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37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 075

CONTENTS

Friday, June 8, 2001

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VFARM CREDIT CORPORATION ACT
VBill C-25. Third reading
VHon. Robert Thibault
VMr. Larry McCormick

. 1010

VMr. Howard Hilstrom

. 1015

. 1020

. 1025

VMr. Marcel Gagnon

. 1030

. 1035

VMr. Dick Proctor

. 1040

. 1045

VMr. Jay Hill
VMr. Peter Adams

. 1050

VMr. Howard Hilstrom
VMr. Gerald Keddy

. 1055

. 1100

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VKIDNEY DISEASE
VMr. Peter Adams
VSENIOR CITIZENS
VMr. Larry Spencer
VITALIAN RELAY TEAM
VMr. Mac Harb
VVIETNAM
VMr. Irwin Cotler

. 1105

VMARK STAROWICZ
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VEDMONTON, ALBERTA
VMr. Rahim Jaffer
VINFRASTRUCTURES
VMrs. Marlene Jennings
VKABYLIA
VMs. Francine Lalonde
VHIV-AIDS
VMs. Jean Augustine

. 1110

VLABOUR DISPUTES
VMr. Dale Johnston
VCENTRE DE LA NATURE DE LAVAL
VMs. Raymonde Folco
VBEVERLEE BELL
VMs. Wendy Lill
VORPHAN CLAUSES
VMs. Monique Guay

. 1115

VBLOC QUEBECOIS
VMr. Marcel Proulx
VMUSEUMS
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VPRESENCE IN THE GALLERY
VThe Speaker
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VTHE ECONOMY
VMr. Stockwell Day
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Stockwell Day
VHon. Jim Peterson

. 1120

VMr. Stockwell Day
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Jason Kenney
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Jason Kenney
VHon. Jim Peterson
VCOUNCIL FOR CANADIAN UNITY
VMr. Michel Gauthier
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Michel Gauthier

. 1125

VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Joe Comartin
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Joe Comartin
VHon. David Anderson

. 1130

VTHE ECONOMY
VMr. Scott Brison
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Scott Brison
VHon. Herb Gray
VGRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
VMr. Grant Hill
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Grant Hill
VHon. Herb Gray
VACCESS TO INFORMATION

. 1135

VMr. John Maloney
VMr. John Maloney
VGRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. Herb Gray
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Paul Crête

. 1140

VMs. Raymonde Folco
VMr. Paul Crête
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VMULTICULTURALISM
VMr. John Williams
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VMr. John Williams
VMs. Sarmite Bulte

. 1145

VSUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
VHon. Lorne Nystrom
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VNATIONAL REVENUE
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. Bill Graham
VHon. David Kilgour
VHARBOURS
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Loyola Hearn

. 1150

VHon. David Anderson
VSCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
VMr. James Rajotte
VMr. John Cannis
VMr. James Rajotte
VMr. John Cannis
VINTERNATIONAL TRADE
VMr. Marcel Gagnon
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VMr. Marcel Gagnon
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew

. 1155

VACCESS TO INFORMATION
VMs. Carol Skelton
VMs. Raymonde Folco
VMs. Carol Skelton
VMs. Raymonde Folco
VFOREIGN AID
VMs. Paddy Torsney
VHon. Maria Minna
VTRADE
VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew

. 1200

VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VGENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
VMr. Ghislain Fournier
VMr. Larry McCormick
VCRUELTY TO ANIMALS
VMs. Judy Sgro
VMr. John Maloney
VCANADIAN AIRLINES
VMr. Jay Hill
VHon. David Collenette
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

. 1205

VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VHon. Don Boudria
VBUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
VHon. Don Boudria
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Derek Lee
VREGIONAL DEVELOPMENT BANKS
VMr. Eugène Bellemare
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VForeign Affairs and International Trade
VMr. Bill Graham
VCANADA LABOUR CODE
VBill C-375. Introduction and first reading
VMs. Monique Guay

. 1210

VNATIONAL LITERACY STANDARDS ACT
VBill C-376. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON GUARANTEED ANNUAL INCOME ACT
VBill C-377. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VINCOME TAX ACT
VBill C-378. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VEDUCATION STANDARDS ACT
VBill C-379. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VNATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA ACT
VBill C-380. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VMAXIMUM SPEED CONTROL DEVICE ACT
VBill C-381. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb

. 1215

VFEDERAL-PROVINCIAL FISCAL ARRANGEMENTS ACT
VBill C-382. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VDIVORCE ACT
VBill C-383. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCHILDREN IN LAW ACT
VBill C-384. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Mac Harb
VCUSTOMS ACT
VBill S-23. First reading
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VPETITIONS
VHuman Rights
VMr. David Pratt
VVIA Rail
VMr. Peter Adams

. 1220

VCanada Post
VMs. Jean Augustine
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Derek Lee
VMr. John Maloney
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VMr. Bob Mills
VMr. Derek Lee
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VFARM CREDIT CORPORATION ACT
VBill C-25. Third reading
VDivision on motion deferred
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-24. Report stage
VSpeaker's Ruling
VThe Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

. 1225

VMotions in amendment
VMr. Peter MacKay
VMotions Nos. 1 and 2

. 1230

. 1235

VMr. John Maloney

. 1240

. 1245

VMr. Vic Toews

. 1250

. 1255

VMr. Yvan Loubier

. 1300

. 1305

VMr. Joe Comartin

. 1310

VMr. Peter MacKay
VMotion No. 1 negatived
VHon. John Manley
VMotions Nos. 3, 4 and 6

. 1315

VMr. Peter MacKay

. 1320

VMr. Yvan Loubier

. 1325

. 1330

VMotion No. 3 agreed to
VMotion for concurrence
VHon. David Collenette
VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
VSOCIAL HOUSING
VMr. Peter Goldring
VMotion

. 1335

. 1340

. 1345

VMrs. Judi Longfield

. 1350

. 1355

VMs. Diane Bourgeois

. 1400

. 1405

VMs. Libby Davies

. 1410

. 1415

VMr. Loyola Hearn

. 1420

. 1425

VMr. Peter Goldring
VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 075


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, June 8, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 +

[English]

FARM CREDIT CORPORATION ACT

 

Hon. Robert Thibault (for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food) moved that Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Larry McCormick (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin third reading debate today with regard to Bill C-25, which amends the Farm Credit Corporation Act of 1993. These amendments would enable Farm Credit Corporation to continue its tradition of anticipating the changing needs of agriculture with innovative products and services. The main focus of the FCC remains the same: to save and work with Canadian farm families.

Canadian farmers are well known for their resourcefulness, flexibility and determination to succeed in the long term. They need a financial institution that shows the same flexibility and commitment to change with their evolving needs.

For 41 years Farm Credit Corporation has been the national financial institution that has consistently identified emerging needs, specifically, to work with and save Canadian family farms and farm families as well as to introduce needed services to address the gaps wherever they are in agriculture.

These new amendments would allow FCC to continue this tradition. The federal government has created these amendments to ensure the continued relevancy of the act. It is very relevant to all of these family farms. After review by the standing committee, the amendments remain unchanged. I will briefly review the major amendments.

The first amendment would change the name of Farm Credit Corporation to farm credit Canada. In French it would change from Société du crédit agricole to Financement agricole Canada. This change reflects the corporation's mandate to serve rural Canada as a federal crown. Adding the word Canada to the corporation's name also demonstrates the federal government's ongoing commitment to rural Canadians.

Another key amendment would allow FCC to offer business services to producers either directly or through partnerships. Producers would have access to the broad range of business services they need to succeed in a competitive environment. The new legislation would enable FCC to offer equity financing to producers and farm related businesses. Many farming and farm related operations need access to equity as well as term financing. In fact, rural communities cannot develop local value added agricultural industries without venture and equity capital.

An important amendment to the act would allow FCC to provide financial services to farm related businesses that benefit agriculture. Currently the corporation can lend only to businesses that are majority farmer owned. By extending services to more farm related businesses, FCC would help rural economies grow and would create jobs in rural communities. These are the key amendments directly impacting producers and farm related business.

Before beginning the amendments process, I asked FCC to consult the industry it serves, and I know the minister worked with it too. It is amazing, but the corporation really did its work. It met with more than 100 agricultural and financial industry groups last year to get their input. It met with more than 400 people to talk about what the bill would deliver to Canadian farm and farm families.

In general, the agricultural groups consulted were very supportive of the proposed changes. However, some producer organizations expressed the concern that FCC should continue to concentrate on serving the needs of producers. As a result, we created an amendment specifically to address this concern. The amendment states that the primary producers would continue to be the main focus of FCC's activities. Again, we consulted with producer groups in developing this amendment.

The corporation has a long tradition of consulting the agricultural industry to identify the needs. When the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told FCC that beginning farmers need more financial options, FCC listened. In 1998 it introduced agri-start loans to help young farm families build successful farming operations. The lending volume in the past few years tells us that agri-start addresses a real and compelling need. Since it was first introduced agri-start has generated almost 1,300 loans at a value of $134 million.

In 1999, a hog producer near Brandon, Manitoba came to FCC with an idea and FCC listened. Why not offer a lending product that allows hog producers flexible payment options so they can make it through the price downturns in the industry that exist today? To address this identified need, FCC designed the flexi-hog loan last spring. Since then, lending for this loan has amounted to $20 million.

 

. 1010 + -

In the year 2000, many Quebec producers signed up for a provincial subsidy program to help them adapt their waste management facilities to meet current environmental standards. FCC created the enviro-loan, which enables producers to make the upgrades and pay off the loan when they receive the subsidy at the end of the project. The enviro-loan is now available across Canada.

At FCC innovation is not confined to products and services. FCC is at the forefront of a growing movement in agriculture to enter partnerships to give customers more comprehensive solutions.

In the past several years FCC has built a network of 27 partners to offer more comprehensive financial packages to producers and to farm related businesses. FCC works with agriculture based businesses including input suppliers, livestock brokers and a national network of equipment dealers. FCC partners with public sector financial institutions such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Alberta Financial Services Corporation. The corporation also works with private sector institutions such as credit unions and is very successful with this across the country.

In March FCC announced an innovative partnership with private and public sector organizations to help farmers with life cycle planning. AgriSuccess is a joint initiative that offers seminars and online information to help producers to address long term planning issues. The initiative increases access to business planning services throughout rural Canada.

The amendments we are discussing today would position FCC to continue in its role as a catalyst and innovator. Through FCC, producers and farm related businesses would be able to access the range of services they require no matter where they live in rural Canada.

FCC recognizes that the future of farming is linked to the growth of the value added sector in agriculture. This new legislation would position FCC to support the future growth of this sector.

The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in agriculture today. What the industry requires is a financial institution that understands the needs of agriculture and acts as a partner to support future growth and success. Certainly, as one of the farmers here in this Chamber is saying, part of this success is due to the people who work for FCC in the more than 100 offices across the country. These people most often have farm related backgrounds and are very close to their communities.

FCC has served that purpose for 41 years. These amendments would help ensure that FCC continues to contribute relevant solutions to agriculture for many years to come.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in essence what Bill C-25 would do is expand the mandate of the Farm Credit Corporation. We in the Canadian Alliance, and I as a farmer from Manitoba, support the FCC. Certainly it is a vehicle that the federal government has used over the years to implement federal government policy where the FCC is able to provide a service that is not being provided by the private sector.

We in the Canadian Alliance are still concerned that this expansion will take away from and provide unfair competition to lending institutions like the credit unions as well as farmers, the primary producers, who now have to compete not only with each other in the immediate farming sector, but also with those beyond the primary producer level.

We all know that when lending institutions, including the Farm Credit Corporation, look at who they lend money to they look at the cashflow of the borrower. As it is now with the farm income situation in Canada in many sectors and in many commodities, it may well turn out that the cashflow is insufficient in farmers' primary production, and the money will end up flowing from the Farm Credit Corporation to the agribusinesses as opposed to the farmers. Then where will the farmers get credit?

By extending FCC's lending abilities beyond primary production, the bill would put FCC into direct competition with private lending institutions and would overlap with other government institutions such as the Business Development Bank.

 

. 1015 + -

The federal government has various vehicles that are necessary to deliver credit to value added businesses and industrial complexes. However if farmers do not hold primary ownership, the Farm Credit Corporation to a large extent will turn into another Business Development Bank of Canada.

We in the official opposition attempted to correct the problems through amendments to the legislation both at the committee level and during report stage. For example, we brought forward an amendment which would have limited lending to businesses not directly related to primary production.

The amendment, defeated by the government at committee, would have addressed one of our primary concerns; that FCC would shift its focus away from primary production to non-farm businesses. The amendment would have ensured that the needs of farmers do not become secondary to business lending by FCC.

FCC has stated that it will continue to focus on primary producers. That is fine and dandy but it is just an intention. We tried to have the legislation reflect and put on parameters and outside limits as to where FCC could go with its lending. Right now it is virtually unlimited. The legislation did not define who primary producers were. We tried to define that with our amendment but it was defeated.

Farm Credit Corporation has stated that 80% of its internal goal will go to primary producers. It should therefore not have objected to putting the limit into legislation. Why would it not agree to put it in legislation? It obviously wants to ensure it will be totally unhindered if it decides to move away from the primary producer and move its primary lending to agribusiness beyond the farm gate.

We also brought forward an amendment that would have limited FCC's ability to provide lease financing to primary producers only. The amendment would have helped ensure that the focus of FCC remained on primary producers. It would also have limited the government's ability to directly undercut private financial institutions in the lucrative lease market.

Here we get into the issue of unfair competition by a government agency which has all the advantages because it is insulated to a large degree from market forces. FCC has unrestricted ability to undercut private financial institutions. Under the World Trade Organization, this type of unfair activity breaches trade rules and there are mechanisms by which it can be rectified. Internally in Canada I do not know that there is anything that can control government misuse of Farm Credit Corporation's abilities.

The official opposition also brought forward an amendment that would have limited FCC's ability to provide equity financing only to businesses whose majority owners were primary producers. The amendment would have helped ensure that the primary focus of FCC remained on farming operations.

It is disturbing that every attempt to guarantee through law that FCC remain focused on farmers has been rejected by the corporation and the government.

Some have expressed concern that farmers may pay higher interest rates to cover the increased risk associated with equity financing. Our amendment limiting equity financing only to businesses owned by farmers would have reduced that risk.

Others in the business world have expressed concern that the changes to the Farm Credit Corporation would allow the government to use FCC to bail out large, even multinational, agriculture businesses. Here again there is nothing to restrict the FCC from taking that kind of action.

 

. 1020 + -

We will have a potential return to the situation of the early 1990s when the taxpayer of Canada had to put close to $900 million into the Farm Credit Corporation to get it back on its feet. That kind of exposure without limits only serves to increase the exposure of the Canadian taxpayer who is already heavily overtaxed by the government and always on the hook for its misuse and waste of money.

Our amendment would have allowed FCC to help develop farmer driven, value added processing but would have limited its ability to lend to large agribusinesses such as grain companies.

The Farm Credit Corporation has repeatedly stated that its focus will be on small and medium sized businesses that directly help improve the financial outlook for farmers. It therefore should have had no objection to our amendment. However, the defeat of our attempts to put this stated goal into law brings into question the government's commitment to keeping FCC's lending focused on small and medium sized businesses and it gives farmers another reason for concern.

The official opposition made another attempt to keep FCC focused on farmers by bringing forward an amendment to Bill C-25 which would have limited the size of loans FCC could provide to businesses not owned by farmers.

Again, if the FCC is committed to primarily lending to farmers why would it object to the amendment? Why would the government object to the amendment if it had no intention of changing the focus of the Farm Credit Corporation without coming back to parliament?

We also brought forward two amendments at report stage that would have ensured that the Farm Credit Corporation complemented the services already provided by private financial institutions and crown corporations. Credit unions have testified before the agriculture committee that the Farm Credit Corporation has already undertaken predatory pricing actions. An example was cited from the Niagara region of Ontario.

One credit union told the committee how FCC deliberately lowered the interest rate to farmers after it learned that the rate provided by the credit union was better than the government rate. The credit union people came before our committee and their testimony is in the committee minutes. It is factual. They said it. They were not being dishonest with us. They were reporting the facts as they saw them in the business world.

This might have helped one or two farmers at the time, but what happens after the government forces credit unions out of business? Maybe in the Niagara region there is not much concern about the issue but I can tell hon. members that in many small towns in the maritimes and on the prairies it is very tenuous as to whether a town can keep a credit union or a big bank because the business volume is not there to keep them going.

The Farm Credit Corporation is expanding and taking predatory action that could cause small towns to lose their banks or credit unions. That would be devastating to many towns and communities.

The original wording of Bill C-25 would have formalized the Farm Credit Corporation's ability to own and lease land. The Farm Credit Corporation has stated that this is not the intent of the amendment. It claims that the leasing provisions are for equipment but this was not made clear in the legislation.

We brought forward amendments at the committee and report stages of the bill that would have corrected the problem. It is not appropriate for the federal government to be an owner of Canadian farmland. Allowing the Farm Credit Corporation to permanently hold and lease land could result in Canadian government holdings influencing the market value of farmland.

Allowing FCC to permanently hold and lease land would also have provided the corporation an incentive not to pursue every possible means to allow farmers experiencing financial difficulty to stay on the land. In short, the bill could provide FCC an incentive to prematurely foreclose on Canadian farmland.

 

. 1025 + -

Even under the current legislation, the FCC has significant land holding ability. In the year 2000, the FCC owned over 360,000 acres. Ninety-five per cent of that land was in Saskatchewan, the province hardest hit by the farm income crisis.

I am pleased that the government has agreed to the amendment to restrict the amount of time the Farm Credit Corporation can hold on to land acquired as a result of foreclosures and other means. Under the amendment, such land would be disposed of within five years of acquisition.

If the farming community and everyone else could rely on the good intentions of government, we would probably not have problems with a lot of the bills but governments over the years have often demonstrated changes of attitude to the good intentions they have brought out in legislation and promised in elections. That is why legislation must be framed and drafted so that it is clear what the government intends to do, in this case with the extension of credit primarily in the area of agriculture and agribusiness.

It is strange that the corporation and the government did not agree to defining primary producer and setting limits to ensure that the focus remains on the primary producer. That is what we are asking for in the bill. We did not get it, and that is why we are opposing the bill. I guess in the end we must rely on the good graces and good conduct of the federal government and hope it does not misuse the lending authority of the Farm Credit Corporation.

[Translation]

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to this bill, which is so important for the development of agriculture, I believe.

This brings back memories, since I worked all my life in agriculture. I know to what extent financing for agriculture was lacking in the past. I also know to what extent this financing played a major role in the development of our farms.

I have always great respect for family farms and I have always worked hard to promote them. When I was involved in Quebec's farm union movement, family farming was defined as an operation providing work for a single person work unit, that is a man and his family, or a woman and her family.

Today, with the development of agricultural technology, we know that the definition of family farming is no longer the same. It is definitely much broader because in the past a farm that was valued at, say, a quarter of a million dollars, was a big farm. Now, some farms are valued at $3 million or $4 million.

So, the Farm Credit Corporation Act has played a major role in the development of agriculture and it is normal to review it and to adjust it as needs evolve. The bill provides that, from now on, the Farm Credit Corporation will provide financing to businesses that are upstream or downstream from primary agriculture or traditional farms.

This could involve financing for the processing of products and for the commodities used in agriculture. This is where I begin to have some concerns.

 

. 1030 + -

It may be acceptable to modernize agriculture, but what is a cause for concern is the fact that farms have become so large and so specialized that we have in many instances completely lost the concept of the family farm. Increasingly, agriculture is becoming highly industrialized.

Although I realize that we cannot stop this trend completely, I am not sure that it is necessarily good for the community as a whole. For example, one need only think of the concentrated livestock operations and the pollution problems they will cause, and in fact already have caused, for the water supply. There have been incidents in Ontario and there will be others elsewhere. We have seen how a single farm can contaminate the water supply of a whole town.

When it comes to financing for these major agri-businesses, particularly when one thinks of their effects on the immediate vicinity, I feel we should take a few more precautions. Why I am opposed to this bill? Because, in my opinion, it means opening things up too far without taking any basic precautions.

In the parliamentary committee, the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois suggested amendments aimed at trying to set some conditions for the credit the bill proposes to offer to agri-businesses. We are far from the family farm type of operation. We have been told that the Farm Credit Corporation has already lent $20 million to a single company. We wanted the Farm Credit Corporation to be limited to $5 million, with our amendment.

We were told, and I can see the minister opposite saying he agrees with this to some extent, it was what the government wanted. However the problem with this government is that we have to trust its intentions. If the government really intends this, why did it not indicate it in the bill? It could have done so at least for a period of time, the time needed to see whether the intent was really there and whether the government would act.

To my way of thinking, this is an important matter. If we are going to provide financing for megabusinesses, it means that the family business is on the point of disappearing. That would be a real shame. Perhaps a way should be found to revive it at least, for example in specialty farming. We should make an effort to keep this type of business, which ensures a sort of food safety, security for Quebecers and Canadians.

These businesses are therefore on the brink of extinction. With almost unlimited financing, upstream or downstream, clearly the end of family type farms is in sight.

Another point I want to raise is that we were told that, just about everyone in Quebec approved the improvements to the Farm Credit Corporation. We have learned that the UPA, the labour organization representing all of Quebec's farmers, has serious concerns along the lines I have just mentioned.

That means that we were misled, when we were told that the government had checked with the UPA. It would also like guidelines and parameters in the bill. I think that when the UPA speaks, it speaks for Quebec's farmers. It is a highly credible organization and regarded as such.

Quebec's caisses populaires are also concerned. The Canadian Alliance member mentioned that the FCC is competing with big financial corporations. What we must remember is that, when the Farm Credit Corporation makes a loan, it includes a little of our money. There is a bit of us in it, as we say. This comes out of our taxes for the purpose of supporting farming.

 

. 1035 + -

However the idea is not to compete with a bank or a caisse populaire, for example, because it would not make any sense to use our tax dollars for that purpose. We would be competing against the private sector, which makes no sense.

When loans of $5, $10, $15 or $20 million are made to a single business, who are we competing with? The private sector. The minister mentioned that the caisses were a bit dubious, but it was more than a bit.

We do not want the Farm Credit Corporation using public funds to compete with the private sector. We are told that there is no risk, that that is not what they want to do. If it is not what they intend to do, if there is no risk, why not say so in the bill so that everyone will feel safer?

It is with regret that I oppose this bill. As I said earlier, the Farm Credit Corporation is a basic tool for farmers and for the development of agriculture, but it should not become a risk. It should not go too far and be too quick to rush into helping out megafarms. Time should be taken to study what is being produced.

With the concentrations of livestock and production, time should be taken to consider the direction being taken. The regulation also needs to be adjusted and more emphasis placed on research into such areas as environmental protection.

For these reasons, I will be voting against the bill at third reading. Since it is never too late to do the right thing, my party is calling on the government to include in the bill the safeguards we are requesting for everyone's sake.

[English]

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak to third reading of Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act. I intend to be brief because we dealt with this at report stage yesterday. I made an intervention at that time and I have no intention of repeating myself.

The major provisions of the bill would allow the Farm Credit Corporation, soon to be called farm credit Canada, to lend money to farm related businesses not owned by farmers, in other words by agribusiness, and extend equity financing to producers and farm related businesses.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as I mentioned yesterday, supported the bill in committee. I failed to mention at that time that the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also supported the bill. Both groups indicated that more financing and more equity financing was required and, in particular, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was confident that the primary producers would remain the primary focus for farm credit Canada.

Credit Union Central of Canada was not opposed to the bill so long as it complemented its work in the community. We endeavoured to have an amendment added to the bill to ensure that this kind of complementary activity worked. We were not successful but it was not for lack of effort.

In my legislative report, I said that the only farm group opposed to the bill was the National Farmers Union. The Canadian Bankers Association was also opposed. It indicated that a broader mandate would allow farm credit Canada to compete unfairly with private lenders.

We heard yesterday, and just now from Bloc Quebecois representatives, that the UPA in Quebec, which represents Quebec farmers, have said that it has serious reservations about the bill. It is unfortunate that the UPA did not come before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food when we had the debate so that it could have informed the committee of its reservations.

 

. 1040 + -

At least one group from Quebec was present, a group that purported to deal with a number of co-operatives in that province. Overall it was supportive of the change in the mandate of Farm Credit Canada.

We heard this morning from both the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois in committee. The objections to the bill were based on two major issues: first, to what extent a business has to be involved in farming to be considered a business related to farming and, second, with the changes to the mandate of Farm Credit Canada, how much of the corporations lending activities may be transferred from the primary producer to agribusiness.

In 1995 the FCC board of directors set the maximum loan size at $20 million. We were advised that less than 2% of the current loans in the portfolio of the corporation exceed $1 million.

Currently primary producers are about 94% of the FCC's overall clientele. With the proposed changes FCC president, John Ryan, anticipates that this would change to about 80%. There would be a change over the next five years as it grows and moves out into this emerging field. Some 20% of its lending would be to farm related enterprises.

I listened with some care to points that were made this morning by my colleague on the agriculture committee from the Canadian Alliance as well as by the member from the Bloc Quebecois. The Alliance member was concerned that the Farm Credit Corporation was intruding into the marketplace. Whereas I believe in many parts of rural Canada there is not an explosion of choice when it comes to lending institutions. It is just the reverse. There is less and less choice.

For example, in the province of Saskatchewan a number of small banks have recently gone out of business. In most cases the local credit union has taken over those operations. It is not that there is too much choice among lending institutions. It is that there is not enough choice. That was recognized by two Saskatchewan members who sit in the Canadian Alliance who I noted voted against their party's recommendation on the bill yesterday at third reading.

There is no doubt the primary focus will continue to remain on primary producers. There are times when Farm Credit Canada will probably have more land than it would want to hold on to, depending on the ups and downs and the cyclical nature of the agricultural industry. We saw no evidence that it is interested in getting into the landholding business in any serious way.

The Bloc Quebecois, which incidentally voted in favour of it at second reading but appears to have changed its mind, indicates that the gates are being opened too wide. However there is an ongoing revolution in agriculture across the country. We are trying to get more value added on the prairies and elsewhere. In order to do that we will have to take some initiative, break some new ground, get out there and encourage value added. Farm Credit Canada is one of the tools in the kit that we could use.

The New Democratic Party supports the changes and will be voting in favour of the bill at third reading.

 

. 1045 + -

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and pose a question to my hon. NDP colleague from Palliser.

I listened very carefully to the speeches of all hon. members. I was a full time farmer for about 20 years on a family farm which eventually grew, through good management and a lot of hard work on the part of my family and myself, to the size of 3,000 acres in the Peace River country of British Columbia. In fact, my brother still farms the farm.

Having that background, one of the things that concerns me with Bill C-25 is what I see as a return to equity financing. Farms across Canada, particularly in western Canada, got into a lot of trouble back in the eighties when I was actively farming. One big problem was rather than base financing on cash flow, in other words whether the farmer could actually service the debt that he or she was carrying, the Farm Credit Corporation at that time and banks pushed financing to the farmers based on an inflated value for their land. When land values plummeted, farmers could not maintain their loans and the land was eventually repossessed by the lending institutions, including the Farm Credit Corporation, which ended up owning vast amounts of land in western Canada.

If we return to equity financing, what concerns me is we could see a similar situation develop in the future. The reality is the value of the land is of no consequence to a farmer if he stays in the business of farming. It is only what the land can produce and the money that can be turned over in order to service the farmer's debt on a yearly basis.

Is that concern echoed by the NDP and by the member for Palliser? I know he has been the agricultural critic for his party for quite some time and has a lot of background in this industry. It certainly concerns me when I hear these things.

Mr. Dick Proctor: Madam Speaker, yes it does concern me. The member has raised a good point. However I feel that there has been a significant change, not only within the Farm Credit Corporation but also among lending institutions themselves. There has been a dramatic shift since the late 1980s when equity financing began, which was the reference point that the member gave in his remarks.

I have talked with lending institutions in and around my riding. A lot more attention is being paid now to files and loans, and more managers are managing those files to make sure that people are not in a great deal of difficulty. The 1980s was perhaps more laissez-faire, and not as much attention was paid to the files of farmers.

Even though we have a very steep downturn in the agricultural economy, when I talk to FCC, the banks and credit unions I have been told that the files of farmers who are in serious trouble are remaining relatively stable and are being managed more carefully than they were at the reference point that the member indicated.

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's reply to the Alliance question and the fact that the Alliance member referred to his family farm. We all think the family farm is something which is very important and one of the bases of the farming economy, in part because it is the type of farming which produces farmers. This is a very special thing.

We on this side are strong supporters of the Farm Credit Corporation, and we look forward to it having strengthened roles in the future.

Could my colleague explain to me why in the debate on this topic yesterday the Alliance tried to take the family farm out of the terms of reference of the legislation? What are his views on that? Does he think, as the Alliance did yesterday, that the family farm should be removed from explicit mention in the legislation?

 

. 1050 + -

Mr. Dick Proctor: Madam Speaker, there might be an opportunity later to ask the Alliance why it did that. I will simply restrict my comments to say that the family is an integral part of the fabric of the country and hopefully will continue to remain so for a long time. That is the assurance frankly that we were given by Mr. Ryan and other representatives from Farm Credit Corporation when it was before the committee to explain why it was requesting the change in the mandate.

The NDP certainly has always been a strong proponent of the family farm and will continue be so for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I cannot believe the deception that is being laid out here today by Liberal members and the NDP member who just spoke.

The Canadian Alliance amendments, as I said in my speech in the House a mere 20 minutes ago, were designed to keep the focus of Farm Credit Corporation squarely on primary producers and the family farm.

The organic farmers of Canada came here from western Canada, from his province of Saskatchewan and said they would value add, that they had been value adding, to make their farms prosper without subsidies. They said it was the Liberal government and NDP people, especially the NDP parties, that were saying the Canadian Wheat Board had to be a monopoly, that they were the ones who were saying keep the wheat board and the thumb down on farmers.

Would the member stand up right now and free up farmers so they can market outside the Canadian Wheat Board? Would he stand up and talk about it?

Mr. Dick Proctor: Madam Speaker, I will not talk about the Canadian Wheat Board today because we are talking about the Farm Credit Corporation. There are other opportunities to deal with the board. An effective member such as the member for Selkirk—Interlake ought to know that.

It is interesting to a number of us that two rural members from Saskatchewan chose to vote against the Canadian Alliance yesterday on this issue. That speaks for itself.

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to third reading of Bill C-25 and to represent our PC agricultural critic, the member for Brandon—Souris.

I talked to the member and he wanted to go through a chronology of events on how it evolved in Canadian history from 1927 to the present date. I think there were five or six pages, which I will leave out of my speech today. However, a brief chronology is certainly in line.

The FCC, Farm Credit Corporation, was created on October 5, 1959, by the Diefenbaker Conservative government when the Farm Credit Act was proclaimed into law. It provided a consistent source of lending services that farmers could rely on through all the economic cycles, the ups and downs of the economic cycles. At the time the corporation was mandated to provide one product at one rate. First, it was mortgages to farmers to a maximum loan of $20,000.

 

. 1055 + -

During the first 34 years the Farm Credit Corporation and the Farm Credit Act went through many evolutions to keep step with the agriculture industry. In 1968 farming corporations became eligible for farm credit loans and loan limits increased to $150,000 in 1975. The 1982 amendments to the act led to the introduction of more loan product and the FCC made its debut on capital markets.

In 1993 the Farm Credit Act was replaced with the Farm Credit Corporation Act, which expanded the mandate of the FCC to better respond to the needs of the agriculture sector. Farm Credit Corporation could now offer producers financing to purchase or improve farmland and buildings, buy personal property for farming purposes and consolidate debts. It enabled the corporation to support value added production by providing financing for diversified enterprises on and off the farm.

This act helped bring the FCC in sync with the changing marketplace. The Farm Credit Corporation's loan portfolio has grown since those days from $3.4 billion in 1993 when the act was introduced to $6 billion today.

Today this crown corporation services 44,000 customers, has 900 employees and 100 offices across Canada.

It is important to understand that little chronology of events because what that tells us is the Farm Credit Corporation, from its introduction in 1959 by the Diefenbaker government, recognizes the needs and wants of farmers, and the agriculture community has responded and changed its situation, its portfolios and the services that it offers to accommodate changing times.

From 1984 to 1993 specifically, the Progressive Conservative government of the day improved the way the Farm Credit Corporation was managed. We brought in the Farm Credit Corporation equity building plan in 1990 to allow farmers to extend their leases and buyback land once they were on firmer financial ground. We moved the head office of Farm Credit Corporation to Regina, so it could be closer to those who used it the most. We passed a bill to expand the role of the Farm Credit Corporation allowing it to make loans to farmers who wanted to diversify their operations.

All these things were asked for by the agriculture community, and the Conservative government of the day responded to the wishes of the community.

There are a few major elements of Bill C-25. One, it would change the name to Farm Credit Canada. The mandate of the FCC would be expanded from financial services to farming operations and businesses related to farming to also include business services and products to such enterprises.

Farm Credit Corporation would have the authority to provide loans to businesses relating to farming in both cases where the business was majority owned by farmers and when it was not, quite significantly changing the mandate of the Farm Credit Corporation.

There is specific provision in the bill to emphasize the focus of the Farm Credit Corporation activities on farming operations including family farms. The FCC would be given authority to incorporate, amalgamate and dissolve subsidiaries. It would also provide lease financing for assets used or to be used in a farming operation or a business related to farming.

The Farm Credit Corporation would be given the authority to acquire and dispose of equity interests in farming operations or in businesses related to farming. The president of the FCC would be designated as its CEO and provision would be made for the appointment of an acting president and an acting chairperson when necessary.

The bill does not come to the House without some criticisms and it is only fair to mention some of those criticisms here today.

First, the name change is unnecessary and costly. It is certainly our belief that the minister is looking for a legacy for years of failed federal leadership in supporting agriculture from this government.

The bill has the potential to unnecessarily compete directly with credit unions and banks. We are not sure that will happen but the potential is there. The purpose of the FCC is to provide lending to farmers specifically, not to equipment dealers, wheat pools, for example the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool or any other wheat pool.

 

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Although the bill expands lending powers of the Farm Credit Corporation, farmers do not need more debt at the present time. While the federal budgets for agriculture have been cut since 1993 by 65%, the total farm debt in Canada has increased by 44% since 1994. Statistics Canada and Revenue Canada statistics in 1999 report that the average farm debt in the country is $135,000.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

KIDNEY DISEASE

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I presented petitions from thousands of people urging Canadian participation in research to develop a bioartificial kidney. This is a device for those who cannot be helped by kidney transplants or dialysis.

In the United States, this research is reaching the human trial stage. While kidney research in general is very active in Canada and has received additional funds, the bioartificial work is not active here.

Those who signed my petitions urge that organizations and individual researchers in Canada move to rectify this and consider co-operating with their U.S. counterparts.

I thank kidney researchers in Ottawa who responded to this by meeting with U.S. scientists recently. We wish them luck in their research. Ken Sharp of Peterborough, who initiated the petitions, wishes to thank all those who helped him raise awareness of this type of research. CPAC recently produced a film highlighting Ken's crusade. He can be reached through my office and I thank him.

*  *  *

SENIOR CITIZENS

Mr. Larry Spencer (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canadian seniors are supposed to be living their golden years, yet for many seniors in our country rising utility rates are posing a serious burden on their limited and fixed incomes.

Back in my riding, many seniors have conveyed to me their concerns about having fixed incomes yet having to deal with constantly rising utility rates. This needs to be addressed. The Canadian Alliance believes that not one senior in the country should be in distress because of a lack of services or support. We on this side of the House care about seniors.

The Prime Minister, being a senior himself, certainly cares about his pension and demonstrated his uncanny ability to ensure that his pension grows at a much faster rate by passing legislation in record time.

It is time that the Prime Minister addressed the issues that matter to other Canadian seniors. Perhaps he could do this with as much zeal and haste as he has used in addressing his own pay raise and pension.

*  *  *

ITALIAN RELAY TEAM

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last Monday the Italian Relay Team for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity arrived in Ottawa as part of its relay run across Canada. The team, which consists of 24 athletes and 16 support staff, began its run in Vancouver on May 22 and ended on June 5 in Montreal.

Other runs have taken place in Piacenza, Italy; Moscow; Los Angeles; New York; and most recently in Sydney, Australia in 1999.

Here in Ottawa the team was welcomed by the Association Emilia Romagna which represents Italian Canadians from Parma, Piacenza, Bologna and Modena.

From all of Canada to the Italian relay team I wish them Tanti aguri.

June 10 through June 17 marks the celebration of Italian Week. On behalf of all of the communities I want to say congratulations on this great celebration and invite everyone to go to Preston Street and enjoy the Italian hospitality.

*  *  *

[Translation]

VIETNAM

Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I recently met with the directors of Democracy for Vietnam, Drs. Lam Thu Van and Truong Minh-Dung, who shared with me their concerns for three recent cases of religious repression in Vietnam.

First, Tadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest, was imprisoned for calling for religious freedom for the people of Vietnam, and there has been no news of him since.

Then there the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, Patriarch of the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, who has been under house arrest for the past 19 years. He is badly in need of medical care, to which he is not allowed access.

Finally, ethnic minorities in the highlands of Vietnam are the victims of religious persecution, property confiscation, torture, arbitrary imprisonment and murder.

I call upon the Canadian government to protest this religious persecution, to ask the Vietnamese authorities to inform them of the whereabouts of Father Ly and allow the Venerable Thich Huyen Quang to receive medical care, and to encourage the Cambodian government to provide Vietnamese refugees with temporary asylum.

*  *  *

 

. 1105 + -

[English]

MARK STAROWICZ

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parkdale—High Park, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to salute and congratulate one of my constituents, Mr. Mark Starowicz, who will receive his honorary doctor of letters degree from York University on Monday, June 11.

Mark Starowicz is recognized as one of the most respected Canadian broadcasters of the last quarter century. With a passion for history as a living creation that must be validated by each generation, he recently succeeded in persuading CBC and Radio-Canada to agree on an unprecedented national co-production, “Canada: A People's History”, the largest documentary production in Canadian history.

He has changed the face of radio and television current affairs programming. He and his programs have won dozens of national and international awards. Mark also has recently been honoured with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Journalism Federation in June 2000.

I congratulate Mark. This honorary doctor of letters degree is well deserved. I also congratulate him on his incredible vision, dedication and commitment.

*  *  *

EDMONTON, ALBERTA

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, from August 3 to 12, the city of Champions, Edmonton, Alberta, will once again play host to the world.

The city and the whole province has a phenomenal track record of hosting successful international sporting events such as the Winter Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, the World University Games and the World Figure Skating Championships.

The games in Edmonton will be the first time the IAAF World Championships in Athletics have been held in North America. With 46 medal events and more than 200 countries participating, it is the biggest track meet on the globe. In fact, it is the third largest sporting event in the world with an anticipated TV viewing audience of four billion.

One of the most anticipated highlights of the games will be Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey's last race.

On behalf of the city of Edmonton, the organizing committee and hundreds of volunteers, I would like to invite all Canadians to come to Edmonton in August for the world track and field championships.

*  *  *

[Translation]

INFRASTRUCTURES

Mrs. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, trade exchanges between Canada and the United States have doubled in the past six years, and 70% of them involve shipping by road. No new infrastructures, however, have been constructed for crossing the St. Lawrence River in the greater Montreal region.

For this reason, the Federal Bridge Corporation has proposed the construction of two new bridges and 14 kilometres of highway.

Completion of Highway 30 and the erection of two bridges over the St. Lawrence would enhance access to intermodal infrastructures, revitalize interregional exchanges, reduce maintenance costs of other infrastructures, and better distribute traffic over the various Montreal area bridges.

For all these reasons, among others, action must be taken urgently.

*  *  *

KABYLIA

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, all of Kabylia has erupted into conflict as a result of the death of a Kabyle college student at the hands of Algerian police on April 18.

Since that date, demonstrations have been on the increase in this region of Algeria where most of the inhabitants are Berbers, a people which makes up 17% of the Algerian population. Berbers' rights, culture and language are not recognized in the Algerian constitution and their reaction shows how exasperated they are.

These peaceful demonstrators are opposed to the arbitrary actions, exclusion and injustice to which they are subject. But the government is turning a deaf ear and is coming down hard on demonstrators: 60 have died and 1,300 have been injured since the demonstrations first began.

In the last century, Kabyle poet Ismaïl Azikkiou wrote:

    The hate they sowed in the villages,
    We reaped;
    and still it grows;

Tomorrow, a march organized by the pan-Canadian committee to show solidarity with and support for Kabylia will be held in the streets of Montreal. The Bloc Quebecois will not be able to attend, but we will be with the marchers in spirit.

*  *  *

[English]

HIV-AIDS

Ms. Jean Augustine (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 20th year that the first HIV-AIDS was recorded. That one case has multiplied into a global pandemic.

A glance at the facts tell us that 95% of the 36 million people with AIDS live in developing countries. The epidemic is more acute in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of the HIV-AIDS cases are found with 0.1% receiving anti-AIDS treatment.

Drug cocktails have reduced AIDS deaths in the west by 75%. In contrast, AIDS sufferers in poor countries die in six months or less.

 

. 1110 + -

High drug prices and trade related aspects of intellectual property rights are making it extremely difficult for the populations of the developing world to have access to affordable HIV medication.

Arresting the HIV-AIDS pandemic cannot be done without strong leadership resolve.

I call on the Government of Canada to take that leadership role and work with like-minded countries to make drug pricing for HIV-AIDS a priority at the upcoming WTO session on TRIPS, the United Nations special session on HIV-AIDS and the upcoming meeting of the G-8. We must do this.

*  *  *

LABOUR DISPUTES

Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, for the moment there is labour peace at west coast ports, but the probability of future work disruptions continue to haunt companies whose livelihoods depend on a secure, reliable export route.

There have been four work stoppages at west coast ports in the last 10 years. This is an unacceptable record and the infamous weak link in the supply chain between Canadian exporters and their customers.

The government failed to put a dispute settlement mechanism in place that would ensure that Canadian exports are not held hostage to labour disputes. The process must be changed so that there is a predetermined dispute settlement mechanism in place that will be used for issues that cannot be resolved at the bargaining table.

The government partially protects grain exports, and that is good, but grain only represents 8% of the value of products moving through those ports. Shippers and manufacturers are worried about the loss of markets, reputations and revenues when the present collective agreement expires. They need and deserve protection now.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CENTRE DE LA NATURE DE LAVAL

Ms. Raymonde Folco (Laval West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on May 11, the Centre de la nature de Laval received the Kéroul award. This Prix du tourisme award is given to a tourist or cultural establishment which excels in its efforts to welcome or serve clients with limited physical ability.

In its desire to provide equitable service to all visitors, the centre has designed a unique play area accessible to all children, with or without a physical handicap.

This initiative makes the Centre de la nature de Laval a model of accessibility and gives persons with limited physical ability equitable access to the services offered.

*  *  *

[English]

BEVERLEE BELL

Ms. Wendy Lill (Dartmouth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I rise to mark the passing of Beverlee Bell last Sunday, June 3. Bev spent the last 16 years working with the NDP across Canada and was most recently director of administration for my leader in this place.

While she was incredible at her job, she was more amazing as a person. Beverlee's compassionate nature and commitment to humanitarianism touched everyone she knew. Throughout her life and even during her illness she approached things with optimism, tenacity and spirit. She loved holidays with her family, cooking, reading, sitting by the ocean, British sitcoms, gardening, music and talking about her children, her life and her politics. She believed in sharing the simple joys of life with everyone she met.

On behalf of my colleagues in the House and in my party, I send my deepest condolences to Marc, Jason, Erin and Sandra, and her countless friends from coast to coast to coast. She will be missed deeply by all. We are all richer for knowing her. Beverlee Bell was and will always remain a glory to the world.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ORPHAN CLAUSES

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, orphan clauses affect the quality of life of new employees, this on a daily basis. These employees live in uncertainty, which makes it more difficult to plan life projects or even day to day activities.

In the public, parapublic and private sectors, various collective agreements that come under federal jurisdiction use orphan clauses as if this was the obvious thing to do.

Through its stubbornness in refusing to end discriminatory practices, the federal government is telling society that intergenerational solidarity is not important.

The hard won gains made by workers must also benefit the young. This is why I will be introducing in the House today a bill to end discriminatory practices toward young workers.

The Liberal government must stop being cold hearted and admit that it is inconceivable to prevent employees in one age group from enjoying the same salaries and benefits as other employees.

*  *  *

 

. 1115 + -

BLOC QUEBECOIS

Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this weekend, the Bloc Quebecois is organizing a big party to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

The Bloc Quebecois is ten years old. Ten years is a long time for a party that was supposed to be there for just a short time.

I clearly remember Lucien Bouchard, the founder of the Bloc Quebecois, saying that the success of his party would be measured by the shortness of its mandate.

Ten years later, the Bloc Quebecois must admit defeat and recognize that it has failed.

The fact that the great sovereignist leaders Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau will not attend the anniversary evening clearly shows that the movement is running out of steam.

By being so bent on destroying Canada, the Bloc Quebecois is weakening Quebecers. By refusing to listen to Quebecers and to comply with their wishes, it only blocks the development of our society.

*  *  *

[English]

MUSEUMS

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, employees of the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography are on strike. The requests being made by these dedicated workers are reasonable and unselfish. Yet, despite the fact that an agreement is within reach, no one has taken the initiative to finalize the deal. Where is the leadership? Where is the minister?

She who pays the piper calls the tune. The minister of culture and heritage pays the piper but she is slow to pay the employees. It is time she called the tune by making sure these frontline people are back doing the work they love and do best, making our national sites pleasant and rewarding places to visit.

The peak tourism season is here. Is this the best we can offer our visitors? I ask the minister to do her job.

*  *  *

PRESENCE IN THE GALLERY

The Speaker: Before we begin oral questions, I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the hon. Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

THE ECONOMY

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on that note, I understand the premier of British Columbia will be meeting with the Prime Minister today. Already Premier Campbell has taken bold steps to reinvigorate the economy of his province through tax relief and through eliminating the barriers to growth and productivity, and that is commendable.

We know that there is a productivity and competitive gap between Canada and the United States, to the extent that last year we saw a record year for Canadian investment out of Canada into the United States because of the greater incentive there.

Will the Prime Minister be seeking advice from Premier Campbell on how to invigorate the national economy?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the discussions will be very fruitful and constructive. I am also sure that advice will flow in both directions.

After all, we have already introduced and put in place the largest tax cuts in Canadian history of $100 billion over five years. This is a signal to Canada and this is a signal to our provincial partners.

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the mini cuts that they performed before the last election do not quite match the 25% cut that we are hearing about.

It is not just in western Canada but in Atlantic Canada also. The Canadian Alliance has consistently supported renegotiating the equalization formula, especially with a view to doing something about the clawback provision that keeps provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland from truly moving to economic independence and moving away from dependence on federal aid programs.

The minister for Nova Scotia has also called for changes. The Minister of Industry when he was premier of Newfoundland and Labrador called for changes. When will the federal government announce that it will sit down and meet with our Atlantic Canadian partners to look at renegotiating the equalization formula in a way that will invigorate Atlantic Canada?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we certainly welcome a debate on this issue, but one must recognize that if we exclude resource revenues then we are being unfair to those provinces which do not have them and would be getting equalization.

Clearly the objective of our equalization program is to provide an equal level of public services in every part of the country regardless of means or income.

 

. 1120 + -

Is the hon. member suggesting that Alberta's resource revenue should not be included when calculating provincial entitlements?

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, he talks about having a debate. We are talking about having a discussion with Atlantic Canadians.

The debate, however, lies within their own government because we have the Minister of Finance who has one position, we read today, on equalization. I can hear them still debating among themselves on this issue. The Minister of Finance has one position but his leadership rival, the Minister of Industry, former premier of Newfoundland, has another position.

Could the government indicate whose position represents the government? Is it the Minister of Finance's or is it the Minister of Industry's?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition may find this hard to believe because he and his party cannot achieve this, but this party, this government, can speak and work in one voice for all Canadians.

[Translation]

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, a tradition existed in this country before the present Minister of Finance appeared on the scene. Historically, democracy required that a budget be tabled every year. Now the Minister of Finance thumbs his nose at this tradition and at taxpayers' right to know the government's financial priorities.

Since parliament will soon adjourn for the summer, will the Minister of Finance tell us whether he will table a budget when we return in the fall?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is considering this important question. However, perhaps the hon. member can explain why he told the National Post, a few days ago, and I quote:

[English]

“I voted against the tax cut last year for a whole lot of reasons”. Why does he not explain why he voted against the tax cut and is going in the opposite direction today?

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this party proudly stands for real tax relief for working families, not the kind of token tax relief which continues, by the way, to discriminate against single income families and which continues to see Canada fall behind the United States in terms of productivity.

This week we learned that Canada had lost 30% against the United States in terms of personal disposable income. How can the government continue to carry us through two years without a federal budget when Canadians have a disposable income 30% lower than the United States? While Canadians are getting poorer the government does not act. Why does it not bring in—

The Speaker: The hon. Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions.

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we brought in record tax cuts of $100 billion over five years. Those tax cuts on the personal income tax level were 27% on average, 35% for families with children.

This means that many of our low income families, 800,000 of which have been removed from the tax roles, are better off than they would be in the United States.

However it is not just about taxes. It is about a balanced approach, tax cuts, paying down the debt and making those strategic investments in our future which are critical for all Canadians.

*  *  *

[Translation]

COUNCIL FOR CANADIAN UNITY

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this morning we read in Le Devoir that the Council for Canadian Unity had, just by accident, neglected to identify itself as the promoter of a new Internet site “The New Federalists”. This has a certain déjà vu feeling to it, and even if the Council has remedied this and identified itself by now, once again it took disclosure in the House to find out who was behind this initiative.

How can the government explain that, once again, after secretly being the power behind Robert-Guy Scully's Heritage Minutes, it is now up to the same old tricks, funding an unidentified Web site?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, to err is human. A mistake was made and it has been corrected.

I would like to thank the Bloc Quebecois members for giving this site some publicity. I hope they are going to consult it. It may give them some food for thought this weekend, when they are celebrating their tenth anniversary as a party.

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I on the other hand would like to inform the minister that we have visited the site and find it particularly interesting for our reflections to see that the federal government was launching, in keeping with last week's secret document, into the most odious of propaganda against Quebec sovereignists.

 

. 1125 + -

What is the objective of this second site, when the council already has one of its own? What is the objective of this second site if not to render their propaganda more underhanded and therefore more effective?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we would not use such harsh language to describe the Bloc Quebecois' strategy for advancing its option.

What I would suggest is that it finally call itself what it is, the Separatist Bloc, because Quebecois is a word that applies to all Quebecers, regardless of their affiliation.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Hon. Stéphane Dion: It should take advantage of this weekend to change its name, to include secessionist or independentist instead of Quebecois. We are already sovereign. We are part of a democracy based on the sovereignty of its citizens.

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we will not change our name, we will change our country. This is what is important to us.

The Council for Canadian Unity, which spends millions of dollars without being accountable to anyone, now has an Internet site where the tone is very clear. The CCU continues to spread despicable propaganda.

Is the tone used on the anonymous site of the Council for Canadian Unity, a tone that promotes confrontation between the federalist friends and the sovereignist enemies, not strangely similar to the federal government's secret communication strategy that was exposed by the Bloc Quebecois last Friday?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it will be very gratifying to hear the Bloc Quebecois member use a different tone and avoid terms such as enemies and others we hear yelled out in the House every day.

So, if he wants to lead by example, I will be very pleased. I personally have no enemies. However, some of my fellow citizens want Quebec out of Canada. It would be nice if separatist leaders said so clearly, like the member just did. They no longer want to be part of Canada. They want to have an independent country.

Let them say so clearly, instead of coming up with complicated formulas about a European type of confederation, something that does not fool anyone.

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister should take a look at the Internet site, he should read the study that we exposed last week. The separatist enemies, this is the tone used by federalists, not by us.

I am asking the minister how many such anonymous propaganda initiatives are being taken by the Council for Canadian Unity against Quebec, with the sponsor remaining anonymous?

Is this not a good illustration of what the secret communication strategy identified as the marketing war against Quebec?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what a sudden shift. We are not talking about a war against Quebec. Who is at war against Quebec? We have a disagreement. The member wishes for Quebec no longer to be a part of Canada. He would like to be a Quebecer without being a Canadian. No one is attacking Quebec.

However there is a semantic shift here. It is not the government, it is the CCU. It is not the government, it is a study made by an academic.

Why always malign the adversary? If the member were so sure about what he is saying, he would tone down his remarks.

*  *  *

[English]

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Mr. Speaker, all week the government has been patting itself on the back and claiming that it is environmentally friendly and a good ecomanager.

In fact it is the poorest funded department in the government. There is evidence all across the country, whether it is Walkerton, North Battleford, the smog crisis in Ontario or the disgrace of the Sydney tar ponds, that it has failed Canadians. When will the government put its money where its mouth is and do something about protecting the environment?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have a contradiction here. On the one hand, he does not like the statements that are made, where we specify one by one the very large number of things that are being undertaken by the government on the environmental front. On the other hand he does not like it—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Hon. David Anderson: I am sorry, there seems to be some disorder down there in the splitting ranks of the NDP. One of their major political splits seems to be occurring at this time.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the one hand complain when we list what we do and on the other hand complain we have not done anything.

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in fact they have not done very much. The Mulroney government 10 years ago was spending more money than they are right now, both in actual terms and in percentage terms.

Again, when will they make the commitment to protect the environment and really put their money where their mouths are?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP are once again bragging about the $42 billion deficit of the Conservative government, the one that we had to inherit and do something about.

 

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They never pay any attention to the fact that it is quite easy to spend more money if we ignore that the taxpayer has to produce it and that if we continue to run deficits ultimately the country will go broke and there will be no environmental programs whatsoever. That is their approach.

I only suggest that the hon. member listen to the many statements that come up day after day from myself and other members of the government and which list what we are doing on the environment.

*  *  *

THE ECONOMY

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker, real incomes in Canada are 30% lower than those of Americans because of a growing productivity gap. The HRDC-Industry Canada white paper on productivity will reportedly focus on government spending initiatives alone to reverse this trend.

Will the Prime Minister expand the terms of reference for the white paper to include tax reform, which all leading economists and business leaders agree is absolutely necessary to improving productivity?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has been missing in action somewhere, because we have taken those kinds of steps with $100 billion in tax cuts, the biggest in history, over five years, average tax cuts for Canadians at 27% and much higher for families with children. We are already moving in this area. We are ahead of the curve.

Where has my hon. friend been the last couple of years?

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Mr. Speaker, Thomas d'Aquino, head of the BCNI, has said:

    How can you have a paper on innovation without anything on taxes? You can't. It's a contradiction in terms.

Yet the ministers of HRDC and industry, the big spenders of the Liberal cabinet, believe they can improve productivity with big spending alone.

Why is the finance minister being shut out of a productivity plan that desperately needs leadership on tax reform? Is the Liberal leadership race more important than improving productivity for all Canadians?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this may come as a surprise to the Conservative Party, but we are able to work together as a team. That is what we are doing. We will all have our input into the development of this paper.

In fact I would even be willing to take my hon. friend's comments as a representation, no matter how poorly informed or founded they may be.

*  *  *

GRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has categorically stated in the House that the handwritten bill of sale for the shares in his numbered company was written on November 1, 1993. We decided to test this claim and took the bill of sale to a forensic specialist for analysis.

She came back with the following opinion: “There is a high degree of probability that the numerals 1-9-9-3 have been altered”.

We need the original document to send for further study. Will it be provided?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have the new secret agent man. Was that not the theme song of a 1960s sitcom? Here is the secret agent man with another set of phony allegations.

If he has some charges to make, let him get up and prove them and repeat them outside the House. He does not know what he is talking about.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister might make light of it, but I do not think Canadians will.

This analyst is a careful, qualified professional. I continue to quote from her letter: “This opinion is qualified subject to the examination of the original bill of sale”.

The Prime Minister could clear this up right away. The original bill of sale needs to be presented so that a forensic analysis of the ink can prove that it was in fact written in 1993. Will that be provided?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, who is this fabled analyst? What are her qualifications? What do other analysts say?

He is not asking a valid question. As I say, his fooling around playing at secret agent brings embarrassment on him and his party. They are not willing to ask questions about real issues because they do not have anything to say. They are too busy trying to hide their own disintegration.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, a former privacy and access to information commissioner, Mr. Grace, testified yesterday before the committee of members, which took on the task of reviewing the current Access to Information Act.

What does the government have to say to the former commissioner's unequivocal criticism, which echoes the conclusions of the damning report tabled last October by the current commissioner to the effect that the government is not complying with the provisions of the Access to Information Act?

 

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[English]

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member is well aware that there is a task force currently holding round table public consultations. The recently announced external advisory committee includes individuals from academia, the legal profession, business and the media.

This will ensure that external perspectives are included in the examination of these issues. It is a matter of concern and we are addressing it.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Grace wonders about the poor example set by the government when it comes to enforcing its own Access to Information Act.

Does the Prime Minister's idea of complying with the Access to Information Act not play a large role in sending out a very negative signal to all public servants, and is it not inconsistent with what an open and civilized society such as ours should be all about?

[English]

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the access to information law is a good law supporting Canadian democracy. The federal government is committed to the principles of transparency and openness and ensures accountability to Canadians.

As I said, we are currently undergoing a review. This review will consider and build on previous consultations and recommendations.

*  *  *

GRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, allow me to continue to quote from the letter of opinion of the handwriting examiner who, by the way, was not familiar with the details of the Prime Minister's involvement.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Charlie Penson: They might want to listen. There might be something here that want to listen to.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. The Chair has not seen anything but I understand there are some props perhaps being used. I caution hon. members that it is quite improper. We will not have that. The hon. member for Peace River has the floor.

Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, allow me to continue to quote from the letter of opinion of the handwriting examiner who, by the way, was not familiar with the details of the Prime Minister's involvement.

She states “The thirteen lines of writing on the questioned document were written with speed, rhythm and consistency with the”—

The Speaker: The hon. member's time has expired.

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe the Prime Minister said to the House that what was tabled was a copy of a real document. I think the Prime Minister is entitled to be taken at his word.

Perhaps the Alliance should unleash its alleged expert on the membership lists of the Alliance Party in Quebec.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the examiner states “The thirteen lines of writing on the questioned document were written with speed, rhythm and consistency with the exception of the numerals 1-9-9-3 appearing on line 6”.

She also states “From the tremor and retouching on the strokes of the four digits 1-9-9-3, it appears that extensions have been added to the first two digits 1 and 9...it appears that the second 9 was changed...the number 3 also appears to have been retouched” and the entry changed”. When will they table the original document?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat that the Prime Minister has said that the copy tabled in the House is that of the original document. I think that the Prime Minister is entitled to be taken at his word.

If the hon. member does not agree let him go outside the House with that so-called document. Also, as I said, let him unleash his examiner on the membership lists of the Alliance Party, starting with Quebec and going across the country.

*  *  *

[Translation]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, all week, the Minister of Human Resources Development refused to give us an encouraging answer for the unemployed on improvement to the employment insurance plan.

When we speak of the unemployed, we are not talking statistics. They are real people.

By way of example, what has the government to say to the 200 casual employees of the House of Commons, who will be going home next week without having accumulated enough hours to qualify for benefits because of government cuts to the employment insurance plan?

 

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Ms. Raymonde Folco (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, since the employment insurance reform, the system has covered all workers from their first hour of work and first dollar earned.

This is the legislation that allowed us to deliver programs more easily to Canadians. However, there are always situations in which workers cannot accumulate sufficient hours to be entitled to employment insurance, and we are looking at this problem now.

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is true they start paying premiums from their first hour of work, but the House employees this year are not entitled to employment insurance benefits because of the elections, which deprived them of work for several weeks.

Does the government not understand that, when seasonal workers do not have the hours to qualify for employment insurance, it is not because of a lack of effort, it is because they are the victims of external forces?

Does it not understand that there are thousands of cases like that of the employees of the House of Commons, and we want them corrected?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what the Bloc does not understand is that it is not the fault of the members on this side of the House if the bill that helps all workers was delayed. The decision was purely political.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

An hon. member: It is your fault.

Hon. Martin Cauchon: Second, on this side of the House, we believe in a balanced approach.

An hon. member: Table legislation.

Hon. Martin Cauchon: We established an annual report, which the commission will table. This annual report will ensure that the law will continue to evolve. We believe in regional economic development.

An hon. member: Oh, oh.

Hon. Martin Cauchon: Tell us, while the member for Charlevoix was saying that seasonal work adjustment measures were possible, when the people on this side of the House work to increase work—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for St. Albert.

*  *  *

[English]

MULTICULTURALISM

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Minister for Multiculturalism is off on another witch hunt. She funded a theatre group to hold a three day workshop to sensitize the people of Merritt, B.C., on diversity issues because, and I quote from the grant application “rumours of a cross burning in the area several years ago seem to be well founded”.

What evidence did the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism have of cross burning in Merritt, B.C., before she blew $5,000 of taxpayer money up in smoke?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism has apologized in the House for her comments. I would urge other members, as is the tradition in the House, to accept her apology.

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, that was an apology for Prince George. This is Merritt, British Columbia.

Let me quote from a letter from the RCMP in Merritt, British Columbia: “inquiries with long term staff and a search of our records fail to indicate any complaints relative to cross burnings within this detachment area within the past several years”.

Another community has been smeared by this minister's innuendo, hearsay and prejudice. My question is for the Prime Minister. Will he fire this minister?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let us set the record straight again.

What the hon. member on the opposite side alleges are comments made not by the minister but by others. I would ask the hon. member to not please provide us with the comments made by the minister.

*  *  *

 

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SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade. It has now been about two months since the FTAA conference in Quebec City. I recall the Minister for International Trade saying on a number of occasions that he wanted to release the text of the FTAA.

Where is that text? When will he release it to the Canadian people? The people of this country have a right to know what is in the agreement.

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his interesting question this morning. Indeed we can be very proud that for the first time in history we will have the drafting agreements of the negotiations on trade. This is extraordinary progress, and I am extremely proud that we could secure that at the Buenos Aires ministerial meeting.

The secretariat of the free trade area of the Americas will have the responsibility of releasing them. I understand it is a matter of days, now that it has the four versions in the four official languages of the free trade zone. It should be any day now.

*  *  *

NATIONAL REVENUE

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue will be aware of an ongoing disagreement between his department and the Saskatchewan government which affects about 100 widows whose husbands were killed on the job before 1985.

Two years ago Saskatchewan paid out $80,000 tax free, but it ran afoul quickly of federal income tested programs like old age security, so the widows had their allowance clawed back by about $5,000.

While the federal and provincial officials continue to point fingers at each other, the only people out of pocket are the widows themselves. How long will it take for the two levels of government to sort this out and make restitution to the Saskatchewan widows?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first I to thank the hon. member for giving me advance notice of that question.

Of course I cannot comment on the specifics of that file because of subsection 24(1), but generally speaking I would like to say that those benefits obtained through WCB are indeed non-taxable. However that could affect as well other benefits like the income tested benefits.

We are responsible for the management of the Income Tax Act. Therefore, based on those conditions, we have to move ahead and apply the legislation. Those people have received an answer from the department.

*  *  *

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. Bill Graham (Toronto Centre—Rosedale, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa. On June 2 Colombian indigenous leader, Kimy Pernia Domico, was kidnapped by unknown forces.

Mr. Pernia is well known in Canada. He was a keynote speaker on indigenous rights at the people's summit in Quebec City and has appeared as a key witness before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. What action is Canada taking in response to the kidnapping of this prominent Colombian indigenous leader?

Hon. David Kilgour (Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Kimy Pernia Domico is a highly respected indigenous leader among Colombians and is a highly respected person, as we heard, among Canadians.

At the recently completed OAS assembly in Costa Rica I raised the matter personally with the foreign minister of Colombia. He indicated he would get back to me very quickly with the results of his investigation.

I thank the hon. member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale and the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas for bringing public attention to this issue.

*  *  *

HARBOURS

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the government has sold most of Canada's harbour infrastructure and now it is actually selling harbour bottoms. Some of those harbour bottoms include large tracts of ocean bottom and channels that are several kilometres long.

Why would the government even consider such a thing? Where is the Minister of the Environment, where is the Minister of Transport, where is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and where is the minister responsible for ACOA who represents much of Atlantic Canada, on this issue?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment is right here and the Minister of Transport is right there. Other ministers who are responsible are present. I think the question is perhaps a little badly based in terms of who is where and where is where.

However, in terms of the harbour bottoms, if the hon. member is concerned over harbour bottoms, he has not given a single example of which harbour bottom he is talking about. Until he does, we will have to take the question on notice.

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Is this another way of escaping the responsibility of cleaning up harbours such as St. John's and Halifax?

The government has divested itself of ports and now it is trying to divest itself of harbour bottoms. Is this another way to sneak out of your responsibility of cleaning up those harbours?

The Speaker: The hon. member will of course address the Chair.

 

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Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in no way is it the policy of the government to sneak out of any responsibilities whatsoever.

What I would like to know is what is the policy of the hon. member's party. Does he or does he not agree that we should have local control where people locally manage things, or does he think that Ottawa always knows best?

*  *  *

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy has developed a long range plan to maintain Canada's position as a world leader in this field. To remain viable the plan requires further funding from the federal government of $164 million over 10 years. However rather than fund the plan, the government has decided to spend money in other areas such as $750 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Would the Minister of Industry explain why he has decided to fund the CFI and other programs instead of the long range plan for astronomy?

Mr. John Cannis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when the member uses the word spend, he is wrong. The government is investing in Canada. We heard from the astronomers and listened when they brought forward their points.

Let me tell the member, who is a very active participant on the industry committee, that if he thinks investing in Genome Canada is wrong, then let him say so. If he is thinks investing in and connecting our country is wrong, then let him say so. If he is talking about investing in research and development in our universities, then let him say so. That is where our investments are going.

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, if the parliamentary secretary wants critiques of CFI funding, he should talk to Liberal members on the committee. The CFI operates outside of normal government accounting procedures and thus is restricted in funding big science projects such as the neutron facility and the long range plan for astronomy.

Will the minister consider altering the structure and regulations of the CFI so its funds can be used by the National Research Council for projects such as the long range plan for astronomy?

Mr. John Cannis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the recommendations that will come forward, good points have been made by the hon. member and every member on the committee.

Right now we are going to continue with this agenda. We are reviewing it. The committee is summarizing it. He and every Canadian can be assured that we will continue to make Canada the most connected and innovative country in the world.

*  *  *

[Translation]

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada has written a letter indicating that the statements made by the Minister for International Trade on cheese stick imports are misleading to the House.

The letter is clear. The points made are clear and confirm the Bloc Quebecois position.

Is the Minister for International Trade going to at last understand that he must show some backbone, stop issuing any more import permits, and stop saying just about anything in the House to cover up his errors and incompetence?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would point out, if I may, once more here in this House that there have been no restrictions on cheese sticks under free trade for the past 20 years. That is the reality, no matter what the Bloc Quebecois says.

I have been asked to follow the Bloc Quebecois position, but it has changed two or three times this week, between the hon. member for Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis and the hon. member who has just asked the question.

We are going to continue to promote our interests in the United States. We want to reopen the border to the United States, to whom we have sold cheese sticks for years. That is the objective of our government, in the best interest of our producers.

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister really does not know what he is talking about, when he addresses this issue.

On the cheese sticks issue, I am asking him, will he comply with the dairy producers request for a meeting with him in order to discuss the issue and come up, finally, with a logical and consistent position?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have already had an opportunity to meet with them, and it will be a pleasure to meet with them again. However, I find the reference to cheese sticks very risky.

We have for years stressed the fact that these are breaded cheese sticks, because the product contains less than 50% cheese. Great care must be taken with classifications.

Regardless of what the Bloc Quebecois has just said, we have the true interest of the dairy producers at heart and we will continue to work in their interests in order to get the U.S. border reopened.

*  *  *

 

. 1155 + -

[English]

ACCESS TO INFORMATION

Ms. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development said yesterday that the decisions on access to information requests were made at arm's length from her office. However we have been told on a number of occasions by access to information officials that the final release was made by the corporate sector, which is not arm's length from her department or her office.

Is the minister asserting that her department or her office has no part in approving the release of access to information requests?

Ms. Raymonde Folco (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the department is committed to transparency and to providing information contained in departmental records to Canadians in a timely manner.

I remind the hon. member that in 1999-2000, HRDC received an excellent rating from the Office of the Information Commissioner. During the 2000-01 fiscal year, HRDC responded to 1,442 ATI requests, representing a release of over 130,000 pages.

Ms. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, requests regarding Placeteco and Auberge Grand-Mère in the Prime Minister's riding have gone unanswered for months.

The minister's department has taken on a culture of secrecy since last year's disastrous billion dollar mess. It is completely disregarding the spirit and letter of the access law passed by the House.

Will the minister immediately direct her officials to clean up their act and start providing the information Canadians are demanding?

Ms. Raymonde Folco (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said before, during the year 2000-01, HRDC replied to over 1,442 requests, representing a release of 130,000 pages. I add that this represents a 106% increase over the previous year.

I think the member of parliament opposite is using vastly overblown language because the ever increasing number and complexity of ATI requests over the past few years have often required the department to compile files from many places, both inside and outside the department.

*  *  *

FOREIGN AID

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks Canadians have watched with dismay as the situation in Afghanistan has gone from bad to worse. Millions of people are hungry and in refugee camps. The death rate of children in the north is soaring and the situation for women in particular is dismal.

Could the Minister for International Cooperation tell the House what Canada is doing to signal our displeasure with the situation?

Hon. Maria Minna (Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what is happening in Afghanistan is horrendous. The Government of Canada would call on the Taliban to stop immediately the policies that are very destructive to its people, especially women and children.

However, in order to assist in the situation, I recently announced an additional $2 million of spending in Afghanistan. The money will go to improving medical facilities, providing fresh water and sanitation, and assisting women and children especially with medical assistance.

*  *  *

TRADE

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, certain interests in the United States are becoming more and more protectionist in their trade relations.

P.E.I. potatoes were targeted for months. Canada's greenhouse tomatoes were attacked in March. The softwood lumber countervail and dumping actions continue. This month it is wheat and now steel. Meanwhile the federal Liberals are glowing about growth in energy exports.

What action will the minister take to stop this accelerated targeting of Canadian industries?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Alliance has raised every individual file. I think every one of them deserves an answer.

If we talk about steel, I said very clearly that we are trying to exempt Canadian steel from the U.S. measures. I am confident that we will do that.

On softwood lumber, we are working with industry and the provinces. I am very proud that the Canadian softwood industry is holding together in solidarity and is facing the U.S. challenges very well.

We are working very hard on the wheat board. I salute my colleague, the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, for standing up for western farmers. We are trying—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Vancouver Island North.

 

. 1200 + -

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in the recent 201 action by the U.S. to protect its steel industry against dumping by foreign countries, we understand that Canada is technically exempt because of NAFTA rules.

The concern is that with the closure of the U.S. market Canada will be highly vulnerable to foreign dumping. What measures will the minister introduce to ensure that the Canadian steel industry is protected from this new threat?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government, the Minister of National Revenue and myself will stand up for our Canadian interests. We will of course closely monitor the situation and the impact of the 201 action the United States is taking.

We have a problem globally on steel. While we want Canada to be exempt from the 201 action by the United States, our industry is working with American industry to address the global problem that we are having. We will make sure that we monitor the situation very closely in Canada on our market.

*  *  *

[Translation]

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ): Mr. Speaker, for export purposes, the Unibroue brewery in Quebec obtained GMO free certification from the CFIA. After publicizing this certification in Quebec, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency decided, without warning, to take back its certification. This case shows us that agricultural and agrifood producers are at the mercy of the agency.

Does the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food not realize that the agency's inability to establish reliable standards for labelling GMOs will harm farm producers—

The Speaker: The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

[English]

Mr. Larry McCormick (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Unibroue Inc., the company in question, is certainly free and welcome to advertise its product as being GMO free. It certainly used the CFIA authorization for the export in the wrong way, but it is most capable and most welcome to advertise its product as GMO free as long as it is certain about the source of its product. It must also make sure its labelling is very clear and meaningful for the health of all Canadians.

*  *  *

CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

Ms. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, critics of the government's proposed cruelty to animals legislation say that it will jeopardize the agriculturalized stock industries. Some have even suggested that farmers may no longer be able to brand their cattle.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice clarify the intent of these provisions with respect to animals and farming in particular?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, among other things, Bill C-15 enhances maximum penalties for cruelty to animals. This sends a clear message that abusing animals is a form of violence that cannot be tolerated and that must be treated seriously.

Nothing in the bill puts at risk lawful and humane activities involving animals for such purposes as agriculture. It does not affect the way that cattle branding takes place. The justice minister made changes to the bill requested by farmers to make the intent of the law clearer. The law unmistakably focuses on intentional and negligent acts against animals.

*  *  *

CANADIAN AIRLINES

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the president of Air Canada, Robert Milton, was in New York bragging to his peers that as Canada's flag carrier it has virtually unrestricted access to international routes, but this only came about because of the Canadian Airlines merger.

While Mr. Milton boasts of grabbing the routes and the aircraft, the pilots who fly them have been left on the tarmac. Instead of being recognized for their years of experience, most have been sent to the bottom of the seniority list.

Will the Minister of Transport concede that the Mitchnick Award is punitive, keep his word and ensure that the former Canadian Airlines pilots receive fair treatment?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that this is a matter that is between parties. The two unions in question agreed to an arbitrator. They agreed to accept the arbitration award. As such, the Minister of Labour and myself as Minister of Transport have no direct jurisdiction. If there is dissatisfaction with the result of the arbitration award, then there is recourse for the parties to the courts.

Mr. John Williams: Mr. Speaker, during my question earlier today I made reference to a letter from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Merritt, British Columbia. I ask that you seek unanimous consent that I table this letter in the House.

The Speaker: Does the House give unanimous consent that the hon. member table the document?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

 

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[English]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the 14th report on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

*  *  *

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have been asked by some members to clarify the business statement, given the time of year, and perhaps I could take a moment to give an updated business statement, particularly for the benefit of all House leaders.

Assuming that the debate on Bill C-25 is completed at third reading and Bill C-24 is completed at report stage later today, the business for Monday would be as follows: Bill S-11, respecting business corporations; Bill S-3, respecting motor vehicles; Bill S-16, respecting money laundering. I understand those three bills are perhaps briefer than others. We would follow this with the third reading stage of Bill C-24, regarding organized crime, which I know is of considerable interest to many members. If any time is left it would be taken up on Bill C-11, respecting immigration, and Bill C-6, respecting bulk water.

On Tuesday, of course, it will be a supply day. It is my intention at the present time to call any unfinished business for Wednesday and the debate on the modernization committee report.

*  *  *

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(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

*  *  *

[Translation]

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT BANKS

Mr. Eugène Bellemare (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 1999 report on Canada's participation in regional development banks.

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Mr. Bill Graham (Toronto Centre—Rosedale, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

[English]

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) the committee considered the issue of the third summit of the Americas held in Quebec City in April 2001 and is pleased to table this report, which we believe will make a contribution to improving future summits and understanding this important process.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

[Translation]

I also have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

[English]

In accordance with its order of reference from the House of May 30, 2001, the committee has considered votes 20 and 25 under Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian International Development Agency, and reports the same.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CANADA LABOUR CODE

 

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-375, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act (prohibited provision in a collective agreement).

She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce once again a bill aimed at banning orphan clauses from any collective agreement which might be covered by one of the following three pieces of legislation: the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

 

. 1210 + -

The purpose of the bill is to eliminate any discriminatory provision affecting new labour market entrants and to ensure that they receive the same wages as their elders.

Let me conclude with a quote that should give all my colleagues in the House some food for thought “Collective problems do not vanish because we have talked too much about them: they persist because we did not solve them”.

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

*  *  *

[English]

NATIONAL LITERACY STANDARDS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-376, an act to establish national literacy standards across Canada.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the enactment of the bill is to require a minister to consult with provincial and territorial governments, education and literacy experts, industry, labour, the media and literacy students to report on illiteracy and national literacy goals and standards, and to propose a policy by which the goals and standards might be achieved.

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

*  *  *

NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON GUARANTEED ANNUAL INCOME ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-377, an act respecting the National Conference on Guaranteed Annual Income.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this enactment provides that a designated minister shall convene a conference for the purpose of making recommendations on creating and implementing a national program to guarantee a minimum annual income to each Canadian.

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

*  *  *

INCOME TAX ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-378, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (dependent beneficiaries).

He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill seeks to eliminate the expression “illegitimate child” where it appears in all federal legislation.

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

*  *  *

EDUCATION STANDARDS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-379, an act to establish national standards across Canada for education provided by the provinces.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill seeks to establish a process of consultation between different levels of government, industry, labour, parent groups, volunteer organizations and other sectors in order to facilitate the establishment of national education standards across Canada.

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

*  *  *

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-380, an act to amend the National Archives of Canada Act and the Statistics Act.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill would allow the National Archives of Canada to make information available to the public for statistical and research purposes provided that 92 years have lapsed since the collection of that information.

(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-381, 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, the purpose of the bill is to lower the maximum speed that might be reached by a motor vehicle by providing that devices be installed with a maximum speed control device and also to prohibit any person from removing the device rendering it inoperative or reducing its operating capacities.

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

*  *  *

 

. 1215 + -

FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL FISCAL ARRANGEMENTS ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-382, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act (school-leaving age).

He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to ensure that there is a standard school leaving age of 18 across Canada by making provisions for a deduction from the Canada health and social transfer to the province if the school leaving age is not 18.

(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-383, an act to amend the Divorce Act (right of spouses' parents to access to or custody of child).

He said: Mr. Speaker, the bill would make it easier for grandparents to have access to their grandchildren in the event of the death of a parent. Rather than having to go to court every time, the bill would make it a lot easier for grandparents to have the opportunity to meet with their grandchildren.

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

*  *  *

CHILDREN IN LAW ACT

 

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-384, an act to amend certain statutes to standardize the definition of “child” in conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to recognize in law the basic rights of the child, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that are not already covered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, this would be a bill of rights for children in Canada.

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

*  *  *

CUSTOMS ACT

 

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.) moved that Bill S-23, an act to amend the Customs Act and to make related amendments to other acts, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

*  *  *

PETITIONS

HUMAN RIGHTS

Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present to the House a petition signed by over 500 Canadians, including constituents in my riding of Nepean—Carleton.

They call on the federal government to work with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to stop Algerian assaults on the Amazigh people and to end its programs of discrimination and repression.

VIA RAIL

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise to present three more petitions to add to the thousands of signatures I have already presented from citizens of the Peterborough area who want VIA Rail service re-established between Peterborough and Toronto.

The petitioners point out the great environmental advantages, the reduction in greenhouse emissions, the reduction in accidents and wear and tear on the highways. It would also strengthen Peterborough as a business, educational and tourist centre and also, I would say, strengthen all the communities along the line.

The petition has support in federal ridings such as Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Durham, Whitby—Ajax, Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Markham, Scarborough—Rouge River and Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

I am pleased to say that the petition has already resulted in most constructive meetings between the Minister of Transport and the people of Peterborough, the hon. member for Haliburton—Victoria—Brock and citizens of the Lindsay area.

 

. 1220 + -

CANADA POST

Ms. Jean Augustine (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have a petition which states that rural route mail couriers often earn less than the minimum wage and have working conditions reminiscent of another era. They have not been allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages and working conditions. They therefore call on the House to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act.

*  *  *

[Translation]

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 35, 47, 52 and 53. .[Text]

Question No. 35—Mr. Garry Breitkreuz:

    With regard to the Canadian firearms program: (a) what is the proposed budget allocation for the fiscal year 2001-02; (b) what is the cost breakdown in detail for the fiscal year 2001-02; and (c) what was total cost since its inception in 1995?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): With regard to the Canadian firearms Program: (a) The budget allocation for fiscal year 2001-02 is $34,866,292.

(b) The cost breakdown for fiscal year 2001-02 is as follows:

   

(c) The total net program cost since its inception in 1995 is $489.3 million.

Question No. 47—Mr. Roy Bailey:

    With regard to the proposed move of the Canadian War Museum from the location in Rockcliffe to LeBreton Flats, can the government: (a) provide a list of the consultations it had with members of the Canadian War Museum's advisory committee prior to its announcing the move; (b) the reasons for the move; (c) indicate if the land in Rockcliffe will be sold for private development; and (d) indicate if the $15 million the Friends of the Canadian War Museum raised toward the construction of the museum in Rockcliffe: i) will still be used for LeBreton Flats and if so, how and ii) is consistent with the government's practice and policy of constructing museums?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): (a) Following the end of Mr. Barney Danson's term as chair in June 2000, the Canadian War Museum advisory committee evolved into two committees, the Canadian War Museum committee, a committee of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, CMCC, Board of Trustees, and the Canadian War Museum advisory council, a committee established to provide advice to the director of the Canadian War Museum. On March 11, 2001, at a meeting of the board's Canadian War Museum committee, all options for the location of the new museum were discussed.

The Canadian War Museum advisory council's membership was confirmed in April 2001 and a meeting of this council was held on April 28, during which site options were discussed.

(b) The choice of LeBreton Flats as the location of the new Canadian War Museum was made because the LeBreton site, close to Parliament Hill and in the heart of the National Capital, will make the museum more accessible to the Canadian public and to the many tourists that visit the National Capital Region. It is anticipated that construction of the Canadian War Museum on LeBreton Flats will result in a substantial increase in attendance and visibility.

(c) The land at Rockcliffe originally identified for construction of the Canadian War Museum will be transferred to the Canada Lands Company.

(d) (i) Funds generated through the Friends of the Canadian War Museum campaign will be directed to exhibitions and programming on the LeBreton Flats site. Construction costs for the new museum will be funded by the federal government.

(ii) The raising of private sector funds by volunteer organizations for the development of museological exhibitions and programming is common practice in federal, provincial, municipal and international sectors and is completely consistent with federal government policies.

Question No. 52—Mrs. Cheryl Gallant:

    For each trip abroad by the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation between 1991 and the present: (a) what was the destination; (b) what was the itinerary; (c) what was the reason for the trip; (d) what was the total cost of the trip; and (e) what was the number of accompanying persons?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is required to provide a significant level of detail on its finances and operations to the public through parliament. Its books are audited by the Auditor General for Canada. The information requested would have formed part of the information examined by the auditor general in any given year. All of the budgets and plans of the corporation are approved and reviewed by the board of directors of the corporation.

Question No. 53—Mr. Andy Burton:

    For each trip abroad by the chairman of the National Capital Commission between 1991 and the present: (a) what was the destination; (b) what was the itinerary; (c) what was the reason for the trip; (d) what was the total cost of the trip; and (e) what was the number of the accompanying persons?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): National Capital Commission: one trip only by the chairman of the NCC, Mrs. Jean Pigott, on April 27-28-29, 1992 to:

(a) Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

(b) April 27: Ottawa to Washington
April 29; Washington to Ottawa

(c) To accompany members of the Canadiana Fund and the Official Residences Collection Advisory Committee and meet with the curator of the U.S. state department and tour U.S. official residences.

(d) $1,500 per NCC traveller

(e) Four from the NCC. There were also 8 to 10 Canadiana Fund members, costs not covered by the NCC.

[Translation]

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

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

[English]

Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to ask the government when it plans to answer Question No. 25 which was submitted last March?

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I will see if I can get an answer for the hon. member.

As the House knows, the government makes every effort to answer these questions on a timely basis. Some of the questions unfortunately are necessarily referred because of the nature of the question to all or many government departments. That makes the exercise quite an exhaustive and complex one as all members know.

I do have the hon. member's question noted as an environment ministry question and that it deals with departmental contracts. The review of the data is continuing and the answer is being prepared. I acknowledge that the question has been unanswered for over 45 days. The member is of course aware that he has an option to move the question to adjournment proceedings if he wishes to debate the matter further. If he is not going to do that then I assure the member that the pursuit of the answer to his question is ongoing and I will make a special inquiry into it to ensure an early reply.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

FARM CREDIT CORPORATION ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Some hon. members: Yea.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those opposed will please say nay.

Some hon. members: Nay.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:  

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division stands deferred until Monday, June 11 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-24, an act to amend the Criminal Code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

SPEAKER'S RULING

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): There are six motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-24, an act to amend the criminal code (organized crime and law enforcement) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

 

. 1225 + -

[Translation]

Motions Nos. 1 and 2 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: a vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motion No. 2.

[English]

Motions Nos. 3 to 6 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: a vote on Motion No. 3 applies to Motions Nos. 4 and 6; an affirmative vote on Motion No. 3 obliterates the necessity of the question being put on Motion No. 5; a negative vote on Motion No. 3 necessitates the question being put on Motion No. 5.

[Translation]

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

[English]

MOTIONS IN AMENDMENT

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC) moved:  

    Motion No. 1

    That Bill C-24, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 16 on page 4 the following:

      ““competent judicial authority” means a Judge of any Court in Canada.”

    Motion No. 2

    That Bill C-24, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 34 on page 4 with the following:

      “25.2 to 25.4, only after acquiring authorization from a competent judicial authority.”

He said: Madam Speaker, I will begin my remarks by saying that the PC Party views this as a very positive bill. As members know, it is legislation that comes about as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada decision, Regina v Campbell and Shirose. Bill C-24 is meant to remedy an anomaly that resulted from that decision. It left law enforcement officers throughout Canada in the unenviable position of confusion about their ability to, on occasion, act outside the bounds of the criminal code in an effort to infiltrate or to apprehend those engaged in unlawful activity.

Specifically, the legislation is aimed at organized crime, hence the title of the bill itself. It focuses on the neverending efforts of our brave men and women in law enforcement who are faced with the tremendous task of trying to curtail organized crime in Canada. This problem has been exaggerated and exacerbated over the past number of years to the point where many people in communities throughout Canada, but particularly in the province of Quebec, are feeling threatened in their communities and very ill at ease in their homes and in their towns.

The legislation is meant to address the fallout from the Campbell and Shirose decision. It is meant to provide police a level of immunity from prosecution for acting in their capacity as law enforcement officers, but allowing them to, on occasion, transgress the law. There are certain limitations that have been placed upon that, such as serious crimes involving sexual assault, bodily harm and murder. These are obviously the types of offences that would be completely out of bounds when it comes to police officers acting in the line of duty.

There are certainly exceptional cases. The case can be made where police officers must demonstrate to potential gang activity and those engaged in unlawful gang activity that they are part of that gang. They must demonstrate that they are prepared, given certain circumstances, to break the law in order to ingratiate themselves or get into the club so they might infiltrate and gain information by attaining the trust of those who are involved in this nefarious activity in the hope of bringing them to justice. The police, by doing this, hope to collect evidence that will eventually lead to prosecution.

The bill in its current form grants police officers this special designation that allows them to transgress the law. That discretion or authority is now vested in the police, albeit through superior officers, and in some instances attorneys general. In some instances there is reference to the solicitor general being the top minister in the department.

 

. 1230 + -

That is fine and dandy. However, in terms of direct accountability, knowledge and discretion over who should be immune from prosecution and who should receive this special designation, it is my submission and earnest suggestion that the competent authority be a judicial authority. Simply put, it should be a judge. Judges understand the law and could make learned and competent decisions as to who should be granted these very special powers.

I have worked in the justice system and have a great deal of respect and admiration for our police. However we all know that there have been instances, sadly, where police officers have gone outside their duties and have in some instances undermined public confidence.

I strenuously suggest that for the new system and the new law to take effect, win public confidence and operate in a smooth and satisfactory way, judges should be granted the discretion to make decisions as to who is granted immunity. That would be a much more practical and professional way to go about it and would be very much in keeping with current practice as it pertains to wiretaps and to warrants for search and seizure.

Once the designation is made there would be a greater level of accountability and review. As contemplated in the legislation, the designation would be for an indeterminate period. However, that is not to say that no supervision or checks and balances would be in place or that reports would not be made to those in authority.

I again strongly suggest that it would make greater sense and be more consistent with our current legal practices to have the judiciary make the designations. Judges in Canada practise criminal law daily and are aware of recent developments in the law and of the practices that take place in courtrooms across the land. They should have the power vested in them. That is the direction in which we should be going with the legislation. That is the sole purpose behind the amendment.

There have been quite animated discussions along this line at committee level. I would go so far as to say it was one of the most productive committee hearings I have had the pleasure to take part in during my short tenure here in Ottawa. There was a full and open exchange of ideas. Members of parliament were fully engaged in the debate as to where this very special, extraordinary power should rest.

The special designation granting this form of immunity would not apply only to organized crime. That may come as a surprise to many, given the title of the bill and the intent of the legislation as it was presented and sold to the general public.

The designated special power would apply to police officers deemed immune from prosecution in their efforts to infiltrate organized crime. It would apply to their general practice of law enforcement; that is to say, they would be given powers that used to exist under common law. There was, after the fact obviously, a judicial examination of those acts and those actions on the part of police.

Once the designation is made, subject to the amendment being accepted by a judge for a police officer or superior officer, or a provincial attorney general in the case of municipal or provincial police forces, it would not be for the sole purpose of dealing with organized crime. That must fully be understood by the Canadian public. Police officers would return, subject to the legislation passing, to having discretion in the field to act in emergency situations.

 

. 1235 + -

That is what the legislation is intended to do. It is intended to correct the fallout and the upshot from the supreme court decision which threw into disarray the understanding of police officers as to what they could do in a given circumstance.

It goes without saying that police often find themselves in dangerous situations where they must make split second decisions as to their actions. They must apply force but within reason. They must on occasion enter premises. The practice has always been to use reason and a certain discretion as to how much force they should apply and how much of a transgression of the law they should embark upon.

However, given the size, scope and breadth of Canada and the many rural communities that exist, it is virtually impossible for police officers on every occasion and in every instance to receive prior judicial authorization when contemplating whether to enter a premise or take a vehicle or other property that may not belong to them.

All of this is aimed at allowing police officers to carry out their very important role of protecting the public. The amendment is aimed at putting a balance in place so that checks will exist to allow judges the opportunity to intervene and make a proper designation and thereby allow police to act appropriately.

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the criminal code in relation to organized crime and law enforcement and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The standing committee has completed its consideration of the bill. I am pleased to say that the committee endorsed the bill with only a few amendments. Bill C-24 has been reported back to the House of Commons with those amendments.

I want to first thank my colleagues on the committee for their work with respect to the bill. In particular, I would point out that there were members on the standing committee who had participated in the subcommittee on organized crime during the last parliament. It was their report and the recommendations contained therein that are reflected in the government's legislation before us.

As we all know, it is a matter of utmost importance that we expand and enhance the tools available to law enforcement authorities and the criminal justice system to address the serious problem of organized crime. The committee members examining Bill C-24 understood this and recognized the need to move forward quickly with the bill.

At the same time, they recognized that we must ensure that the tools provided are the correct tools. Bill C-24 includes provisions of some complexity that would make important additions to the law of Canada. The committee members considered the provisions of the bill very carefully and with a clear understanding of its objectives. We can be confident in their work.

I must also highlight the assistance provided to the committee by the numerous witnesses who appeared before it. These witnesses provided substantial, thought provoking testimony and often did so on very short notice. Their efforts in preparing and presenting testimony were vital to the committee's proceedings.

The House will recall that Bill C-24, as approved at second reading, included proposals that fall under four main categories.

First, it would improve protection from intimidation for persons who play a role in the justice system.

Second, it would create an accountable process to protect law enforcement officers from criminal liability for certain otherwise illegal acts committed in the course of an investigation.

Third, it would broaden the powers of law enforcement officers to seize and forfeit the proceeds of crime and property used in crimes.

Fourth, it would create important new offences targeting involvement in criminal organizations.

While endorsing all four main elements of the bill, the committee made a number of amendments in its report to the House. The amendments would not alter the main thrust of the bill but rather make improvements upon it. The amendments would reinforce the effectiveness of the bill and refine the application of certain law enforcement tools.

I will briefly discuss the principal amendments.

With respect to protection from intimidation, the definition of a participant in the criminal justice system has been expanded to include members of provincial legislative assemblies and municipal councils. The definition already included members of the Senate and of this House as well as persons playing a role in the administration of justice. Expanding it to include members of legislative assemblies and municipal councils would recognize that other legislators have been called upon to play a role in the fight against organized crime and could be vulnerable as a result.

 

. 1240 + -

A further amendment was adopted which would extend the intimidation offence to include situations where journalists are threatened. Committee members felt that journalists play a vital public role by reporting on organized crime. Groundbreaking investigative journalism has assisted Canadians in understanding the nature and extent of organized crime in Canada. However, as we are aware, reporting on organized crime can come at a price. That is why the committee decided to amend the new intimidation offence to include journalists.

The government accepted the change to include journalists. However, upon further examination, it recognized that improvements to the amendment accepted by the committee were necessary to achieve the intended objective.

We are therefore presenting an amendment on behalf of the government that would add references to journalists to the intent provisions in subsection 423.1(1) and the description of prohibited conduct in subsection 423.1(2). The change to those provisions would add the specific intent of impeding journalists in the fulfilment of their role in reporting on criminal organizations.

There is no definition in the criminal code of what organized crime means. There has never been an agreement, either domestically or internationally, as to exactly what such a term may comprise. However a definition of criminal organization was added to the criminal code in 1997. Bill C-24 would refine and sharpen that definition.

A new paragraph in the bill, 423.1(1)(c), would thus make it an offence to intimidate a journalist:

      —in order to impede him or her in the transmission to the public of information in relation to a criminal organization.

The motion proposed by the Bloc Quebecois would address the same issue but in far too broad a manner. The motion from the member for Berthier—Montcalm would make it an offence to intimidate a journalist with the intent of impeding the performance of his or her duties. That would mean journalists would be covered by this serious offence regardless of whether their work involved organized crime or any part of the criminal justice system.

The government agrees that journalists who report on criminal organizations are in danger and should be protected by the new offence. We should not underestimate the implications of such a broad amendment. It is a very serious offence indeed, punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

As a result of another provision in Bill C-24, a murder which occurs as a result of this offence would be first degree murder. The application of the offence to journalists must be limited to those whose work puts them in danger from criminal organizations. The government's motion would do exactly that.

Under the amendment made by the government's motion, it would also be an offence to intimidate a journalist when the intent, under paragraph 423.1(1)(a), is:

      —to provoke a state of fear in a group of persons or the general public in order to impede the administration of justice;

There were technical problems in the amendment adopted by the committee. To address these problems, the amendment I have presented would add references to journalists to subsection 423.1(2). Such references are necessary to ensure that the definition of prohibited conduct includes conduct aimed both at journalists and at persons known to them. This would ensure that acts which seek to intimidate journalists through their family and friends are caught by the offence, as I am sure the committee would have wished.

We are proposing in the same motion limited amendments that would: first, add the word “criminal” in regard to the administration of justice in paragraph 423.1(1)(a) in order to be consistent with the definition of justice system participant in clause 1 of the bill; and second, add the words “provoke a state of fear” in the opening words of subsection 423.1(1) so that it describes the intent involved in all the paragraphs of that subsection rather than just paragraph (a) as is now the case.

This would better express the bill's original intent to penalize conduct which seeks to intimidate by causing fear. It would also address concerns expressed by witnesses before the committee that the new offence might be interpreted to apply to peaceful lobbying or protest activity aimed at legislators.

 

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In connection with the amendments to section 423.1, we are also presenting two other consequential amendments. These involve the reference to the new offence in section 423.1 in the list of offences under section 183 of the criminal code, both in the main part of the bill and in a co-ordinating clause. The change simply reflects the addition of the application to journalists in the description of the offence.

I return now to the other amendments that were endorsed by the committee and that have been reported back to this House. With respect to the limited protection for law enforcement officers and agents who work under their direction and control, an amendment was added to provide specific examples of the conditions that ministers may impose on the designations that bring officers under these provisions. The protection from criminal liability is subject to important controls and limitations, and this amendment helps to clarify the nature of one of these controls.

Another amendment to the provisions on protection from criminal liability clarifies the requirements for the application of the protection to agents acting under the direction of law enforcement officers. This refinement adds a further safeguard to ensure the proper operation of these provisions.

A further amendment provides for a parliamentary review of these provisions within three years of their coming into force. This review will examine the sections dealing with protection from criminal liability. Parliament will then have an opportunity to consider whether improvements are needed. The supreme court has indicated that parliament has a responsibility for providing for protection from criminal liability for law enforcement officers. The three year review provision emphasizes this parliamentary authority and responsibility.

With respect to the provisions defining a criminal organization, an amendment was made to clarify that a criminal group will fall under this definition whether its members are situated inside or outside Canada.

This amendment recognizes the international nature of organized crime and ensures that the new offences of participating in, benefiting and directing a criminal organization will have the corresponding adequate scope. The criminal activity affected will still have to have a substantial connection with Canada and the amendment thus does not involve any extraterritorial application of Canadian law.

The committee also made a number of other technical amendments to improve Bill C-24. These are included in the amended text of the bill that has been reported.

In closing, I would like to thank the committee for its work on all these amendments, substantive and technical, and for its work in examining the bill as a whole. The result is an effective and balanced bill that would substantively improve our ability to fight organized crime in this country as well as improve law enforcement generally.

We look forward to the debate at third reading.

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I would like to speak to the amendments to the bill.

First I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, for originally bringing forth the amendments to extend additional protection from intimidation to journalists. I think journalists play a very special and important role in our society. They are fundamental to free speech and in covering organized crime. The case of the journalist in Quebec being shot in the way he was last year demonstrated that fact.

As a number of recent cases demonstrate, journalists who serve the public interest by reporting on organized crime are very much in need of and deserve enhanced protection under our criminal law. Again I thank my colleague from the Bloc for bringing that forward originally in committee.

I thought it was interesting, too, that in the course of our committee certain government members appeared to only vote in favour of this amendment brought forward by the Bloc once it was implied that their names would get out to the media if they did not.

This is somewhat amusing, but in fact is kind of sad at the same time. When a member has to be persuaded—I do not like to use the word coerced—to extending protection to journalists by the threat of his or her name being published in the media, it is quite an interesting state of affairs.

I think it demonstrates the power of the media and indeed reveals the exact importance of the role of the media in uncovering matters of interest. Indeed, it is crucial to our democratic process.

 

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Even that small situation confirmed to me the importance of this amendment because of the significant role that journalists play.

I will, however, be supporting the government amendments as opposed to the Bloc amendments. The Bloc raised the matter, however, a government member denied unanimous consent for the matter to be placed in the correct positioning and therefore the amendment proceeded as it did in committee. However, in listening to the government's explanation, I think the appropriate amendment would be as proposed by the government.

In respect of the amendment brought forward by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, I cannot support it. I would indicate that under Bill C-24 only the Solicitor General of Canada for the RCMP or provincial ministers responsible for the police are given the authority to designate police officers who may commit offences during the course of a legitimate criminal investigation. The amendment says that public officials will have the authority to designate these police officers only after acquiring authorization from a competent judicial authority, in other words, a judge. I cannot support that amendment. I do not believe that this is a process that constitutionally or otherwise requires the supervision of a judge.

We have heard from police evidence and other evidence that such a requirement which this amendment would impose would unnecessarily encumber police investigations without a real enhancement of the quality of justice or the quality of the police investigation. I think it is unnecessary to have judicial intervention at this time. There are unique circumstances that apply to undercover and other police investigations in this context, which I would think would grind to a halt if this process were adopted.

One has to remember that police officers regularly exercise this authority without legislative sanction. It was as a requirement or as a consequence of the Supreme Court of Canada that this amendment became necessary. It is a good amendment because it does set out clearly the legislated extent to which police officers may embark upon this course of action. I think it takes a lot of the guesswork and discretion out of it. It becomes a transparent process. Canadians and those enforcing the law will understand exactly what is required. I think most police forces would agree that the Liberal bill as it stands on that issue is a reasonable compromise.

I think the amendment brought forward by the member does not enhance the ability of police to get the job done in an appropriate and timely fashion. The bill already outlines quite clearly what police officers may or may not do and in which circumstances they may do it. It takes away that hidden discretion, the discretion that is unencumbered by legislation. I think this is a very good step.

In general I support the amendments being brought forward by the government. I again commend the member for the Bloc for bringing forward the matters related to the journalists. I also want to point out that there is a review process which was proposed in committee, that is, that this legislation would be reviewed within three years. That is important when we are adopting this kind of legislation.

 

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We have listened to the police forces. We have listened to the public. We have listened to journalists. I think this bill as proposed by the Liberals, together with the amendments suggested by the government and the Bloc, is appropriate.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Madam Speaker, I too would like to pay tribute to my Bloc Quebecois colleague, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, not only for his work in committee, as the Canadian Alliance member pointed out, but also for his continuous work, since 1994, in the fight against organized crime.

Since 1994, the Bloc Quebecois has always put forward initiatives to improve the criminal code, so that criminals, particularly those who belong to biker gangs and to organized crime in general, will be given meaningful sentences that reflect their crimes and the terrorism they institutionalized in today's society.

Back in 1997, when it decided to amend the criminal code, the government used several of the Bloc Quebecois' ideas. We were very pleased with that but, at the time, we were also aware that the criminal code had to be strengthened even further. At the time, we had pointed to certain flaws, about 80% of which are being corrected in the new bill.

We still wonder, and the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, often about this: since we were able to identify the problems with the criminal code, the flaws relating to the tools available to police officers to combat organized crime, why did the government take so long to recognize the need to strengthen the criminal code and to have specific provisions to lead a continuous, constant and determined fight against organized crime?

I am not saying that we would have avoided all that has happened, but some of the 151 murders committed between 1994 and now in the biker gang war, particularly to control the drug market, might have been avoided.

Some of the 170 attempted murders, including the recent one against reporter Michel Auger, might also have been avoided.

With a tightened criminal code, as we have before us today, we might have avoided some of these attempted murders, 13 disappearances, 334 violent crimes, 129 cases of arson, 82 bombings and the murder of one young boy in 1995. Young Daniel Desrochers lost his life as a result of a bombing in the Hochelaga—Maisonneuve area. The bomb was placed by the Hell's Angels, who were involved with the Rock Machine, now known as the Bandidos, in a war to control the drug traffic.

Let us not forget that, if we open the door to these criminal gangs, if we provide them with some kind of haven where they can grow and prosper, they can only become more arrogant and more powerful. With power comes their willingness to commit more crime to show their supremacy.

That is exactly what happened when two prison guards were killed in 1997, if I am not mistaken. We might have avoided these tragedies.

Members might remember that four years ago I talked about institutionalized terrorism in Quebec and southeastern Ontario, in the countryside. Members of criminal gangs grow marijuana in those fields every year. To ensure the growth of their business operations, they terrorize farm families. Maybe this is something else we could have avoided.

I am pleased with what I see in this bill. I even support the amendment put forward by my Conservative colleague allowing a judge to designate a member of a police force who can be protected from criminal liability for certain otherwise illegal acts committed in the course of an investigation.

 

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It is also a way to protect the solicitor general. We should not forget that, when politics interfere with the judiciary, it always turns into a disaster, as we have seen in the past. It has always put us, willy-nilly, in terrible situations.

It is especially true since the practice of having illegal acts committed by police officers applies not only to investigations into organized crime. We often asked this question to the solicitor general and the justice minister. They have said that this practice is not restricted to organized crime.

This thing could go quite far. The solicitor general could have to make a political decision when what we need is a judicial decision. This could lead to abuse.

We have seen a lot of abuse in the past. We all know what happened in the 1970s. We would not like to see this happen again. Two royal commissions investigated police actions during the October 1970 events. The powers of were have been restricted, and at the same time, the roles of the RCMP and of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service were divided so that these roles would be clearly defined.

Did we forget about all these discussions? Did we forget what happened a few decades ago, so that we are now about to make the same mistakes again today?

We support the introduction of the judicial order, therefore of a judge, in the fact that the police are given authority or tools to work with, including the ability to commit offences not murder or rape, as part of their undercover operations.

I met a lot of policemen during the three months my family had 24 hour a day protection seven days a week because of death threats. I had reported gangsters who had taken over farmland in my riding, elsewhere in Quebec and in southeastern Ontario.

I therefore had a taste of that sort of terrorism. I also learned a lot by talking to the police who often came from drug raids and who had had to go undercover. They are often required to commit offences, because, if they do not, they risk their skins. They risk being killed on the spot. So, they need these tools in order to become more effective and to protect themselves as well.

They have to be careful. The job of policemen is not a cushy one. They need these tools. We support the fact that the government is giving them the tools to enable them to effectively combat organized crime and do not get discouraged. I also met police from the RCMP and the Sûreté du Québec, who, in the absence of legal instruments, were back at square one after months and months of investigations costing hundreds of millions of dollars and unable to lay charges.

I am very anxious to see, following the recent operation springtime 2001, with its 160 arrests, including the heads of biker gangs, how far we will be able to proceed with charges under the provisions of the Criminal Code as it now stands, and this will need to be discussed with the minister at some point.

The weaknesses that have been pointed out since 1997 are still there, until the new legislation is enacted. If they remain, this means that charges are not being laid and evidence is not being gathered against these 160 bandits who have committed criminal offences ranging from drug trafficking to corruption, intimidation of judges, politicians, journalists, and even murder or attempted murder.

If the tools available to us at the present time, which have been criticized since 1997 by the Bloc Quebecois and by my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm, stand in the way of laying any meaningful charges against this band of criminals, that will be the fault of the Minister of Justice, no more and no less.

She had no justification for waiting this long before introducing her bill. She had all the tools, all the analyses, at her disposal. We had provided them. She had everything she needed to make a decision to strengthen the criminal code well before today.

During the committee hearings, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm told me that, as regards the amendment to include journalists in the clause about people to be protected against intimidation through sentences of up to 14 years, we had to intimidate the Liberals to have them agree to include journalists in the list of people to be protected against intimidation. This is incredible.

We all know about Mr. Auger's experience. We know that, like politicians, as I learned from personal experience, journalists do a risky and dangerous job. They examine issues. They target criminals. They report on their activities. It is quite normal to include them.

 

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However we had to threaten the Liberals with releasing the names of those who were opposed to including journalists in the list of the people to be protected from intimidation, before they would finally agree to this amendment. They got scared that their names would be released and that journalists would say “Listen, this does not make sense”.

For all these reasons, we will support the amendment proposed by the Progressive Conservative member. We will also support the other group of amendments, which consists in including journalists in the new clause on intimidation.

[English]

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the amendments proposed by my friend from Pictou—Antigonish from the Progressive Conservative Party. I would like to indicate on behalf of our party that we support these amendments.

Before I go to the specific amendments, I would like to acknowledge the work that the committee did and the fact that the Liberal government saw its way through to add that provision to protect journalists. Work that has been done by journalists specifically on organized crime has been exemplary. They do that profession proud. The fact that the government has recognized their work and their need for that protection by the expansion of the provisions to prevent intimidation is an excellent one. I congratulate them on it.

The two amendments proposed relate to the necessity of having a judicial review of police officers who commit crimes in the pursuit of the provisions of these amendments to the code. I believe it is really important to take a bit of an historical perspective on the necessity of having this type of protection built into the legislation.

As my friend from the Bloc indicated, no one here has any misgivings about what we are doing with the rest of the bill. We recognize the seriousness of organized crime in the country, particularly in Ontario and even more so in Quebec over the last number of years. It has become a prominent issue. No one is downplaying the significance of the need for this legislation. No one is downplaying the significance of the need to protect police officers in their duties, especially in this area. They are at constant risk for their own safety and at times their lives. So there is no issue with regard to that among anyone in the House or in the government.

However that does not say that we ignore the reality of the structure that we have built in our legal system over the centuries. There has been any number of times in the past where we have gone to excess in dealing with a criminal problem. I am afraid this could be one of those occasions, if we pass this these amendments to the code without the provision of a judicial review for police officers who commit crimes or breach other parts of the criminal code because of the necessity to do their work.

We have had a long history of balancing our responsibility to provide protection in a safe environment for our citizens with the recognition that there are civil liberties in the country. We have to recognize those. We always hear that we are just worried about the criminals. Police officers are human. They can make errors. The whole idea behind our system is that we provide someone else, in the form of judges, to protect us from those errors. Again, I am not going to suggest judges are perfect. I have appeared before too many of them in my career to suggest that. However it is an additional measure, and a very important one, to provide all citizens with that type of protection.

 

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As a result of questions from I think at least three of the four opposition parties, we have heard the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice repeatedly say the that it is just too cumbersome, or synonyms of that word.

That is just plain nonsense. We have used this system in providing warrants, sometimes very complicated warrants, and our judges have been able to deal with that. There is no reason, given the skills they bring to their positions, that they cannot do the same thing in this area.

I know a number of groups appeared before the committee when the bill was being reviewed. The Civil Liberties Association and a number of the bar associations made representations. All pushed strongly for this extra protection. Quite frankly, all indicated their understanding of the need for the legislation, but wanted the safety net built in to provide all citizens with this protection. It is our responsibility. We should fulfil our responsibility by accepting the amendments of Progressive Conservative Party and by supporting them.

[Translation]

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Madam Speaker, I will be very brief. I congratulate and thank the other members who spoke on this topic, especially the member for St-Hyacinthe—Bagot. He gave a very important perspective on the subject, of which he obviously has first-hand knowledge.

I hope all members will vote for this amendment.

[English]

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Some hon. members: Yea.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): All those opposed will please say nay.

Some hon. members: Nay.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): In my opinion the nays have it.

Some hon. members: On division.  

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I declare Motion No. 1 lost. I therefore declare Motion No. 2 lost.

[Translation]

Before putting the motions in Group No. 2 to the House, I wish to make it clear that the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm no longer wishes to proceed with Motion No. 5 in Group No. 2.

[English]

Hon. John Manley (for the Minister of Justice) moved:  

    Motion No. 3

    That Bill C-24, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 4 on page 13 with the following:

      `justice system participant or journalist),”

    Motion No. 4

    That Bill C-24, in Clause 11, be amended by replacing lines 7 to 36 on page 18 with the following:

      “423.1 (1) No person shall, without lawful authority, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) with the intent to provoke a state of fear in

      (a) a group of persons or the general public in order to impede the administration of criminal justice;

      (b) a justice system participant in order to impede him or her in the performance of his or her duties; or

      (c) a journalist in order to impede him or her in the transmission to the public of information in relation to a criminal organization.

      (2) The conduct referred to in subsection (1) consists of

      (a) using violence against a justice system participant or a journalist or anyone known to either of them or destroying or causing damage to the property of any of those persons;

      (b) threatening to engage in conduct described in paragraph (a) in Canada or elsewhere;

      (c) persistently or repeatedly following a justice system participant or a journalist or anyone known to either of them, including following that person in a disorderly manner on a highway;

      (d) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, a justice system participant or a journalist or anyone known to either of them; and

      (e) besetting or watching the place where a justice system participant or a journalist or anyone known to either of them resides, works, attends school, carries on business or happens to be.

    Motion No. 6

    That Bill C-24, in Clause 81, be amended by replacing line 22 on page 68 with the following:

      “justice system participant or journalist),”

 

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Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Madam Speaker, I will speak very briefly to this since I did not touch upon it in my earlier remarks on my own amendment.

I would again reiterate that it is not the position of the Progressive Conservative Party, and I think I am safe in saying it is not the position of any party in the House, to impede or in any way hold back the police in their very important duty to protect citizens and the country from this growing threat of organized crime.

This amendment was proposed by the Bloc. I again wish to congratulate the members of the Bloc who contributed a great deal to this particular piece of legislation, who brought forward amendments, who proposed supply day motions that I would suggest very much pushed the government toward the point we see today where legislation has been brought forward.

As I indicated, members, particularly the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, know first hand the means by which organized crime can invade a person's life and very much affect day to day existence through threats to family. Often it is very much implied. It is very subtle. It is very nefarious in its means. This is something that can be most disturbing. It is a cancer, a plague on our justice system, when it occurs.

It stands to reason that we would extend this practice of protection beyond our own means, beyond the members of parliament and the Senate, and extend it to provincial and municipal politicians and to journalists as well, because we have seen the extremely important role that journalists play in public awareness, in the reporting of the activities of organized crime and, I would suggest as well, in the disclosure and the pulling back of the cloak of secrecy that is very often part of the threat that organized crime can pose.

In many instances revealing who these individuals are strips them bare of their ability to intimidate. If the bright light of day shines upon them, they are no longer able to work from the shadows and cause fear in the hearts of those who are seeking justice. Whether it be through disclosing information, whether it be a journalist, jury members or participants in the justice system in any way, intimidation can very clearly take the underpinnings and shake the cornerstone of the justice system.

To that end is the government adoption of this amendment that originated from the Bloc. I must congratulate the member for Berthier—Montcalm as well. I know that he has worked extremely hard and has made significant contributions to the bill as well. The government in its wisdom has seen its way clear to including journalists in this envelope, in this protection from intimidation.

 

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Expanding this so that journalists are included means that they too can go about their tasks and their reporting without the fear of reprisal. If it does happen, the justice system is now mandated to intervene. We do not have to look any further than a very recent example involving Michel Auger in Montreal. What is quite timely is that we are informed that members of the Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal city police, I believe, have apprehended individuals connected with his shooting.

He was a very courageous man indeed, Madam Speaker, as you would know. Not only has he recovered, he continues to write on the subject of organized crime. He continues to provide the public in the province of Quebec with information about this story of organized crime and with other stories he has taken on in his passion as a journalist.

We in the Progressive Conservative Party are supporting this amendment as well. We encourage other members to do likewise. We look forward to seeing the legislation come into being upon passing through the other place.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Madam Speaker, I thank the Progressive Conservative member for his kind words with respect to the Bloc Quebecois members, particularly the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who led the battle for this amendment to the criminal code.

We are going to vote in favour of this amendment: first, because we feel it is very fair and, second, because it was our colleague, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who suggested it to the Standing Committee on Justice.

As I mentioned earlier, it is a bit much that the Liberal members must always be practically intimidated before they will come around to a point of view or an analysis which has always been right. The Bloc Quebecois has always put its finger on the problems and the shortcomings of the criminal code, and the tools the police are given to conduct their investigations.

During the last meeting of the Standing Committee on Justice, the Liberal members were completely opposed to journalists being protected. Even in the case of Mr. Auger, it was something they would not do. It took the Bloc Quebecois moving a motion calling for a recorded division and threatening to release the names of those Liberal members present to convince them.

It is a bit much to have to operate in this way to bring about improvements. This government does not readily understand the importance of what it includes in a bill, in terms of actions and wording.

This amendment deals with intimidation. This is a very important issue; with money, it is the key element in the war being wagered by all criminal groups. If, with the wealth derived from drugs, car thefts and prostitution, one is unable to buy another person, he will use intimidation. It is the one or the other.

We welcome this amendment. For about three months, I lived through this hell. It was as if I had been in some kind of jail 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while I could see on television criminals clowning around, smiling and acting like movie stars; they are incredibly arrogant when they become powerful.

Their arrogance is directly proportional to their power. For an honest citizens, particularly a three year old girl, to be deprived of their freedom even for an hour, is the most horrible experience they can go through. Freedom is important, particularly when one has nothing to reproach oneself with.

Why should we be shy when comes the time to fight organized crime, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, supposedly to respect the rights of these people who have absolutely no respect for others? They destroy families, they kill, even 11 year old children.

Why should we not include clauses such as the one proposed by my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm to protect journalists? In a democracy, these people have an incredible job to do, that is, to dig up the truth and denounce criminals. In this democracy, they often complement our work. Without them, democracy would be incredibly flawed. So it was quite normal that we should include journalists in this new clause on intimidation.

 

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I am also pleased with the new provision that will protect the general public from certain acts of intimidation. Other provisions provide for the prosecution of those who help out organized criminals or have close ties with them. I am also very happy that, under this bill, the thugs who take over farmland in my riding and elsewhere in Quebec will be prosecuted.

By linking those two provisions to the crimes they commit, we will be able to put them behind bars. First, they use intimidation. For about four years now, they have been intimidating farm families. That is unacceptable. They terrorize them for six months every year, from the moment they sow and transplant to the moment they harvest. They intimidate farmers, their families and their children.

We now have the extra tools we need to prosecute them. After catching these criminals right there in the fields, and I am talking directly to them now, we will have the tools to prosecute them for contributing to organized crime, the operations of biker gangs in particular, and to ensure they get real tough sentences. We will put an end to institutionalized terrorism in the rural areas of Quebec and particular in my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. We will let those farming families alone, undisturbed, to enjoy the use of their land and make the economy roll.

I am particularly proud of the new provisions. However, we would have liked the minister to show even more openness. We will have to wait another two, three or maybe four years to find out that there are still flaws.

I do not know what is happening, but on our side, we work, we analyse and we plan. We have a problem with a number of things in this bill, irrespective of the good in it, and the bill satisfies about 80% of our expectations, for example, the whole issue of the solicitor general approving of the commission of crimes by policemen.

Why is a judge not involved as is the case for search warrants, so that the political power does not interfere with the judiciary, with all the abuses that this may entail? There will be abuses. It is easy to foresee that. Why not also limit police immunity with respect to the organized crime?

We have asked the Minister of Justice why she was not referring to criminal organizations, to organized crime. It is becoming disturbing to see that we can extend immunity to the police for any reason, basically for any group. It is just like an open bar. Once again, we want to give the police all the tools they need to fight organized crime and to help them do their work. That is obvious. However, we have to put restrictions and we need to be very careful.

We also asked the minister to reverse the burden of proof for the proceeds of crime. Let the criminals explain how, when they do not have a regular job and do not file income tax returns with Revenue Canada or Revenu Québec, they can afford a Mercedes, a boat and a mansion.

It would have been nice if the government had avoided a situation where it will have to spend thousands and millions of dollars investigating the assets of criminals to prove that they are the proceeds of crime. We will have to wait once more, maybe for three, four or five years.

It would have been so easy to pass this bill before operation Spring 2001. It was possible. These problems have been pointed out since 1997. I would have liked to see the 160 criminals who were arrested in Quebec charged under the principles of the new bill. It was possible. We knew what was missing in the criminal code. We knew how difficult it was to prove gangsterism with the so-called rule of the three fives: a group of five people having committed in the last five years a crime punishable by imprisonment for five years.

We will have to continue our education efforts, and the next time around the bill will be better and will give us 100% of what we need to fight organized crime effectively.

 

. 1330 + -

[English]

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The question is on Motion No. 3. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.  

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I declare Motion No. 3 carried. I therefore declare Motions Nos. 4 and 6 carried.  

Hon. David Collenette (for the Minister of Justice) moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in with further amendments.

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: On division.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): It being 1.32 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.


PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[English]

SOCIAL HOUSING

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance) moved:  

    That, in the opinion of this House, the government should develop a precise and workable definition of the terms “affordable housing”, “poverty' and “homeless” to guide government policy and to establish legislative parameters for related government spending.

He said: Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Prince George—Peace River for seconding the motion. I am pleased to rise today to speak on my motion, Motion No. 245, and I would like to repeat it for the record:

    That, in the opinion of this House, the government should develop a precise and workable definition of the terms “affordable housing”, “poverty”, and “homeless” to guide government policy and to establish legislative parameters for related government spending.

The reason for this is very simple, that is, the most basic of terms, these three, affordable housing, poverty and homeless, have so many different meanings across the country that it makes it rather impossible to legislate for the needs of the citizens of Canada with so much variety in interpretation.

The term homeless, for example, has so many different definitions that it has the number of homeless people in Canada varying from some three million people at the high end to a low end of some three thousand if we are talking about people who simply do not have shelter or a home.

With this in mind, I will first refer to the dictionary definition of homeless. Three dictionaries, American Heritage, Canadian Oxford and Webster's, simply say it means having no home or lacking a home. That is very simple.

 

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One would think it would be very simple for various organizations across Canada to be able to use those simple terms, but what appears simple is not necessarily so. Out of 10 homeless reports I reviewed from across Canada there were 38 different definitions of homeless.

With that in mind, and because it is important, I will read into the record the different definitions so that we can examine the problem to see if we cannot come up with a solution, something simple and basic that we are able to legislate and follow.

I will start with the different definitions of homeless and homelessness. The definitions describe homeless people as: having no housing alternatives; being absolutely homeless; being sheltered homeless; living in emergency accommodations; living in condemned housing; living in transitional accommodation and ready to be discharged but having no permanent residence to go to.

The definitions continue, describing homeless people as those who: are expected to be on the street at the end of a stay; are expected to be on the street in the immediate future; have an extremely low income; have no fixed address; have no permanent place to reside; have no housing at all or are staying in a temporary form of a situation. They also include people who: sleep on the street; sleep in a stairwell; end up staying with friends; live in housing that is extremely expensive; live in overcrowded or inadequate housing; live in places not meant for human habitation; live in parks and on beaches; live in vehicles; squat in vacant buildings; live in hostels; and live in substandard hotels and rooming houses.

More definitions include: being absolutely, periodically or temporarily without shelter; living in housing not within easy reach of employment and costing more than 50% of income; lacking privacy, security and tenant document rights; having mental health or social disorganization; not being a member of a stable group; being in extreme cases of failure to provide the conditions needed to ensure quality of life; paying more than 30% of income for rent; having no home or haven; lacking a home; having no home or permanent place of residence; having the quality or state of being homeless; being chronically homeless; being cyclically homeless; being temporarily homeless; and suffering from the homeless disease.

It rather defies belief that in 10 reports we can have 38 different definitions. How on earth can we develop policy when we have such misunderstandings and misinterpretations across the country in 10 simple reports, let alone practically every city having its own individual reports?

If that is not enough of a problem in regard to the definition of the term homeless, we follow through with the problem of defining poverty. The problem with poverty, and why it impacts and varies so much, is that the largest single group in the homeless category across the country is single people.

If we try to understand what the poverty level is for a single person, we will see that it varies from the $450 a month in Edmonton, which is provided by social services for a single person to live on, to the low income cutoff of $1,757. It varies from social assistance of $450 to $1,750. Once again, how do we rationalize it? Those numbers are for one city, the city of Edmonton. Let us look at Alberta assisted living wages in Edmonton. That is $855 a month. Minimum wages are $5.90 an hour, which means that full time employment of 170 hours is worth $1,000 a month.

 

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Surely we have to come up with some opinion of what we consider to be a rational level for a single person who is living in poverty. In other words, what is the poverty level for a single person? Certainly I do not believe that it should be $1,700 a month, which is approximately 80% more than a person living on minimum wage. On the low end, $450 a month does not provide sustenance of life either. Therefore we have a problem defining poverty.

The third area we have a problem with is affordable housing. What is affordable? How do we characterize and provide for affordable housing across this country when there are such wide discrepancies in our understanding of what is affordable? For example, a brand new six-plex row housing unit was built in Edmonton at $117,000 per unit. In the city of Edmonton that is simply not affordable. That is high end housing. A builder can build the same housing for $55 a square foot in Edmonton, for a cost of approximately $60,000 to $70,000 a unit. If the builder can build units to code, to regulations, to all standards including health standards, and build these units for $55 a square foot, why are we considering affordable housing in the range of $100 to $110 a square foot?

How can that be provided on a national basis if we are looking at providing assistance with funding for 1.7 million households across the country? The difference between those two I mentioned is a factor of 2 to 1. Surely we have to come up with some legislation and terminology so that we can examine what we mean by affordable and what is proper for us to provide. We need to have that before we look at funding.

In this case, we simply could not afford to provide a six unit row house complex at a cost of $117,000 per unit to all those across the country who do need it.

The other issue with affordable housing is how we make it affordable. There are great concerns with that as well, because 100% of the funding for this same six unit affordable housing project in Edmonton came from Alberta lottery funds or from taxpayers. By the same token, now that the complex has been opened taxpayers are paying subsidized rents up to market value. We have to address not only the problem of affordability but the problem of how we appropriate grants and loans for new construction. In this case the taxpayers paid to build the building and are also paying to subsidize the rents. That obviously cannot be done across the country.

There are various issues that must be addressed and considered. We absolutely must have working definitions for the terms affordable housing, poverty and homeless in order to be able to go on to the other issues, which would be to develop regional housing shelter ladders and affordable housing standards and to address deinstitutionalization concerns and charter of rights and freedoms concerns. All of these will have to be addressed before we can start to look at properly addressing the concerns of the homeless and of those across the country who need affordable housing.

I ask all members to agree that the first step in providing affordable housing and addressing shelter needs and concerns is to understand the terminology so that we can define it in terms of where our needs are before we proceed to other areas.

As I indicated, one of the largest concerns in the country, one of the largest needs, is that of providing housing for singles. Whether we are talking about Toronto or Edmonton, our shelters across the country are filled with single people, a large number who have the means to pay at least some rent. Whether it is in Toronto or Edmonton, one-third of the people in the emergency shelters need clean affordable rooming house rooms. For example, in Edmonton that would be a rooming house room that would rent for $250 a month and in Toronto it would probably be $300 to $350 a month.

 

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The problem is that we have not built any new rooming house rooms in Canada in 20 years. More than that, we have closed two-thirds of the rooming house rooms. Affordable housing is one of the most critical areas that must be defined and defined soon.

Ninety per cent of funding that has been going into RRAP repair programs has been going into upscale apartment projects, not into the most needed area, rooming house rooms. Part of the reason for that is the explanation and definition of what a rooming house room is and what an apartment is. That underlines the concerns and the need to develop national understandings and definitions for the terminology that we are using.

With the affordable housing definitions and terminology it is very important to define whether it is a rooming house room for singles or whether it is the shelters themselves, so that we know what we will provide for basic shelter and for affordable housing units.

It is estimated that some 7,000 rooming house rooms in the Toronto area have been closed down. When I visit the shelters in Toronto and Edmonton I am told time and again that the men and women staying in those shelters want rooming house rooms. They could afford to move into something but they just do not have enough money to move into upscale apartments.

Due to the importance of my motion and the need for affordable housing on a national basis, I ask for unanimous consent to make it votable.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is there unanimous consent?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

Mrs. Judi Longfield (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Motion No. 245. I will start by addressing the part of the motion that asks the government to develop a precise and workable definition of the term homeless.

What might appear to be a fairly straightforward request is not nearly so straightforward. The member opposite gave a very lengthy and accurate accounting of valid definitions used by government and agencies throughout our country. I would argue that we should concern ourselves with definitions of the problem. I believe it is more appropriate for us to focus our attention on meeting the challenges of homelessness.

We know, for example, there is no single cause of homelessness. Therefore we cannot simply assume that any definition we come up with will adequately address the situation of Canadians who find themselves in need of housing, mental health care, rehabilitation or employment training.

People who are without shelter are on the streets for many reasons: some because of alcohol or substance abuse, some because of spousal abuse, and others are chronically unemployed or have mental health problems. There are many reasons people are on the streets and they should all be defined differently.

A community worker dealing with a single mother looking for shelter, a discharge worker trying to help a psychiatric patient reintegrate into the community, or any other type of homeless causes that community workers in Canada deal with every day could all produce a very different definition.

Similarly different communities also define the problem in different ways. Finding affordable housing in Toronto is very different from finding affordable housing in rural Saskatchewan. Living in poverty in Edmonton is different from living in poverty in rural New Brunswick. While these problems may both be equally acute, they are different. I feel that it would be almost impossible to develop a definition that would suit these situations which are equally unique.

The issue of homelessness is quantitatively different in large urban centres than it is in smaller towns and rural areas. For example, when the Minister of Labour and the federal co-ordinator for homelessness went across the country to discuss the homeless issues with mayors and community workers she heard many different definitions of the problem.

 

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Some community groups were concerned with street youth, others with women who needed refuge from a difficult family situation. Others thought the priority should be unemployed men who needed food and temporary accommodation. These people did not have a common definition of homelessness but they did see a common problem.

They were not so much interested in defining the problem as they were in solving it. These community leaders told us that they wanted support from the Government of Canada that would meet the needs that they saw. They wanted the flexibility to develop local solutions that would meet the needs of the homeless in their individual communities.

Successive federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments have responded by bringing in countless different measures over the years that are designed to help those who are in need; measures such as the federal government's national homelessness initiative, which is attempting to co-ordinate an adequate response to this growing crisis on the federal side while working together with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as community organizations and the private sector to address the issue.

The goal of this initiative is to prevent and alleviate homelessness. Its objectives are as follows: to facilitate community capacity development to address the local needs of the homeless by co-ordinating Government of Canada efforts and resources and enhancing the diversity of tools and resources available; to foster effective partnerships and investments that contribute to addressing the immediate and multifaceted needs of the homeless and to reducing homelessness in Canada; and to increase the awareness and understanding of homelessness in Canada.

There is also the supporting communities partnerships initiative that the government introduced last year to support communities across Canada in meeting the unique needs of the homeless in their communities as they see them.

The federal government is a partner, often along with provincial, territorial and municipal levels of government, community organizations and the private sector. However the needs are locally defined.

Of course there are some criteria. For example, one of the federal government's key objectives is to ensure that no individual is involuntarily on the street by ensuring that sufficient shelters and adequate support systems are available. Another is to reduce the number of individuals requiring emergency shelters and traditional and supportive housing through preventative initiatives, early intervention, health services, low cost housing and discharge planning. These are all based on a continuum that leads to independence and self-reliance.

A wide variety of organizations, including public health and educational institutions, not for profit organizations, and even individuals, are eligible to receive funding. The private sector also has an important role to play. We have encouraged them to contribute and in some cases participate in joint initiatives.

The Government of Canada has included the following 10 cities in the initiative: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. They are designated as large urban centres where homelessness is most acute. Smaller communities or groups of communities working together in a region that can demonstrate a homeless problem are also eligible.

Recently, for example, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the federal co-ordinator for homelessness, announced federal funding of $19 million to assist the homeless in Edmonton and other parts of north and central Alberta as defined by these communities. Some $17 million will go to the Edmonton housing trust fund to work with the city agencies and private sector to meet the needs of the homeless in that city.

Edmonton mayor, Bill Smith, expressed his support for this approach. He said that his city was pleased to be working with the federal and provincial governments to address the issue of homelessness in Edmonton. Similarly, the provincial minister of seniors responsible for housing in the government of Alberta is also in favour of the partnership approach. However he reminds us that every community has different housing needs and circumstances that are best resolved by local planning and decision making.

From the federal government's perspective, we see homelessness as an issue that goes right to the heart of the kind of country we want to live in. Do we want a society that is generous and fair, that includes everyone and that is willing to provide support to those in need? Clearly, the vast majority of Canadians have already answered yes. They want a society that is generous, progressive and inclusive. Our experience to date tells us that our partners in the provincial and municipal governments and the community organizations that are working directly with the homeless, however they are defined, share this perspective.

 

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[Translation]

Ms. Diane Bourgeois (Terrebonne—Blainville, BQ): Madam Speaker, I am very happy to have an opportunity today to try to help clarify the terms affordable housing, poverty and homeless.

This is a topic of great interest to me, all the more so as I am a woman. When one talks about poverty, the homeless and affordable housing, the majority of those affected are women. I am also the Bloc Quebecois critic for the status of women.

I will begin right away by saying how very disappointed I am in the answer given by the member opposite. I thought that we were here this afternoon to clarify, as set out in the motion, the terms affordable housing, poverty and homeless, and not to list off what the government is doing with respect to affordable housing, poverty and the homeless.

Since the beginning of this parliamentary session, the Bloc Quebecois has repeatedly asked questions on these topics. We have tried in various ways to find out whether the government is on the same wavelength as we are, if its understanding of the concepts of affordable housing, poverty and homeless is the same as ours.

As the House knows, the federal government stopped funding social housing in 1994, and perhaps that is why we have been asking so many questions. It is no longer providing any funding for this. It chose instead to put in place an affordable housing program, which is totally unacceptable for Quebecers and Canadians.

The federal government is about to invest $680 million in housing that does not meet the needs of the poor and the homeless.

The motion brought forward today will give me the opportunity to explain the difference between social and affordable housing and to give a clear definition of the words poverty and homeless, and I thank the member for Edmonton Centre East for that.

As the Bloc Quebecois critic on the status of women, I will cannot claim that I live in what would qualify as poverty. I am one of those women who, through their work, were able to make a decent living.

However, I went to meet people, to meet groups in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada. I went to see if these groups had a definition of social housing. I went to see what they thought of affordable housing. I went to see what the words poverty and homeless meant to them.

The idea of affordable housing is directly related to the issue of social housing. Social housing means housing designed exclusively for unattached individuals, elderly people, men, women, families and households with a very low income. It means that these people pay at least 30% of their gross income, and maybe more, to have a decent place to live, including heat and electricity. We are talking about more 1,670,700 households, the majority of which are single parent families headed by women.

I believe it is important to define what social housing is because it is not affordable housing.

 

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During the last election campaign, the Liberals promised affordable housing. Today we can state that they have not yet begun to fulfil those promises, because negotiations between the federal government and the provinces are at a standstill.

Promises were made about the construction of housing by independent building contractors, with a minimum investment of $12,500. We know that decent housing requires an investment of at least $25,000 investment. I am referring here to four-room accommodation. This is housing that will then rent for between $600 and $800 a month in Quebec. My colleague from Edmonton Centre East has said that the rent would probably be far higher in a certain other region.

During the election campaign, the minister responsible for social housing stated on a radio program that this type of housing would be made available for families. Thus, the affordable housing would be reserved for families able to afford this amount of rent. That is not what social housing is all about.

Obviously, the Liberal government does not have the same definition of poverty as we do, or perhaps it does not even realize what poverty is, or it just does not want to acknowledge its existence.

People need social housing because they poor. When one is poor, one cannot pay $600 a month for housing. When one is poor, one often depends on food banks or soup kitchens. When one is poor, one often faces a dilemma: pay the rent or buy food, pay the rent or pay for drugs. A growing minority is no longer able to pay the rent and services like electricity or gas at the same time.

Poverty amplifies another problem, that is the discrimination one faces when looking for housing. Owners of rental housing are increasingly invoking the presumed insolvency of poor people as a reason to reject them as tenants. These people are often forced to accept inferior housing.

As for the homeless, what I earlier called the problem of homelessness, and I would only like to say to my colleague of Edmonton Centre East that that it is not an illness, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to housing problems.

It was said earlier, more than one million tenant families are inadequately housed, a record number of people are condemned to live on the street in every big city and people living in the street are there for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with housing.

Community groups that have this expertise on homelessness agree on the following definition of homeless: people who are of no fixed address and who do not have the assurance of a stable and safe dwelling for the next 60 days; people with very little income who do not belong to any group on a stable basis; and people who have mental health problems or problems with alcohol or social disorganization.

These people are often too poor to have access to a dwelling or a room, and when they do, it is often in slums. Social housing units for the homeless are too rare. We know that there are other reasons for homelessness, but we can say that the housing problem is one of its structural causes.

As we can see, the three themes in this motion all relate to poverty. Based on what we saw, it was obvious that the concept of affordable housing did not at all reflect the needs expressed by the public.

It is my hope that today's debate will develop an awareness among members and make them more vigilant regarding the affordable housing policy to which this government is committed. In our opinion, the government is headed in the wrong direction in this area.

 

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If, as my colleague from the party opposite said, there are as many definitions of housing as there are regions in Canada, why does the government not give the money to the provinces so that they may meet the needs of their citizens?

[English]

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, first, I would like to thank the member for Edmonton Centre-East for bringing forward this important motion today. It gives us an opportunity to debate the issue of definitions around affordable housing, poverty and homelessness.

I will begin by saying I represent the riding of Vancouver East which includes very low income areas, in particular the downtown east side.

One constituent I visit fairly frequently lives at Main and Hastings in an old building that was probably built 80 years ago. She lives in what the member referred to as a single room occupancy, the room being barely 8 feet by 10 feet. She has a sink but shares a toilet and a shower with probably 25 other people. It is an eight storey building where the elevator does not really function, so people climb up and down the stairs.

That young woman is only 30 and in very poor health. She lives in poverty and is on social assistance. Luckily the housing is managed by a very good non-profit housing society, but the housing conditions she endures are something that no one in this room could endure. It is something I think most Canadians would describe as appalling in a country as wealthy as Canada. To me she could be characterized as someone who is homeless.

A young man came to see me a few weeks ago. He had a shopping cart that he pushed around on Terminal Avenue. The cart was filled with clothes that he tried to sell. However it was confiscated by the city engineering department because it was getting tough on panhandlers and people who lived on the street. That man, who lives in poverty, was literally trying to sell the clothes off his back in order to make a few bucks so he could buy a cup of coffee.

I met another man a few days later who could not get a prescription filled for pain killers. His teeth were so rotten they were falling out and he was in incredible pain. Although he was covered by pharmacare, he could not get his prescription filled because of the way he looked. It was a clear example of what we call poor bashing, which is discrimination against poor people.

When he went to the pharmacy and handed in his prescription to get some painkillers. The pharmacists looked at him and said they thought he would sell the drugs on the street or do something wrong. Therefore they did not fill the prescription. He continued to try to find a pharmacy that would fill his prescription, all the while in pain because he was so poor that he could not get his teeth fixed.

I use these examples because the real issue before us today is not so much the definition of poverty and affordable housing and homelessness. It is what the heck we are going to do about it. I have met people all across the country, beginning in my own community in east Vancouver, who are suffering under the oppression of poverty, homelessness and lack of housing every single day. This is as a result of government policy.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary, someone who I respect very much. However it drives me crazy when I hear people ascribe homelessness to mental health, alcoholism and somehow being all about individual problems. Never once do we talk about the fact that homelessness is as a result of not building housing. The reality is homelessness exists in the country because the government abandoned its housing policies in 1993. It makes me feel pretty damn mad when we get into the whole policy speak of blaming individual people.

 

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I have a very good friend in Vancouver, Jean Swanson, a leading anti-poverty activist in this country. She just wrote a book called “Poor-Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion”. She details very clearly how government policy, not just from this government but over the years, has really been a policy of bashing poor people by excluding them and deliberately designing policies that keep people where they are in terms of economic disparity and economic inequality.

I could tell the member for Edmonton Centre-East very quickly what definitions are used by groups, and indeed the government every single day. Basically, CMHC says that people who are paying more than 30% of their income for housing are living in housing that is not affordable. That is the rule that CMHC lives by. It used to be 25% in the 1970s.

For the definition of homelessness, just to talk to the United Nations or to any group in Canada that deals on the frontline in trying to cope with an increasing number of people who are facing homelessness. They will tell us that the UN definition of homelessness is anyone whose housing is insecure, threatened, unsafe or unstable. In fact all the things the member listed. There does not have to be just five words about it. It really describes the situation.

People who live in slum housing, or housing that is substandard, or where they are paying exorbitant rents of 50% or more of their income are homeless because they are threatened. People who live in housing where they face conversion or demolition are homeless.

It is very important that we understand that there are people who are literally on the streets and have no a place to go. There are people who rely on shelters. It is awful to see how that has risen and has now become a crisis. Millions of Canadians are one step away from that. They are so insecure in terms of their income or housing support that they are also characterized as being homeless.

When it comes to the issue of poverty, if we talk to any organization in Canada, whether it is the National Anti-Poverty Organization, NAPO, whether it is FRAPRU in Quebec or whether it is the Canadian Council on Social Development, they will tell us that the standard definition used for poverty is the low income cutoffs established by Statistics Canada.

What is really worrying is the Liberals are likely poised to change that definition to a so-called basket approach. By the very fact of doing that, they will with the stroke of a pen say that poverty in Canada is not as bad as they thought, that they just changed it and that now a couple of hundred thousand or maybe half a million people no longer living below the poverty line.

I come back to the point that the issue here today is not so much the definition. The issue is that there are glaring examples of income inequality. Report after report shows us that income inequality in this country is growing. A recent report from Statistics Canada, the so-called wealth study, measured income inequality. We know it exists. The evidence is there. The issue is what will we do about it?

I agree with my hon. colleague from the Bloc that one of the greatest failings of the government is its lack of responsibility to provide the necessary funds and support to the provincial governments to create a housing strategy to ensure that social housing is built. It is a crime that the program was ended.

Canada used to have really excellent housing programs. The co-operative housing movement began in Canada. It was a huge success story. That has been abandoned at the federal level. Only two provinces still maintain their commitment provincially to social housing, Quebec and British Columbia. Although who knows what will happen in British Columbia with the new government. Again, the finger comes back and points to the federal government that basically abandoned that responsibility in 1993.

 

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The New Democrats welcome the opportunity to talk about definitions but we must get down to the important matter here, which is to determine the priorities. What are the priorities for members as legislators? What is the priority of government in terms of dealing with an $18 billion surplus and where it will go?

If we truly want to eliminate poverty and homelessness in the country, it could easily be done because we have the resources to do it. It comes down to a matter of political will, leadership and what the priorities are. That is what the debate should be about.

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Madam Speaker, I also rise in support of the motion. I must say that I am a little disappointed that members opposite did not see it right and proper to support the motion as votable because it is certainly one that should receive a lot more strength than an hour's homage through the words that we utter and then to be forgotten. This is an extremely important issue all across the country.

Three words are highlighted in the motion: homelessness, poverty and affordable housing. I would suggest that if the affordable housing issue were addressed, the other two words would not be of such significance. A lot of the poverty in Canada is caused by the fact that people have to spend the little money they have on the real necessities of life, and what is more important than housing? Housing is so expensive for many people that they are in what we call a state of poverty.

Many people wander around homeless. Some admittedly are homeless because that is the style of life they want but many of them are not. It is a style of life that is imposed upon them by the restrictions of society.

What is happening in the country when we see people who are destitute, homeless, living in a state of poverty and cannot afford a place to live? All of us here in this Chamber are in the position to leave here in the evening and go home to a nice, comfortable home. Even if it is an apartment somewhere here in the city, at least it is warm and comfortable. As we walk to our homes, we pass people who are without homes. They cannot always afford shelter because we have uncaring governments that do not consider it a priority to look after those who need help most.

I had two experiences that will always remain with me. The first one was because of the impact it made on me and the other was because of the red tape and bureaucracy that governments create and the walls they put up.

The first experience I had was when I visited London, England, several years ago. I had just walked past Buckingham Palace and everyone was in awe of the tremendous building, the richness of the area and the riches displayed. About five minutes down the street from Buckingham Palace is Westminster Station. As I passed through the station to catch the train at about 11 o'clock at night, there were a number of homeless people starting to gather. It was an open shelter which was just a covered bridge operation or a large building with no ends. The heat from the trains underneath apparently warmed the pavement which made it a good place to sleep during the cold nights.

 

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People say that Newfoundland is in a state of poverty. I challenge them to drive around our province. We might not be making a lot of money on average, but it depends on what we do with what we have. We are very fortunate. Even though incomes might not be as high as the national average, many people own their own homes, which they built on their own land, and provide a lot of their own food and materials. They are doing very well.

Seeing people lying around on pavement in London was something I had never seen before. What made it more heart rending was the fact that some of them were very old. I will always picture one lady who appeared to me to be in her seventies. That might have been because of the hardships she endured. Maybe she looked older than she actually was. To see a person the age of our mothers trying to lie on concrete and pull a newspaper around her to keep her warm is a sight I will never ever forget, particularly when we were within a stone's throw of Buckingham Palace.

Another experience I had will perhaps show why we have these problems. Some years ago when I was a provincial member serving a rural area I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to move from an old, dilapidated home in which he lived with a couple of daughters to a home that would be much more comfortable and reasonable and close to his relatives. The price of the new building was $24,000, which was very reasonable. It had been completely renovated and modernized with new wiring, new plumbing and whatever.

We went to the department of housing and arranged for the loan program provided to those looking for affordable housing. The gentleman was extremely pleased he was to get this new, comfortable home, which would solve a lot of his problems.

A couple of days later the department said that it could not provide funding to buy the home because its inspectors indicated that the upstairs ceilings were not eight feet high. They were only six and a half feet high. Its regulations stated that they must be eight feet high to meet its standards, or otherwise it could not provide funding. However, there was another house for sale in the community. It was a very modern bungalow that was selling for $50,000. As its maximum was $55,000, it could buy that house for him.

I approached the gentleman and he asked why he should buy that house, even though it was much better, more modern and whatever. He was quite satisfied with the other one, but if the department would not give him money for that house he was willing to accept the bungalow. The request went in to provide funding for him to buy the $50,000 home, which was a very good, modern home.

However the request was rejected because the appraisers stated that the day after he bought the house the resale value would be only $30,000 because of its location. Even though it was selling for $50,000 and worth a lot more, they could not provide it because the quick sale value would only be $30,000 the next day.

The department indicated that it could build him a house. It would not be as good as the one for sale, but it would be worth around $50,000. Because it was building the house, it could provide the $50,000. I asked what would be the resale value of that house the following day and the answer was $30,000.

I do not lose my temper very often but I did on that occasion. Within a couple of days the gentleman had his $24,000 original house. It was nothing but red tape and bureaucracy.

 

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This is what we face. Within a stone's throw of Ottawa, and I am sure within the town, a number of housing units could be provided for people who are homeless. There is a base just outside Ottawa with all kinds of beautiful houses that are closed up because some department or other had to divest of it in a certain way.

It is about time we used some common sense and did what must be done for the people who are so much in need.

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I will reply to the comments of the member opposite who said it was not necessary to provide definitions for homelessness, poverty and affordable housing.

I disagree. The amount of money recently put into the city of Edmonton housing trust fund by the ministry for the homeless, $17 million in federal funding for a total value of some $50 million, has not resulted in even one new home. The funding is going into existing shelters, additions on shelters or assisted living. It has not gone into even one designated new private home.

The funding going into Edmonton and being transposed across the country from coast to coast is a phenomenal amount. The problem is that it is not creating any new housing. The problem with creating no new housing is that it forces people to stay in emergency shelters.

In the city of Edmonton another federal government program, RRAP, for persons with disabilities has also been an abysmal failure. Ninety-five per cent of the program's funding is not going toward the greatest single need in the city of Edmonton: the need for rooming houses.

The funding for RRAP is going into upscale housing. That is a problem because the men and women who live in the Herb Jamieson Centre and other shelters in Edmonton are locked into that condition on a perpetual basis. They cannot move to new housing.

The long and the short of it is that not one new rooming house has been built in Edmonton in three to five years. The result is that shelters in Edmonton are as full as they are in Toronto. The $17 million that the member opposite mentioned has been put into the city of Edmonton will simply build more shelters.

It is time to start building homes, not shelters. That is the main direction we should go in. I feel very strongly that this is happening because there is a misunderstanding about where the funding is going. The misunderstanding exists because there is a lack of common terminology or definition for the basics.

The basic questions are: What is affordable housing? What is poverty? Those terminologies must be defined. That is why there is such a discrepancy and why shelters across the country are filled.

I agree with the Progressive Conservative member that, yes, if we had affordable housing the majority of the population in shelters would be gone. They are there simply because they need affordable housing.

The need for affordable housing is strong. However first and foremost we must come up with common identifiable determinations on what are the basics. We must then look at a national plan to build affordable housing for the country again. For too many years the federal government has been out of it. It is time the government developed national standards to help builders re-enter the affordable housing market.

It is absolutely essential that be done. It has been far too long now. Simply putting more and more money into more and more shelters across the country is not the solution.

The $17 million which has gone to the city of Edmonton, combined with the provincial funds and city funds, provides a total fund of $50 million. The identifiable homeless population is 1,000. Simple mathematics would indicate that is $50,000 for every homeless person.

We could build them a home and give them a home. It would be far better to spend the money there than to continuously build on the shelter system and keep our people locked up in a shelter system when what they want and need is affordable housing.

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The time provided for consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion was not selected as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

[English]

It being after 2.30 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.)