under the age of 15, lived in two parent families in 1996. Of those children 60% had both parents in the workforce, up from 43% in 1981.

In light of this information regarding the income of Canadians, in good conscience the Reform Party cannot support the bill. In the same vein we cannot support the government's concurrence in the Senate amendments.

I recognize the thorough job the Senate did in reviewing the bill and the substantive amendments put forward by the upper house. In particular I single out Liberal Senator Anne Cools for her diligent efforts in revealing the inadequacies of the bill.

Senator Cools rightfully exposed the fact that Bill C-37 effectively allows judges to set their own salaries and perks. In doing so it sets up the possibility of there being a showdown between parliament and the judiciary because it allows judges to appeal parliament's decision regarding a recommended salary increase in the courts. Essentially judges could have the final say over whether parliamentarians are giving them a sufficient raise.

Although former judicial pay commissioner David Scott has said that it is unlikely judges would be setting their own salaries, he has not ruled out the possibility of the judiciary challenging parliament's response to the commission's recommendations.

The judiciary would have to prove, however, in a court that the refusal to increase salaries or a decision to lower them was motivated by a wish to diminish the independence of judges. Mr. Scott said that even if the judges won in such a case the court could only declare parliament's motion on the issue void, which may result in a stalemate.

As pointed out by the Liberal senator this will:

      —deprive Canadians of their undoubted constitutional right to the representative assembly's control over the public purse in respect of judicial salaries.

Clearly control of the public purse rests with parliament and not with the judiciary. Section 100 of the 1867 Constitution Act states in part:

    The salaries, allowances and pensions of the judges...shall be fixed and provided by the Parliament of Canada.

Clause 6 of Bill C-37 potentially abolishes the true parliamentary role in the fixing of judges salaries. We must obviously question why the Minister of Justice has bestowed such potentially wielding powers on the judiciary in Bill C-37.

One can only surmise, and again I use the thoughts and words of Senator Cools when she said:

    The real intent (of Bill C-37) is to remove parliament from the process.... There is a problem in that certain particular judges seem to crave a closeness to certain individuals in the Department of Justice and are trying to cling, closer and closer, to the executive rather than to parliament. In other words, honourable senators, what is happening here is that 200 years of history are being turned on their head, and we are being told in this judgment that, quite frankly, judges prefer their fate to be in the hands of the executive rather than in the hands of parliament. It is a most curious and interesting subject matter.

I will turn specifically to the amendments put forward by the Senate. Amendments 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 delete all the clauses referring to two spouses. Bill C-37, as originally drafted by the Department of Justice, created a legal right for a judge to have two spouses. The two spouses clause was meant to deal with a circumstance in which a married judge separates from his or her partner, moves into a common law relationship with another person and then dies. Once law, it would allow a judge to have both spouses, married and common law, eligible for the lucrative pension payouts and divide the money between them when the judge dies.

Additionally the common law spouse would collect the one time payout of one-sixth of the judge's annual salary at the time of death.

Former Supreme Court Justice Willard Estey has said that these particular Bill C-37 amendments would give his former colleagues on the bench the right to a kind of home-made harem. It would, Estey said:

      —effectively create two separate sets of family law—one for judges and one for everyone else.

It has been well established that situations such as the one contemplated in Bill C-37 are rare. One therefore must question why such a clause was put in Bill C-37. Critics have suggested that this clause was tailor made for Chief Justice LeSage who is separated from his wife and has resided for about one year with Judge Lang. If Chief Justice LeSage were to die, the new amendment would allow both Judge Lang and Mrs. LeSage to qualify as his surviving spouses and share his pension.

 

. 1020 + -

As pointed out earlier, Senator Cools, as well as many others, have surmised that Bill C-37 appears tailored to fit particular individuals. Senator Cools said:

    We have a situation in the country where certain individuals have access to the legislative writing machine. That is bothersome.

This certainly is not the first time the government has tailor made legislation. Previous amendments to the Judges Act introduced during the last parliament under Bill C-42 set out terms in which Canadian judges could participate in international activities, although it was never explicitly admitted by the government—it was no secret—that those amendments to the Judges Act arose due to the appointment of Madam Justice Louise Arbour to the United Nations as prosecutor for the War Crimes Commission.

I commend the Senate and support those amendments eliminating this tailor made clause of Bill C-37, clauses which, as stated by Senator Cools, “script their sins into the laws of the nation”.

We do not support, however, Amendment No. 3 which adds subclauses to clause 6 of Bill C-37. Clause 6 establishes the judicial compensation and benefits commission. These subclauses effectively expand the powers of the commission, powers which were not contemplated or countenanced in the original bill. Specifically we take issue with section (1.1)(a) which reads:

    In conducting its inquiry, the commission shall consider (a) the prevailing economic conditions in Canada, including the cost of living, and the overall economic and current financial position of the federal government.

What exactly does this mean? How expansive are the powers of the commission? Does the reference to the current financial position of the federal government mean the commission will have the power to call the Minister of Finance before it to question him on our financial status? If such powers are vested with the commission, it is setting a dangerous precedent, a precedent the official opposition cannot support.

During his appearance before the Senate committee reviewing Bill C-37 former commission chairman David Scott clearly questioned statutorily defining criteria as proposed by the Senate. In fact Mr. Scott went so far as to say:

    I am not sure what the relevant criteria would be.... I am not saying that there should not be any criteria, but once you start down the road of developing criteria, you may create a monster.

Clearly the Senate's amendment goes against the advice of the former commissioner.

As stated earlier, the official opposition does not support the government's concurrence motion. Nor do we support any expansion of the commission's powers, powers which were not originally contemplated by the government and the House.

A decision of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island forced the federal government to establish a judicial compensation commission. Bill C-37, as originally introduced, meets that legal obligation. Senate Amendment No. 3 is therefore unnecessary.

I caution the government's wisdom in accepting all the Senate amendments, particularly given the expanded powers of the commission which may involve additional time and travel for their inquiries, time and travel which may cost additional expenditure of funds that were not originally contemplated by the royal recommendation of Bill C-37. I am not emphatically stating that there is a violation. I am simply raising a flag for the record.

In closing, I reiterate the Reform Party's position. We stand opposed to Senate Amendment No. 3. We stand opposed to the outrageous salary increase for judges at a time when financial pressures on Canadian families continue to increase as their quality of life decreases.

It is incredible that we sit in this place in consideration of a windfall increase in pay for judges while in my home province of British Columbia public safety is being put at risk through reduced law enforcement due to the gutting of RCMP budgets.

In my constituency a police car which sustains more than $4,000 damage is parked because there is no money to get it repaired. There is not enough money to replace worn tires on patrol cars, putting both police and public at risk. Store owners fear loss of business as customers run a gauntlet of crack cocaine dealers because police lack the money and resources to deal effectively with them.

We stand opposed to the concurrence motion.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-37, as amended by the Senate.

It is often said that what is clearly understood can be clearly expressed. With this in mind, let me outline the Bloc Quebecois' position. We oppose Bill C-37. However, while the amendments put forward by our brave colleagues in the Senate are a step in the right direction, we think many more amendments would be required and much more work would have to be done on this bill before the Bloc Quebecois could consider supporting it.

 

. 1025 + -

On October 22, the Senate made eight amendments to the bill. We are opposed to the principle of raising federal judges' salaries by approximately 13%, which is unacceptable to us in the Bloc Quebecois, and that is why we oppose the bill.

On the other hand, we are in favour of establishing the Judicial Benefits and Compensation Commission. We are also in favour of the Senate amendments for the following reasons: a number of these amendments would bring the French and English versions of the bill more in line with one another, while one other amendment clarifies the mandate of the commission being established by the federal government.

This amendment explicitly sets out what we believe was the implicit mandate of the Judicial Benefits and Compensation Commission. In our view, these explicit criteria are positive and fair.

For the Bloc Quebecois, the most crucial of these amendments is the one deleting clause 1 of Bill C-37. Clause 1 defines the term “surviving spouse” and, for constitutional reasons, we are opposed to the inclusion of surviving spouses in Bill C-37.

In this respect, we support the explanation given to the committee by Professor Jamie Cameron of Osgoode Hall. According to Professor Cameron, while it is the responsibility of the federal government to set benefits for federally appointed judges, the provinces have a similar responsibility with respect to matrimonial property and the division of assets in an estate.

Pensions are included in matrimonial property under family and estate distribution law. This raises the question of whether the federal government has jurisdiction to legislate the division of estate assets by defining the expression “surviving spouse” and with all the rights accorded subsequently in the bill according to the definition of “surviving spouse”.

According to Ms. Cameron, and the Bloc Quebecois completely supports this position, the federal government is encroaching on provincial jurisdiction over matrimonial and estate property.

Accordingly, we support the amendments eliminating clause 1, which defines “surviving spouse” and the clauses pertaining to the rights of surviving spouses.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Judges Act in order to increase judges' salaries and to change the criteria governing pension plan eligibility. The bill also establishes the Judicial Benefits and Compensation Commission.

Finally, the bill provides for more judges in appeal and unified family courts. The bill is the Liberal government's response to the 1995 triennial commission on judges' salaries and benefits, also known as the Scott commission.

In 1981, Parliament provided for the creation of independent commissions with a mandate to confirm that the pay and benefits of judges were sufficient in view of the importance of judicial independence and the unique role given judges by the Canadian Constitution.

On September 18, 1997, in a reference regarding the remuneration of provincial court justices in Prince Edward Island, which pertained to the independence and impartiality of these justices, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of these independent commissions, which establish a vital link between two government powers: the executive and the judicial. The court also pointed out the constitutional obligation to set magistrates' salaries.

The commission's recommendations are not binding on the government, but the court judgment requires a reasonable and public justification to be provided if the recommendations are rejected, before a court of law if necessary.

The 1995 Scott Commission I have already referred to recommended a progressive 8.3% increase, and the Liberal government accepted that recommendation in its bill by proposing 4.1% yearly for two years.

Moreover, in determining what was reasonable, the Scott Commission acknowledged that a complex and broad range of factors needed to be taken into consideration in determining the appropriate pay level, including the need of pay levels capable of attracting and retaining the most qualified candidates for the office of judge.

The report is based on the relationship between judges' salaries and those of lawyers in private practice, since this is the source of most candidates for the office of judge.

Section 25 of the Judges Act calls for annual adjustments to judges' salaries based on the increase in the industrial aggregate, up to a maximum of seven per cent.

 

. 1030 + -

Judges' salaries were frozen between December 1992 and March 31, 1997, under the Public Service Compensation Restraint Act.

Our objection to the Scott report is that it is based solely on federal economic activity indicators, and not on the economic sectors most heavily affected since the 1993 cuts. In our opinion, the most fundamental question is whether we should be putting books back into the schools and beds back into the hospitals, or raising the salaries of high court judges already earning $155,800. These are hardly starvation wages, after all.

To sum up the Bloc Quebecois' position on Bill C-37, we think that the Liberal government has already achieved its zero deficit, but we all know it did so on the backs of the provinces, unemployed workers and the most disadvantaged members of our society.

The Minister of Justice may well want to reward judges by increasing their salaries, but she would do better to persuade her colleague, the Minister of Finance, to compensate the provinces for the cuts to health, welfare and post-secondary education transfer payments.

The Bloc Quebecois puts other priorities ahead of raising judges' salaries. None of us is in any doubt that judges work hard, but they are far from the only ones doing so.

It is for these reasons that the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to the principle of increasing judges' salaries. We are in favour of creating an independent commission, but we cannot go along with this lapse in solidarity and vision in an economic context where the provinces have borne the brunt of the federal government's fight to eliminate the deficit.

Naturally, we have heard the government's arguments that the most competent lawyers must be attracted to the bench, and we fully agree. But judges too are members of society, and as such must take part in the collective effort. Even though the federal deficit has been eliminated, the $500 billion debt is still hanging over our heads.

Instead of increasing judges' salaries, the government could have given the money to the provinces to buy hospital beds and to help the most disadvantaged members of our society.

The supplementary estimates tabled last Wednesday also indicate that the Canadian unity group at Justice, one of whose responsibilities is the reference to the Supreme Court, is costing Canadian and Quebec taxpayers $700,000. Again, this money could have paid for many hospital beds and many meals on the tables of the most disadvantaged members of our society.

Today, therefore, I am calling on the Minister of Justice to withdraw her bill and to use the money instead to compensate the provinces for the unjust cuts they have suffered since this Liberal government took office.

[English]

Mr. Peter Mancini (Sydney—Victoria, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the Senate amendments to Bill C-37.

I reviewed some of the comments that I made on behalf of my party some time ago when this bill was first introduced. I compared this piece of legislation to a recipe that my grandfather brought to this country from Italy some time ago. I said that as much as my grandfather would try to pass that recipe onto his children, when he would taste the sauce he would say “You got a little bit of it right and whole lot of it wrong”. I said that this bill was very similar to that sauce.

The Senate has added a dash a salt but nothing particularly to improve the flavour of this legislation. What remains tragic is that with this legislation there was an opportunity for the government to address some fundamental issues.

I will pick up on the comments of my colleague from Charlesbourg. He talked about cutbacks in the provinces. He talked about hospital beds. He talked about the kinds of things that matter to Canadians at a time when this government is determined that we should give judges a substantial increase in their salaries.

I am not going to talk so much about hospital beds. I am going to talk about the justice system and where those funds might be better funnelled at a time of increasing demands on the courts, at a time when we are looking at a role for victims to play in the courts, at a time when crown prosecutors who have to enforce the laws are finding their hands tied because of lack of resources, and at a time when the RCMP and law enforcement agencies are finding their budgets slashed.

 

. 1035 + -

When we are determining how the very sparse funds have to be divided up, increasing the judges' salary at this point in time when this country has other problems is perhaps not the wisest and most judicial, if you will, use of funds.

I sit on the custody and access committee. One complaint we have heard continually is that when there is a dispute in family law it cannot be resolved for months because of the backlog in cases. There is a lack of legal aid availability for parties who are seeking to bring their matters before the court. There is a lack of court clerks. There is a lack of all kinds of necessary instruments to bring matters to court and to have them resolved quickly. When matters are not resolved quickly before the courts, it results in increased tension between the parties. The parties take matters into their own hands and there is increased concern.

These funds might have been better spent in improving the justice system in the provinces. That is in the family law courts. Let us look at the criminal courts.

More and more powers are being delegated to provincial court judges with fewer and fewer resources. Again this means longer waiting times for court hearings. It does no good for the accused, who lives under a cloud of suspicion while waiting for his or her day in court. It does no good for the victim, who waits for months and months in a system he or she never asked to end up in in the first place.

The cuts to the provinces have resulted in increased waiting times in both the criminal and family courts.

Also, as has been raised by this side of the House, the RCMP training centre out west is being closed down. I am meeting with a group of people in my own riding next Monday when the House is down. Seniors in my riding have been told that when they press an alarm, it will only be responded to if the person pressing the alarm can guarantee that there is a break and enter.

I practised criminal law for some time. It was a rare occasion when one could say to the criminal breaking into the home “Hold on for a minute while I call the police to confirm that you are here. Would you take the phone and let the RCMP know that there is a reason for them to come”. I do not blame the RCMP officers for this. The reality is that they do not have the resources to respond unless they can be sure there is a crime taking place. At the same time that this is happening, we are increasing the wages for some of the wealthiest people in this country. I again question whether that is the best use of resources.

There was also a golden opportunity, which I have spoken to the Minister of Justice about, to review the method of appointment of judges. The parliamentary secretary has said in support of some of the Senate amendments that the criteria in terms of determining judicial compensation ought to be accepted and it is something the government looks favourably on. I would suggest we ought to revamp the criteria for the appointment of judges before we revamp the criteria for increasing their salaries and determining whether they ought to get it.

This country has some very good judges. I do not want to diminish that for a moment. The late Justice Dickson was an example of a fine judge. He moved this country forward in his position as a supreme court justice. There are hundreds of good judges in this country.

Every now and then we hear about an appointment to the court that is simply a patronage appointment. It is well known certainly on the east coast and in the province I come from that part of how one gets to the judiciary is to make the right contributions to the parties in power.

 

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Just this summer there was an appointment of a judge to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Prior to her being a judge, she started her career as a lawyer and a keen organizer for the Liberal Party. The reward for that was an appointment to the public utility board in Nova Scotia which paid some $75,000 a year up until the age of 75. This was a pretty nice plum and everybody thought she was satisfied with that. As it turned out, she was a classmate of the Minister of Justice, I think the year behind. She was not too happy on the utility board and found herself appointed to the supreme court. That appointment met with considerable criticism in the province. It was not the only one.

That is unfair to the judges who legitimately serve this country well, who achieve their appointment on merit. We need to have a discussion about this. I have indicated to the Minister of Justice that there ought to be a subcommittee of the justice committee that can explore and ensure a fair method of the appointment of the judiciary. Citizens look to the judiciary in some ways to set the moral standards of the country. They look to parliamentarians. They look to people in authority.

This is a time when we are talking about youth crime and young offenders who appear before judges. It is very difficult to present to them the argument that the society we want them to participate in is one that is fair and just if some of the very people they appear before received their positions on the bench not because of their understanding of criminal, family or contract law, but because of their connections to particular parties. This was a missed opportunity.

Some of the amendments that were put forward by members of the justice committee from the Reform Party and the Bloc party were good. It is too bad that the government could not have supported them. It did support one of those amendments. The amendment put forward by the Bloc which had to do with the actual pay increase would have been well received. It is too bad that the government did not choose to accept that in the same way it accepted the amendments from the Senate.

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act and other consequential acts.

It is nice to see the upper chamber bringing forth amendments that we believe will only benefit this bill. This is further proof that the other place continues to play a vital role in Canadian politics. It is also proof that although the Liberal government likes to ram bills through with little consultation, it does not always work.

Nevertheless, our party is encouraged by the provisions contained in Bill C-37. These amendments will improve the independence, the objectivity and the effectiveness of the salary and benefits commission process.

Clause 6 of the proposed amendments will for the most part strengthen the judiciary. For example, the need to attract outstanding candidates to the judiciary will not only enhance the credibility of the judiciary but it will also enhance the process.

The Progressive Conservative Party is encouraged by the provisions which make the appointments less bureaucratic and more democratic.

This commission will consist of three people, of which one will be appointed by the Minister of Justice. The other would be appointed or nominated if you will, by the judiciary, while the chair would be named by the two previously mentioned.

I stand by my remarks from last March when I first spoke on this bill. I believed then as I do now that a better, more accountable way of appointing people to this committee would be to enable the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to nominate a member to sit on the commission Such a process would not only improve the transparency, but it would also eliminate some of the patronage that goes on during these appointments.

As for the deletion of section 45 of the act, the joint and survivor provisions, it will rightfully entitle the respective provincial governments to handle the salary and benefits situation as it relates to spouses according to the province in which the judge respectfully works.

An example of this is in Quebec where common law marriages are not recognized. Should Quebec judges be penalized for working in Quebec? No, they certainly should not be. This amendment will ensure equality for all judges right across the country as it relates to their place of work and residency.

 

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By keeping central control in the confines of the provincial government, we believe it is more practical to apply a case by case process as it pertains to individual judges. Narrowing the scope eliminates the possibility for difficulty and confusion down the road. This legislation has invoked a great deal of passion and provocative commentary within the House, and to some extend a great deal of righteous indignation on the part of some.

It is important to focus on the role of judges and the important tasks they are charged to perform. We have previously debated the important question of the separation of power in society. My party strongly believes judicial independence is the cornerstone of our democracy. There is no question that we as parliamentarians may not always agree with a court's decision, but it is our job to respect and uphold the system in place for the good of the country and the citizens we represent.

However, it cannot be stated strongly enough or with enough emotion the importance of having our judges remain independent of the elected body. We as parliamentarians are elected as opposed to appointed judges. A balance needs to be struck to eliminate the practice of governments, in particular majority governments, using heavy handed measures the judiciary is called to investigate.

My party is comfortable supporting the amendments brought forth today because they give guidelines to the commission that will ultimately strengthen the judiciary and present guidelines for the way salaries are set. Furthermore, we believe in an independent commission setting the judges' salaries. The provisions regarding spousal pension benefits are nothing but beneficial to the law and the process. Therefore I would ask that the other parties here today agree to the amendments brought forth.

The Deputy Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members: Question.

The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. 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 Standing Order 45, the vote is deferred until Monday, November 16 at the ordinary time of adjournment.

*  *  *

FIRST NATIONS LAND MANAGEMENT ACT

 

The House resumed from November 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the framework agreement on first nation land management, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I will continue my delivery from yesterday. I was discussing some of the many injustices that have taken place in the past. I will deal specifically with the land claims agreement in Saskatchewan and how it continues to fail daily in terms of the obligation of this government. It drives the wedge, a feeling of inequality, between rural Saskatchewan and this government. I am talking about a debt owed by this government to the rural areas of Saskatchewan.

Let us go back 10 years.

 

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A promise was made to the rural governments of Saskatchewan that when the natives would acquire Indian land, the RMs would be paid 22.5 times the assessment for the land taken out of the assessment role.

In other words, the deal was that they would get 22.5 years of taxes in lieu of services they provided. When this government came into power, it changed this so that the rural municipalities of Saskatchewan get a mere 5 years taxes.

That is an injustice. The debt owed to the RMs is owed by the government and the people of Canada. It is a national debt.

How does the government think that 200 or 300 people left in a rural municipality can pick up the entire debt of losing 20% of the assessment of their land forever? It has gone into reserve. The RMs are not quarrelling about the acquisition of land. The quarrel is with this government.

What happens to the remaining farmers in that area? They have to have their taxes raised considerably in order to provide the same services.

The previous minister of Indian affairs flatly refused to meet with the delegation from Saskatchewan. I throw this question out to the minister of Indian affairs now. Would that hon. member now, in her new position, not meet a delegation from Saskatchewan hoping to correct the unfair decision the government has made? That is key to the survival of rural Saskatchewan.

When I want to have an understanding how my rural municipality is doing, I have the right to go down to the office, ask for a financial statement and it would provide that for me.

Since King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede, we have progressed in the democratic way so that we have a type of government, both at the municipal level right to the federal level, in which Canadians are demanding they have accountability.

As we deal with the bill, why are we denying the right of fellow Canadians, grassroots people who live on our native reserves, the same type of accountability we have?

Would any one of us here want to turn back the hands of time to an autocratic way of government? Would we want to go back to even before this century where we did not have the necessities laid out and spelled out of how we have to handle people's money?

I was 20 years on local government. What did we have to do? We had to prepare a financial budget. When that was completed and sent to a superior government, which is the province, we then every year had to have an annual financial statement done by a registered auditor. That had to be returned.

Why are we trying to operate any differently in all of Canada from the privileges that members of this House enjoy as citizens? That is the big question. That is the question the bill does not address.

If a group of us want to go into business, there are guidelines in legislation, both federal and provincial, which require certain things to take place. There are certain checks and balances.

Why would we not, as the senior government, the Government of Canada, ask for the same procedures in business and accountability no matter where people live in Canada? That is the question. We would not want to turn back the hands of time. I would not want to live in a town where I could not get information as to how my tax dollars are being spent. I would not want to live in a municipality where the reeve and the councillors made sure they did not have to report to the people. Why are we accepting this? That is the big question facing Canadians.

 

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In Saskatchewan our local government did not have the right to pass legislation which belonged to the province, just as the province cannot contravene legislation that belongs to the federal government. This is a problem facing all Canadians at this time. When we say natives in Canada are to have a type of municipal government, that simply is not true in the light of how we define municipal government in Canada.

Let us be honest with Canadians. That is not true. With any group of people given sovereign powers within a province, if that is the intent of this legislation, we are creating something which our grandchildren will have to deal with as we will have sovereign areas in an area where sovereignty does not belong. How will we handle this? What are we doing with the series of legislation bills which will be forthcoming?

The people in northern B.C. today are voting on a referendum as it relates to the Nisga'a treaty. I am very much at home there. My wife and I spent our first year of married life in a village with the Nisga'a people. We were both teachers there. Our roots go a long way back. We note that there are positive and negative votes coming in the referendum today. I got back to some of the people I still know there. They are saying they will vote against the treaty because they want the same right as I have as a Canadian citizen to know exactly the amount of money coming in, how it is being spent and how the distribution is taking place.

Can this House not honestly say that we must not deny the grassroots people the same rights we have fought for in two world wars, that we have fought for through the ages since the Magna Carta in having reliable, honest and open government?

It is time for us not to proceed any further in land negotiations. While I admit we are not arguing in Saskatchewan that the land belongs to them, everybody admits that, what I am saying is that we have to—

The Speaker: I hate to interrupt you in midstream. You still have over five minutes and if you wish to resume after question period, you will be recognized at that time.

As it is 11 o'clock we will now move to Statements by Members.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

ISLAND OF KOS

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to welcome a delegation from the Island of Kos in Greece.

Each year individuals whose roots stem from the Island of Kos gather to exchange ideas and put forth suggestions with a notion of making our world a better and safer place to live in.

This year they chose Canada. They have visited Quebec. They are now with us in the capital and will be in Toronto later on.

The Island of Kos historically is known as the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. The delegation is lead by the three mayors of the island: the Mayor of Kos, Mr. Konstandinos Kaisarlis, his Deputy Mayor, Mr. Ioannis Vogiazis; the Mayor of Pili and Asfendou, Mr. Vasilis Hatziakoumis; and the Mayor of Antimachia, Kardamena, and Kefalo, Mr. Konstandinos Papanikolaou.

 

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My paternal grandfather was born in Pili on the island of Kos and for me it is indeed an honour that I have the opportunity to welcome this delegation here today.

I say on behalf of yourself, Mr. Speaker, and all of my colleagues, welcome to Canada, kalos ilthate.

*  *  *

TERRORISTS

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, recently CSIS director Ward Elcock sounded a distressing alarm. Appearing before a Senate committee, director Elcock stated that Canada was home to more terrorist organizations than any country in the world except the United States. Our reputation as a peaceful, constructive world player is at stake.

Just today we hear of a trained Iranian assassin who has been living in our country as a refugee since 1991. There is also a report that two Canadians are being tried for the murder of the founder of Bangladesh. One wonders how they became Canadians in the first place.

CSIS reports that there are currently over 50 organizations and 350 individuals under investigation for suspected terrorist links.

The most effective counter-terrorism measure we can take is to keep terrorists out of the country and to remove those who are already in Canada.

I call upon the government to give CSIS all the tools it needs to ensure we do not become a haven for terrorists.

*  *  *

DR. HARPAL S. BUTTAR

Mr. Eugène Bellemare (Carleton—Gloucester, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I recognize the scientific talent and achievement of one of my constituents.

Dr. Harpal S. Buttar, a scientist working for Health Canada, was recently selected by the International Federation of Teratology Societies to become a member of an international committee responsible for harmonizing the descriptive and comprehensive glossary of common human malformations.

As the only Canadian scientist on this prestigious international committee, composed of eminent scientists and pediatricians from around the world, I would like to congratulate Dr. Buttar for having been recognized around the world for his scientific achievements.

*  *  *

CANADIAN FILM CENTRE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Ms. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the establishment of the Canadian Film Centre Lifetime Achievement Award as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations. This biennial award will honour an individual who has made a significant contribution to the art of film, television or new media and who has served the community as an outstanding leader and humanitarian.

On Monday, November 9 the first Canadian Film Centre Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented by His Excellency the Governor General to director Norman Jewison in recognition of his remarkable film career, including five Oscar nominated films, his extraordinary contribution to developing and advancing emerging Canadian film talent through the creation of the Canadian Film Centre and his generous spirit of giving through the Norman and Margaret Jewison Charitable Foundation.

When the Canadian Film Centre opened in 1988 Mr. Jewison remarked: “Film has become the literature of this generation. With the current explosion in global communications, Canada's cultural distinction and survival depends on its ability to master the medium and command a place on the screens of the world”.

I am pleased to rise today to congratulate Mr. Jewison on his award.

*  *  *

THE PARLIAMENT OF CANADA

Mr. Reg Alcock (Winnipeg South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today is the anniversary of the first session of parliament. On November 6, 1867 a process began which has made Canada one of the greatest democracies in the world.

Working together, debating policies, making laws, holding the government accountable for its actions, challenging orthodoxy and defending rights, each of those who came before us has played a part in the building of a truly extraordinary country.

[Translation]

A country founded on mutual respect, a country flexible enough to accept all differences, a country that draws its strength from its diversity, a country that has transformed this diversity into a model for the entire world.

[English]

Over the past 131 years, thousands of Canadians have passed through this House and we who are now passing through must continue this work in progress. We must continue to show the rest of the world that a diverse people can work together.

*  *  *

REMEMBRANCE DAY

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, next Wednesday, November 11, Canadians will pause to honour the men and women who fought so bravely to defend Canada and thus preserve our democratic heritage.

I call on all Canadians to remember the sacrifices of our Canadian native soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers from coast to coast.

Following the war our native Canadian soldiers were denied the recognition and many benefits paid to other veterans. This is a sad and shameful chapter in our military history.

Time is running out. I call upon this government to immediately deal with this national injustice.

*  *  *

 

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THE NISGA'A AGREEMENT

Ms. Sophia Leung (Vancouver Kingsway, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day. The Nisga'a people are beginning to vote on an issue which they have pursued with determination and honour for over a century, the Nisga'a final agreement.

My colleague, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is currently in northern British Columbia meeting with students, business and community leaders to discuss the importance of the Nisga'a agreement.

The treaty-making process in B.C. is a modern approach to reflecting aboriginal rights that are protected in the Constitution. It also reaffirms the government's commitment to the inherent right of self-government, working in partnership to strengthen the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada.

On behalf of the Government of Canada I extend my best wishes as they go through this historic—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Jonquière.

*  *  *

[Translation]

SEMAINE MONDIALE DE LA MARIONNETTE

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, la Semaine mondiale de la marionnette, or world puppet week, an important event that is held every two years in Jonquière, was richly honoured recently when it won nearly a quarter of the La touche magique prizes at the 1998 Sommet des festivals et attractions du Québec. The prizes were won in the category of posters and printed material, and a special jury prize was awarded in the television advertising category.

The Bloc Quebecois would like to pay tribute to the work of Jocelyn Robert, the director general of la Semaine mondiale de la marionnette, and of his close assistants: Sonia Lamontagne, who has been responsible for festival communications since 1994, the Groupe Vision Design and its graphic artist, Marc Gauthier, who designed the 1998 image, and Sébastien Pilote, who produced the TV advertising.

The awards won by the Semaine mondiale de la marionnette testify to the quality and dynamism of this organization in the riding of Jonquière. Its successes—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Gatineau.

*  *  *

REMEMBRANCE DAY

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this weekend, and more specifically on November 11, we have a duty to pay tribute to those who gave their lives and those who came back from war to build the country.

We are the heirs to the courage and determination of all Canadians who defended the values of peace and harmony throughout the world in the Korean War and in the two world wars. It falls to us to honour their memory and to keep alive the memory of their accomplishments.

On Remembrance Day, we tell veterans and their families once again how much we owe them for what they passed on to us.

*  *  *

[English]

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, aboriginal people are speaking up. The First Perspective newspaper recently asked readers on-line “Do you trust your chief and council?”

They received numerous hits with the following results: yes, 13.6%; no, 77.3%; and maybe, 9.1%. The comments are even more illuminating. One example: “At first it was the white man giving us the shaft, and we could point our fingers at them and feel superior. But lo and behold, look behind you. Our own backyard seems to be gathering quite a bit of political garbage”.

An aboriginal lady recently told me “When the business suits talk to us now, all that has changed is that there is brown skin in them instead of white”.

The government has spent a lot of money to enhance the lives and circumstances of people on the reserves. Look at the result. The people most in need are still waiting.

Grassroots native people are fed up with mismanagement by their leaders. This must stop. The Liberal government must ensure accountable leadership which meets the needs of all people on reserves, not just the chiefs and band councils.

*  *  *

[Translation]

JOB CREATION IN QUEBEC

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, once again the Liberal prophets of doom across the country must be blushing.

Statistics Canada announced this morning that the unemployment rate in Quebec has dropped once again, and is now under the 10% level for the first time since September 1990. The good management of the Parti Quebecois has resulted in the best performance of the decade.

According to some people, having a federalist government in power would enhance the growth of employment, but that is not what the figures show.

From 1985 to 1994, the Liberals have done nothing but increase the unemployment rate in Quebec faster than the rate for the rest of Canada. The situation was only reversed once the Parti Quebecois came to office in 1994.

 

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We have had enough demagoguery from the Liberals. Quebec is gradually recovering from the ravages caused by a submissive federalist government.

This coming November 30, the people of Quebec will show their confidence in a government that can stand up for itself.

*  *  *

JACQUES PARIZEAU

Mr. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, faithful soldier that he is, Jacques Parizeau makes it clear: the separation of Quebec remains the top priority of a separatist government.

Faithful soldier that he is, Jacques Parizeau does not like to see Lucien Bouchard artfully dodge the referendum question.

Faithful soldier Jacques Parizeau reminds Quebeckers that the ultimate objective of the Parti Quebecois is to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada.

For this faithful soldier, a vote for the PQ is a vote for the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada.

Thank you, faithful Jacques Parizeau, whose candour gives us every reason to vote Liberal on November 30.

*  *  *

FRANCOPHONE AND ACADIAN COMMUNITIES

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, linguistic duality is a value that has deep roots in all parts of the country.

The francophone and Acadian communities symbolize these roots. For too long, these communities relied only on their vitality to grow.

The Official Languages Act made them grow faster. These communities have given themselves strong institutions. But the Liberals have cut funding for francophone organizations by 40%.

The Liberals can no longer ignore their obligations. They must reinvest to ensure the development of Canada's francophone and Acadian communities.

*  *  *

ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN QUEBEC

Mr. Robert Bertrand (Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Parti Quebecois has had yet another change of heart.

He now agrees to return to the federal-provincial negotiating table to entrench in the Constitution the right to opt out with full compensation with respect to the social union pact made by the provinces.

How baffling, given that it is well known that separation is PQ leader Lucien Bouchard's top priority. Such expediency on the part of a leader who slurps at everyone's trough. How stylish of someone who boasts about knowing where he is going.

Let us be clear: a vote for the Parti Quebecois is truly a vote for Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada, a vote for another referendum.

*  *  *

[English]

CANADIAN FARMERS

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC): Mr. Speaker, farmers in West Nova are experiencing a second consecutive year of drought conditions. Records from the towns of Kentville and Greenwood indicate that rainfall was roughly 100 millimetres less than normal summer precipitation.

First cut yields of hay were down 50% and in many cases second yield was non-existent. These poor yields have resulted in economic hardship for our farming community. Many farmers will have to re-seed in 1999 to produce new growth. The cost of purchasing hay has skyrocketed because of this increased demand.

The recent closure of the Middleton grain elevator has left beef producers without access to a vital facility they use for drying and storing grain. These hardships have forced many producers to cull and sell calves that would normally be replacements. In extreme cases producers have been forced to sell out.

We can ill-afford to lose another farmer in my constituency. It is time for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to recognize the severity of this drought and immediately provide assistance to those most in need.

*  *  *

[Translation]

REMEMBRANCE DAY

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., armistice was sounded along the hundreds of kilometres of trenches in France and Belgium separating the two enemy camps.

As they came out of the mud where they had been living for 50 months, millions of men, thousands of whom were Canadians and Quebeckers, breathed the fresh air of the fields without fearing they had drawn their last breath.

Then, in millions of homes, millions of women, including the woman that would become my mother, could watch the postman arrive without fearing he was bringing the fatal missive “Your husband, your fiancé, your son, died in combat”.

These men returning from hell were convinced this war was the last. However, much later, they were to see some of their sons descend in turn into hell between 1939 and 1945, others in Korea, all defending the same causes—freedom and democracy.

May we never forget or let our children forget that what we take so much for granted, like the air we breathe, we owe to the sacrifice of these men and women.

*  *  *

[English]

UNEMPLOYMENT

Mr. Janko Peric (Cambridge, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this morning Statistics Canada issued its labour force survey for October, showing a 2.3% increase in employment. This brings the unemployment rate down to 8.1%, its lowest level in eight years.

 

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New jobs were created in the manufacturing, construction, health and social services, financial, insurance, real estate, transportation, storage and communications sectors.

These latest numbers prove that the Liberal government's fiscal and economic policies are working for the benefit of all Canadians.

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, Port Saxon in Shelburne County will lose 25 jobs in December this year when Acadia Seaplants relocates to Cornwallis Park. This relocation is occurring because of a $1 million loan from the federally funded Cornwallis Park development and a $750,000 interest free loan from ACOA.

When the new plant is operational it will create 32 jobs. However, 25 jobs are already in Shelburne County so the net gain of jobs is only 7. This is a wrong approach to job creation.

It is worth stating that the cost of these seven jobs is $1.7 million. Surely this is not a good investment. Plus the loss of the 25 jobs in Port Saxon, Shelburne County, is a serious blow to the economy of Shelburne County as the economy is already reeling and has been ravaged by the downturn in the ground fishery.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is gouging Canadians by overcharging them $350 a year in employment insurance taxes. He is slapping businesses with $500 in extra taxes per year per worker, but the real stunner is that he did not even know if he had been paying that same EI tax himself for the past 35 years.

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, just which planet is the Prime Minister from? Would it be Pluto?

The Speaker: I do not know what that has to do with industry, but if the hon. parliamentary secretary wishes to address himself to the comment I will let him.

Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I remind the House that the hon. member who asked the question does not pay EI premiums either. As far as what planet, I am not sure the question came from anywhere in this stratosphere.

Let me deal with the facts. Since 1994 each and every year we have reduced EI premiums. Our payroll premiums are lower than those in the United States, our largest trading partner. We will continue this debate. No decisions have been made. We will continue to focus on Canadian priorities.

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I was aware that I was not paying EI premiums. I would have hoped that the Prime Minister of the country would have known the same thing.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers' Association and the Retail Council of Canada all say that the Prime Minister's extra EI tax is killing jobs.

Could the Prime Minister or any member of the government name one small business in the country that wants to pay an extra $500 per employee per year?

Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will continue to say that we will reflect Canadian priorities. The EI question is part of that mix.

When Canadians come before the finance committee in the prebudget consultations they ask us to take a balanced approach. They ask us to invest in Canadian priorities. They ask us to deal with the tax system we have in the country. They ask us to reinvest in health care.

If what the hon. member is actually advocating is for us to completely reduce EI premiums, as he is requesting, he is really telling us to go back into deficit, and the government will not do it.

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that Canadians are being overcharged with their EI premiums. That is the point we are trying to get across to the government.

Canadian workers are being overcharged by $350 per year and businesses by $500 per year per employee. It is a very simple question that we keep asking and do not get an answer from the government.

Why will the government not consider giving the money back to the people it belongs to, hard working Canadians?

Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I guess I should also remind the hon. member that the Reform platform is to give the premiums back just to employers. What about the workers?

 

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If we are talking about this mix, if we talk about providing what is best for Canadians and if we are talking about the best bang for our buck, let us not forget that 14 million Canadians benefit from any personal income tax cut. Only eight million Canadians would benefit from an employment insurance cut.

If what we are talking about what is best for Canada, we will continue that debate.

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, every year the finance minister meets with the Employment Insurance Commission in mid-November to set employment rates for the next year. Businesses need some time to adjust to the new tax levels.

Why is the minister's announcement of rates now delayed well into December?

Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again the Reform Party has it all wrong. The more I stand in the House, the more I wish we could do something about its research staff.

The Minister of Finance does not meet with the EI commissioners regarding the setting of EI premiums. He has never met with them, has no meeting planned with them and has no intention of meeting with them.

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, concerning EI premiums, the government obviously takes far too much at this time for the reasonable future of the plan. Now he will make business spend Christmas worrying about Scrooge, always paying and never getting anything back.

I would ask for a more complete answer. Why is there a delay in the announcement of the rates? Why does he hurt business planning to serve a political agenda? I ask him to justify the choice of one over the other.

Mr. Tony Valeri (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I guess we should also look at the bigger picture. The unemployment rate announced this morning was 8.1%. The job grouth pace for the first 10 months is outpacing the first 10 months of last year. We have numbers that are improving. Canadians are back to work and they are full time jobs.

While the hon. member wants to continue to talk about this issue to advance his own political perspective, we are working for Canadians.

*  *  *

[Translation]

HEALTH CARE

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health admits that needs are great throughout the country and is beginning to understand that it is high time he gave the provinces back the money he cut in the health sector, particularly now that his colleague, the Minister of Finance, has a surplus that has reached $8 billion only five months into the fiscal year.

Would the minister confirm that the scenario he has in mind is one in which the federal government would place conditions on funding to the provinces, telling them how it is to be spent?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have said repeatedly that, in working with the provinces, we were going to respect their jurisdictions and priorities.

I would add that, with respect to the Canada social transfer, the principal transfer payment to the provinces, the province receiving the most per capita is Quebec.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Hon. Stéphane Dion: We are very glad to have a fair federation that tries to help provinces in difficulty. However, one of the reasons Quebec finds itself in that situation is the political uncertainty hanging over it—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Hon. Stéphane Dion: —an uncertainty we hope Quebeckers will very soon leave behind.

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, given that the proceedings are being televised, one might wonder whether the minister is not delivering a paid political announcement.

The minister's answer is far from reassuring. He talks about partnership. He says he will respect provincial jurisdiction, but we know what the government is up to. It wants the provinces to do what it says, and no questions asked. A look at Quebec's unemployment rates today will show that Quebec is far from being badly governed.

What right does the federal government have to impose its priorities in the health sector, when its cuts have been so deep as to make its funding insignificant?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is not insignificant that Quebec's transfer payment is 9% higher per capita than that received by the average province.

I hope that this can be turned around and that, one day, we will receive less than the average. That will prove that we have left behind a situation that is a huge drain on our economy, a situation of political uncertainty that we do not need, because most of us in Quebec want to remain in Canada.

 

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Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in 1994 the federal government's transfer payments were the equivalent of $678 per capita. Four years later, the figure is only $386. When it comes to being the great protector of health care, we have seen better.

My question is for the Minister of Health. What credibility can there be when a minister wants to impose conditions on any additional funding for health care, when all that anyone wants is for transfer payments to be restored to the level they were at before he started slashing them?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to provide the current figures. In both cash and tax points, each Quebecker receives $925.40 through the Canada social transfer. The average per capita across Canada is $848.70, so each Quebecker in fact is getting 9% more than the average.

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this week the minister told us that a Liberal caucus committee was looking into various options which would allow the federal government to re-invest in health. I find that far from reassuring.

In this area, as in many others, this government's main concern is not what is best for patients, but what gives it the most visibility. How can it justify putting the effort to get the maple leaf onto as many cheques as possible ahead of those who are sick?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will be hard put to find a more decentralized federation than Canada, particularly in this area. If she looks at other federations, she will see how much the other federal governments intervene in the health field, compared to Canada.

Our goal is to ensure that Canadians have quality health care in every part of Canada. I would also like to say that, since the hon. member is speaking of situations that worry her, what we find worrisome is the situation in Quebec, where the PQ government has cut health expenditures by 1% between 1994-95 and 1998-99, while the other provinces have raised them by 8.6%.

Yet the federal government has done everything it can to help the Government of Quebec.

*  *  *

[English]

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, today the Nisga'a begin voting on their historic agreement. The Liberal Party of British Columbia and Reform Party members have done everything within their power to scuttle this agreement.

We have seen impressive leadership from the Nisga'a themselves and from the Premier of British Columbia, but the Prime Minister's silence has been deafening, his absence conspicuous.

Does the Prime Minister have any intention of providing leadership in building, understanding and support for this—

The Speaker: The hon. the leader of the government in the House.

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite wrong when she makes such allegations. She knows perfectly well the commitment of the federal government, of the Prime Minister, of the entire cabinet and of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development who is herself in British Columbia discussing these very important issues.

We all want the Nisga'a people to be able to go through this process over the next couple of days and to come up with the answer that will be theirs. Hopefully we as Canadians will all be behind them as they march through this journey.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Nisga'a agreement was signed on August 4. The Prime Minister chose to be absent. We have scarcely heard a word since from the Prime Minister.

Surely the Prime Minister recognizes that the misinformation of the B.C. Liberals and the Reformers deserves and demands to be countered. Can we count on the Prime Minister to provide the leadership that is very much needed?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will compare the commitment of the Prime Minister, his attendance, his presence and his overall workload to the hon. member across the way and three or four of her colleagues at once.

He has done more as a former minister of Indian affairs and as a Prime Minister in his commitment through the bills that are now before the House of Commons, and everything we have done, than the hon. member across the way will ever do in three lifetimes.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said on February 9, 1993 in the House:

    GRIP and NISA, which are long term safety net programs, are being tried and are being worked with. So far in many areas they have been insufficient. They have been a disappointment to the farmers and the industry.

 

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The minister said then that GRIP and NISA were not enough. Is the minister now saying that NISA without GRIP is going to be enough to get farmers through this crisis in agriculture?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I had a meeting with all the provincial governments and farm leaders on Wednesday of this week. The message was very clear. I will be taking the message to my cabinet colleagues that the NISA program, the crop insurance program, in an alteration of what the member's government put in which was GRIP which is gone except in one province, that we recognize we have some tools there for assistance and farm income and we need to review that. We are reviewing it. We will work the best we can with our partners in the industry in this respect.

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, the reason GRIP is gone is that this Liberal government did away with it in 1995. Rather than doing away with it, the Liberals could have modified the program to have it become trade friendly but they did not. Once again they gave agriculture short shrift.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has a proposal. In my estimation it basically is GRIP the sequel. Is the minister willing to support the CFA's proposal in principle now so that we will be able to have something in place by the end of this year?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I gave my commitment the other day to work with the provincial governments and the industry to do all we possibly can to turn every stone possible.

I suggest that the member check Hansard. When I made those comments in standing committee, I said that GRIP was not the program. He is right. The provinces verified that because with the exception of one province the program that his government put in place is gone at the wishes of the provinces. I was proven to be correct.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, what we hear from this agriculture minister is all talk and no action.

In the 1993 red book the Liberals promised to reduce input costs to make farming more profitable. Yet the agriculture minister continues to take $138 million out in cost recovery taxes.

Will the agriculture minister finally keep his 1993 promise and quit bleeding our farmers with unfair taxes today?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and his party keep talking about lowering taxes. They do not seem to realize that we have lowered taxes. Those members should also realize that the problem is that we have a number of farmers who are not able to pay any taxes at all. How would they wish to address that?

We are working to address this to strengthen their industry and to strengthen their safety net. The other thing I would like to remind the hon. member is that in the third quarter of 1998, farm input prices went down.

Mr. Cliff Breitkreuz (Yellowhead, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this Liberal government has not lowered taxes; it has raised taxes by billions.

Canadian farmers are trapped in a net farm income crunch. Unfair trade practices and foreign subsidies are bringing farmers to their knees.

On Wednesday on CTV news, the minister of agriculture stated “You cannot plan for this type of thing”. That quote came from the minister after most commodity prices have been dropping like loonies.

What does the minister mean you cannot plan? Most people plan. Farmers plan. The minister is a farmer—

The Speaker: The hon. minister of agriculture.

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the safety net system that was there was designed with the best intentions of the federal government, the provincial governments and the agricultural industry.

We have a situation now of world commodity prices that are lower than anybody predicted. Right now, the prices of some commodities in Canada to producers are the lowest they have been in over 25 years. That is why we are working with the provincial governments, the industry and all of our officials to do all we possibly can, to turn every stone we possibly can to make sure that not only the tools that are there now—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Charlesbourg.

*  *  *

[Translation]

APEC INQUIRY

Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg, BQ): Mr. Speaker, there has been a new development in the Liberal's APEC fiasco.

After rising in this House and swearing on his honour that he was telling the truth, the member for Palliser stated under oath in an affidavit that he stands by his side of the story.

 

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Since this affidavit shows that he prejudged the outcome of the inquiry conducted by the RCMP public complaints commission, what is the Solicitor General waiting for to resign?

[English]

Hon. Andy Scott (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to this many times in the House. It is important to remind everyone that the complaints commission is initiated by the complainants. They deserve to have their day. That is the reason the government is supporting the continuance of the public complaints commission because to do otherwise would be undue and unfortunate political interference.

[Translation]

Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Solicitor General should stop playing this cat and mouse game. He is in a tighter spot than ever.

The hon. member for Palliser accused him under oath of having prejudged the outcome of the APEC inquiry, and he will not respond.

Since obviously the Solicitor General is unable to rebut what the member for Palliser said in his affidavit, was is he waiting for to resign?

[English]

Hon. Andy Scott (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said, I have spoken to this many, many times. I believe I made this statement on October 6 in the House. My statement was supported by the person to whom I was speaking. I stand by that statement.

*  *  *

LUMBER INDUSTRY

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, 45% of the forest workers on the B.C. coast are now out of work. Forest companies are caught between high costs and a softwood lumber agreement that creates an inability to ship lumber to the United States. While industry is on the canvas it is getting kicked in the slats by Greenpeace and other organizations that raise money in other countries in order to arrange boycotts of Canadian forest products.

The Department of Natural Resources has $10 million designated for—

The Speaker: If the parliamentary secretary wants to address the comment, he may.

Mr. Gerry Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of the full context of the question. A statement was made so I will answer it with a simple statement.

Canada has one of the best forest practice management systems in all the world. It is protecting our forest industry and it is making sure we have credible good markets to rely on. Canadian forest practices are among the best in the world. That ensures we have export markets. Those are the kinds of things that Canada is doing exceptionally well in protecting our forest industry.

Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Surrey Central, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, every day B.C. loses many jobs due to the closure of lumber mills. This is driving B.C. into a recession. This do nothing Liberal government caved in to the U.S. when it negotiated the softwood lumber agreement. Will the government fix the quota system or will it continue watching the British Columbia lumber industry being hit with two by fours?

Mr. Gerry Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada entered into agreements with several countries with regard to trade practices, in particular the softwood lumber agreement.

What is happening in the B.C. forest industry, especially the coastal industry is that exporters that rely on Asian markets in particular and who in many instances do not rely on American markets are now feeling the pinch of the Asian flu. That is severely restricting their export capability but they are expanding and moving forward with new markets. The Canadian industry is probably the most buoyant and the most competent in developing those types of markets.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ICE BREAKING IN PORTS

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Coast Guard is collecting 80% of ice breaking charges in the entire eastern part of Canada from users of St. Lawrence ports, whereas they use only 33.7% of services, even if Newfoundland's access to the St. Lawrence is included.

My question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. How can the minister be trying to convince the industry of his desire to inaugurate a user-pay principle, when his policy is to have those using 33.7% of services bear 80% of costs?

 

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[English]

Mr. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as was the case a week ago, the member opposite cannot seem to understand this issue.

Canadian taxpayers are paying 82% of the costs of ice breaking. We do have a cost recovery program in place. The industry is benefiting extensively by that.

As well the member should know that there is also flood control within the region by the coast guard. He is not talking about that. As well when a ship comes to the St. Lawrence—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, obviously the parliamentary secretary does not know what he is talking about. I will try putting it a different way.

By imposing on the users of Quebec's ports an unfair financial burden which is being used to meet a portion of the ice breaking costs for the ports in the maritimes, does the Minister realize he is seriously compromising not just the development of a number of St. Lawrence ports, but their very survival as well? Does he realize this?

[English]

Mr. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, far from it. As I said earlier, 82% of the cost is covered by the Canadian taxpayer. The member opposite should be thanking us for that support.

In terms of the ports, there were four years of consultation on this issue. There is strong support from the port community in terms of what we are doing.

*  *  *

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

Mr. Derrek Konrad (Prince Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, on September 29 the Minister of Health assured the House that a sewage problem at the home of Mrs. Geraldine Smoke of the Dakota Plains reserve had been fixed. Mr. Rogers of Health Canada stated that as of November 2 the problem had not been fixed.

Why did the minister say that the problem was fixed when it was not? When is he going to fix the problem for this ill and elderly woman?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me fill the member in on the facts.

Health Canada investigated the original complaint. A site visit and a letter from the homeowner confirmed that this earlier problem had been corrected. Health Canada has since received a new letter of complaint regarding other problems with a different homeowner within this tribal council. An official has investigated this new problem and is currently working with the band and council to correct the matter.

Those are the facts. The hon. member should be assured that Health Canada is looking after the problem.

*  *  *

TRANSFER PAYMENTS

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this government pays less than 15% of health care costs in this country, but it still wants the control. The largest RCMP detachment in Canada is in my constituency of Surrey. The federal government pays only 10% of the costs but it still wants the control.

I ask the Prime Minister if the government is not prepared to pay its fair share of the costs, when will it transfer control to the people who pay the bills?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the federal government transfers some $26 billion every year to provinces to assist not only with health, but with post-secondary education and social services.

The hon. member should know that without that transfer it would be impossible for the infrastructure of health services in this country to be delivered.

The federal government plays a unique role in the whole medicare system and will continue to do so. This government will ensure that that role is strengthened in the future.

*  *  *

[Translation]

HEPATITIS C

Mr. Serge Cardin (Sherbrooke, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the member of Abitibi has had his picture taken with hepatitis C victims and is telling anyone in his riding who wants to listen that the government is preparing to announce its generous compensation to them.

My question is for the Minister of Health. Are we to understand that the federal government has finally decided to respond positively to the request of B.C., Ontario and Quebec and compensate victims without regard to date?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have already said here in this House, I informed my colleagues in September of the offer by the Government of Canada to share the cost of all the medical services required in the treatment of the hepatitis C infection among the people who contracted the disease through our blood system.

This is our offer, to make sure the sick receive treatment and the necessary medical services. This is the position of the Government of Canada, and it is a—

The Speaker: The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

*  *  *

 

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[English]

KUALA LUMPUR APEC MEETING

Mr. Hec Clouthier (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister announced in the House on Wednesday that Canada would provide $50,000 in financial support to two NGO projects during the upcoming APEC meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Could the compassionate Minister of Foreign Affairs tell the House what this government has been doing to ensure wider participation for all sectors in this important regional and economic forum?

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the very astute member for his question.

When the Prime Minister made the announcement he indicated a process that really began in Vancouver to enlist the participation of civil groups. That has been followed by the active role of the minister of state for women's affairs in leading a ministerial delegation to ensure that women are fully engaged in the APEC process.

The Minister for International Trade and I will be taking an initiative in Malaysia to ensure that civil society is brought into the APEC process so there can be full and broad—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Lakeland.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Lakeland, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the minister of agriculture said on national TV that we cannot plan for the crisis that we have in agriculture right now. Well, we can plan.

Starting with the 1993 election campaign and then the debate leading up to the abolishment of the Crow benefit, legislation the government passed in 1995, Reform called for part of the value of the Crow benefit to go into a fund that would help farmers deal with these tough times. It would compensate farmers for a loss in value due to unfair trade practices. That is exactly what is happening now.

What will the minister do now to deal—

The Speaker: The hon. minister of agriculture.

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the federal government put $600 million a year into the safety net envelope for planning for these types of unfortunate situations. The provincial governments put in $400 million a year and the Canadian producers also add to that and in the NISA account receive a very good arrangement with that.

We are planning now to deal with the unfortunate situation we are in. But contrary to the member's party, we did not plan on taking close to $1.4 billion out of agriculture support in Canada.

*  *  *

ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, in my constituency police cars having more than $4,000 damage are being parked because there is not enough money to fix them. District commanders do not have enough money to replace worn tires on patrol vehicles. Merchants are losing business because crack dealers are lined up in front of their stores and the RCMP does not have the funds to deal with the issue.

A couple of weeks ago the solicitor general told me he was to be speaking with the attorney general of British Columbia to discuss the funding issue. My constituents would like to know what the outcome of those meetings was.

Hon. Andy Scott (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I did speak with the attorney general of British Columbia in Regina at the meeting of justice and solicitor general ministers last week. The question of funding for the RCMP in British Columbia was discussed.

I have been assured by the RCMP that while everyone would like to have more money, the reality is nothing is being done in this period of restraint that would compromise Canadian safety.

*  *  *

HEALTH CARE

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has acknowledged that no professional group has borne the brunt of health care restructuring more than Canada's nurses. Through an era of Liberal cuts nurses have held our system together. They are overworked, stressed, burned out and worried about the quality of patient care.

We need federal action now and it has to be more than the reannouncement of a nursing co-ordinator position in Health Canada.

What is the minister doing to address this current crisis in our health care system and what is he doing to avert a potentially devastating shortage of nurses for the new millennium?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday I spent time with the president and executive of the Canadian Nurses Association. I assured them, as I have throughout, that they must be an integral part of the health system in the future as it is changed and improved to meet the needs of Canadians.

We have appointed an executive director of nursing policy at Health Canada so that nurses will be a part of planning the future. The nurses know, as does the Canadian public, that making this work, making nurses part of the system, will take more than the empty rhetoric of the NDP. It will take the resolute action of this government.

*  *  *

 

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THE ENVIRONMENT

Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the environment minister tells this House that Canada is leading international efforts to reduce climate change.

Reports from Buenos Aires state the opposite. Canada is blocking global efforts to set domestic targets and is negotiating hot air loopholes between the U.S. and Russia.

Can any minister explain to Canadians why this government is trying to sabotage the Kyoto protocol and risk the health of Canadians?

Why is the government forcing our environmental responsibility on to other countries?

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member is not correct.

The government is working with scientists from across the country, with the provinces and with environmentalists to make sure that action we take on climate change will ensure that we do meet our targets set in Kyoto, and that is to become a minus six society. We will make those targets and we will make sure that we use clean development mechanisms and other mechanisms that will help us get there. I hope the member will join us in that work.

*  *  *

CANADA POST

Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, according to HRDC, an employer who falsifies an employment record is guilty of fraud. Yet recently Canada Post altered the records of some of its own term employees to avoid paying overtime.

Overtime hours were saved up and added on to the end of the workers' contracts long after they had left and paid out in regular wages without the employees' consent.

Does the minister condone this practice by Canada Post?

Ms. Bonnie Brown (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for the minister for Canada Post but I can speak for the minister of HRDC who would be appalled to hear anything of this sort whether it is from the point of view of the employer or whether it is the investigation of fraud by our own employee.

I will take this information back to him and to the minister for Canada Post to investigate.

Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, weeks after they had left their jobs at Canada Post, Sandra Ketch and Wendy Jamieson were shocked to learn that they were still post office employees and they were still on the payroll, just because Canada Post did not want to pay them overtime.

I realize that budgets may be tight at the post office, but is it really necessary to break the law in order to save a few bucks?

Will the minister stop this nonsense, launch a full investigation and punish those responsible?

Ms. Carolyn Parrish (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the budget of Canada Post has been viable since 1988.

It provides quality service and it does it fairly and without cheating. If there are any such activities going on I am sure the minister for Canada Post will take care of it immediately upon his return.

*  *  *

NATIONAL REVENUE

Mr. Carmen Provenzano (Sault Ste. Marie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Revenue.

The Department of National Revenue recently held consultations on ways to improve its fairness to Canadians.

Would the parliamentary secretary tell us how the government plans to ensure that the fairness initiative meets the needs of Canadian taxpayers?

Ms. Beth Phinney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, fairness is a fundamental and core value of public service. The department is committed to fairness.

Revenue Canada is considered a world leader among its peers. Its fairness practices have been implemented around the world.

I want to assure the House that Revenue Canada has fairness at the very heart of how it is organized, the way it operates and the way it deals with Canadians. We are continuing to ensure these high standards by ongoing consultation and fairness initiatives.

*  *  *

RURAL MUNICIPALITIES

Mr. Lee Morrison (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, western rural municipalities have been losing tax revenue because grain elevators and rail lines are being abandoned.

 

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Their tax base is being further eroded by the federal government which refuses to fairly compensate rural municipalities for lost tax revenues when land is converted to Indian reserves.

How are the rural municipalities to survive if the government destroys their tax base without fair compensation? Does this government not understand that any obligations to native people are owed by all Canadians, not just by small groups of western farmers?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this government understands very well its obligations to aboriginal Canadians. I only wish that the Reform Party would start helping aboriginal Canadians, communities and everyone else in Canada instead of doing what it is doing now.

As we are speaking there is a bill before the House on land ownership for aboriginal Canadians. What the opposition party has decided to do is put a six month hoist, delaying improvements for six months for Canadians living in rural areas, particularly aboriginal Canadians.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CANADIAN PASSPORT

Mr. Daniel Turp (Beauharnois—Salaberry, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs did not really answer my question about the supply of security paper for Canadian passports. I would appreciate a clearer response today.

Why is the Department of Foreign Affairs passport office preventing the Spexel company of Beauharnois from bidding on the contract for this paper and why does it prefer to seek out French or British companies to supply this security paper?

[English]

Hon. Lloyd Axworthy (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at this point no decision has been taken on the contract or the bids that would take place with the new passport system.

I find it very refreshing to know that a member of the Bloc Quebecois is interested in maintaining the Canadian passport.

*  *  *

CAPE BRETON DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

Mr. Peter Mancini (Sydney—Victoria, NDP): Mr. Speaker, hundreds of Cape Breton workers have been laid off by the Cape Breton Development Corporation in the last few weeks, causing great uncertainty in the mining communities I represent.

On Monday of next week I will be holding meetings with the stakeholders in the coal industry in my community and we need to know two things from this government.

Will the government commit to opening the Donkin mine, yes or no? If not, what solutions does it have for DEVCO and the miners of Cape Breton?

Mr. Gerry Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear that the hon. member is finally beginning a dialogue with the employees who rely on that facility for employment.

The Government of Canada has already received an invitation from the employees, the union and the employer to initiate a dialogue to get the business to its maximum efficiency.

I remind the hon. member that his own colleague has put forward suggestions that the employees should take it over and privatize. The other members of the union—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.

*  *  *

TRANSPORT

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport.

The Government of Canada has now given its blessing to the province of New Brunswick to sell the right to charge tolls on an existing stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway for millions of dollars.

Under this precedent, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, all provinces and all Canadians now will be subject to this deal. It means that all provinces can sell the right to charge tolls on existing stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway. It is an incredible precedent to set.

Will the minister explain to all Canadians and all MPs who will be affected why it is good policy to allow—

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Labour.

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport has answered this question in the House about a dozen times. He stood before the standing committee for two hours last Wednesday and responded to this question. My hon. colleague must have the answer.

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT EQUITY

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of Treasury Board.

People in a visible minority represent 12% of the Canadian population, only 5% of the public service of Canada and last year less than 3% of new hirings.

 

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I ask the minister, why are we losing ground on employment equity and what does he plan to do so that all Canadians have a fair chance, an equal chance, of serving their country?

Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the Canadian government must give fair treatment to visible minorities. There is also no doubt that the visible minorities represent a larger percentage of available labour than is employed in the federal government.

We have been putting into place a number of measures to increase the number of people from visible minorities in the public service. We have succeeded to some extent. There is still a lot of improvement to be made.

In particular, this year Treasury Board has allocated an additional $11 million to improve employment equity.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Translation]

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS

Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

INDUSTRY

Mr. Eugène Bellemare (Carleton—Gloucester, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Industry.

[English]

In accordance with the order of reference of October 6, 1998, your committee has considered Bill C-53, an act to increase the availability of financing for the establishment, expansion, modernization and improvement of small businesses and has agreed to report it with amendments.

Mr. Nelson Riis: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if there is anyone on the government benches who could indicate when the government would bring forward any legislation regarding the introduction of the Nisga'a treaty, assuming it is agreed upon by the Nisga'a people in the next few days.

The Speaker: I do not think the member can do that. It was a good try. Perhaps someone heard the hon. member and he will receive an answer shortly.

*  *  *

PETITIONS

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present three petitions today pursuant to Standing Order 36.

The first petition is signed by young people from a number of schools in Kamloops who are concerned about cruelty toward animals.

The petitioners are asking the judges of Canada to make more of an effort to assign appropriate sentences to those people who behave in a manner that could be identified as being cruel toward animals.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition from a number of elderly citizens of the city of Kamloops.

The petitioners are concerned with what they see as a diminishing ability by the federal government to protect Canada's sovereignty on a number of issues as a result of the signing of a number of our international trade agreements.

 

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They are asking the government not to proceed with any more of these agreements until we come to grips with this kind of issue.

TAXATION

Mr. Nelson Riis (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition from constituents of the Kamloops area who believe that our tax system is grossly unfair for a whole number of reasons which they outline in their petition.

They are simply asking the federal government to consider a major overhaul of our taxation system.

[Translation]

FIREARMS ACT

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to table a petition signed by some 125 people. These people oppose Bill C-68, the Firearms Act.

They ask Parliament to repeal Bill C-68 and to reassign the officials appointed to enforce this law to other duties permitting a real fight against crime and violence.

*  *  *

[English]

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

The Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

FIRST NATIONS LAND MANAGEMENT ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, an act providing for the ratification and the bringing into effect of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

The Speaker: If I recall correctly, the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain had about five minutes left. The hon. member has the floor.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have delivered a speech in three different segments. I can assure the House that the best part will be the last five minutes.

There are some fundamental questions in relation to this bill, and the bills that no doubt will be coming down the line, that Canadians, all Canadians, wherever they live, deserve answers for from the government.

We have before us, delivered to us about two years ago, the largest, most costly royal commission report ever presented to the House. It totalled some $58 million. It deals specifically with what we are discussing today.

Canadians want to know if we have changed the meaning of rule of law. Canadians need to have a debate on that issue. That debate should take place in the House by their elected representatives.

From time to time we hear the term self-government. If we ask a municipal official, he will tell us what self-government means. If we ask a town, a village or a city official, they will tell us. However, there are 30 million or more Canadians out there who simply do not have an explanation of what the term self-government means as we are using it in the context of this House. It is incumbent upon members of parliament, it is incumbent upon government members, to say that we need to have a debate in the House so that all Canadians, not just our native friends, but all Canadians understand what we mean by self-government. I have asked at least seven different sources and I have never received a definitive answer.

I wonder if any members opposite could provide this House with a definitive answer today as to what is meant by self-government as it relates to the royal commission report which we have before us. I owe that to my constituents. Members from Manitoba owe it to their constituents. Everybody needs to know.

We have introduced a bill. There is a vote being held today in northern B.C. Obviously there are going to be more. I am facing five or six land claims in Saskatchewan and nobody can tell us what the government means by self-government. We have to know before we can intelligently pass more legislation, or even this legislation.

 

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The bill before us does not answer the questions of the grassroots people. It does not give them the authority from the bottom up. It does not give them the right to control. It is not a democratic process. For that reason, and for the reasons of people across Canada, I cannot vote for the bill. Nor can I continue to have the term self-government being used in all of its various contexts in the House without having a clear cut definition.

It is incumbent upon the government to be honest with the House and with people across Canada and tell us what is meant by self-government as it applies to the treaties or any other legislation that comes before the House. If that cannot be done, the government should not expect Canadians to support its actions.

Mr. John Bryden (Wentworth—Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's remarks with great interest because we are all very concerned about what exactly these self-government treaties involve.

This has been a topic at the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development for some time. While there appears to be nothing that will be a constitutional problem in the treaties we are talking about, nevertheless it would be a reassurance for all Canadians to hear the interpretation of the term self-government from expert witnesses from the Department of Justice.

I am pleased to inform the member opposite that the committee has discussed just that strategy for a witness program when this bill goes to committee. I suggest to him that perhaps he should agree with the bill in principle and reserve his final judgment on his concern about what is actually meant by self-government and whether it is indeed in the interests of all Canadians, as I believe it is, and wait to see what the expert witnesses from the Department of Justice say at the committee. He could then make his decision when the bill comes back for third reading.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. That is exactly what I am talking about. It is not just to inform the House, it is to inform the entire nation of Canada.

Clearly we should not rely only on constitutional interpretation. We have to be in touch with all Canadians because it will indeed affect not just those people to whom some type of government is granted, it will also affect the rest of the people living in Canada.

There are six Indian groups, six reserves, in my constituency. I want to be as honest and fair with them as I possibly can. But at the same time I have to be honest and fair with the rest of my constituents.

I look forward to committee stage, but I can tell the hon. member that I have great fears about the constitutionality of this if what I read in the royal commission report will in fact establish sovereign states. Approximately 150 to 300 little islands would be created within Canada, which simply could not survive under the totality of rule of law in Canada.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's intervention on this subject. I am curious to know whether he has actually talked with grassroots natives in his area on this issue and whether they are in favour of what is happening in the federal government or whether they are opposed to it.

I am speaking specifically of the grassroots people as opposed to the people who are presumably in charge in the different reserves.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Speaker, this is what I hear from my friends in Saskatchewan, and not just within my constituency. If we are to get to the bottom line I will repeat what they are saying. They want the same rights as members of parliament. They want to know where their tax dollar is going, how their government is spending their money. They want audited financial statements. They want budgets. They want everything we have always enjoyed.

 

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If we are not prepared to give them the same benefits we have had and have nourished for well over 500 years, I am afraid the term self-government is somewhat meaningless. I thank the hon. member and encourage members to take a look at the basic principles so all people in Canada can enjoy the benefits of open and transparent democracy. That is what we must have.

Mr. John Bryden: Mr. Speaker, I share with my colleague a concern about the terminology with respect to self-government and sovereignty. We do not want small nations within a nation. This is a debate that constantly appears in the committee of which I am a member.

When the bill gets to committee and is debated, does the member find there is nothing to the term sovereignty, that it is really not sovereignty we are talking about in these treaties but a form of municipal government?

If we find that kind of reassurance from justice department officials and other witnesses who come before the committee, would the member be willing to take that message back to his community to reassure the people who are genuinely concerned?

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will take the message back. If self-government means a form of municipal government such as my town's government or the governments of the smaller cities in my constituency that are subject to provincial and federal legislation, I am all for it. I can speak on behalf of all of my constituents who are also for that. If any other meaning were to be applied to the term to create sovereignty, I would be opposed to it.

I will go out with that message. I will make a press release tomorrow if he can assure me that is the case.

Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned that all of his constituents felt it would be acceptable for self-government to be defined in terms of a municipal government being responsible to the provincial government. I am under the impression that he has some first nations people within his riding. I would seriously question that all of them feel that way.

My understanding is that virtually every first nation in Canada desires to move toward self-government so they will not have to respond totally in the context of a provincial government. First nations people want control over their own lands. They want to make their own laws. There are some limitations with regard to criminal offences, but as a developing governing nation the first nations deserve the same opportunities Canadians have had since the beginning of recognized government. I would like to see it move ahead in that way.

I am curious to know whether the member has any first nations people in his riding and if he can truly attest to the fact that all his constituents would like to see self-government as a municipal government doing what the provincial government says it should do.

Mr. Roy Bailey: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I assure the hon. member for Churchill that the people I have talked to, not only those within my constituency, want control over their lands. No one disputes that. They want control over the development of business. No one disputes that. Even with the RMs that are losing portions of their land to the Indians to enlarge their reserves there is no quarrel.

 

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I live in Canada. My residence is in the town of Bengough, Saskatchewan. That government is subject to a higher government, the provincial government.

If the people who form the Indian nations do not want to use the term municipality, that is fine, but they will still have to be subject to some other form of government in the rule of law scenario. We can give them provisions to pass bylaws to certain laws that apply to their own people. We are not arguing that, but there are some fundamental Canadian laws that have to be applied whether people are living in Nanaimo or Halifax. They have to be the same.

I would respond to the hon. member's question by saying that we accept that form of government, but we do not accept their having powers that are above those of the federal government or equal to those of the federal government in jurisprudence. That is not rule of law and Canadians would not accept that.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-49 which is important to all Canadians including aboriginal people.

On reflection and on examination of the bill I find I am unable to support the bill in its present form. As it goes through parliament I hope amendments will be brought in that make it more acceptable to both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

I certainly support the right of aboriginals to manage their own lands, but we must think about Canada as a country. We must remember that aboriginals are Canadians. We occupy the same lands as defined by our national boundaries.

The good of all Canadians is paramount. The people of Canada need one government that is supreme, one government that is in charge and responsible for the country and for all the people residing in its boundaries. All other levels of government have to be at lower levels to the federal government. All governments and all laws have to be subject to the House.

We have heard and examined the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, “Gathering Strength—Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan”. It had a lot of good features to it. It certainly helped move the debate down the road and helped to make Canadians more aware of what was going on. I question how many Canadians have actually read the report and understand it. Many aboriginal people have read it and a pretty significant number of them have some very deep concerns.

I will deal with some of their concerns in my speech today. I think I could sum them up by saying that they deal mostly with accountability and the place poorer children and women in particular will have in a future self-government.

 

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The royal commission report should have stated unequivocally that accountability of elected representatives on our first nations lands had to be in place as self-government moved along. It should have included built-in democratic guarantees to all aboriginal people. A cornerstone of democracy would not be restricted to such things as election laws being equivalent to or better than the Canada Elections Act.

That would seem to be pretty basic to any self-governing democracy. However we find on first nations reserves which come under the Canada Elections Act contained in the Indian Act that elections are not always fair to the people who are participating.

How long will Canada and the aboriginal people in particular go along with the idea of hereditary chiefs? This was brought to my attention many times, over and over again. When there are hereditary chiefs we do not have a democracy.

The cultural aspects of hereditary chiefs are certainly important. They were a fact of life of aboriginal people. I believe that it can be accommodated through some form of governor general, a figurehead for the reserve and its people. True democratic institutions are what are required by aboriginal people. In order for them to have that they need full democracy as we know it today.

In addition to election laws that have to be clearer and fairer for everyone, there should be an independent auditor general. An independent auditor general would be free to criticize the government and government departments he is reporting on. That could have been built into all agreements with our aboriginal people. Without it there is no accountability of elected officials who manage agreements.

The third matter that would be a good cornerstone would be an access to information component. How can people be governed and assess—

Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is Friday and I hate to delay the time of the House, but you are aware that it is incumbent upon the government to keep a quorum in the House. I do not see a quorum. It is a very important piece of legislation and we should have a quorum.

The Deputy Speaker: I think the hon. member knows that it is incumbent upon all members to maintain a quorum, but I will count the members present.

And the count having been taken:

The Deputy Speaker: I see a quorum.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Mr. Speaker, the last cornerstone I would speak about would be an ombudsman to assist people who are unable to deal with their elected officials due to a possible lack of education, a disability, or mental lack of capacity to understand exactly what is governing their lives.

Opposition to self-government within the native community is a fact of life. There is also widespread concern within the non-native community as it sees child poverty and the terrible living conditions that have resulted in the last 70 to 80 years. They see a gigantic gap between rich and poor. Many aboriginal people say that the rich among them got that way by getting a much larger share of financial resources intended for a much more equitable distribution among the people.

 

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This opposition to self-government includes women's rights. How can it be that aboriginal people do not have the same democratic rights and protections available to the majority of Canadians? The royal commission could have made a big step in clarifying this and making sure all future discussions between the federal government, aboriginal peoples and elected officials include the bottom line that without democratic rights for everyone nothing goes forward.

The Liberal government and the aboriginal leaders who prepared these documents could have eliminated this opposition to self-government by simply stating and ensuring through action that Canadian aboriginals have all the democratic rights enjoyed by the non-native Canadian population.

Bill C-49 will ratify and bring into force the framework agreement on first nations land management. The framework agreement, it is my understanding, was signed by a group of 14 first nations and the federal government. It enables first nations people to opt out of land and property sections of the Indian Act individually and to establish their own land codes to manage reserve land and resources.

I reiterate that I support aboriginals' managing their land. As a land owner in Manitoba I have certain responsibilities and rights to manage the land I own. I accept, though, that the federal government has the final say with regard to how I use that land under some circumstances. For instance, if I am to use my land in a way that harms my neighbours or destroys the environment of my area, obviously we need the government, parliament, to be the final arbiter of what goes on in this country.

Bill C-49 deals with land management. Yet in purpose and function it amounts to the creation of a partial yet substantial form of self-government for the first nations that are signatories to this framework agreement. The framework agreement grants these powers of self-government in two primary ways. Individual first nations will establish a land code which will give them authority to pass laws for the development, conservation, protection, management, use and possession of first nations lands. It will allow them to control the issue of leases, licences and other interests.

In short, there is no constitutional basis for the creation of this kind of third level of government because under this framework agreement where there is a contradiction, a conflict between whether aboriginal law applies or Canadian law applies, under certain conditions aboriginal law can take precedence. That is one of the big concerns I have.

Clause 37 is particularly questionable. It says in effect that in the event of any inconsistency or conflict between this act and any other federal law this act prevails to the extent of the inconsistency.

 

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In essence, Bill C-49 would not only give first nations authority to create laws in areas that fall within the jurisdiction of their land codes but it would give them powers which could and probably will supersede federal laws.

Once again I get back to the discussion that were those laws and uses of these lands to be detrimental to their neighbours there has to be one final authority and that final authority has to be the elected officials who represent all Canadians, members of parliament.

Another significant dimension within Bill C-49 is that major sections of the Indian Act will no longer apply. In the absence of these sections and with first nations no longer being subject to either federal or provincial laws in the areas where they have or would have authority to create their own, this bill has the potential to create a serious legal and legislative vacuum.

I hope this was not a clever plan by the legal profession of Canada to create a lot more cases in court. However, it certainly seems it will have that effect.

My greatest concern deals with women and children on reserves. They seem to have the greatest concern over this whole issue of self-government and the laws being passed and the agreements being made. It is a legitimate concern, one that we as parliamentarians must address before this bill is passed.

Parliament has to ensure that those people who are less able to help themselves are fully protected and are able to lead good lives, lives that the majority of Canadians accept as being normal.

The question of divorce laws, property rights and what a spouse who is divorced ends up with is also of paramount importance. At present it is my understanding that provincial and federal laws dealing with divorce on aboriginal reserves have no effect.

Does it not seem right that the fundamental democratic principles I was talking about, which would include property rights, the right of a woman or a man to share the opposite spouse's property in the case of divorce, be in place and part of any agreement that moves forward?

I would like to see an all encompassing application of Canadian law to aboriginal peoples. That is what they are basically demanding and asking for. Some in the community do not particularly want to see those democratic rights proceed with the equivalent rights we have in the rest of Canada. I suspect that close examination would reveal it has more to do with the possibility of self-enrichment than with what is good for aboriginal people.

 

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I refer to a letter sent to an MP from the B.C. Native Women's Society. As members of parliament we often reflect what constituents say from across the country. We interpret and deliver to this House what we believe to be our constituents' concerns. We lay them out in our own words.

Today I bring these aboriginal women's words to the House as part of the official record in a more direct way. I would like to read some portions of this letter because their explanation, this group of aboriginal women, expresses it in ways that no member of parliament can. That is because it comes from the heart. It comes from living under the conditions and laws they find so objectionable.

In the first paragraph the women say: “You must defeat this bill, the first nations land management act”. These women are not speaking for every aboriginal person in the country. But they are speaking for a significant number. I had a meeting in Winnipeg on October 31. I heard the same thing.

As I reflect on Bill C-49 and the whole movement toward self-government, we have to make sure democratic principles are in place and that every Canadian, rich or poor, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, has the rights enjoyed by all Canadians.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the comments of my colleague from the Reform Party. I have been trying to understand what their position is having listened now to the debate for several hours and hearing various members of the Reform Party debate Bill C-49.

On the one hand members of the Reform Party purport to support aboriginal self-government and management of their lands and yet it seems that every single member has risen to nitpick this bill apart, tear it apart and say that because it is not a perfect situation this will go down in flames.

The member has talked about the need for democratic elections and has questioned that this bill has no constitutional basis for aboriginal government. I would like to question the member on that.

For example, today we know that in the vote taking place on the Nisga'a referendum there will be provision for a democratically elected government.

I would like to query the member on his basis for claiming that there is no constitutional basis for the establishment of aboriginal government. It seems all members of the House and all governments have a responsibility to recognize the inherent self-right to government by aboriginal people.

When the member talks about his concerns for women and children in first nation communities I advise the member to look to his own party in terms of its representation of women as being among the lowest of any political party in Canada. I find it curious that he would be raising this issue when within his own organization the issues of women and the representation of women are very low, something that should be of concern to them.

I would like to ask the member to really be clear as to whether his party stands for aboriginal self-government. What is the Reform Party position? It seems to me Reformers are trying to talk out of both sides of their mouths on this question.

At the end of the day this framework is before us that has been negotiated in a fair and open process. The first nations involved have endorsed this process. I find it very difficult to understand the Reform Party's position that while it says it supports self-government there is really nothing in this bill it finds worthy of support. It seems to be a contradiction.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom: Mr. Speaker, I could comment for the next half hour on the things the hon. member for the NDP brought up.

 

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First off, democratic rights for every Canadian is not nitpicking. That is a fundamental each of us living in this country deserves. Without democratic rights, who is not liable to be locked up arbitrarily or have laws applied to them that are inconsistent even with human rights.

With regard to women, children and the poor, approximately 18,000 aboriginal people live in my constituency. Looking back over the past five to 10 years, I have seen no member of parliament stand up and do anything for the aboriginal women and children in our community. They tried through the official methods, but no one listened to them. They tried the RCMP. They tried Indian affairs. They tried individual members of parliament. They tried all these official methods of addressing their problems and got nowhere.

I am so proud to have held the accountability coalition meetings in Manitoba. The last one was on October 31. I announced in the House beforehand that it was open to everyone. Who did I see at my meeting? I saw a member from the Manitoba legislature. One of the Progressive Conservative members saw fit to come and contribute to the meeting. I saw no other elected members of parliament or members of the provincial legislature, other than a couple of Reform members.

I will let the House and the Canadian people judge who stands up for women and children in our communities. By ensuring democratic rights and bringing to the fore the complaints of these people, it is the Reform Party that is standing up the most for the disadvantaged people and natives in particular. That is my answer very simply to nitpicking and women's rights and problems in our country.

How many countries do we have in Canada? Do we have one country? Do we have two? I believe that there are in the neighbourhood of 600 aboriginal reserves with land rights in Canada. Are members on both sides of the House, and NDP members in particular suggesting that we should have 601 countries? Are we headed to 601 countries making agreements with each other or making agreements with foreign nations?

These basic principles have to be clarified to the Canadian public. We are being left in a big mishmash as we move forward toward self-government.

The term self-government could be applied to the provincial government in Manitoba in that it has rights and responsibilities. In this process of self-government for aboriginals we have to do two things. We certainly have to clarify that basic democratic cornerstones apply to absolutely every aboriginal person. We also have to clarify just where the process is going to end up. If it is to negotiate out 601 countries, why not divide it up even more until we are not a country at all?

I have spent a lot of my lifetime working in the public service and working for Canada. I have done that because I believe this is a great country. It can stand improvement in areas, certainly in the financial and spending areas. But those areas do not touch on the very basic right of every Canadian to have the democratic principles available to them in dealing with their elected officials.

 

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Democracy is the only thing that protects us. It protects us from the possibility of a dictatorship, the possibility of abuse by elected officials toward the people. It may never be perfect but that does not mean we cannot go forward and make things as good as they can be.

I mentioned the letter from the B.C. native women. I am sure that certainly applies across the prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the maritimes. Their complaints reflect exactly what I am saying. They are saying they do not feel secure. They do not feel that self-government is going to protect them. They have stated in the letter exactly why that is the case. I will pass the letter to another member in my party who will be able to bring that out and show the exact words of these people and what their concern is.

It should be clear to this House that the Reform Party is not saying that Bill C-49 is a total disaster. We are saying it is not addressing the basic concerns these people have in regard to democracy. Until we have that in place, we should not proceed in making it tougher and causing more litigation between the parties that we are trying to get to live together in a unified Canada.

Mr. John Bryden (Wentworth—Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I find myself in the odd position of having to spring to the defence of a Reform Party member, the member for Selkirk—Interlake because I feel strongly that it is the role of the opposition to nitpick legislation at second reading. That is why we are here, to debate and try to find flaws in the existing legislation so when it goes to committee it will have some guidelines on what to look for in order to correct the bill and make it better.

I am not quite sure where the member for the NDP was coming from. Possibly she had not read the legislation or perhaps she misunderstands her role as a member of the opposition.

For my part, I have never hesitated as a government member to examine legislation at second reading debate very carefully and to point out where I feel there may be shortcomings. I do not share the same concerns as the Reform Party members that there is a problem in the bill with respect to the allocation of sovereignty. I actually believe the bill provides for this. When it is debated in committee the members opposite will get the reassurances they need with respect to not giving away the store and creating mini states within Canada. I do not believe the bill does that.

I have one concern with respect to the bill and I hope a member opposite will address it. I cannot find anywhere in the bill a provision for transparency. There are some clauses that talk about accountability but there is no clause that I can find that would require the management groups or whoever administers this act on the reserves or on the self-government entities provide for open debate.

The difficulty is that there cannot be accountability without transparency. There has been a trend over the years to create legislation that does not firmly provide for committees and councils in self-government regimes to have their debates in an open forum. That is key to an amendment or change I would like to see in the bill. I would ask the member opposite or a member of the Reform Party if they might share the same concerns I have, that we should be looking for an amendment that clarifies a need for transparency in deliberations when the bill goes through.

 

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Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, what we are doing here is reversing the roles. The member had 20 minutes to make a speech and he used just a little over two. Really what he was doing was questioning our position on this. I appreciate that he recognizes those of us on this side, and I will be gracious and include everyone in the House, have an obligation to look at this legislation.

One of the things that happens to be in place right now is our motion to suspend the bill for six months. The reason for this is to provide the opportunity to get it right. I have often said to my children and to my students over the years that it is much better to get it right than to get it fast. Perhaps that is why I am so slow all the time. It is very, very important to get it right.

In this instance, this legislation has a lot of flaws. A lot of things in it just are not right. They fundamentally are not right. They are not right philosophically. They are not right socially. They tie us together as humans living on the same continent within the same boundaries with a political organization that will not work well in the long run.

All we have to do is read a little history and look at the history of different countries, countries where there is a clear delineation of the powers, responsibilities and privileges of the different levels of government. We are getting a hodgepodge. We are getting a total mess where based on race, based on factors such as personal characteristics, one set of laws applies and another set applies to different people.

There are different laws for pensions for MPs and senators as opposed to what other people have. There are different laws with respect to just about everything that can be named. We split up people and start pitting them against each other.

I would appeal to the government, to those eager backbenchers over there to finally say to the government and better yet, to stand up when the vote is taken and say “We support this six month hoist. We support that we need to work on this more. We support that we have to get it right. Let us make those fundamental changes”. I would urge the member who has just given this extremely short but I would say concentrated and valuable speech to get his colleagues together and say “Here are some things in this legislation that are fundamentally not right. Let us delay it so that we can get it right”.

Mr. Speaker, if you just tuck your head down and dive off the diving board without first checking to make sure there is water in the pool, would be an act of sheer stupidity. It is absolute folly for the government to ram this legislation through without giving it very serious thought.

The implications of what we are doing here are immense for the future of our country, our children and our grandchildren. I would like the member to elaborate a little more on what he said in his speech and to respond to what I have said.

Mr. John Bryden: Mr. Speaker, the reason my speech was so short was that I did not find much of great concern in the legislation. I believe an economy of words in this House is something everyone should seek. That is what I was trying to do.

Now that the member has responded and raised some issues, I will say the reason I think the bill should go forward basically as it stands and go to committee for further deliberation is that I do not think it contains elements that cause the concerns raised by the members opposite. I do not feel that it creates mini states within Canada.

 

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The Constitution provides special treatment for Canada's aboriginal peoples. That is in our Constitution. It is like official bilingualism. It is part of our national makeup.

However we have to be very careful—and this is where members opposite strike an appropriate chord—we do not create states along the model of apartheid in South Africa where sovereign states were created on race.

The legislation creates—and it is the theme of the government—aboriginal self-government that is more based on the municipal model. It so happens because aboriginal affairs is a federal responsibility rather than a provincial responsibility that we will not have a provincial government between the federal government and the municipality. In essence we would have the federal government and the municipality.

Unfortunately there has been a great misuse of language in the debate. For instance, we are always talking about first nations. Sometimes I find it quite deplorable when witnesses appear before the aboriginal affairs committee and talk about their first nations versus Canada. That is the kind of rhetoric I would expect from the Parti Quebecois in Quebec which actually talks about separating from Canada. I find that unacceptable.

It is a misuse of words because the vast majority of aboriginal peoples I know who appear before our committee are very much Canadian. They want a sense of management of their own affairs just in the same way as the people in my communities of Dundas, Ancaster and Hamilton, or in the province for that matter if we take another step up in the communities of communities that make up Canada, want a sense of personal identity in the immediate territory around them. We want to have some say in our lives in that context.

That is precisely what the government is trying to achieve by its aboriginal self-government programs. It is not trying to create sovereign states. It is trying to create communities that manage their own affairs in the same way as municipalities do and in another way as provinces do.

We are embarking on uncharted territory. We still do not know for certain how the experiments we have already done are working. We cannot leave it for decades and centuries to attempt to address the very legitimate need of the various communities of Canada to feel they are in control of their own destinies as individuals. We have to act.

The legislation may have flaws. What legislation that comes before the House does not have flaws? If legislation did not have flaws the opposition would not need to exist. There would be no need for debate. Legislation has problems and we have to discuss them as mature representatives of the various parts of Canada that have sent us to the House.

I have found one area of concern. While members opposite have expressed themselves sometimes eloquently, I am sure they have found other areas of concern. I read in what they say that they are not ambiguous at all with respect to the legislation. Members across the floor are saying that they believe in Bill C-49 in principle, but they do not agree with the detail and need reassurance. I urge them to support the bill, get it to committee, get those witnesses before the committee, hear those witnesses and then decide on the future of the legislation.

In order to give people who need a sense of self-identity a chance to have that self-identity as soon as possible we should move forward with this and other legislation like it.

The Deputy Speaker: I am afraid that the time for questions and comments is so close to over that by the time the hon. member got half a question out it would be over, so I will resume debate.

Mr. John Duncan: Economy of words is something that is in my repetoire.

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member will get a chance later this afternoon, I have no doubt.

Mr. Leon E. Benoit (Lakeland, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am please to speak to Bill C-49. People have explained what the legislation says. Reform MPs have expressed their concerns about it.

 

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My debate on the legislation will focus on the aspect that the legislation will give more power to chiefs and councils without first ensuring an increased level of accountability. When I speak about improved accountability I am talking about the area of fiscal accountability. In other words, the people on the reserves should know where the money comes from, how it is being spent and get the chance to have some input into how it should be spent. I am also talking about democratic accountability, starting with having fair elections and having some way of ensuring that elections are fair.

For that reason alone I cannot support the legislation and I will not support it. In fact I will do everything I can to prevent the bill from passing, including supporting the amendment to postpone the bill for six months so we can debate it, improve it and make it something we can support. I support the amendment to the bill.

I want to talk about something that happened over the past year which led me to know that my party and I and the government should not support legislation like the legislation before us. About a year ago I started representing the new Lakeland constituency. About two-thirds of the Vegreville and Beaver River constituencies were put together into one constituency. I had no reserves in the Vegreville constituency but eight reserves become a part of my Beaver River constituency. As soon as that happened I started getting phone calls from aboriginal people both on and off reserve expressing their concerns. Some of the calls were very disturbing.

One of the first ones I remember was from a man who said he was a grandfather of several grandchildren. He lived in a two-bedroom house in which were living 27 members of his family. He said they could not live like that. It was so crowded that the house was falling apart. They could not go on like that. The chief and council on the reserve would do nothing to try to improve the house or to provide housing that better suited their needs.

In pursuing this matter I found that the chief, council and families in the inner group were living in wonderful houses. Many drove new cars. They seemed to have money. Then people started telling me exactly what was happening, that the money was not getting to the people on that reserve who needed it most.

After receiving literally dozens of these calls, after about a year I decided that as the member of parliament I would try to do something about it. I did not really know what to do. I started by going to the local native friendship centres and speaking with the people. I asked what we could do. They expressed the desperate need for something to be done. They said that things were getting worse. They had been getting worse over the last 30 years. They were in a crisis situation. The things I heard were not uncommon to us. We hear them all the time.

I got a group of about 20 aboriginal people together at a native friendship centre in one of our towns and asked them what we could do. We decided to set up a small task force that would not study for years but would listen to the concerns of the aboriginal people in my constituency.

We started with four aboriginal members and me on the task force. One member left shortly after so we had three aboriginal people and me. We went through a three step process. We started by meeting confidentially with people who would come to the friendship centres in the various communities around the constituency.

 

. 1310 + -

We listened to 55 people in this confidential way. Many said that even by coming to the centres they risked some action being taken against them by the chiefs and councils of their reserves. They were at a point where they were willing to accept that risk because somebody had to do something to try to change the situation.

I will never forget in my lifetime what I heard from these people. I heard articulate people express their concerns about what was happening. They gave the task force recommendations as to what they thought should happen. It was am experience I will truly never forget. I am thankful to those people, some of whom I believe are my friends now.

The second phase was to put out a questionnaire in the area, on the reserves and in the towns near the reserves. I did that and received over 50 responses. The third phase was to hold public meetings. I held three public meetings in the constituency. The largest meeting was in St. Paul with about 70 aboriginals in attendance. It is the town nearest to two of the reserves. That was the process.

I will talk about the task force members to acknowledge the time and the money they contributed on their own. None of them have much money but I had no way of covering their expenses. They had to cover the costs themselves and they were willing to do that. They gladly did that because they believed that finally somebody would listen to their concerns.

There were three aboriginal people on the task force and me. There was Agnes Gendron who works at the Grand Centre Canadian Native Friendship Centre as the children's first family outreach worker. She has worked as a social worker for at least 20 years. In fact she worked for the department of Indian affairs for several years so she knows what goes on there. She understood very well some of the problems within the department and some of the problems with the Indian Act that were preventing change from happening, change which must happen to improve the situation.

The second member was Gina Russell from the Cold Lake First Nation. She also works at the friendship centre in Cold Lake. She has contributed her time to the youth justice committee, to victims services and to the Lakeland Native Parents Education Committee. Gina is presently the director of the Grand Centre Canadian Native Friendship Centre which is one of the few non-funded native friendship centres in Canada. It gets no government money and it is doing good work. I commend both these women for the work they are doing.

The third member was Ralph Whitford from Lac La Biche, a town council member who understands well how municipal politics works. He had great input in our discussions of what type of government would work on reserves. He has an incredible background. I will just mention a few things. Ralph has held several senior community positions including director of Beaver Lake Wah-Pow Detoxification and Treatment Centre. He was a member and supervisor of the Lac La Biche-St. Paul District Native Counselling Services of Alberta and he is now actively working as a member of Awasisak and Family Development Circle Association. His background is absolutely noteworthy.

I wanted to mention all these people who agreed to give their time to become members of the task force. They wanted to try to do something valuable for the people they care so much about, their families.

I have talked about why I initiated the task force. I have talked about the three stages that were involved in this process that we went through and I have talked about the members of the task force. We heard many concerns and complaints. Many were aimed at chiefs and councils. Some were aimed at the community outside of the reserve and many were aimed at the department of Indian affairs.

 

. 1315 + -

These people got beyond that. They gave us recommendations for change that would improve the system. That is what I want to focus on.

There were nine recommendations the task force accepted and put in the report which we presented to the minister of Indian affairs in September. The task force met with the minister and I will talk about that at the end of my presentation.

I would like to first talk about five of the nine recommendations. They are the five that deal with accountability, really the lack of accountability on reserves now. In category one we talked about financial accountability. The first recommendation is the government must enforce more comprehensive and transparent financial reporting by band and settlement administrators. This information must be freely available to all members and to the general public. This recommendation, as did all of the others, came from the aboriginal grassroots people we heard from.

These recommendations are not all supported by Reform policy. I do not support completely all the recommendations. But I was not there to put a Reform platform into this process. What I was there for was to hear from the people, what they thought could be done to improve things for themselves and for the people they care about, aboriginal people in the constituency.

That was the first recommendation. There are some notable quotes we have in this report from people who spoke to this issue. I will read one from Charles Favel from Saddle Lake reserve: “Nobody on the reserve is told how much funding is received from Indian affairs. As a result, administrators on some reserves and settlements are able to show favouritism in distribution of funds”. That was heard from several participants. Mr. Favel went on to say: “All the money benefits are certain family groups. Some living conditions on the reserve are so bad they are not even fit for an animal. Yet some families that benefit from the funding drive new cars, have new homes and have new clothes”. Mr. Favel in his presentation spelled it out about as clearly as one can. The way the money is spent on his reserve is not right at all. The money is not getting to the people most in need.

The second recommendation, again in the area of fiscal accountability, is that to ensure sound financial management on reserves and settlements the government must provide better financial management support for aboriginal councillors and administrators.

Many chiefs, councillors and administrators really do not have the knowledge they need and the understanding they need to properly account for the money they handle and which is being spent. They made no excuse for this. They said that does not mean they should not be held accountable for improper spending, because they understand when the spending is improper. But they need help to properly account for funding. They ask for that help to come from the department of Indian affairs, which makes sense. They said it is not coming now. Part of the help they need is very clear guidelines that really put in place responsible accounting for the money being spent.

I quote one of the participants on this recommendation: “Problems on reserves are the outgrowth of a system that at one time prevented people from leaving reserves and at one time starved them”. This is from George Forsyth from the Onion Lake Band. “You can't go from a system where people are watched over every minute to one where they are totally on their own and expect perfect accountability”.

 

. 1320 + -

This is an individual who was mad as heck at his chief and council, but he acknowledged that it was hard to move from the one system to the other quickly. He said it was insanity to move to more self-government before the proper fiscal accountability is in place. This is exactly what this piece of legislation is doing. He made it very clear that he wanted no part of this.

The third recommendation, again in the area of fiscal accountability, is the government, together with councillors and administrators, must ensure there are effective, regular and ongoing consultations with band and settlement members.

One participant on this issue said the solution may be to require band meetings where the people approve a forecast budget. This person, who previously worked in an administrative role with a band outside of Lakeland, said the crucial process was not yet in place on that reserve. This is how people reacted to that concept being presented to them. He said: “You should have seen the administrators' faces the first time I brought up the idea. They said `it is not normal that you should have people discussing how the money might be spent”'. That is how out of touch the people on his reserve were with this concept of accountability.

I will never forget a meeting held in St. Paul attended by 65 to 70 participants. All but about five were aboriginal people. I was clearly getting the message they were concerned about the movement toward self-government. I heard it so much that I finally had to ask a question. This was a meeting recorded by two television cameras. I asked how many of the people at this meeting would support moving toward self-government on their reserves.

As no hands went up on the question I wondered if they understood the question. I then put the question another way: “How many of you here are against any further movement toward self-government until the problems of fiscal accountability and electoral accountability are dealt with?” Only one person was in favour of any further movement to self-government before the accountability was in place.

That person then said that the reason she put her hand up was because she did not know what I meant by self-government. My response to her was good point. The definition really has not been put forth.

Another thing that came up at this meeting was when someone said: “Ron Irwin sent a memo out to reserves saying that no one would be forced to take self-government until everyone was ready”. They are concerned that is not what is happening.

I have just gone through the three recommendations having to do with fiscal accountability. I will have another chance at third reading to talk about the electoral accountability.

When the task force members met with the minister of Indian affairs she said “we have heard all this stuff before, it has been in the various commissions we have heard from before, this is not new”. I said “so why haven't you done something about it?” The other task force members reinforced that. I said let us take one bite sized chunk. Let us take one of the recommendations that came under the democratic accountability thing, let us have Elections Canada monitor elections on reserves. This was very simple.

The minister's response to this was “There are some chiefs and councils who do not support that concept. We have been talking about it. Until I have the support of all chiefs and councils I cannot move forward with that”.

Clearly this government will not move forward with anything if it is waiting for the support of every last chief and council because many of these things will make it so that it will have to act in a responsible and accountable way in governing on the reserves.

 

. 1325 + -

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on such an excellent speech. I know it is a bit of an oxymoron but I hope there was a thoughtful Liberal listening to what my colleague had to say.

The member for Wentworth—Burlington posed some questions with regard to lack of transparency being a concern. That certainly is a concern with this legislation and it is a concern in terms of all kinds of current Indian Act legislation and policy from the department.

Essentially many of the things that are done now are tantamount to giving a blank cheque not only in terms of money but in terms of issues. Bill C-49 gives essentially a blank cheque to these 14 band councils in terms of marital assets and marital splits.

This agreement creates no protocol. It leaves an absolute void in terms of how these local governments are to deal with municipal governments on servicing agreements and all those things. There needs to be protocol. That has been pointed out for the last two years. There is no change to the legislation.

There is thought about rushing this legislation to committee because somehow at committee it can be fixed. There has been about $10 million invested in this piece of legislation through government initiatives since the Tory years and it is still not right because of a philosophical problem. It has nothing to do with what should be here. It is philosophical. Committees will not fix it as long as they are Liberal dominated.

There is also no protocol for what happens when third party interests are affected as a consequence of this legislation, and there needs to be. Those are three obvious ones. The sixth month hoist is appropriate.

Mr. Leon E. Benoit: Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his questions.

With regard to the issue of transparency, I have eight reserves in my constituency. We also had people participating from four Métis settlements. In every single case there were many concerns expressed about a lack of transparency.

One person who participated said that the concept of actually fully disclosing and then having discussion among the band members as to how money should be spent was foreign to him. He said they had never heard anything like that before. Clearly transparency is not there now. There is no insurance that it will be there under the current rules, and the rules that are there are not enforced. That is something that was made very clear again and again. That is something that has to start happening.

If we are to make meaningful change and if the government really wants to move in the direction of more self-government, giving more control over their own destiny to aboriginal people, then we have to ensure through tough guidelines that are enforced that there is transparency. That has not happened.

It is complete folly moving toward giving any more power to chiefs and councils before that happens. What we have to do first is have the accountability, the transparency, then move toward giving aboriginal people more control over their own destiny in a way that they really want.

 

. 1330 + -

A blank cheque given to a band council on the issue of marital split is a concern I hear about quite often. I also hear about cases where a couple has split, divorced, moved apart, with one person being on the reserve and one off. If they lived on the reserve the only assets they would have had, in most cases, would have been on the reserve.

The Deputy Speaker: I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have five minutes remaining in questions and comments when the bill next comes up for consideration before the House.

It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[English]

ACCESS TO INFORMATION ACT

 

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-208, an act to amend the Access to Information Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.  

Ms. Colleen Beaumier (Brampton West—Mississauga, Lib.) moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)  

Ms. Colleen Beaumier moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

She said: Mr. Speaker, needless to say, I am delighted that the House has taken this bill and accepted it as its own. It is now a House bill.

I would like to thank all members from all sides of the House for their co-operation and support.

The bill was amended with some reluctance. It was amended in committee, where there was a great deal of co-operation as well. This goes to show that none of us has the monopoly on anything that is good and wonderful in this House. We all have different ways of trying to get to the top of the mountain. Once we have decided that we have a common goal we can work together.

This bill is about accountability. We all want to be accountable to our constituents and we all want the Access to Information Act to be protected so that we can acquire information to be accountable.

I think all has been said that there is to say. This is not a very large or comprehensive bill, but perhaps it is significant. Once again I would like to thank all members.

Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-208, an act to amend the Access to Information Act.

I would like to commend the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga for bringing this legislation forward. It is a tribute to her efforts that we are debating a private member's bill at this advanced stage of debate.

Hopefully the Liberals will be more co-operative with opposition parties in the House to ensure that private member's business is treated in a better manner.

It is well known that the Access to Information Act does not have enough teeth. Even the former information commissioner has said so in his most recent report.

On that note, I would also like to take this opportunity to belatedly congratulate the hon. John Reid, a former member of this House, on his appointment as the new information commissioner. I am pleased that my colleague, the House Leader for the Progressive Conservative Party, was able to facilitate the appointment of a qualified, hard working person such as Mr. Reid.

Bill C-208 would create an offence for a person who denies the right of access under the Access to Information Act, who destroys, mutilates or alters a record, who falsifies a record, who makes a false entry in a record or who does not keep required records.

As amended by the justice committee, Bill C-208 would also create an offence for anyone who directs, proposes or counsels someone to alter or destroy official records.

This is an extremely important amendment because it extends responsibility to senior managers who may order someone to break the Access to Information Act. A person found guilty of this indictable offence would be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both. We would have liked to see the maximum punishment of five years as originally proposed under Bill C-208 kept, but we in the House should focus on passing this bill.

 

. 1335 + -

In essence, Bill C-208 remains a very simple amendment to the Access to Information Act that will nonetheless strengthen the provisions of the overall act. For some time now Canadians have been losing confidence in their public institutions and especially in government. Canadians need to know their federal government is truly working on their behalf and truly working well, otherwise people feel that both their votes and their taxes are wasted.

The Access to Information Act is one of the tools for the public to achieve that objective and this amendment proposed in Bill C-208 is simply helping to make the law more complete. The amendment would give more visibility, more access and more teeth to the Access to Information Act by including strong penalties for those who do their utmost to prevent its application. This is not to say that more could have been done to improve the act.

For example, amendments could have been proposed to allow the public access to documents of the privy council which are currently confidential. In fact, many other amendments reflecting the concerns and expectations of information commissioners, past and present, could have been tabled in the same manner.

This is not a reflection of this bill or the bill's sponsor, the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga, but it is a reflection on the Liberal government that is obsessed with keeping secrets and covering up instead of being open and straightforward with Canadians. On the other hand, it was the Right Hon. Joe Clark during his tenure as prime minister who first acted on a longstanding call for an Access to Information Act. His Progressive Conservative government introduced such legislation in 1979.

Unfortunately, the Liberals and the NDP, out of their partisan interests, defeated that government and the bill died on the order paper. Several more years would pass until the legislation was reintroduced and took effect. Thankfully, Mr. Clark is returning to the scene and will no doubt bring the same fresh and innovative ideas to change government for the betterment of Canadians.

On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, I am pleased to support Bill C-208. I encourage all members to do so. We believe it is a step forward in opening up the government to more public scrutiny and in giving Canadians a stronger sense of public control and identity with their public institutions.

I hope the government follows the example of the member for Brampton West—Mississauga and introduces more comprehensive amendments to the Access to Information Act.

Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is really an honour and a pleasure today to rise and first of all congratulate my colleague, the member for Brampton West—Mississauga, on Bill C-208.

As members of the House will know, it takes a combination of initiative and perseverance to get a private member's bill to third reading, and I congratulate her for that.

[Translation]

Before providing details on the bill, I want to make it clear that the Minister of Justice supports Bill C-208.

The justice committee recently reviewed the bill and, after making some necessary amendments, it unanimously supported its passage. I take this opportunity to thank all the members of the justice committee.

I hope all members of the House will follow the example set by the justice committee and will vote in favour of Bill C-208, regardless of their political affiliation. I say this because, in my opinion, this bill is crucial for Canada and for Canadians, and should therefore get the unanimous support of this House.

[English]

Without doubt, Bill C-208 is short but its importance greatly exceeds its length. The bill would add an offence to the Access to Information Act. The offence proposed in the bill would apply to anyone who, with the intent to deny a right of access under the Access to Information Act, destroys, mutilates, alters, falsifies or conceals a record or makes a false record.

 

. 1340 + -

The offence would also apply to someone who directs, counsels or causes anyone to do so. This last aspect is important because it means that a person will not be able to escape the offence by telling someone else, a subordinate, for example, to do the act.

When the bill was first discussed in the House, I on behalf of the Minister of Justice expressed reservations regarding the penalty that the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga had put in the original version of her bill.

This was one of the main issues discussed by the committee. I am pleased to report, as I said earlier in the other official language, that the committee unanimously adopted the amendment of the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga. It was agreed that the offence should be made a hybrid offence rather than a straight indictable offence. This means that the crown has the flexibility to proceed against an accused person, either by way of indictment or by way of a summary proceeding.

[Translation]

The flexibility I am referring to is required because the indictment procedure is more complicated and, therefore, summary conviction is simpler and more direct. This flexibility also applies to the possible maximum penalty.

The committee decided that, if a person is prosecuted by way of indictment, the maximum penalty should be five years imprisonment or a $10,000 fine, or both. If a person is prosecuted by way of summary conviction, then the maximum penalty should be six months imprisonment or a $5,000 fine, or both.

Before getting into the purpose of Bill C-208 and generally what it provides for, I would like to take a moment to share some general information with the hon. members of this House.

[English]

Canadians have been the beneficiaries of a federal Access to Information Act since 1983. It is not to say that this act could not be improved upon and brought more up to date. In fact we have an example of it today.

Canadians can be confident that the government will not ignore the issue. For a decade and a half Canadians have enjoyed a high level of access to government information. It is worth pointing out that Canada is only one of a handful of countries that has such legislation. For example, England does not yet have access to information legislation although Mr. Blair's government has issued a position paper in favour of creating it.

[Translation]

Under this legislation, only specific and limited exceptions may be invoked by the government for refusing to allow access to information. In such cases, the legislation gives individuals the right to file a complaint with the information commissioner and to have the government's decision reviewed by the federal court.

The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to help citizens play their rightful role in a free and democratic society. Unfortunately, in some societies, citizens do not have such rights and therefore have no means by which they can call their government to account.

[English]

When the justice committee first considered Bill C-208 in May of this year it asked the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga to state the purpose of her bill. She declared that her bill was about accountability. It is important to note that on the relationship between the Access to Information Act and accountability the Supreme Court of Canada is in agreement with the hon. member.

The supreme court has so far decided only one case involving the Access to Information Act and therein the court wrote:

    The overarching purpose of access to information legislation is to facilitate democracy by helping to ensure that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.

[Translation]

I mentioned that Canadians are lucky to have the Access to Information Act but, on closer examination, this legislation is not as flawless as it seems.

An important omission has been identified with respect to the protection it affords: as things now stand, there is no penalty for deliberately altering or destroying a file. The former information commissioner had already pointed this out. In fact, he recommended that an offence relating to the destruction of documents be added to the Access to Information Act.

The law makes obstruction of the information commissioner an offence, and if there is any information relating to the commission of any offence against any law of Canada or a province on the part of any officer or employee of a government institution, the information commissioner may disclose this to the Attorney General of Canada. The bill before us today remedies that shortcoming.

 

. 1345 + -

[English]

We simply cannot have a situation in Canada in which people can with impunity completely block accountability by destroying documents to thwart access. Bill C-208 would prevent this.

Again I wish to say that the Minister of Justice fully supports Bill C-208.

Mr. Janko Peric (Cambridge, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon at report stage of Bill C-208, an act to amend the Access to Information Act.

I wish to begin by commending the bill. I would also like to commend my colleague from Brampton West—Mississauga for working hard in introducing this bill and all parties for supporting Bill C-208.

The time has arrived for parliament to ensure that actions with the intent to deny access to information through destruction, falsification or concealment of records are penalized. Clearly, manipulation of documents in this manner is not an acceptable operating principle. The issue of increasing the accountability of those denying access to information through the behaviour outlined in Bill C-208 is essential. Accountability is the essence of Bill C-208.

In Bill C-208, this parliament has before it an important private member's bill. The fact that Bill C-208, a private member's bill, has come this far is a testament to the worthiness of its content and intent.

I believe most Canadians want record abusers stopped and penalties enacted for abusers that include fines and jail terms. Bill C-208 ensures this outcome. As a consequence of ensuring accountability, this bill will forge better public trust and assurance. I urge this House not to let the opportunity provided for in Bill C-208 to pass by.

As we know, Canada is one of only a dozen countries throughout the world with access to information legislation. Bill C-208 demonstrates the Canadian resolve to offer access to information in an accountable and open manner. Strengthening the Access to Information Act through Bill C-208 illustrates Canada's approach that is unique to most of the world.

Bill C-208 provides for prosecution of an individual by way of indictment or summary conviction. This legal flexibility permits greater possibilities for prosecution thereby making the Access to Information Act more effective.

In strengthening the Access to Information Act, Bill C-208 strengthens democracy in Canada. Individuals scheming to manipulate records from public access need to be called to account for their actions. This is the basis of Bill C-208.

Passage of this legislation will be to this parliament's credit. It will be remembered as yet another instance when parliament endeavoured to protect and benefit Canadians.

I strongly support this bill. I urge all colleagues in the House to do the same.

 

. 1350 + -

The Deputy Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members: Question.

The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. 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 Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, November 16, 1998 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

That concludes Private Members' Business for this day.

Accordingly I should advise the House as a matter of historic note that on Wednesday, November 6, 1867, 131 years ago today, this House met for the first time. It is a date we might remember.

An hon. member: Were you here?

The Deputy Speaker: I do not think any of us present today were here on that occasion.

[Translation]

The House stands adjourned until Monday, November 16 1998, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

[English]

Have a nice week away, my colleagues.

(The House adjourned at 1.51 p.m.)