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36th Parliament, 2nd Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 128

CONTENTS

Friday, October 6, 2000

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VCIVILIAN WAR-RELATED BENEFITS ACT
VBill C-41. Report stage
VSpeaker's Ruling
VThe Speaker
VMotions in amendment
VMr. Paul Mercier
VMotions Nos. 1, 2 and 4
VHon. George S. Baker
VMotion No. 3
VMr. Paul Mercier

. 1010

VMotion for concurrence
VHon. Don Boudria
VThird reading
VHon. Don Boudria
VMr. Carmen Provenzano

. 1015

VMr. Roy Bailey

. 1020

. 1025

. 1030

. 1035

VMr. Paul Mercier

. 1040

VMrs. Elsie Wayne

. 1045

VMs. Wendy Lill

. 1050

VHon. George S. Baker

. 1055

VMESSAGE FROM THE SENATE
VThe Deputy Speaker
VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VSIDS AWARENESS MONTH
VMs. Marlene Catterall
VCRIME
VMr. Chuck Cadman

. 1100

VMENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK
VMr. Stan Dromisky
VTHE LATE DR. MICHAEL SMITH
VMrs. Karen Redman
VLABOUR MARKET
VMr. Mark Assad
VTAXATION
VMr. Ken Epp
VFEDNOR
VMr. Raymond Bonin

. 1105

VFARMING FAMILY OF THE YEAR
VMr. Odina Desrochers
VCANADIAN FIREARMS CENTRE
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz
VCHINESE CANADIAN COMMUNITY
VMr. Mac Harb
VSASKATCHEWAN
VMr. John Solomon
VYANNICK NEZET-SÉGUIN
VMrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral

. 1110

VDEBT REDUCTION
VMr. Roy Cullen
VNOVA SCOTIA 4-H PRO-SHOW
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VNORTHERN IRELAND
VMr. Pat O'Brien
VHEALTH
VMr. Keith Martin
VHEALTH
VMs. Wendy Lill

. 1115

VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VMr. John Reynolds
VHon. George S. Baker
VMr. John Reynolds
VHon. George S. Baker
VMr. John Reynolds
VHon. George S. Baker
VMr. Monte Solberg

. 1120

VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Monte Solberg
VHon. Herb Gray
VMOSEL VITELIC
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. John Manley
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. John Manley
VTHE MIDDLE EAST
VMrs. Francine Lalonde

. 1125

VHon. Ronald J. Duhamel
VMrs. Francine Lalonde
VHon. Ronald J. Duhamel
VHEALTH
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Allan Rock
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Allan Rock
VMARKET REVENUE INSURANCE PROGRAM
VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. Lyle Vanclief

. 1130

VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. George S. Baker
VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. Herb Gray
VWORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
VMs. Hélène Alarie
VHon. Lyle Vanclief

. 1135

VMs. Hélène Alarie
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VMr. Randy White
VHon. George S. Baker
VMr. Randy White
VHon. George S. Baker
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Paul Crête
VHon. Jane Stewart
VMr. Paul Crête

. 1140

VHon. Jane Stewart
VGRAIN TRANSPORTATION
VMr. Roy Bailey
VMr. Brent St. Denis
VMr. Roy Bailey
VMr. Brent St. Denis
VWOMEN'S POVERTY
VMrs. Monique Guay
VHon. Jane Stewart
VHEALTH
VMr. David Price

. 1145

VHon. Allan Rock
VSPECIES AT RISK
VMr. Rahim Jaffer
VMrs. Karen Redman
VMr. Rahim Jaffer
VMrs. Karen Redman
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. Lyle Vanclief

. 1150

VNATIONAL DEFENCE
VMr. Rick Borotsik
VMr. Hec Clouthier
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VMr. Norman Doyle
VHon. George S. Baker
VINFRASTRUCTURE
VMr. Peter Adams
VMr. Alex Shepherd
VGUN REGISTRY
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz

. 1155

VMr. John Maloney
VINTERNATIONAL FREE TRADE ZONE AT MIRABEL
VMr. Maurice Dumas
VHon. John Manley
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMrs. Michelle Dockrill
VHon. Jane Stewart
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. George S. Baker
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Ivan Grose
VMrs. Karen Redman

. 1200

VPRESENCE IN GALLERY
VThe Speaker
VPOINTS OF ORDER
VOral Question Period
VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. René Laurin
VMr. Ken Epp

. 1205

VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Roy Cullen
VATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY
VHon. George S. Baker
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VFinance
VMr. Maurizio Bevilacqua
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMs. Marlene Catterall
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-503. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Raymond Bonin
VINCOME TAX ACT
VBill C-504. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1210

VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-505. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Peter MacKay
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMotion for concurrence
VMs. Marlene Catterall
VPETITIONS
VEpilepsy
VMr. Peter Adams
VSexual Abuse
VMr. Chuck Cadman
VImportation of MOX
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1215

VGasoline Pricing
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold
VHealth Care
VMr. John Solomon
VFuel Prices
VMr. John Solomon
VGasoline Pricing
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VQUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS
VMr. Roy Cullen
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VMARINE LIABILITY ACT
VBill S-17. Second reading
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VMr. Brent St. Denis

. 1220

. 1225

VMr. Rob Anders

. 1230

. 1235

. 1240

. 1245

. 1250

. 1255

. 1300

. 1305

. 1310

VMs. Libby Davies

. 1315

. 1320

. 1325

VMr. Bill Casey

. 1330

VMr. John Bryden

. 1335

. 1340

VMr. Rob Anders

. 1345

VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 128


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, October 6, 2000

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 +

[English]

CIVILIAN WAR-RELATED BENEFITS ACT

 

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

SPEAKER'S RULING

The Speaker: There are four motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-41, an act to amend the statute law in relation to veterans' benefits.

[Translation]

Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 4 will be grouped for the purposes of debate, but voted upon as follows:

A vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motions Nos. 2 and 4;

[English]

Motion No. 3 will be debated and voted on separately.

[Translation]

I will now put Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 4 to the House.

MOTIONS IN AMENDMENT

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ) moved:  

    Motion No. 1

    That Bill C-41 be amended by adding after line 21 on page 13 the following new clause:

    “6.7.1 For greater certainty, the disclosure referred to in section 6.7 and any other disclosure of personal information referred to in this Act shall be made solely for the purposes of this Act, and in no case shall records containing personal information be made available to another federal department or agency or the personal information contained therein be disclosed in any manner.”

    Motion No. 2

    That Bill C-41, in Clause 41, be amended by adding after line 6 on page 32 the following:

    “109.2.1 For greater certainty, the disclosure referred to in section 109.2 and any other disclosure of personal information referred to in this Act shall be made solely for the purposes of this Act, and in no case shall records containing personal information be made available to another federal department or agency or the personal information contained therein be disclosed in any manner.”

    Motion No. 4

    That Bill C-41, in Clause 84, be amended by adding after line 36 on page 53 the following:

    “(2.1) For greater certainty, the disclosure referred to in this section and any other disclosure of personal information referred to in this Act shall be made solely for the purposes of this Act, and in no case shall records containing personal information be made available to another federal department or agency or the personal information contained therein be disclosed in any manner.”

He said: Mr. Speaker, instead of speaking on these motions, I ask for the unanimous consent of this House to withdraw the three motions standing in my name.

The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member to withdraw his motions?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 4 withdrawn)

[English]

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.) moved:  

    Motion No. 3

    That Bill C-41, in Clause 46, be amended

      (a) by replacing line 38 on page 35 with the following:

    “32. Subject to this Part, an award in”

      (b) by deleting lines 12 to 15 on page 36.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have already had an opportunity to tell the House that I support the bill now before us. I did, however, mention three reservations and I will repeat them today.

First, I was critical of the fact that RCMP officers were excluded from compensation during their career for service related injuries. This anomaly, this injustice, has fortunately been corrected by an amendment introduced by the government itself, in response to representations from the opposition, including my own.

Second, I expressed my concern with respect to the three clauses in the bill which allow the minister the dangerous power of exchanging with various departments and agencies information of a personal nature obtained under the terms of the legislation. We must watch out for slip-ups. Big Brother is never far away. We remember the megafile HRDC secretly compiled on every person in this country using information provided by various federal departments and agencies.

Third, and most important, I have already said how fortunate it is that the contribution of civilian personnel who served overseas during the wars has finally been recognized. And I also pointed out how sad it is that it has taken 55 years to achieve this.

 

. 1010 + -

Bill C-41 does not take this huge delay into account. This bill would be perfect if it had come to the House 50 years ago. That was not the case, however, and there is nothing in Bill C-41 to compensate for that half century that has passed. These people are being penalized for our delay in looking after them. I tried to bring that up yesterday with the minister in committee, but to no avail.

The minister indicates that the average age of those eligible would be around 79. This means that a number have already died, and will have nothing but our esteem and recognition of their merit.

Nevertheless, we approve of this bill despite its imperfections. We would not like to hold up benefits to this group through delaying tactics. Most of them have been waiting now for 55 years. That is long enough. I would feel badly to make them wait a day longer.

[English]

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Deputy Speaker: The question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion No. 3 agreed to)  

Hon. Don Boudria (for the Minister of Veterans Affairs) moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in with a further amendment.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The Deputy Speaker: When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Some hon. members: Agreed.  

Hon. Don Boudria (for the Minister of Veterans Affairs) moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Carmen Provenzano (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there has been much commentary and some criticism of late about the speed with which legislation is moving through the House. However, I doubt that anyone could find fault with moving forward quickly a piece of legislation that has been crafted to help Canada's veterans in their remaining years. I will keep my comments brief today so that we can proceed rapidly to approval.

Bill C-41 extends veterans' benefits to a number of worthy civilian groups with wartime service overseas. It also helps to meet the government's commitment to the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs by helping improve the quality of life of serving members of the Canadian forces.

I want to thank the current members of the committee for allowing the bill to proceed so efficiently through committee stage so that we could debate today.

As I referred to earlier, this bill extends benefits to groups that served in wartime virtually alongside our armed forces and essentially under military type conditions of service. These groups are the Newfoundland foresters, the Canadian firefighters, the Red Cross and other nursing aides and staff as well as the Ferry Command.

Over the course of the second world war, 3,680 Newfoundlanders served in the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit, although many later transferred to the British armed forces or served with the British home guard. There are approximately 1,000 surviving members today.

The Canadian firefighters were recruited to help in the blitz in Britain. Of the original 400, perhaps 150 survive today. The Red Cross and other nursing aides and staff performed a vital service, essentially as unpaid volunteers, as ancillary health care workers alongside medical units of the forces.

 

. 1015 + -

Finally there is the Ferry Command, a special organization formed to collect, test fly and deliver war planes primarily to the European theatre. This group suffered truly terrible casualties. Sadly, of the 200 Canadians perhaps only 50 survive today.

The legislation gives these individuals greater access to the income support programs and disability pensions administered by Veterans Affairs Canada. It also opens up opportunities for additional health care benefits including the veterans independence program.

The bill helps veterans, a worthy objective by itself, but it has also been designed to help current members of the forces. At the present time Canadian forces members can only receive a disability pension for a service related disability that occurred in or resulted from service in a special duty area such as a peacekeeping mission.

For those members who suffer a disability from fighting a flood in Canada, for example, their disability can be assessed and entitlement to a pension can be granted while they are still serving. However no Veterans Affairs Canada pension can begin to be paid until after they have left the Canadian forces.

The amendments in Bill C-41 remove this inequity and allow all Canadian forces personnel with service related disabilities to receive Veterans Affairs Canada pensions upon application regardless of where the injury occurred.

There are also amendments in the bill which include a number of minor improvements in wording and other legislative housekeeping. A few examples are clarifying regulation making authorities, correcting cross references, correcting the French name of the department, repealing obsolete legislation, and benefit improvements for couples who are both veterans.

Members of the House have an opportunity today to pass legislation which improves the lives of brave men and women who have served our country well in the past and those who continue to serve our country well today. I urge that we do the right thing and give unanimous consent to third reading of Bill C-41.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I imagine that the majority of Canadians watching this morning have been looking for the benefits of the bill from a period of time when many members of the House were not even born. On average they have been waiting up to 55 years, which I doubt is the average age of members of the House.

The audience out there who will be recipients of the benefits in the bill is very few in number, compared to the brave people who served on the frontlines during the war.

Younger Canadians and those looking at the bill in the House for the first time ask what the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit has to do with the war. As a matter of fact those people had some tremendous skills not just in cutting trees, but skills in building beams so that coal, a badly needed war commodity, could be shipped. They were able to speed up the shipment of coal, which was very valuable to munitions plants and so on.

My hon. colleague mentioned the number 3,680. As one who is a bit older than the average member of the House I remember what little attention they received. I also remember a movie about those in the Ferry Command, but little attention was ever given to those brave people. Because Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time, most of them joined the British army rather than joining the Canadian army.

 

. 1020 + -

I also have a comment about the Canadian firefighters. Somebody picking up the bill, or even students in school, would ask what firefighters have to do with veteran related bills. These were brave people who went overseas. Many lost their lives in the terrible blitzkrieg, particularly of the city of London. They have had basic access to income tested veterans programs but limited or no access to pensions for service related disabilities and no access to veterans independence program.

We have some current problems with the VI program, but this is not the bill or the time to be discussing them. I certainly will be discussing the problems with the veterans independence program in committee. Hopefully we can resolve some of the current problems, particularly as they relate to veterans widows trying to live alone in their own homes. If any of them are listening, or members of the press, let me assure them that I would bet money the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs will deal with those issues and look after them pronto. At least that is the feeling I have from the committee. Certainly that is my aim as an official opposition member of that committee.

I want to say a word about another group my hon. colleague mentioned, the Ferry Command personnel. These people got some recognition during this time, but they flew unarmed planes. They flew sometimes in the worst of conditions, delivering the planes across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa and Britain. Many times the equipment and fuel supply were very limited and as a result many lost their lives. There are not many of these honourable and heroic people left in Canada. As a matter of fact, later on this month there is a commemoration service to honour a few more than 50 of these great people.

It is a shame that Canada has taken 55 years to honour people whose fatality record equalled that of the air force. It is not a very bright chapter in Canadian history. Although many of them may be listening this morning, they are probably feeling more gratitude about the fact they are being recognized in the few short years they have left to live rather than any remuneration they may receive.

It has been 55 years. Many of these people are up to 90th birthdays. It has been many years and some of them have missed many opportunities. In spite of the benefits coming to these deserving groups so late in their lives, at least the official opposition, and I understand all opposition parties in the House, will be supporting Bill C-41.

It is not a perfect bill. Whenever we deal with the recognition of people, pension funding or liabilities, we almost have to make a bill to fit every individual person. It is like providing some aid to farms in western Canada, which I might point out is virtually nil. It is very difficult to get a bill that will suit everyone's needs.

I draw attention to the statement allegedly made by the Minister of Veterans Affairs to the Atlantic media, which I found to be very misleading. It bothers me somewhat, simply because he suggested the opposition delayed the passage of the bill. I hope it was a media error. I am proud to stand in the House today and say no one, particularly in the official opposition, delayed the passage of the bill. He claimed that we did not let the bill go through all stages after second reading.

 

. 1025 + -

If the bill had gone through at that time the significant amendment the minister announced today regarding the RCMP would probably not have been picked up. That is what all parties on this side of the House wanted. This was accomplished, but I do not think it was the result of the opposition in any way delaying passage of the bill. I hope in due course the minister will make the necessary corrections.

While I am on this point I would like to clear up another matter which may mislead people. The bill, when passed, would give pension benefits to certain civilian groups for overseas service during the war. We all have to agree today that this is very laudable. It is really not what these groups have asked for year in, year out.

I am sure every member of the opposition and the minister know full well these civilian groups were asking for the same benefits the merchant navy vets were receiving, as was announced recently. I am not opposed in any way to the merchant navy vets getting benefits, but it is very difficult to draw a line between the merchant navy and the Ferry Command, to draw a line between the brave nurses who served at the front, or to draw a line between those who went into the pits of the coal mines in Newfoundland. It is a pretty small line to draw, and they did not get anything.

The minister singled out merchant navy vets for ex gratia payments for this injustice but completely ignored these groups in the process. I do not know why. I have some ideas why they were ignored, but I suggest this should be the subject of another bill which I recommend the minister introduce into the House as soon as possible.

I have received piles of submissions and letters. As soon as I was appointed by the official opposition as the member in charge of veterans affairs, the letters came in from all over Canada.

I understand the concerns on both sides of the issue. A person who has lived for many years with a disability, which we might say was a frontline disability, is only now receiving compensation. Those few hundred out there are asking the same question. The precedent has been set.

The bill was rushed quickly through the House. We will not block the bill, as we have said from the very beginning, but there are some individuals out there who I hope are considered on an individual basis. There are so few of them left there is no reason why they should not be included.

Let me give an example. A retired sergeant named Michael Schlueter contacted my office hoping to have some input in the bill. The retired sergeant thought it would be possible for him to appear as a witness before the standing committee, but I told him that would not take place simply because we were not hearing any witnesses. Let me speak about this chap. While on duty in Canada he had part of his right arm blown off. It was not in a war zone but it was related to a war effort. Because he was injured in Canada and not in what we would call a special duty area, he was not eligible for a disability pension until he was discharged from the forces. Thank God we have corrected that.

 

. 1030 + -

However, we have to look at this because those people are wondering, if the navy vets are eligible for retroactive payments, what about the other people? Therein lies a very significant problem. If we were confronted with the sergeant, how would anyone in the House answer that? I do not need to single him out. There are probably hundreds of them. Any other Canadian can receive a disability pension while they are employed. The bill corrects that injustice so that from now on anyone in the Canadian forces or the RCMP can collect a disability pension if they are injured on the job.

The sergeant, who has only one arm now, told me that the bill creates two classes of disabled ex-armed forces personnel: first, those who will collect a disability pension if they are injured after the bill is passed; and second, the others who are ineligible for a disability pension because they were injured before the bill was passed.

That is a pretty sobering thought, is it not? I hope the committee will work on that and really think about it. We just cannot leave out those individual Canadians because of some magic deadline. There are only a few hundred of them left and we need to recognize them.

In conclusion, the minister and the committee have to consider ex gratia payments for those deserving individuals I have just mentioned. I do not think we can run away or hide from that. I really do not think Canadians would want the House to do so.

I applaud the minister for working with the opposition and taking seriously our concerns about the RCMP. I fully endorse the amendment. I could not care less whether the amendment came from this side of the House or even from another party. The fact is that it is there and it needs to be there.

I give my consent to the bill because of the humanitarian treatment accorded to the widows of vets receiving compassionate awards. There are some issues still to mention but we will deal with them later.

I give credit to the department for recognizing its accountability when mistakes are made in calculating payments but not burdening vets or their widows with having to repay overpayments. I have been through some of that and it is generally wee sums of money. People at that age, some of them now living alone, get flustered when they see a bill coming in that they do not understand. I commend the government for making that movement.

I am pleased that the provisions governing the amount of income support is calculated in such a way that it benefits the veterans more than it does the department.

I am pleased to support the bill but I want to caution members and those listening in who may benefit in some small way. I hope this is not the end of our responsibility on the committee. I think we have a lot of study to do yet. There are people out there from Prince Rupert to St. John's who are striving to live alone in their own homes. We have to go back and make sure we find a way to recognize them more completely.

 

. 1035 + -

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Mercier (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Mr. Speaker, better late than never. Our government has just realized, a half-century after the fact, that various categories of Canadian civilians, including firefighters and members of the Red Cross, shared the same merits and the same hazards during the second world war and the Korean war as uniformed personnel. Yet they not been entitled before now to the pensions and other benefits that are a concrete indication of the national gratitude enjoyed by war veterans.

Bill C-41, which we are considering at the moment, is intended, and I congratulate myself on this, to correct this injustice, but it achieves this end only partially, as I will soon show.

Another category of deserving civilian fighters has waited 55 years for recognition. I am speaking of the sailors of the merchant marine. The injustice they suffered has now been corrected.

The bill before us today concerns other categories of civilians serving abroad. They are primarily the members of the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters for Service in the United Kingdom. These men helped fight the fires ignited nightly by the German bombardment of London, in particular, during the first two years of the war.

Others benefiting from the bill are the Canadian members of the voluntary aid detachment of the British Red Cross during the first world war. It took 82 years to remember them.

Welfare workers and voluntary aid workers in the second world war and the Korean war are also finally being recognized.

Not forgotten either are the civilian pilots in the Ferry Command, who often at the risk of their lives convoyed aircraft built here and destined for the European front between Canada and Great Britain.

The members of these various categories of civilians deserving of recognition by their country are, under this bill, being accorded the same treatment as military veterans and therefore are entitled to a pension. As many of them are dead, their widows will benefit. And if the widow is dead, no one will benefit.

The problem is that this good legislation will not be retroactive. It does not provide any compensation for the 55 years during which all these brave people were forgotten by their government.

This is an injustice. From the moment we recognize that these people are entitled to national recognition just like military personnel, who have been getting pensions since the end of the war, it is totally unfair to make them pay for the fact that the government waited for over half a century before acknowledging their contribution and thus their rights to national recognition.

I do not find it acceptable for the government to permit itself what would be considered a reprehensible abuse of power, had it been an individual's treatment of his employees. Can anyone imagine the head of a firm admitting that some of his staff had been unfairly treated for years and agreeing to remedy the situation only if the remedy were not retroactive?

But this principle of obvious equity does not seem popular with the government, if we are to judge by its reaction to the Canadian Human Rights Commission ruling ordering it to compensate those of its employees who, because they were women, had for years been paid less than their male counterparts. It will be recalled that Ottawa held out against making these retroactive payments for a long time. It only did so because it was forced to by the tribunal.

The purpose of Bill C-41 is to correct another anomaly and this is a good thing. This one involves members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are still serving but are suffering from service related disabilities. These men and women are not currently entitled to disability pension before their release. This situation is going to be corrected. We need hardly say that we are in favour of this provision of the bill.

However, we could not understand why clause 46 excluded the RCMP from this measure. I called on the government to withdraw this provision from the bill. We are pleased to hear that it just amended the act accordingly.

 

. 1040 + -

Another anomaly was also corrected. As the result of an error for which the recipient is in no way responsible, a veteran might receive a higher amount of pension than his entitlement for a certain period of time. Until now, when the error was detected, the person concerned was required to pay back the overpayment under conditions and a deadline that might be prejudicial to his quality of life. From now on, the victims of these administrative errors will be treated more humanely. We approve of this provision, while once again regretting that it has been so long in coming.

To summarize and to conclude, we support this piece of legislation, but we regret that it comes some 50 years too late and that it does not provide for the payment of an indemnity to recipients for this delay. However, as I said at the start, better late than never, and we will support this bill.

[English]

Mrs. Elsie Wayne (Saint John, PC): Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the NDP for switching with me. I will be short so that she will have time. I hope everyone has a chance to say a few words with regard to Bill C-41.

I am so pleased that I have been part and parcel of the committee that unanimously agreed to Bill C-41. When I was five years old, two of my brothers served overseas during the conflict, so I know there is a need for this bill. During that time the Red Cross, the Ferry Command, the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit and all the civilian forces made sure that the needs of my brothers and all the others in the military were met. They did their job in order to bring peace around the world.

I am also pleased to see that the bill deals with disability. We must never forget that most of our veterans are now seniors who are aging every day. I hope and pray that the bill will be expanded a bit to include veterans' hospital care because these people need to be taken care of as well. Many of our veterans' hospitals have been closed down and replaced with tiny units. We need to look at that because it is not enough for these people.

I also want to make sure that the rest of the compensation package is in place for the merchant navy men and their widows. I have been assured by the minister that he will work tooth and nail to make sure that happens. The government is still processing some of the applications that have been put forward for the compensation packages. We need to expedite that as quickly as possible.

Many more applications were received than had been anticipated. We thought there would be around 4,500, but my understanding is that about 14,000 have been filed and it has not been easy. It has been a lot of work. However, when it comes to the merchant navy men and their widows I will never stop speaking out for them. They are very dear to my heart. Even this morning I had calls from merchant navy men asking me about their compensation packages.

When it comes to the civilian war-related benefits act we must always remember that it was brought in by the PC government and Gerry Merrithew, who was the minister of veterans affairs at that time. He is from Saint John, New Brunswick. That act is now being amended to include more. I congratulate the minister for expanding upon the act, but he should remember that it was brought in by the PC government. We saw that there were people who had been terribly neglected and that there was a need for change.

I want everyone to remember that everyone on the committee, our friends from the Bloc, our friends from the NDP, our friends from the Canadian Alliance and the PC Party, agreed with the minister on the bill and unanimously agreed to bring the amendments to the civilian war related benefits act before the House of Commons. All of us know there are those who are suffering today and those who are in need.

 

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I agree with my hon. friend from the Bloc that indeed the RCMP must be included. We cannot just eliminate those RCMP officers. They put their lives on the line for all of us who sit in the House of Commons. They put their lives on the line so that we could have the peace which we we have around the country. The Red Cross, the Ferry Command, the firefighters and all of them put their lives on the line as well.

I trust that there will be no opposition whatsoever to Bill C-41. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my colleague from the NDP for allowing me to speak now because I have another commitment later in the day.

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak today to Bill C-41, an act to improve the veterans' benefits for our veterans. I would like to say that the NDP will be supporting this bill.

I would also like to say that over the last three and a half years I have been very honoured to work with the legions in my riding. Those are the Somme legion, the centennial branch and also the army, navy, air force club. They have been able to deepen my understanding of the issues facing veterans in our communities.

I would also like to thank the wonderful people at the family resources centre at both Shannon Park and Shearwater. They also have helped me to understand the problems facing people who are in the armed forces and their families. It is because of these people that I am able to work at the level I do.

In addressing the context of Bill C-41, first I should express some scepticism about the government's intent on following through with its commitments to Canada's vets. I must say that over half of the claims received from the merchant mariners are still waiting to be processed and we are all very concerned about that. These Canadians have risked life and limb. During the war they worked to deliver food, fuel, goods and people who were under attack from German submarines, facing casualties and, all too often, death.

Every month more of these brave members of our community succumb to illness and old age. It has been estimated that merchant mariners are dying at the rate of 12 per month. Veterans affairs reportedly has 45 people working on these claims but that is clearly not enough. Staffing levels should be increased to meet the demand created by the merchant mariners' claims.

If the government wishes Bill C-41 to be taken seriously by the people who would be affected by it, it should state here and now that it is committed to ensuring that all merchant mariners who are entitled to compensation receive their full benefits and that it will not to turn its back on them after the first payments have been made.

This legislation sets out to extend veterans' benefits to a number of civilian groups with overseas service and would allow serving members of the Canadian armed forces to receive disability pensions while still serving. I am pleased to see this. I believe that the government is responding to issues raised by SCONDVA. Allowing serving members of the Canadian armed forces to receive disability pensions while still serving is indeed a step forward.

New Democrats feel that the government should be doing much more to address broader issues relating to working and living conditions for our troops.

We know that the military personnel who live on bases in various parts of the country are contending with old and deteriorating accommodations which are among some of the worst found in the country. From leaky roofs to cramped, old and deteriorating spaces, Canadian forces personnel deserve much better from the country which they have admirably served, and in particular from the Liberal government responsible for these decisions.

We are very interested to see that the Liberal government has cash on hand to spend $15 million on a brand spanking new armoury in Shawinigan which, by great coincidence, is in the riding of the Prime Minister.

Bill C-41 sets out to ensure serving forces personnel may receive disability pensions while still serving. New Democrats agree that troops serving Canadians by assisting with crises, such as the great ice storm of 1998, or fighting the floods on the Red River or working as peacekeepers in Bosnia, would be able to collect a veterans affairs disability pension while continuing to serve their country. Bill C-41 would ensure equality with members whose disabilities arose in special duty areas and reserves.

 

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We support the legislation as it would extend veterans benefits to certain civilian groups who served overseas in close support of the war effort. This includes such groups as the Canadian Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Newfoundland overseas foresters, Canadian firefighters and pilots who ferried over the Atlantic, and other groups who assisted the military overseas.

The legislation will provide these individuals with greater access to veterans affairs Canada income support and disability pensions and additional health care benefits including the veterans independence program.

The overseas crew of the Ferry Command assisted the war effort by ferrying military aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from North America. The Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit assisted the war effort by cutting timber in Scotland which was then predominantly needed in British coal mining operations to fuel the war effort.

While Canadians were negotiating the terms of union several years after the war, it was agreed that Newfoundland air force members would be eligible for veterans benefits from Canada but members of the forestry unit were not included in the arrangement.

During the second world war the corps of civilian Canadian firefighters for service in the United Kingdom assisted the war effort by fighting fires in Britain that were created by the dreaded blitz. Also during the war overseas welfare workers, which included members of the Canadian Red Cross and St. John Ambulance, served as welfare workers overseas in support of the injured.

One of the most important aspects of the bill is working to ensure equity of access to services and benefits to all Canadian forces members regardless of whether the injuries occurred in Canada or on a foreign deployment. At the present time Canadian forces members can only receive a Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension for a service related disability if it occurred in or resulted from service in a special duty area such as a peacekeeping mission.

For Canadian forces members hurt while fighting a flood in Canada, their disability can be assessed and they can be entitled to a disability pension only if they are still serving. However, no Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension can begin to be paid until after they have left the Canadian forces.

These amendments would remove this inequity and allow all Canadian forces members with a service related disability to receive a Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension upon application regardless of where the injury occurred.

I have a couple of concerns that I would like to raise about Bill C-41. One of them was raised yesterday in the House by my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle. That is the issue of the treatment of first nations veterans who were discriminated against during the first world war, the second world war and the Korean War in comparison to non-first nations veterans. My colleague has also put forward a private member's bill in order to try to receive appropriate compensation and recognition of these very important veterans. This is one area that is not dealt with in Bill C-41 and we would like to see much more attention given to this issue.

Bill C-41, the veterans benefits legislation, takes some important steps to support the veterans in this country. It takes some steps in recognizing the contributions and the great sacrifices that our fighting forces have given to this country.

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think we have an understanding in the House with all the political parties that this bill should pass. The official opposition and the official opposition critic agrees with this bill. The Bloc, the NDP, the Progressive Conservative Party and the hon. member for Saint John and the government all agree with what is in this bill.

 

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I want to thank the political parties. This is the third reading. These are the final moments. When this is proclaimed, a great many people in Canada will be able to receive the full benefits of our veterans pensions and disability pensions that we have in Canada, and a great many Canadians are awaiting the passage of the bill.

In conclusion, I want to thank publicly the Royal Canadian Legion for the effort that it has put into this; the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans In Canada; Mr. Cliff Chadderton of the National Council of Veterans Organizations who spent so much time on this and other legislation on behalf of all veterans; Mr. Lloyd Thompson of Botwood, Newfoundland, who represented the Newfoundland Foresters; Mr. Lang of the Ferry Command of Montreal; and everybody else who spent a lot of time and who have been at this now for years.

Finally, I want to thank the House of Commons which is about to pass the legislation with unanimous consent. On behalf of all veterans we say thank you.

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

*  *  *

MESSAGE FROM THE SENATE

The Deputy Speaker: I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain bills, to which the concurrence of the House is desired.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

SIDS AWARENESS MONTH

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, sudden infant death syndrome takes the lives of three children under the age of one in Canada every week of the year. I can imagine no worse tragedy for a parent than to put an apparently healthy baby to bed in his or her crib and never to have the baby wake up.

SIDS is the leading cause of death of babies between the ages of one month and one year.

October is SIDS Awareness Month and a perfect time to acknowledge the extra work done by the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Death working in collaboration with Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Institute for Child Health. They provide education, awareness and support to parents who have been through this terrible tragedy. Thanks largely to their efforts the incidence of infant deaths due to SIDS has declined significantly in the past few years.

I know all members of the House will want to congratulate the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Death on the success of their work to date and to wish them all the best in their future efforts.

*  *  *

CRIME

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canadians will be much safer under the justice platform released by the leader of the Canadian Alliance yesterday. We have seen far too many broken promises and too many failures of the present Liberal government to adequately address the concerns of our citizens toward providing safer communities and stronger communities.

The Liberals have it all wrong. Instead of being overly concerned with offenders of our laws, we must take a tougher approach to crime in order to provide a safer environment for our families.

A Canadian Alliance government will bring forth truth in sentencing. It will actually do something about youth justice. It will change our prison system so that release is earned and so that drugs are removed. It will repeal the costly firearm law and replace it with a practical firearms control system. We will work in harmony with the provinces and territories to address smuggling, drugs and border control.

It is long past time that Canada regained control over crime. It is long past time we had a government that will actually do something about criminal justice rather than just talk about it. Under the new leader of the Canadian Alliance, we will be offering a clear alternative on justice issues.

*  *  *

 

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MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK

Mr. Stan Dromisky (Thunder Bay—Atikokan, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that October 2 to 8 is Mental Illness Awareness Week.

This national public education campaign was launched in 1992 with the objective of de-stigmatizing mental illness, providing information on mental illnesses and their treatment and promoting public discussion and informed decision making about mental illness. The motto of Mental Illness Awareness Week is “Let's unmask mental illness”.

According to Statistics Canada, one in eight Canadians will be hospitalized for mental illnesses, such as major depression, thus impacting substantially on the lives of those affected.

Mental Illness Awareness Week provides an opportunity for Canadians to increase their awareness and understanding of mental illnesses and overcome the stigma often faced by persons with mental illness.

Let us all join in wishing those organizations every success.

*  *  *

THE LATE DR. MICHAEL SMITH

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dr. Michael Smith, Canada's leading scientist and 1993 winner of the Nobel prize, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 68.

Dr. Smith immigrated to Canada and joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia. In these early days of the genetics revolution he developed a critical technique that has become central to the field of biotechnology. His dedication to leading edge science continued, particularly through his leadership in the creation of the B.C. genome centre and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Dr. Smith's work has paved the way for new treatments offering hope to Canadians and people around the world. He was dedicated to Canada and inspired the next generation of researchers. He donated his Nobel prize award to schizophrenia research and to an endowment for women in science.

It is appropriate for all of us in the House to take a moment to reflect on and recognize this truly great Canadian.

*  *  *

[Translation]

LABOUR MARKET

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is good news for the economy this morning: according to Statistics Canada's most recent report, the unemployment rate in Canada dropped to 6.8% in September. Employment rose by 56,000, divided almost equally between full and part time jobs.

Despite what the Canadian Alliance leader had to say yesterday, the direction to take is definitely that recommended by the Liberal government.

These encouraging labour market figures from Statistics Canada have ramifications for the Canadian economy as a whole, and benefit Quebec as well.

*  *  *

[English]

TAXATION

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, let me tell you how the Canadian Alliance tax plan is better for taxpayers.

The Liberals tax single people when they earn over $8,000. The Canadian Alliance will let them earn their first $10,000 tax free.

The Liberals give a spousal exemption of only $6,140. The Canadian Alliance will allow $10,000.

The Liberals tax middle income earners at 23%. We would tax them at only 17%.

The Liberals extract over $1,000 in taxes from a family of four with a $26,000 income. We would let them go tax free.

The Liberals love their gasoline tax and the GST on top of the tax. We would reduce the federal excise tax by at least three cents per litre.

Instead of soaking employers and employees at $5.76 per $100 of earnings for EI, we would reduce that to $4.80.

There is much more, Mr. Speaker, but you can see that everyone would be better off under the Canadian Alliance plan.

*  *  *

FEDNOR

Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday afternoon the secretary of state responsible for FedNor and the members of the northern Ontario caucus gathered to announce federal support of over $250,000 for Laurentian University's office of health initiatives.

This funding will provide our northern Ontario communities with the resources to develop the best model and proposal to convince the province of Ontario to establish a northern and rural medical school in our region. This school will provide a real long term solution to the doctor shortage in northern Ontario.

The $250,000 in funding was provided by FedNor. Because of good projects like this one, the northern Ontario Liberal caucus fought to make FedNor a permanent program with increased resources.

 

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By the way, the reform alliance announced last night that it would cancel FedNor. I guess it is true that the reform alliance has no consideration whatsoever for the needs of northern Ontario.

*  *  *

[Translation]

FARMING FAMILY OF THE YEAR

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—L'Érable, BQ): Mr. Speaker, during a recent ceremony in Lévis, the Fondation de la famille terrienne selected the family of Lucille and Hector Lebel, who live in Saint-Épiphane de Rivière-du-Loup, as Quebec's farming family of the year.

This prestigious award is given in recognition of strong personal and work ethics and will be presented to the family at a solemn mass at the parish church of Saint-Épiphane, on October 28.

This fine family from our riding stands out for its commitment to excellence, its farming expertise and its unstinting involvement in our community life.

The Bloc Quebecois members are proud to congratulate the family of Lucille and Hector Lebel on receiving this much-deserved award for the year 2000.

*  *  *

[English]

CANADIAN FIREARMS CENTRE

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on September 22, 1994 the justice minister addressed a rally on Parliament Hill, promising the 21,000 fed up responsible gun owners “We do not want to take away your hunting rifles or discourage people from the responsible use of firearms for hunting and shooting”.

This week the retired chief of police, Phil Morlock, sent me a sad letter. I will quote:

    I have a 16 year old daughter who wishes to hunt this fall. She has passed the Ontario hunter safety and federal firearm licensing courses (97% in both) but the new law says she must also have a Minors Permit.

    I phoned the Canadian Firearms Centre where I was informed that they do not have any capacity, staff or mandate to handle Minors Permits at the federal level as that is now the responsibility of the Chief Firearms Officer for each province. I phoned the C.F.O. contact number for Ontario. The answering machine instructed me to leave a message with the assurance that `someone would get back to me'. Someone did call back—from the Canadian Firearms Centre—telling me that they did not have the capacity or staff to handle Minors Permits at the federal level.

If that is not discouraging hunting, what is?

*  *  *

CHINESE CANADIAN COMMUNITY

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week the member for Kootenay—Columbia deeply offended all Canadians by calling Canada's Chinese community a threat to national security.

Following question period on September 20, I received a letter from the president of the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Chinese Community Organizations condemning the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

We already know that the leader of the Canadian Alliance said nothing when members of his party insulted the work ethic of Atlantic Canadians. Now we can add Chinese Canadians to their hit list.

Let us call a spade a spade. The Reform Party may have changed its name but it represents nothing more than a thin veneer of intolerance. In fact, leaders in the Chinese community are asking if the intentions of the member for Kootenay—Columbia are simply racist, insane or both.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I ask the hon. member to withdraw the word “racist”.

Mr. Mac Harb: Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw the word racist. I have the letter from the community to—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

*  *  *

SASKATCHEWAN

Mr. John Solomon (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we have heard this song before. In 1982 Saskatchewan voters elected a youthful, athletic sloganeer named Grant Devine on promises from his right wing political alliance to cut taxes for the rich and still somehow improve services like health care and education.

What was the result? Nine years later our taxes have doubled and our services have been gutted. The free dental plan for children and the prescription drug plan that covered every resident of the province have been wiped out. Medicare is in shambles. The alliance also left the people of Saskatchewan carrying a debt of $15,000 for every man, woman and child.

Those conservative alliance people in Saskatchewan left a 60 year mortgage for working people and farmers. They milked them dry to pay for a one time tax party for the rich. Those same people in Saskatchewan are now part of the Canadian conservative reform alliance. Their policies nearly ruined Saskatchewan. Canadians should not be tricked into believing they will work for Canada. We should remember the lessons of history so we do not get fooled again.

*  *  *

[Translation]

YANNICK NEZET-SÉGUIN

Mrs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on September 24, the audience of 3,000 who had come to hear Verdi's Requiem at the salle Wilfrid-Pelletier had the pleasure of seeing Yannick Nezet-Séguin awarded the prestigious Virginia Parker Prize presented annually by the Canada Council.

This young orchestra conductor, whom Claude Gingras readily describes as a brilliant talent and a veritable phenomenon, joins other famous recipients of this award from Quebec, including Louis Lortie, Sophie Rolland, Marc-André Hamelin, Karina Gauvin, Alain Trudel and Richard Raymond.

 

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Barely 25 years of age, he has been the assistant conductor and chorus director with the Opéra de Montréal since 1998. He was the guest conductor of the Orchestre métropolitain de Montréal in 1998 and is now its artistic director and principal conductor.

Mr. Nezet-Séguin, the extraordinary ovation that followed the performance of Verdi's Requiem was in tribute to your youth, your talent and your sensitivity. It is clearly the prelude to an international career. The Bloc Quebecois salutes you with pride.

*  *  *

[English]

DEBT REDUCTION

Mr. Roy Cullen (Etobicoke North, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Alliance has been calling for debt reduction but as with so many other issues, like its tax policy, it keeps changing the numbers.

It originally called for an annual payment of $3 billion on the debt. It has now changed its mind and called for a debt pay-down of $6 billion annually.

It is time for the Alliance to wake up. The train has left the station and the Alliance is not on it. The government has already paid down more than $6 billion of debt per year over the last three fiscal years, for a total of $18.7 billion. By making these payments we are freeing up more than $1 billion annually in interest payments, which can be used to address the needs and priorities of Canadians.

This action on our debt is yet another dividend from the responsible fiscal management that the Liberal government continues to provide to Canadians. Under our leadership things will just keep getting better and better.

*  *  *

NOVA SCOTIA 4-H PRO-SHOW

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, on September 29 I had the pleasure to attend the 23rd annual Nova Scotia 4-H Pro-Show located at the South Shore exhibition grounds in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

This year's show brought 1,800 4-H members and leaders to Lunenburg county. It was estimated that by closing day over 10,000 people had visited the show, making Nova Scotia's 4-H Pro-Show 2000 one of the most successful ever.

The official opening platform guests were led to the stage by Arthur Young's oxen and entertained by the Lunenburg County Fiddlers. Everyone was welcomed by Bridgewater town crier Ossie Stiles. The hon. Ernest Fage, Minister of Agriculture for the province of Nova Scotia, along with the provincial 4-H king and queen and co-chairs Lorraine Wile and Robert Joudrew, opened the show with a parade of clubs representing every county in Nova Scotia.

Special recognition must be given to all the volunteers who worked behind the scenes and made this year's 23rd annual Nova Scotia 4-H show a fantastic success. They showcased Lunenburg county, introduced the rest of Nova Scotia to typical South Shore hospitality and, most importantly, supported 4-H.

*  *  *

NORTHERN IRELAND

Mr. Pat O'Brien (London—Fanshawe, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Dr. Clifford Shearing, a University of Toronto criminologist, was a valued member of the Patten commission that recommended important reforms to the policing service in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Shearing recently expressed his grave concerns about the current failure of the British government to focus on the main points of the Patten report. The central theme of the report is the need to establish a holistic approach to policing in Northern Ireland.

He further warned that the report cannot be cherry-picked but must be implemented in full if it is to win the confidence and support of both communities in Northern Ireland. An impartial police force acceptable to both communities is a sine qua non for success in the peace process.

I join with Dr. Shearing in calling upon the Government of Britain to implement in full both the letter and the spirit of the Patten report on policing in Northern Ireland.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance released its election platform yesterday and oh, what a platform it was, was it not?

A cornerstone of our platform is to do what? It is to save that which is most important to Canadians: medicare. Why? Because it was this government that slashed $25 billion in transfer payments over the last seven years.

What do we want to do? We will restore funding to health care. We will give the provinces a five year stable funding platform. We will make sure that Canadians get accessible health care for all, regardless of the amount of money they have in their pockets.

Why? Because we are not prepared to have the two tier health care system that we have today as a result of the government cutting health care for Canadians.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in the last election the people of Nova Scotia declared that the Liberals were irrelevant, so I thought that Liberal members could use a primer on what the current issues are down home.

 

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The health care crisis is getting worse, not better. The Dartmouth General Hospital will soon be no more than a glorified triage centre and nursing home. There are too few nurses, too few doctors. We have the highest tuition and some of the biggest student debt loads in the country.

People are worried about their drinking water. They are scared about the chemicals in our harbour and time bombs like the tar ponds. They want federal environmental standards that stop people from getting sick. We are all ashamed that one in five of our children is living in poverty.

These are the relevant issues and problems in my community. They call for better programs, not better public relations. They call for representatives who will speak out, not apologize and duck and weave. I am proud to raise issues which are relevant to the people of Dartmouth. So let's rock.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canadians were outraged at the scandal in HRDC that gave rise to 20 police investigations. Now we find out that the minister for ACOA has written a letter to a Newfoundland company saying that it would only get $10 million in ACOA funding if it moved to the minister's riding.

This is the most blatant abuse of ministerial power that I have ever seen. When will the Prime Minister ask for the minister's resignation?

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's information is incorrect. They have announced that they will do away with ACOA, wipe it out.

It was only a short while ago when the premier of Alberta and his cabinet stood and proclaimed “We do not propose scrapping the regional development programs of the federal government”. That day in Alberta is not the same as this day in Ottawa, and this policy today is just too day for Canadians.

Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it really is old style politics on that side of the House. It is time for a change.

The minister says we are incorrect. Let me quote from his letter: “I have informed ACOA that the federal government will be prepared to negotiate a further five year agreement for operation online if the entire operation were moved from St. John's to Grand Falls-Windsor”. He says “My position is final”.

Moving $10 million dollars from a Tory riding to his riding is a straightforward abuse of power. When will the minister resign?

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in case the hon. member is not aware, in the new program announced by the government under the community development program the funding is restricted to non-urban areas as defined by Statistics Canada.

The reason for that is that urban areas like the city of St. John's have an unemployment rate that approximates the national average, which now is at a 25 year low in Canada. We will fund the areas that need dollars.

Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister has been in power for 25 years in the House. He is telling us now that his riding needs $10 million. Where has he been for the last 25 years? Where has he been for the last seven years?

I quote his letter: “If you move to my riding you get $10 million”. This is blatant outside politics. The minister should resign. He knows it. When will he resign and do the honourable thing?

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is referring to a federal-provincial agreement which is up for renegotiation.

The fact of the matter is that while the unemployment rate inside the overpass in the city of St. John's is approximately equal to the national average, outside the overpass the unemployment rate ranges from 25% to 45%. That is where economic diversity is needed and that is where the government will invest taxpayer money.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this is absolutely outrageous behaviour. It speaks volumes about the arrogance of the minister that he would put on paper the type of scandalous behaviour we already know goes on every day in the Liberal government.

We are seeing a situation where he as the minister is directing taxpayer funds into his riding. He is telling ACOA that it must send that money into his riding. When will the minister resign?

 

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Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as usual the premise to the hon. member's question is wrong. The minister is doing a terrific job for all Canadians.

Why does the hon. member not explain that when his leader was a minister in the Alberta government he funnelled $8 million in assistance to businesses in his hometown of Red Deer over the last 10 years, including $55,000 for a muffin shop, $29,000 for a hair salon and nail service, and get this, $100,000 for an ice cream parlour.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, time has passed the Deputy Prime Minister a long time ago. It has left him behind.

The Prime Minister has an obligation to get rid of the minister. We have a situation here where a minister has taken money from the taxpayers and is funnelling it into his riding right before an election for his own benefit. It is that straightforward. We have a letter that says as much.

When will the minister do the honourable thing and resign? This is nothing but political blackmail.

The Speaker: Order, please. I want the hon. member to withdraw the word blackmail.

Mr. Monte Solberg: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it.

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is clear from the hon. member's question that his day and the day of his party are long gone.

Yesterday in Kitchener the leader of the Alliance announced his party's old fashioned, outdated, meanspirited platform. Yesterday in Kitchener the Leader of the Opposition and the Alliance Party met their Waterloo.

*  *  *

[Translation]

MOSEL VITELIC

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the semi-conductor plant planned by Mosel Vitelic for the west of Montreal is the type of positive job creation project that deserves the utmost attention.

While the key players have made known the concrete measures they intend to put into place for the coming Mosel Vitelic plant, the federal government has yet to be heard from.

Can the Minister of Industry tell us whether the government has reached a decision on its participation in this project?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the federal government is the one who proposed that Mosel Vitelic set up a semi-conductor plant in Canada. We are the ones who invited them to come here and consider various sites.

As for financial participation by the government, however, we need to be satisfied with their business plan and their technological plan, and negotiations are ongoing. We are not going to conduct them publicly.

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I can understand the minister's position of not wanting to negotiate publicly. But at a time when there is greater and greater consensus in Quebec—the Banque Nationale, the Mouvement Desjardins, the key western leaders—the minister is hiding behind pointless procrastination and pussy-footing.

Is he, or is he not, waiting for an election call before announcing his participation in this project?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday I listened with interest to what these bankers had to say, but they did not indicate how much they were prepared to invest in the project.

We are all in favour of a project such as this. It is a great opportunity for the Greater Montreal area and also for Canada, but not at any price. The taxpayers' money must be administered with care. I am sure the hon. member agrees.

*  *  *

THE MIDDLE EAST

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the peace process in the Middle East is in serious jeopardy: at least 70 people have died in the past week, and the region has become a powder keg.

This week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said he was concerned about the situation. Yet he could not find anything better to do than to ask Palestinian and Israeli leaders to negotiate.

 

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What initiative does the government, which is a member of the security council, intend to take so that Canada can make a concrete contribution to the efforts that will bring a long awaited peace to the population of that region?

Hon. Ronald J. Duhamel (Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Francophonie), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we condemn the violence that led to these casualties.

We regularly, almost on a daily basis, urge both sides to find a solution, to negotiate and come up with a peace plan that will bring stability to the region. We do so regularly and energetically.

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this week, the Paris meeting failed when the Palestinian request for an international inquiry was rejected by Israel. Israel accepts Washington's involvement, but the Palestinians find that involvement too biased.

Canada is a friend of Israel and also a friend of the Palestinian people. In light of this status, could it not take the initiative and offer its contribution to help end the conflict in that region?

Hon. Ronald J. Duhamel (Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Francophonie), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to do just about anything to ensure stability.

We even brought the matter up at the security council two days ago, in an attempt to bring together the two sides to find a solution. We will continue to urge them to find a way to get along and to work and live together.

*  *  *

[English]

HEALTH

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday Alberta's health minister stated:

    Maybe we should be rebating that health care premium to those people who, after an annual check-up, demonstrate that: their blood pressure is within a certain range, their cholesterol count is in check, their weight is within a certain range and their blood sugars are in check.

The health minister is obviously aware of this. Is he prepared to take his responsibility to prevent such an initiative?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it appears the Alberta health minister was musing aloud. There may be more details he wishes to make public.

All I can say from what little I have seen of these statements yesterday is that we have always believed that the responsibility for funding the health care system, as well as access to services under the health care system, should be universal. That is the principle from which we start and that principle should be respected throughout the system.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, here we go again. Bill 11 revisited. What prevents the government from mustering up the courage to say, plain and simple, that this is a tax on the sick? This is a tax on people with chronic illnesses, with mental infirmities, with physical disabilities.

Why does the government not take the opportunity today to say that it is wrong, that it is unfair, that it is not acceptable, and that it will not be permitted?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member may know more than we do or the public does about what Minister Mar intended or said. Let us wait and find out what the man is saying.

The member can rest assured that if there is any proposal that will undermine the Canada Health Act we will be there to respond. The member should be joining with us in responding to and opposing the pernicious platform unveiled by the reform alliance yesterday with respect to health care. There is the real threat to medicare, sitting right over there.

*  *  *

MARKET REVENUE INSURANCE PROGRAM

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of agriculture. It relates to the market revenue insurance program, which is cost shared by the federal and the Ontario governments. The minister knows that is an amber program under WTO rules like NISA and like crop insurance.

Will the minister give the House a firm commitment today that the federal government is prepared to extend the MRI program beyond 2001?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a year ago we extended that program for two years. We have said to the Ontario government, my counterpart in the province of Ontario, that we are prepared to discuss the future of that program. It is a companion program, and the right hon. member will know what I mean by that. We have been discussing the safety net program in the province of Ontario with the industry and with the minister in Ontario, and we will continue to do that.

 

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Right Hon. Joe Clark (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker, the minister will know that for thousands of Ontario farmers discussions are not enough. They know and the House should know that StatsCan in August reported that there were on the prairies some 22,000 fewer farmers this fall than there were last fall. That crisis is now spreading to Ontario.

When will the discussions end? Will the minister give us a firm date by which the Government of Canada will announce its unequivocal commitment to extending the MRI program rather than leaving Ontario farmers subject to—

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the right hon. member might want to check the support of the province of Ontario to agriculture in the last number of years. They have reduced that support, whereas the federal government has increased its support.

For example, this government increased its amount of support to the province of Ontario for market revenue, crop insurance and NISA from $106 million to $137 million. That is an increase of $31 million.

The province of Ontario has not indicated yet to me or to the farmers of Ontario what they are going to do with that. I suggest that is some money that—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Peace River.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for ACOA has finally tipped his hand and shown us the real reason that the government loves the regional development agencies.

With an election looming, the minister just could not resist putting his sticky fingers into ACOA's business. He has offered $10 million to Operation On-Line but with the condition that it agrees to move its high tech operations to his riding.

Canadians will no longer put up with this blatant old style politics. When will this minister resign?

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the Canadian Alliance is asking me to sign my name to a piece of paper extending a five year agreement with the provincial Government of Newfoundland to commit $10 million of federal money, Canadian taxpayer money, to support a business for the next five years in an area of relatively low unemployment while the rest of the province has high unemployment, the answer is no.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it seems like these are only poaching jobs, not creating new ones.

It is disgusting that the minister would use funds from an agency that he is responsible for to feather his own political nest. Just like the TJF, regional development agencies are vulnerable to political opportunism.

Believe it or not, this is the minister who is now going to be put in charge of the TJF money transferred to ACOA.

Has pork-barrelling politics become so second nature to this government that its members cannot even see the conflict of interest being created here?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member explain why he does not apply the terms pork-barrelling and the like to what happened in the town of Red Deer in Alberta over the past 10 years when the current Leader of the Opposition was an Alberta minister? At that time $20,000 went to a limousine service; $10,000 went to a chocolate and wedding supply store; $23,000 went to a tuxedo rental company.

*  *  *

[Translation]

WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, dairy producers are worried. Canada made a commitment to defend supply management in its negotiations with the WTO. The Cairns group wants the abolition of supply management. Canada is a member of this group.

My question is for the Minister of Agriculture. Why does he tell us that he wants to defend supply management and the Cairns group that he is fighting against it?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the comments that the hon. member is making are not correct. In our initial negotiating position to the next round of the WTO, we made it clear that we will defend and we do defend, as was demonstrated by the challenge that the United States put forward to supply management a couple of years ago in which we worked with the industry to defend our domestic marketing systems and supply management. We always have and we always will defend our position.

 

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[Translation]

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Mr. Speaker, supply management ensures a decent income for the thousands of Canadian dairy, egg and poultry producers.

Can the government assure us that the trade agreements it plans to sign will not threaten supply management systems?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have to commend the hon. member. She did state that the supply management gives dairy, egg and poultry producers a good return on their investments and risks. I agree with her on that. That is why we we have defended it. We will continue to defend it firmly and strongly. We have demonstrated that very clearly in the past and will continue to do so.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I would like Canadians to listen to the answers to these questions of a very serious nature to a minister.

I am accusing, through proof in a letter, a minister of the government of attempting to force a young high tech company to move to his riding in return for taxpayer money.

I would like to know from the minister if this is current government practice or just one minister's attempt to abuse his portfolio.

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this money is in a federal-provincial agreement being renegotiated with a request from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The question here is this. Do we agree with the Canadian Alliance to put money in areas which do not need economic diversification, where the unemployment rate is low, or do we put it into rural Canada where the money is needed?

We are going to fight this anti-rural Canada attitude on the part of the official opposition.

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, Canadian Alliance): Or, do we agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is appropriate for a minister to force a company to relocate to his riding in return for some money?

It is commonly said that a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can depend on the support of Paul. I wonder if the minister would just stand here today and tell us whether or not this company should really have to relocate in return for some money that it wants, or is it just the minister getting off on abusing his own authority.

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is a federal-provincial cost share agreement that is being renegotiated.

The question is, should Canadian taxpayers have to put $10 million for the next five years into an operation in a low unemployment area while the rest of Newfoundland is suffering? The answer is no, not while I am here.

*  *  *

[Translation]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the government is trying once again with employment insurance to give the public a few crumbs only, and this will not work. Once again, the unemployed feel they are being used as election fodder.

Why is the minister, who has in her hands some $32 billion in surpluses taken from the pockets of employees and employers, refusing to listen to those suffering the most as the result of her insensitivity?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we believe in a balanced approach. We believe we need to have a strong employment insurance program to help those Canadians who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without work. We also believe that the best insurance is a job.

I would remind the hon. member that today's unemployment numbers are positive again for the country and have been reduced again.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, $32 billion in surplus and $500 million for measures is not very balanced.

In order to protect the employment insurance plan from misappropriation by the Minister of Finance before the Minister of Human Resources Development gets involved, an independent fund has to be created and managed by those who pay, that is, employers and employees.

When will the government, which does not invest a cent in employment insurance, let the fund be managed by those paying for it?

 

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[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in 1996 we made significant changes to the Employment Insurance Act. We made sure that every single hour of work would count for the benefit of employment insurance. We made sure that poorer families and low income families would have an increased percentage of the benefits, to 80%. We made sure through the diviser rule that Canadians would be attached more directly to the workforce. We are also prepared to make changes when changes are necessary.

Bill C-44, which is before the House, confirms our commitment to make changes when changes are necessary.

*  *  *

GRAIN TRANSPORTATION

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Transport spent countless hours questioning witnesses on Bill C-34, the grain transportation bill.

The minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board and the Minister of Transport will recall that I predicted chaos. Well, that chaos is here. The wheat board's tendering process is so flawed that only a paltry 7% of the grain tendered has even been bid on.

Why will these ministers not admit that this bill is flawed and that the grain companies should deal directly with the railways to get the grain moving again?

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member should in fact be congratulating the government for its efforts to modernize the grain transportation system. This is a very pro-farmer government.

The minister has asked the parties to keep working at the problems with the tendering process.

I want to remind the member that the government through Bill C-34 has committed $178 million to farmers because of the revenue cap, $175 million for rural roads on the prairies and much more.

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, some farmers did not get any of that money and the hon. member should know it.

Some 22,000 western farmers have been forced off the land and more will be forced off the land. To make matters worse, the government has ignored virtually every stakeholder in the industry. It is the farmers who have to pay for this needless delay in grain shipment.

When will this ministers and this government allow the grain companies to deal directly with the railways so the farmers can at least get a few precious cents in their pockets?

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the premise of the member's question is that he is against the wheat board. This government clearly supports the efforts of the wheat board to support the sales of prairie grains.

I say again that this is a very pro-farmer government. Our attempts to modernize the grain transportation system are real. It is up to the parties to solve the problems we are seeing right now with the tendering process, and we expect them to do so.

*  *  *

[Translation]

WOMEN'S POVERTY

Mrs. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, everyone is outraged at how hard poverty is hitting women because of the EI restrictions being imposed, despite the $32 million surplus available to the minister.

While her colleague, the Minister of Finance, is toying with the idea of a mini-budget, will she admit that the only way to fight poverty among women is to demand that this minister take concrete and immediate action?

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I no longer understand, because the member for Roberval said that this was good news for young seasonal workers in construction, who are making fairly good money. Certain clauses have also been relaxed for women. The premium rate has been lowered by 15 cents. This is good news and will help with a few of the problems.

So, if they agree, why ask these questions?

*  *  *

[English]

HEALTH

Mr. David Price (Compton—Stanstead, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last night the Leader of the Opposition unveiled his party's right wing platform in Kitchener. The plan backtracks on a number of commitments that the leader of the party, formerly known as Reform, had committed himself to only a few short months ago.

Can the Minister of Health tell the House just what the Alliance platform will do to our Canadian health care system?

 

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Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the most important part of what was said last night is what was left out. The reform alliance did not say that it would surrender federal power to enforce the Canada Health Act. It did not say that it would no longer transfer cash to the provinces. It would give it all away in tax points.

No federal cash means no federal role and no federal role means no national standards. No national standards means a ten tier health care system in Canada. The reform alliance would destroy Canadian medicare and we will not let it do that.

*  *  *

SPECIES AT RISK

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is good to see the government worried for a change in light of real competition.

The species at risk act is the government's second attempt to implement a plan to protect species and habitat. Once again it has failed to bring all the necessary stakeholders together.

Why does the minister refuse to recognize that fair market value compensation is essential to guaranteeing the co-operation of all Canadians in habitat protection programs?

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government supports the principle of full cost accounting applications to decisions taken throughout the economy. We have already taken related action. Sustainable development is a key consideration for all government operations. We are working with all stakeholders to make sure that we protect not only species at risk but habitat also.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the parliamentary secretary was reading from the right page.

First we learned that leaseholders, ranchers and farmers will not be compensated for financial loss that results from the act. Then the minister decided in committee that corporations will not qualify for compensation.

As Canadians are trying to put habitat protection and protection of species ahead, why does the minister refuse to guarantee fair market compensation for landowners and leaseholders who have economically crippling restrictions placed on their lands?

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has put forward a very sound piece of legislation. We have asked for expert input on this very topic of compensation.

I would ask the members opposite why they are not co-operating to make sure that this important piece of legislation, important not only to the government but to Canadians, gets into committee in order that we may deal with it.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, as all of us know, this weekend is a time when Canadians count their blessings and give thanks for a bountiful harvest and a full larder. However, once again few of our farm families who produce that bountiful harvest are celebrating because farm federal safety nets are simply too restrictive and too skimpy to allow them any meaningful return.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture says that $2 billion would go a long way toward levelling the playing field with our major competitors.

My question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. With large and growing surpluses, why will the government not commit $2 billion to help resolve this crisis?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has already increased support and safety nets to farmers by 85% in the last 24 months. The program that we put in place specifically for the 1998 and 1999 business years will deliver $1.6 billion to farmers with assistance from our partnership with the provinces. That program will be continuing into the year 2001.

As a federal government, we are continuing to look at many different ways to work with the provinces and the industry in order to assist farmers with their financial stress in all the ways that we can.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Canadians are being told by the government that the coming election will be about values. I cannot imagine fundamental values that Canadians hold more dearly and believe in more strongly than fairness and equality. Too often what the government has done to a growing number of Canadian farm families who desperately need a helping hand has been to give them the back of its hand.

The government has large and growing surpluses. Why does it persist in refusing to share some of that with our farm families?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have shared and we will continue to share. I suggest to the hon. member that he speak to his provincial government at home, which informed me the other day that it did not have more money to help farmers. It did not see that as its role even at the very same time as it was telling me how important agriculture was to the province. I agree with the provincial government on how important agriculture is to the province, so it has a role to play too.

*  *  *

 

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NATIONAL DEFENCE

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, the decision on the future of Manitoba's land forces was to be made months ago. The Minister of National Defence stood in the House and said that the decision would be based on military operations and not on politics.

The report is in place, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister responsible for western economic diversification did not like the report so they have commissioned their own. I ask the Minister of National Defence, is this not political interference and why will the minister not accept the recommendations of his own military?

Mr. Hec Clouthier (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the previous member indicated, this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend and all members of the House should give thanks that today, as we speak, the minister is making an announcement concerning our reserves. Today we have dedicated over $42 million to guarantee that our reserves will have a strong and vital future.

We on this side of the House would like to congratulate those courageous, committed citizens of this country who participate in our reserves. The hon. member should know full well that we will do everything to guarantee our reserves.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of ACOA.

Operation On-Line is a high tech agency in St. John's, Newfoundland that is nearing the end of a current five year term for federal funding. The minister is holding the agency and all its employees to ransom by demanding that they move from St. John's into his riding. He told the company “Move or I will shut you down.”

How can the minister justify that abuse of his ministerial power, and why is it moving into his riding?

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's information is of course incorrect. This is a federal-provincial agreement that is cost shared between the federal and provincial governments, and here we are with a decision to make. Do we fund, under federal-provincial agreements, businesses in areas of relatively low unemployment inside the overpass or do we fund outside the overpass where there is out-migration, the unemployment rate is high and where the town involved outside is willing to put in $750,000 of its own municipal tax money?

*  *  *

INFRASTRUCTURE

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for infrastructure. I want the municipalities of Peterborough to get their fair share of federal infrastructure money.

Can the minister give us an update on agreements on infrastructure that have been signed so far with the provinces, and when will Ontario come on side?

Mr. Alex Shepherd (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report that we have signed agreements with the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and, this morning, with Prince Edward Island. This represents $131 million. With our partners, that is over $390 million going into new infrastructure in Atlantic Canada. I am also happy to report that the money will be flowing from these projects by the new year.

This summer there were water shortages in Atlantic Canada. I am very happy to report that these programs will be oriented to permitting safer water conditions and a safer and healthier environment for all Canadians including, and most importantly, Atlantic Canadians.

*  *  *

GUN REGISTRY

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, back in 1995 the Liberal government promised parliament and the people that its gun registration scheme known as Bill C-68 would run a deficit of only $2.2 million. It promised us that user fees would cover the entire cost of the program.

Now access to information shows only $17 million in user fees have been collected, yet costs are over half a billion dollars, over $500 million. That is a deficit of over 200 times that projected. How will the Minister of Justice keep her promise?

 

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Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we cannot look at the costs of the system without looking at the benefits.

I will tell the hon. member some of the benefits. Over 7,701 potentially dangerous gun sales were sent for further investigation, 921 licences were refused and 1,182 licences were revoked. The new registry system has revoked over 20 times more licences than the total over the last five years.

Those are the benefits. This system is working.

*  *  *

[Translation]

INTERNATIONAL FREE TRADE ZONE AT MIRABEL

Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in September the government of Quebec inaugurated an international free trade zone at Mirabel, thus following up on the recommendations of the Tardif commission through a series of actions to assist investors. We are still waiting to hear from the federal government.

What stage is the federal government at with respect to the international free trade zone at Mirabel? Will it stop dragging its feet and finally take action?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe that the project proposed is still under study by the Minister of National Revenue. We can consider the proposals which are on the table.

*  *  *

[English]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill (Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, NDP): Mr. Speaker, on October 15 women across the globe will march hand in hand, side by side.

One of the issues they are fighting against is poverty and how it affects their families. Meanwhile the government talks about the great strides it has taken for the rights of women in Canada. All of us in this Chamber know that poor children are a result of poor parents.

Can the HRDC minister tell us if, with her government's proposed changes to the EI, a woman who was ineligible for benefits last week will be eligible today?

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has shown its recognition of the importance of our youngest citizens, our children.

Most recently we agreed with the provinces to a $2.2 billion investment in the early years. In addition, we have increased our investments to the national child benefit which goes directly to low income families.

With regard to employment insurance, I would tell the hon. member that for women the unemployment rates have come down to the lowest point in the last 25 years. From our point of view the best support for a family is a job.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for ACOA has just stated the new government policy that government operations will be moved from lower unemployment communities to higher unemployment communities.

My question for the Deputy Prime Minister is, which other agencies will be moved in accordance with this policy? Will CBC headquarters be moved out of downtown Toronto? Will downtown Toronto lose all its agencies? Will Ottawa be de-populated?

Will the Deputy Prime Minister spell out exactly how—

The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a general economic development agreement to be signed with the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The argument is that the Tory Party is in favour of spending money in a low unemployment area in the city of St. John's versus an area in rural Newfoundland with high unemployment that was caused by his government's disastrous fisheries policy that allowed foreigners to take everything.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this week the environment minister announced the establishment of an appraisal review panel that will implement a new process for the ecological gifts program.

Can the minister tell the House what the benefit of that program is for species at risk in Canada? If I might add a personal note, at my age I find this a most appropriate question.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Budget 2000 introduced new tax measures that allowed the number of eco-gift donations to increase by more than two-thirds. This is good news for wildlife and biodiversity in Canada, as well as for Canadian taxpayers.

Species at risk, like the burrowing owl and the loggerhead shrike, have a stronger chance of recovery thanks to the 165 donations valued at in excess of $25 million.

I encourage all Canadians to consider donating ecologically sensitive lands. These gifts are Canada's future.

*  *  *

 

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PRESENCE IN GALLERY

The Speaker: I draw to the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of my brother Speaker from Austria, His Excellency Dr. Heinz Fischer, President of the Austrian National Council.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

*  *  *

POINTS OF ORDER

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order today relating to the use of nomenclature in the House. Today members of cabinet continuously referred to members of the Canadian Alliance as the reform alliance. I point to Standing Order 10 which clearly—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. Of course, we should refer to ourselves by not only our proper ridings but with the proper names of our parties. I would urge all hon. members to do that.

[Translation]

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker on Friday, September 22, the fire alarm rang and we had to leave the House in a hurry, just as I was about to ask a question.

At that point, Mr. Speaker, you promised that the following Friday you would take into account the time that was left during that oral question period.

Last Friday, another unforeseen event took place, as everyone knows, and the following Friday, which is today, I noticed that for some reason you did not take into account that period of time, since oral question period ended at noon.

I would still like to ask my question and I would like the Chair to tell me when I will be allowed to do so.

The Speaker: Is the hon. member's question for a minister who is now sitting in the House?

Mr. René Laurin: No, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of National Defence, but he was not there either when we came back that Friday.

On Friday the 22nd, when we came back into the House and gave our unanimous consent to allow an NDP member to put his question, the Minister of National Defence had already left.

The Speaker: When we come back next Monday, you will be allowed to put your question. I will be here and I will make sure that you have the opportunity to put your question. If you so wish, you can even be the first Bloc Quebecois member to ask a question.

[English]

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I have two points of order. The first one has also to do with the name of the party. Mr. Speaker, you made the ruling very clearly. I would like to know whether you simply urge members to use that name or require them to use that name.

The Speaker: We urge that more than anything. I always refrain as much as possible from giving orders in the House. Members of parliament are urged to act with respect toward one another. I know that it is not necessary in the overwhelming majority of cases to order anyone to do anything. I am sure you will find an improvement in the weeks and months ahead.

 

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Mr. Ken Epp: Mr. Speaker, my second point of order is with respect to the Deputy Prime Minister, who used the term meanspirited. I know this is unparliamentary because I was called on it once.

The Speaker: There are no words which of themselves are unparliamentary. It is the tone in which they are used and at the time they are used. I see the hon. member has left so I need not explain.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[English]

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 11 petitions.

*  *  *

ATLANTIC CANADA OPPORTUNITIES AGENCY

Hon. George S. Baker (Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table the annual report to parliament on the administration of the acts within the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for the period from April 1, 1999 to March 31, 2000.

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

FINANCE

Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua (Vaughan—King—Aurora, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Finance regarding its order of reference of Wednesday, March 29 in relation to Bill C-213, an act to promote shipbuilding 1999.

The committee has considered Bill C-213 and reports the bill without amendments.

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of some standing committees.

If the House gives its consent I intend to move concurrence in the 39th report later this day.

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-503, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (to provide for judicial discretion to assign a security classification of maximum to high-risk violent offenders, to establish a Board of Management to oversee operations of the Correctional Service of Canada and to establish an Office of Ombudsman for Victims).

He said: Mr. Speaker, corrections is the least visible part of our justice system. I am pleased to introduce a bill which will change this and make Canada's corrections system more transparent and more accountable to victims and Canadians.

The bill will permit sentencing judges to send high-risk offenders to maximum security, create a public board with victim representation to manage the corrections system, create the office of a victims' ombudsman to help victims, provide victims with new information like the rehabilitation efforts of the offenders, and permit victims to make victims' impact statements at parole board hearings.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

INCOME TAX ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-504, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (to provide for the deduction of funeral expenses).

He said: Mr. Speaker, this enactment would permit a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for the taxpayer who has paid the funeral expenses of a person who has been buried in Canada.

Taxpayers eligible for the tax deduction include the taxpayer who has died, the legal representative of the taxpayer who has died or any other taxpayer who has paid the funeral expenses of the person who has died.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

 

. 1210 + -

[Translation]

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-505, an act to amend the Criminal Code (recruitment of children and swarming).

He said: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to introduce this bill to amend the criminal code with respect to recruitment of children and swarming.

[English]

This bill would bring about amendments to the criminal code that would specifically enact a section of the code for prohibiting the recruitment of children as well as a specific section that would denunciate a code section barring swarming and attacking en masse, in a group. These are two phenomena that have received a great deal of attention recently. There are enactments to the criminal code that I think would greatly enhance the law enforcement community and the justice system's ability to deal with these two matters.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

 

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I move that the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Mr. Speaker, on October 4 and 5, I sought the unanimous consent of the House that Motion No. 37, the second report of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages expressing a desire for Ottawa, the capital of Canada, to be officially bilingual, be adopted without debate.

I again seek unanimous consent for this motion to be adopted without debate.

The Speaker: Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

*  *  *

[English]

PETITIONS

EPILEPSY

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present another petition on behalf of people who suffer from epilepsy. These petitioners commend Canada's participation in the World Health Organization's global campaign to bring epilepsy out of the shadows.

The petitioners point out that epilepsy is one of the most common brain disorders in every country of the world. It is also one of the most neglected. Seldom publicly discussed, epilepsy remains surrounded by damaging myths, stigma and misunderstandings that have no place in the new millennium. For each person struggling to live well with epilepsy, this lack of understanding can be more debilitating than the seizures themselves.

These petitioners call upon parliament to help launch a national campaign to raise public awareness of epilepsy and first aid for seizures.

SEXUAL ABUSE

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by a number of residents of the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Given the problems related to childhood sexual abuse and recognition of those who suffer from the lifelong ongoing trauma throughout their lives from childhood sexual abuse, the petitioners are asking parliament to declare October 7, National Sexual Abuse Awareness Day.

[Translation]

IMPORTATION OF MOX

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table two petitions in the House.

The first is from a number of constituents in the city of Laterrière in my riding who call upon parliament to take all necessary steps to ensure that the public and its representatives are consulted on the principle of importing MOX plutonium.

 

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GASOLINE PRICING

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my second petition bears the signatures of 460 people calling upon parliament to take all necessary steps to recommend, as soon as possible, concrete means for dealing with the exorbitant increase in petroleum products and to develop affordable alternative energies.

[English]

HEALTH CARE

Mr. John Solomon (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of many Canadians who are very concerned about the Liberal cutbacks to health care of $30 billion over the past six years.

They are also unhappy with the fact that the current Liberal budget only gives two cents to health care for every $1 in tax cuts. Health care is in a shambles in the country, thanks to the Liberals who are urged on by the Canadian Alliance.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to restore health care funding immediately, not five years from now. They are also asking to stop the for profit hospitals.

FUEL PRICES

Mr. John Solomon (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I have a second petition to present from Canadians in British Columbia and other parts of the country. They are very concerned about the lack of an action plan by the federal government with respect to an energy defence system.

We need an energy action plan to defend our economy. The Americans have one, and the Canadian government has refused to defend consumers, farmers and small businesses from the price gouging of the vertically integrated oil companies.

They are asking parliament to establish an energy price commission which will hold the oil companies accountable for their price increases.

[Translation]

GASOLINE PRICING

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by over 100 people calling on the government to do everything possible to stop the monopoly of the international oil cartels in order to bring about a significant decrease in oil prices.

The petitioners call on the government to allocate sufficient funding for research into alternative energy sources so that the people of Quebec and of Canada will, in the near future, be free of the obligation to use oil as their primary source of energy.

*  *  *

[English]

QUESTIONS PASSED AS ORDERS FOR RETURNS

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 84 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

The Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed. .[Text]

Question No. 84—Mr. Paul Forseth:

    For the riding of Port Moody Coquitlam—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam for the fiscal years 1996-97 to the present: (a) what federal grants, loans, and other financial provisions were granted; (b) in each case, what was the name of the associated program; (c) what was the originating agency or department; (d) what was the amount; and (e) what was the name of the recipient?

Return tabled.

[English]

Mr. Roy Cullen: I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

The Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

MARINE LIABILITY ACT

 

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (for the Minister of Transport) moved that Bill S-17, an act respecting marine liability, and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak at second reading of Bill S-17. The introduction of the marine liability act represents a monumental step in the modernization of Canadian legislation regarding liabilities arising from shipping activities.

Its new format and structure are setting a new standard in the way legislation should be implemented to better facilitate the adoption of future improvements and developments in this field.

The modernization of Canadian legislation does not end with the introduction of this bill. It is one of our ongoing policy objectives to ensure that the provisions of the new bill keep pace with a rapidly developing shipping industry and to ensure that the compensation provided by the various liability regimes keeps pace with growing economies.

 

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I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the House Canada's efforts on the international scene with regard to the modernization of two important liability regimes to better reflect the nature of modern shipping. I refer to the liability regimes for compensation for oil pollution, cleanup and damages, and to the liability for the carriage of goods.

On oil pollution liability, Canada is a party to the 1992 protocol to the international convention on civil liability for oil pollution damage, 1969, and the international convention on the establishment of an international fund for compensation for oil pollution damage, 1971. The purpose of these conventions is to provide adequate compensation to victims of oil pollution catastrophes.

On December 12, 1999 such a catastrophe occurred off the coast of France. The Malta registered tanker Erika broke in two in the Bay of Biscay, some 60 miles off the coast of Brittany. The bow section floated for several hours before finally sinking. Efforts to tow the stern section out to sea failed and the stern eventually sank approximately 10 miles from the location of the sunken bow section.

The Erika was carrying 30,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil of which some 14,000 tonnes were spilled at the time of the incident. The balance of the cargo remained in the sunken wreck. Approximately 400 kilometres of coastline were devastated and the damage to the wildlife, fishing and aquatic industry is still being assessed.

At a very early stage in the cleanup operations it was recognized that the extent of damages was likely to reach the maximum amount of compensation that the international oil pollution fund was able to offer under its existing arrangement, an astonishing $270 million Canadian.

The realization that the fund could prove to be inadequate to compensate all victims of the incident prompted calls from many of the countries that are party to the fund for a review of the limits of available compensation.

A meeting of the contracting states was held in July of this year. It was agreed that there was sufficient support, including support from industry itself, for an increase in the limits of compensation.

From the outset Canada has been active in the discussions that led to a proposal to increase the limit to the maximum level permitted by the provisions of the international conventions. This proposal, to be submitted next month to the International Maritime Organization, is co-sponsored by Canada and will see the limit of the fund increased to approximately $405 million Canadian. As a result of these efforts Canadians will have an improved compensation scheme available to assist them in the event of such a tragedy occurring in our waters.

Under the title of cargo liability I would like now to turn to our initiative relating to the liability of shipowners for the carriage of goods. The existence of rules that clearly establish the rights of shippers and shipowners is critically important, especially in an era where trade is liberalized around the globe and where trading partners are pursuing initiatives to increase access to international markets.

Internationally Canada has always participated in transport related initiatives to harmonize shipping standards, rules and regulations with other countries. The current legislation governing the liability of the shipowner for damage to cargo during maritime carriage is governed by the 1993 Carriage of Goods By Water Act.

This act was first adopted in 1936 on the basis of a 1924 international convention known as the Hague rules, which were amended in 1968 by the Visby protocol. This amendment essentially increased the limit of liability per package and provided for claims on the basis of gross weight of the goods as an alternative to a per package limit.

In 1978 the United Nations adopted a new international convention on the carriage of goods by sea, commonly known as the Hamburg rules. These rules introduced substantial changes on the basis of liability, burden of proof and procedures for claims.

Prior to the so-called COGWA, 1993, that is the Carriage of Goods by Water Act, Transport Canada published a discussion paper recommending the adoption of the Hamburg rules by Canada. Shippers clearly preferred the adoption of the Hamburg rules and felt that these rules were more responsive to their interests than the Hague-Visby rules, especially in terms of the new approach to carriers' defences and increased limits of liability.

Many ship owners, their insurers, cargo insurers and legal experts strongly favoured the adoption of the Hague-Visby rules because they believed the Hamburg rules would have a major impact on shipping costs and litigation costs as the new regime would need to be tested in the courts since previous case law would no longer hold.

Extensive consultations with the various industry groups on these two options have not resulted in a consensus on the adoption of either of these two international regimes. Eventually a compromise solution was reached with the adoption of a staged approach to both regimes.

 

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This approach involved the immediate implementation of the Hague-Visby rules with provisions to bring the Hamburg rules into effect at a later date when a sufficient number of Canada's trading partners had ratified them. The staged approach would therefore ensure that Canadian law is always in step with that of our trading partners.

It also resulted in the adoption of a provision in the 1993 COGWA, which requires the Minister of Transport to conduct a periodic review of the act to determine whether the Hague-Visby rules should be replaced by the Hamburg rules.

This approach reflected Canada's intention to accept the Hamburg rules when it was proven that they would provide a viable basis for new liability conditions for international trade. In the intervening period the government committed itself to promote the Hamburg rules and to pursue with Canada's trading partners the possibility of a co-ordinated action that would lead to wider acceptance of the Hamburg rules at the international level.

As I mentioned previously, to fulfil the legal requirement contained in the Carriage of Goods by Water Act, 1993, and as part of the first review period, the Minister of Transport submitted a report to parliament in December of last year in which he concluded: first, the Hague-Visby rules should be retained in the current Carriage of Goods by Water Act until the next review period ending January 1, 2005 and, second, Transport Canada should continue to make efforts in consultation with industry and in co-operation with like-minded countries with a view to developing practical options for a new international regime of liability for the carriage of goods by sea, which would achieve a greater uniformity than the Hague-Visby rules.

The outcome of this review was driven by the developments in international law on cargo liability, the stagnant position of the Hamburg rules internationally and their minimal impact on Canadian seaborne trade.

Progress to achieve uniformity of international law suffered considerable setback in recent years resulting from the proliferation of regional or unilateral approaches to the modernization of domestic laws which have attempted to address real or perceived difficulties in the international conventions. Divergent rules on cargo liability now apply in many countries. There is a danger that other countries might pursue a similar path of unilateral solutions.

A concrete example of such independent action is the proposed amendments to the U.S. carriage of goods by sea act, 2000. The U.S. act, if adopted in its current form, would add to the proliferation of divergent regimes thus impeding international uniformity.

Canada and a number of countries and industry organizations have raised concerns about the significant departure of the proposed U.S. legislation from prevailing international law. The uniformity of international law remains a key objective of Canadian policy. The outlook for achieving this objective is improving with the ongoing interest of several international organizations on this subject.

Many of these organizations agreed to undertake important work in a consistent manner by avoiding duplication of efforts and by consulting with other international bodies interested in cargo liability such as the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, and Comité Maritime International.

Currently the subject of cargo liability is on the agenda of the OECD maritime transport committee. The committee recognized that there was sufficient interest internationally to consider measures that would improve the current situation.

UNCITRAL and CMI have undertaken to review current practices and laws on the international carriage of goods by sea to determine why countries cannot reach consensus in this area. As part of this commitment UNCITRAL and CMI have established a working group to gather information, ideas and opinions as to the problems that arose in practice and possible solutions to those problems.

Canada will continue to pursue, in co-operation with trading partners, the objective of a uniform international law on carriage of goods by water and will assist UNCITRAL and CMI in their current efforts. Canada will support any new initiative at the international level that would have a realistic chance at success in achieving this objective. These are just two of the things that Canada wishes to do when it comes to the matter of proving the international liability regimes for the carriage of goods around the world.

Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, today we are addressing Bill S-17, the marine liability act. The title of Bill S-17 means that the bill originated in the other place, namely the Senate. My party has been advocating for quite some time the idea of an equal, effective and elected Senate. I would like to touch on some of the ideas with regard to whether an unelected place should be putting forward legislation.

 

. 1230 + -

Back in 1990 in my home town of Calgary, the Prime Minister in his leadership race was advocating that the Senate be elected. He also went on to make promises to that effect in 1993. If he had upheld his original promise to have an elected Senate when he became Prime Minister in 1993, most of the people in that place at this time would probably be elected. However, he did not live up to his promise to the Liberal delegates in 1990 and he did not live up to his promise to the Canadian public in 1993 that the other place would be elected.

As a result we have a circumstance whereby today legislation has been put forward from that place, from an unelected body that is unaccountable to the taxpayers in this land. I know because we have tried to draw before us in committee people who should by all rights be accountable to the Canadian taxpayers, who should be accountable even to the Prime Minister after he has appointed them, and that would be at least something, or at least accountable to this body, the House of Commons, that is duly elected.

However, by refusing to appear, either at the request of the Prime Minister, this place or the Canadian taxpayers on the matter of their own budget, the whole idea of money and of spending taxpayers' dollars, it has proven that there is no accountability by an unelected body, namely the Senate, to the taxpayers.

I could go on for a very long time about the problems I have with an unelected Senate and therefore I think a less effective Senate. If it was elected, it would take up the battle cries like it did during the GST, whereby the GST dropped from 11% down to 9% and finally to 7% because of what those in the Senate did. Once again that is one other of the broken promises. I remember in 1993 when the Liberals went about this country talking about killing, abolishing and scrapping the GST and they did not do that. They broke their faith with the people.

The person who used to be the deputy prime minister, the member for Hamilton East, knows all too well that they broke their faith with the Canadian people on the matter of the GST.

Somebody who was booted out of the party and sits now over on this side, the member for York South—Weston, knows all too well that the Liberals broke its faith with the people on its promise to kill, scrap and abolish the GST.

I will now go on to talk about some of the other things in the marine liability act that will have an impact on people. The marine liability act will consolidate various pieces of legislation and concerns into a single piece of legislation. Of course, that fits generally with the tone of the government to go ahead and centralize a lot of different things and to hone its power. That is a typical theme in this place for this Liberal administration.

The bill also touches on this whole idea of the other liabilities, the problems associated with it and the lack of priorities coming out of the government. The government is dealing with this liability act, which will have an impact on our transportation system, when Canada's competitiveness in transportation is slipping. This is a travesty.

Right now we have a serious problem with taxes in this country, and especially in realm of transportation. We collect about $4.7 billion in fuel taxes. That is a lot of money in terms of fuel taxes. If we collect $4.7 billion in taxes, where does that money go? Does it all go back into transportation? That would make perfectly good sense, would it not? That money could used to improve a lot of highways and port facilities.

 

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Although that money could do untold good for all sorts of transportation, and although we have the highest prices for gasoline we have ever seen, what is happening? Of the $4.7 billion that came in by way of gas taxes for the fiscal year 1998-99, which will probably be higher this year, only a paltry 4.1%, or $194 million, went back to provincial transfers for road and highway development. That means that for every dollar the average person pays in gasoline taxes, 96 cents goes toward things other than transportation.

The obvious question that comes up when we are talking about liabilities, which the government is, and priorities in transportation is, what other types of things does that 96% go into? It goes into the general revenue fund.

Let us look at some of the other priorities. Let us look at the serious liabilities that the government lies out for the taxpayer. That 96% of money that people pay goes into dumb blonde joke books. Frankly I do not know what that has to do with transportation but the fact is that transportation tax dollars and fuel taxes are going into those things.

Mr. Brent St. Denis: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure how accurate the member's comments are, but I wish he would speak about the bill. It is a question of the relevance of his comments.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The hon. member has a good point of order. I am sure the hon. member is just about to come back on subject.

Mr. Rob Anders: Madam Speaker, there is no subject more pressing than this whole idea of the liability act, which originated in the Senate.

I will go on to talk about some of the things that the government is once again doing. It is allowing the supreme court to call the shots. It is reacting to supreme court decisions rather than allowing the supremacy of parliament to rule the day.

I could also talk about the violation of provincial jurisdiction. I could go through chapter and verse if the hon. member across the way wants me to, but I want to address the ideas that are involved in this. One of the ideas is that 96% of the money that is raised through fuel taxes for transportation, which this bill deals with, is going to other things. What is it going to? I alluded to dumb blonde joke books. If that is not a liability in terms of the use of taxpayer dollars and fuel taxes, I do not know what is.

Why would the general revenues raised through transportation taxes go toward funding pornography? What sense does it make to take transportation tax dollars and fund pornography films like Bubbles Galore and various other films? That is exactly what is happening. How is pornography a higher priority than transportation, building good roads and building better ports? This does not make any sense.

However, it gets worse. That 96% of dollars, that $4.5 billion, a sum larger than almost any individual can possibly fathom—the biggest purchase most people make in a lifetime is a home—is also going to fund bleach and syringes so that convicts can shoot up their drugs while in jail. That is an abuse of taxpayer dollars.

 

. 1240 + -

Mr. Brent St. Denis: Madam Speaker, I rise again on a point of order. We would really like to hear what the Alliance Party has to say on Bill S-17. If the hon. member does not have any comments, maybe one of the other members here might be willing to do so, instead of putting us through his pre-election—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I remind the hon. member again to try as much as possible to keep his comments pertinent to the bill now before the House.

Mr. Rob Anders: No doubt about it, Madam Speaker, that when I look at Bill S-17 it refers to fatal accidents, liability, compensation and damages. It refers to all those things. That member across the way may not like our reference to liability, compensation, fatal accidents and damage, but I will tell him a bit about compensation, damage, liability and fatal accidents.

I will tell the House what is a fatal accident. A fatal accident is that we have $4.5 billion of transportation tax money that is going to fund court challenges. Can we believe it? We have groups out there that are using taxpayer dollars to sue our government to get more taxpayer dollars.

That is what happens when money is taken from taxpayers on fuel and it is put into general revenue. It is a whole lack of priorities on transportation. The government takes that money and does not put it into roads, into ports, and into things that obviously have tangible benefits. Instead it sticks it into other things. I do not know how it can possibly argue its priorities.

We get prison golf courses. The government is using $4.5 billion taken in fuel taxes under the auspices of transportation on prison golf courses so that prisoners can play on the green. How does it justify that? How is that a priority?

It gets worse. The $4.5 billion are also used to pay for early parole, appeals. Prisoners use those taxpayer dollars to appeal for early parole. It is not bad enough that they get out when they do with light sentences and slaps on the wrist, but that $4.5 billion pay for early parole appeals.

Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have no idea what the member is talking about. This has nothing to do with the bill. I would ask the member either to speak to the subject or to leave the House. It is insulting to the House.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The hon. member must realize that there is a bill before the House that is important to his party and to other parties. I ask him to please try to keep to the bill.

Mr. Rob Anders: Madam Speaker, I am speaking directly to that bill. I will talk about how it violates provincial jurisdiction and some of the other things the government does to violate the jurisdiction of the provinces.

My goodness, on transportation Alberta can speak only too well with regard to the national energy program which the government brought forward and the millions and billions of dollars it stripped out of the province of Alberta to cripple an industry that was crucial to transportation. I could go on. There is no problem if they want me to talk about transportation fallacies and what the government has done to help cripple transportation. I will do that gladly because I think the people need to hear it.

The money raised through transportation taxes funds things like ACOA vote buying. We heard questions in the House of Commons today on the very issue of a minister threatening and even taking money and pushing businesses into his riding. That is clear political manipulation. That is exactly what the bill is all about and that is exactly what we should not allow.

Mr. Brent St. Denis: Madam Speaker, I rise once again on a point of order on the remarks of the member opposite who refuses to deal with Bill S-17. I thought the Alliance Party had come to parliament with the view that it would bring, in its mind, some civility and decorum. We have an example here of the exact opposite. The House is here to do a particular bit of business. I wish he would relinquish his time to other members who might wish to speak to Bill S-17.

 

. 1245 + -

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I do not know how to convince the hon. member to please speak to the bill before the House. Obviously members of other parties all seem to agree that perhaps we are going a bit too far from the subject.

Mr. Rob Anders: Madam Speaker, let us address the subject. This bill is attempting to update things since the 1950s and in the government's own kind of Liberal way.

Let us look at some of the things that have changed indeed since the 1950s in its own kind of Liberal way. Indeed pork barrelling existed before the 1950s and pork barrelling exists after the 1950s. It is still part and parcel, is it not?

We are talking today about changing the marine law. While we are at it, let us look at some of the other changes that are required in law and some of the other laws that the government is attempting to change.

The gun registry was originally supposed to cost only $2.2 million. Instead it is going to be costing over $500 million, nearly half a billion dollars. Where is the government getting that money from? It is getting it from transportation fuel taxes. It is taking it from the people who fill up at the pumps every single day in this country. The government is taking the people for $4.5 billion and using it to spend on things that will not keep criminals away from firearms but instead it will punish law abiding citizens.

Shame on the government. That is what transportation fuel taxes—

Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I stayed here this afternoon to debate Bill S-17. I implore you to rule the member out of order. He is now talking about gun registration which has nothing whatsoever to do with this bill. The member is abusing the rules of the House. He should be called for that and should be told to shut up, leave the House or stick to the bill.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I do believe that the whole question of relevancy is a very important one in the House. I therefore urge the member to please debate Bill S-17.

Mr. Rob Anders: Indeed, Madam Speaker, and now I am going to start talking about some of the other bills which have been passed with regard to transportation in other countries as they relate to this bill.

In 1998 the United States passed the Transportation Equity Act. It wanted to modernize its act to bring it to the 21st century, which is something that the government says it is trying to do with this bill. That bill was investing $217.9 billion over six years into infrastructure, a large portion of which will go into roads connecting its borders to Canada and Mexico. The bill would legislatively guarantee that a minimum of 90.5% of federal fuel tax receipts from each state are returned to each state.

If we only had that type of vision and commitment on that side of the House with regard to transportation taxes, where the government would be willing commit even 50% of the money it raises in transportation taxes and put it toward transportation. In the United States 90% of the money raised in transportation taxes goes toward those states to help out in transportation. Shame on this government.

I will talk about another issue with regard to transportation. That is the revenue collected by the federal government for aviation fuel which goes into general revenues. It is bad enough that the government is taking $4.5 billion in transportation fuel taxes from taxpayers, which is more than what it puts into transportation.

We not only have people who drive cars, we also have planes. The revenue collected by the federal government for aviation fuel also goes into general revenues. It does not go toward improving our airports. It is only a pittance that is returned to the airports through the capital assistance programs.

 

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That is just another example of the billions of dollars the government collects from various industries that are our base economy. Instead the money goes toward other things that the government thinks are more important.

While we are talking about transportation and fuel taxes, I want to talk about a tax on a tax, where the government collects GST on top of fuel excise taxes. That is supposed to be out of the ballpark. It is absolutely wrong to place a tax upon a tax but that is exactly what the government has done.

It promised in 1993 that it would overhaul it and get rid of the tax on tax. It is not bad enough that it has taken billions of dollars out of transportation and fuel taxes and has not spent those dollars on transportation. It then goes ahead and takes another tax, the GST, and heaps it on top of that. As a result, it becomes even worse. It piles money hand over fist into the general revenue fund to use on things other than transportation.

What does the government use it on? It uses it to buy goodies. Where does it buy those goodies? It buys some of those goodies in the Prime Minister's riding. Some of the transportation fuel taxes are going into the Prime Minister's riding, They are not going into roads, ports, airports, improving the integrity of our roads, enhance traveller safety or economic viability but instead to buy votes.

When we address issues of transportation, like Bill S-17 which originated in the the Senate, it is because we want to improve transportation. It might be argued that the government might be doing something with regard to transportation in the prairies because the farmers are having problems transporting their grain. However, rather than allow the farmers some leeway, what does it do, it puts them in shackles. We are paying.

For the average folks back home who are watching, when they buy gas at the pumps, they pay tax on that gas which goes to the federal government. Some of that tax money is being used to put farmers in shackles because they want to sell their grain outside the wheat board. Shame on the government. That money could have gone to transportation. It could have been a dedicated fuel tax but it is not. Shame on them.

I could go on with all sorts of other things that the government has been wasting and squandering committed fuels taxes on but it basically boils down to this. We have a government that is elitist, out of touch and that is tax and spend. That is exactly what is going on. When the government takes in over $4.7 billion in dedicated fuel taxes and spends over $4.5 billion or 96% of that on things other than transportation, we know that is out of touch. We know it is top-down. We do not doubt for a second that it is taxing 100% and spending 96% on other things. If that is not tax and spend I do not know what is. Shame on it for doing that type of thing, especially considering it made all those election promises about taxes in 1993 and it has indeed raised them. It is a shame.

Let us look at some of the things that other countries are doing to improve their situations in transportation, things that Canada should be looking at. Canada should be looking to improve its situation on trade barriers but instead we have trade barriers that exist between provinces. One of the trade barriers that we have to deal with is between us and our major trading, the United States. Our tax levels are so much higher than our American counterparts that we are driving businesses south. Even today in question period we had a minister who was asked about trying to drive a business around his riding so that he could benefit from jobs there. It is a pretty clear case of pork barrelling.

Instead, the government could be focusing its attention on some of the blatant tax problems and the lack of fairness that exists. It could focus on keeping businesses, which hire employees, provide jobs and tax revenue, in Canada rather than have them leave and go elsewhere.

 

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We have countries like Iceland, Australia, the United States, and the list goes on, that have taxes far lower than ours. Instead of addressing the tax levels, trying to lower taxes and dedicating fuel taxes, we have a whole liability act coming forward that will hamper our competitiveness because there is a total lack of priorities.

If the government was focused on the idea of taxes, on the idea of cutting taxes and on dedicating fuel taxes, then we would have a spitting chance of being able to do better in terms of competitiveness. Instead it helps to drive jobs out of the country.

We know we have a brain drain going on. Members do not want to admit it over there but their lack of priorities have helped to exacerbate that problem and make it worse. Friends of mine are going to the United States and other countries around the world to find work because they cannot it here or because the tax levels are too high. It drives them and their families out of the country.

I could go on with regard to Bill S-17 but I will wrap it up with this. Bill S-17, the marine liability act, centralizes a lot of pieces of legislation. It fits with the whole idea of a centralized, authoritarian, top-down structure that the government seems to like so much. On top of that, it is falling in line with what the supreme court wants. Once again the government is stepping on the toes of provincial jurisdictions. Once again it is failing to address the real issue of competitiveness, which is the true liability, and which is its record on taxes.

The fact is that 96% of the money raised from fuel taxes should be going to transportation and it is not. It is going to a lot of other things. It is going for vote buying for the upcoming election.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Madam Speaker, I must tell you how flabbergasted I am by your exceedingly broad understanding and very considerable tolerance in connection with the rule on the relevance of speeches in force here in the House. With all due respect, I would hope that it is tolerance and not a matter of looking the other way. I am weighing my words. I do not know whether the ability to discuss matters of questionable relevance to the main subject should be seen as a precedent in this House.

I would be tempted to start off with a long diatribe to the effect that I could blame the government, but I will come quickly to the content of this bill on the implementation of this international treaty. I simply want to say that I too deplore the government's decision to introduce this bill in the other House. It is called Bill S-17 because it was introduced in the Senate, the other House.

I think that the 301 members of this House would have done a worthy job, and the government House leader could have easily introduced this bill in the House of Commons, especially since the legislative calendar is rather empty in this pre-election period.

That said, clause 107 of part 7 of Bill S-17 confirms the application of a tariff for those governed by the Laurentian pilotage authority.

I want to take this opportunity to tell the House that the Bloc Quebecois remains aware and concerned and wants to pay tribute to the work done by the marine pilots, especially those in the Lower St. Lawrence and central Quebec. The St. Lawrence River is a complex waterway.

 

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These pilots have been battling for more than 30 years now for the survival of their profession. We know that the shipowners' lobby in Canada is a very powerful one. Why does this lobby have so much power over the government? One need only to look at the campaign contributions by the major shipping companies to understand very clearly why this lobby is so influential and why it has the government's ear so readily.

A preliminary remark on this bill is that it implements in clause 107 application of a Laurentian pilotage charge. I must also, because their annual meeting ended this week, greet the members of the Canadian Marine Pilots' Association, whose president is also the head of the International Maritime Pilots' Association. This is the first time that a Canadian, and a francophone Quebecer to boot, has been the president of the international association. He is Michel Pouliot, a resident of Saint-Jean, Île-d'Orléans. As I said, the Canadian Marine Pilots' Association held its annual meeting this week.

We know that implementation of an international treaty is an important matter. It is one that involves us all because treaties are becoming increasingly important instruments in international life. Their numbers are multiplying. Hundreds of treaties are concluded every year, and are ratified by Canada and other countries. First and foremost, an international treaty is a legal instrument that has been negotiated. Negotiations may involve public servants or ambassadors, heads of state, or ministers representing heads of state. There can also be negotiations with international organizations. Often these international organizations are the forum in which such negotiations take place.

For example, the framework of the United Nations organization often serves as a forum or organizes the holding of conferences at which treaties are debated and agreed to.

Depending on the constitutional law of the country, treaties sometimes require action by parliament to permit their acceptance by the country, so that the country can agree to be bound by the treaty. Practices may differ significantly from one country to the next. Here in Canada, a government can conclude a treaty and sign it after it has been adopted. It can even ratify it without parliament's prior approval or agreement that the country will be bound under the international treaty.

There are countries, however, that involve their parliament and can neither sign nor ratify—in most cases it is ratification—a treaty without the prior approval of parliament and the holding of a debate to give parliamentarians an opportunity to consider the text of the treaty and its provisions before the government commits internationally. In France, for example, parliament must adopt an act approving any treaty before the French authorities can ratify it.

In parliamentary systems such as ours, but also that of other countries, there is a real lack of democracy in that parliamentarians are asked to adopt laws whose content is largely determined by the content of treaties negotiated by the governments, even though their parliaments were not involved in the discussions on that content.

I want to make this clear. Our role as an assembly of parliamentarians is to adopt laws. Canada signs treaties in other places and we, duly and democratically elected parliamentarians, are not called upon to review or examine the content of the treaty before its ratification. However, we are called upon to pass enacting legislation. This is why I was saying earlier that Canada is suffering from a real democratic deficit.

 

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My colleague, the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who is listening to me carefully at the moment, introduced Bill C-214. Unfortunately, this bill was defeated in the House in the spring of this year by the Liberals.

Bill C-214, introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, provided for the House of Commons to be involved in the process for concluding treaties by giving a treaty prior approval and thereby authorizing the government to ratify a treaty after the House had examined the content of it.

This provision is interesting because, in a democracy, in our British parliamentary system, the party electing the most members forms the government.

This is recognized as a prerogative of the government. It is also recognized that, even if these treaties are submitted to the House for its consideration before their passage, approval of them rests ultimately with the government.

What about valid and often non-partisan suggestions The government could recognize this. My colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, recognizes that we in the Bloc Quebecois and probably other opposition MPs have made valid contributions to the debate in the past.

In the past we have succeeded in convincing members of the Liberal majority of the merits of what we were saying and bringing about amendments. Will the government admit that it does not have a monopoly on intelligence? Will the government admit that its way is not the only way? Will the government admit that democratically elected members from both sides of the House can make an interesting contribution to the debate?

I will just give one example, from my riding. I had introduced Bill C-205—I hope that no one is going to raise the issue of relevance, because I do not want this to backfire on me and the tables to be turned—I just want to remind the House that I had introduced a bill to allow mechanics to deduct the cost of their tools. There are mechanics, automobile technicians and garages in all 301 of Canada's ridings. They are everywhere.

I set out on a pilgrimage to convince members of all parties, and was so successful that, despite the reluctance of the Minister of Finance, who was opposed to my bill, the result of the vote at second reading was 218 in favour, i.e. the vast majority, and 11 Liberal members against.

When someone comes up with something that makes sense, something that transcends party lines, I assume that we are all operating on good faith here.

Of course, we all have our convictions. I ask the hon. member to respect me, with my strengths and weaknesses, but also with my convictions. I am not about to change allegiance, the Holy Spirit is not about to descend upon me and turn me into a federalist overnight, because my convictions are too strong.

Some colleagues here—the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead is one—are convinced, for reasons of political opportunism, that their chances of being re-elected are better with the Liberals. Anyway, democracy will have its say and the voters of Compton—Stanstead will realize that. I am sure that when the next election comes, they will re-elect a member of parliament like Gaston Leroux of the Bloc Quebecois to represent them.

 

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I have to say that federal could very readily accommodate expansion of the provinces' ability to enter into treaties. This could involve Quebec, Alberta or British Columbia. Inspiration could even be taken from what is done in Belgium in connection with formulas for the ratification of treaties by parliaments.

This is a partial explanation of why my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, and many Quebecers, want sovereignty, which will give them jurisdiction over their own treaties and will involve their parliament, that is the national assembly, in their implementation. The national assembly will be the one to approve treaties before they become law.

In conclusion, I wanted, through my very brief comments, to say that the Bloc Quebecois will support this bill at second reading. We will not systematically oppose it. However, we would like the government to take into account what I mentioned earlier regarding the implementation of international treaties, to take into account the situation that I illustrated to correct operational problems that have been going on for too many years. We will therefore support Bill S-17.

[English]

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today on behalf of the New Democratic Party to speak to Bill S-17.

I have been listening to the debate and I must say I was very taken aback by the very outrageous comments of the member for Calgary West. His comments on the bill were as bizarre and outrageous as his assault on bilingualism and the comments he made about whether or not new Canadians have a right to vote in nomination meetings.

We have to question what the member is debating. I wonder if the member for Calgary West has talked to the Alliance member from Surrey Central who has lived in Canada for maybe three years and is now an MP. Today's debate is about Bill S-17. The comments of the member for Calgary West were out of order and had nothing to do with it.

Mr. Ken Epp: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not believe the member for Calgary West has opened his mouth today in the House. I think the member has the wrong riding.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): I am afraid that is not a point of order.

Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I believe the member for Calgary West was in the House earlier. I may have the wrong riding, but I believe it was the member for Calgary West.

Bill S-17 is probably not the most high profile piece of legislation before the House. It certainly is not the most glamorous. Probably very little attention is being paid to it. Nevertheless the marine liability act is an important piece of legislation. Members of the New Democratic Party have some concerns at this point in the debate but will be supporting the legislation.

Marine legislation is very fragmented. It now falls within a number of different acts over many years. Many of the acts are outdated. They are certainly not in line with current processes and international law or the kind of legislation enjoyed by other countries. It is very important that we are debating marine legislation today.

My riding of Vancouver East contains a very large chunk of the port of Vancouver. As someone coming from the west coast, marine legislation is something that I recognize is of great importance. Members in my caucus, including the member for Halifax West, the member for Dartmouth and all other members from Nova Scotia, have placed a great amount of emphasis on the need for marine legislation, particularly in terms of creating a shipbuilding capacity in Canada. We have had a long and very rich tradition in Canada of a marine industry, of building ships, of creating jobs.

 

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I want to say for myself from the west coast and my colleagues from the east coast that this is something we think is very key to who we are as Canadians, that is, to improve upon our capacity to produce economic wealth, prosperity and benefits from our shipbuilding industry.

The legislation before us today, although it does not deal specifically with a need for shipbuilding, does cover some important areas that need to be dealt with.

Bill S-17 seeks to unify under this piece of legislation the various bits and pieces that have been fragmented over the years. It attempts to modernize these laws and to keep Canada in line with international conventions. This is something we certainly support. It is not only generating new legislation. It is making sure that the legislation already in place is relevant and up to date and that it deals with the concerns we have today.

Bill S-17, as I have said, covers many areas that are already enshrined in law. These include, for example, the limitation of liability for maritime claims, the liability and compensation for pollution and the liability for carriage of goods by water. These laws are generally now re-enacted in this bill with some minor changes to incorporate international conventions and supreme court decisions.

There are other aspects of the bill that will also be clarified and these are certainly things that have been outstanding and needed attention. We are very glad to see that they have been addressed in this bill. They have to deal with personal injuries and fatalities.

There is no question that the experience and the evidence has shown that at the present time under the existing legislation, which is now very updated, there is a lot of confusion that can arise because there is a very ambiguous and blurred line between federal and provincial legislation and responsibilities. This has obviously caused a lot of problems. The area of federal-provincial jurisdiction is something that we struggle with in this country. It is something that we need to address through legislation. It is positive to note that this bill will end what has been a confusing circumstance in terms of federal and provincial responsibilities.

If the bill is passed, clear outlines will be set regarding the relatives of those who die as a result of marine accidents in terms of the claims they can make and to whom. For everyone in the House, just on the basis of common decency and respecting what happens to people when they have lost someone close to them, a member of their family, in some sort of marine accident, to have a procedure that is efficient, humane, respectful and understandable is something that is very important.

We are very pleased to see that this now has been included in the legislation and that it will help people who are faced with these kinds of tragedies and accidents. God knows we have all had experiences of having to deal with a bureaucracy after someone has had a serious accident or has died. We know what it is like to have to go through the paperwork and make the claims. It can be a very difficult thing to do when you are in a grieving process.

The fact that this legislation will bring some clarity to the matter is an improvement. It hopefully will help those family members who are dealing with a very difficult circumstance as a result of someone who has died or who may have been in an accident.

Another important aspect of the bill and, in fact, probably one of the more critical things, which may not have gotten a lot of attention, is that Bill S-17 will also prohibit shipowners from contracting out liability for loss of life or personal injury.

The current practice, one used for many years, is that within Canada it is very common for shipowners to insert a clause into contracts of carriage that removes the shipowner's liability. What does that mean? What has been the impact of that?

 

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It reminds me very much of the situation we faced with the Westray mine disaster, an example of corporate responsibility that was completely without consequences because there was not any clear legislation to say that individual corporate executives and the corporation itself are liable for their negligence and for the people they put at risk. As members of the House know, members of the New Democratic Party have been a very powerful force, along with members from other parties, in bringing forward legislation to say that corporate executives and corporations must be held criminally responsible for any negligence or any criminal act.

This particular feature in Bill S-17 addresses this same kind of principle. It clearly talks about the kind of contracting out that took place in the past. Let us imagine trying to contract out one's liability, saying “It is not really mine as a shipowner. I will pass the buck to someone else. I will pass on the responsibility to someone else”. Again, the fact that the bill will remove that kind of situation is an improvement.

In this day and age we are in an environment that is increasingly dominated by multinational corporations, by huge organizations that are in some instances nameless and faceless. The sense of corporate responsibility and the sense of accountability for people who are trying to deal with the system are sometimes very far removed. In this respect this one particular clause in the bill is a move in the right direction in saying that there must be corporate social responsibility, that the idea of hiding oneself behind a third party will not fly any more.

These exemptions, for example, are already null and void in the United States, France and Great Britain. There is no question that we should not be left behind on this issue. Canada must act on this matter now because we do not know when a disaster may occur. We have to be prepared. We have to make sure that legislation is in place that clearly protects victims and families of marine accidents and clearly shows the lines of responsibility in terms of where wrongdoing has taken place.

I have spoken on aspects of the bill that we support. We think there are improvements, but it is only fair to say that we also have concerns. It is appropriate to lay those on the table and to be clear that we also have some questions about the bill. As the bill proceeds through the House, we would like to see some answers.

There is one clause that certainly does concern us. After some research and some questioning of Transport Canada bureaucrats by our caucus, we have not really found any of the answers we are looking for. We are very concerned with the fact that the bill would prevail over the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act if there were any inconsistencies or conflicts between the two.

Whilst we are willing to support the bill at second reading, I want to say that members of the New Democratic Party and our critic in this area, the member for Churchill, want further answers in committee. We want to know how the bill might affect important environmental legislation and we want to know what the various scenarios and possibilities are. We want to be assured that the bill will not override very important environmental protection in other legislation that exists.

In conclusion, members of the New Democratic Party feel generally positive about the bill. We think it is an improvement over what we have now. It will be a piece of legislation that captures together the bits and pieces and the patchwork of existing provisions. It will modernize the provisions for protection around liability. It will clearly outline better corporate responsibility, which we think is important, and it will give better protection to those who travel by marine vessels or who are involved with them.

 

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We therefore support the bill in principle but with the caveat that if the government is concealing some answers in terms of the concerns we have about other environmental and protection legislation, then of course we will look at the bill again and not be so accepting. However, at this point we support it in principle.

Mr. Ken Epp: Madam Speaker, I rose on a point of order before before to correct the member on the name of the riding. I was wrong and I apologize. She was in fact correct. I am sorry.

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, PC): Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure to rise in debate on the marine liability act.

In my case, I come from a province which is virtually surrounded by water, the province of Nova Scotia. We often think that as a country that is itself almost surrounded by water and certainly has a lot of inland waterways as well as the oceans, we are past due on legislation with respect to marine transportation, marine liability and all marine issues, including environmental issues, shipbuilding policies, and even the question about fuel taxes for shipping.

It seems that the legislation we have is past due and is behind that of many other countries that are as involved with marine issues as Canada. In fact, the bill is just responding to our commitment under the Athens convention of 1974 to meet international standards on liability for marine accidents and also to the updated 1990 protocol. It is certainly long past due, especially for a country such as ours that is so involved with marine aspects.

In my own case it is really obvious that this is becoming more and more important because of the increasing economic activity on our waters, even the increase in the use of ferries from our different provinces and islands, not only in regard to the volume and numbers of ferries but also now that we are getting into high speed ferries and that sort of new technology, which creates problems in itself. It also creates a concern about liability for marine issues.

Tourism is becoming a big issue on the waters as well. Some of our smaller fishing villages along our coastlines have seen their fish stocks decline and the fishing industry decline along with that. They have now turned to tourism, which includes tour boats, whale watching ventures and things like that. All these ventures currently are not well protected for marine liability as far as our legislation goes.

People who use these types of boats for both the carriage of people and the carriage of goods and services are not well protected. The liability is very confusing. Shipowners and boat owners can include exemptions to their liability on tickets. Whether they are effectual or not and whether they are actual or not is open to question. There is no clarification. The bill clarifies that and we support that part of it.

A part of our economy that is exploding on both the east and west coasts is certainly cruise ships. Up until now there has been confusion on liability in the event that there is a serious accident involving death or injury. The bill will address that issue and that is long past due.

Even ecotourism in my own area is becoming more and more viable as the demand increases and tourists from all over the world come to eastern Canada to see different aspects of our ocean life: whales, porpoises, seals, bird life, and recently even a small island in the Bay of Fundy near my riding called Ile Haute that we are hoping the Minister of the Environment will designate as a wilderness preserve. He has indicated a strong interest in doing that. If he does, it will create a whole new tourism industry in my riding. It will involve boats carrying passengers to see this incredible island in the Bay of Fundy.

It is extremely important that the issue is dealt with. There are many aspects of the bill that we support but we do not understand why there has been a delay in getting the bill to this point. We go back to several aspects of other bills in the last parliament, such as Bill C-59, the carriage of passengers by water act, which was allowed to die on the order paper in April 1997. The same terms of reference in that bill are in the new bill. This is three years later and ironically we are perhaps at the same stage now where this bill may die on the order paper if an election is called, as is speculated in the next few weeks.

 

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In the last parliament another bill, Bill C-73, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act, died on the order paper. It had the same terms and conditions as we have in this one. It died because of an early election in 1997. Here we are three and a half years later dealing with exactly the same words, exactly the same bill, and maybe facing another election so that it may die on the order paper again.

When we form the government next time we will bring it in and we will put it through. We will not allow any more delays, any more inappropriate stalls for this bill, because it is very important.

There are aspects of the bill we do not support but we do support most of them. We support the bill in principle. It is long overdue. As I said before, it basically lines us up with the international convention adopted in 1974 in Athens and the protocol. We need a Canada marine law and this helps us in that regard.

Some of the aspects we like is that it confirms that claims for wrongful death and injury in the maritime domain may be made against persons as well as ships under the bill, thus enabling relatives of deceased and injured persons to claim for loss of care, guidance and companionship.

It also modernizes the language of the legislation to make it clearer and allows people to proceed through courts a lot quicker in the case of litigation.

Another part we support is the fact that it incorporates word for word into the new marine liability act the Hague rules statute under the Carriage of Goods by Water Act, which again should have been included a long time.

It establishes the basis for amounts of liability. There are different acts that deal with this issue and the present legislation is very confusing. In some cases shipowners can limit their own liability by a simple statement of exemption, and this would eliminate that.

Another aspect is that the bill excludes the contracting out of liability by shipowners and operators, especially in marine passenger contracts. Recently I followed up on a ticket I bought which had an exemption on it. It turned out that the shipowner had contracted out the tour I was on. They tried to confuse the situation by stating that if there were in effect an accident they would be hidden and protected from liability. In any case, this prevents shipowners from escaping that liability by any exclusionary clause they want to dream up.

Bill S-17 incorporates liability aspects of the 1974 Athens convention and the protocol, as I said earlier. We do have questions about liability still remaining, especially with respect to the environment and some aspects of those issues.

We expect it to come to the transport committee and be thoroughly examined. We expect to have representation from Department of Transport officials and representatives from the industry to help us understand the pros and cons of the bill. At that time we will make our final decision, but at the moment we support the bill in principle. We think it is long past due. We hope that the government will make sure the bill is not dropped from the order paper again this time as it was in 1997 and that the bill goes through.

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I want to make two points if I may about the legislation. First, this is legislation that is introduced from the Senate. I think Canadians who are watching the debate here need an explanation of why a bill should be appearing before the House at second reading that has emanated from the Senate rather than following the normal procedure of first reading in the Commons and second reading as we are now.

There is reason for concern because the Senate, the other place, comprises an unelected chamber. The senators are not answerable to the people. We must pause as parliamentarians and as all Canadians when we see a bill coming from the Senate. If legislation is coming from people who are not elected then we need to be very concerned that this is the proper procedure. I am absolutely opposed to bills coming from the Senate that are private members' bills.

 

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However, in this instance this is not a private member's bill coming from the Senate. This is a government bill that has been introduced in the Senate. As the member for Cumberland—Colchester just remarked, the bill is essentially a piece of legislation that was before the last parliament and died on the order paper with the calling of the general election in 1997.

We have here an instance where the Senate can fulfil an important role. That role is to expedite non-controversial legislation that is very much in the public interest which might otherwise experience considerable delay as it falls behind, shall we say, more politically pressing government legislation if it were to be introduced at first reading and follow the normal procedure in the House of Commons.

When I say politically pressing, I am not in any way suggesting that this is not very important legislation. Bill S-17, or Bill C-53 as it was known before, actually addresses an area of concern that is really crucial to Canadians. Indeed, as I was looking through the actual text of the legislation I was amazed to think the type of protection we are talking about here does not exist in law already.

What we are dealing with is the idea that when people buy tickets and board ships in this country with Canadian ownership they basically have no protection if disaster overtakes the ship and they lose their lives or are otherwise injured. The regime that exists now is that people who find themselves in this situation are forced to go to the courts and use common law procedures in order to recover damages.

This legislation sets up a regime where the shipowners are required to have insurance and where there is a personal liability regime put in place for people who wish to travel by sea or, I should say, by our freshwater lakes.

Coming back to my point about the Senate, this is important legislation. One of the difficulties is that the government and politicians in general do tend to be responsive to the political pressures of the day that might be forthcoming. I will give a classic example.

We are expecting legislation in the House very soon pertaining to the implementation of the national health accord that was just struck between the Prime Minister and the premiers of the various provinces. This has to do with our national health and the ability of our hospitals to provide decent services. This has to do with the amount of money that comes from the federal government and is transferred to the provinces. This is a politically urgent bill.

The sad thing about the way this parliament operates, and this is not a criticism of the way this parliament operates but is a reality, is that politically urgent bills sometimes take priority over bills that are less politically urgent but are nevertheless just as important. This is the case with the marine liability bill.

Because the legislation has gone before the Senate I think the Senate has had an opportunity to examine it in detail. I do not expect, certainly not in the debate we have before us now, that any members are going to be raising really controversial issues with respect to this legislation. Not in this debate. This is one of the advantages of having it begin in the Senate.

As the member for Cumberland—Colchester said, it will go to the transportation committee where it will get a thorough examination as would any other bill coming through the normal process in the House of Commons.

Having said that and having lauded the procedure that I am told goes back to Confederation, this is not unusual for the government to introduce legislation in the Senate in this way. It gives me an opportunity to stress how much I am absolutely opposed to bills coming from the Senate that are introduced by senators themselves.

 

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I have a specific bill in mind, and that is the current bill coming from the Senate called Bill S-20, that reflects a senator's initiative with respect to trying to impose an extra tax on cigarettes in order to raise money to finance advertising campaigns to lower the incidence of youth smoking. I am sure that is laudable but it is very wrong for senators to introduce controversial bills when they do not have to answer to an electorate as any one of the members of this place have to do.

I want to make sure that the Canadian public out there realizes that what is happening here with Bill S-17 is something that is fully in conformity with the rights and privileges of elected representatives in this place. It does not reflect what may be happening with respect to this bill coming from the Senate.

Coming back to the marine liability legislation very briefly, as the member for Cumberland—Colchester spoke very well on the issue, many Canadians have taken car ferries within Canadian waters. Many Canadians have taken ships to England or even cruises on the western shores of this wonderful land of ours. Many of them would be appalled to realize that they have not been covered properly, as they would see it, by insurance. This is legislation that is not only timely but overdue.

I will make one other very important point that was alluded to by the member for Cumberland—Colchester. That is the business of shipowners providing an exemption of liability on the ticket. Basically they purport to contract out their liability if an accident overtakes the passenger who bought the ticket.

The problem with that is that it lets the shipowner off the hook. For all the person buying the ticket knows, the insurance company that has taken the liability contract may be a fly-by-nighter and disappear overnight. It is really no kind of protection at all. This legislation, in addressing that and in requiring shipowners to have liability insurance in the first place, is very progressive legislation.

I second the sentiments of the member for Cumberland—Colchester. We should expedite this legislation as quickly as possible, certainly at this stage of debate, get it into committee and get it passed. I can assure him the he has nothing to worry about. I am fully confident this bill will pass this time well in advance of the next general election call.

Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I applaud the hon. member for suggesting that the other place should not be the originator of government bills. That is a commendable point. I also recognize that member is more amenable than most to the idea that the other place should have serious measures of accountability.

Would the hon. member expound more on his idea that the other place, namely the Senate, should not be the originator of government bills, and maybe how he feels about the whole idea of Senate elections and accountability in that place?

Mr. John Bryden: Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question but he misunderstood me just slightly. I find no fault with the fact that the government has introduced this bill in the Senate first where it has been examined and has come back because the Senate has had a chance to examine the bill in detail. It is still a government bill. The government is elected by the people and the government is initiating the bill. Whether it is initiated in this place or that place does not matter; it is still accountable to the people because it is the government.

What I am very strongly opposed to is senators introducing their own private members' bills in the Senate and those bills coming to this place as private members' legislation. Senators are not answerable to the public. The difficulty is that they can introduce controversial bills.

I remember one senator once proposing something about making it against the law to spank a child. All kinds of controversy was endured by Liberal members of parliament because it was a Liberal senator that introduced this idea. This is not a proper reflection of either the Senate's role or the way this place should be working in my view.

 

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With Bill S-17, I think probably the best way to have expedited this very important legislation was to have done exactly what the government did and that was to introduce it in the Senate first. We have a full chance to examine it here.

Mr. Rob Anders: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his clarification on his position with regard to the introduction of private members' bills in the Senate. He mentioned that there is some measure of accountability lacking in the Senate, I agree with him on that. I wonder if he might be able to offer suggestions from his side of the benches with regard to ways to improve the accountability in the Senate

Mr. John Bryden: Madam Speaker, I take this question very seriously because I know the member is very interested in the future of the Senate. The Senate has an enormously important role in parliament but it has to be a role that does not collide with the role being fulfilled by the elected portion of Parliament.

Where the Senate is very valuable is it has more time, particularly on private members' legislation, to examine indepth the implications of legislation. The particular legislation that we have before us, Bill S-17, previously Bill C-53, is very complicated. The average member in this House does not have the time to give it the examination it deserves.

Even the transportation committee is going to have difficulty giving it the full examination it deserves. That is what we can use the Senate for and that is the role the Senate should have.

However, the Senate must not, this government must not and this House of Commons must not allow the Senate to intrude into those areas of responsibility that should be exclusively the role of the elected representatives. We are accountable to the people.

I introduced just recently a very controversial private members' bill that would make Christmas into a national holiday. I got 400 hostile e-mails. Well, that is correct because I take the brunt of the fact that I introduced legislation that certainly some members of the public oppose and they can get at me. However, they cannot get at a senator.

If the government wishes to introduce a bill through the Senate, it does not matter to the Senate but the government is still accountable. If a senator introduces his own legislation and does not have to answer for it but we do, I think that is wrong.

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): Is the House ready for the question?

Some hon. members: Question.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

[English]

Mr. Brent St. Denis: Madam Speaker, I seek your advice. Is it appropriate at this time, if there were agreement, to see the clock as being 2.30 p.m.?

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport is suggesting that we see the clock as being 2.30 p.m. Is there unanimous consent?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault): Therefore, the House stands adjourned until Monday, October 16, 2000, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.49 p.m.)