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- Bill C-71. Report stage (with amendments) 8433
- The Speaker 8433
- Mr. Dion 8433
- Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29 8433
- Mr. Volpe 8433
- Mr. Dubé 8434
- Mr. Hill (Macleod) 8436
- Mr. Keyes 8436
- Mr. Speller 8437
- Mrs. Picard 8438
- Mr. Silye 8438
- Mr. Rocheleau 8440
- Mr. Dhaliwal 8440
- Mr. Dubé 8441
- Mr. Silye 8441
- Ms. Augustine 8441
- Mr. Finlay 8441
- Mr. Maloney 8442
- Mrs. Gagnon (Québec) 8442
- Mr. Gouk 8442
- Mr. de Jong 8442
- Mr. Valeri 8442
- Mr. Adams 8443
- Mr. Assad 8443
- Mr. Rocheleau 8443
- Mr. Schmidt 8443
- Mr. Bellemare 8444
- Mr. PeriG 8444
- Mr. Duceppe 8444
- Mr. Pettigrew 8444
- Mr. Duceppe 8445
- Mr. Pettigrew 8445
- Mr. Duceppe 8445
- Mr. Massé 8445
- Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 8445
- Mr. Pettigrew 8445
- Mrs. Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata) 8445
- Mr. Massé 8445
- Mr. Harris 8446
- Mr. Massé 8446
- Mr. Harris 8446
- Mr. Massé 8446
- Mr. Harris 8446
- Mr. Massé 8446
- Mr. Loubier 8446
- Mr. Massé 8447
- Mr. Loubier 8447
- Mr. Massé 8447
- Mr. Epp 8447
- Mr. Massé 8447
- Mr. Epp 8447
- Mr. Massé 8448
- Mr. Ménard 8448
- Mr. Pettigrew 8448
- Mr. Ménard 8448
- Mr. Pettigrew 8448
- Mr. McClelland 8448
- Mr. Massé 8448
- Mr. McClelland 8448
- Mr. Massé 8449
- Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead) 8449
- Mr. Cauchon 8449
- Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead) 8449
- Mr. Cauchon 8449
- Mrs. Ur 8449
- Mr. Volpe 8449
- Mr. Williams 8450
- Mr. Massé 8450
- Mr. Williams 8450
- Mr. Massé 8450
- Mr. Bellehumeur 8450
- Mr. Gray 8450
- Mr. Bellehumeur 8450
- Mr. Gray 8450
- Mr. Frazer 8451
- Mr. Richardson 8451
- Mr. Frazer 8451
- Mr. Richardson 8451
- Mr. Lastewka 8451
- Mr. Gerrard 8451
- Mr. de Jong 8451
- Mr. Pettigrew 8451
- Mr. Speller 8452
- Mr. Pettigrew 8452
- Mr. Maloney 8452
- Bill C-376. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 8452
- Mr. Frazer 8452
- Mr. Harvard 8452
- Ms. Bridgman 8453
- Mr. Speller 8453
- Mr. Speller 8453
- Mr. Simmons 8453
- Mrs. Barnes 8453
- Bill C-71. Consideration resumed of report stage 8453
- Mr. Rocheleau 8453
- Mr. Forseth 8454
- Mr. Brien 8455
- Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead) 8457
- Mr. Pomerleau 8458
- Mr. Bellehumeur 8460
- Mr. Dumas 8461
- Mr. Lebel 8463
- Mr. Laurin 8464
- Bill C-250. Motion for second reading 8465
- Mr. Hermanson 8465
- Mr. Bélanger 8468
- Mr. Langlois 8470
- Mr. Harris 8471
- Mr. O'Brien (London-Middlesex) 8473
- Mr. Penson 8474
HOUSE OF COMMONS
The House met at 10 a.m.
There are 34 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-71. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:
Group No. 1: Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29.
Group No. 2: Motions Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 30.
Group No. 3: Motions Nos. 6, 7, 9, 12 to 19, 25, 33 and 34.
Group No. 4: Motions Nos. 10, 11 and 20 to 24.
Group No. 5: Motions Nos. 27, 28 and 32.
Group No. 6: Motion No. 31.
The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.
I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29 to the House.
Mr. Kilger: Mr. Speaker, following your ruling in terms of the groupings at report stage of Bill C-71, I wonder if there might be a disposition in the House among our colleagues that all the motions be deemed moved, read and seconded.
The Speaker: Does the hon. government whip have permission to put the motion to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Speaker: There is no agreement.
Motion No. 1
That Bill C-71, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 24 and 25 on page 2 with the following:
``ing tobacco leaves and any extract of tobacco leaves. It includes''
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-71, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing line 33 on page 4 with the following:
``less than the prescribed quantities or portions of the''
Motion No. 8
That Bill C-71, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 30 on page 7 with the following:
``tics, health effects or health hazards of the''
Motion No. 26
That Bill C-71, in Clause 40, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 39 on page 15 with the following:
``Minister within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner.''
Motion No. 29
That Bill C-71, in Clause 45, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 32 on page 17 with the following:
``11 ou 12 ou le détaillant qui contrevient à''Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that we have accepted the groupings of all of the motions, I wonder if the House would allow me just for a moment or two to reflect on the purposes of Bill C-71.
I would like to remind everyone that Bill C-71 first, foremost and almost completely is a health bill. It is important to reflect on that because everyone in this House is aware of the human and economic costs associated with tobacco use.
In Canada each and every year some 40,000 people suffer premature death as a result of tobacco use. There is a direct economic impact associated with that and an indirect cost as well. The direct economic impact is the cost of some $3.5 billion to the health care system, with an additional $11.5 billion in indirect costs associated with related illnesses that come with tobacco use.
I am sure there is not anyone in this House who has not had a relative or a friend negatively impacted as a result of tobacco use or environmental smoke. Those losses cannot be measured or quantified. The emotional attachment we have to our loved ones who suffer as a result of the use of tobacco impacts each and every one of us. We all have family members and constituents who feel it is important to deal with this issue.
Most important, tobacco use is a preventable source of much health damage. I want to underscore the word preventable. Behind the glossy advertising and a carefree lifestyle that sponsorships feed off, there is a record of disease and lives ended too soon.
Protecting the health of Canadians in general and especially young people deserves special consideration. Some 85 per cent of all smokers started to smoke before the age of 16. Those who will suggest in the course of the debate that this issue is about adult choices should keep that in mind.
I would like to speak to each of the motions and very briefly give an indication as to why they are where they are and what the government position is on each one.
Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29 have been proposed by the Minister of Health to give greater clarity to Bill C-71. The objective of the bill is to protect the health of Canadians. Therefore it focuses primarily on matters which touch the public rather than the internal business of the tobacco industry.
To further illustrate this point, Motion No. 1 removes the word ``seeds'' from the definition of tobacco products in clause 2.
Clause 10 deals with the number of tobacco products in a package in the interest of providing small packages of tobacco products, like smokeless tobacco or cigarillos, that can be more affordable to underage youth. Motion No. 3 will allow the government to control the package size of tobacco products that are sold by weight rather than by unit. An example of this is the loose smokeless tobacco.
With Motion No. 8 we are making an editorial change to remove the word ``the'' prior to the term ``health effects'' in clause 20.
Motion No. 26 is also an editorial change to incorporate the word ``within'' rather than the word ``in'' at clause 40.
Finally, Motion No. 29 is an amendment to the French version of clause 45. It too is an editorial change to correct an error in the wording.
I urge all members to keep this in mind as we vote on these motions.
Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I was almost going to say ``finally'', but I am not sure it is the right word to describe the report stage of this bill, which rightly infuriated hundreds of people and organizers of cultural and sporting events, primarily in Quebec.
Organizers of such major events as the Festival du jazz, the Just for Laughs festival, the Montreal Grand Prix and many other events are concerned about the future of these events, as are many individuals. Basically, they are concerned about the future of Quebec culture. There is also the economic aspect to be considered, which represents millions of dollars.
Here we are at report stage. The first group of motions contains amendments Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29. I will abide by the Speaker's decision. I must say the opposition cannot be opposed, since, in certain cases, the amendments involve changes in the definitions of words and, in others, the definition of tobacco products is broadened somewhat. The official opposition agrees with these changes.
As this is my first speech, I must recall certain events. In December, the Liberal government wanted to fast track the bill through. Accordingly, only one speaker was permitted from each party. I was the only member of the official opposition to be able to speak in the House at second reading. One single speaker.
Then, when the bill was being examined in committee, they tried to bulldoze the work of the committee. They wanted to hurry our work along. And this was done with the complicity of the third party, the Reform Party. What a scam, even before reading the bill, the Reform critic agreed to rush it through the House before Christmas.
We are more serious than that. We read bills, we read them clause by clause. Although we share the objectives of the Minister of Health, we do not agree with his methods.
This bill is vague, it will not be enforceable, and it may be challenged before the courts. More time is needed to review it and to determine the very important impact it will have. The Minister resorts to such tactics as reversing the burden of proof; we think we
should proceed with caution and take our time. We think the minister should be careful not to jeopardize cultural and sporting events.
We worked, we took the time to hear all the witnesses, including representatives of the Chamber of Commerce of Montreal and spokespersons for major events.
Finally, the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, was the only party to study and criticize this bill. We asked for explanations and clarifications, which were given in some cases. We also proposed amendments during the clause by clause study. Most of these amendments were rejected. However, we eventually succeeded in convincing the parliamentary secretary to accept one of them. To everything else, the government and its representative on the committee turned a deaf ear.
We were successful in impeding the passage of this bill before the holiday season, as the government intended. It wanted to have this bill adopted during the holidays, when everybody is partying, so it would go unnoticed.
What are they doing at report stage? Using the same kind of strategy. They schedule it on a Friday, hoping that members of the official opposition will not be numerous enough to defend Quebec's interests, cultural and sports events, and Quebec culture. They hoped that we would not be here, in the House, but here we are.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Mr. Loubier: Indeed, here we are.
Mr. Dubé: We will not let the government ram this bill through. We will not let the Minister of Health show off and make believe that he can play tough. This Minister of Health-who is not here, but I cannot say that-told the anti-smoking lobby that if he did not get this bill passed, people should not vote Liberal.
An hon. member: You did not say that.
Mr. Volpe: Mr. Speaker, a point of order. We know that we are all present in this House, some of us through our rhetoric and others by our spirit and by our intent. I think it is important for the member opposite to recognize the rules of this House and to acknowledge that the presence of the minister is here all the time, especially in this bill.
Mr. Dubé: Mr. Speaker, truth is hard to accept as we can see. The Liberals do not like it when an opposition party does its work properly in this House. Members of this government would like us to sleep on the job, but we will wake them up.
If they agree with the bill, I suggest that the Minister of Health and his parliamentary secretary become the Don Quixote of health. I suggest they take real measures and tell people about it through adequate prevention and information programs. I suggest they invest funds to inform the people that tobacco is a dangerous product, harmful to health, and to convince them they should not smoke instead of introduing a hypocritical bill which will solve nothing, which is unenforceable and which will not be enforced.
The best proof of this is the law forbidding the sale of tobacco products to young people under 18 in Canada. Do you know that 25 per cent of all convenience stores in Canada do not respect that law? Do you know how many federal inspectors there are to ensure enforcement of that law all over Canada? Forty. It is totally hypocritical.
The parliamentary secretary accuses us of using rhetoric. Those who use rhetoric are on the other side of the House. They are the ones who write equivocal and obscure bills. I almost feel I could use words like misleading or deceptive because in fact this bill will solve nothing at all. The government shows no compassion, no willingness whatsoever to deal with the issue of sponsorships.
Please excuse me Mr. Speaker, I am furious, but I will calm down.
In Quebec, organisers of cultural and sports events are raving mad. This government does not realize it is heading in the wrong direction. We invited it to take its time. Instead, it is forging ahead, using the steamroller approach, ramming this down our throats to expedite it before the election. They had better be careful, they are going to hear about this during the election campaign. The Bloc Quebecois will harp on the issue day in and day out. This is the wrong way to go and it is unacceptable. This way of doing things is far from transparent. Yes, these are words, but they have no meaning. Any one can challenge them. They create uncertainty for everybody.
This morning people are wondering if the Grand Prix de Montreal is going to go ahead anyway. The government is proposing amendments to subclauses 24(2) and 24(3). But all they do is restrict publicity to the site of the event.
Our question is simple: Will it be possible to broadcast the Grand Prix de Montreal on TV? Will it still be possible to show a car sponsored by a tobacco company? No, it will not. Clause 31 says no. Clause 31 goes as far as saying that as of this year, not within two years, not within 18 months, it will no longer be possible to film cars coming to the Grand Prix from outside. But they did not say anything about that.
If this is not true, they should say so, and move amendments in the House to this effect.
I believe the bill is badly flawed on two accounts. On one hand, its avowed objective is to ban this and that, but it leaves it to the regulations. However, the minister has not said what will be in his regulations. To defuse the controversy, this blustering health minister could let us know clearly what will be allowed and what will not. But he is doing nothing of the sort.
All he wants to do is to look tough, to project the image of someone brave enough to get a controversial bill passed. But in fact, without the regulations, nothing in this bill can be implemented.
This is why I have something to suggest to the parliamentary secretary who, through the whole process I must say, has listened more than the others to the arguments presented by the opposition. He has been very attentive.
I suggest he goes back to the drawing board before it is too late, and I urge that this bill be not rammed through the House before its disastrous impact on cultural and sports events has been reviewed.
Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute and clarify for all Canadians the position of the Reform Party on the procedural issues on which we decided to expedite this bill. One of the things my constituents approached me about was that sometimes a bill should be supportable. They said that sometimes things should be done in a non-partisan way.
The Reform Party decided on this issue that we would try to do everything we could to prevent procedural delays. For that reason, when I made my speech at second reading I asked for the question to be now put. That prevented any amendments being put. It was fascinating to watch what happened because mistakes were made by both the official opposition and the government side. Individuals wanted to speak, stood in their place and were not recognized.
A furore developed that was directed at Grant Hill, the non-partisan individual who moved that motion. It was done for only one reason, to prevent procedural delays. It was not meant to stifle debate. It was not meant to stop individuals who have strong positions on this bill from speaking. I want that to be clearly understood, especially by my colleagues in the Bloc who have chosen to say that this was inappropriate. I believe in the long term, a non-partisan approach to this bill will see us well served.
Also I want to comment on the sponsorship issue. I am very interested in the Grand Prix and in the future of sponsorship events for Canada. I have looked at the international realm for what is happening with Grand Prix sponsorship across the world. I have found that sponsorship by tobacco companies is literally being withdrawn in the rest of the world.
I listened to some of my colleagues. As a car racer myself, I have colleagues in this field who say that their careers will be cut short. I have listened to individuals say that there will no longer be cart races in Canada. I have listened to people say that the Grand Prix will be gone. I ask those individuals to be very frank and open because the Grand Prix in Britain no longer carries tobacco advertising on the cars. Britain is literally the heart of much of Grand Prix activity.
Cart racing is primarily in the U.S. We have two races in Canada. Cart racers in one year's time will no longer be able to carry tobacco logos on the cars in the States. In other words, the U.S. will be banning sponsorship as well. The argument is specious.
It is fascinating that the big event in my riding, the Spruce Meadows Masters, originally said that this bill would have a big impact on the event. After looking around other sponsorship was found. This bill will not kill the event, an event that was sponsored heavily by a tobacco company.
I will not categorize what I want to say as a criticism of the minister for the year's grace period. However, I make a prediction during this year's grace period that there will be battle lines drawn by powerful forces to try to put this legislation in the garbage can. The next year will see, twice in the other place, a huge advertising campaign launched that will talk about freedom, that will talk about individuals unable to make choices that Canadians should be able to make.
I am very sensitive to that. I do not think governments should intrude in areas where governments should not intrude.
On this issue for the sake of youth, for the sake of our kids, for the sake of those individuals I have had personal experience with in my medical practice, I believe this bill, imperfect though it may be and even though I believe it could have gone a different road, it is better than the vacuum we have before us.
I and my colleagues will try and make certain that we do nothing which can be misconstrued as a roadblock. We will try to criticize specific areas that could be altered. We will try to make improvements to the bill in a non-partisan way. That is the approach that Reformers have taken on this important health issue.
Mr. Stan Keyes (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as always, I remind myself that it is a privilege for me to speak in the House on behalf of the constituents of Hamilton West, more specifically, the constituents, Ms. Smith, Mr. Sullivan, Harper's Wholesale, Food Fare Variety and others who have expressed concerns that measures contained in Bill C-71 could, if passed, as presently written do a number of things.
First, increase a company's operations costs by requiring extensive monthly sales reports by brand and by customer. Second, further increase costs by forcing them to replace staff under 18 years of age who will be prohibited from handling tobacco products. Third, prevent a company from doing business by putting a gag on sales reps who will not be allowed to comment on tobacco products. Fourth, force many retailers to close their doors because of loss of revenue from increased costs of redesigning their stores to comply with display regulations.
I have done a little homework on these concerns and I am happy to say that this moment I can dispel these myths. So let us deal with the last question first.
In the government's consultative document ``Tobacco Control: A Blueprint to Protect the Health of Canadians'', it was proposed that only one pack of cigarettes per brand be exposed for sale at retail. The purpose of the proposal was to reduce the inducement youth to purchase tobacco products while at the same time providing adult customers with information regarding brand availability.
During consultations with the retail sector on the blueprint, it became apparent that this proposal would not be practical and would involve additional expenses for retailers. Because of the concerns expressed by them during consultations, the blueprint proposal was not carried forward into Bill C-72, the tobacco act. So retailers can continue to display products for sale. Retailers along with other interested parties will be consulted regarding the development of any regulations or policy guidelines concerning product display.
On the subject of display, my constituents are concerned that once the legislation comes into effect retailers will have to lock up the tobacco products they sell. While Bill C-71 does not require retailers to lock up tobacco products for sale in their stores, it prohibits, except in duty free stores, self-serve displays which allow the customers to handle the tobacco product before paying for it.
In addition self-serve displays create the impression that tobacco products are as harmless and ordinary as other consumer goods offered for sale in the same manner. So we have to balance that particular scenario.
Let us address the myth that Bill C-71 is a massive and unwarranted assault on retailers who will lose money and may have to fire every employee under 18. The federal government's objective is to reduce the demand for tobacco products and to restrict youth access to tobacco. The government does not intend to licence retailers who can or cannot sell tobacco products. Each and every retailer who now sells tobacco products will be able to continue to sell those products. There is no provision in Bill C-71 restricting the age of persons selling or handling tobacco products and there is no offence for possessing tobacco products.
Retailers will continue to be able to hire persons under the age of 18 to sell or deliver tobacco products. The government's objective is to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors.
With respect to the point about requiring extensive monthly sales reports, reporting requirements will be the same. They will be the same as they were under the previous tobacco control legislation, the Tobacco Products Control Act, which was in effect from 1988 to 1995.
I will discuss the myth that there would be a gag on sales representatives. In his wisdom, the Minister of Health has amended clause 18 in Bill C-71 by replacing lines 18 to 20 on page 7 with the following:
-a promotion by a tobacco grower or a manufacturer that is directed at tobacco growers, manufacturers, persons who distribute tobacco products or retailers but not, either directly or indirectly, at consumers.In short, Bill C-71 restricts tobacco advertising and promotions that affect the public, not communications within the tobacco industry. This change to the application clause of the bill will provide a greater certainty that internal business communications are not caught by the bill.
On behalf of these constituents and many other constituents of my colleagues I have spoken to on this matter, I hope their serious concerns have been addressed in Bill C-71.
Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand-Norfolk, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to briefly clarify one point on Motion No. 1, which reads that the Minister of Health will amend Bill C-71 in clause 2 by replacing lines 24 and 25 on page 2 with the following: ``tobacco leaves and any extract of tobacco leaves''.
I thank the Minister of Health and the parliamentary secretary for including that section. It was a concern of tobacco producers in my area of Haldimand-Norfolk because ``seeds'' was previously included in the bill. There was a concern that their work within the tobacco industry to produce that tobacco might be impacted by this bill.
On behalf of the tobacco board I have had discussions with the Minister of Health, the parliamentary secretary and their staff on this issue. For the tobacco producers in my riding, they have made sure the bill does not impact on them.
The intent of the bill was not to impact on the growers. The intent of the bill, as the minister has stated, is to impact on the manufacturers of tobacco. Through this amendment, Motion No. 1, and subsequent amendments the minister has ensured that tobacco growers are not impacted by the legislation.
On behalf of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board, I want to thank the minister and his staff for doing that.
Mrs. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we are talking this morning about Bill C-71, regarding tobacco advertising, which has angered a good many people. I would like to put this bill into perspective and explain why so many people are furious about this measure.
In September 1995, in its judgment in the case of RJR-MacDonald Inc. vs. the Solicitor General of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada declared ultra vires some parts of the law on tobacco products dealing with advertising. In December 1995, following this decision, the previous minister, Diane Marleau, tabled a framework on the approach the government intended to use in its anti-tobacco strategy.
On December 2, 1996, after several postponements, from Spring to early Fall and then from early Fall to late Fall, the present Minister of Health, David Dingwall, introduced Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts. Since then, the procedure used to get this bill through has been questionable, in our opinion. The bill was introduced and, before we even had a chance to debate it, referred to committee.
We were given the permission, through a procedure that does not normally happen in the House, to have a single speaker, and then the bill was sent to committee for a clause by clause study. The Bloc Quebecois had to force the government to agree to hear a minimum of witnesses.
This morning, this bill is back in the House after the minister's office in Ottawa quietly moved some amendments, at two o'clock in the morning, while the general public was concerned with the budget. No wonder we are angry. This is hypocritical, it is appalling to see how the government is in a rush to get this bill passed. It is probably because the minister has staked his life on it.
I know that some members of the government also are angry at the procedure and the amendments that the government has just moved. These amendments mostly affect sponsorship and the economy in Quebec; we are talking 50 per cent of the economic benefits for cultural and sports organizations, for Montreal and the surrounding area. This means $133 million multiplied by 50 per cent, that is, half of that amount. No wonder we are angry, at a time when the government is cutting transfers to the provinces, when it has been reducing transfer payments for a very long time, always at the expense of the province of Quebec.
Consequently, we will debate this bill today to show the people that we are able to defend Quebec's interests. We voted for this bill at second reading for the sake of people's health. But now, we are up against an amendment on sponsorship and we are unable to see whether it will be effective. How can a poster from a tobacco company for the Just for Laughs festival deter young people from starting to smoke? There is absolutely no opinion poll. All the opinion polls that were done show us that it is not an effective measure.
Instead of spending $100 million on propaganda for the flag, perhaps we would be better off to put $100 million in educational kits to deter our young people from smoking.
Mr. Jim Silye (Calgary Centre, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on this bill as well. I would like to say from the outset that I support our party's position on this bill in trying to encourage young people not to smoke and enhance the public awareness of the dangers of smoking.
But I find myself at odds with a few facts. The one thing wrong with this bill that I feel Canadians should know is that it gives the government exceptionally strong powers in making changes.
The regulation making powers that are given are extremely broad. It is done through orders in council, governor in council. It has far reaching powers and it is all throughout the bill. It is pervasive throughout the bill.
What is wrong with that is if there are some objections or some concerns by the Canadian public then cabinet can just do what it wants without coming back to this House. This House is a place where laws are made. This House is where politicians should stand up and argue in favour or against certain bills. With this one particular aspect of the bill flawed the government nevertheless is proceeding.
We do support the intent of the bill but we are vehemently opposed to the manner in which the government has worded the bill and the powers that it gives the cabinet.
The reason the government has done that is it feels that if there is a challenge in the courts about the legality or illegality of any aspect of this bill, then it can quickly huddle together, make changes, make amendments and then proceed with life.
I do not think that is how governments should be run. I do not think that is how our laws should be made. Our laws should be made subject to scrutiny by members of Parliament all across Canada who can debate ideas back and forth. That is a serious flaw in this bill.
This bill, when we really think about it, is all about money. It is about money for the government from the revenues it makes from
the taxes it charges on tobacco, for the tobacco companies themselves which make money by manufacturing, selling and distributing the product and the promoters of sporting events who ask the tobacco companies to sponsor their car events, tennis events, horse riding events so they can present something to the sporting public as if they are doing some honourable and wonderful thing.
Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, what the heck is government trying to do? It is walking a fine line by saying: ``It is legal. We will let you sell it but we will tax the heck out of you. We know it is bad for you. We know it causes cancer. We know it kills. We know that 70 per cent or 80 per cent of youth who smoke become addicted, unlike alcohol where only 15 per cent of the people become addicted''. Why do we not have a debate on whether we should make smoking legal or illegal or restrict tobacco? Is it a drug or is it not a drug?
Let us get up here and talk about that. The government should not try to walk a fine line as if it is a sharing, caring Liberal government and it will look after the Canadian public. It knows smoking is bad for Canadians but it it will let tobacco companies sponsor events, and then again maybe it will not. The government will let the tobacco companies sell their products but it will not let them label them, they cannot put them in a vending machine. This is ridiculous.
Is smoking legal or illegal? Why do people not stand up and debate that in the first place? If it is legal, do tobacco companies not have rights according to the charter of rights and freedoms? I am not supporting or condoning smoking. It is a personal choice. If it is legal and it is a personal choice why does government not butt out? Why does it have to spend hours and days and millions of dollars in hearings trying to walk that fine line pretending that it knows better than the Canadian public what is good for them?
Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, individuals have rights and companies have rights. Tobacco is a product that can be sold. Why is government interfering? If x number of people want to smoke, let them smoke. If x number of people want to kill themselves, let them kill themselves.
Why does government have to look after the youth and child poverty? Why do parents not take some responsibility in looking after the babies they bring into this world? Do they not have a responsibility? Should they not be telling them that smoking is not good for them, that certain foods are not good for them and alcohol is not good for them? Why is it that government has to do all these things all the time? It is pathetic.
I find myself at conflict over this bill. I find myself not liking smoking. I will speak out against smoking. I will say that it is bad. I do not like to go into a smoke filled room. I do not like the smell of my clothes after I have been some place where a lot of people smoke. I am a non-smoker.
Why is it that this government is now telling tobacco companies which are growing, manufacturing and distributing something that is legal what they can and cannot do? Why is government getting into our lives in such a regulatory fashion? It imposes everything on us: it knows better; if somebody comes up with a study, then that is it, that is the law and that is what the government is going to do.
I do not like that and I do not like the position it puts me in as a politician. When I think about it, why do I have to argue against the rights of a company to sell something that is legal? How can anyone argue both ways? How can government have it both ways? How can the government say it is looking after young people? Is it not looking after adults and the older people? To heck with them. They can smoke and they can die but the government will look after the young people. It is going to prevent smoking for youth.
It is hypocritical. If smoking is legal, it is legal. If the government wants to control it, then control it, but control it in a way that does not infringe upon the rights of the manufacturers.
This brings me back to my point about regulatory decision making by orders in council. The cabinet can do whatever it wants to shift with the changing times, to change with the mood of the people and whoever is suing someone or whatever the case may be.
That is not right. I would like to have an intelligent person on the other side who is in favour of this bill tell the Canadian public why the government cannot make a law which is black and white: Here it is, baby; you either follow it or you do not. Then if there are objections, it either stands the test of legality or it does not. Why can we not do that? I have had conversations with members of the health department. They say it is because they are worried that when they are challenged by the tobacco companies it will get kicked out of court and they will be two or three years behind the times and all the young people will start to smoke again and become addicted.
Why can the government not pass a law by saying here it is, this is the way it is, this is the way it is going to be, and it is legal. Is there not a problem? Is there not an issue on legality or illegality? What are we trying to do?
To skirt the issue the government introduces something which will set a bad precedent. It is a bad precedent to set because it will allow public officials when they become cabinet minister, to change the laws and rules without reporting to the House, without being held accountable and without allowing themselves to come under scrutiny.
My main point is that we support the government in its attempt to enhance public awareness of the health hazards of tobacco. We recognize the impact which it has on youth who are easily influenced and like to rebel and do their own thing. We should spend some time pointing out to them that tobacco is very addictive and they should be careful with it. We know it is not healthy, but it is their choice.
I have a problem with the legality or illegality and I have a problem with Bill C-71 in terms of how certain measures in the bill can be changed. That is my criticism of the bill. I want it to be clearly understood that we support everything which is in the bill, but that is one area which the government should be willing to delete. It should be willing to say: ``Here is the law. Here is what we would like to do, and all hon. members of Parliament can either approve it or not approve it''.
The government should not be playing games with advertising and how this product can or cannot be promoted. We are infringing upon the rights of others in trying to defend the health of Canadians. We are at odds; we are in conflict.
I wish the government would discuss that a bit so that at least I could understand it. If I am the only member of the House who does not understand it, I would still like to have the indulgence of the government. I would really appreciate the indulgence of the government to explain it to me.
Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ): Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament representing Trois-Rivières, I am very pleased to finally speak on Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act, which is an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts. The purpose of this bill is to protect Canadians and Quebecers, young persons in particular, from inducements to use tobacco products and to restrict access to tobacco products.
In this case as in others, no one can stand against what is good and right. Essentially, it is obvious that, in response to legitimate public concern, the government is acting with good intentions in wanting to protect public health, and the health of young persons in particular, and to restrict access to tobacco products. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a limit. As you know we must not lose touch with reality, especially economic reality as it relates to cultural and sports events.
Cultural as well as sports events rely on sponsorship and, in this particular instance, this support comes from the private sector.
For once that the private sector is genuinely philanthropic in its actions, in the name of doing what is right, we are putting roadblocks in the way of those at the receiving end of the sponsorship, the organizers who, painstakingly, year after year, from coast to coast, in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal-and Trois-Rivières, of course-in particular, put together major cultural and sports events with the help of hundreds and thousands of volunteers. With its good intentions, this government is seriously compromising the future of these events.
We are talking about $60 million a year in sponsorships from the private sector across Canada, $30 million or 50 per cent for Quebec. That is how we can enjoy great events like the Just for Laughs festival, the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire, the Montreal Grand Prix and the Players Grand Prix in Trois-Rivières.
That is what is at stake here. Such events are being compromised deliberately. Next summer, Trois-Rivières will host the 28th edition of its Grand Prix. The event means $8 to $10 million in investments for the region. Hotel rooms have been reserved at least a year in advance throughout the Mauricie region. From an economic point of view, this is the region's main event.
Lacking vision and having all but lost its grip, the government dispenses with consultation, shrugs off people's legitimate representations, and keeps trying to have its own way, by slyly rushing things through the day after the budget speech, as well as today, which was supposed to be set aside for the reply to the budget speech. The government is flouting all the rules and muzzling the opposition at second reading.
Once again, as my colleague from Drummond pointed out a moment ago, amendments were proposed late at night to try and keep public pressure to a minimum.
I still have five minutes, I think, so I will continue later, after oral question period.
The Speaker: Yes, you still have at least five minutes. You will have the floor when we come back after oral question period.
As it is almost 11 a.m., we will proceed to statements by members.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS[English]
His ties to the YWCA date back to the late 1930s when the organization saw a need in Chinatown for social services and bridges to help its Chinese Canadian residents overcome hostility and racism.
Mr. Wong came from a small village in Toi-San county in 1913. Like other Chinese immigrants, he had to pay a $500 head tax in order to enter Canada.
In 1931 he founded the Jong Wah Drug Store which he and his wife Esther ran for 47 years in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown.
I congratulate Mr. Wong and all of his achievements. I know that all Canadians join with me in wishing him good health, long life and prosperity.
* * *[Translation]
Passenger trains serving eastern Canada were to go through Charny's Joffre yard, cross four railway crossings, and even back up over the Quebec City bridge, toward the Sainte-Foy station. These dangerous manoeuvres by passenger trains must be reviewed more thoroughly.
Thanks to the moratorium, all the parties concerned by the abandonment of this rail line will have the time to look at the various alternatives and to make the best decision in the interest of the region and of train users.
* * *(1100)
My older daughter, Jennifer, delivered a set of fraternal twins six weeks premature but nevertheless perfect little bundles of joy.
Claudia Diane Sprau weighed in at 4 pounds, 6 ounces and was 17 inches long with lots of dark hair. Jackson Karl Sprau weighed in at 5 pounds, 2 ounces and was 18 inches long with a little less hair. Both babies and mother are healthy and doing well.
That is the good news that I bring today. What news do we have to give Claudia and Jackson for their future? I am sad to say that they already have a debt to pay of least $20,000 each because of 30 years of financial mismanagement by Liberal and Conservative politicians.
Since I allowed some of this to happen by not paying attention to who I voted for in the past, I will probably have to help them out with my greatly reduced senior's pension that the finance minister has promised me.
* * *
We see jobs, low inflation and the lowest interest rates this country has seen in 35 years. For example, house resales were rising in late 1996 to about 45 per cent above the mid-1995 lows.
This is tremendous news for realtors and builders in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. New residential developments like Mystic Point, Greystone Manor and Grand Harbour Phase IV have all sprung up in my riding.
Sales of durable goods rose strongly in 1996. New vehicle sales were up by 8 per cent in the last quarter of 1996. This is marvellous news for the dealers in my riding.
In the last four months alone, 91,000 jobs were created and 9 out of 10 were-
The Speaker: The hon. member for Oxford.
* * *
Although the town has changed a great deal in 125 years, the spirit of the people of Tillsonburg has not. The resourcefulness and enthusiasm of the town's founders are still present in all areas of the town's life today.
Tillsonburg abounds with volunteers who are assisting in sports, arts, service clubs and church groups. To live in Tillsonburg is to be part of a family that looks out for each other and cares about each other. It has everything that a city does with the charm and safety of a small town.
Tillsonburg would like to invite all Canadians to the festivities scheduled for its 125th anniversary in 1997, the year in which its past touches its future.
From May to November of this year, several hundred rural young people who have completed at least two years of high school have the opportunity to learn new skills by staffing Government of Canada rural exhibit booths at local fairs and exhibitions under the direction of booth supervisors provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The young 4-H trained staffers will be responsible to greet the public, generate interest in the displays and provide information to fairgoers.
As the application deadline of March 14 is rapidly approaching, I encourage rural youth to pick up application forms from regional and provincial 4-H offices.
I commend the 4-H Club and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for joining together to provide this unique work experience for the next generation of rural Canadians.
Our rural youth are terrific kids, most deserving of this program.
* * *[Translation]
Neither one of these women saw fit to address the audience in French. Not one paragraph, not even one sentence was said in French. These women delivered their speeches exclusively in English, even though there were French speaking members in the audience.
These two women clearly showed that English is the true official language commonly used in Ottawa and in Canada. They also proved that the Minister of Human Resources Development is wrong in stating that the federal government protects French in Quebec and in Canada. The minister should have said that the federal government protects folklore French in Quebec and in Canada.
The Liberals latest tax grab, a 70 per cent increase in the Canada pension plan payroll tax, is the latest example of how the Liberals are killing jobs instead of creating them. This outrageous payroll tax increase will cost the workers in my riding $652 a year. In a small company of only 10 people, this amounts to almost $7,000 for the employees and another $7,000 for the employer. That is nearly $14,000 from one small company.
The government keeps claiming that there are no new taxes. Why has the average Canadian family seen its real disposable income shrink by $3,000 since 1993?
For every $1 the government rips out of the pockets of my constituents it gives back 23 cents. Twenty-three cents cannot create as many jobs as dollars left in my riding. Canadians know that. When will this government understand?
* * *
While there will be more money for flags and the propaganda/information office, all the cultural programs that help support artists will continue to see massive cuts over the next two years.
The estimates strongly hint that the restructuring of the heritage department will result in core programs being entirely eliminated. CBC will get $10 million back for radio from the over $400 million in cuts.
Where is the delivery on the red book promise to provide stable, multi-year funding for our national cultural institutions? Is this the leadership to protect and enhance Canadian cultural industries and our cultural identity? Who does stand on guard?
* * *
The city of Hamilton's bid for a hockey franchise made economic sense, it made financial sense and some have even described it as risk free to the league.
A sure success, it offered the fifth largest market for hockey in North America, serving an audience steeped in the rich Canadian traditions and culture of the sport.
Over 60 per cent of players playing the league come from Canada. The NHL has prospered from the contribution of Canadian fans, players and teams and particularly from the north-south rivalry.
It will be a long road to future prosperity as fans are invited to watch Oklahoma versus Columbus. Hockey still ranks as the number one sport by fans in Canada. In turning down Hamilton's bid, the NHL has weakened the sport of hockey, our national pastime.
I urge this House and our government to reaffirm the Canadian origins of the NHL and hockey as Canada's winter sport.
* * *
Never have we seen a budget with such an emphasis on higher education and research.
Examples of the budget measures relating to higher education and research include increased tax credits for parents and students, a stronger student loan plan and improved payback terms, greatly improved registered education savings benefits, a huge endowed fund for research in universities, colleges and hospitals, with a new arm's length of government foundation operating it, a further doubling of the student job program.
The Liberal caucus on higher education has worked with individuals and organizations in higher education and research for three years. It consists of members of Parliament from each of the major regions of Canada, including the member for Winnipeg South sitting beside me now.
On behalf of the higher education caucus, I would like to thank all those who provided us with the ideas and energy-
* * *[Translation]
The Conseil du patronat has emphasized the importance of assisting small business, and an additional $2 million is being provided for small business expansion and job creation. We should never forget the importance of small business in job creation, and this additional money will have a very positive impact.
The entire research community in this country is pleased with the $800 million being put into research. We should always keep in mind that research is the backbone of all modern economies and a crucial tool of small and medium size businesses.
These measures show-
The Speaker: I am sorry but I must interrupt the hon. member. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.
* * *
Economic benefits exceeding $130 million and more than 2,000 jobs mean absolutely nothing to the Liberals.
The coalition for freedom of sponsorship is not asking for the moon. It simply wants a slight relaxing of the rules governing sponsorship. What is even worse, the proposed bill is leading us straight to a legal challenge that will probably end up before the Supreme Court, at taxpayers' expense, of course.
The Liberals who have promised, through the Prime Minister, to do everything they can to help Montreal cannot think of anything better than to attack one of Montreal's most prosperous sectors. This is also true for Trois-Rivières and its Grand Prix.
This shows once again that the Chrétien government's rhetoric is nothing but a smoke screen.
* * *[English]
The science community says the concept for the fund is bold. This budget clearly recognizes investment in science and technology as critical to our economic development, but since coming to
power the Liberals have cut spending on S and T by almost $1 billion. Science and technology are fundamental to Canada's competitiveness.
The Liberals may brag but this budget still leaves science and technology $100 million short of where it was when the government took office.
Like a person who has suffered repeatedly from being beaten, it feels so good when the beatings stop, but there are many broken bones that remain to be healed. And so it is with cuts to science and technology.
It will take more than just $800 million to restore the damage. We must do much more to advance Canada's competitiveness in the world.
* * *[Translation]
We congratulate Mr. Bouchard for making a commitment to eliminate Quebec's deficit within three years. It would be wonderful if his finance minister, Bernard Landry, could come back to earth and address the real problems facing Quebecers instead of creating diversions and attacking everybody. His manoeuvring does nothing but hide the real needs of Quebecers, namely responsible fiscal management and job creation in the private sector.
We have to accept the responsibilities that come with leadership, pull up our sleeves and show how co-operation can help our federation serve the interests of all Canadians, including Quebecers.
* * *[English]
I join the people of my riding of Cambridge in welcoming the finance minister's budget announcement providing funding support for innovation and research. The $800 million start-up investment in the Canadian Foundation for Innovation targets post-secondary institutions, research hospitals, the business community, the volunteer sector and individuals.
For the world class high technology industry in my riding of Cambridge the government's initial investment and its annual $180 million contribution will provide a tremendous boost.
This support will not only expand research but will keep Canada on the cutting edge of technology and lead to job opportunities for young Canadians.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD(1115)
However, the Prime Minister said something else. I will quote him, and you will realize why: ``Permanent? I do not know. I do not know how long I will be around myself. We said that when we adopt a program like this one, it is a first step''. His statement is somewhat enigmatic, worthy of Yogi Berra: it is permanent as long it is permanent, and when it is no longer permanent, it is not.
I wish the minister would explain how he can say this program is permanent, when the Prime Minister says he does not know how long it will be permanent.
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for asking this question and giving me an opportunity to again confirm our government's commitment to a federal platform that will be renewed annually, for the benefit of children in low income families.
We feel this is a very attractive approach because it will be done in partnership with the provinces, which also support the objective of fighting child poverty in poor and low income families.
The Prime Minister was also referring to other programs, under the authority of the Minister of Health-
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Pettigrew: No, he was distinctly referring to both. I can confirm that the national child benefit is a permanent program, something people can rely on for the future. This is a very attractive program.
However, there are other programs in which this government will invest, so that the provinces can start pilot projects, but this will be in consultation with the provinces.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, like the Prime Minister, we have a pretty good idea what permanent means. In 1944, income tax was supposed to be temporary, and we have seen how permanent it has become. Conversely, what is supposed to be permanent becomes temporary. In their case, it is pretty complicated.
Let me get this straight: are the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Prime Minister in fact telling us that, basically, the federal standards and federal control are permanent and the funding is more likely to be temporary, because any government can change its mind? How can he talk about permanent today, unless he is referring to standards and control, when the funding, and we see this in their budget, can disappear at any time?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie has trouble getting used to our new federalism which is not authoritarian and does not impose standards. He is surprised that we succeeded where he thought we would fail. That is what bothers the opposition.
This is a national project which we discussed with the provinces of this country, and the provinces have agreed to reinvest the money according to certain priorities we will establish together this spring. What bothers him is that modern federalism works. This is not about standards but about partnership.
Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I must say I admire the Minister of Human Resources Development and his ability to understand his leader's statements. It must have taken a long time to understand statements as crystal clear as this one by the Prime Minister.
The figures show that $4.5 billion has been cut in health care and social services, $1.3 billion in the case of Quebec. Another $50 million is to be injected into the system, with only $12 million for Quebec.
Here is my question for the minister. Is this his idea of compassion? How can he talk about compassion and give only $12 million to Quebec and $50 million to Canada as a whole, when this government made all Canadians poorer by cutting $4.5 billion in health, social services and post-secondary education? How can this government give us only $12 million, when $1.3 billion was cut in payments to Quebec alone?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the government's cuts was to preserve our social programs, and we did that. Reducing the deficit means we can now guarantee that the minimum level of funding for social programs will be $11 billion.
Furthermore, when the government decided to cut, it cut 40 per cent more in its own house than it cut in transfers to the provinces. The cuts in transfers to the provinces represent only 3 per cent of their revenue. Consequently, we made far greater sacrifices ourselves than we imposed on the provinces. And we did it to save our social programs.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.
After hearing for several months that it was getting ready to introduce a marvellous program to fight child poverty, now we learn that this government has set aside a measly $50 million this year to fund its supposedly impressive program. At the same time, we learn that the government is going to spend over $20 million to finance its propaganda activities.
Which is more important to this government: fighting child poverty or stepping up the number of flags and propaganda activities, using every means possible?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the opposition is generous to give us an opportunity to set the record straight.
Once again, more money will be invested, including another $70 million in addition to what was set aside this year, for a total of $195 million since last year. We will be putting another $850 million into the child tax benefit in 1998. We are giving ourselves one year because we want to do this in partnership with the provinces.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. Pettigrew: Rather than setting up the program unilaterally, the federal government wanted to set it up in partnership with the provinces, making sure that it meets their objectives as far as income support goes.
Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if the government is giving itself an additional year, there is an election somewhere in between. What this government must be made to understand is the importance of having the flag appear not only on the hood, but on the cheque as well.
If the government truly had the interests of Canadian children living in poverty at heart, it would get out of this provincial area of jurisdiction.
Why does the government not transfer the tax points to the provinces which, like Quebec, have asked for them, so that they can administer a genuine family policy? Which does the government really want to help: poor children or its next election campaign?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the role of the Government of Canada is precisely to redistribute wealth throughout the country and to balance the ability of the
provinces to pay. In this particular case, it is a role that obviously cannot be played by a province and it is a role that the federal government is not only prepared to accept, but one that it is assuming.
When we come to the conclusion that, in order to help Canadian children living in poverty, there must be a transfer from better off regions or individuals, we are doing our duty and giving the provinces, with their agreement, the base that will then allow them to use their money to put together programs more suited to their particular needs.
This is one of the roles of the federal government, to redistribute wealth, a role that, once again, the provinces cannot play and that the federal government is going to assume fully and with complete justification.
* * *[English]
The fact is CPP premiums are a payroll tax and the finance minister has just hiked them by 70 per cent.
How many jobs will the Liberals kill with this $10 billion tax grab? Is it 50,000? Is it 100,000? Is it 150,000? How many jobs do they plan on killing with this $10 billion tax hike?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canada pension plan is an investment fund that is there to ensure that older people will be able to get money after they are 65 in order to have a reasonable income for years to come. In order to fund this investment fund, we have to put premiums into it. What we did was ensure the sustainability of that fund. That is what the provinces wanted. It is what Canadians want.
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it seems that for some 30 years it has been a good investment or a bad investment. Now it seems to be a good investment. If it was such a good investment back then, why is it in so much trouble?
Here are the facts. Canadians used to pay around 5 per cent of their salary for a $9,000 annual pension. Now the Liberals are going to charge them double for less pension. That is Liberal economics.
If young Canadians invested their pension premiums into even the most conservative RRSP, they could retire with an annual pension salary of $45,000 a year. That is five times as much as the Liberals are offering.
How does the government have the audacity to ask young Canadians to pay more for less while their own MPs' feet are firmly planted at the MP pension trough?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to understand why members of the Reform Party do not understand. After decades of ignoring the problem we finally had the audacity-the guts-to tackle it. We have tackled it in the right way. We have tackled it in partnership with the provinces, including Conservative provinces like Alberta and Ontario. We have tackled it in a way that will permit older people to be sure they will get their pensions. And we have tackled it when a number of analyses indicated that it would be empty by the year 2015.
The way we did it, we are ensuring that it is sustainable. Canadians can count on us.
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, now we know that there has been a problem and that the Liberals have been ignoring it for decades.
Canadians can do the math. They know that 10 per cent of their salary for a $9,000 pension is a pathetic investment. Ten per cent can get them $45,000. Twelve per cent can get them $65,000. Fifteen per cent can get them $85,000.
Once again, how does the government have the audacity to force young Canadians to accept this incredibly bad investment when they can do five times better by investing on their own? How does it have the nerve to force young Canadians to accept that pathetic pension plan? How does it do it?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canada pension plan is run on a long actuarial basis, like most other pension funds.
What is important to remember is that mandatory RRSPs may be good for the rich, but they are not that good for every working Canadian. We are working for every Canadian, whether rich or poor. Our reform deals with the needs of Canadians.
* * *(1130)
Instead of concrete assistance with job creation, the government is announcing only a ridiculous decrease in contributions, 10 cents,
10 months from now, thus continuing to pay off its deficit by taxing workers, employers and the unemployed.
My question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. Does the minister realize that this scandalous way of diverting money from the unemployment insurance fund totally compromises job creation and that, in addition, it will be stealing bread from the mouths of those already suffering from the scourge of unemployment, because the reform will be taking $1 billion in benefits away from them this year?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the finance critic must realize that employment insurance is itself a fund in which there are deficits some years, which have to be balanced out by surpluses.
A few years ago, the unemployment insurance fund deficit was over $10 billion. Now we have to make sure that we will not be obliged to penalize Canadian workers and employers in a few years by again raising rates to where they were before.
The contribution rate will fall from $3.30 to $2.80 at the beginning of 1998. It is because we are taking into consideration the needs of workers and employers that we are administering this fund as what it is: an employment insurance fund.
Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, there are two inaccuracies in what we have just been told. First, the surplus accumulated in the unemployment insurance fund is not put aside for a rainy day, to help the growing ranks of the unemployed in a recession. Rather, it is being spent by the Minister of Finance to reduce his deficit. A bit of exaggeration is fine, but let us not get carried away here.
Second, the new employment insurance program in place since January will take $1 billion in benefits away from the unemployed. Is that what you call helping the unemployed through bad times? My foot. Normally, the response ought to come from the Minister of Human Resources Development. We can see, however, that they bring in a supposedly senior minister when there are real questions.
Since they are wasting the unemployment insurance surplus on deficit reduction, what exactly are they going to do to show the Minister of Finance in a good light? What are they going to do when there is a recession, and the number of unemployed workers is even higher than today? Are they going to increase the deficit? Are they going to dump responsibilities onto the provinces or increase-
The Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the employment insurance fund is nothing but a source of revenue, why would the Conservative government have increased unemployment insurance contributions from $1.95 to $2.25 in 1990? Because the deficit at that time was $12 billion.
Even if the opposition critic were right, what would the unemployment insurance contributions be replaced with? With higher income tax? Is that what he is asking for? Does he want to raise the other taxes on Canadians?
* * *[English]
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
An hon. member: Sit down.
Mr. Keyes: There are children in the gallery.
The Speaker: I address myself to my colleague from Elk Island. I would ask him please to withdraw the word crappiest. Would he do that?
Mr. Epp: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that word and I ask you substitute the worst adjective that is permissible for this pension plan.
This is double the premium for a smaller return. It is nothing but a job killing $10 billion tax grab to cover the gross miscalculations of the Liberal and Conservative governments of the past 30 years.
How can the minister justify foisting this tax grab on Canadian workers and businesses, killing jobs and putting tremendous economic hardship on Canadian families?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, investing in seniors is never a bad investment. It is clear that we have reformed, together with the provinces, the Canada pension plan. In order to make it sustainable in the long run we have, together with the provinces, changed the benefits and changed the rates at which people contribute to the fund so that people in the future can count on it.
Our role as a government is not to help only the rich, but to help everybody in this society.
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, no matter how the government tries to avoid the issue, the fact remains that this scheme will kill jobs and it will provide a lower rate of investment return than any other scheme in the country.
I invite the government and the finance officials to check it out with anybody selling RRSPs these days and they will find out the truth. The rule with this plan seems to be that the lowest return is the law.
Why should Canadians trust their retirement dollars to this Liberal government where the lowest return is the law, and not even any points?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, since when does the creation of investment funds kill jobs? It is the contrary. Look at what the government has done. We have created the lowest interest rates in 35 years. Is there anything that creates more jobs than lowering interest rates, therefore helping investment, therefore creating jobs?
For 20 years we had short term rates that were two points more than they were in the United States. Now they are two and a quarter points below the United States. That is what we have done.
* * *[Translation]
Last March, the Department of Human Resources Development agreed to extend until March 31, 1997 the Program for Older Workers Adjustment, better known as POWA. In a letter to his Quebec counterpart, the current minister indicated his intent to set aside $16 million for this program. However, that amount is not enough to cover the workers who will lose their jobs up until the end of the program.
Can the minister tell the House if he will approve the request made by his Quebec counterpart and grant the $20.7 million needed to maintain POWA until March 31, 1997?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it will be a pleasure to answer the question put by the member opposite, since it concerns my department.
Mr. Bellehumeur: Unemployment insurance does not concern you?
Mr. Pettigrew: The opposition seems surprised that the President of the Treasury Board and the Minister of Human Resources Development are working as a team, because, on this side, we are a team. Of course, when we see what is going on in their own party, we understand why they are so surprised.
I want to point out that the Government of Canada is looking for other ways to help older workers affected by the changes on the labour market. That is why we have initiated discussions with several of the main people concerned. In March of 1996, the provinces and the territories were informed that, on March 31, 1997, our government was putting an end to the program as we know it.
I must tell you that, on December 9, 1996, I decided to increase by $12.5 million the POWA budget up until March of 1997, which brings the federal budget to $40 million.
Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the minister is asserting himself and holding his own.
Will the minister undertake to maintain POWA until an agreement is reached with the province of Quebec on the labour issue?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the issue of labour, everything is going well. We are working hard to address several issues. We have undertaken several negotiations with the government of Quebec, which are going very well.
I want to say that we, as government, are very concerned about the situation of older workers, as we have shown in the past. We will continue our consultations with the provinces.
* * *[English]
The new Liberal job killing Canada pension plan payroll tax increase will result in the loss of at least 160,000 jobs. If this is the way Liberals keep their jobs, jobs, jobs promise, why should Canadians believe any Liberal promise like the one to kill, scrap and bury the GST?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times I will have to repeat that the fund is now giving financial security to a large number of people for when they reach age 65.
We have reformed the plan. We have made it sustainable. We have prevented it from going broke in or by the year 2015. What we have done is helping the government to lower interest rates because people now know that we can afford to support our various programs at rates that make sense, at rates that actuaries will agree with, at rates the provinces support and at rates that the Canadian population supports.
Mr. Ian McClelland (Edmonton Southwest, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, a bad investment by the government on behalf of seniors is especially unconscionable, especially when it hits younger Canadians disproportionately hard. The most vulnerable Canadians,
employers and employees alike, will be badly hurt by this massive tax increase.
How can the Liberal government ask Canadians to pay 10 per cent of their income for a pension returning less than $9,000 which will be taxed back at 50 per cent, when Liberal politicians pay the same amount for MP pensions worth at least five times more?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, how would the hon. member know that it is a bad investment? Is it because it is an investment in senior citizens who will now have security for their future? Is it because it guarantees to the people in the Canadian population who are not that rich that they will be taken care of when they reach the age of 65? Is it a bad investment because it shows that we care in terms of the Canadian population, that we are ready to invest in their future?
It is a bad investment only if we are thinking of the rich people who can afford to pay more. It is not a bad investment if we are thinking in terms of common Canadians, of seniors, of those who want to live their old age in peace and security.
* * *[Translation]
The hon. member for Sherbrooke announced recently on the front page of the daily La Tribune the forthcoming payment of a federal grant of almost $1 million to rebuild the landing strip at the Sherbrooke Regional Airport. We checked it out and it seems that the announcement was premature, since no decision has yet been made on this issue.
Can the secretary of state confirm that his government is about to pay that grant and finally resolve this issue, which has been dragging on needlessly for several months already?
Hon. Martin Cauchon (Secretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not want to keep repeating the same things but, as you know, when our government was elected in 1993, it proceeded with a number of reforms.
A special reform took place in transportation, the Canadian transportation reform, which transferred airport facilities to local organizations or municipal governments, which would then be able to manage them according to their local priorities.
In fact, the program covers all airports. If I remember correctly, in Quebec there are four or five airports that require further assistance. Before the Christmas break, I had the opportunity to meet with all the players, particularly the mayors who told me how important these airports are to the local economy. For now, we are examining the issue very seriously. We will proceed when the government is ready.
Mr. Maurice Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, BQ): Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the secretary of state has been repeating the same things for several months. I am wondering if I should not address my question to the President of the Treasury Board. I will take a chance anyway.
Why does the government not go ahead and announce the grant? Is it waiting for the election, placing its election minded interests over the interests of the people in the Eastern Townships?
Hon. Martin Cauchon (Secretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as for election minded interests, there is a marked difference between the opposition and the government.
The opposition has acted adopted a purely doctrinaire stance, that is to say that opposition members regularly act according to their party doctrine rather than in the best interests of the people.
As far as we are concerned, we insist on properly managing all the funds entrusted to us by the Canadian taxpayers. That is what we have been doing since 1993.
That is what we are doing on this issue. The position we will take will be in the best interests of the people, as always.
* * *[English]
What assurances could the parliamentary secretary give that the minister will pay attention to the many concerns voiced by Canada's farmers and farm organizations and will make changes to cost recovery and Pest Management Regulatory Agency proposals?
Mr. Joseph Volpe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the department has already paid attention to some of those proposals.
After a year long consultation with all stakeholders, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency gazetted a fee structure that was
40 per cent lower than the one proposed by the government prior to the formation of the PMRA.
The member will know that these improvements are proof that the formation of a single agency has made a difference. Furthermore the PMRA has been designed one, to provide faster registration of products; two, to provide easier access to minor use products; three, to increase collaboration with other national agencies; four, for preparation of pest control strategies tailored to address specific-
The Speaker: The hon. member for St. Albert.
* * *
My question is for the President of the Treasury Board. If high taxes are killing that member's quality of life, what does the minister say to his colleague and every other Canadian who is going to have a 70 per cent increase in the CPP tax? It is going to reduce his income and theirs even more.
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, with the reforms we have made, in about 10 years from now there will be an additional $100 billion invested in the Canadian markets in order to produce growth and jobs.
The Canada pension fund will be brought to stand on a firm and sustainable basis and will give security to people who knew that the pension fund was slowly going to dry up. Those among you who believe that this is wrong should perhaps go to see Mr. Klein during his present campaign and ask him what he and Albertans think about it. You will see that they are in favour.
Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board may be one of those rich people he talks about but we know the member for Oxford cannot afford to put money into $100 billion programs.
We do know that high taxes kill jobs, high taxes kill businesses, high taxes send people to the bankruptcy court in record numbers and high taxes extinguish the dreams of our children. Will the minister please tell us what advice he is giving to his colleague the Liberal from Oxford, to help the poor fellow pay his taxes and vote for a CPP tax increase at the same time?
Hon. Marcel Massé (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this government has now put together the tools to be able to choose.
Four years ago we were in a fiscal hole. There was nothing we could do but pay the interest on an increasing debt. Now we have finally stopped that. Within two years our borrowing requirements will be zero. At that point we will have our own money to deal with. We will be able to make the choice of reducing the debt or increasing spending on whatever priorities the Canadian people indicate or even lowering taxes.
* * *[Translation]
On December 12, 1996, RCMP Sergeant Delisle learned that the Clerk of the Privy Council had invoked section 39 of the Evidence Act to make sure no vital information would be submitted before the RCMP disciplinary court, which held a hearing on January 20 on the violation of regulation 57 concerning the holding of a public office by Mr. Delisle.
How does the minister explain that section 39 was used in this specific case, since it had the effect of preventing Sergeant Delisle from submitting, for his defence, documents that had been public for at least two years?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the issue is before the court. A majority decision supported the federal government's position. Mr. Delisle wishes to appeal to the higher court. We should wait for the outcome of these legal proceedings.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this reply does not answer the question, but the official opposition is getting used to that.
In June 1996, the Employment Insurance Commission, which is an administrative federal tribunal, recognized that Mr. Delisle's suspension had more to do with his attempt to unionize than with a violation of regulation 57.
Will the minister confirm that the real reason the government is after Mr. Delisle is because the RCMP is trying to ``break'' his attempts to unionize the force's members?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe the Quebec Court of Appeal is a higher court than the
employment insurance tribunal. I think we must accept the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal, which supports the government's position, until the Supreme Court of Canada makes a ruling.
At this point, the Quebec Court of Appeal supports the government's position, and we must accept that decision.
* * *[English]
The rank and file want to know that their interests come first in the minds of their leaders. Whether the minister likes it or not, the perception is that there is a problem in national defence headquarters.
Why is he shutting down the Somalia inquiry when it offers him a chance to clear the decks and re-establish confidence in national defence leadership?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the inquiry was shut down for the reasons explained by the minister in previous sittings of the House and I stand by that.
Mr. Jack Frazer (Saanich-Gulf Islands, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the minister has no hesitation in prejudging the inquiry. His comments last Friday are a blatant example of his jumping to the wrong conclusion.
Clearly, the minister does not know what really happened in Somalia. Furthermore, he certainly does not know what really happened at national defence headquarters and seems determined not to find out.
Why is the minister more interested in stopping any investigation into the murder and cover-up than in establishing what really happened? Is this responsible leadership?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the attention of the House again that this inquiry has been extended three times. Each time it was given a notice that it was hoped it would wind up. We have given the inquiry another three month extension to the end of June at which time it will report.
We all applaud the announcement in the budget of $800 million for the new Canada foundation for innovation. Could he inform the House on the renewal of the networks of centres of excellence and IRAP and how this will benefit Canadians?
Hon. Jon Gerrard (Secretary of State (Science, Research and Development)(Western Economic Diversification), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and to also thank him for his very hard work in supporting science and technology in Canada.
We have committed to making the networks of centres of excellence a permanent program funded at an annual rate of $47.4 million. We have committed to making the industrial research assistance program a stable program at $96.5 million.
As Robert Prichard at the University of Toronto indicated, this budget will be understood historically as a critical turning point for Canada, when Canada reaffirmed that it is going to compete with the strongest nations in the world for innovation, research and development.
* * *
The budget speech delivered earlier this week could have come straight from George Orwell's 1984. Small extra expenditures are touted as new money while massive cuts to social and cultural programs continue. For example, the government claims $600 million is new money for poor families with children.
The government knows however that the new rules for the taxation of child support that resulted from the Thibaudeau court case will give a windfall of $120 million in the third year and more in subsequent years.
How much is there actually in new money to help those hundreds of thousands of children who live in poverty?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question. It is such an important downpayment that our government has been doing that I am delighted to tell the member that this year we will be adding $70 million to that already
committed in the previous budget of 1996 to total $195 million. It is quite important.
We are going to do even more. For 1998 a partnership is being developed with the provinces, and it will take a year to develop a reallocation framework and design a good program in which both incomes and programs will work hand in hand. We will be adding $600 million in new money, plus the $250 million.
* * *
I wonder what specifically he has planned in terms of helping rural youth who also experience many of these problems?
Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for a very important question.
Indeed much of our strategy is going to help them a lot. Student loans, for instance, will be improved. We are making a significant investment in this budget in higher education and skills, a total of $275 million over three years.
We are extending the interest relief for students from 18 to 30 months in terms of debt load and we are pursuing the possibility of linking loan payments to income. We are improving the tax system as well in order to help education. The education tax credit has been enriched to help students a great deal and the registered education savings plan can be rolled into savings.
Rural youth will also be able to have a 1-800 line. Rural youth sometimes have a hard time finding the information and they will get it through the 1-800 line.
Pursuant to Standing Order 32(5), and section 118 of the Firearms Act, 1995, chapter 39, your committee has unanimously agreed to adopt the report of the subcommittee on the draft regulations on firearms and has agreed to report it with 39 recommendations.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee has requested a comprehensive response to this report within 150 days.
I want to thank all subcommittee members and support staff for the long hours and hard work from which this unanimous report has evolved.
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He said: Mr. Speaker, briefly the bill I have introduced will replace the public service, the RCMP and the Canadian forces pension plan by allowing it to put real money into a real pension account, managed by a professional manager at arm's length from the government.
This would mean that rather than deductions being taken from your pay and put into the general revenue account matched by a fictitious paper transaction, there would be real money in a real account. The best equivalent I can think of is the Ontario teachers pension plan which as we know is very healthy and well managed.
The people involved would have the choice of who manages the plan. They would have the option, if necessary, of contributing a little more, although the government is not obligated for more. I think this would put our pension plan on firm footing and take the taxpayer out of the game of supporting it.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
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The petitioners bring to the attention of the House that legislation was passed in Canada which provided for equal pay for work of equal value and that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has concurred that the findings of an independent inquiry were reasonable and correct.
The petitioners urge the Government of Canada to act to have this legislation take effect immediately and that workers be reimbursed at the rate recommended.
The petitioners would like to remind the House of the national highway policy study which identified job creation, economic development, national unity, saving lives, avoiding injuries, lower congestion, lower vehicle operation and better international competitiveness as benefits resulting from the proposed national highway program.
The petitioners urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments to make the national highway system upgrading possible.
Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand-Norfolk, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I wish to present two petitions.
The first petition calls on the Government of Canada to join with the provincial governments to make a national highway system upgrading possible. It is very important, especially in the rural areas of Canada.
The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to enact Bill C-205, introduced by the hon. member for Scarborough West.
The petitioners point out that current law does not require the screening of passengers prior to boarding an aircraft at class four airports and that airlines have given notice that effective February 28, 1997 the screening of passengers will not take place at Goose Bay or Wabush airports in Labrador. They point out that due to this action the safety of the travelling public will be jeopardized.
They call on Parliament to enact legislation which will make the screening of passengers mandatory at all airports, ensuring that the safety of people when flying in Canada is maintained as priority number one.
I support the petition and I am pleased to present it on behalf of my colleague, the hon. member for Labrador.
The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Deputy Speaker: I believe the hon. member for Trois-Rivières still has five minutes.
Mr. Yves Rocheleau (Trois-Rivières, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I will continue in the few minutes I have left to tell you how important the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières mentioned earlier is for jobs. It generates 150 jobs, including 80 directly. It is an event of considerable economic importance for the Trois-Rivières region. It is an international event, because it is broadcast throughout North America. It is televised because it is permitted.
Clause 31 clearly provides, and I quote:
31.(1) No person shall, on behalf of another person, with or without consideration, publish, broadcast or otherwise disseminate any promotion that is prohibited by this Part.It will no longer be permitted to televise a sporting event of the size of the Players Trois-Rivières Grand Prix, because the law will prohibit it.
Oddly enough, clause 31(2) permits the same sort of events when they come from outside the country, and I quote:
31.(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to the distribution for sale of an imported publication or the retransmission of radio or television broadcasts that originate outside Canada.(1210)
This means that, when it comes from Quebec or Trois-Rivières, it is serious and promotes smoking and when it originates elsewhere, it does not. Or does it mean that, when a European Grand Prix is being broadcast and the word Valvoline appears behind a car it is OK to televise, but if the world Marlboro appears, the transmission will be jammed? Where are we going with this?
This does not make any sense. It goes to show how out of touch this government is, with its gurus and the kind of ayatollahs who
advise the Minister of Health of Canada, who has completely lost touch with common sense and growing public pressure across Canada for preserving cultural and sports events by maintaining sponsorships from the private sector.
We must realize that this ban on television advertising would take effect immediately and not later, as suggested by the chair of the Liberal caucus in an interview to the CBC, when he said that the amendments will delay implementation. In fact, the amendments that apply concern clause 24, and are set out in clause 60, which states that clauses 24(2) and 24(3) will come into force on October 1, 1998, or at an earlier date set in an order.
This affects the 10 per cent rule, whereby cigarette advertising shall not take up more than 10 per cent of the billboards or ads. That provision will take effect on October 1, 1998. But the ban on the broadcasting of events, where sponsors or philanthropists are paid back for investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in such or such an event, will be effective immediately, which means the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières will be affected as early as next summer. That is totally unacceptable, because no real consultation has taken place.
It is especially annoying since it has not been demonstrated in any way that looking at billboard advertising or watching television ads is an inducement to use tobacco products. There are no studies showing that. The only evidence available is that a smoker, which means someone who already uses tobacco products, may switch brands after attending the Du Maurier tennis tournament, seeing the Bendon and Hedges Symphony of Fire or travelling to Trois-Rivières for the Grand Prix sponsored by Players. He may prefer a Players cigarette over a Du Maurier.
But that is his own choice, it is not a matter of public policy. What could be interesting and fundamental to prove is that someone who sees these billboards could decide to start smoking. But that is laughable.
I will conclude by quoting this morning's editorial in the daily Le Nouvelliste, which addresses the issue of sponsorship and billboards. It says: ``We have a hard time believing that a teenager from Trois-Rivières would take up smoking just because he was exposed to a Players billboard ten days a year''.
It is that simple, there is nothing complicated about this issue, that is common sense. It just goes to show that the government is out of touch and so hypocritical that it wants it both ways. We know how much tax revenue smoking brings in. If the government was consistent, would it not completely prohibit tobacco and cigarettes production? If smoking is so bad for our health that no ads can be broadcast, should we not stand up and have a real debate on the issue and think about prohibiting the production and importation of tobacco products? Then, we would be addressing the real issues instead of dealing once again with the government's hypocritical and stealthy behaviour.
Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster-Burnaby, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have been moved to make some brief comments in view of what I have heard about Bill C-71 in the House today.
One of the things I have heard is that the bill goes too far. No, the bill contains only a partial ban on tobacco advertising even though total bans have been adopted by some countries including Australia, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Italy.
The bill does not ban tobacco sponsorships even though the United States has adopted a law that will ban all tobacco sponsorship advertising effective August 28, 1998.
Then we hear the regulatory authority in the bill is too broad. The regulatory authority created by the bill is less than for products covered by the Hazardous Products Act, yet tobacco is much more dangerous. The nicotine patch is more strictly regulated under the Food and Drug Act than cigarettes will be under Bill C-71.
Then we hear events now sponsored by tobacco companies will have to be cancelled. The bill does not ban sponsorships, it only regulates the use of tobacco brand elements in sponsoring advertising.
Prominent former tobacco sponsorship recipients now have non-tobacco sponsors. In 1988, for example, the Royal Canadian Golf Association testified before a parliamentary committee that du Maurier could not be replaced as a sponsor of the men's Canadian open. The event is now sponsored by Bell Canada.
It is often said the bill will cost jobs in the tobacco industry. In some ways Bill C-71 protects jobs in the Canadian tobacco industry because advertising restrictions make it difficult for foreign companies to penetrate the Canadian market.
Even if there would even be some job impact, public health must take precedence and priority. To argue otherwise is something like arguing that World War II should have continued to prevent job losses in the munitions factory. That is the same kind of logic.
Then we hear there will be a significant adverse impact on retailers. In 1987-88 the tobacco industry claimed that Bill C-51, the Tobacco Products Control Act, which was eventually passed by Parliament banning tobacco advertising, would cost thousands of jobs. It just did not happen.
Then we hear the bill amounts to a de facto total ban on advertising. No, the bill permits tobacco advertising in publications read primarily by adults, in direct mail to adults and in places
where minors are prohibited by law. The scope remains ample for advertising, much to the chagrin of the health committee.
It is also said that the bill infringes on provincial jurisdiction. Restricting tobacco marketing was strongly upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1996 as being within the federal jurisdiction.
Then we hear tobacco is a legal product. There are other legal products or activities the advertising of which is restricted. Prescription drugs are legal but consumer advertising of prescription drugs, including the nicotine patch, is illegal. There is no such thing as the prozac tennis championship or the valium arts festival. Prostitution is legal but soliciting for prostitution is illegal. My example is clear.
The bill, it is said, infringes on the charter of rights and freedoms. The government has gone to great lengths to respond to the Supreme Court's majority judgment. Bill C-71 contains a partial ban on advertising, not a total ban. Lifestyle advertising is banned but product information can still be communicated to consumers in a manner directed primarily to adults.
Then we hear education is the complete answer. Education alone is not enough to reduce smoking. We need effective education and money spent on it, but educational interventions cannot compete with the multi-million dollar advertising campaigns of the tobacco industry.
Then we hear there is no evidence that advertising increases smoking. I would like to say that a House of Commons committee in the United Kingdom held hearings on tobacco advertising and concluded in 1992 that there was indeed a relationship between advertising and consumption.
In RJR-MacDonald Inc. v. Canada, the attorney general case, all nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that there was a rational connection between tobacco advertising and increased consumption.
Recent studies have documented a high awareness of recall of tobacco advertising among children and adolescents with, for example, Joe Camel, the cartoon character which promotes Camel cigarettes being just as recognizable among 6-year olds as Mickey Mouse. Just think of it.
Tobacco use is the cause of 30 per cent of cancer and more than 80 per cent of lung cancer. The overwhelming number of new smokers are children. To protect our children it is essential that Bill C-71 be passed without being weakened by the tobacco lobby.
How can we in Canada neglect this blight on society? Canadians want to protect the environment in the national sense. Therefore we must also help the victims of tobacco to protect them from this form of societal pollution.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am glad you recognized me right away. I am pleased to take the floor, because we know that there was not very much debate at second reading. This bill has repercussions in many parts of Quebec, and also in my riding, more about which later.
I would like to speak briefly to the first group of amendments-
Some hon. members: In front of all these Liberals.
Mr. Brien: -being discussed, in front of all these Liberal Party colleagues who are listening so attentively to us. There is a series of technical amendments, the main purpose of which is to translate terms that were poorly translated the first time around. This shows the half baked nature of this bill, which is being rushed through, at the last minute, a bill they want to see passed before the election.
A lot is at stake for the Liberal Party. This is a promise everyone saw their minister make on television. He said that, if the government did not pass the tobacco bill before the election, people could vote against the Liberals. They are trying to save face by having this bill passed. They are trying to play down the controversy. But some large, very contentious problems remain that have a lot of people upset right now, particularly in Quebec. More about this later, because this has a major effect on Quebec.
What sort of problems are we talking about? First, I would like to open a parenthesis. Nobody is going to argue with virtue. We would all like to see a drop in the number of people smoking, particularly young people.
Mr. Volpe: You are speaking up for the tobacco industry.
Mr. Brien: However, the jury is still out on the best way to achieve this. It has been said that prevention among young people might be the most promising.
Mr. Volpe: You are promoting tobacco, cigarettes and ill health.
Mr. Sauvageau: Where are your manners? Shut up.
Mr. Volpe: Go on.
Mr. Brien: Mr. Speaker, I hear a fly buzzing around my head.
My colleague might want to go for relaxation therapy, it would do him a world of good.
An hon. member: I believe, he has been smoking, but not tobacco.
Mr. Brien: I would even say that tobacco is not the only thing some of them abuse.
Getting back to the areas affected, I will start with the cultural sector.
Mr. Volpe: Your position is shameful.
Mr. Brien: In Montreal, we have the jazz festival, the World Film Festival, in Quebec City, the summer festival; the operating budget of many cultural events-
An hon. member: Mr. Speaker, give him a Valium.
Mr. Brien: Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to call to order one of our colleagues who is getting overly excited.
An hon. member: The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health has no manners.
Mr. Ménard: Calm down. Take a Valium.
Mr. Brien: Getting back to cultural events, a few years ago we had asked them-
Mr. Volpe: We are not talking about culture, we are talking about health.
An hon. member: Give him his tranquillizers.
Mr. Ménard: Kick him out. Send him a glass of water.
Mr. Volpe: Say something that makes sense.
Mr. Brien: Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to ask the parliamentary secretary to please-
Mr. Duceppe: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Could you ask the parliamentary secretary to the health minister to contain himself. We are talking about tobacco and judging by his behaviour you would think he has been smoking something else.
Mr. Volpe: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants to play games with language about who is smoking what, making an allegation and a serious one that members on this side of the House are under the influence of some substance abuse, then I think what he should take a look at is recognizing that what they are doing is promoting-
The Deputy Speaker: This is a subject on which there are very strong opinions held by all of us. I would ask, since the member has six minutes left, that all members please give him their attention.
On a point of order again, the hon. parliamentary secretary.
Mr. Volpe: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is because I am paying attention and I am looking for some validity to argument that I am expressing myself. If that is a little too much for the Bloc to take, too bad.
The Deputy Speaker: I would remind the hon. parliamentary secretary that I believe he was the first speaker in the debate. I think especially the people in the gallery and the Canadian public want us to listen to each other. I do not think they want us to shout at each other in here.
Mr. Brien: Mr. Speaker, I would remind my colleague, the hon. parliamentary secretary, that in order to appreciate the validity of arguments and understand them, one must show a minimum of respect and listen to people when they talk.
Getting back to the cultural sector, the hon. member is probably upset by my statement that the cultural sector in Quebec will be greatly affected. I was referring to events such as the World Film Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Quebec City Summer Festival and many other events which succeeded, through the years, in securing more private than public financial support.
The organizers managed, on their own initiative, to find sources of funding. They were told: ``Be more autonomous''. With time they managed to find sources of funding for their events, which have become great successes. These events have become profitable and have helped enhance the city of Montreal and Quebec as a whole. Other events elsewhere in Canada do the same.
Today, they plan to deprive them of their sources of funding by going after the sponsors. Naturally, the ban is not total but the consequences will be the same. We know very well what the consequences of overregulation will be. Such events will become much less attractive, hence the strong reaction of the people concerned.
The same can be said about sporting events. Take for instance the Montreal Grand Prix and the Trois-Rivières Grand Prix. Vancouver and Toronto also have car races. Prohibiting sponsorship will have a major impact.
At home, we have international regattas, which follow a circuit in Quebec and the United States and which will be seriously affected, because a major sponsor is Export ``A''. Anticipating events, the company chose to not necessarily renew their financial commitments, in case sponsorship is banned.
Think about it. I remember a sign in the middle of a lake at home. If only 10 per cent of the sign may be used to display the company name, you would need binoculars to see the print at the bottom. This is crazy. It would take signs of 1,000 feet by 1,000 feet, an incredible size, for any kind of visibility, if only tiny lettering is permitted on these signs.
I have some questions in this regard. What is the real purpose? We all know this will have an effect, particularly on Montreal. The Liberals take great pleasure in saying they want to help get Montreal and Quebec's economy rolling again.
The events being targeted work well. There are so many things that do not work well here that we should spend our time trying to fix them rather than going after the things that do work. This is what makes people sick.
It colours the credibility of all members of this House. I was listening to an open line radio show on my way home. People were calling to express their mistrust of politicians and saying: ``Look at all the time they waste making stupid laws''. This is what we are
talking about today. These people have a very hard time believing politicians after that.
The hon. parliamentary secretary, who travels extensively, reminds me of a chihuahua, a breed of dog that barks all the time. Where was he when cabinet made the decision to go ahead with this? In Quebec, he goes around passing himself off as a great champion of that province. He is also the member representing Outremont in this House, and the Montreal area as well. Where was he? Who exactly did he protect in this matter? He makes public appearances now and then to say he will stand up for cultural and sports events. He then disappears for a few days. He was nowhere to be found. One wonders what has happened to him, why he is so silent.
The day of reckoning is coming. I hope his voters will send him a very clear message in the next federal election, one he will not soon forget.
There are other aspects to this bill. Take the regulations they want to impose on convenience stores. Amendments have been made; still, there is a desire to regulate convenience stores left, right and center. Imagine this, they even want to ensure that cigarettes are paid for before they are handed over to the client. Will the exchange have to take place within a specified time, just in case the client changed his mind between the time he asked for the cigarettes and the time he received them? Why not? That may be the next step. It makes no sense.
Convenience stores will also have to make physical changes to the premises to comply with a number of provisions. They will not be allowed to display tobacco products on counters.
Look, when people go to a store to buy a product, the fact that it is displayed on a shelf, whether it is on the left, the right or the middle, will not make them change their minds. Location will not make any difference. We have to strike at the root of the problem: the reasons why people, and young people in particular, start smoking. Those are the people who need to be educated about the dangers of tobacco use.
I am not a smoker. I am not defending my own interests here; quite the contrary, I am allergic to tobacco smoke. There is no smoking in my house. There is no smoking around my house and people I see on a regular basis do not smoke. But there is a limit to going after people who made a choice at some point. They must comply with regulations in the workplace and elsewhere, but this is going very far.
In the minute I have left, I want to discuss another aspect of the bill. The government says: ``Trust us regarding the regulations that have yet to be drafted. Take our word. Give us a blank cheque''. But we sure know what it does with its promises and its commitments. We all know what this government does with its promises, starting with the Prime Minister. When the example comes from above, it makes people suspicious. I am convinced the public would not forgive us if we gave a blank cheque to this government regarding regulations.
We will do all we can to keep the government from passing a bill that would have devastating effects.
The minister said: If we do not pass a bill on tobacco, you will vote against us. I say to the minister: Go ahead with this bill. There are already a lot of people in Quebec who will vote against you; there will simply be more. You will pay the political price at the next election. Withdraw this legislation. Raise the issue during the election campaign. Let us have a public debate and give people an opportunity to be heard. You will see what they think. You will see how Quebecers feel about this issue.
Mr. Maurice Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-71, a debate which demonstrates this government's arrogance and lack of cohesion. The behaviour of the parliamentary secretary to the health minister is exactly like the behaviour of his government in general, with its pompous arrogance, trying to prove that they are always right.
They are wrong this time, and we will explain why. In this matter, the Liberals remind me of what a group of Quebec comedians in the 1970s, les Cyniques, used to say: ``We want nothing but your good-and your goods''. So that is the Liberals' attitude: it wants to preserve the health of Quebecers and Canadians in general, to protect them against everything possible. Now, I am an ex-smoker, and I respect those who want to smoke. I denounce the Tobacco Police, the likes of the parliamentary secretary to the health minister, who are trying to convince our fellow citizens that they are concerned about their health.
I will say this to the government: the major danger to the overall health of Canadians, especially their economic health, is the presence of this Liberal government. I would tell the parliamentary secretary to make sure not to inhale, or he will have to face the consequences. The quicker we can get rid of this government, the better off Canadians and Quebecers will be.
Although the Minister of Health and the government spokespersons suggest that this is not a bill on culture, that it is not a bill on sports, but that it is a bill on health, this is not true. We say to them ``Take care of your own health. Health comes under provincial jurisdiction. Mind your own business, we will take care of our health, we will take care of our economic development''. That is what we want to do.
The actual impact of this bill must be considered. Again, it will have no impact on Canadians' health. All they we want is for the government not to meddle in something that does not concern it. The government wants to ruin something that is working well, that is the impact of tobacco advertising on cultural and sports events.
I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health to tell us which youngster of his acquaintance started smoking after having seen Villeneuve drive by at 200 kilometres an hour on television with a Marlborough sticker on his helmet? It is totally ridiculous. I invite the parliamentary secretary to appear on stage during the Just for Laughs festival. He could make us laugh for weeks.
During next election campaign, when the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health comes to Quebec, I am sure he will bring Quebecers to stop smoking just because they know that what he is saying is a smoke screen because, generally speaking, it is all smoke and mirrors. Such is the Liberal Party.
I am proud to be part of a group of parliamentarians that stand tall. Yes we would like people to stop smoking; everybody, all smokers would like to quit. We all recognize that tobacco is harmful for our health. Everybody admits that. But it is a personal choice. Each individual must decide for himself. When I stopped smoking, it was not because I had seen the parliamentary secretary. On the contrary, seeing him would drive me to start smoking again. I stopped because I had decided it was bad for my health. That was the basis for my decision.
However, we must respect fundamental freedoms. How can the government interfere to the point where it can tell merchants how to organize the sale of their products? How can it tell promoters of cultural and sports events who will be allowed to sponsor their events? Even in Russia they would never have gone that far. That is the Liberal government we have in front of us today. ``Mind your own business''. That is the message that the whole population of Canada, and Quebec in particular, is sending you repeatedly. ``You have no business in the health sector. Let the provincial governments do their job''. In Quebec, we will have that debate on the impact of tobacco and we will decide whether or not we want to restrain, to keep people from smoking.
Furthermore, once again, as we see in all the government's bills and in the budget tabled this week, not only are the things we find in the bill appalling, but worse than that, there are the things in the bill we know nothing about, specifically, the regulations. We do not know what kind of regulations will come after this bill is passed. We are kept totally in the dark. We are in a thick cloud of smoke, as far as the regulations are concerned.
Small merchants have every reason to fear the implications of the decisions that the government will make. As we have seen on many issues, this would not be the first time it changed its mind. If we take the example of the GST, the government got elected the last time by saying it would scrap the GST and would create thousands of jobs. Yet what do we see today? The GST is still here and Canadians are anxious to be able the scrap the government.
In 1993, there were 1 million children living in poverty; there are now 1.5 million. I would say to the parliamentary secretary that poverty has much more impact on our children's health than an ad during the regattas on Lake Témiscamingue. Let them make the real decisions and stop cutting into unemployment insurance to get rid of the deficit. This government is letting billions of dollars get out of Quebec with family trusts; that is the action that the government is taking. We are having a fake debate with a government that is a fake. However, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, will make a real decision: we will stand up and vote against this government.
Mr. Roger Pomerleau (Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the amendments to Bill C-71. I would like to thank the hon. member for his passionate speech; it was probably because of the subject: tobacco.
The core of the problem with this bill is indeed sponsorship. The measures included in the bill could eliminate a number of cultural, sporting, and social events. Most Bloc members decided today, a Friday, to come back from Montreal to oppose this crazy bill, as Quebecers have asked us to.
On this entire issue, things are far from clear. Members opposite are telling us that it is clearly a health issue, and that we must legislate. Everybody recognizes that smoking is not healthy, and that we must do all we can to prevent our young people from starting to smoke. Unlike the two previous speakers, I am a long time smoker and, despite several tries, I have not been able to quit. I think it is important to tell our young people not to start smoking, so they will avoid the problem of trying to quit later.
Since we agreed on this in principle, we voted for the bill at second reading. However, we must admit that sponsored cultural and sporting events are basically healthy and may even encourage potential smokers to be more active. We know that, generally speaking, athletes are not heavy smokers.
We are here today to speak to this bill. I would like to point out that not too many members across the way stood up for Quebec's interests in this matter. If I may, I would like to quote from an article published in La Presse on February 16, in which the Liberal member for Outremont, who was just mentioned as the exception in that he stood up for Quebec, is quoted by Réjean Tremblay as saying something like the following: ``Everyone agrees with the intent of the legislation put forward by the Minister of Health of
Canada.'' So do we. ``Trade in tobacco should be regulated, not with a view to ban its sale but rather to control it. We must look at the 10 per cent rule for advertising, the notion of site for events, merchandise and the possible extension of the transition period''.
Note that, after this was written, we have never seen the hon. member for Outremont again, and there is a fundamental reason for this: he is a Quebecer, a Liberal member from Quebec who, even if he wanted to defend Quebec or positions taken in Quebec, could not do so because his caucus, which is of another mind, would not let him. That is a fact, and that is why we will not see the hon. member for Outremont stand up and speak on this issue.
We must recognize also that the spinoffs generated by sponsorships are very important to Canadians and Quebecers. I would like to mention some of the major events that will be affected, some of which have already been mentioned: the Just for Laughs Festival, the Montreal Grand Prix, the Trois-Rivières Grand Prix, the Montreal film festival, the Toronto film festival, the Montreal jazz festival, the Vancouver jazz festival, the Benson and Hedges international championships, the Player's international tennis championships and many other sports and cultural events.
As we know, the cultural community too is not at all happy with the proposed limitation of sponsorships because it will lose a major source of revenues at a time of government budget cuts. We know how much culture has always suffered from lack of funding. The cultural sector had finally managed to find patrons, but we are now taking them away. As my colleague was saying, we are stopping something that is working when we should be going after lots of other things.
As for revenues, here are some data about it. According to the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, sponsorship of arts amounts to about $25 million whereas that of sports organizations amounts to about $35 million, totalling $60 million in Canada, including close to $30 million in Quebec. That is why we are in the House today, to defend this position that should be considered.
The health minister questions these figures, saying that, for several events, only a small proportion of the funding is coming from tobacco companies. However, he cannot say what the sponsorships amount to and, moreover, he fails to mention that for some events the proportion is much higher than what he is says.
For example, here are the figures reported in The Gazette on December 5 of last year. The Montreal Jazz Festival costs $9.5 million, and tobacco company sponsorships bring in $1.5 million, or about 16 per cent of all sponsorship revenues.
We all know how much the jazz festival is an integral part of Montreal's image, and we know also that fireworks attract visitors in droves. Well, fireworks cost $1.4 million, of which $1 million comes from tobacco companies. Tobacco sponsorship represents 72 per cent of costs.
The Festival Juste pour rire, and that probably includes Just for Laughs too, costs $10 million, and tobacco sponsors fork out $1 million, or 10 per cent.
The Festival d'été de Québec costs $4.5 million, and tobacco companies pour in $500,000, or 11 per cent.
Some 16 comparable analyses of 88 cultural and sport events throughout Canada estimate that economic benefits stand at $133 million and that 2,179 jobs depend on these investments. The member who spoke before me made the point, which is fundamental here, that there is no consensus on the real impact on tobacco use of the visibility of sponsors' trademarks in cultural and sport events.
In that same vein, we should keep in mind the remarks of the minister on December 6. He stated that, within three years, the number of smokers would drop 1.5 million because of this legislation, some 15 to 22 per cent. But he has been unable to explain how these estimates have been figured out. They have no basis whatsoever.
Moreover, I remember two surveys, and this is important, because the essence of democracy, as my colleagues have pointed out, is that it is the people who decide. We will therefore talk about the people.
Two surveys confirm that the majority of people do not want the proposed legislation to apply to cultural and sports events. In particular, the survey that appeared in La Presse on December 6 showed that 81 per cent of respondents felt that the measures contained in the proposed legislation would not stop young people from smoking, and 68 per cent were against the ban on sponsorship. And we have a government determined to make laws that people want nothing to do with.
Even if it does not ban sponsors, as the health minister keeps saying, there is a strong danger that the bill, through its restrictions, will effectively eliminate sponsorship by tobacco companies.
Another survey, and I will close with this, was carried out by Insight Research Canada in September 1996. It found that 66 per cent of Canadians agreed that tobacco companies should be
allowed to sponsor events and organizations in the fields of arts, sports, entertainment and fashion. Furthermore, 84 per cent of respondents felt that a company legally doing business in Canada should have the right to sponsor these events.
In addition, 83 per cent thought that the decision of whether or not to allow sponsorship should rest with the organizations sponsored and those doing the sponsoring, rather than with the government.
Clearly, people are not in favour of this bill. That is why the members of the Bloc Quebecois have returned in large numbers today to defend this position. If there is no change regarding sponsorship, we will be voting against this bill.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I think this is a wonderful example of the Liberal way of doing things.
In December 1996, the government tabled a bill on tobacco products. It managed to keep speakers for the Bloc Quebecois to a minimum. The bill was passed on the quiet and quickly referred to committee. And now, on a Friday, in the very week the Minister of Finance tabled his budget, just before the House adjourns for a week, it quietly brings it before the House. They want to pass it without making waves. This is a controversial bill and no one in Quebec wants this bill. The minister knows that, that is why he wants to neak it by us. ``Maybe the Bloc will not be there, so we can pass it quickly''. Well they are wrong, once again: the Bloc is here, as we always are when it is time to defend the interests of Quebec.
Once again, the Bloc will show that if it were left to the Liberals and federalists in this House, one more bill would be passed at the expense of Quebec, because that is what Bill C-71 is about. Who is going to suffer most? Quebecers. Amazing.
I was listening earlier to the parliamentary secretary talking about the health of Canadians and Quebecers and telling us how much the use of tobacco products costs us in the way of health care. Amazingly the parliamentary secretary forgot to say how much revenue tobacco products pour into the Treasury every year. Cigarettes put $3.5 billion into the government's treasury. He did not mention that. Of course not.
What would the Minister of Finance have done this week if $3.5 billion had been cut from his budget? I know the answer: he would probably have offloaded the additional deficit to the provinces, as he has always done with transfer payments. For the time being, they are being holier than thou. The health of Canadians is terribly important, but meanwhile, they collect the cash, and that is something they do not talk about. Cigarettes and tobacco products represent $3.5 billion in revenue annually. They do not mention that.
Another thing the parliamentary secretary and the Minister of Health failed to say was that this bill directly affects sports and cultural events in Quebec. Sponsors annually invest between $30 million and $35 million in these activities, in Quebec alone. It is odd that the minister and the parliamentary secretary did not mention that. I would like to have heard them say what they would do.
As we saw in the budget, this week the government is dropping just about everyone. In the same week, it tables Bill C-71, which will cut funding directly and threaten the very survival of cultural and sporting events in Quebec. Between $30 million and $35 million will thus be affected.
This is money invested directly by sponsors. Do you know how much money is reinvested by the people who attend these festivals in Quebec, people from elsewhere, tourists? Do you know how much money they leave in Quebec? They bring in $133 million. Do you know how many direct jobs are created? Two thousand jobs are directly linked to cultural and sporting events.
The government has been saying ``jobs, jobs, jobs'' since 1993. All it has done this week is invest a mere $25 million in the budget and cut 2,000 jobs in Quebec. These are jobs directly related to sports and cultural activities.
Mr. Volpe: You are red as a beet. Better watch your pressure.
Mr. Bellehumeur: What hurts me most in this bill is-
Mr. Volpe: That will certainly hurt you too.
Mr. Bellehumeur: -that in my own riding of Berthier-Montcalm Bill C-71 directly affects certain events. I did not hear the minister or the parliamentary secretary mention that either. The people of Berthierville are very proud of the Gilles Villeneuve museum. Why is there a museum? There was a racing driver named Gilles Villeneuve who put Berthierville on the world map. Today there is a museum in Berthierville in his honour.
While the Grand Prix are going on in Montreal and Trois-Rivières, people from Switzerland, Italy and Monaco come to visit the Gilles Villeneuve museum. These people spend money at the corner store, hotels and restaurants. That means millions for Quebec, not just for the Montreal area. I did not hear the minister or the parliamentary secretary mention that.
There is something else in this bill which I find unacceptable. This measure has a direct impact on tobacco production; it so happens that 80 per cent of that production comes from the Lanaudière region, which is in my riding and in the riding of Joliette.
The bill has an impact on that industry, but the government does not talk about it. How many jobs are involved? The hon. member for Joliette can confirm that 1,500 jobs are directly related to tobacco production. Annual profits from that industry total about $20 million, for the ridings of Berthier-Montcalm and Joliette.
But the parliamentary secretary and the Liberals are silent on that issue.
Fortunately, there are Bloc members here to set the record straight. We work at protecting Quebec's interests, because the members opposite do not. Since we started debating the bill this morning, I have yet to see Liberal members from Quebec speak for our province's interests. Where are they? Since December, they have been telling the media and sports organizations: ``We will defend Bill C-71 and we will defend tobacco sponsorship''.
Where are these members from Quebec who are supposed to look after the interests of their province? Where are these Liberal members? They are not here. They are hiding. They are ashamed of this bill. They are not here because they did not fulfil their duty as members of Parliament, which is to effectively represent their constituents before cabinet, before their party. That is why they are not here. They have failed. They tried to calm people down. They engaged in disinformation, as the parliamentary secretary is doing now. Perhaps he should listen.
Mr. Volpe: Do not do that, your mother is watching you and she is embarrassed.
Mr. Bellehumeur: Perhaps you should listen and tell your minister to withdraw his Bill C-71, which goes against Quebec's interests and hurts its economy. Such is the reality.
Mr. Kilger: Mr. Speaker, like the other hon. members in this House, I note the great passion in the speeches on this bill, a great interest in it. I would simply like to remind the hon. members, in order to make this a traditional debate, that we must continue to address the Speaker, so that this will be more parliamentary.
Mr. Brien: You are doing the Speaker's job.
Mr. Kilger: I must support the Speaker in his duties. I believe it is perfectly normal for there to be a call to order from time to time.
An hon. member: Absolutely.
The Deputy Speaker: I would make the same request of everyone in the House. I would like a little more calm to prevail, for the sake of those in the galleries.
Mr. Bellehumeur: Indeed, Mr. Speaker, you are right. The hon. member across the way is right.
I think this is a bill that hits close to home with the Bloc Quebecois members. I would, however, also like to ask you to keep the parliamentary secretary quiet when members are defending Quebec in connection with this bill. He is the one who is stirring things up constantly with his inappropriate comments, when this matter is being discussed.
In closing, I wish to state, so that the people of Berthier-Montcalm may be perfectly clear on my position-that I will be sending a letter out to all of the convenience stores. I have not had an opportunity to talk about convenience stores. We could find a lot to say about convenience stores, about the regulatory power the minister has reserved for himself to tell them how to run their business, where to put their cigarettes. They will now have to tell their customers: ``Pay for your cigarettes before you get them, and tough luck for you if you change your mind, because you will be stuck with them''.
Did he also announce that he will compensate convenience stores for the fact that they will no longer be allowed to use tobacco company stands to display the packages of cigarettes? No. There are a lot of things relating to the bill which are not stated clearly.
I will see that a letter goes out to all of the convenience stores, all of the supermarkets, all of the pharmacies, a very clear letter inviting people to reason with this government, to intervene, to realize that this government and the Liberal members from Quebec are not working on behalf of their fellow citizens.
I am also inviting all of the hon. members on the government side to make this bill an election issue. Defer it, and we in the Bloc Quebecois will debate it in all of the municipalities of Quebec, in every corner of Quebec, and we will see whose side the public is on. Will it side with the Liberal government, which is passing irresponsible legislation, or with the people of Quebec, who do not want this bill?
Mr. Maurice Dumas (Argenteuil-Papineau, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is my duty to speak at the report stage of Bill C-71, the bill on tobacco.
The committee of the House of Commons heard a total of 23 groups that are affected by this bill. In fact, several bills on tobacco products have come before the House in the past but none were adopted. The control and marketing of tobacco products has been talked about in the House of Commons for nearly 34 years. The first bill on the subject was tabled in 1963.
The government is now trying to rush this particular bill through the House by proposing only one amendment that deals with corporate sponsorships. It has given tobacco companies a grace period of 12 months after royal assent to give them time to find alternatives for their sponsorships. Even the Conservative leader in the Senate believes that a transition period of one year is not enough.
On second reading the Bloc Quebecois voted in favour of the principle of the bill to protect the health of the public, but at the report stage, the Bloc Quebecois cannot vote in favour of this bill, for the following reasons: the government and the Minister of
Health have given themselves undue discretionary powers with respect to regulations.
Bill C-71 is another excuse for the government to invade a provincial jurisdiction. In fact, the Constitution Act, 1867, subsection 92(7), provides exclusive jurisdiction over the operation of hospitals, asylums and other institutions, while subsection (16) gives the provinces exclusive power over all local and private matters.
The federal government has jurisdiction over navy and quarantine hospitals. Since the provincial government intends to pass legislation on tobacco products, we are stuck with the perpetual duplication and overlap that makes things very confusing for all concerned.
The government has tried to expedite this bill by refusing to allow the opposition to schedule speakers at second reading, except for my colleague from Lévis who spoke on December 5. The latter informed this House of his concern about the minister's timing in tabling his bill.
The Bloc Quebecois urged the health minister and the minister of propaganda-pardon me, Mr. Speaker, I meant to say the Minister of Canadian Heritage-to find a solution in order to offset the financial losses to sports and arts events. The Minister of Health categorically rejected the Bloc Quebecois' proposals and did not take into account the testimony heard before the health committee.
The events affected include the Just for Laughs festival, the Montreal and Trois-Rivières Grand Prix, the Montreal and Toronto film festivals, the Montreal and Vancouver jazz festivals, the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire, and the Players Tennis Internationals, to name just a few.
I would also like to mention the wonderful work done by Gilbert Rozon, formerly of Saint-André-d'Argenteuil who, although born in Montreal, spent many years in the riding of Argenteuil, where some of his family still live. Mr. Rozon has repeatedly expressed his dismay at the government's position, which does not take into account the disastrous economic repercussions of this bill on these events.
Mr. Rozon has been involved in numerous cultural and arts events. In 1980, he founded a dance and theatre festival, the Grande Virée, in Lachute in my riding, which will feature the top entertainers from Quebec and from France.
In 1983, he founded the Just for Laughs festival, a one of a kind international event. He put Montreal on the map by founding an international festival, a school and a museum. Last December 10, Mr. Rozon told the health committee that, of the Just for Laughs festival's $15 million budget, $450,000 came from the government and just over $1 million from tobacco manufacturers. Francis Fox, a former Liberal minister, told this same committee that, in the past, people like Mr. Rozon had moved heaven and earth to find sponsors.
It is very important to mention his testimony before the health committee, because it reflects the government's refusal to take into consideration the importance of obtaining funding in order to continue to promote the culture of Quebec and of Canada.
The minister of propaganda-excuse me, of Canadian Heritage-has no problem finding funds for propaganda, with her flags and her advertising, but she will not subsidize such remarkable events as the ones we just mentioned.
I want to share with you another excerpt from the comments made by Mr. Rozon, who said, in essence: ``We have been under unbearable financial stress these past four years. We were asked to turn to the private sector for funding and we did. But should this bill pass, I cannot help but wonder what it will do to culture exactly. Generally, we are put on this Earth with the hope that we will have learned something by the time we leave it, and culture is a key element in the development of human beings, their souls and their identities.
``The major events taking place in Montreal and across Canada are essential to the development of the Canadian identity. Funding is being cut six months before an event. To respond specifically to your question, I can assure you that, six months from now, every one of the events affected will be between $1.5 million and $2 million in the red because alternative sources of financing will not have been found. We would not be here this morning if we had found a way around the problem''.
What solutions has this government brought in to deal with this problem? The government has not found a solution, and it will not rectify the situation simply by delaying implementation of this measure. Those who promote Quebec and Canadian culture must go on with their work; they have the support of the people.
The health minister maintains, without providing any exact figures, that several events have only a fraction of their funding coming from tobacco companies. It is important to note that, according to 16 compatible studies on 88 cultural and sporting events across Canada, it is estimated that these events generate $133 million in economic benefits as well as 2,179 jobs.
In fact, the public is clear on the subject: cultural and sporting events are greatly appreciated by Canadians. Several of these events provide fun and relaxation to some people and jobs to other people.
Bill C-71 is threatening these events and that is why the Bloc Quebecois cannot vote in favour of this bill at third reading. In Canada, tobacco companies sponsor cultural, sporting and other
events to the tune of $60 million. In Quebec alone, sponsorship by tobacco companies totals nearly $30 million.
One must not think that the Bloc Quebecois' voting against this bill at third reading means it does not care about the health of Canadians. On the contrary, by voting in favour of this bill at second reading, the official opposition recognized the validity of the government's objectives, particularly the importance of the health of our young people under 18. We disagree with the steps taken by the government to meet its goals.
We agree with what was said by the representatives of the Quebec medical community who have formed a common front reminding federal and provincial governments that they unconditionally support any initiative to put an end to smoking. Unfortunately, Quebec is the province with the highest rate of smokers in the 15 to 19 age group, a third of whom start smoking before 13.
Since my time is coming to an end, I will conclude by quoting the journalist Jean-Jacques Samson, who said in today's edition of Le Soleil: ``When governments try to sabotage a good thing, they have no equal''. He concludes by saying that the government is about to pass another piece of legislation that will make lawyers very happy.
For all these reasons the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-71 at third reading.
Mr. Ghislain Lebel (Chambly, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to this bill. It is the first opportunity I have because, at the second reading stage, we were precluded from doing so because of the squabbling between the Reform Party and the Liberal Party which was meant to keep the parliamentarians from debating democratically. It is unfortunate, in a Parliament which should be a forum for discussion and where truth should be sought as much as possible. So there is nothing to be happy about.
As far as Bill C-71 is concerned, I wonder if the Minister of Health was in good health when he introduced this bill. I doubt it, for various reasons. This is the same minister who, from one day to the next, had decided that raw milk represented a danger to human health and had drafted some kind of weird regulations which would have restricted our cheese consumption to Cheez Whiz and other products like it.
This to say that I am not impressed by the minister. The Liberals are arguing that their only motivation is the health and best interests of Canadians and Quebecers, but I, for one, do not buy it. You just cut $4.5 billion out of health expenditures, including $1.3 billion in Quebec. You did not even realize at that time how detrimental this could be to the health of Canadians. Strange that you should not have cared a bit about that.
Out of nowhere, the government introduced with a bill; health had become important overnight. If the impact had been the same in Toronto as it is in Montreal, I doubt that this bill would have been introduced by the minister. I think that members from the Toronto area would now be on the benches defending the bill, which is not what members of the government party coming from Quebec are doing.
Madam Speaker, I feel that you will agree with me.
There is more to it, there is something worse than the bill. I agree with everything my friends have said. Of course tobacco is harmful. I look at my package of cigarettes: 16 per cent tar-
Some hon. members: You are not allowed to show it.
Mr. Lebel: -13 per cent nicotine. There is not even a cigarette in there. All there is is nicotine and tar.
However, the government must still be honest. It has taken $3.5 billion in taxes out of the smokers' pockets, over the past 35 years; in a way, the government has been acting as a go-between. It is no nobler than pimps when it taxes profits from prostitution, for instance. The same principle is involved here.
The government gets $3.5 billion. The olympic stadium tax in Montreal, I have almost paid for it by myself with the taxes you have been taking on every cigarette I have been smoking since.
All this to tell you that you are not honest. You are dishonest. Have the courage of your convictions. Simply ban tobacco in this country. Then I might be more inclined to listen to you. I do not think I would vote for the bill, for personal reasons, but at least I would say: ``This decision is based on logic, on a deep sense of justice and fairness, on the public's interests'', and that would not be so bad.
But here, you take the profits in a roundabout way, you pocket every possible economic benefit, to the tune of $3.5 billion, and then you say no to the public. Your approach is illogical and dishonest, fundamentally dishonest, and this is why we are blaming you, the government members proposing this bill.
But there is worse still. Government members have now teamed up with the fundamentalists who are opposed to tobacco. These are professional whiners, like the hired mourners in ancient Greece, who resurface whenever an issue might be a little touchy with the public. These are people who used the École Polytechnique tragedy to promote their own ideology; they showed no respect in that case as well. We are confronted with the same people regarding this bill. They say: ``Stop this; think about our health''. It is true that smoking is harmful. I believe a member here once said: ``Let us begin by putting money in this''.
Some day, we may discover that smokers like me, who are unable to stop-I must have tried 15 times and never succeeded-have a disease. If alcoholism is a disease, it may be that smoking is also a disease. It is not by clobbering anyone stuggling with this problem, by literally robbing that person every time you table a budget, as you have been doing for nearly 35 years, that you will help that person get rid of the problem.
Try to enhance public awareness, try to put some money into detoxification, into information, and do as they do with children in elementary schools. I am pretty sure that my grand-daughters will never smoke, because it is always a big fuss every time I light up.
From an early age children are motivated against smoking, and I say it is good. But at least have the courage of your convictions. Do not try to collect $3.5 billion on the one hand, and then try to make us believe that you want to pass such a bill out of concern for public health on the other. You are much more concerned about your $3.5 billion that about public health.
This is another example of the neoliberal philosophy that prevails today. This is an ill-inspired bill that will give the Minister of Health poorly defined powers allowing him to implement regulations on a piecemeal basis depending on which way the wind is blowing.
Incidentally, these regulations may never be published. Bill C-25, which will be adopted soon, allows the minister to take everybody by surprise by drafting and implementing regulations without ever publishing them. That is what Bill C-25 is all about.
The parliamentary secretary may not know it, or if he knows he is not telling, but it is coming. This excessive regulatory power that the minister of raw cheese is giving himself-I am glad to see you here, Madam Speaker-is a raw deal; it is utterly irresponsible.
The minister will be able to play with the rules as he sees fit. The regulations may be good or bad, published or unpublished. And that is when the fun will really begin. The lawyers, who are the friends of the government, will have tons of cases to plead, all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. They will have cases and cases galore, all the way up to the Supreme Court. This is how the Liberal Party goes about rewarding the party faithful.
They are already listening and are anxious that this bill be passed so they can go to court and pocket hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars in fees to defend a law that, as we already know, will be challenged in court. To begin with, this does not even come under the government's jurisdiction.
Tobacco companies will be on the attack again. The money they will give to their lawyers will not go to sports or cultural events. They will enrich the Liberal Party. Three years from now, there will be a minister, a new one, of course, who like his predecessor will stand there aghast and say: ``This is crazy. The Supreme Court has just dismissed our appeal''. Basically, it is the same old story we heard a few years ago.
Madam Speaker, spare the rod and spoil the child is all very well, but it seems to me you are harder on me than on other members. However, I bow to the Chair.
All this to say I will not vote for this bill. Not just because of the impact on sponsorships. I will vote against the bill because of the principles you decided to ignore. First, the principles of constitutional jurisdiction, but also principles of civil law such as reversing the onus of proof, and this unlimited power to make regulations in the minister's office with his pals, the parliamentary secretaries and the rest, all smoking away. However, I will have no part of this.
There is also this cozy relationship with major lobbyists. On the weekend, the media published the names of members who were opposed to this bill. You would think we were in Iran. I will not be blackmailed. I will vote against your damned bill.
Mr. René Laurin (Joliette, BQ): Madam Speaker, I will probably be the last member to talk about Bill C-71 today. I can only expand on what my colleagues have already said before me.
The Bloc Quebecois did indeed support this bill at second reading. This party is not against virtue but is in favour of protecting the health of all Canadians and in particular the health of Quebecers. The Bloc will always support initiatives enhancing the quality of the environment and the health of Quebecers and Canadians.
But there is a limit to what one can do in that regard. This bill is paternalistic, to an unheard of degree. This government wants to control the health of Quebecers, but they are perfectly able to take care of themselves. If the government wants to regulate the health of other Canadians and if they agree, fine. Let them submit to this legislation.
Yet, as my colleague said earlier, the federal government has no right to interfere in health issues.
Quebecers are quite capable of looking after their own health and administering their other activities, as far as recreation and the environment are concerned. What does this bill do, under the guise of protecting the health of Canadians and Quebecers? It is as if someone wanted to treat an illness with medication without having evaluated its side effects. The government wants to eliminate cancer caused by smoking by giving us another illness as serious as or even more damaging than cancer: the cancer of unemployment.
Once everyone has died of unemployment cancer, there will be no victim left for cancer caused by smoking. It is as if someone decided to make everybody die of heart disease, so that there would be no one left to die of lung cancer. The government is taking steps
that will result in honourable citizens being asked to sacrifice their jobs in order to have a healthy unemployment; in Joliette this means 1,200 to 1,500 jobs. They have their jobs taken away from them, but they are told ``Well, at least while you are unemployed, you will be healthy''.
That is not how a good citizen should be treated. Our citizens are treated with far too much interference, far too much paternalism. You do not replace one evil with another. Ideally, we would like all Quebecers, and all Canadians, to quit smoking. I would call myself an occasional smoker, since I do not have a cigarette in hand all the time. I have stopped smoking many times, I have started over again many times too.
Mr. Lebel: An equal number of times.
Mr. Laurin: An equal number of times, of course, because when a person starts smoking again, he has already quit. Now, continuing in the same vein, to explain what I had started on. People make choices, but I do not think anyone would choose one illness in order to cure another. Nobody would agree to have their left hand cut off in order to save their right or to quit working tomorrow and put their job at risk in order to live in better healthier life.
That is not what they want. We have nothing against the principle of this bill. What we oppose is the extent of the means the government takes to reach its ends. This bill needs further study. We were prevented from debating it. We had only one speaker at second reading. Because of government trickery, we were prevented from going any further.
Today, they are going hell bent for election, but they seem in less of a hurry to apply certain parts of the bill. The parts that could prove difficult and could hurt the government during the election campaign are being put off until next year. In other words, because of side effects, the dose is being altered. Instead of a pill every hour, it will be every three hours. It will still hurt, but it will take you a little longer to notice it.
This is what we oppose. We cannot accept that the fallout from this bill will upset the lives of Canadians, and Quebecers in particular, who are responsible for cultural events, who organize their fellow citizens' leisure activities. Why should we always throw a monkey wrench into the works?
Once again, when certain events work out well, let us not interfere, and let us resort to more creative means in our fight against tobacco. If the government lacks imagination, the opposition is by no means short of ideas. We have already made one suggestion, which is to provide some kind of compensation.
But the government would not have none of that. We have suggested positive ways to wage the fight nicotine addiction without jeopardizing worthwhile events.
Obviously, we are still supportive of this bill's principle which will govern smokers and non-smokers activities, but not at any price. The cure should not be causing another problem.
The Deputy Speaker: It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS[English]
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure and privilege to lead off the debate on my private member's Bill C-250 which would fix the election date for federal elections in Canada.
Once again, Canadians are left wondering about the timing of the next election. After the three year anniversary of a government has passed the speculation begins in earnest about when the Prime Minister will call the next election.
Canada is one of the few democracies that still leaves it up to the government of the day to decide when to call an election. We feel that this represents a type of conflict of interest. In other words, the Prime Minister will time the election to whenever best suits his own political interests. Also, incumbency already has its own built-in advantages and that is well known.
Why should the timing of the election also be left to the government? We would not let the government arbitrarily set the conditions of an election such as where the electoral boundaries would be. Fixed elections dates would lessen the government's advantage and create a more accountable, representative and fair system.
Therefore I have proposed a bill that would cause federal elections to be held on a fixed date every four years unless the government was defeated by a vote of non-confidence. More specifically, if passed, the bill would cause a general election to be called on the third Monday in October every four years and would ensure that byelections occur promptly when vacancies occur between general elections.
Our Constitution does not contain many provisions regarding elections in Canada. Most election rules are by convention or by
federal statute. However, the charter provides that the House of Commons cannot continue longer than five years, except in time of war, invasion or insurrection, unless it has the support of at least two thirds of the members of the House of Commons.
The Constitution Act of 1867 also states that the House of Commons cannot continue longer than five years. Section 5 of the charter also states that there is to be a sitting of the House of Commons at least once every 12 months. These are some of the rules and parameters under which the House of Commons is required to operate.
As a result of these provisions there could be in some circumstances a Parliament that last for longer than five years, perhaps even closer to six years, although this has never happened and would really be stretching the limits of the Constitution a great deal.
In his book Election Law in Canada, ex Tory MP Patrick Boyer writes: ``It is theoretically possible for an election to be delayed approximately nine months after the end of a five year term''.
Although the Constitution sets out the maximum time limits for a Parliament there is no minimum time limit. That is a greater part of the problem we face in the country with the uncertainty of when elections will be held.
Federal elections in Canada can be called any time up to the end of that five year limit by the governor general on the advice of the Prime Minister or they can be called if Parliament is dissolved because the government lost a vote of confidence in the House.
Therefore a general election can be held at virtually any time during the government's mandate. This has led to problems of elections being held too frequently or not frequently enough. For majority governments it means they can hold out for as long as five years and for minority governments it means that another election can be called after just a few months in office.
A minority government or even one with a slim majority can implement one popular decision or even make a promise and then hold an election to try to gain a larger number of seats in the House. This would be done at great cost and expense to the country.
The lack of fixed election days has led to abuses and irregularities. For instance, many of the Liberal members here will remember the last two years of the Tory government. The Tories held on to power as long as they thought they dared. They had been re-elected in November 1988 but rather than calling the election in the fall of 1992, when I believe Canadians were ready for a federal election, they held on for almost a full year and went to the people in October 1993.
The Tory government of Grant Devine in Saskatchewan did the same thing, stretched out a mandate to the full five years, obviously realizing that it would not be re-elected by the people of Saskatchewan. Both the Mulroney and Devine Tories held on to power despite being hopelessly unpopular and even involved an alleged unsavoury and even possibly criminal activity.
The power to call elections has also backfired several time. I guess the most blatant example was when the voters of Ontario rejected the Liberal government of David Peterson because they thought that the timing of the election was based on what was best for it and not what was best for the citizens of Ontario.
There have also been abuses in terms of the timing of byelections. We do not have to go back very far to see a very blatant abuse of the timing of byelections because it was done by this very Liberal government that we have today. The byelection was the Ottawa-Vanier byelection that was held in February 1995. The candidates had to prepare for the campaign over the Christmas holiday period. Imagine that. In fact, the writ was dropped on December 28, 1994 for the election on February 13, 1995.
Obviously the government knew it was going to call a byelection. It had arranged the vacancy where the member who had held that seat was appointed to the Senate. All this happened very quickly and it was manipulated by the federal government in a very undemocratic and very arrogant manner. Candidates had to go door to door in the dead of winter. Obviously this favoured the incumbent party. In this case it happened to be the Liberals.
I am not making these examples solely on a partisan basis. Any political party in power, the way our election act of Parliament is set up, can place those same abuses of power on to the other political parties at a disadvantage.
In the Labrador byelection the seat sat empty from September 21, 1995 until the writ was dropped on February 7, 1996 for a March 25 election date. For Canadians and members who have not been in Labrador in February or March, it is extremely cold. It is a time of high snowfall, impassable roads, not the right time to call an election if one wants the democratic process to be properly undertaken. It was again another blatant attempt by the Liberals to use whatever advantages they could to hold on to a seat they believed to be safe. They did not want any other parties campaigning against them in an effective manner.
It may to some governments' benefit to hold the byelection in the summer when certain professional and labour groups are away on holidays, such as teachers and public servants. That too is an abuse of power. But the way our laws are written right now that is possible and has been used.
This would be a legal attempt to disenfranchise potentially hostile voters. Our election act should not allow that possibility. It may not ever happen but it certainly can happen the way the laws of
the land currently stand. Therefore we are asking this House to consider the idea that general elections and byelections be held at fixed intervals.
I have talked about the history that has led me to introduce Bill C-250, but what are the other benefits of having a system of fixed election terms? There is enhanced accountability. In conjunction with other reforms that we are proposing, such as free votes in the House of Commons, the use of referenda, citizens' initiatives, and the use of recall, this act would make Parliament more accountable to the Canadian electorate.
It would allow for better representation. It would reduce the threat of dissolution, which is a major factor used by the governing parties to keep their MPs in line. The result would be less party discipline and more independence for backbenchers.
Also because the act's provisions are related to byelections, voters in those constituencies would not be unrepresented for extended periods of time. The reason that the Prime Minister keeps the date to himself or herself regarding calling a federal election is not only to keep the opposition parties off guard but also to keep his own members in line.
Any time they would tend to want to represent their constituents, even if it were in opposition to the governing party's position, the government could say ``We are going to call an election. We might call an election pretty soon. You will put yourself in a very vulnerable position. You better go with the flow, member, or else you may lose your seat or we may help you lose your seat when we call the next election''.
With regard to byelections, the federal government can call it at the most opportune time for itself to win the byelection. If it is a seat that it knows it cannot win, a safe seat that belongs to another party, it can leave that seat unrepresented for an unduly long time, disenfranchising Canadians of the representation they are entitled to.
Another benefit of passing Bill C-250 would be the creation of greater fairness. It would remove the governing party's advantage of choosing the most opportune moment to call an election. The result would be a more level playing field for all political parties.
Any party and any politician who minimalizes this point does not truly respect the importance of the democratic process unfettered by government manipulation. I cannot emphasize that point enough. It is paramount to the democratic principles that we all adhere to. Any party or any politician who minimalizes this point does not truly respect the importance of the democratic process unfettered by government manipulation.
Another benefit of this bill would be more certainty. It would give the government reasonable and sufficient time to develop and implement its legislative agenda and would allow it to take some of the more difficult decisions.
This bill is not all weighted in favour of the opposition parties. A government needs a fair amount of time to implement its mandate. It tells the people that it wants to, for instance as the Liberals said, create jobs, jobs, jobs. Possibly in two years the government could say ``We would like to have fulfilled that promise but we see an opportune time to call an election. Give us another mandate and we will finish the job''.
Canadians want to see a measurable period of time in which a government can implement the mandate it was elected on. This way, a government can reasonably deliver on a mandate it received from the people.
Another benefit of Bill C-250 would be healthier, more open public debate. It would allow for more constructive debate in the House since opposition parties would know that the government has a fixed term.
Opposition parties would not be fighting the next election 18 months after the previous one. I noticed in the House in the first year or two we were looking at the government's record, its intentions. As we passed that 18 month mark, focus began to be that the government has completed perhaps the first half of its mandate. The government side becomes more political. The opposition side becomes more political and Canadians often take a back seat as a result of the focus on when the next election will be.
Fixed election dates would postpone some of the time that is wasted in posturing for the next election. That is a very good reason why this bill should be passed.
Finally, if Bill C-250 is passed it would be a cost efficient measure. It would allow political parties, election officials and candidates to better plan for elections. Therefore procedures could be streamlined and costs reduced.
The 1990s are a time of scarce resources and of demands for efficiency. This bill prepares Canada for the environment of the next century.
Bill C-250, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Elections Act (confidence votes) was first introduced on March 27, 1996. The key elements of the bill are as follows: Clause 1 provides that the maximum duration of a Parliament would be four years. A federal election would be held on October 20, 1997 and every four years thereafter on the third Monday of October.
Provision is also made in clause 1 for the House to continue beyond four years in the time of war, invasion or insurrection, so
long as such the continuation is not opposed by more than one-third of the members of the House.
Clause 1 of the bill also provides that no dissolution of Parliament can be sought except when the House adopts a non-confidence motion and the Governor General is satisfied that it is not possible for a government to be formed with has the confidence of the House.
Clause 1 also states that the Prime Minister must request the Governor General to dissolve Parliament. It is very important that the bill does not require the Governor General to accede to the Prime Minister's request.
Clause 2 of the bill specifically provides that these provisions do not alter or affect the power of the crown to prorogue or dissolve Parliament. Perhaps I should expand on that by saying that when we drafted the bill we were very careful to not infringe on the Constitution of the nation. This bill would not require a constitutional amendment.
If I had stated in the bill that the Governor General must accede to the Prime Minister's request to hold a general election, that would infringe on the power of the crown, and we were not prepared to introduce a bill that would necessitate an amendment to the Constitution. That is why we ask the Prime Minister merely to advise the Governor General of his desire to have an election held. Under the powers given to him under the Constitution, the Governor General will choose whether or not to abide by the Prime Minister's wishes.
Clause 3 of the bill provides that writs for byelections are to be issued within two months of a vacancy occurring in the House of Commons unless the vacancy occurs within two months of the date fixed for a general election. The byelections would be held on the third Monday of April or October except in the year prior to a general election.
Since I began to draft this bill over two years ago I have received a great deal of assistance and advice. I want to inform the House that I have been co-operating with Elections Canada and have incorporated many of its suggestions into my bill. This was not a hastily drafted bill but considerable time was spent consulting with those who knew what was required under the Constitution, what would best fit Canada's parliamentary system and what would best fit into the existing laws that must be agreed on.
I have also received a lot of encouragement and support from others. Many academics and journalists have commented extensively in support of a fixed election date. It was not planned by me but it is very interesting that on February 11 an article was written by Andrew Coyne that appeared in the Montreal Gazette. It made a case for a fixed election date in a very articulate and concise fashion. I encourage all members to read the article entitled ``Fixed Voting Date Would Lessen Government Advantage''. It is an excellent piece, reinforcing many of the arguments I made to the House in my opening address on Bill C-250.
All members of the House are invited to examine this bill and the surrounding issues. I do not come to this House with an attitude of arrogance. I do not come to this House with an attitude of ``it's my way or the highway'' or of ``it's the Reform Party's way or let's not do anything at all''.
This is an election year and the focus is on how the timing of elections is determined. It is an opportunity for us to seize the issue and engage in a healthy and vigorous debate. I urge members not to mindlessly reject this bill and also not to blindly accept all the proposals. I welcome and am open to amendments to the bill. I encourage members to discuss parts of the bill with me. Certainly members from various parties have argued the need for reform in the setting and calling of byelections. I know several Liberal members have called for that. There have been debates in the past by parties other than the Reform Party calling for fixed election dates.
There is a need for electoral reform in this area. Let us work together to achieve it. Let us see if we cannot, with an issue as sensitive as the calling of election dates, see some co-operation between among the political parties. Let us set aside some of the sparring that we do over the issues such as CPP, budgets and other issues that we disagree on, to see if we cannot provide a service for Canadians so that they would know when elections were going to be held, there would be some certainty, some continuity and some good reason behind when elections were called.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to address my bill. Unfortunately I have to catch a plane in just a couple of minutes and I will be leaving the House. Certainly it is not out of disrespect for those who will follow me to speak. I will certainly read all their comments in Hansard with great interest. Should they want to come and speak to me personally about any matter with regard to this bill I would be more than happy to do that.
Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa-Vanier, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this private member's bill, Bill C-250, since it would bring about a major change to the regime by which general elections and byelections are called. Thus it would be worthwhile to take a few minutes to outline the current regime and to note its historical development.
Governments under our Canadian system of parliamentary democracy do not have a free rein in calling general elections. There is a constitutional constraint. Section 4 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for a maximum duration of five years for Parliament, barring exceptional circumstances such as times of war or a national crisis. Within this constitutional limit, the conventions of responsible government make the Prime Minister personally responsible for tendering advice to the Governor
General as to when Parliament should be dissolved and the general election called.
The obvious exception to this practice is in the event that the governing party loses the support of the majority of members of the House of Commons. If this should occur, the governing party would be forced to seek the Governor General's advice which would include the possibility of Parliament's dissolution and a general election call.
Byelections occur within the life of an existing Parliament. When a vacancy occurs in the House of Commons the Speaker, once advised, sends a warrant to this effect to the Chief Electoral Officer. Under the Parliament of Canada Act the government is required to issue a writ advising of the date for the byelection. This writ must be issued within six months after the receipt by the Chief Electoral Officer of the warrant of the Speaker.
This regime has evolved over several hundred years of parliamentary practice. At its core is the relationship between the House of Commons and the executive branch of government. The cabinet is ultimately responsible to the House of Commons. The leadership provided by the cabinet drives the overall work of a parliamentary session. The cabinet has a key influence on the House's legislative agenda. The cabinet plays a pivotal role in controlling the time, regulating the business and to a large extent harnessing the energies of the House. It is within this overall context that Parliament is summoned and dissolved on the advice of the Prime Minister to the Governor General. The Prime Minister, although not always, usually exercises this responsibility after consulting members of his or her cabinet.
The House of Commons, on its part, is able to hold the cabinet accountable through its work. This includes subjecting the government to oversight and review through the House debates, question period, the work of parliamentary committees, the budget debates, and bills and resolutions introduced by private members, such as this one. The government cannot hold on to power after it has lost the support of the House of Commons.
There is another important dimension to this relationship. It concerns the role of the Prime Minister as primus inter pares or first among equals. He or she must be able to give direction to the government's policies and legislative agenda, to bring about cabinet solidarity and to foster cohesion among its caucus members. Without this authority the government's ability to obtain and maintain the support of the House could be at risk. The Prime Minister's power to advise on the call for a general election is one of many key elements in our parliamentary form of government which works to support the Prime Minister's pivotal leadership role.
Bill C-250 would create a hybrid system for calling general elections. Within the constitutional limits of section 4 of the charter, the bill would provide for a set term of four years for each Parliament. Elections would be held every four years on the third Monday of October. The bill also provides for exceptions to this rule. It does not purport to take away non-confidence votes from the House of Commons. This could still be done and an election called if required. As I understand it, the four year election clock would then be re-started at this point. Of course the four-year rule would apply only if there were no immediate national crisis.
This hybrid system would continue with respect to byelections. If required, Bill C-250 provides for two annual dates for byelections, on the third Monday of April and on the third Monday of October. There are exceptions to deal with unique situations.
My colleagues on the opposite side of the House have advanced three arguments in support of this hybrid system: first, that fixed dates for general elections would remove what they view as a built-in bias in favour of the governing party, namely, the ability to call a general election at a time most favourable to its interests; second, that a hybrid system for calling elections would be less costly to administer and organize; and third, that setting fixed dates for general elections would end needless House time wasted on election speculation and remove one of our favourite national pastimes.
We also heard criticism about the current regime for calling byelections, criticism that the period of time is too long between a vacancy being created and the calling of a byelection, thereby detrimentally affecting constituents, or criticism that this period of time is too short, a so-called snap byelection to favour the re-election of a member who has resigned in political difficulty.
The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, known commonly as the Lortie commission, also heard these arguments in 1990 and 1992, but the commission did not recommend moving to a system of fixed dates for general elections or a hybrid system as is represented by Bill C-250.
The royal commission pointed to several drawbacks which it felt were persuasive. The commission emphasized that although fixed election terms are not uncommon in democracies, they are not the rule for parliamentary democracies. Rather, countries which have adopted fixed election terms are, as a rule, systems characterized by the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches of government. The United States is the best example of that.
The commission went on to note that unlike the U.S. executive branch of government, the Canadian Prime Minister and his or her
cabinet are held accountable to Parliament and exercise power only so long as the confidence of the House is maintained.
The commission indicated, as I did earlier, that the threat of a possible dissolution of the House by the Prime Minister assures his or her voice is the most influential in cabinet, as it should be, and also encourages the loyalty of caucus members toward government policies and legislation. The removal of this convention would undermine the role and responsibilities of the office of the Prime Minister and disrupt the balance between the legislative and executive branches of government.
The commission also questioned whether a hybrid system would in practice remove the perceived bias of the governing party in calling elections to suit its political agenda. It noted that a hybrid system could still allow any governing party to take steps to engineer its own defeat in the House, should this be judged to be in its own political interest.
Another concern was the commission's fear that fixed date elections might lead to lengthy and much more costly election campaigns. The commission pointed to the U.S. experience with fixed elections and long campaign periods. It noted the rising cost of U.S. presidential elections, which are often launched 18 months or more before election date. This was contrasted with the Canadian experience, which is a historic movement toward shorter campaigns, a longstanding tradition of not starting the campaign in earnest until the writs are issued, and the development of stringent election spending limits for candidates and political parties.
I would like to turn to the issue of whether fixed dates for elections would actually reduce the cost of election administration. It has been assumed that savings would materialize largely through better scheduling and planning of door to door enumeration to register voters, but we are in the process of moving away from this system. Members will recall that Bill C-63, which was passed by Parliament last December, provides for a permanent register of electors. The permanent register will provide for a continuous, up to date listing of electors to replace the cumbersome and costly system of door to door enumeration.
The more modern and efficient electoral system, which a permanent register will bring, will over the long term significantly reduce the cost of elections and thus largely remove the major cost disadvantage associated with calling elections at the discretion of the crown.
I would also like to talk to the issue of byelections. Bill C-63, which I noted earlier, also amended the Parliament of Canada Act to ensure that any writ calling for a byelection could not be issued for at least 11 days prior to the receipt of the Speaker's warrants. This was intended to address the opposition's long standing concerns about so-called snap byelections.
Also, if we examine this government's record to date with respect to the calling of byelections, we would find that all were held within six months of the vacancy occurring. The majority were actually held within three months. In my case, it was held exactly three months after the seat became vacant.
If we go back 10 years we would find that the average time period between the vacancy and polling day was approximately six months. So we are making progress in that sense.
I would also note that to save on administration costs, if more than one vacancy occurred within the period of time, the practice has tended to be to set aside one polling day to run a series of byelections across the country. This practice is, in large part, responsible for some of the longer-
Mr. François Langlois (Bellechasse, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today to Bill C-250 introduced by the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Elections Act in order to implement a system of fixed dates for general elections in Canada.
It is no easy task to draft or implement such a bill. Strictly speaking, it is not a constitutional matter affecting the Constitution of 1867, but it does seek to match differing components of a reality, to adapt certain rules under the congressional system to a parliamentary system.
Quite apart from the actual wording of Bill C-250, there is the principle involved. The principle of having fixed dates for elections is, in my opinion, a principle of equity between the various political parties in Canada. I consider it an anomaly of our system that a person, or a very small group of persons in the Prime Minister's office, can decide more or less four years after an election is held to call another one-this, of course, when there is a majority government.
We, the official opposition, have had to prepare for a general election that could have been held last fall, for an election that might be held this spring, and for another election that might be held this fall. It is up to the Prime Minister, who is the only one to make this decision, since his recommendation will be accepted by the Governor General.
This is going far beyond the major principles underlying the Constitution of Canada. Allow me to quote the first ``whereas'' of the 1867 British North America Act, which was renamed the Constitution Act, 1867. What does it say? It says: ``Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion
under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom''.
Therefore, according to the original act, which gave us the system we know today, the Canadian Constitution must be based on the same principles as the United Kingdom's Constitution. This does not apply only to the written constitution, since Great Britain does not have one. It is more like a constitutional tradition, whereby people alternate between governing and being in opposition.
For some time now, elections in the United Kingdom have usually been held around the same date. In the past several years, the British government has called elections only after the constitutional five year mandate was over. However, the government could still lose a vote on a major issue in the House.
Mr. Major's government in Great Britain, which will soon come to the end of its five-year mandate, lost several votes in the House. No election was held during these five years. Every time, the government came back before the House to ask, despite the vote that was taken, despite the defeat of a government bill, whether the House would maintain its confidence in the government. Every time, the House maintained its confidence in the government, so there was no dissolution.
Once the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier finishes with his behind-the-scenes representations, I will continue.
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Bellechasse still has five minutes left.
Mr. Langlois: Mr. Speaker, I was talking about how things are done in Great Britain. Calling elections every five years became a tradition that then turned into a convention.
There is no need for a constitutional amendment or a statutory amendment. All that is required is a ministerial order, perhaps endorsed by a vote in the House of Commons, where the Prime Minister would announce, or have announced when Parliament convened in January 1994, that the next election would be held on the third Monday of October 1998.
Knowing this, all the parties would be on equal footing and could prepare accordingly. No party would have an unfair advantage over the others.
We saw, in 1993 in particular, what can come of an unfair advantage. We all recall the PC leadership race. Mrs. Campbell, who was elected leader of the Conservative Party, chose not to ask for the dissolution of Parliament during the summer of 1993, but rather to try to woo the voters, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayers. All summer long, she travelled throughout Canada with her ministers, all expenses paid by the taxpayers, to get the highest possible visibility. Of course, if she had known what the future held for her, she would probably have asked for the writ of election to be made out a lot sooner.
We also had to campaign during the summer, but our expenses were paid not by the taxpayers but by our own political party. The other political parties in this House had to do the same thing, meaning they had to follow the Prime Minister wherever she travelled and provide all the proper answers, but we had no control at all on the time the writ was to be made.
The writ of election was finally made out on September 8, 1993. That is when a new election campaign began. We could say that, from May 1993 to October 25, 1993, we were in a perpetual election campaign.
Obviously, something is not working.
Bill C-250 may not be the appropriate response, but I believe it deserves to be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for further study.
If Americans, for 210 years now, have been able to live with the fact that on the Tuesday of the first week of November, every two years for the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate, and every four years for the President, there is an election at a fixed date, if they have managed to do that with the results that can been seen, and knowing that it does not disrupt political life, we can examine, at least, how to blend both systems in such a way that will allow us to maintain responsible government as well as fairness for political parties during election campaigns.
Mr. Dick Harris (Prince George-Bulkley Valley, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster has brought forward, as he has many times since coming to Parliament in 1993, a very logical and very well thought out and sensible bill, Bill C-250, which will provide for fixed elections to be held every four years. This is not a new idea. It is a new idea for Canada perhaps but in many other countries they have fixed elections. They work very well. As a matter of fact, one can find little fault with that formula. As a contrast I am going to outline some of the faults that we can find with the current formula what we operate under in Canada with regard to elections.
This bill also provides that byelections must be held within two months of a seat's becoming vacant in Canada. That again is very logical and sensible. Too often we have seen for one reason or another that a seat has become vacant and has been vacant for a considerable length of time before a byelection was held and most often until it was held most conveniently to the government of the day. In that time the people in that constituency have been without
representation in this House. That is not a good practice to have in Canada. After all, we are as MPs duty bound to ensure that our constituents are well represented in Parliament and therefore a seat should not remain vacant for a period of time longer than two months.
The other thing that is important about this bill is that this bill would be the first step to begin the process of shattering the near dictatorial powers which are enjoyed by a cabinet in our parliamentary system. As things now stand, and there is no difference in this Parliament with a Liberal cabinet, the Liberal cabinet sets the legislative agenda. The Liberal cabinet, as we have the case in this Parliament, also tells the Liberal backbenchers how to vote. That same Liberal cabinet, as in this government, also ensures the obedience of backbench members by doling out goodies to those same MPs if they simply do as they are told. These goodies can include committee chairs, trips abroad or parliamentary secretary positions.
While cabinet enjoys these powers, it also enjoys the powers of calling a general election when it chooses. This is very unusual when we stop to think about it. The governing party, the party with the majority in the House with all the power and all the resources, has the ability in this country to call an election when it is most advantageous to it.
Certainly incumbency has some benefits and brings some benefits with it but this is an extreme benefit for a sitting government, to be able to call an election whenever from a political point of view it is most advantageous to it.
Andrew Coyne pointed out in an article in the Ottawa Citizen: ``We would not trust the governing party alone to set electoral boundaries or to count votes. Yet it is fro some reason accepted as normal democratic procedure that the government of the day should time the election for its own purposes''. Those benefits are in every sense extreme and an impediment to true democracy in this country.
I want to touch on some other things because curtailing this power of the government and the cabinet should be only one step in our path to parliamentary reform. Canadians have been asking for greater accountability within their highest political institutions. Certainly the Canadian people are very cynical, very distrustful of politicians. It has been because there has been this profound lack of accountability within the highest level of government in the land.
Bill C-250 would help restore accountability but so would other measures such as freer votes, citizens' initiatives, referendums and recall. As members know, the electorate for the most part feels sort of left out of the democratic process. They feel that democracy occurs for them only once every four or five years as the government pleases. That is when they have a chance to cast their vote for the party that is representing what their greatest concerns are, or the party that they can associate with as having the same type of thinking. That only happens once every four or five years.
It is too often in this country-and we have seen it with this Liberal government-that a party will go out and campaign on certain issues and get the people's confidence. We saw it during the 1993 election in particular on the GST issue when the Liberal candidates went around the country and told people that they would scrap, kill and abolish the GST. The Prime Minister himself on radio talk shows and on television said he would kill the GST, that he hated it. Many of the current cabinet ministers have said the same thing. When they got in the position of government, they refused to fulfil the promises they made to the people of Canada. They said: ``We never said that. If you had simply read our red book, you would have seen that we never said that''.
Let us remember that Liberal candidates from all across the country talked to hundreds, possibly millions of Canadian voters and told them verbally that they were going to kill the GST. Yet they only printed 100,000 red books so how would the Canadian people know?
My point is that Canadians do not have an opportunity to hold the government accountable between elections. That is why we think referendums, citizens initiatives and recall should be part of parliamentary reform. Instituting some of the reforms I just mentioned would go a long way to restoring accountability in this place. They would allow Canadians to actively participate in the workings of their government, not just once every four years but all the time. As their representatives we should be committed to parliamentary reform in order to restore the confidence that we would like to have from the Canadian people.
Bill C-250 would also return a measure of fairness in our election campaigns. As it now stands, opposition parties must be prepared for an election virtually at any time. The opposition parties of course are at the mercy of the government and the shortening of the writ period to 37 days leaves them in even a more precarious position. Opposition parties have just over a month to get their message out and their campaigns up and running. The government has the advantage of knowing for months before an election is called exactly when the date will be.
Bill C-250, by introducing fixed election dates, would restore fairness to our electoral system by levelling the playing field. All parties would know that an election would be held every four years on the third Monday in October. Not only would Bill C-250 create fairness within our system, it would also produce some tremendous cost savings.
In closing, I ask that all members see the logic in this bill, do the right thing and support it.
Mr. Pat O'Brien (London-Middlesex, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in addressing this private members' bill, I would first like to turn to some of the comments from the Reform member opposite who just spoke. I will address three or four of his points and try to clarify what are some obvious misunderstandings.
The member spoke to the issue of accountability in government. I would remind him if he has not had the opportunity to study how the American system works that there the separation of the three branches of government virtually insulates the president from any accountability in the legislative branch whatsoever.
The president of the United States is never in the Congress except at their invitation. He is not, like the Prime Minister of Canada who is present daily in the House of Commons, in the legislative branch daily along with his ministers fielding questions from opposition parties.
We have in the parliamentary system the greatest possible degree of accountability of any democratic system in the world. For the member to raise that issue is simply for him to have a misunderstanding about our system and how accountable it is vis-à-vis the congressional system for example.
I was reaching to see the relevance of some of the member's comments, but I guess he tied them in just enough to stay on top. The Reform member brought the GST into the debate and the fact that our party had only printed 100,000 red books. He asked how could we expect Canadians to understand what we said in writing on the GST.
I welcome that comment and this is why. In January I held two town hall meetings in my riding. I knew this issue would come up, which it did. I shared with the people my own flyer which I distributed door to door in my own riding. It was a one page flyer, not a hundred page red book. It was a one page flyer which I personally took to their homes. The flyer spoke to the issue of the GST. It said that this party would harmonize the GST, that we would replace it with a tax that was fairer and simpler.
It is an absolute red herring for the member to comment that because we had a limited number of red books our electorate could not be expected to know our stand on the GST. Any responsible member and all the colleagues on my side of the House campaigned responsibly and took their own literature to the doors of the constituents they were seeking to represent. They took the constituents' questions at their doorsteps.
The Reform member also spoke to the issue that the opposition now has a very limited time to get its message across under the 36-day campaign period which has just been passed by the parties in the House of Commons. I would submit that if the opposition parties are relying strictly on the campaign period to explain their proposals to the people, their alternate visions of what the government should be in this country, then they are totally misunderstanding what the House of Commons is all about. They should be putting forth that message and those concepts day after day in the House of Commons.
I have been very disappointed to see how badly the Reform Party uses question period. It gets hung up on irrelevant issues. Day after day it fails to take maximum benefit of question period. There have been many days when I and other colleagues of mine on this side of the House would have loved to have had the opportunity to be in opposition just for a day. Then we could fire some more relevant questions which would liven up the debate. Question period has been pathetically used by the Reform Party and frankly the record speaks for itself. The toughest and most relevant questions have often come from the Liberal members, as our own ministers are well aware.
The Reform member failed to mention the fact that shortening the election campaign period to 36 days will save the Canadian taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. The creation of a permanent voters list will save millions and millions of dollars.
Maybe he does not know Canadian history but he failed to note that the 47-day campaign period goes back to the last century when leaders travelled by train, when we did not have the advantage of television, when we did not have jet travel. Everyone who has been involved in a federal election campaign knows that the public basically tunes in during the last 10 days or two weeks. The interest becomes higher at that point, so there is no need for a 47-day campaign.
To move to the issue of this private members' bill and to fixed dates for elections, I think it is a well intentioned but simplistic idea. This is not the United States. It is not a congressional system where we can fix the dates easily.
One idea I have not heard in this debate is that the Governor General of Canada does not have to grant the Prime Minister a dissolution. There is the right of the Governor General, which has been used in this country in the past but not without some controversy, to say: ``I reject your reason for calling an election. I will not dissolve the House of Commons. If you are not prepared to carry on, I will call on another party to form the government''. No one has brought that into this debate.
The idea that any government or any prime minister could frivolously, strictly for political advantage, call an unwarranted election simply does not bear scrutiny in a reading of Canadian history. I would invite the previous speaker to look up the King-Byng crisis if he does not know to what I refer. It has not been done lately by a governor general but it is a power that he does have and can use if he feels that there is a frivolous call for an election by a prime minister.
The system we have has served us very well for 130 years. It has been responsibly used by prime ministers of different political stripes. I would submit that we are not the United States. I am not anxious to see an Americanization of our system. Quite frankly, I think some of that has happened with our supreme court which I for one am not very excited about. I do not think we want to further Americanize our parliamentary system of government by these fixed dates for elections.
I come from a municipal government background. Fixed dates work well at the municipal level. However, that is not the case here at the federal level. I would submit that our system of leaving the responsibility to the prime minister and having that person and his party answer to the ultimate judge of the propriety of an election ought to be the Canadian electorate. They can very well determine if the election was warranted or not.
The system has served us very well for 130 years. I submit it will continue to serve us very well. While I know the bill by the member of the Reform Party is well-intentioned, I cannot support it.
Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I see I do not have much time, but I am supportive of the bill that has been introduced by my colleague.
In my view, this is a non-partisan issue. I am surprised to hear that it has raised a few voices on the other side speaking against it. The last speaker has just said that municipal governments have used this system and it has worked well there. I suggest that it can work well in the federal Parliament as well.
I know that this has been a long-time interest of my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster. The theory is that fixed election dates introduce an element of fairness, more certainty, more cost effectiveness and more independence by the MPs.
We are all in favour of reform in a number of parliamentary areas to try to make MPs feel like they are more involved in the process, have more power in committees and have more free votes. I think that is what we are striving for. We are trying to represent our constituents to the best of our ability but sometimes the process has been in our way.
The previous member talked about the need to change the election time from 47 days to 36 days and about why that was necessary. That a system that was used when people travelled by train. I suggest that the system we are using today for elections that can be called by the Prime Minister at his whim is in the same category. We need to move forward. It introduces more certainty into the system. I would support it.
I would like to quote from an article in the Montreal Gazette by Andrew Coyne on February 11, 1997. It is interesting that he has raised the same issue. He is asking why the Prime Minister should go to the polls after a little more than three years. I will read the quote:
But I have a more fundamental question: why should it be up to him? Canada is one of the few democracies that still leaves it up to the government of the day to decide when elections should be called-
We would not trust the governing party alone to set electoral boundaries, or to count the votes. Yet it is accepted as normal democratic procedure that it should time the election to its own purposes at the zenith of its popularity-In most other democracies, elections are governed by a set timetable agreed upon and understood well in advance, rather than the Prime Minister's biorhythms.
This is popularly associated with presidential systems, like the United States and France, but there's no reason it could not apply to the parliamentary democracies as well: the existing five-year limit on the life of any Parliament, within which time new elections must be held, might be turned into a regular appointment.He makes the argument why this could be case.
The provincial election is on in Alberta right now and the election date is March 11. In my part of the world that could be minus 35 or 40 Celsius. I know that the politicians out campaigning are having a bit of a difficult time let alone some of the people who are travelling to the meetings to hear their potential elected representatives. I suggest that in a country like Canada October would be a good time and I see every reason for supporting the idea of changing to fixed election dates.
I appreciate participating in this debate. I think that we should look at this as a non-partisan issue.
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Peace River will have six minutes left if he wishes to use it the next time.
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
The House stands adjourned until Monday, March 3, at 11 a.m.
(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)