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36th Parliament, 2nd Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 29

CONTENTS

Friday, November 26, 1999

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VCANADIAN TOURISM COMMISSION ACT
VBill C-5. Second reading
VMrs. Michelle Dockrill

. 1010

. 1015

VMr. Werner Schmidt
VMr. Philip Mayfield

. 1020

VMr. Richard M. Harris

. 1025

VMr. Jim Jones

. 1030

. 1035

VMr. Werner Schmidt
VMr. Philip Mayfield

. 1040

VMr. Richard M. Harris

. 1045

. 1050

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VCRIME PREVENTION
VMr. Andrew Telegdi
VIMMIGRATION
VMr. Keith Martin

. 1100

VTOBACCO
VMr. David Pratt
VCHILD POVERTY
VMr. John Maloney
VSCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VRIGHTS OF YOUTH
VMr. Grant McNally
VGOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO
VMrs. Judi Longfield

. 1105

VCHECHNYA
VMr. Richard Marceau
VREGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
VMr. Mark Assad
VHOCKEY
VMr. Jay Hill
VLIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA
VMr. Denis Paradis
VTHE LATE DOUG SAHM
VMr. Rick Laliberte

. 1110

VDEMOCRACY
VMr. Maurice Dumas
VFOOTBALL
VMr. Ovid L. Jackson
VPUBLIC WORKS
VMr. Gilles Bernier
VCANADA POST
VMr. John Cannis
VCANADA ELECTIONS ACT
VMr. Rob Anders

. 1115

VEMPLOYMENT
VMr. Pat Martin
VHOCKEY
VMrs. Elsie Wayne
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VNATIONAL UNITY
VMr. Grant Hill
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Grant Hill
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Grant Hill

. 1120

VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. Herb Gray
VREFERENDUMS
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMrs. Suzanne Tremblay
VHon. Stéphane Dion

. 1125

VSUDAN
VMrs. Francine Lalonde
VMr. Denis Paradis
VMrs. Francine Lalonde
VMr. Denis Paradis
VBANKING
VHon. Lorne Nystrom
VHon. Paul Martin
VHon. Lorne Nystrom
VHon. Paul Martin
VREFERENDUMS
VMr. André Bachand

. 1130

VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. André Bachand
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VTAXATION
VMr. Richard M. Harris
VHon. Paul Martin
VMr. Gary Lunn
VHon. Paul Martin
VNATIONAL DEFENCE
VMr. René Laurin

. 1135

VMr. Robert Bertrand
VMr. René Laurin
VHon. Herb Gray
VTAXATION
VMr. Eric Lowther
VHon. Paul Martin
VTRADE
VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VHon. David Anderson
VPOVERTY
VMr. René Canuel

. 1140

VHon. David Anderson
VSOCIAL HOUSING
VMr. Ghislain Fournier
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Howard Hilstrom
VHon. Andy Mitchell
VTRADE
VMr. Rick Casson
VHon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal
VREGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
VMr. Paul Crête

. 1145

VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VMINING INDUSTRY
VMr. Guy St-Julien
VMr. Brent St. Denis
VRCMP
VMr. Chuck Cadman
VMr. Jacques Saada
VGUN CONTROL
VMr. Inky Mark
VMr. John Maloney

. 1150

VHOUSING
VMr. Pat Martin
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VMr. Pat Martin
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VFISHERIES
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VHon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VHon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal

. 1155

VHEALTH
VMr. Lynn Myers
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VTOBACCO
VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. Yvon Charbonneau
VGENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS
VMrs. Monique Guay
VHon. Andy Mitchell
VCHILD POVERTY
VMrs. Michelle Dockrill
VHon. David Anderson
VFISHERIES
VMr. Mark Muise
VHon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal

. 1200

VRURAL DEVELOPMENT
VMr. Ivan Grose
VHon. Andy Mitchell
VAIRPORT SAFETY
VMs. Val Meredith
VMr. Stan Dromisky
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VTREATIES RATIFIED IN 1991 AND 1992
VMr. Denis Paradis
VTECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS CANADA
VMr. John Cannis
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Derek Lee

. 1205

VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VAboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
VMrs. Sue Barnes
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMr. Derek Lee
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-347. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Richard M. Harris
VCANADIAN FORCES SUPERANNUATION ACT
VBill C-348. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCOMPETITION ACT
VBill C-349. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1210

VMAXIMUM SPEED CONTROL DEVICE ACT
VBill C-350. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VWAGES LIABILITY ACT
VBill C-351. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VPRIVACY ACT
VBill C-352. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VLAND TITLES ACT
VBill C-353. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1215

VPENSION FUND SOCIETIES ACT
VBill C-354. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VINSURANCE COMPANIES ACT
VBill C-355. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE ACT
VBill C-356. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VINDIAN ACT
VBill C-357. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VHAZARDOUS PRODUCTS ACT
VBill C-358. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VGOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES COMPENSATION ACT
VBill C-359. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VEXTRADITION ACT
VBill C-360. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VINTERPRETATION ACT
VBill C-361. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADIAN CHILD RIGHTS ACT
VBill C-362. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VTERRITORIAL LANDS ACT
VBill C-363. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VFEDERAL-PROVINCIAL FISCAL ARRANGEMENTS ACT
VBill C-364. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-365. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA TRANSPORTATION ACT
VBill C-366. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1220

VDIVORCE ACT
VBill C-367. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VEXCISE TAX ACT
VBill C-368. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VEXCISE ACT
VBill C-369. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE ACT
VBill C-370. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA-UNITED KINGDOM CIVIL AND COMMERCIAL JUDGMENTS
VBill C-371. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA CO-OPERATIVE ASSOCIATIONS ACT
VBill C-372. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA STUDENT LOANS ACT
VBill C-373. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA SHIPPING ACT
VBill C-374. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1225

VCANADA HEALTH ACT
VBill C-375. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VDEPARTMENTAL INTERNAL AUDIT ACT
VBill C-376. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA PENSION PLAN
VBill C-377. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VDIVORCE ACT
VBill C-378. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS ACT
VBill C-379. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VBILLS OF EXCHANGE ACT
VBill C-380. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS
VBill C-381. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VNATIONAL STANDARDS FOR EDUCATION ACT
VBill C-382. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VNATIONAL LITERACY STANDARDS ACT
VBill C-383. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS
VBill C-384. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS
VBill C-385. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VIMMIGRATION ACT
VBill C-386. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Keith Martin

. 1230

VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMotion for concurrence
VMr. Derek Lee
VPETITIONS
VChild Pornography
VMr. Eric Lowther
VYoung Offenders Act
VMr. Chuck Cadman
VMarriage
VMr. Richard M. Harris
VAbortion
VMr. Richard M. Harris
VImmigration
VMr. Philip Mayfield
VTaxation
VMr. Philip Mayfield

. 1235

VThe Constitution
VMr. Philip Mayfield
VChild Pornography
VMr. Philip Mayfield
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Derek Lee
VMr. John Maloney
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VCANADIAN TOURISM COMMISSION ACT
VBill C-5. Second reading
VMr. Richard M. Harris

. 1240

VMr. Werner Schmidt

. 1245

VMr. Philip Mayfield

. 1250

VMr. Paul Crête

. 1255

. 1300

. 1305

. 1310

VMr. John Bryden

. 1315

VMr. John Cannis

. 1320

VMr. Werner Schmidt

. 1325

VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

. 1330

VWITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT
VBill C-223. Second reading
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1335

. 1340

VMr. Jacques Saada

. 1345

. 1350

VMr. Gilles Bernier

. 1355

VMr. Keith Martin

. 1400

. 1405

VMr. John Maloney

. 1410

. 1415

VMs. Val Meredith

. 1420

. 1425

VMr. Eric Lowther
VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 29


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, November 26, 1999

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 +

[English]

CANADIAN TOURISM COMMISSION ACT

 

The House resumed from November 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of point. I understand appropriate discussions with other parties have taken place and I seek the unanimous consent of the House to complete the speaking period of my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The House has heard the request for unanimous consent from the hon. member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton. Is it agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill (Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to rise and replace my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

My colleague and I are both in agreement to support Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission.

 

. 1010 + -

As many members will already know, the Canadian tourism commission was actually founded in 1992 after an extensive consultation with various stakeholders in the tourism industry across Canada. At that time, when the former government was trying to get the commission up and running quickly, government and industry agreed that the CTC should be created as a special operating agency instead of a crown corporation.

Special operating agency basically means that it has all of the responsibility and none of the authority. The CTC was responsible for running the program but it was the deputy minister of tourism who was responsible for the administration. Because of the speech with which the CTC was originally created, it missed a whole bunch of key points and operations were often held back because of the bureaucratic nightmare that was created.

There were some marketing operations that had to sit around for months because they were going through the bureaucratic sign-off process which required 13 signatures. By the time they got to their signatures circumstances had almost always changed.

One could spot the potential for problems a mile away. Government contract issuance processes were just too slow to keep up with the rapid changes that occur in the tourism industry. Business does not have to be allowed to move much more quickly whether it is in the private or public realm.

My colleagues and I in the NDP support the move from a special operating agency to a crown corporation provided that the government provide the tourism board the support it will require to fulfil its objectives.

The development and accomplishments of the Canadian tourism commission is a unique and promising model of a private-public partnership. The tourism industry currently provides over two-thirds of the funding for the commission's operations.

Labour relations will move from the Public Service Employment Act to the Canada Labour Code, and while existing bargaining units will be merged, there will be a one year transition in eligibility for public service competitions and grievance procedures.

The tourism industry supports the change, the provinces support the change and the staff support the change. I believe that today in the House we should be able to co-operate and put Bill C-5 through the House as quickly as possible. One only wishes every government policy with respect to tourism was as beneficial for the industry as this one.

I take this opportunity to remind the House of the sudden and hurtful changes which our two airlines made with respect to their commissions for international ticket sales. This change alone threatens some 7,500 jobs in small communities across the country.

Basically the two airlines got together to set the new commission structure and informed the travel agents. I repeat, the two airlines got together to set the new pricing structure. Then, when the travel agents' association wanted to meet with the airlines to discuss the rate structure, it was threatened with anti-competition charges under the Competition Act by the very same airline. In other words, the Competition Act could be used by the airlines to bully small businesses, but where oh where is that act now that the big airlines are in trouble? Talk about a Liberal double standard.

Another point that I feel I must make in this debate on tourism comes more in the form of a warning. The preamble to Bill C-5 sets out the vitality of the tourism industry to the social and cultural identity of Canada. While I do not wish to necessarily disagree with this statement, it must be somewhat qualified. It is not tourism that is going to safeguard our identity. Instead, it is our distinct social and cultural identity as Canadians that will safeguard the continued interest for tourists in Canada.

Tourism can never be more than and certainly never less than an integral part of our economy. A well-balanced and vibrant economy of scale cannot be built upon tourism alone. I make this point because it is extremely important for us in Cape Breton to remember this at a time when our federal government is telling us that tourism will be our saviour.

Tourism also rides economic roller coasters, the big economic ones and the smaller seasonal variations. It is important to note that while we acknowledge the increased dollar figures generated in Cape Breton, from $211 million to $230 million this year which will make tourism one of the important factors in rebuilding our shattered economy, it is by no means the only or the whole answer.

As some of my hon. colleagues may already know, we, the NDP caucus members from Nova Scotia, have been working with tourism operators across the maritime provinces. We are facing a situation of a monopolistic food supplier if the Sobey's-Oshawa group merger goes ahead. This merger could potentially spell disaster for the restaurants, bed and breakfast establishments and hotels that are price-takers from their food suppliers. If the merger goes ahead there will be virtually no competition in that sector. I think I could elicit support from just about any part of the House that a situation where no controls or competition is in place could spell disaster for the people who depend on these suppliers.

 

. 1015 + -

Nearly 77,000 people are directly or indirectly employed by tourism operators in Nova Scotia. The fact that the government has taken no initiative toward protecting the interests of small businesses that will potentially be hurt by the merger is yet another example of the federal Liberals abandoning the interests of working people.

While I feel I must support the passage of Bill C-5, I do not do this without some reservations with regard to the Liberal government's policies toward tourism and tourist operators. I do not feel that the Liberal government supports tourist operators, especially those who are small business owners and employees.

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her speech. I would like to ask her how Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourist Commission, would be different from what the Canadian Tourist Commission does now. I will read a paragraph about what the Canadian Tourist Commission is doing at the present time:

    The CTC is industry led and market driven. It is a consortium of Canadian private sector, provincial, territorial, regional and federal tourism partners who collaborate closely to match Canada's tourism products and services with customer demand...both regional and global...and to focus the Canadian industry's efforts as a whole. The CTC actively pursues partnership opportunities for its marketing, research, and industry and product development programs. Interested organizations or individuals are invited to contact the Commission with ideas and proposals. It should be noted, however, that the CTC does not provide grants or subsidies, nor does it act as a lobby group on behalf of the industry.

Could the hon. member explain how the new tourist commission, under the corporate banner of being a crown corporation, would in any way be different? Would it be more efficient? Would it do the same kinds of things? Would it do things differently? How does she see it operating? This is what is happening now. Is that bad? Does she not like it? What is the real advantage to forming a crown corporation?

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: Mr. Speaker, the answer is quite simple. As I stated in my comments the tourism industry supports the change. I respect the individuals in the industry and their ability to decide what best suits them.

The industry supports the change. The provinces support the change. The staff supports the change. I would only have to question why members of the House would not respect individuals in the industry who should obviously know what is best for their industry.

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my compliments to the member on her speech. I have a concern that is perhaps a bit more general. Just recently on November 1 we saw the Department of Revenue Canada become an agency. While it is not entirely a crown corporation, it is certainly moving in that direction.

The number of crown corporations is growing. For example, Nav Canada took over the navigation services of Transport Canada. It is supposedly a non-profit entity right now. It is interesting the Museum of Nature is a crown corporation. These corporations are arm's length from the government but their arms are about an inch and a half long.

We have distorted the meaning of a corporation by setting up an agency of the government, dependent on the government for funding, with board members most often appointed by the government. The distinction between a crown corporation and a department or government agency is so small that it makes me wonder why we are going through these motions.

As we look at Bill C-5 it strikes me that we are going through much the same motions, as though we are singing the hit tune of the day. What will the consequences be for the government in establishing these corporations? More particularly what will be the consequences for these corporations and those they serve when in fact the government is still running the show under a different guise?

 

. 1020 + -

Could the member respond to my dilemma with setting up crown corporations which are so close to the government that arm's length is a meaningless term?

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: Mr. Speaker, we have to be clear. Reform has always taken the position that if there is a government connection it is no good.

As I asked the colleague who questioned me prior, who are we to tell individuals in the industry what is good for them? We in the House are supposed to listen to the people we represent and bring their concerns here, not vice versa. We are not supposed to inflict our personal beliefs on individuals within industry.

When I hear that the staff supports it, the provinces support it and, more important, the people in the industry support it, that is certainly good enough for me and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party.

Mr. Werner Schmidt: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member does a pretty good job of turning the question around, and I compliment her on that.

Has she ever asked why the industry is supporting this approach? Why is the staff supporting this approach? Why does this seem to be something different? Is it better? If the functions are the same, if the objectives are the same and if the CTC is operating effectively now, why would a crown corporation be more effective than the present commission?

Judd Buchanan, present chairman of the CTC, was a very strong Liberal cabinet minister in the Trudeau regime. He does his work for $1 a year. If the crown corporation is established, does that mean that the president of the corporation will work for $1 a year? Is one of the reasons the staff is supporting it that their salaries will rise? Why is it supporting it? Could the member answer that question?

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: Mr. Speaker, I have real concerns with where Reformers keep coming from with respect to their questions. We are talking about the creation of a crown corporation. We all know, certainly those of us from Cape Breton, the Reform position with regard to Devco. If Reformers had their way they would fell all crown corporations and leave all Canadians on their own. Those that survive, great and those that sink, too bad.

An hon. member: Free enterprise.

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: The member says “free enterprise”. What, then, is our responsibility to individuals in the industry? In my home town in Cape Breton a number of individuals depend on the tourism industry for their bread and butter. The member asks why they feel this is better. As I have said before, they are the people in the industry.

I am not a tourist operator. I respect why they are saying this is best for them. I do not understand why Reformers would take the position that they do not think it is good and therefore inflict their beliefs on the industry.

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to explain very specifically why we in the Reform do not think this is a good bill.

The reason that individuals are supporting the crown corporation concept is simple. It is likely that a lot more money will be spent on the institution but there will be less accountability. When members of parliament try to get information from the access to information department on crown corporations, we run into a virtual roadblock because crown corporations do not have to be accountable for the way they run their business.

I do not think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out that private business can do a job better than government can. Under the current set up we have a program that is directly responsible to parliament through the Department of Industry. We do not want to see that taken away from us. We do not want to see the accountability taken out of this place and given to an untouchable board.

 

. 1025 + -

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill: Mr. Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague make the remark that the creation of a crown corporation would mean more money.

We on this side of the House do not have any problem at all in investing in small businesses across the country. When I listen to members of the Reform, their position has always been let us sell off everything in the country and allow those who can survive to survive and those who cannot to waste away.

Mr. Jim Jones (Markham, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to an issue that is fundamentally vital to the Canadian economy, the issue of tourism. Bill C-5 is an initiative that will see the Canadian Tourism Commission transformed from its present status as a special operating agency into that of a crown corporation.

The Canadian Tourism Commission was originally set up in 1994 by order in council and under the guidance of the Department of Industry. Its mandate is to manage, plan and implement programs that generate and promote tourism in Canada.

The bill before us represents an evolutionary step in the process by turning the agency into a crown corporation. Such a change will result in many fundamental differences, all of which are designed with the intent of providing greater flexibility to the CTC, thus allowing it to better serve the tourism industry.

Most of the components contained in the bill are without controversy. For instance, there seems to be broad support offered by the provinces. This support is predicated upon several factors.

First, the act gives a legislative mandate to the function of marketing Canada as a tourism destination. That mandate specifies a significant role for industry, provinces and territories in national tourism marketing. This role of the provinces raises a few questions as to why we are not respecting the equality of all provinces in the bill, but I will touch on them later.

The second reason provincial governments seem inclined to support the bill centres around the restrictions placed on the CTC specifically. The commission may not initiate or finance programs involving the acquisition or construction of real property, immovables or facilities related to tourism. This ensures that the commission's interest will be focused on marketing. In the past federal tourism funds have somehow been used with mixed success on facility development programs.

The third and most important reason has to do with the perceived commitment by the federal government to have the marketing of tourism led by industry rather than by government. I say perceived because as the legislation presently stands the corporation will be made up of 26 directors.

Sixteen of the directors will be appointed by the Minister of Industry and will serve at the pleasure of the minister. The other 10 directors will essentially be made up of provincial deputy ministers of tourism or their equivalent. I am doing the math and it does not look good for the provinces. Worse still is the notion that the minister maintains a comfortable majority on the board by having 16 pleasure appointments that he can yank whenever one steps out of line. Honestly everybody wants to rule the world but we must protect against this.

When I reviewed the stated objectives of the bill I was not struck by any intentions that would be overtly out of line. The CTC objectives include sustaining a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry; marketing Canada as a desirable tourist destination; providing information about Canada's tourism to the private sector; and supporting a co-operative relationship among the private sector, the Government of Canada, the provinces and the territories. No alarm bells here.

How can these initiatives be achieved if the deck is stacked against provincial representatives to begin with? If the true intention is to sustain a vibrant industry we should not introduce a predetermined barrier to that dynamic.

I want to make clear that I am not discussing patronage. I do not question the intention of the minister. The reality of the situation is clear. Provincial representatives will certainly watch out for their own regional issues.

 

. 1030 + -

However, even if all provincial governments are in agreement on a specific policy, the minister maintains a very heavy hammer to pound in order to achieve what he wants. This is not enough for my party to oppose the bill at this time, although I look forward to exploring this further at the committee stage.

Another point in this bill that concerns not only myself but also the tourism minister of Prince Edward Island is the regional representation breakdown for the appointed directors. The bill, in clause 11, delineates six different regions of the country. They are as follows: the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta, which is combined with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and British Columbia, which is combined with the Yukon.

Bill C-5 does not respect the fundamental equality of all provinces and that will be explored further. However, there is another issue that I want to raise, which has to do with the relative importance of tourism to the economies of the individual provinces. While the gross figure for revenue generated by Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia may not come close to those generated by other provinces, their tourism dollars as a percentage of GDP speak volumes for their need to have effective representation.

I raise these issues out of a desire to improve the bill and to respect the fundamental nature of Canada, but by and large the minister has done a commendable job in producing a bill that has such initial broad support. I have had positive feedback from the governments of Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island for the general aims and principles of the bill. Since those are provinces governed by members of my party, I know they are therefore quite reasonable and astute on such matters.

Tourism endures the peculiar legacy of being big business carried out by thousands of small operators. This commission is a very important initiative since tourism injects nearly $47 billion a year into our economy. These are not constant dollars that we can count on to be there year after year. We must do our part to assist tourism operators to grow their revenues.

In 1998 Canada witnessed a drop in visitors from some of our major overseas markets. Japan was down 14%, France was down 8% and Germany was down 5%. When we consider that tourism employs over 500,000 Canadians directly, plus a multitude of spin-off jobs, it is an industry that is too important to keep our hands at bay. Of course, an active hand does not mean an interventionist hand. I am aware that the minister understands that, which is why he is endeavouring to make it an industry driven venture. It is a difficult task, to be sure, especially when we consider that government nets 31 cents out of every tourism dollar spent in Canada. It is certainly an incentive that would have some advocate a more activist role for government. That is why my party is supportive of Bill C-5 and its less intrusive approach.

Tourism is Canada's 12th largest revenue generating industry, with 40% of that revenue generated in my home province of Ontario. Like many of my colleagues in the House, I have a vested interest in assisting this bill forward.

In order to understand and judge the viability and worth of any government project, I find it useful to start from the premise of what the situation would be if it did not exist. There is no need to reinvent the wheel to answer that question. All we need to do is look to our neighbours to the south where we see a situation that has a certain amount of disarray to it. The U.S. federal government did away with the U.S. travel and tourism authority at few years back. Now the U.S. tourism industry is actively lobbying for a new national body.

If we start from the premise that this body is absolutely necessary, and for the most part I think we are there, then it is incumbent upon us to get it right. We must be open to all input on proper structuring, especially from industry members themselves, since at present the private sector and the provinces are paying more than 50% of the tab.

In the limited time I have had to meet with stakeholders, it has become clear that we are just scratching the surface with tourism now. What we need to achieve is the creation of a commission that will allow the industry to maximize our potential growth areas with destination strategies and growth in areas like adventure travel and ecotourism. We also need to develop a strategy that will assist rural tourist operators in their ongoing struggle to obtain financing.

 

. 1035 + -

Obviously we are not going to be able to address such specific issues in an effective way as a parliamentary body. That is why I hold out such hope for this commission.

If we do our job properly, we will have a tourism commission that will be a model for other nations for years to come. That is why the Progressive Conservative Party is supporting Bill C-5 at second reading.

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the enthusiasm of the hon. member who just spoke is well directed. I think we all agree that the tourism industry in Canada is a very significant issue and that it has not been developed as well as it might have been. That goes without saying. I am a very strong proponent of supporting the development of the tourism industry. I agree with the hon. member.

How does the member see this crown corporation advancing the cause of tourism more effectively, more efficiently and more rapidly than is the case with the Canadian tourism commission that currently operates under Industry Canada?

There are 26 directors under the Canadian tourism commission at the present time, including the president and the director. That is exactly the same number that exists under the provisions of the new legislation to set up the crown corporation. The representation from the various parts of Canada, the provinces and the regions, is more or less the same, if not exactly the same. The way in which the distribution takes place as to which parts of the tourism industry ought to be represented is also the same.

Does the hon. member really believe that a crown corporation will more effectively meet the advancement of tourism in Canada?

I agree, that should be the case for Canadians. It ought to be happening. That is why the CTC was established in the first place.

Does the hon. member really believe that a crown corporation will be more effective and more cost effective than the current tourism commission?

Mr. Jim Jones: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my speech, I have some concerns about the composition of the board, with 16 members reporting to the federal minister and one member from each of the provinces reporting to the deputy minister.

However, by moving it from an agency of Industry Canada to a more autonomous body, a crown corporation, I think we have a better opportunity to exploit the opportunities that exist in tourism. It is a vital industry. Hopefully the industry will grow because of this corporation.

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to pursue this a bit further, and I thank the hon. member for his thoughtful presentation on this subject.

There will be 26 board members in the new corporation, as there are with the Canadian tourism commission. Sixteen of the board members will be appointed by the minister. There is already a majority, but then the remaining representatives will be appointed with advice.

I would like to know how this could possibly be seen as anything other than complete domination by the federal government. Where is the arm's length relationship? The federal government appoints the majority, appoints the remainder on advice, and it has the ability to rescind those appointments. It is totally dominated by the federal government.

I am not speaking against the need for tourism operators to have all the support they can get. Goodness knows, there is no part of the country that does not seek to enhance itself through tourism. It has been a wonderful advantage for Canadians and for people outside the country to come and know where and who we are, as we are, and to appreciate Canada and Canadians.

 

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However, it seems to me that what we have here is a step backward from the limited accountability that even the Canadian tourism commission has, where the board is appointed by the minister, acts like a corporation and has a curtain between it and openness with the public. I fail to see how the corporation will be able to do more than the Canadian tourism commission does and at the same time have the same accountability.

Mr. Jim Jones: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member from the Reform Party for his comments and his question. I have the same difficulty that he does with the composition of the board. As I said, there are six regions that the government is setting up. The provincial people will designate who would normally be the deputy minister of tourism for their particular province. I think it should be made more fair and that the composition of the board should change if we really want to advance tourism and ensure that every one of the six regions which are promoted in the bill has a powerful say at the table about what should be done.

This is a dynamic industry. It is probably a hidden asset for Canada which we can exploit. When I first saw the bill and received the presentation from the department, my initial concern was the composition of the board and it is still my concern.

However, at this point in time I am supporting the bill at second reading so that the bill can go to committee. I will be further addressing that issue because I have a concern in that area as well.

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, we have today before us a bill that was first introduced in the last session. It is entitled an act to establish the Canadian tourism commission, which is part of Industry Canada. The government wants to give it crown corporation status.

I suppose the first question to be asked is exactly what does the Canadian tourism commission do and why does it need to be a crown corporation.

The CTC, or the Canadian tourism commission, was created in 1995 to promote Canadian tourism and establish partnerships with the private sector, the provinces and federal tourism partners. It uses the money it receives from various sources to do research and to market Canada as a travel destination.

The CTC receives an appropriation of about $65 million every year. Of that amount $12 million goes to salaries and overhead and approximately $52 million goes to promotion and product development. The tourism industry in Canada matches that amount, so that a total of about $130 million is spent annually. The CTC, by the way, has 62 employees in Ottawa.

To go a little further in the explanation of what the CTC is, it has a 26 member decision making board of directors which functions as a special operating agency in delivering the tourism mandate of the federal government. The board of directors is comprised mainly of private sector companies with direct interest in establishing Canada as a preferred tourist destination.

When I received a briefing on this bill from the CTC I was told that the commission wants to become a crown corporation because it feels constrained and cannot operate effectively within the government. It said that it cannot move quickly enough.

I guess I can be a bit sympathetic with that request. What part of government ever moved quickly enough?

 

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I think there is ample evidence that crown corporations do not exactly have a sterling record of moving quickly either. It has been my experience that crown corporations can get away with a lot but I and many Canadians have never realized that they could actually move more quickly than government.

An hon. member: Except when it comes to closure.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I am reminded by my colleague that there is one area in which the government can certainly move quickly and that is when it brings closure to debate in the House. It is moving quickly to surpass the previous Tory government's record. It is going to blow by the Mulroney government in grand style within a matter of weeks on bringing closure to the House and stopping democratic debate. I thank my colleague for bringing that to my attention.

The Reform Party has a philosophical problem with crown corporations. We believe that ownership and control of corporations should be placed in the sector that can perform the task the most cost effectively with the greatest accountability to owners and the least likelihood of incurring more public debt or any public debt for that matter. There is overwhelming evidence this would be the private sector in the vast majority of cases. History has told us that a private sector organization or institution can perform far more effectively than any government arm or crown corporation could ever hope to do.

We believe that many crown corporations, as we have stated publicly a number of times, should either be privatized or go back to the departments that spawned them in the first place. Then the ministers who have them in their departments could be accountable to the people of Canada through the opposition, certainly through the official opposition, the Reform Party of Canada.

I think everyone knows that no party in the House has ever questioned the operation of crown corporations and demanded accountability more than the Reform Party of Canada has since we came here as an official party in 1993. We are proud of that record because we have the interests of Canadian taxpayers at heart. That is why we ask questions that no other party has ever bothered to ask. Those who have been members of the cozy country club that has existed for so many decades in Ottawa do not want to do anything to upset the people in that club. We are not in that club and we are proud of it. That is why we ask the tough questions.

The Reform Party will be opposing the bill. We feel that there is no good reason to give the Canadian Tourism Commission crown corporation status.

We do not know how much more money it will cost. We know that the chairman of the existing CTC which operates under the Department of Transport is paid $1 a year. Judd Buchanan, a long time Liberal, is working for $1 a year. We do not know what other compensation or perks he is getting but $1 a year sounds pretty good to us. Does anyone think for a minute that the new chairman of the crown corporation style CTC will want to work for $1 a year?

One has to wonder if there is not a friend of the Liberals out there that they have forgotten to reward since 1993. One has to imagine that the appointment of the head of that crown corporation is already picked. By golly, I think we would find that he is someone who is well known to the Prime Minister, to the Liberal government and to any of those members. It is a guarantee and I would be willing to put a few dollars on that appointment. It may even be a friend of the deputy government whip. She seems to be enjoying this part of the speech. Perhaps it is a friend of hers who helped with her campaign.

If a crown corporation is formed and the CTC is taken out of the responsibility of the Minister of Industry, we lose almost 100% of the accountability. This crown corporation will operate with an autonomy that will basically guarantee that it is going to be free from any inquiry through access to information as to how its operation goes and how it is spending its money. We do not want that to happen.

 

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An hon. member: Taxpayer money.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: The member from Surrey just reminded me that it is taxpayer money once again. I shudder to think that I have been here six years and I forget that important little point, and I do not.

The industry department issued a paper which supports the rapid divestiture of crown assets. This makes me wonder why the department is sponsoring the bill in the first place.

I refer to a paper in the House entitled “Canada in the 21st Century—Institutions in Growth—Framework Policy as a Tool of Competitive Advantage for Canada”. This sounds like it is going to cost Canadians a lot of money. If we start getting academics trying to figure out how to spend taxpayers' money, it could be a pretty sad situation.

The point is that in comparison to other OECD countries, Canada has had historically high levels of state ownership. In a country that is considered primarily a free enterprise country, a country where the people of Canada should take a role in private enterprise, the private sector and industry, Canada has a very unusually high level of state ownership. That is a little scary.

In 1986 the Economic Council of Canada reported that government owned and controlled companies accounted for 26% of the net fixed assets of all Canadian corporations in 1983. That is pretty astounding and pretty shocking. Yet these firms accounted for less than 5% of the total employment in the country. They accounted for 26% of the net fixed assets of all the Canadian corporations, yet less than 5% of the total employment. This adds even more credibility to the fact that the private sector is the best place to create jobs. The government should recognize that instead of trying to usurp the efforts of private sector industry in helping our economy.

These numbers do not say very much about the employment creation capacities of government owned crown corporations and companies. I would like to share my time with my colleague from the Okanagan.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): I am sure we can accommodate the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley. We will go then to questions and comments.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Our party has 40 minutes at this time. I will speak for 20 minutes and my colleague will speak for 20 minutes.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The way it works is there are 40 minute slots for the first round of debate if we are resuming debate for the first three speakers. We are in 20 minute slots, not 40 minute slots.

The member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley has kindly offered to share his time with the member for Kelowna. We have gone that far, so we are in questions and comments now, unless of course, he would like to ask for unanimous consent to revert to where we were.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I could just wrap up my 10 minutes and then my colleague would speak.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): No, you either get in or you get out, one or the other. Your option is to take five minutes in questions and comments right now, or ask for the consent of the House to continue, use up your full 20 minute allotment and then a 10 minute question and comment period. It is one or the other.

 

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Mr. Richard M. Harris: Just a point of clarification, Mr. Speaker. When will my colleague from the Okanagan be permitted to speak?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): We are not going to negotiate this. We are going into questions and comments.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am under the impression that we are still discussing my options. I have my options figured out now and I would like to make a decision to continue my speech, if I may.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): We have unanimous consent for the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley to split his time. Do we have unanimous consent to rescind the previous decision?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues. I know they were enjoying my presentation so much they shuddered to think that I was going to finish up quickly.

Since coming to Ottawa a little more than six years ago, the experiences we have had in dealing with crown corporations have not been exactly fruitful or satisfying. Whenever we try to get information about how taxpayers' money is being spent, we get a pretty big run around.

I learned very quickly after coming to Ottawa that crown corporations simply do not have to tell us anything about how they operate if they do not want to. We made a number of requests through access to information to get some information about certain crown corporations and we hit a brick wall, to put it fairly specifically.

The minister will say that this new entity is at arm's length and he is not responsible. The minister should be responsible to the House for how taxpayers' money is spent. He should not be permitted to duck this responsibility by turning the CTC into a crown corporation.

I am sure you will understand this, Mr. Speaker, because you have been a member of the House for some time.

The minute the crown corporation is formed it will immediately begin to plead that the confidentiality of its private or commercial stakeholders will be compromised if it starts talking about how it spends its money or how it operates its little business.

The Deputy Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but it is time that we moved to the next item of business which is called for at 11 o'clock. Accordingly the hon. member will have eight minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks following question period.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

CRIME PREVENTION

Mr. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo is a leader in crime prevention.

The Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council was established in the region in 1993. This community based organization committed to preventing crime was so successful that it was one of the models for the establishment of the federal government's $32 million per year national strategy on community safety and crime prevention of which the National Crime Prevention Centre is a part.

The recently announced partnership between the centre and the Insurance Council of Canada to reduce auto theft is welcome but not surprising. The insurance industry in my community has supported local crime prevention efforts for many years.

This joint initiative takes a particular interest in preventing children from being drawn into automobile theft. Currently 43% of convicted car thieves are between the ages of 12 and 17. With the rate of auto theft rising and the resulting $48 a year increase in insurance premiums for consumers, this initiative between government and property and casualty insurers in communities across the country is a logical and timely one. Well done.

*  *  *

IMMIGRATION

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, 599 people came from China by boat and landed on British Columbia shores this summer. Of those 599, only one has been determined to be a true refugee. Months later, 389 claims have yet to be dealt with. The minister's response? Bill C-16, which has said absolutely nothing about this issue. It does nothing about streamlining our immigration process. It gives a green light to the indentured slavery that this immigration scam represents. It does nothing to help true refugees. It does nothing to help our immigration process.

 

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Today, Central American refugees are selling drugs on Vancouver streets and can still apply through our refugee process. Today, true refugees are mixed with false refugees and we have an immigration process that is in disarray.

Today, I am introducing a private member's bill, seconded by the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, that would streamline this process.

To the Minister of Immigration: Get with the program. Introduce changes that are fair to everyone, fair to refugees—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Nepean—Carleton.

*  *  *

TOBACCO

Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Canada, accounting for 45,000 deaths each year.

We know that 85% of all adults who smoke started the habit before the age of 18. Smoking rates for Canadian youth are increasing at an alarming rate. Twenty-nine per cent of 15 to 19 year olds now smoke, and in some groups, like the Inuit for instance, around 71% of youth are smoking.

I would like to welcome to Ottawa 17 young people from across Canada. They are all members of the newly established youth advisory committee on tobacco issues which will be advising the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Children and Youth on smoking and tobacco issues from a young person's perspective.

These youths were selected on the basis of their work in their own communities and their interest and experience in discouraging tobacco use by their peers. We look forward to their input on this life and death issue.

*  *  *

CHILD POVERTY

Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have observed the 10th anniversary of a unanimous House of Commons resolution to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Regrettably and sadly, this goal is beyond our grasp. Our noble expectations lie in failure.

Today, we observe poor families falling deeper into poverty and the gap widening between their incomes and those of well off families.

Children are our greatest assets, our greatest treasures. We must reaffirm our desire, indeed our necessity, to work much harder to include the unincluded in society.

The government has signalled its intention to act and the foundation has been put in place for a national children's agenda. Intentions must become reality and the reality must be now. Children are a priority of this government.

*  *  *

[Translation]

SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Canadian government announced a $1 million science and engineering research prize in honour of the late Gerhard Herzberg, winner of Canada's first Nobel prize for research in chemistry.

The annual award is a millennium project of NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and is intended to honour and support the best of Canada's researchers.

Such an initiative is particularly important as we rapidly approach the new millennium, since it will enable Canada to continue to play a lead role in the international scientific world.

We wish all the young Canadians who will have an opportunity to take advantage of this the best of luck.

*  *  *

[English]

RIGHTS OF YOUTH

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, last week the Liberal government fully endorsed an election for the rights of youth. Only 3.8% of all Canadian students participated in this exercise, yet access to information documents obtained by the Reform Party revealed that the human resources department intends to “after the election, publish and present to the PMO the children's youth mandate”. What a mandate, 3.8%.

This Liberal exercise cost taxpayers half a million dollars and was done without the approval of parents, school boards or provincial ministers of education.

Access documents revealed that the human resources department asks “Where can HRDC get the most mileage?”

Is this the Liberal government's new strategy, to use children for partisan purposes to support its own political agenda?

*  *  *

GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO

Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, so much for the Mike Harris tax cuts and sound financial management in the province of Ontario.

After the people of Ontario have finished shelling out thousands of extra dollars in new user fees, drug co-payments, higher municipal property taxes, paying for important services that used to be covered by OHIP and whopping tuition fees, they will not be any better off than they were five years ago.

The reform-a-tory government at Queen's Park will even charge a $125 fee to single parents with children to collect child support payments. Students now have to call a 1-900 number and pay if they want information about their student loans.

While most jurisdictions are increasing support for post-secondary education, Mike Harris, who already is the lowest per capita funder of post-secondary education in North America, will now cut an additional $800 million from our education system.

The Tories are demanding that municipalities, on whom they have already downloaded huge financial burdens, pay 30% of capital projects for hospitals.

The people of Ontario do not even get a balanced budget in return for the destruction of their social fabric.

*  *  *

 

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[Translation]

CHECHNYA

Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the tragic history of Chechnya, marked with 200 years of conflict with powerful Russia, is not over yet.

More than 50 years out of the 19th century were taken up with war between the two, and in the 20th century there were uprisings in 1921, 1924, 1928 and 1936. Stalin saw no way of putting an end to the conflict, so in 1944 he decided to empty Chechnya of its people. Under the pretext that the Chechens were German collaborators, he decided to deport them to Siberia.

Since then, they have come back. Now they are being accused of terrorism rather than collaboration, but their tragic history seems to be repeating itself.

This people will never be conquered by armed strength. Only a negotiated solution will be able to bring peace to a region that has already suffered far too much from war.

*  *  *

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, the Government of Canada took part in the inauguration of La Vérendrye boulevard west in the city of Gatineau.

This new section, between autoroute 50 and highway 307, was funded by the Quebec department of transport and the Canadian department of transport, which shared the total cost of $14 million jointly.

This achievement is tangible evidence of the possible, desirable and vital co-operation between the two levels of government to consolidate regional development here and in all regions of Quebec.

That is an example of co-operation which will be of benefit to everyone in our community.

*  *  *

[English]

HOCKEY

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the member for Nepean—Carleton said in the House that the hockey game last night would “establish the bragging rights to parliamentary hockey supremacy in Canada once and for all”.

Well, it certainly did, but it is the United Opposition and not the government that now reigns supreme.

In a hotly contested battle, the true united alternative to the overconfident, boastful Liberals came out on top. With a team consisting of six Reform MPs, a single MP from the Bloc, the NDP and the Tories, a Reform staffer goalie and two opposition CTV members of the media, Team Opposition coasted to a six-four victory. What a treat for the sell-out crowd in the Corel Centre to witness the humbled, downcast Team Liberal and the overjoyed exuberance of the United Opposition.

Following the game, the opposition MPs enjoyed hot wings and beer while the members for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and Mississauga West ate crow. In hockey, unlike federal elections, the Liberals cannot claim victory from tallying only 40% of the points.

*  *  *

[Translation]

LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA

Mr. Denis Paradis (Brome—Missisquoi, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, 3.00 p.m. today marks the start of the convention of the Quebec section of the Liberal Party of Canada.

The members of our party will be looking at issues around four major themes: first, the economy and taxation; second, social development and social security; third, regional and rural development and, fourth, cultural identity.

This convention was preceded by 14 public meetings. Over 1,600 people and 420 organizations came forward to say clearly and openly what the Government of Canada could do to better meet their needs.

This convention is for the members of the Liberal Party of Canada. They will give their opinions on measures needed to help Quebec and Canada step resolutely into the next millennium.

*  *  *

[English]

THE LATE DOUG SAHM

Mr. Rick Laliberte (Churchill River, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it has certainly been a very sad week for the people of Churchill River who have lost a good friend.

We found a friend way down in Texas named Doug Sahm. It was a tragedy to hear about the passing last week of such a young artist at 58 years old. He made contributions to the music industry and the sport industry and befriended Canadians, including the people of northern Canada.

On behalf of the people of Churchill River, I send our condolences to his compadres, Freddie Fender, Flaco Jimenez, Augie Meyers and Louis Ortega. We also send our condolences to Ernie Dawawa, Speedy Sparks, Rocky Morales, his two sons who have taken up careers in the music industry, and to his dear friends and family from Texas.

 

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As a person who came from down south, he admired Canada.

At this time of thanksgiving, we would like to give thanks to Doug Sahm. We are truly proud of what he has done and we are truly soulful for what his music will do for us in the future.

*  *  *

[Translation]

DEMOCRACY

Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Quebec branch of the Liberal Party of Canada is holding its twice-yearly meeting in Hull this weekend.

This will be an opportunity for the federal Liberals in Quebec to reaffirm their belief in democracy. It will also be an opportunity for them to remind certain of their elected representatives in Ottawa that one of the inescapable principles of democracy is one person, one vote.

To question the universally recognized 50% plus one rule is to hand over decision-making to a minority.

In a country where the democratic quality of life should be an example to the international community, creating two classes of voters is to ignore what democracy is all about.

We remind the federal ministers from Quebec that they should take this opportunity to clarify what they understand by democracy. Democracy is the responsibility of all elected representatives. It concerns all citizens.

*  *  *

[English]

FOOTBALL

Mr. Ovid L. Jackson (Bruce—Grey, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this weekend we will be celebrating one of the great Canadian traditions, a game invented in Canada. I speak of the game of football.

The best in the east and the best in the west will come together in Vancouver, British Columbia: the Hamilton Tiger Cats versus the Calgary Stampeders. No doubt two political junkies will be there. I speak of the premier of Alberta and the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The Deputy Speaker: I am afraid the hon. member is out of order.

*  *  *

PUBLIC WORKS

Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, it is time we changed the title of the public works minister to the patronage works minister. Recently he appointed four high profile Liberals to senior positions at Canada Post and the Royal Canadian Mint.

Gilles Champagne of Montreal, who is a member of the Liberal Party of Canada and a regular donor, was just appointed to the board at Canada Post. Also appointed was Terri Lemke who was a tour director for the Saskatchewan Liberals before she got her patronage post.

This week the minister appointed a 30-year veteran of the Liberal trough, André Ouellet, as Canada Post's new president where he will double his salary as Post Office chair.

Most offensive of all, the public works minister just appointed his long time personal friend Emmanuel Triassi as chair of the Royal Canadian Mint. Mr. Triassi got his job even though he never sat on the Mint's board, does not have a degree in finance, has never studied metals and does not have a coin collection.

Nice work, Mr. Speaker, if you can get it.

*  *  *

CANADA POST

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadians and the government are determined to make Canada a world leader in the field of electronic commerce by the year 2000.

Today the president of Canada Post and the Minister of Industry are in Toronto taking part in an historic occasion, the launch of the electronic post office. Epost will be the single place for Canadians to receive all of their important mail electronically, securely and privately from their home, office, school or wherever there is a computer with access to the Internet.

In a global knowledge based economy, innovative countries that can quickly adapt to the latest technology are the ones that are most likely to succeed. Epost is a major leap in the right direction for Canada Post.

I invite all Canadians to register for their free electronic post office.

*  *  *

CANADA ELECTIONS ACT

Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2, the Canada Elections Act, is again weaving its way through the House.

Under this act, an individual will never again have the right to speak as loudly as a political party during an election. He or she will no longer have the ability to spend all he or she wants defending his or her view of what the country should become.

Twice before, these laws have been passed. Twice before, they have been challenged. Twice before, our courts have found these laws unconstitutional.

At great taxpayer expense, the solicitor general will again have the unhappy task of defending this latest incarnation of the gag law. A task that should rightly fail.

It is my sincere hope that I will one day see the end of our government's efforts to muzzle Canadians.

*  *  *

 

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EMPLOYMENT

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it sometimes feels like there is a choice between having a job and having a life. Overwork and long hours are epidemic in Canada. In the first four months of 1997 almost two million workers put in overtime, most of it unpaid, while one-third of working Canadians say they are constantly under stress.

At the same time unemployment remains staggeringly high when compared with other countries. There are serious social issues and human costs associated in a society divided between the chronically overworked and the chronically unemployed.

I believe that a reduction and redistribution of work time deserves to be the new public policy priority. A substantial reduction of work time, such as a standard 32 hour work week, deserves to be the target early in the new millennium.

It is time for governments to take up this challenge. If we can achieve a better distribution of work time and leisure, stories about an improving economic situation might start to ring true for the vast numbers of Canadians who are unemployed, underemployed or overworked.

*  *  *

HOCKEY

Mrs. Elsie Wayne (Saint John, PC): Mr. Speaker,

Last night in Ottawa, was a night to remember,
Our hockey team beat, every Liberal member.

T'was a sign of the times to come
A government left, cold and numb

The Corel Centre...was our rink,
Hec, the team yonder really did stink.

Reform and the Tories, the NDP and the Bloc,
Sure gave the Liberals quite a big shock.

We scored for the Sea Kings and for the GST...
Toward the end, they just scored for me.

The Liberal backbenches were terribly shook,
Not so much confusion, since the red book.

Perhaps they'd play better if not on the fence,
Out there, like in here, they have no defence.

Although not a psychic, I will make these projections,
Liberal defeats in the next three elections.

And for the little member who just wore his hat,
I've just got to say...how about that!

When my Saint John Flames score,
We let out a big roar.

So Mr. Speaker let's hear that roar...
The opposition beat the Liberals...6 to 4!



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

NATIONAL UNITY

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister spent the past week pretending to be the federalist strongman. Rather than working on ways to make the federation stronger, he paraded around the country talking about tinkering with the referendum rules. He says there has to be a clear majority but he will not define what that means.

I have a question for the Deputy Prime Minister. Why will the Prime Minister not define exactly what he means by a clear majority?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the way the Reform approached this issue in the past few days by personally attacking the Prime Minister does not show that the leader of the Reform Party is the statesman he claims to be and should be as Leader of the Opposition in Canada.

I hope the Reform Party will keep the debate at the level where it should be because our country must be more important than our parties.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would have certainly liked to have been included in the debate rather than hearing about the debate from some caucus meeting.

The Prime Minister should be worried more about heading into the next referendum without positive changes to our federation. He should be more worried about not offering Quebecers an alternative to either status quo federalism or separation.

If the Prime Minister really wants to set the rules straight, why will he not tell us what he means by those rules? Why not?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will first explain why the Reform Party is nothing in Quebec.

It has never shown any support for bilingualism in the country. It is always attacking the Official Languages Act. It has no sympathy for the national cultural institutions of the country. It does not support the distinct society resolution, the regional veto resolution, the Young Offenders Act, and the modality to accommodate Quebec.

It has spoken against that. It has spoken against the constitutional amendment to Quebec and Newfoundland. For all of this, it must—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Macleod.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, let me make real plain what the Reform Party supports. We support making the federation work better so that there will be no appetite for separation in the country.

The question that the intergovernmental affairs minister is avoiding is a straightforward question.

 

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If clarity on the majority is so important, why will the Prime Minister not tell us here and now what that clarity should be? What is the majority?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the question is legitimate. The issue is why the Reform Party took three days before asking the question. Instead it blamed the Prime Minister for raising the issue.

The Prime Minister raised the issue because the Quebec government is threatening the country with the possibility of a unilateral declaration of independence. This is what the Reform Party should have attacked, and not the Prime Minister for two days.

If the Reform Party is now willing to take the high road and to look at the matter seriously, obviously the Reform Party is right that we need clarity. We truly agree with that.

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the week the brain trusts in the Prime Minister's Office seemed to be perfectly clear. They were adamant at the beginning of the week and now by Friday they say that we will be perfectly clear on the required majority and will do that by not telling anyone the actual number required. That is not a brilliant strategy.

I do not know if they think that separatists will be shaking in their boots over that. Imagine—brace yourself, Mr. Speaker—the Prime Minister will be very clear that he will be very unclear in the days to come.

Does the intergovernmental affairs minister not realize that the Prime Minister is in danger of becoming one of Mr. Bouchard's winning conditions?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, why do Reform Party members not recognize that what they should be doing is standing up for Canada instead of reaching out to the separatists?

They are asking the wrong questions and they are taking the wrong attitude toward maintaining a strong, united Canada. Why do they not get on board in the fight for Canada?

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, we are asking questions. Certainly we have not had a single answer yet this morning.

It reads like the stuff of a cheap teenage novel, the Shawinigan strongman and the mystery majority. You have to picture it, Mr. Speaker. Imagine this week the advisers saying “We'll put the Prime Minister out there. We'll get him to be very blustery. We'll get him to bang on the table a few times and then we'll have him declare: let me be perfectly clear. I have known since a long time that I don't know where to go from here and I have nothing to be more clearer than that”.

That is what has happened this week. More could have been done than reigniting the separatist flame. Why do they not tell Canadians what they mean by a clear majority?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the mystery here is why the Reform Party is making personal attacks on the Prime Minister instead of joining him in his fight for a united Canada and against separatism.

They are reaching out to the separatists. We are reaching out to all Canadians to maintain a united Canada. Why do they not join with us?

*  *  *

[Translation]

REFERENDUMS

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening, in Nova Scotia, the Prime Minister said he would introduce a measure in parliament to set the rules governing the decision Quebecers will make about their future.

Can the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs tell us when this measure will be introduced in the House?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are two things here.

First, the idea is not to set the rules for a provincial referendum. The Government of Quebec is absolutely free to ask any question it wants to Quebecers. Rather, the idea is to identify the degree of clarity required for the Government of Canada to have an obligation to negotiate the serious issue of Quebec's separation from the rest of Canada. This is what we are talking about.

It may be that we will never have to do this, if the Quebec government were to say immediately that it will not hold a referendum, because, with a clear question and a clear majority, it will not of course get the necessary support for its separation project.

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, could the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, this great expert on clarity, tell us clearly what meaning his government is giving to the term measure? Just what does the Prime Minister mean by measure?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that something can be done officially, in various ways, to set out for all Canadians, in a more precise manner, under which circumstances the Government of Canada would negotiate or refuse to negotiate the end of its constitutional responsibilities toward one quarter of the Canadian population, and the break-up of the country.

We are fully confident that, if there are no tricks or confusion, Quebecers will always choose to remain in Canada and improve our country, along with other Canadians.

*  *  *

 

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SUDAN

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on October 26, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that he would sever all economic ties with Sudan if an investigation proved that oil operations by the Canadian company Talisman was exacerbating the conflict that is tearing that country apart.

On November 17, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a study that in fact confirmed the minister's fears.

How then can the minister explain his inaction?

Mr. Denis Paradis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is very concerned about the events in Sudan.

We have done two things. The government has appointed Senator Lois Wilson to head the peace mission as Canada's special envoy.

As well, it has appointed John Harker, a well-known figure in labour circles in Canada in the past, to head a fact-finding commission to Sudan. He is on his way to Sudan as we speak and will be making a report to us shortly.

Mrs. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I see the minister does not have confidence in the UN's report.

This morning's National Post reports that the Desmarais family has major interests in Sudan.

Do the close ties between that family and the government, the Liberal Party, and the Prime Minister in particular, not explain Canada's complacency with respect to the brutal regime in place in Sudan?

Mr. Denis Paradis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): No, Mr. Speaker, what the National Post report this morning indicated was that a French company held interests in the oil extraction activities in Sudan.

To repeat what I have already said to the hon. member, Mr. Harker is heading a fact-finding commission on what is happening in Sudan. If his report should indicate that there is a connection between the profits generated by oil extraction activities in Sudan and human rights abuses, then Canada would consider the appropriateness of sanctions.

*  *  *

[English]

BANKING

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Last year about this time the big banks were saying that the sky would fall if they were not allowed to merge. The sky did not fall. Instead we have had the raining of pennies from heaven, loonies, toonies and gold, and a record of $9 billion in profit in the last year. Now those CEOs want to lay off some 15,000 people in the next three years.

Will the minister refer the issues of job losses and branch closures to the appropriate parliamentary committee for review and action?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that committees are indeed masters in their own house. Committees do not need references from me or from anyone else. If a finance committee or any other committee wants to look into this or any other matter, it can certainly do so.

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, talk about evading a question. The compensation package for the top 24 executives of the five big banks is over a quarter of a billion dollars this year. That is equivalent to the annual pay of some 12,000 bank tellers, mostly women.

In light of that, could the minister assure us that the upcoming legislation on financial services will contain provisions for protecting jobs and allowing communities to veto a bank closure where the closure is not in the interest of the community?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, because he has followed this issue closely, in the government statement on the whole question of financial services reform we set out very progressive legislation on the way in which bank closures would be handled and on the way in which the entire system, consumers and all stakeholders, should be protected.

*  *  *

[Translation]

REFERENDUMS

Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC): Mr. Speaker, we are seeing the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs start to backpedal in the debate launched this week by the Prime Minister.

It is now apparent that he does indeed admit that the question is a matter for the National Assembly and that any decision as to whether it is clear and whether or not there is a large enough majority after a vote to force Canada to negotiate will be based on this question.

That having been said, while the minister is beginning to backpedal, will he tell us what is left for his government to do, with statements such as the one he has made? Would it not be better for him to state—

The Deputy Speaker: The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

 

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Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is a bit embarrassing for me to have to quote myself but, since I first began writing to Mr. Bouchard, that is what I have been saying.

I urge the member to reread what I wrote because it has always been the position of the Government of Canada that a provincial government could ask whatever question it wanted, but that the question and the response would have to be evaluated in terms of clarity by the Government of Canada and that it would be useful for us to know in advance what we are dealing with.

I will close with something the Progressive Conservative Premier of Prince Edward Island said. “The rules must be defined fairly clearly with respect to the clarity of the question”.

Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC): Mr. Speaker, in fact, Mr. Binns, the Premier of Prince Edward Island, cited the supreme court. But the minister should ask Mr. Binns what he thinks of the government's strategy this week.

I come back to my question, because I was a bit short of time earlier. The minister is downplaying the urgency of the situation. Can the minister tell us whether, at the meeting in Hull this weekend, he will suggest that there is time to take stock of what exactly will happen in Quebec? Is it not time to wrap up the debate?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to quote what Progressive Conservative premier Pat Binns said anyway. “The rules must be defined fairly clearly with respect to the clarity of the question. I do not think that a simple majority is enough for Quebec to leave the country”.

It would be a good thing for the federal Progressive Conservative leader to make the same statement and denounce the completely irresponsible statement made by the Premier of Quebec to the effect that he could force Quebec and all of Canada into a unilateral secession. That is what we would expect of a leader who has his eye on governing this country.

*  *  *

[English]

TAXATION

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the finance minister is so far removed from the tax burden he has caused Canadians that he just cannot relate to the financial harm he is causing them.

Brian from Winnipeg has barely $2,000 left from a $4,100 paycheque when the finance minister takes his 50% tax share of Brian's work.

Why does the finance minister not just come home to Canada, where there are hard working, taxpaying Canadians, recognize the harm he is causing with his tax policies and give Canadians like Brian a tax break? Why does he not just do that?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when one talks to Canadians and they look at their paycheques, one of the things they see on there is the Canada pension plan premium.

I have talked to Canadians on all three coasts who have said that the Canada pension plan is an essential part of their retirement. They want to keep it. It is universal. It provides massive risk taking on behalf of all Canadians. It protects them.

Most Canadians want to know, and I am sure that Brian wants to know, why the Reform Party wants to destroy the Canada pension plan.

Mr. Gary Lunn (Saanich—Gulf Islands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

“So much for hard work” says Jerry, a power line worker from Manitoba. His pay stub shows 64 hours of overtime. He should be rolling in dough. Let me quote Jerry: “Any extra money I earn would be taxed at exorbitant rates. Why bother to work hard when I am working for nothing? It is a pretty sad commentary on a country when I cannot afford to work because of taxes”.

What does the minister have to say to Jerry and the millions of Canadians like him who just want to keep a little of their hard earned money in their own pockets, not the government's?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would say to Jerry the same thing that I have said to Brian and Doreen.

One of the reasons the Reform Party finds itself forced to change speakers every time it wants to ask a question is so that it does not have to defend its policies of no unemployment insurance cuts for employees, increased taxes until the year 2000 and the destruction of the Canada pension plan.

Doreen, Brian and Jerry all want to know why it is that the Reform Party has a high tax policy.

*  *  *

[Translation]

NATIONAL DEFENCE

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this week, General Baril said that the effects of repeated budget cuts and the high operational level to which its forces have been subjected in recent years are being felt.

 

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How does the minister intend to provide financial support to the army's operational level while also supporting Canada's foreign policy on human security?

[English]

Mr. Robert Bertrand (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the minister has said many times, the Canadian military is facing major funding challenges.

The Speech from the Throne stated that the government will continue to ensure that the Canadian forces have the capacity to support Canada's role in building a more secure world and will further develop the capacity of Canadians to help ensure peace and security in foreign lands.

We are looking at creative and innovative ways to ensure the way ahead. Hard decisions and choices are being made to ensure that we can reinvest in the future in key areas, in our people and in the equipment they need to do their jobs.

[Translation]

Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Mr. Speaker, before pumping more money into improving the quality of life of Canadian troops, should the minister not clearly redefine the role and priorities of his department?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again, we must emphasize the support of the Bloc Quebecois to a united Canada with well provided for armed forces. It is interesting to see this change of policy. The Bloc is giving up its separatist policy to support Canadian federalism and Canada. My thanks to the Bloc Quebecois for this new and improved position.

*  *  *

[English]

TAXATION

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, many people do not realize that over half of the price of gasoline is taxes. For example, Calgarians send $300 million to Ottawa every year in gasoline taxes, but none of it comes back to pay for roads. The Liberal government simply takes the money and offloads the costs for transportation to others.

Why is the government across the way so willing to scoop the tax at the gasoline pumps but give nothing back in return?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can understand how members of the Reform Party believe that those matters on which the Government of Canada spends money is nothing because that is their perspective on the social fabric of the country. But Canadians do not think that health care is nothing. Canadians do not think that education is nothing. Canadians do not think that protecting the environment is nothing. They do not think that protecting our coastline is nothing.

Canadians understand what the Reform Party does not, that tax dollars go to provide services for Canadians. That is what government is all about.

*  *  *

TRADE

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Ref.): You are off the hook, Paul—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Deputy Speaker: I am sure the hon. member meant to say Mr. Speaker instead of Paul, and I know he would want to do that in future.

Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Mr. Speaker, in the 1993 version of the red book the Liberal government promised to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement to specifically exempt bulk water exports. Unfortunately, this is one of the promises the government has failed to keep. Exempting water from our international trade agreement is the best way for Canada to protect its waters.

Why has the government abandoned seeking exemptions for our water in international agreements?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am interested to see that the Reform Party has adopted the position of the NDP Government of British Columbia and Glen Clark's policies.

The way to protect water exports is to make sure that there are not inter-water basin transfers of water. If we try simply to protect water exports at the border, we wind up with the problem of this becoming an item of trade and, therefore, the decision on it will be made by an international panel of trade experts, not by Canadians.

I believe, and the government believes, that decisions on Canadian water should be made by Canadians and not by foreigners.

*  *  *

[Translation]

POVERTY

Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia—Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently said, at the time the government's expected surpluses were announced, and I quote “Give me time to enjoy them”.

If you are one of 1.4 million poor children in this country, or you are unemployed and are no longer entitled to poverty insurance, this sort of statement hurts.

 

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When will this government act to free these children from misery for good?

[English]

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, may I point out to the hon. member and to all members of the House that the fundamental way to get children out of poverty is, of course, to get families out of poverty.

The way to do that is to make sure this economy works effectively, which this government year after year has been doing under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

It is by correcting the economy's fundamentals so that they work that we reduce poverty and, therefore, do not have to adopt band-aid solutions to the problem, which has been recommended so often by New Democrats and the Bloc.

*  *  *

[Translation]

SOCIAL HOUSING

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ): Mr. Speaker, for a budget to be balanced, spending must be lower than income.

An individual should not spend more than 30% of his income on housing. In my riding, in Minganie, 90 households are having to spend half of their income on rent.

My question is for the minister responsible for social housing. Can he tell us whether, after ten years in which no money has been invested in social housing in Minganie, he will finally act to help families who are having a very had time making ends meet? When will he invest?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say, as I have said on many occasions, that the Government of Canada invests nearly $2 billion annually in social housing.

We invested an additional $300 million under the RRAP program. Also, since forming the government, we have created 13,000 affordable new housing units.

I am pleased, however, because this is the second time that the Bloc member has asked me the same question. Does that mean that they have changed their policy? I thought they wanted social housing to be transferred to the provinces, including Quebec.

I am currently negotiating. Do they not agree—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

*  *  *

[English]

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the agriculture minister has promised on behalf of the government that farmers will receive all the AIDA money owed to them before Christmas this year. Talk about dejà vu.

Similar promises made last December had farmers believing that they would receive their money by the spring of 1999. Many farmers are still waiting. Farmers will not be so forgiving this year.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm today the promise that all outstanding AIDA money will be in the hands of farmers by Christmas this year?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Secretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food travelled to Saskatchewan last week. He had an opportunity to meet with farmers, to talk with them, to deal with them, and to understand the conditions of what they are going through.

He made it very clear that he made a commitment that the 1998 AIDA payments would be in the hands of farmers before Christmas.

*  *  *

TRADE

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, despite being vindicated by the U.S. International Trade Commission several weeks ago, Canadian farmers are facing further trade challenges from the United States.

North Dakota is looking to enforce country of origin labelling and is preparing to challenge Canadian durum exports. Our farmers have suffered enough under the government's weak trade position. It is past time to get tough at the trade table.

Will the trade minister guarantee our beleaguered producers that there will be no further border closures? We need positive action and we need it now.

Hon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister for International Trade will be in Seattle.

This morning, in fact, the minister announced that Canada and China have reached agreement on a wide range of market access issues relating to China's entry into the World Trade Organization. This means that Canadian products will have better access to markets in China.

That is good news for Canadians, it is good news for farmers and it is good news for our export business. I think we should celebrate this good news.

*  *  *

[Translation]

REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, faced with the major problem caused by the closure of Gaspésia, with its subsequent effects on the entire economy of the Gaspé, Quebec has freed up a supplementary budget of $20 million to revitalize the company and the area. As well, it has recently written to its federal counterparts with an invitation to join in this effort.

 

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While respecting the region's priorities, is the federal government prepared to advance the same additional funding as Quebec has to help the workers of Gaspésia, who are demonstrating this morning in Montreal?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member neglected to point out that the demonstration in Montreal is against the Government of Quebec.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Both my colleague, the Minister responsible for Economic Development, and I are very much aware of the difficulties of the people of the Gaspé. It is a known fact that the economy in that region has been in trouble for some years.

That is why, in the past year, my colleague has already invested $28 million in new funding for special economic recovery programs for the region.

Finally, I ought to mention as well that other departments have made investments and we will continue to work—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.

*  *  *

MINING INDUSTRY

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources.

In its throne speech, the government said “To seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of a new global economy, we must work together in the Canadian way and concentrate on what matters most to Canadians. To that end, we must achieve technological progress that will increase productivity. We know that the natural resources sector is a pillar of the Canadian economy”.

Can the minister tell us what is currently being done to promote state of the art technologies in the mining industry?

[English]

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian mining industry is a leader in using high technology products and services. This government will continue to work with industry to harness technology in order to maintain our pace-setting achievements in productivity.

An excellent example is a new project currently under way which will explore the replacement of diesel fuel by hydrogen fuel technology in underground mining operations. This would eliminate underground diesel emissions, improve the underground environment for workers, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and decrease mine ventilation costs. If successful, we stand poised to capture world markets in this technology.

*  *  *

RCMP

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, Mayor Doug McCallum of Surrey wrote to me concerning the chronic understaffing of our RCMP detachment. Surrey has approved a complement of 378 members at regular pay rates. However, up to 40 vacant positions have resulted in excessive overtime payouts to make up for the staffing shortfall, a direct result of the RCMP budget slashing by this government.

Surrey city council has passed a resolution requesting the government to refund to the city of Surrey payment for overtime in 1999. Will the solicitor general take some responsibility at last and honour this request?

[Translation]

Mr. Jacques Saada (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that, after the same question has already been answered ten times, it is still being asked.

The government is committed to fulfilling its mandate regarding public security and the RCMP. It allocated money to improve the CPIC. Last year and early this year, the government also allocated additional money to help the British Columbia division.

All this is still not enough. That question is more for show than for information purposes.

*  *  *

[English]

GUN CONTROL

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, during the November break I met with a dozen municipalities and the RCMP to discuss community policing problems. These problems were created by the government's cutbacks to the RCMP budget.

Today there are 39 unfilled RCMP positions in Manitoba paid for by the taxpayers of Manitoba. The government's new estimates show $35 million for gun control and only $13.8 million for the RCMP.

Why does the government put gun registration ahead of putting more police on the streets?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked about the benefits of our gun control registration. Let me give the House a few statistics.

Some 3,128 potentially dangerous gun sales have been blocked and sent for further investigation. Some 548 applicants have been refused for public safety reasons. Some 451 licences have been revoked for reasons of public safety.

This is good legislation. It is working and it is promoting a culture of safety. Why will the Reform Party not accept that?

*  *  *

 

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HOUSING

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, many cities across Canada are facing a critical shortage of clean affordable housing. Vacancy rates are 1% or lower and the private sector is not coming forward to meet those needs. Too many Canadian families have to choose between paying their rent and feeding their children.

Tomorrow people who desperately need affordable housing will be demonstrating at the Liberal Party convention in Hull. They will be calling for federal action on housing. Will the government be listening? Will the government admit that its withdrawal from social housing has pushed far too many families into poverty, into debt and into substandard housing?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly many times in the House, the Government of Canada is contributing $2 billion a year on the social housing front. In the last year we invested $300 million in RRAP to make houses accessible to low income people. I remind the hon. member to talk to provincial governments of his political affiliation that are not participating in the RRAP program. If they would participate, we would have more money and more units.

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that Canada continues to be the only developed nation in the world that does not have a national housing policy or a national housing strategy. Here is what the current Minister of Finance said when he was the chair of the Liberal task force on housing: “This government just sits there and does nothing. The lack of affordable housing contributes to and accelerates the cycle of poverty which is reprehensible in a society as rich as ours”.

The minister is now in a position to do something about this reprehensible situation. In fact he has had six years to fix this reprehensible situation. Will he or will he not answer the call from around the country and announce that he will reinvest in social housing in this coming budget?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me also say that the Government of Canada through CMHC and the mortgage insurance program, create and build about 475 units a year. Under the program of private and public partnership, we created 13,000 units. This year alone it is more than 3,000 units. We want to do more and we are going to do more. I remind the member that we do have a national housing policy.

*  *  *

FISHERIES

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has again shown blatant disregard for South Shore lobster fishers. In 1998 the industry started a voluntary V-notch program with a 1/32 carapace increase to follow in 1999. Weeks before the season opens, the carapace size has been increased from 3 1/4 to 3 5/16, or a 1/16 increase instead of a 1/32 increase. Why has the government changed regulations that were agreed to in 1998?

Hon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the hon. member. This was the policy on conservation put forward by the previous minister and it is something we are going to follow through on.

I would like to ask the hon. member something because his party and the member have talked about conservation repeatedly in the House. Carapace size is a tool for conservation to protect the resource. Are the Conservatives now abandoning their position on conservation and saying that we should not protect the resource? The hon. member should stand in the House and say whether or not they are still for conservation. They should make it pretty clear.

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the minister is well aware that carapace size was supposed to increase by 1/32 in 1999 and by 1/32 in 2000. That is a 1/16 increase over two years. He has increased it by jumping it in one year because of mismanagement by his department.

How are fishers that were issued a variance order for carapace size to begin on November 28 to understand that order when DFO officials are saying that they have until December 15 to bring in the carapace size increase? So why—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Hon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, increasing the carapace size is consistent with our policy throughout that region. This policy was introduced a number of years ago by my predecessor. Conservation is going to be a priority for the government. That is why we are increasing the carapace size by 1/16. We will continue to ensure that conservation and protection of our resource to make sure we have a sustainable lobster fishery will be our priority.

*  *  *

 

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HEALTH

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Eighty five per cent of Internet users are looking for health information. Can the parliamentary secretary tell the House and all Canadians how the public is to sift through the thousands of health related websites to get credible, trusted and relevant information?

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Wellington—Waterloo. His question gives me the opportunity to inform the House that yesterday the Minister of Health launched the Canadian health network, which is a national, bilingual Internet based health organization service for Canadians developed by Health Canada in co-operation with 400 very reliable health organizations.

[Translation]

Canada's health system provides a unique access to information, and I invite the public—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

*  *  *

[English]

TOBACCO

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the Minister of Health hired a real insider to try to convince the Canadian public that he was committed to decreasing smoking among kids. But it was his government that instituted laws in 1994 that have committed hundreds of thousands of children to take up cigarette smoking.

Will the Minister of Health do the right thing and institute laws to bring the tobacco prices back to what they would be in the U.S. so that our kids will not smoke and smuggling will be stopped?

[Translation]

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there can be no doubt about the commitment made by our government and our Minister of Health to fight smoking, particularly among young people.

We have already taken important measures, and the minister has not ruled out any options for the future, whether they relate to taxes or prohibition. He will establish enhanced awareness programs in the future.

*  *  *

GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS

Mrs. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, following the lead of Japan and Europe, last week 19 representatives in the U.S. congress tabled a bill to make it mandatory in the United States to label genetically modified foods or foods containing genetically modified organisms.

My question is for the Minister of Agriculture. Does he realize that Canada may soon be one of the few countries where it is not mandatory to label genetically modified food and that our farm products may well be rejected just about everywhere, including in the United States?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Secretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue. It is one that both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have been spending a great deal of time working on. It is important that we consult with Canadians. The ministers are undertaking consultations with Canadians and they will deal with this issue in due course.

*  *  *

CHILD POVERTY

Mrs. Michelle Dockrill (Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we have heard promise after promise from the government about what it will do to help Canadian children, but no action.

Ninety per cent of single mothers and their children live in poverty. One in four children in Nova Scotia experience poverty. Cape Breton children are worse off than their neighbours in the rest of the province. These statistics do not need reviewing. They are cold hard facts, especially cold and hard for the children they represent.

What specific targets is the Minister of Finance willing to set to eliminate child poverty, given that the efforts of the government to date have failed Canadian children?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member fails to point out that the unemployment rate for adult women is at its lowest rate in 25 years. It is now at 5.8%. Since we were elected in 1993 there have been more than 800,000 jobs created for women.

Women's employment has grown faster than men's in each of the last four decades. In fact, we have had the highest growth of any of the G-7 nations in the last 20 years.

I point out to the hon. member that we are trying to deal with the causes of child poverty, the causes of women in disadvantaged conditions by making—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for West Nova.

*  *  *

FISHERIES

Mr. Mark Muise (West Nova, PC): Mr. Speaker, on January 18 the former minister of fisheries wrote to one of our fishery representatives telling him that there would be no increase in lobster size until the industry's self-imposed V-notching program could be analysed.

Why did the minister not give V-notching a chance?

Hon. Harbance Singh Dhaliwal (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I responded to a question earlier, carapace size is about conservation. By increasing the carapace size by 1/16 of an inch, we will protect the resource and make sure we have a sustainable lobster fishery. We will ensure that we protect the resource, unlike the member and his party. At one time they speak about conservation and the next time they are not interested in speaking about conservation. They are speaking from both sides of their mouth. Why do they not become consistent?

*  *  *

 

. 1200 + -

RURAL DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a rural question, although the closest thing to a farm in my riding is the vegetable garden in my backyard. I had a good crop this year. No need for assistance.

My people in Oshawa make the best cars and trucks in North America and their best customers are rural customers. What is the Secretary of State for Rural Development doing to ensure that rural Canadians are playing an active role in charting their own social and economic course?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Secretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely essential that government undertake policies and measures in a way that makes sense for rural Canadians.

We believe it is important to give rural Canadians themselves the tools they need to make the decisions that work best for their particular communities. That is why we undertook a very extensive rural dialogue with rural Canadians, speaking to over 7,000 of them, ending with a conference in Belleville earlier this year.

I am pleased to advise the House today that we will have a follow-up to that conference in Magog, Quebec on April 28, 29 and 30.

*  *  *

AIRPORT SAFETY

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, when the government was transferring ownership of regional airports to the local municipalities, it relaxed the emergency response time so as not to impose excessive burdens on these local communities.

Now that the government has divested these airports, it is tightening up the rules again, requiring local communities to provide a three minute response time. This is a move that will cost dozens of communities millions of dollars each.

Why did the government entice the municipalities with relaxed requirements only to tighten up the requirements after the local governments acquired the airports?

Mr. Stan Dromisky (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we all know, safety is the top priority of the government, especially in the area of transportation. We are quite aware of the situation that is taking place. We will monitor and review every move that is made by all the agencies and the authorities regarding this question of safety.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Translation]

TREATIES RATIFIED IN 1991 AND 1992

Mr. Denis Paradis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table in both official languages, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), 27 treaties that came into effect in 1992 and 58 treaties that came into effect in 1991. We are also tabling the list of these treaties.

[English]

As was done previously, I am also providing CD-ROMs to the Library of Parliament, which contain electronic versions of these treaties, in order to provide wide accessibility to those texts.

*  *  *

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERSHIPS CANADA

Mr. John Cannis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Technology Partnerships Canada annual report for the years 1998 and 1999.

*  *  *

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

*  *  *

 

. 1205 + -

[Translation]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT

Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of tabling, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Pursuant to order of reference of Monday, November 1, 1999, your committee has studied Bill C-9, an act to give effect to the Nisga'a final agreement, and has agreed to report it without amendment.

[English]

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the associate membership of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 11th report later this day.

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-347, an act to amend the Criminal Code (desecration of the flag).

He said: Mr. Speaker, over the last number of years, on occasion we have witnessed, through the media, people in the country who have thought so little of the symbol of our Canadian flag that they have taken actions to deface it, burn it and trample it.

I want to reintroduce this private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code concerning desecration of the flag to state that everyone who, without lawful excuse, burns, tramples, defaces or otherwise desecrates the national flag of Canada, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to fines not exceeding $5,000, six months in jail or a combination of both.

I think every Canadian recognizes and is proud of what our national flag symbolizes. Certainly the people who have fought in two world wars recognize this. There should be no less punishment than a fine and/or imprisonment for someone who finds it fruitful for whatever reason to deface or desecrate our national flag.

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

*  *  *

CANADIAN FORCES SUPERANNUATION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-348, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Carriage by Air Act, the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, the Criminal Code, the Pension Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill would amend all of the acts that have been indicated in order to bring them into line with the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I want to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, that in these statutes, believe it or not, we still refer to our children as illegitimate. In many cases, some of our federal legislation still has not really brought the dignity to Canadian children as they deserve and need to be recognized and supported.

This particular bill will amend these statutes and make it a lot friendlier to our children and also bring the statutes into harmony with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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

*  *  *

COMPETITION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-349, an act to amend the Competition Act (vertically integrated gasoline suppliers).

 

. 1210 + -

He said: Mr. Speaker, I have been involved with this issue now for over 12 years. I have been responsible, along with the community, for at least three different national as well as regional inquiries. Every single time the report came back it indicated that there was no price fixing.

Quite simply, when we look at the Competition Act as it is, we can drive a camel through it. We are not going to be able to find out whether a company is responsible for price fixing or not. The oil companies are in a conflict of interest on a regular basis because they control the sales at the retail outlet and supplies the oil as well.

My bill would forbid Canadian oil companies from selling while at the same time retailing gasoline at the pumps. As a result of that, no oil company can be a retailer and a supplier at the same time.

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

*  *  *

MAXIMUM SPEED CONTROL DEVICE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-350, an act to provide for the use of a maximum speed control device for use on motor vehicles and to prohibit the manufacture and sale of motor vehicles that are not equipped with a maximum speed control device.

He said: Mr. Speaker, on an annual basis, we have hundreds of kids and youths who are killed or severely injured as a result of joyriding or driving over the speed limit.

I do not understand this. We have set the speed limit in Canada and in most provinces at 100 kilometres per hour. I do not see why people have to drive 170 kilometres when it is illegal under the law.

My bill will make sure that no car will be able to go over 115 kilometres per hour. Cars will have a device within the engine that will either shut the engine off or make sure the car cannot accelerate over 115 kilometres an hour.

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

*  *  *

WAGES LIABILITY ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-351, an act to amend the Wages Liability Act (definition of adult).

He said: Mr. Speaker, rather than taking the time of the House, I will, with your permission, ask the House for unanimous consent to introduce a series of approximately 35 private members' bills. The vast majority of those bills were introduced in the last parliament. I ask that all of those bills be deemed as have being introduced in the House of Commons today and be printed as set out in the order paper, Nos. 41 to 75.

The Deputy Speaker: Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

An hon. member: No.

The Deputy Speaker: I assume the hon. member for Ottawa Centre has given his explanation in respect of this bill.

Mr. Mac Harb: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

*  *  *

PRIVACY ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-352, an act to amend the Privacy Act (definition of minor).

The Deputy Speaker: Does the hon. member wish to give an explanation on each of these bills.

Mr. Mac Harb: Mr. Speaker, I would love to, but it is my intention to reintroduce it as it was set out in the previous parliament.

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

*  *  *

LAND TITLES ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-353, an act to amend the Land Titles Act (age of majority and definition of “infant”).

 

. 1215 + -

He said: All of these bills deal with one subject, which is to bring our legislation into conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, so that when we say “child” we mean anyone who is under the age of 18.

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

*  *  *

PENSION FUND SOCIETIES ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-354, an act to amend the Pension Fund Societies Act (definition of “minor child”).

He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask once more if my colleagues would like to put all of these bills together so that you and I do not have to stand every time. Would members give unanimous consent that all of the bills dealing with these issues be considered as having been read the first time and printed?

The Deputy Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

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

*  *  *

INSURANCE COMPANIES ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-355, an act to amend the Insurance Companies Act (definition of “infant”).

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

*  *  *

ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-356, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

INDIAN ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-357, an act to amend the Indian Act (definition of “infant child”).

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

HAZARDOUS PRODUCTS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): moved for leave to introduce Bill C-358, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

[English]

GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES COMPENSATION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-359, an act to amend the Government Employees Compensation Act (definition of “infant”).

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

EXTRADITION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-360, an act to amend the Extradition Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

[English]

INTERPRETATION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-361, an act to amend the Interpretation Act (definition of child).

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

*  *  *

CANADIAN CHILD RIGHTS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-362, Canadian Child Rights Act.

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

TERRITORIAL LANDS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-363, an act to amend the Territorial Lands Act (definition of “adult”).

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

*  *  *

[English]

FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL FISCAL ARRANGEMENTS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-364, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

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

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-365, an act to amend the Criminal Code (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

CANADA TRANSPORTATION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-366, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (definition of “adult”).

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

 

. 1220 + -

Mr. Philip Mayfield: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. At the rate at which you are going it is hard for me to understand, but my concern is for the translators who seem to be melting into the earpiece. I wonder if you would take them into consideration please.

The Deputy Speaker: The translators have the advantage of having an order paper with the list on it, and so does the hon. member. Perhaps if he stuck with the order paper he would be able to follow rather easily.

I am reluctant to take up a great deal of the time of the House going through the same form because these bills are all in exactly the same form.

Mr. Derek Lee: Mr. Speaker, given the repetitiveness of the proceeding, as is required by the rules, I wonder if there would be consent in the House to allow the request of the member for Ottawa Centre so that we might dispense with the repetitive introduction of each bill on the same subject. Perhaps the Speaker could request if there is now a disposition for unanimous consent.

The Deputy Speaker: Is there consent to treat these bills as having been read the first time and ordered to be printed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

*  *  *

DIVORCE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-367, an act to amend the Divorce Act (right of spouses' parents to access to or custody of child).

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

[Translation]

Mr. Gilles-A. Perron: Mr. Speaker, I am having a hard time following what the interpreter is saying. I have no idea what you are talking about. You are going much too fast.

The Deputy Speaker: I would encourage the hon. member to refer to his copy of today's Order Paper. All the bills, and their titles, are listed, which makes it very easy to follow.

[English]

Mr. Jay Hill: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I respect the fact that all members have the advantage of having the order paper to look at to see what it is you are referring to, but we have an enormous following that watches the proceedings through the television camera. They do not have the advantage of that and they are trying to follow, with I am sure rapt attention, what you are doing and saying. I think they would be having the same difficulty.

*  *  *

EXCISE TAX ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-368, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

EXCISE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-369, an act to amend the Excise Act (definition of “adult”).

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

*  *  *

CORRECTIONS AND CONDITIONAL RELEASE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-370, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

CANADA-UNITED KINGDOM CIVIL AND COMMERCIAL JUDGMENTS CONVENTION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-371, an act to amend the Canada-United Kingdom Civil and Commercial Judgments Convention Act (definition of “infant” in matters originating in Canada).

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

*  *  *

CANADA CO-OPERATIVE ASSOCIATIONS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-372, an act to amend the Canada Co-operative Associations Act.

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

*  *  *

CANADA STUDENT LOANS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-373, an act to amend the Canada Student Loans Act (definition of full age).

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

*  *  *

CANADA SHIPPING ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-374, an act to amend the Canada Shipping Act (definitions of child and infant).

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

*  *  *

 

. 1225 + -

CANADA HEALTH ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-375, an act to amend the Canada Health Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

DEPARTMENTAL INTERNAL AUDIT ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-376, an act to require crown corporations and departments of government to have annual internal audits the reports of which are to be submitted to the Auditor General of Canada.

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

*  *  *

CANADA PENSION PLAN

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-377, an act to amend the Canada pension plan (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

DIVORCE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-378, an act to amend the Divorce Act (definition of “child”).

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

*  *  *

CANADA BUSINESS CORPORATIONS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-379, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act (definitions of “infant” and “minor”).

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

*  *  *

BILLS OF EXCHANGE ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-380, an act to amend the Bills of Exchange Act (definitions of “infant” and “minor”).

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

*  *  *

CANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-381, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing).

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

*  *  *

NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR EDUCATION ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-382, an act to establish national standards across Canada for education provided by the provinces.

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

*  *  *

NATIONAL LITERACY STANDARDS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-383, an act to establish national literacy standards across Canada.

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

*  *  *

CANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-384, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to literacy).

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

*  *  *

CANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-385, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to education).

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

*  *  *

IMMIGRATION ACT

 

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-386, an act to amend the Immigration Act (requirement to show evidence of identity).

He said: Mr. Speaker, we have a problem in our immigration system. It is simply not working. The bill I am introducing today is an attempt to fix it.

In British Columbia we have had hundreds of false refugees come to our shores. This represents only 5% of the people who are coming to our shores illegally. Ninety-five per cent come by plane. This situation is not fair to true refugees. It is not fair to immigrants. It is not fair to people trying to get into the country. It is not fair to the taxpayer. It is not fair to the hardworking people in our immigration system. The current system supports the government which is actually trying to support human trafficking which is taking place.

 

. 1230 + -

This bill will enable the government to differentiate between true and false refugees. It puts the onus and responsibility of identification upon the person claiming refugee status as opposed to the Canadian authority.

I hope this bill passes as soon as possible so that the minister can have a stronger immigration policy for immigrants and Canadians.

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

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

 

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

*  *  *

PETITIONS

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition with thousands of signatures on the issue of child pornography.

The petitioners are calling on the House to ensure that every law is upheld that would continue to make child pornography a serious offence in this country. Literally hundreds of thousands of signatures have come to my office on this. I am glad to present the petition to the House today.

I encourage all members to take note that this is clearly the single largest petition. I think it is four times larger than any other petition the House has received this session. I will leave it with the House officers.

YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT

Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present a petition containing the names of 25 members of my constituency. They call on parliament to amend the Young Offenders Act with respect to, among other things, lowering the age of application and the publishing of names of violent offenders.

MARRIAGE

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present two separate petitions today from the riding of Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

The first petition requests that parliament enact legislation such as Bill C-225 so as to define in statute that a marriage can only be entered into between a single male and a single female.

ABORTION

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the second petition contains several hundred signatures, I believe.

The petitioners are concerned about the proliferation of abortion and the low value that society seems to be giving to prenatal life. The petition calls upon parliament to enact legislation against causing the death of an unborn human by abortion at any stage along the continuum of prenatal life.

I am pleased to present the petition on behalf of the people of Prince George—Bulkley Valley.

IMMIGRATION

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present some petitions. The first two petitions are from citizens of Williams Lake and Quesnel, British Columbia. They call upon parliament to enact immediate changes to Canada's immigration laws governing refugees to allow for the deportation of obvious and blatant abusers of the system.

TAXATION

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I also have petitions from citizens of Cariboo—Chilcotin, namely from 70 Mile House and Williams Lake. They are calling upon the government to give Canadian taxpayers a break by instituting tax relief of at least 25% in federal taxes over the next three years starting with the next federal budget.

 

. 1235 + -

THE CONSTITUTION

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would also like to present petitions from the citizens of Williams Lake who call upon parliament to refrain from enacting legislation to remove references to the name of God or to the supremacy of God from the Canadian constitution or the charter of rights.

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have one more petition from the citizens of the Williams Lake area. They call upon parliament at the earliest possible opportunity to invoke section 33 of the charter of rights and freedoms, the notwithstanding clause, to override the B.C. court of appeal decision and to reinstate subsection 4 of section 163.1 of the criminal code making possession of child pornography in B.C. illegal and by so doing reinforce and reaffirm our objection to the B.C. court of appeal decision.

*  *  *

[Translation]

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Question No. 8 will be answered today. .[Text]

Question No. 8—Mr. Peter MacKay:

    With respect to the United Nations 1994 recommendation that Canada appoint a monitor to ensure that all provinces folowed the terms of the UN Rights of the Child, what actions has the federal government taken to proceed with this recommendation?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its 1995 concluding observations to Canada's first report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child expressed its concern that sufficient attention had not been paid to the establishment of a permanent monitoring mechanism that would enable an effective system of implementation of the convention in all parts of the country. Since that time the Government of Canada has funded the development of a monitoring mechanism by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. Since the monitoring project began in February 1996 a growing number of organizations and individuals have contributed their knowledge and ideas. As a result the monitoring framework continues to evolve.

The mandate of the coalition is to ensure a collective voice for Canadian organizations and youth concerned with the rights of children as described in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Summit for Children Declaration. Information on this project can be found at the following website: http://www.cfc-efc.ca/ccrc/monitor.htm

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children may also be reached at Suite 339, 180 Argyle Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 1B7, or at telephone number (613) 788-5085.

[Translation]

Mr. Derek Lee: Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

CANADIAN TOURISM COMMISSION ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The Deputy Speaker: Before question period the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley had the floor. He has eight minutes remaining in his time.

Mr. Richard M. Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume debate on the bill.

Before question period I was talking about the problem members of parliament such as my colleagues and I have of getting information through the Access to Information Act regarding crown corporations. It is virtually impossible. It ends up certainly being an exercise in futility. That is why we are concerned about the tourist commission being taken out of the office of the Minister of Industry. That is exactly what will happen.

At the present time we at least have some access and some accountability through the minister who is obliged to answer questions, at least if he feels like it. The CTC is accountable directly to the minister and the minister is accountable to parliament, including those of us in the Reform Party when we are asking questions to pursue accountability in terms of the spending of taxpayers' dollars. That is the way it should be.

I suspect that the cost of running the CTC as a crown corporation is going to be a lot higher than it is now. The briefing I received suggested that moving the entire operation to Toronto is a distinct possibility. I can picture it. Instead of taking up a floor in the building that houses Industry Canada, it will need some prominent downtown real estate in Toronto at the top dollar the market demands.

The salaries will have to go up. It costs twice as much to buy a house in Toronto. Then there are the moving and relocation costs for the 62 current employees. That certainly will not be cheap. I am sure there will be the emotional costs of moving to Toronto for all of the families involved.

The Reform Party believes Canada is a spectacular tourist destination and we should promote Canada as a travel destination. Tourism is a big industry for Canada whether one is a parliamentarian or whether one happens to run a specialized restaurant in some city in Canada such as Edmonton for example.

We rely on tourists to come to our country and to spend their dollars. In fact, it is Canada's 12th largest industry. We are talking big dollars. Last year it generated jobs at twice the pace of Canadian business. It generated $44 billion in revenue to the Canadian economy. We are not talking small dollars here.

 

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A press release issued by the CTC states that the international travel numbers for the first three months of 1999 indicate that this year may well be another record breaking one for Canada's tourist industry. Compared to the same period in 1998, international tourists made 11% more trips of one or more nights to Canada so far this year.

In conclusion, it is clear that Canada needs tourism and that we should market our wonderful country abroad, notwithstanding the high taxes. But it is not clear that we need a crown corporation to carry on this activity.

I believe that you would find, Mr. Speaker, consent for the following motion:

    That for the remainder of this parliament, motions pursuant to Standing Orders 26, 56.1, 57 or 78.3 and motions that the question be now put shall not be receivable by the Chair. Furthermore, this motion shall not be subsequently revocable or amendable by a government motion.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The hon. member has put a motion before the House. Does the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my hon. colleague for the comments he made. Mr. Speaker, I have to pay a special tribute to you too, sir. The hon. member mentioned certain things in his speech that I think refer directly to the efforts you have made toward tourism and the establishment of industries in Canada and in particular, a certain establishment that has some taste, that makes some bread, and which has brought together some cultures in Edmonton. It brings to mind one of the purposes of the tourism industry which has to do with the promotion of culture.

My hon. colleague would recognize only too well that one of the functions of tourism is to bring people to Canada to let people see the culture we have here. It is such a varied culture. There is the French culture, the aboriginal culture and all the various ethnic groups that have come to Canada over the years. It is a real kaleidoscope.

It is a wonderful combination of the way people can actually work together. People of different ethnic backgrounds come from other parts of the world where they actually fought with one another and got into not just minor fights in the back streets but they would shoot each other, maim each other, kill each other, plant mines in the ground so that people's legs would be blown off.

Could my colleague make a comment about how Canada through the expansion of our tourist industry can demonstrate to the rest of the world how we can live together more harmoniously?

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, I am only too pleased to respond to my colleague from Kelowna. Certainly Canada is a marvellous country to live in. People from all over the world have come to Canada to take up residence and become Canadian citizens. There are those who are still seeking to become citizens of Canada. We have a lot to offer the world.

Tourism gives people from all over the world an opportunity to come to a country that perhaps they have never visited before. For the first time they can see how people can live and exist together despite their cultural or religious differences, their differing points of view. We are a free and democratic country. I think we are able to hold ourselves up as a standard to the world. I can only say that—and I have to add this—I really believe that the people who come to Canada from different countries can best exhibit and accomplish this spirit of co-operation, not with the help of government but rather without the help of government. People come to Canada recognizing that it is a beautiful country.

 

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In the last 30 years, the current government and past governments have done more to foster the divisions amongst the different types of people in the country than bring them together. The government should just stop trying to make people so different in the country. It should let the people themselves embrace what it is like to live in a multicultural country without its involvement. They will do a far better job and a job that will move along the lines of getting together, rather what the government does, which is to promote divisions among the people of Canada.

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Prince George—Bulkley Valley for his intervention and for his recent remarks.

As I think about this bill, I remember, when I was the deputy critic for industry with responsibility for the Canadian Tourism Commission, an instance that took place over a period of time where I wanted to have a meeting with the director of the commission. This was not as simple a matter as I had thought it would be. We had been told how open it was and how they were looking for opportunities to discuss the business of the commission with various people.

I had a meeting in British Columbia with some of the tourism people and wanted to take some of the information and discuss it with the director. It took a long time for this meeting to be arranged. The director was busy in town or out of town. One day we finally made an appointment. It was not in the near future, but after some time passed and I was preparing for the meeting, guess what, I got a phone call saying “I'm sorry, the appointment has been cancelled.

I began to explore the reasons why. I was told that I could have no meetings with members of the commission without the minister's approval. I took this directly to the Minister of Industry and, to his credit, he said that he would never stop me from doing that. Regardless, in his name, I never did have a meeting with the director of the commission.

This, in my mind, brings up the question of accountability. The Canadian Tourism Commission is accountable to the minister and accountable through the minister to parliament. Yet a parliamentarian, myself, the deputy critic responsible for this commission in my party, wanting to represent the constituents of British Columbia to the commission, was not able to have a meeting.

I am asking myself, with this further separation, this inch and a half arm's length that has been created between the commission and the government, how much more opportunity is there for a lack of accountability by the new crown corporation and members of parliament and the citizens of Canada who are vitally concerned about this issue.

I want to ask the member what his concerns are. Does he recognize some of the dangers I am alluding to? Could comment on them?

Mr. Richard M. Harris: Mr. Speaker, the fact that there is little enough accountability presently through the Minister of Industry with regard to the CTC, or for that matter through any of the government ministers, does concern me. If they do not want us to know something about their departments they simply throw up as many roadblocks as possible to keep us from getting the answer to our question.

 

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As I have spoken about before, if we move the CTC out of the minister's department to a crown corporation, it automatically becomes almost 100% immune to anyone from the opposition looking into how it runs the new institution, how it spends taxpayers' dollars or how it operates. It will simply say that it is a crown corporation, not answerable to parliament and therefore does not have to reply. It can always say something to give it some credibility in its own mind that if it were to reply to our question or inquiry it would be letting out some strategic secrets which it cannot do.

Here is a strategic secret that we would like to have let out, and that is just how it is spending the taxpayers' dollars. That is a secret to which I think the Canadian people have a right to know the answer.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission.

When I looked over the bill, I paid particular attention to the objectives, and my first reaction was that the government had said it was getting out of tourism in a throne speech a few years back. And now, in the House of Commons, in the Parliament of Canada, the government introduces an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission.

From the outset, it is rather incomprehensible. Why is the federal government bent on interfering in this sector, which is outside its jurisdiction? Why is it bent on using a Canadian tourism commission to do so? I looked to the objects of the commission as stated in the bill for some answers.

The first object is to sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. I told myself that the Canadian tourism industry is really the sum total of the tourism industry in each of the provinces. In Quebec, we have a tourism policy which was developed some years ago and which has been very successful.

Since the 1978 summit on tourism, Quebec has made important progress as a tourist destination. In 1996, revenue was $5.4 billion. In Quebec this industry comprises 29,000 businesses and over 100,000 workers concentrated in the sectors of accommodation, food services, transportation, travel agencies, entertainment and recreation.

As well, it is the 6th ranking Quebec export next to aeronautics, with international exports of $1.9 billion. Tourism investments in Quebec total $1.3 billion and its annual tax revenues $1.2 billion. As well, it offers considerable employment to young people, as 28% of workers are under the age of 25.

Quebec has therefore equipped itself with a policy to intervene in this sector which is a provincial jurisdiction. It has the means required, and has set in place some highly pertinent structures, such as the regional tourism associations. It therefore has an approach to tourism and to services to tourists that has been highly successful. We attract tourists from all over, other Canadian provinces, the United States, South America and Europe. We boast a number of truly interesting tourist attractions and it is not mere chance, but rather the result of a well-organized tourism effort, that has led to worthwhile results.

The tourism industry in Quebec is guided by Tourisme Québec, a department which directs government actions relating to tourism. There are 19 regional tourist associations, like the one I have already referred to, and their mandate is to group together those involved in tourism in their region, encouraging concerted efforts and co-ordinating the development and promotion of tourism in the region. I believe they are doing this very successfully.

I will give as my example the Lower St. Lawrence region, the one I represent here in the House of Commons. It is a region that had problems 10, 15 or 20 years ago convincing tourists passing through our region to stop and spend some time there, instead of simply heading on to Percé and the maritimes. Creation of the regional tourism association has really borne fruit.

 

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We eventually established tourism commissions in several municipalities, participated in the effort to promote our tourist attractions, proposed nominees for national tourism awards across Quebec, because there is a contest to choose the province's best tourist businesses, and so on. Thanks to this promotion and emulation, the Lower St. Lawrence has become a major tourist area in Quebec.

We have very distinctive attractions. For example, there is our heritage. We have families that were among the first ones to settle in Quebec, such as the Lévesques, the Ouelettes and the Pelletiers. They organize family reunions in our region. These families have been in Quebec for 250 or 300 years. They get together and tour our heritage. We also have an extraordinary religious heritage. It is one of the most vibrant in America, thus making it another interesting attraction for those who come to visit us.

In addition, we have a whole network of hotels and restaurants with a well established reputation at the national level. I am thinking of the hotel Lévesque and the hotel Université in Rivière-du-Loup. These facilities can accommodate a fairly large number of people and are nationally renowned for the high quality of the food they serve.

We also have a network of inns and other attractions, including ecotourism. Ecotourism is a sector promoted by Quebec with the result that we now have a very good structure at the Canadian and European levels, and we do not need a parallel structure.

In our region, ecotourism involves anything that has to do with nature, including the St. Lawrence River. The new Saguenay—St. Lawrence marine park will attract tourists from all over the world. That is an interesting prospect. Mountain climbing is also becoming a popular activity in Saint-André-de-Kamouraska, among other places, which offer incredible opportunities.

Therefore, we made the lower St. Lawrence a reception area and we established an area people want to visit in terms of new tourist values and what they want to see. The result—and it is not just with us as an ATR, but it applies to all regional tourist associations—is the promotion of the appeal of these regions.

I think Tourisme Québec's mandate already contains everything necessary to ensure that we manage our tourism industry well. When we look at the objectives of the bill, we realize that there is duplication. Tourisme Québec talks of “orienting and co-ordinating public and private action in tourism”.

The board of directors they want to establish for the Canadian tourism commission is the same sort of representation as for this commission. They will select people representing a province from within the population of the province, but these people may not be the actual delegates of the province, and this fact may cause problems.

The mandate of Tourisme Québec also provides for “the development of a knowledge of tourist products and clients”. It is also found in the mandate of the Canadian tourism commission as “to support the improvement and development of tourism”. I spoke of this earlier: “to inform clientele on Quebec's tourist products and to develop and operate tourist facilities”.

We can see there are many things that are similar to the mandate of the Canadian tourism commission. The federal government has told us that it wanted to get out of this sector, but it is now presenting a bill to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission. One wonders why. The reason is stated under the second goal of the act:

      (b) market Canada as a desirable tourist destination;

We are talking here about tourism in Canada and from abroad. That is a roundabout way to engage in propaganda.

The hidden motive of this bill is to promote and increase the visibility of the federal government and to reinforce national unity, one of the preferred themes of this government. I think it is going beyond what is normal and acceptable.

The promotion of Canada that is being done by the federal government in Canada does not deal only with tourist attractions, but also with the value of Canada itself as a federation. That is a way to compensate for the weaknesses in the operation of the federation, all the more because this government lacks flexibility and is unwilling to change.

Instead of trying to meet the needs of the various members of the federation, it is content with setting up tougher hurdles in the path of the sovereignist or nationalist movement in Quebec, which should be able to express itself and and develop to its full potential. We see this in all the federal government's areas of activity.

 

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Today, the Canadian tourism commission is one more tool for promoting the Canadian federal system. When the stated object is to promote tourism within Canada, it is very clear that this is the goal.

If the bill had been limited to promoting Canada in international markets, the tourism structures of each province might perhaps have agreed to establish a common fund for international promotion.

But when the government starts talking about a domestic mandate, and tells us that the Canadian tourism commission will organize and promote tourism within Canada, we know very well that, further down the road, the present Liberal government will use these words in the bill as justification for promoting not Canadian tourism but the Canadian federal system. I find this unacceptable.

The objects in the bill also include the following:

      (c) support a cooperative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories with respect to Canadian tourism;

No account has been taken of what I mentioned earlier concerning the tourism development policy of Quebec, which held a tourism forum in 1997.

In the fall of 1996, the government held a summit on the economy and employment. This was followed by a tourism forum in March 1997, which brought together over 200 people representing all sectors, products and regions, as well as the main departments having anything to do with tourism. The forum produced a number of observations, consensus, and various courses of action.

Quebec's current tourism policy incorporates all the conclusions of this meeting and the work done by the chair of tourism of the Université du Québec à Montréal at the forum, the consultations of public departments and agencies by Tourisme Québec, and the August 1997 consultation of the tourism industry.

So, the province of Quebec has come a very long way in terms of tourism, thanks to a tourism policy that makes sense and which has concrete goals.

The policy includes the priorities and intervention strategies developed by both the government and the industry in order to ensure the growth of tourism businesses and to maximize the contribution of the tourism industry to our economic, social and cultural development in the year 2000.

We, Quebecers, have trouble feeling at home within the Canadian Tourism Commission. We do not really understand why the federal government is promoting this vision of tourism development.

Let us turn to the constitution of the Canadian Tourism Commission and its board of directors. There will be twenty-six directors, including the federal deputy minister of Industry. The chairperson and the president will be appointed for five years. Sixteen directors from the private sector will be appointed by the industry minister for a term of not more than three years, with the approval of the Governor in Council and under the advice of a committee set up by the board of directors.

Seven of these 16 directors will be tourism operators and nine will be private sector representatives. Seven public sector directors will also be appointed.

This is a huge structure that will work in parallel with what we already have in the province of Quebec. Again, we feel that our money goes to finance two parallel operations, one from the Canadian federal government and one from the Quebec government. We do not need this kind of duplication. We know from experience that this way is not right for us.

Clause 26(1) of the bill reads as follows:

    26.(1) The Commission may enter into an agreement with the government of any province or territory to carry out its objects.

This means that, before entering into an agreement with a province, the Canadian Tourism Commission may want to make sure that the goals of the agreement are in line with its own. These goals might be different from those in the tourism policy of Quebec.

The language issue also comes into play if we want to attract French-speaking tourists to Quebec. It naturally appeals to people from France, Africa and many other countries. There is a tradition. In setting up this service, we must make sure that we are not required at the same time, under an agreement with the Canadian Tourism Commission, to pursue other goals in terms of mobility and the clientele we want to attract, in return for benefits and funds.

 

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In its present form, the bill contains many elements the Bloc Quebecois finds unacceptable.

The government should take the time to go and see what is being done in other jurisdictions, get reacquainted with the policy developed by Quebec in the area of tourism development and look at what has been accomplished in this area. If after that it still wants to introduce a bill, it should be one that gives enough manoeuvring room to those who are already organized in this regard, and makes sure that they can access the necessary resources to implement their own policy.

This sort of action, this recognition of Quebec's dynamism in the area of tourism development are not reflected in the Canadian Tourism Commission Act. This leads the Bloc Quebecois to the conclusion that it cannot support this bill in its present form.

It would need to be either referred to a committee for in-depth examination or quite simply withdrawn, but it is totally unacceptable in its present form. It is unacceptable not only because it requires many amendments, but also because its very basis, the very mandate the government assigns to the commission, will not yield satisfactory results for Quebec.

It is not worthwhile for Quebec to get involved in the action to be carried out by the Canadian tourism commission under its present mandate. Certainly, on the practical level, there can be areas of co-operation, but in the long term there is no future for Quebec in the way they want to organize tourism within the commission and the way the present federal government perceives it.

There is one other aspect I want to address, which I have not touched so far. It is one often found in legislation passed by this government in recent years. This concerns the way accounts will have to be rendered to the government by the commission. It is part of a trend on the government side, and a fine example is the millennium scholarship foundation. I use this as an example because we had concrete information on it in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development yesterday.

Two officials appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources to speak on interventions in the field of education, which is not under federal jurisdiction, but which the federal government would really like to invest in. I asked them if they were aware of the differences remaining between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Canada in resolving this issue. They indicated that they were not.

The representatives of the department did not know what point the millennium scholarship negotiations had reached. They were unable to tell us, because the foundation had inherited the mandate. This is the same sort of situation we could end up with in the case of the Canadian tourism commission and, furthermore, this is an area where little action may be taken.

This is an area where a lot of contracts are handed out. It is an area where firms are told, for example, that the government wants to establish trade policy to sell Canada on Asian or American markets, and this sort of thing costs lots.

They could be sectors of activity where things must be done properly, but because of the way in which the government opts out of its responsibility for administering sums of money, there will be an opportunity for patronage without any requirement for accountability before the House of Commons.

I think that even for a federalist, even for someone who thinks it is a good idea for the Canadian tourism commission to invest in a provincial sector, questions remain. Questions on the relevance and fairness of making it very easy to reward one's friends.

 

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I will conclude by stressing again that the Canadian tourism commission does not have the proper mandate to adequately promote tourism in Quebec.

We have developed tools to promote tourism in Quebec and we have a concerted approach. While there can be levels of services, common initiatives and exchanges in that area, there is no need for a superstructure such as the Canadian tourism commission, which will get involved in jurisdictions where Quebec is already very active.

I think Quebecers will see with this initiative, as with others, that Canadian federalism does not serve them properly, it does not provide them with what they expect. For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill.

Mr. John Bryden (Wentworth—Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am Canadian, I come from Ontario and I am an anglophone.

I often visit Quebec, and I really like Quebecers, their culture and Quebec City. I am proud that the world's most beautiful francophone region is a part of Canada. As a Canadian, as a member of this House and as a colleague of the Bloquistes, I want to tell everyone that Quebec is the world's most beautiful francophone region.

I have a question for the hon. member: Why can we not share with you and tell people that Quebec is one of the world's most beautiful regions? I like that region, but unfortunately I do not speak French very well. It is the first time I ask a question in French in the House of Commons.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

Mr. John Bryden: This is an important moment, because it is a question that comes from the heart.

Mr. Paul Crête: Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for his intervention in French. I have known him for several years now and I can tell he has made remarkable progress. I think he deserves our congratulations.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Paul Crête: However, I think that he proved the point I was making earlier. We are here to discuss the Canadian tourism commission and its mandate but we just heard an intervention aimed at selling Canada.

I am glad that the hon. member spoke in French. We understood clearly that what he was telling is that, basically, the mandate of the Canadian tourism commission is to promote Canada as a federation. That is what he said.

I respect his opinion, but I do not think that we need the Canadian tourism commission to do that.

As far as beauty is concerned, I agree with him that Quebec is a fantastic region, which is very unique in North America due to its French speaking majority.

However, I do not think that there is only one French speaking area in Canada. I believe that we are one of its two founding peoples, one of its two distinct societies. We have a right to try to find the best way to be represented within Canada, on large, medium and small issues.

I submit, however, that the Canadian tourism commission is not the good vehicle to sell our tourist attractions to the world.

 

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We have developed all the tools we need to be able to do that adequately. What we need much more from the federal government is to project, outside Canada, the image of a country where there is a francophone people. If this were the image projected in all Canadian embassies, it would make a much stronger contribution than creating a tourism commission with a very large board filled with the government's friends. The fact is that it will be able to get federal money in a sector it has no business being involved in.

Two years ago, the federal government said in the throne speech that it would get out of certain sectors, including tourism. Today, it is introducing a bill to establish the Canadian tourism commission. Where is the logic? It is an unseemly action similar to the Prime Minister's position on the issue of the majority.

We are used to dealing with such situations. Our only wish is to end this debate by forming an economic partnership with Canada, on an equal footing, where we will have control of all the levers and where there will be no useless third party interventions.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The member for Scarborough Centre, on questions and comments.

Mr. Gilles-A. Perron: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point or order. You have just recognized a member from across the way for questions and comments. You are recognizing another member from across the way. Is it two for one or three for one? Is that what 50% plus one means?

[English]

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Yes, it is. I must repeat it in English just to be sure. Whenever there is a member from a party contra to the party that has just made a discourse, the other person will always be recognized before a member from the same party.

The notion is debate, and there is much more likely to be debate from an opposite point of view. It goes the other way around from time to time.

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for respecting the rules of the House. The member who spoke on the bill said that they could not support the bill in its current form. That does not surprise me because they would not support it anyway, no matter what form.

Before I get on to my question, I was disappointed because the member took this opportunity to take the bill in an entirely different direction, which is unfair to the industry, unfair to us, and unfair to the country. For years the member for Broadview—Greenwood has been promoting tourism. I commend him for it. We have been presenting it as a pan-Canadian initiative.

I compliment the member when he talks about the beautiful areas of Quebec. I am very proud to say that my daughter will be teaching French next year. We share its beauty and that of the rest of Canada. On other hand, as the CTC is unfolding I want to clarify for members and the listeners out there that the Canadian Tourism Commission was there, is there and will continue to be there.

It is a partnership agreement where the stakeholders come in and provide financial support along with government appropriations and proper accountability. The sad part I heard while listening, as much as I heard many wonderful things, was the way it was portrayed in terms of marketing Canada or promoting federalism. The word propaganda was there. There is no propaganda when we talk about the beauty of our country from coast to coast to coast, helping small businesses grow, bringing about employment and capturing the market.

Could the member tell me how the CTC, the government or any Canadian, could prevent any French speaking individual from any part of the globe from coming to Canada? That I cannot see.

 

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[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête: Mr. Speaker, the member says he is surprised and that our party would vote against the bill in any case. I wish to remind him that, in this House, the opposition party that has most often voted with the government when bills were appropriate is the Bloc Quebecois.

There is no way that we can be accused of not making a constructive contribution to the debate. And as for the reason behind our present position, we wonder why the government introduced this bill. The provinces, and more specifically Quebec, already have their own infrastructures, well developed tourism networks, and strategies geared to the needs and characteristics of their respective regions.

This is particularly true for Quebec, as I explained in my speech. It has a policy, and it has regional structures, in the form of regional tourism associations. Tourism has taken off in Quebec in recent years, since we pooled all our resources, and we do not see the need for this kind of agency to help promote tourism in Quebec.

Would the needs of each of the provinces be better served by the Canadian tourism commission, whose object is to promote several competing tourism products? It will become a battle over whether to put more money into promoting Ontario, New Brunswick or Quebec, rather than letting each province organize its own tourism supply.

This is not how tourism operates, and it brings politics into a sector where it is not needed.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Unfortunately, the time allotted for questions and comments has now expired.

[English]

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I will begin my debate by recognizing how significant is the tourism industry. I commend the level of debate that has taken place up to this point, especially by the hon. member opposite when he said how beautiful the provinces of Quebec and Ontario were, how people move back and forth between them, and the significance of tourism to them.

The constituency of Kelowna which I represent is actually in another world known as paradise. It is a great and wonderful place. It is a place that would stack up to anywhere. I notice an hon. member clapping. I agree with him. It is a wonderful place.

This demonstrates that western Canada, Quebec and all the rest of Canada benefit from tourism. We need to get together in this whole operation. The part that bothers me is that we would use this debate as some kind of a vehicle or wedge to drive between Canadians. This should be a unifying activity, not a divisive one.

Before I move to the actual substance of the bill I would first like to ask a question. Why has the bill come before us? The bill creates a tourist commission that already exists and will somehow create a crown corporation. Why would this happen?

At the present time we have the Canadian Tourist Commission. The bill will establish a crown corporation to be known as the Canadian Tourism Commission, which is the same agency that presently exists. If the name is the same and if it is simply to create a crown corporation for something we already have, what is different?

I looked at the objectives of the corporation. The bill says that the corporation shall sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. That is the first point. The second one is that it shall market Canada as a desirable tourist destination. The third is that it shall support a co-operative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories, with respect to Canadian tourism. The final point is that it shall provide information about Canadian tourism to the private sector and to the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories.

 

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These are wonderful objectives, but are they different or more comprehensive than what exists at the present time with the Canadian Tourism Commission? I went to the commission and asked what was the issue. Here are the exact statements from the Canadian Tourism Commission.

As it exists at the present time the major purpose of the Canadian Tourism Commission is to create a vibrant and profitable part of the Canadian economy. Let me go back to the first objective of the crown corporation: to sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. With the exception of one or two different words the meaning is identical.

I will go to the next one. It states that the main thrust of the tourist commission as it exists today is to position Canada as a desirable destination to both international and domestic travellers. If I look at the bill before us it states that its second objective is to market Canada as a desirable tourist destination. What is the difference? There is no difference.

Finally, the Canadian Tourism Commission as it exists today is a partnership among tourism industry businesses, provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada. Lo and behold the bill before us states that it shall support a co-operative relationship between the private sector and the governments of Canada, the provinces and the territories with respect to Canadian tourism. The only difference is in the order in which the words are presented.

I fail to see that the bill creates anything different from what we have today, except the relationship with the government is a bit different in the sense that it is now a crown corporation. It is currently an agency within a department and under the bill it will become a crown corporation.

I thought then if there is not a difference in the objectives perhaps there could be a difference in the preamble that gave rise to the bill. Very often it is in the preamble that we find the rationale that gives rise to the bill. I examined it to see whether it materially justified and created a solid, sound and very substantive reason for the creation of a crown corporation. The preamble states:

      Whereas the Canadian tourism industry is vital to the social and cultural identity and integrity of Canada;

      Whereas the Canadian tourism industry makes an essential contribution to the economic well-being of Canadians and to the economic objectives of the Government of Canada;

      Whereas the Canadian tourism industry consists of mainly small and medium-sized businesses that are essential to Canada's goals for entrepreneurial development and job creation;

      And whereas it is desirable to strengthen Canada's commitment to Canadian tourism by establishing a Tourism Commission that would work with the governments of the provinces and the territories and the Canadian tourism industry to promote the interests of that industry and to market Canada as a desirable tourist destination;

Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, creates an act. I emphasize the last paragraph I just read. We have that, so what are we doing here?

What on earth possessed whoever it is who had the audacity to bring this matter to the House? Why would something like this be done? We have the commission. We have the agency. We have the minister. Now we are to do it all over again. How many different ways is a spare tire put on a car?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): Perhaps that question will be answered the next time the bill comes before the House because the hon. member will have 13 minutes remaining. Unfortunately there is no time to hear the rest of his comments today.

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



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

 

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[English]

WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT

 

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.) moved that Bill C-223, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a related and consequential amendment to another act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I will begin my remarks today by stating that this is an exciting day for me. Although I have submitted private members' bills many times in the past six years, this is my first bill to be deemed votable.

Bill C-223, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act or the new identities act, as I have called it, attempts to accomplish one thing, to save lives.

In my remarks today I will address the problem of domestic violence in our society, the inadequacies of our present laws, the current new identities program and explain the initiatives proposed in Bill C-223.

Domestic violence is one of the most horrendous problems facing our society. It is my opinion, and that of the hundreds of women who have responded to this issue, that domestic violence is indeed a national problem deserving increased attention from parliament. I do not believe that we as parliamentarians have done enough to address the violence that all too often occurs behind closed doors. This is an issue that requires us to put aside our partisan ways and address the true needs of those in danger.

Just listen to these statistics. In 1996, 21,901 cases of spousal assault were recorded in a sample of 154 police departments across the country. In 1996, approximately 80% of victims of criminal harassment or stalking were women. Over half of all female victims of criminal harassment were harassed by ex-spouses or other intimate partners.

Between 1977 and 1996, there were 2,048 spousal killings in Canada. In over 56% of spousal homicides, investigating police officers had knowledge of previous domestic violence between victims and the suspects.

The process of eradicating domestic violence is not easy and I am fully aware that process will take some time. In the meantime, there are women and children in our country who live in fear for their lives. When I began to research this issue I was shocked by the lack of laws focused on preventing domestic violence and spousal abuse. Aside from anti-stalking laws and restraining orders, there are few remedies available. Most of the laws focus on punishment for crimes committed and are often too late for victims.

Such was the case for Mary-Lynne Miller from Dawson Creek in my riding. In February 1997 Brad Neuman, Miller's former common-law spouse while on probation beat her into a coma in her own apartment. Mary-Lynne suffered on the floor with severe head injuries for over 21 hours before getting medical attention. She remains in a coma to this very day.

One of Neuman's probation conditions was that he was to have no contact with Mary-Lynne Miller. Other than go into hiding, Mary-Lynne could not ensure her own safety and paid a heavy price. It was this case that really opened my eyes to the tragedy of domestic violence. Sadly, there have been thousands of others equally tragic.

In January of this year I was reading the Vancouver Province on my flight from Vancouver to Ottawa where I came across an article. The story detailed a maverick program run by bureaucrats in the Department of Revenue Canada, in conjunction with Human Resources Development Canada, to provide new identities for those people who find themselves in life threatening situations. It allows them to change their names and social insurance numbers in order to hide from an abusive spouse or former spouse.

The woman featured in the article had endured beatings, death threats and emotional torture. The new identities program helped her to relocate and get new documents. Unfortunately, her academic credentials were not transferable to her new identity nor was her resume. This meant finding any job she could in order to support herself and her child. When her husband caught her trail again she would have to run and start the same panicked process of self-preservation over again.

 

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After reading this article I felt frustrated and motivated to do something. That is when I began to research this issue to seek out a solution. The result is the bill before the House today. Originally numbered C-494 in the first session of this parliament, I sent copies of this bill and background material to over 500 women's shelters and transition houses across Canada seeking feedback and their input.

What I got in return were letters of support; tragic, horrifying personal stories and petitions signed by hundreds of people in support of the bill. It was reassuring to know that those who deal with the brutality of spousal abuse on a daily basis endorse the principles contained in this bill.

This summer a woman contacted me after hearing about the bill. She came into my office in disguise to tell me firsthand the story of her abuse. She has been on the run from her former husband for over 10 years. She and her son live in a constant state of readiness to move. Just this fall her husband, through a private investigator, found them again. The threat of violence is so severe that her son's school was put on lock down to assure his safety.

She has been harassed, stalked, beaten, permanently disfigured and threatened with death. It is hard to believe that these are Canadian citizens living in such fear in this very country.

Without a new identify, this woman is positive that her former husband will kill her. Even though he has had several restraining orders filed against him there, is little that can be done until he decides to strike again.

As I mentioned earlier in my remarks, the new identities program is an ad hoc program providing assistance to those in need. However, the program is not well known and operates without a mandate or formal funding.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous service that the bureaucrats in these departments have undertaken. These individuals went far and beyond their job descriptions to help those in need. They exemplify the true meaning of the term “public servants”.

I believe that the witness protection program is the natural home for new identities. Women brought into the program will benefit from the expertise and knowledge of the RCMP who already relocate crown witnesses. All law enforcement agencies across the country are connected electronically, granting access to this program from the most remote reaches of Canada.

By bringing the new identities program under the Witness Protection Act, I believe we can do more for these women and their children. The Witness Protection Act defines protection as including relocation, accommodation and change of identity, as well as counselling and financial support.

This program is not for everyone. In fact the exact opposite is the reality. The new identities program is an escape of last resort for those who the law has failed and are in fear for their lives and the lives of their children.

I listed earlier the tremendous sacrifices undertaken to change one's identity. However, there are some in our society who would try to use such a program for ulterior motives. To ensure this does not happen there is a list of factors or criteria to be considered for admission into this program: the nature of the risk to the security of the person would be assessed; alternative methods of protecting the person without admission into this program would be considered; the nature of the injuries suffered by the person or the severe psychological damage inflicted by the spouse and any criminal history; the circumstances that cause the spouse to believe that their life is in danger would obviously be assessed; and, such other factors that the commissioner of the RCMP would deem relevant. I believe that the criteria are fair and will ensure that those who truly need the program will have access to it.

Canada is supposed to be the best country in the world in which to live. But for women living in fear from abusive spouses, it is a hell on earth.

I fully realize that according to the standing orders I can speak for 20 minutes when moving a votable bill. Certainly this is such a tragically vital bill I could not do the subject proper justice if I spoke all day. However, I believe in my heart that this issue is non-partisan and is of such a nature that I will limit my remarks in order to allow more members to participate in this important debate.

 

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In closing, I call on all members to support this bill. It is but a first small step that we can take to provide protection to those most needing our help.

[Translation]

Mr. Jacques Saada (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-223, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act.

As my hon. colleague said a few minutes ago, this bill transcends political issues and is totally non partisan. Our government wholeheartedly supports any measure to ensure the protection of people whose lives and sometimes the lives of their children are being threatened by a spouse or a former spouse. Nobody can really disagree with that.

[English]

This is an issue that this government has taken very seriously. A joint federal, provincial and territorial process has been in place for a number of years. It is called new identities for victims in life threatening relationships. It was developed under the leadership of Human Resources Development Canada.

In situations where there is no other viable alternative, this initiative offers persons in life threatening relationships the opportunity to change their identities to avoid serious or fatal harm. In short, it does what Bill C-223 seeks to do. But the new identities initiative does so in a manner which, I would submit, is more acceptable.

[Translation]

I will come back in a little while to the advantages of the new identities initiative compared with the provisions of Bill C-223, but first, I want to address in a broader way this issue of establishing new identities as a way to ensure the protection of victims of domestic violence.

Given new identities to victims of life threatening domestic violence is an extreme measure that, for obvious reasons, can only be used under exceptional circumstances and as a last resort.

New identities may ensure better protection, but do come with many problems. The people being given new identities must leave their community and break with their family and their friends. And where children are involved, things get a lot more complicated.

[English]

Nevertheless, although it is a matter of last resort, establishing a new identity is sometimes necessary. Since 1992 the joint federal, provincial and territorial new identities initiative has helped some 203 victims and is proving to be a very useful method of providing an additional measure of safety to those who are most at risk.

In a number of respects, Canada is at the very forefront of nations in its response to conjugal violence. The new identities initiative is one of the areas where we are at the cutting edge. I understand that International Social Services Canada has made inquiries and found no other similar initiative in any other country except for the beginnings of a slightly similar process in the United States. As such, Canada has much to be proud of.

[Translation]

That said, we can and must do more. Education, counselling, prevention and other social service measures are essential if we are to do away with family violence. When all else fails, we must take steps against the violent partners.

The federal, provincial and territorial partners have already worked on the development of a new identity program. There is always room for improvement, but we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to build on what is already established.

There are a number of unsettled questions. In particular, there is the need for more formal co-ordination of the new identities program, a process in which, I would remind hon. members, the federal, provincial and territorial governments participate.

We also need to examine the eligibility criteria and issues relating to mobility, as well as the matter of the financing of a fully operative program.

 

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[English]

All these issues require consultation and co-ordination. The issue of responding to spousal violence is one that is a shared responsibility for governments at all levels.

I am pleased to report that officials are already examining possible improvements to the new identities initiative. This month a federal-provincial-territorial working group has begun consultations to address the very questions that I have just raised.

[Translation]

That brings me to the question before the House, that is Bill C-223, whose object is to amend the Witness Protection Program Act so that situations of family violence would come under it.

The witness protection program, run by the RCMP, is used to protect certain individuals who help in the application of the law. A perfect example is the case of witnesses asked to testify in trials involving organized crime. So, naturally, this program concerns specific situations linked particularly to the application of the law.

The process of establishing a new identity is a separate program run jointly by governments. It applies to situations and persons other than those who come under the witness protection program.

In essence, Bill C-223 would incorporate the security measures provided in new identities into the Witness Protection Program Act.

[English]

The issue before us is not whether we should seek to ensure that safety and security measures for victims of spousal violence are the best they can be. Similarly, the issue is not whether we should take steps to build upon processes such as new identities. The issue is what steps should be taken. My view is that Bill C-223 simply is not a proper step.

As I have indicated, there are a number of specific questions that must be addressed if we are to build upon the excellent initiatives that have already been developed. Bill C-223 does not answer the questions or address the issues that must be examined. For those, consultations are necessary. The process of holding these consultations has been put in place and is currently getting under way. Proceeding with Bill C-223 would undercut this important process.

[Translation]

I admit that one of the solutions that could be considered in order to increase protection for victims of domestic abuse would be to incorporate the new identities process into the Witness Protection Program Act.

However, it is clear from preliminary consultations with various interested agencies, including victims' rights groups, that including the protection of spouses in the Witness Protection Program Act is not the best solution.

Before any thought is given to this option, the complex underlying issues must be resolved, particularly as regards the services available to victims and the co-ordination of action by the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

[English]

I am saying that very sincerely. I respect the initiative taken by the hon. member. I share the objective that is pursued with this initiative. These goals are fundamental, but the importance of this issue makes it necessary that we not take hasty steps. We must consult with those involved. We must avoid imposing top down solutions that may undercut what has already been built. The working group now in place must be allowed to consider all the dimensions of the problem without being locked into one single solution. For these reasons I do not support Bill C-223.

Before I conclude, it is important to note that yesterday was the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and also the opening day of the white ribbon campaign commemorating the tragic killings of women in Montreal a few years past. It is so very fitting that we have had the chance today to address an issue as important as conjugal violence within this context.

 

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Mr. Gilles Bernier (Tobique—Mactaquac, PC): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again on behalf of the PC Party and my constituents of Tobique—Mactaquac.

Let me begin by stating that I have somewhat mixed reactions with regard to this bill. At first glance I felt that this was a very important bill and I had hoped for it to receive positive consideration from all members of this House. However after more careful review, it is evident that this bill is an attempt to enact legislation that already exists.

The PC Party supports the premise behind this bill. The PC Party has been consistent in its support of law and order, the protection of society and victims rights. Other than the specific reference to spousal protection, every other amendment already exists in the current legislation. If the Reform Party feels that it is necessary to amend the legislation and make specific reference to the protection of spouses, then we will not oppose it.

The bill itself will provide for the establishment and operation of a program to enable certain persons to receive protection in relation to certain inquiries, investigations or prosecutions and to enable certain spouses whose life is in danger to receive protection.

The proposed legislation, like that of the current legislation, will protect those in society who are willing to come forward and testify against offenders who have the means to exact retribution from their accuser, even from a jail cell. The special mention of spouses recognizes a common occurrence that has affected spouses of the accused in a negative manner.

Presently the criminal code states that we cannot force someone to testify against his or her spouse. Rightly or wrongly, one could argue that this is one of the more noble sections of the criminal code. Still the section has created problems for the justice system and the spouse of an accused offender.

In many cases the spouse of an accused offender often possesses the most intimate knowledge with regard to the accused. Such knowledge often includes information that police and prosecutors need to obtain a conviction, yet spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other. This limitation for prosecutors can create real problems in securing a conviction.

Bill C-223 recognizes that there are spouses who are willing to testify against their partners. It also recognizes that the testimony of spouses is often required to bring some of the country's most notorious criminals to justice. It also recognizes that many of these criminals have the means at their disposal to intimidate their spouse through threats of bodily harm, harm to their children, et cetera. This intimidation can be initiated by the accused or by supporters of the accused. The intimate knowledge that spouses have can also be used to the advantage of the accused. The accused involved in these kinds of cases often possess knowledge of many effective scare tactics to use on their spouse.

In an attempt to correct this longstanding problem, the witness protection program was created. Its role is to provide protection, a change of identity and location in exchange for testimony against a dangerous criminal. This protection is offered to everyone, including spouses. This is the reason I question the need to make amendments for the inclusion of spouses. They are already included. If the House feels that such an amendment is necessary, our party will not oppose it.

With regard to witness protection, we do not know much about the program other than the basic facts. The RCMP does not provide any more information than is required under Bill C-78 which was passed in 1996. This legislation set out clear rules for witness protection but in the interests of safety, required only the disclosure of basic data.

What we do know is that in trials where witness protection is needed, the testimony often comes from victims of the accused. Thus, the disclosure of more than the basic data could place at risk the lives of these people.

The witness protection program is not much of a reward for helping to place a criminal behind bars. However, through the valiant efforts of the RCMP in this secretive operation, the witnesses in this program are at least safe from criminal retribution. In recent years, thanks to the Liberals' soft approach to crime and the gouging of RCMP budgets, all aspects of crime prevention have suffered. This includes the witness protection program.

As Canadians are seeing the proliferation of criminal gangs across the country and increasing high tech crimes, drug smuggling and money laundering, we know that it is no longer the individual criminal who must be stopped but the entire organization to which the individual belongs.

Under the Liberal government, Canada has become a favourite home for organized crime. As I stated previously, when dealing with a criminal involved in organized crime, one deals with the entire organization. If a witness were to come forward to testify against the accused, he or she may suffer repercussions from the entire organization.

 

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Unlike in the movies, the organized crime groups of today do not subscribe to any code of honour. In many cases if a person agrees to testify against one of their members, they will do their best to ensure that the person does not make it to the courtroom. Without witnesses, there is no case.

I feel that Bill C-223 helps bring attention to this fact but it would be easier to simply deal with the problem under the current act. Bill C-223 will change the name of the witness protection program to the witness and spousal protection program.

Similar to the current act, Bill C-223 will promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance in law enforcement matters where the witnesses and spousal witnesses believe on reasonable grounds that their lives are in danger due to their testimony.

The term spouse will include a former spouse and a person who has cohabited with another person in a conjugal relationship for a period of not less than one year. We agree that the term spouse must be liberally applied so as to offer protection to all those who could be adversely affected.

We also recognize that there will be those who will attempt to enter the program but do not need this sort of protection. Thus, before a witness or a spouse can be placed in this program, they must be recommended by a law enforcement agency and the commissioner of the program must review the recommendation.

Finally, an agreement has to be made between the witness or spouse and the commissioner setting out the obligations of both parties.

These are all positive steps but they already exist in the current legislation.

In the specific case of the spouse, section 7 of the act is amended to allow for the consideration of the following factors to determine whether a spouse should be admitted to the program:

      (a) the nature of the risk to the security of the spouse;

      (b) the nature of the injuries caused to the spouse or the severe psychological damage inflicted on the spouse by the other spouse and the criminal record, if any, of the other spouse;

      (c) the circumstances that cause the spouse to believe that the spouse's life is in danger;

      (d) alternate methods of protecting the spouse without admitting the spouse to the Program; and

      (e) such other factors as the Commissioner deems relevant.

These are all sensible recommendations that I feel will protect those who need protecting while eliminating from the process those who would abuse it. Once again, I must state that the current legislation deals with such criteria for people in general.

Accountability is built into the selection process as it was in the previous legislation for cases of refusal. In these cases the commissioner shall provide the law enforcement agency with written reasons to enable the agency or witness or spouse to understand the basis for the decision.

To sum up, I would like to thank the member for Prince George—Peace River for bringing the bill forward. I feel that it is a good bill as it indirectly brings light to the lack of funding from the federal government for matters of public safety. It reinforces the existing efforts of law enforcement to ensure that witnesses will not be intimidated while performing their public duty. We must ensure that criminals cannot exert a negative influence on our courtrooms and on our society in general.

Bill C-223 does not change the existing legislation. Yet if the debate shows that the House is in favour of specific spousal protection, the PC Party will have no problem in supporting the bill.

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-223.

I congratulate my colleague from Prince George—Peace River for taking a leadership role in this very important issue. Like many of us, he has seen the result of spousal violence and it is a very sad thing indeed.

My colleague has brought this bill forward because this issue is not formalized within the current statutes of the land and therefore, people are falling between the cracks. Furthermore there is not an opportunity for people whose lives are being threatened and whose children's lives potentially are being threatened to be aware of and access this type of program. That is the only reason this bill is being put forth.

If the government is really interested in this as it has expressed today, then members should stand in the House and say they will support and enact the elements of Bill C-223 so that people who are living in fear for their lives will be protected.

 

. 1400 + -

The ad hoc situation right now is okay, but it is not entirely acceptable. There is much more that can be done and the bill enables us to do it.

This is an issue of the protection of innocent people. If a spouse is in fear of his or her life, we cannot empathize with the person unless we have been in such a situation to express stark terror.

My colleague who spoke earlier in the House mentioned her friend who travelled all over the world to get away from a spouse who was terrorizing her. Indeed she feared for her life. She had to go to China. She had to go to other parts of the world. She could not use a credit card. She could not even make a phone call back home because there was no way she could be protected in Canada. What a sad reflection on our laws that they cannot protect people and their children who are being subjected to this type of terror.

I also draw attention to an important issue that needs to be told. It is politically incorrect to say so but I think we need to talk about it. I am referring to the fact that spousal violence affects men and women. Clearly there are women who are violated, but there are also men who are violated. It is important to put it in the context of a genderless issue. Spousal violence is wrong regardless of who happens to be on either side. A man or a woman can be a victim and the assaulter can be a man or a woman. We have to bear that in mind so that we establish a series of laws that will be fair regardless of gender and that the issue can be based on the people involved.

I would also like to speak about how we can deal with preventing spousal violence. We do not mention heading it off at the pass. Right now police officers have a very difficult time protecting a person at home who is terrorized and whose life is in danger. Does somebody's jaw need to be broken or does somebody need to be assaulted in an egregious fashion or even killed before the police act? Currently all too often we find that issues of spousal violence are swept under the carpet and that not enough protection is given to the spouse involved.

Shelters exist to protect people, in this case it is usually women, but they are underfunded and there are not enough of them to handle the situation. Furthermore the Reform Party believes that the courts and the system in place now do not do enough to protect that person whose life is terrorized.

I also draw attention to something very exciting that I learned about recently, the issue of victims rights. Premier Harris is often accused of being a conservative person, somebody with whom we would see eye to eye on many principles as a provincial Conservative in Ontario. He is accused of not really caring and being right wing.

The office of the Attorney General of Ontario has set up, with Scott Newark and Sharon Rosenfeldt, the first victims rights element of an attorney general's office in the country. No other province has one and it is possible that no state in the United States has such an organization. Mr. Newark and Ms. Rosenfeldt are out there trying to ensure that victims rights are an integral element in the court system of Ontario.

I hope the government will work with the Attorney General of Ontario and in fact spread that message across the country so that people living in other provinces and territories will have an opportunity to have access to the benefit of what is going on in Ontario. It is very exciting. It will formalize and put victims rights into the courts system so that victims will finally have a place in the system, will have their rights protected, and will have access to the care and treatment they require when they engage in the rehabilitation their souls require after being victimized. It is a very constructive program. I would strongly encourage the government to take a look at it and spread the word to the other provinces.

Another issue raised earlier by one of my colleagues was that of the RCMP. The province of British Columbia has a very serious situation on its hands. Right now there is a severe lack of RCMP officers, as there are in other provinces. This situation will only get a lot worse in the future.

 

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The population of RCMP officers is aging. When we look at the demands placed upon them and our needs in the future, we will have a shortfall far in excess of what we have today. This is a serious situation. How can we hope to be able to enforce the law if we do not have enough police officers out there to do the job?

The solicitor general has spoken about this matter from time to time, but we have not heard any constructive solutions that will enable the RCMP to get the resources or have the numbers in its ranks to do its job. That is not happening now. We would be happy to work with members on the other side to make it a reality for all Canadians.

Another issue I want to talk about is Correctional Service Canada. A serious issue in British Columbia was recently brought to my attention. Because of cost cutting, I would imagine, many or most of the anger management counsellors, psychologists, and such attached to the prisons are being replaced with correctional officers who have one or two weeks of training. Correctional officers do an excellent job, a difficult task at that, but they are not counsellors.

We are cutting our noses off to spite our faces. If we do not allow the penal system to have the anger management counsellors, the psychologists and the drug rehabilitation experts who deal with the people once they are in jail and with those factors that contributed to their coming in front of the judicial system, then those released from jail will be worse off than they when came in. We will be releasing people who have a much higher chance of engaging in another criminal act, only to be put through the courts again. Not only is this utterly expensive, but it is also inhuman to the Canadian public. It is unworkable.

Again I ask the Minister of Justice to work with the solicitor general and to work with their provincial counterparts, particularly those in the province of British Columbia, to make sure that we reverse this trend and that the correctional system will have the capability of hiring those people who are an essential part of the rehabilitation process.

The last issue I would like to address is the issue of organized crime. The Reform Party has been pushing the government for many years to take some immediate and urgent action to deal with organized crime. More than half the crime in the nation is related in some way to organized crime. An example of smuggling people was raised earlier, which is attached to organized crime. In many cases in British Columbia it is attached to Chinese gangs.

We hardly heard anything from the government on the issue of how to deal with organize crime. Again I ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with the Minister of Justice to call together other nations in the world suffering from a similar problem to develop a rules based method and a system of attacking organized criminal syndicates which are multinational in nature.

Also on the issue of crime prevention I bring to the attention of the minister the head start program, which is exceptionally good at preventing crime, and the work of the National Crime Prevention Council.

In closing, I compliment the member for Prince George—Peace River for putting together Bill C-223. Members on the other side mentioned that they were sympathetic toward it. We ask that the government act and act now before more victims show up on our doorstep.

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am please to have the opportunity to address Bill C-223, an act to amend the witness protection program. I acknowledge the initiative of the member for Prince George—Peace River in bringing the issue before the House for consideration.

The bill seeks to address the protection of spousal abuse victims under the witness protection program. There is no doubt that the victims of spousal abuse are in an extremely difficult and sometimes even life threatening situation.

As all of us are aware most of the victims are women. Often their children are involved as well. Addressing their needs and ensuring their safety have involved many agencies in our communities: government and social services, law enforcement, and as voluntary and non-profit organizations.

While the federal government has an important role to play in this regard, it is my view that the safety of victims of spousal abuse will not be improved by going forward with the measures under Bill C-223 at this time.

 

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In order to explain why Bill C-223 is not the right initiative let me first say a few words about the Canadian witness protection program. The program is managed by our national police force, the RCMP. It has become an important weapon in the law enforcement arsenal of investigative techniques. Its primary use has been to protect witnesses who may be at risk because they assisted with police investigations.

When it was formalized into legislation in 1996, it was enacted as a federal government initiative in partnership with provincial and territorial governments and law enforcement organizations to combat organized crime. Historically witness protection programs are most closely associated with the investigation of organized crime. As most of us know, organized crime covers a broad range of criminal activity, including large scale drug trafficking, murder, serious assault, money laundering and extortion, and robbery. As often as not, these crimes go hand in hand with the use of fear and intimidation to ensure the silence of potential witnesses and informants.

However, witness protection today has a broader application. A disturbing trend in recent years has been the use of fear and intimidation by lone criminals. These people are willing to go to any length to avoid conviction or to extract retribution from witnesses. As a consequence there are a growing number of people who need protection as a result of their roles in cases that have nothing to do with organized crime.

To deal with this growing need for witness and informant protection in response to the increased enforcement priority placed on fighting major national and international drug trafficking organizations, the RCMP source witness protection program was started in 1984. It was the forerunner of the legislative program now in place.

The current program offers protective services to provincial and municipal police forces across Canada. While many of these police forces rely entirely on the RCMP for witness protection services, some of the larger police departments also have their own witness protection initiatives. Obviously not every witness qualifies for witness protection despite numerous serious assaults that take place in Canada each year. The RCMP and other police forces must exercise care and good judgment when deciding who is eligible for witness protection and who is not.

Over the years witness protection programs of the RCMP and other police departments have become highly effective enforcement tools against criminals who previously were able to use threats and violence against witnesses as a means to avoid prosecution and conviction. Witnesses and informants who assist the police are an invaluable asset to the criminal justice system and in many cases their testimony cannot be replaced by any other investigative means.

This is especially true in drug enforcement. Here the availability of the RCMP witness protection program has prompted informants and witnesses to come forward to assist the police and to testify in court against major national and international drug traffickers. These witnesses have provided crucial firsthand information to further investigations which otherwise would have been obtained at considerable cost in police resources, human or otherwise, or not at all.

Major police investigations often require the police to use a wide variety of investigative techniques. A witness protection program is one of the most sensitive of these techniques. Witness protection is not a cure for violent crime or organized crime, but it is an important tool that is being used for law enforcement investigations, one that has been of major help to police in fighting organized and serious crime in Canada. For that reason I do not think the special needs of the victims of family violence would best be addressed by simply tacking spousal safety measures on to this law enforcement program as suggested by Bill C-223.

Family violence is more than just a law enforcement issue. While enforcement certainly plays a role in addressing the problem, family violence is a problem that Canadians have also addressed through social services such as counselling to ensure the well-being of spousal abuse victims and their families. A response of this kind is not within the normal domain of a police administered witness protection program.

The federal government currently addresses family violence through a number of programs in place. In addition, the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention has funded several community programs to address the problem. The federal government has renewed its commitment to reduce family violence in Canada. The family violence initiative promotes public awareness of the risk factors of family violence and the need for public involvement in responding to it.

The initiative has strengthened the ability of the criminal justice system and the housing system to respond. It supports data collection and research and evaluation efforts to identify effective interventions. It is an initiative that marks a new stage in federal efforts to reduce family violence. The issue of family violence has been integrated into ongoing programs in many government departments. We have learned that the best way to address family violence is to support a common vision and a co-ordinated approach.

 

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This does not mean, of course, that we can ignore the very real security issues that arise in spousal abuse situations. These issues must be addressed as part of a co-ordinated approach.

I am pleased to say that there is, in fact, a national initiative in place to assist certain spousal abuse victims. It has been developed with provincial and territorial partners under the leadership and co-ordination of Human Resources Development Canada. The initiative is called the “New Identities Program” and it is for victims of life threatening relationships.

This initiative allows a chance for abused spouses and their children to start new lives in greater safety and security. Various measures taken under this process are designed to help remove those at risk from the access of their abusers and to ensure that their safety and security is maintained. It is, of course, a measure of last resort, since removal of the victims can create hardships on the victims themselves. It is only used in exceptional cases where other safety measures have been or will be inadequate.

Our present day responses to spousal abuse can always be improved, but I believe that the specific measures under Bill C-223 are not the best way to do this. While the proposals in Bill C-223 may appear to offer a response to the immediate security concerns of spousal abuse victims, it may not best serve their interests when there are other more appropriate and viable alternatives possible. These alternatives, which build on what is already in place, must be pursued.

Among the possible alternatives is that some future connection to the witness protection program may be considered. However, the various alternatives must be fully evaluated together and should be allowed to evolve out of the current spousal security measures.

We should not predetermine a single choice and implement it through an unco-ordinated mingling of different initiatives. Let us not forget the role of the provinces and territories in this matter. Providing support for victims of family violence includes important elements falling under provincial jurisdiction.

Provincial consultation and co-ordination are absolutely vital to the success of additional efforts in this area. Of course, we also cannot forget the needs and concerns of those who would be directly affected, the family violence victims themselves. Establishing a new identity is only part of the solution and it cannot be considered separately from other needs.

Human Resources Development Canada is taking steps to improve the new identities program. It has established a working group that includes the provinces and territories to examine possible changes and suggested improvements in consultation with victims' groups.

The federal government is seeking to improve Canada's response to family violence. We do that through our family violence initiative. We do it through our national strategy on community safety and crime prevention and we do it through what Human Resources Development Canada is doing right now.

I believe our best option is to let existing programs and processes continue their excellent work. We should support those efforts currently under way.

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the government talks about these interesting programs. It is interesting that the Liberals have shown such concern for children in the Speech from the Throne. It is interesting that the government professes to be so concerned about women's issues.

Yet, we heard the government member say “Let the programs do their job. They are working well”. I would suggest that they are not working well because people do not even know these programs exist.

There were three issues that surprised me when I became a member of parliament six years ago which concern the number of individuals who have issues they cannot deal with and who have no idea where to go.

The first issue was that when people are being harassed and threatened by Revenue Canada, they have no idea how to fight the taxman. It is very difficult for most Canadians to use the very expensive court process and legal process to fight their own government.

The second issue was the number of concerned fathers who came to my office because they had lost access to their children. The courts would not recognize that they had any right to continue to be fathers and to have access to their children.

The third issue was the number of women who came into my office with horrific examples of what they had to put up with, and there was no protection for them from spousal abuse. A number of women had tried to use the legal process. A number of women had gone to court to get restraining orders. They found, usually through a violent episode, that restraining orders really do not mean a whole lot. Those restraining orders do not allow anybody to protect them from somebody physically threatening their life or abusing them physically.

 

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The courts are not in a position through restraining orders to deal with this. The police are not in a position through restraining orders to deal with this. There is nothing in legislation that gives the courts or the police a way to offer these women and children a way out.

I am sure that I do not stand alone as a member of parliament in having these women and fathers come into my office. Some of the situations that the women find themselves in are horrific. One woman came in who had been stabbed seven times by her previous spouse. The court would not find that it was attempted murder. He was charged and convicted of assault. She could not even have him incarcerated for a long period of time to give her some freedom from worrying about her life and the lives of her children, because it was becoming threatening to them as well.

I do not know how many members of the House have heard stories of women who are trying to remove themselves from these situations, who are trying to find safe havens. Having gone on a ride along with the RCMP I know they do their best in driving by these safe homes for women, the hostels that are set up so that women have a place to go when they leave their homes. They have to find safe havens for themselves and their children in circumstances of abuse. I know that the police try their best.

However, in Montreal an ex-spouse actually went into a hostel, into a women's shelter, and shot his wife dead, so even those shelters cannot provide a safe haven for women who are afraid for their lives.

We had an incident in Vernon, B.C. where a spouse not only murdered his wife, but her whole family. I believe there were seven or eight people whom he managed to wipe out in that one event.

I have to ask myself why the government cannot see that until we have specific legislation that the courts can refer to, that the police community can refer to, there will not and cannot be a safe haven for women who are trying to remove themselves from this constant threat of violence.

Can a government that professes to be so concerned about the children of Canada not realize that with these women are usually children, children who may have been abused by their fathers or mothers, and if not abused then they are certainly part of this threat of violence to their mothers, this threat of death to their mothers? These children are being uprooted and moved from community to community. They cannot stay in the same school for any length of time. They cannot keep the same friends. They may not even be allowed to have an association with their extended families. They live in a constant state of fear and mobility. For a government that is so concerned about the welfare of the children of this country, we would think that it would see the need to have some statutory protection, some vehicle by which the courts and the police community could direct women who are in such fear for their lives.

This is not something that women would do or that families would do for a lark. For people to give up their security within a family unit must be very, very hard indeed. They give up the stability of that history. They do not have a background to fall back on. They give up their identity. For people to give up these things for long periods of time cannot be easy. This is not something that would be abused. This is something that would be used as a very last resort by persons who have no other options.

 

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I do not see why it should be so daunting for the government to consider a legislative remedy to protect women and children. Perhaps some men might be in the same position, but I think we all recognize that the majority of people who may find themselves in this position are women and possibly the children with them. I am sure that most members in the House have examples to support why this bill is badly needed by society.

As in most cases, the government is reluctant to take a bold step forward. It says that we cannot use the witness protection program because it is outside the limits and because witness protection is used to further the investigative arm of the police department. Why can that not be changed?

Why can the aspect of protection programs not be expanded to recognize that there are more people in society who may need protection, who may need identity changes and the start of a new life than people who are going to be ratting on someone in a court of law? Why can it not be expanded? The government has expanded other legislation to broaden its dimensions. Why can the legislation not be broadened?

We have heard that the government feels that the program, which is a joint program between the Minister of Finance and, I believe, human resources, is working just fine. I suggest that it is not working just fine. Most women who are afraid for their lives do not know about the program. How are they supposed to find out about it? The police do not even know about it.

I have talked to the prosecutor's office in Surrey. There are working groups that are trying to deal with this issue. I do not recall hearing this program mentioned.

The people who are trying to find an answer for women who are in distress and who are looking for a safe haven do not know about the program and the police departments are not aware of it. Therefore how can they refer families to it? How can the people who are looking for answers and help know about it?

If the government is serious about protecting the children and women who are fearful for their lives, then the government has the responsibility to do something about it. And it should not just study it for another 10 or 15 years.

Mr. Eric Lowther (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I will use the two minutes remaining to quickly clarify some of the things that were spoken about this afternoon.

There has been some discussion about whether or not we need this bill. Let me clarify what the hon. member from Prince George is attempting to to with the bill.

This bill on the RCMP witness protection program serves as a last ditch safety net for spouses in cases where counselling and criminal law measures have proved ineffective, with the result that their very lives are in danger. Special protection is allowed for witnesses who are in jeopardy because of involvement in police activity but interestingly enough, we do not have any vehicle for spouses to access that same protection. We can protect witnesses but not spouses who are subject to violent abuse. The addition in this bill would allow spouses to access that kind of protection.

I appeal to the House. We have heard some people say that we do need this bill and others say we do not need it. Clearly we do need it and I support the bill. The best thing we can do when this comes to a vote, which it will, is to pass the bill, get it into committee and get this clarified so that we do not leave the door open for more harm and damage to families and spouses.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland): The hon. member for Calgary Centre will have approximately eight minutes when next the bill comes to the House.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2.31 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)