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37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 010

CONTENTS

Friday, February 9, 2001

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VResumption of debate on address in reply
VMr. Mauril Bélanger

. 1010

. 1015

. 1020

. 1025

VMs. Marlene Catterall
VMotion
VMr. Preston Manning
VMr. Ken Epp

. 1030

VMr. Yvan Loubier

. 1035

. 1040

VMr. Mac Harb

. 1045

VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1050

. 1055

VMr. John Cannis
VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VSOUTH EASTHOPE TOWNSHIP
VMr. John Richardson

. 1100

VGRAIN TRANSPORTATION
VMr. Brian Fitzpatrick
VEATING DISORDER AWARENESS WEEK
VMrs. Carolyn Parrish
VBLACK HISTORY MONTH
VMr. Bernard Patry
VWINTERLUDE 2001
VMr. Peter Goldring
VST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY
VMr. John Maloney

. 1105

VHEART MONTH
VMs. Monique Guay
VWHITE CANE WEEK
VMs. Colleen Beaumier
VTHE SENATE
VMr. James Moore
VGOVERNMENT ON LINE
VMs. Hélène Scherrer
VHEALTH
VMs. Libby Davies
VPALESTINIANS
VMr. Mark Assad

. 1110

VREGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold
VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VMr. Jeannot Castonguay
VHOCKEY
VMr. Peter MacKay
VDIABETES
VMr. Mac Harb
VHUMAN RIGHTS
VMr. Deepak Obhrai

. 1115

VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VETHICS COUNSELLOR
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. Herb Gray

. 1120

VMr. Scott Reid
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Scott Reid
VHon. Herb Gray
VTRADE
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron

. 1125

VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Bill Casey
VHon. Ralph Goodale

. 1130

VEQUALIZATION PROGRAM
VMr. Norman Doyle
VHon. Paul Martin
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMs. Val Meredith
VHon. Lawrence MacAulay
VMs. Val Meredith
VHon. Lawrence MacAulay
VTRADE
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VMr. Pat O'Brien
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Lyle Vanclief

. 1135

VHEATING FUEL REBATE
VMr. John Williams
VHon. Paul Martin
VMrs. Betty Hinton
VHon. Paul Martin
VETHICS COUNSELLOR
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Don Boudria
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Don Boudria
VHEATING FUEL REBATE
VMr. Ken Epp

. 1140

VHon. Paul Martin
VMr. Philip Mayfield
VHon. Paul Martin
VINTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION
VMrs. Sue Barnes
VMr. Eugène Bellemare
VHOUSING
VMs. Libby Davies
VMr. Paul Szabo
VMs. Libby Davies

. 1145

VMr. Paul Szabo
VEQUALIZATION PROGRAM
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VHon. Paul Martin
VGUN CONTROL
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz
VMr. John Maloney
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz

. 1150

VMr. John Maloney
VOIL HEATING PRICES
VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VHon. Paul Martin
VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VHon. Paul Martin
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. Myron Thompson
VHon. Don Boudria
VMr. Myron Thompson
VHon. Don Boudria
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMs. Beth Phinney
VMrs. Karen Redman

. 1155

VCORRECTIONAL SERVICE CANADA
VMr. Kevin Sorenson
VHon. Lawrence MacAulay
VMr. Kevin Sorenson
VHon. Lawrence MacAulay
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
VMr. Mark Assad
VYOUNG OFFENDERS ACT
VMr. Murray Calder
VMr. John Maloney

. 1200

VETHICS COUNSELLOR
VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. Herb Gray
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. David Anderson
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VPRIVILEGE
VOral Question Period
VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1205

VMr. Stéphane Bergeron
VMr. Jacques Saada

. 1210

VPOINTS OF ORDER
VEthics Counsellor
VMr. Peter MacKay
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VCONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT
VBill C-255. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Jay Hill

. 1215

VYOUNG OFFENDERS ACT
VBill C-256. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Peter MacKay
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-257. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Peter MacKay
VWITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT
VBill C-258. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Jay Hill
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMr. Jacques Saada
VMotion

. 1220

VPETITIONS
VHealth Care
VMs. Libby Davies
VHerbs and Vitamins
VMs. Libby Davies
VTrade
VMs. Libby Davies
VGST
VMr. Art Hanger
VParental Rights
VMr. Art Hanger
VCriminal Code
VMr. Art Hanger
VBill C-23
VMr. Art Hanger
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Roy Cullen
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VResumption of debate on Address in Reply
VMr. Réal Ménard
VMr. Preston Manning

. 1225

VMr. John Cannis

. 1230

. 1235

VMr. Mark Assad

. 1240

. 1245

. 1250

VPRIVILEGE
VOral Question Period
VHon. Don Boudria
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron

. 1255

VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VResumption of Debate on Address in Reply
VMr. Antoine Dubé
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1300

VMr. Jay Hill

. 1305

. 1310

VMr. John Bryden
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1315

VMr. John Williams

. 1320

. 1325

VMr. Roy Cullen

. 1330

VMr. Richard Harris
VMr. John Bryden

. 1335

. 1340

. 1345

. 1350

VMr. Preston Manning

. 1355

VMr. Réal Ménard
VMr. Richard Harris

. 1400

VMr. Ken Epp

. 1405

VMs. Libby Davies

. 1410

. 1415

VDivision deemed demanded and deferred
VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 010


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, February 9, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 +

[Translation]

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Mr. Mauril Bélanger (Ottawa—Vanier, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to make a few comments on the throne speech, the general orientation of the government and my own initiatives, those which I had the opportunity to present to the voters of Ottawa—Vanier in the last general election and which comprise the mandate I received from them.

First, I think it is appropriate to do as all my colleagues have done and thank the people of Ottawa—Vanier for the trust they have placed in me for the third time. This was the third election in the riding within six years. Two general elections and one byelection within six years is a pretty heavy task. In this connection, I believe I have a duty as well to thank all the people who provided me with active support in those three campaigns, the volunteers who play an essential part in the democratic process of this country.

This year we are making a special effort to spotlight volunteerism, and it is very important to keep in mind that democracy depends in large part on volunteers. Without the volunteers in all ridings of this country, in all parties, this country would not have the successful democracy that it enjoys. I wish to particularly thank those who helped me in this campaign.

[English]

As well, I take this opportunity to congratulate my adversaries in the last campaign. They were honourable people. All the candidates from all parties, including myself, whether they were major parties or those that were perhaps less well known, were honourable people with exemplary conduct. I was quite proud to be part of the process in Ottawa—Vanier.

[Translation]

In the past two weeks, I have had some difficult moments, personally. There were deaths everyone has heard about, because the events were very public and, in some cases, very controversial. In each instance, people I know were involved. This morning, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution these people have made.

The first instance was a tragedy. It was the case of Catherine MacLean, who died suddenly as the result of a road accident, when she was struck by a car driven by a Russian diplomat. We must continue to press on this side of the House, as must all parties, for the recodification, if I can put it that way, of the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity.

I have said it before, and I repeat it again. I doubt very much that the concept of diplomatic immunity was created to enable people to circumvent the law of host countries, as appears to be the case here. We heard there were other deplorable incidents, as the matter came up in the House this week. I therefore strongly urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Canada to seize the opportunities presented to them to update the Vienna convention, which is some 40 years old, to ensure the full effect of the law is felt, especially in the case of tragic events such as we have seen.

 

. 1010 + -

I would also like to extend my best wishes for a full recovery to Catherine Doré, who remains in hospital. She was with Ms. MacLean on that fateful Saturday afternoon walk.

[English]

Second, there was the funeral earlier this week of Carol Anne Letheren, president of the Canadian Olympic committee. I had occasion to work with her in the preparation of the file for the modernization of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. She was of great help to me on that project. She was a great lady. Again this was a life cut short, and it is a great tragedy. I express my deep regret to the members of her family.

A colleague of ours will be buried tomorrow in St. Boniface. David Iftody died in an unusual way, and again this was a life cut short. David was, dare I say it, a card game buddy. We had good times. He was also a parliamentary secretary when I was. We helped each other out. We supported each other. We had good arguments. It is an incredible tragedy that a man of that age in such fine form and good spirits, with much more to contribute, would disappear from us. I hope to be able to attend that funeral tomorrow to pay my respects to the members of his family.

[Translation]

The last person I want to mention is Mr. Charpentier. As we are speaking, his funeral is being held here in Ottawa. Mr. Charpentier died this week at the age of 103. His was a full, extraordinary life in the service of his country, his community and his fellow citizens.

I had the honour of supporting the efforts of Pierre Bergeron, the editor of the daily Le Droit, when the Assemblée parlementaire de la francophonie awarded the Ordre de la Pléiade to Mr. Charpentier, when he turned 100. The ceremony took place in the newsroom of Le Droit, for which Mr. Charpentier had worked.

I am anxious to read the book that a friend, François-Xavier Simard, is writing on Mr. Charpentier's life. It should be released in the coming year.

I am taking this opportunity to refer to the lives of these four people, whom I got to know, if only a little bit, but who nevertheless had an influence on my work here as a parliamentarian.

[English]

We have a renewed mandate based on a commitment called the red book, which was made available widely in print form and even more widely in electronic form during the last general election. I of course campaigned on it, as did all my colleagues on this side of the House, and all those candidates who did not succeed did present that option to the Canadian electorate.

That option has been retained as the one favoured for the future orientation of our country. This is the sixth day of debate on the Speech from the Throne, which was in great part a reflection of that campaign pledge. We have heard numerous comments. I will not go into detail on the major items of priority. As we all know, they deal with health, the necessity of innovation, lowering taxes and debt, education and early childhood development. There are many other items such as our environment and our parks. These have all been talked about. They are widely known.

I will highlight a few that have perhaps not been dealt with in the same detail. I will also highlight five actions that I presented to the electorate of Ottawa—Vanier which I think mesh quite well with what is in the Speech from the Throne and are of importance not only to the people in Ottawa—Vanier but to those within this region and in eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

The first of these is the need for a ring road and bridges crossing our river into western Quebec. This is important for a number of reasons.

 

. 1015 + -

[Translation]

Building a ring road around the national capital region is very important to ensure balanced economic development. We all know that the western part of our region is growing rapidly. Before long, the road network for Ottawa and the region will no longer be adequate because of that growth and will no longer meet the needs of the population.

There is only one main east-west highway, known as the Queensway. There is a need for a ring road, which would branch off from the Queensway west of Ottawa, continue south of Ottawa's international airport and reconnect with the provincial road system to the east of the city.

Later on, two bridges would be built and this ring road could be completed in western Quebec. This would truly ensure balanced growth in our region, much of it probably centred within the bounds of this ring road. We could thus protect our agricultural heritage, something we must not neglect. In addition, we must make sure that the three airports in our region, the ones in Ottawa, Gatineau and Carp, are connected to this ring road.

All of this would help to get the huge trucks out of the downtown core in the nation's capital. I think that any self-respecting city in North America, Europe or wherever has this concept of a ring road to allow heavy truck traffic to bypass the downtown area, which is not the case now in Ottawa.

We must not forget the safety aspect. In recent years, a few trucks have spilled their cargoes on the highway that runs through the downtown core of the nation's capital. Fortunately, these cargoes were not hazardous and contained no toxic substances. One would really have to be irresponsible to think that there will be no accidents or ecological or other disasters that might pose a threat to the public in this region in the future. It is important that these hazardous goods be transported outside the downtown area, ideally on a ring road. That was my first point.

The second is the Rockcliffe military base.

[English]

The Rockcliffe airbase is a 330 acre parcel of land which is in the heart of the riding. It is a glorious location. There is an opportunity here for public good.

A few years ago the Department of National Defence declared it surplus to its needs. There has been an ongoing process of preparing it to be sold. I have indicated repeatedly, with the support of my community, that I am opposed to the disposal of that land for building a residential subdivision. We have an opportunity, because of the proximity of the Aviation Museum and the National Research Council which is contiguous to this piece of land, to create something of much more importance to the economic development of the east end of the city. That is one thing I wish to focus a lot of effort on during this mandate.

A third project which has been under some preparation by a number of groups, such as the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority and the Kingston economic development officers, is the cleanup of the Rideau River from one end to the other. It is a rather massive project and is one which will require co-operation among the Government of Canada, the government of Ontario and many of the municipalities along the Rideau system.

We all know the importance of clean water and having a water system that is alive. We know the importance of having ecological biodiversity, a safe water supply and an area that can also be used for recreational purposes.

The scope of the project is now pretty well established. Over the next number of years, I hope that we would see co-operation in a project, which could well take a decade but is of some importance and significance to eastern Ontario and the entire St. Lawrence and Ottawa River system.

 

. 1020 + -

[Translation]

Fourth, we have linguistic duality. Respect for that duality must begin here in the capital of Canada. I believe it is absolutely essential for this capital city to reflect the duality of Canada, and for it to officially recognize both English and French.

The municipal council will have the responsibility of determining how this will be done, but I trust that when application is made to the government of Ontario, when it is informed of the wishes of the people of this city, this being a local decision, it will agree to recognize the benefits of the use of both languages in this capital.

This recognition and respect of linguistic duality does not stop there. It must be present throughout the federal administration. I am most relieved to see that the government's intention was set out very explicitly in the Speech from the Throne. I hope to be able to contribute, through work in the House and in its committees, to the implementation of that desire to ensure that there will be a place for French everywhere in Canada and a place as well for English-speaking citizens everywhere in Canada.

This is an absolutely vital initiative, for it relates to the very essence of our country. It is fundamental and essential to the future of this country. Once again, let me say how relieved I am to see that the government intends to address this.

[English]

The other item I had mentioned flows totally into the government's initiatives in terms of research and development and innovation. I believe we must strive to foster a better scientific culture in the country. It is without doubt that we have various areas of science that will be impacting on society in a major way.

We are already seeing on a daily basis developments in the field of genetics. With all its potential and with all of its dark side, government must have the ability to establish a framework within which we can all feel comfortable, yet pursue knowledge and the positive use of that knowledge. That is just one field.

It is the same in the field of nanotechnology. Last year alone the American government put $500 million into the institute for nanotechnology. We have yet to really move on those lines. It is an incredibly important technology in all fields, not just medicine, and I sense that sometimes we lag in that.

The same thing can be said for artificial intelligence. I am not trying to be funny or anything, but there are accelerating developments in that field. It will have a significant impact on all of our lives in the way we conduct ourselves, in the way we interact, in the way we do business and perhaps in the way democracy works. Yet sometimes I sense that the population of Canada is not engaged in those fields and is not aware of the importance of what is coming at us. It behooves us all to try to foster a greater scientific culture and perhaps use some of the mechanisms of the House.

I had hoped at some point that we might see a full-fledged standing committee on science and technology. I would be encouraged if we started with a subcommittee of industry. However, in summary, the whole notion of the scientific culture and the importance of science and technology to our society cannot be underestimated.

Those are some of the elements I had hoped to work on. I put them forward to my electorate and I feel comfortable that I have a mandate to work on those.

I wish to point out that a provincial colleague, Brian Coburn, the member for the riding next door to me, was elevated to the cabinet of Ontario as minister of agriculture. I am very happy to see that because on some of these projects we will be working together on in great co-operation, the ring road in particular. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my friend Brian for his appointment yesterday to the Ontario cabinet.

With all of the commitments in the red book being put forward in the Speech from the Throne, with these additional ones and with the need to address the housing situation in our community, we have a lot of work to do in the next years. I pledge to my constituents, as I did on the Saturday morning of January 27, 2001 when I was sworn in front of 400 of them, that I will do the best I can to serve them faithfully. I thank them very much for this opportunity.

 

. 1025 + -

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Excuse me for interrupting the debate at this point. I have a motion that I think you will find there is unanimous consent for and that all parties in the House are interested in having passed. I move:  

    That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, all questions necessary to dispose of the main motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on Tuesday, February 13, 2001.

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his re-election and on his remarks this morning.

One phrase that he used, with which I would certainly be in agreement, is the need for creating a greater scientific culture, starting right in the House. We do not make the effort that we should to bring science to bear on many of the issues we are confronted with.

I would ask the member, in light of the interest in creating a scientific culture, would he support the government creating a specific ministry of science and technology, rather than having that buried in the industry department? Would he support the creation of a separate standing committee to deal with science and technology issues? Would he support the idea of a chief scientist who was accountable to parliament, somewhat in the same way as the auditor general?

Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Mr. Speaker, my colleagues on this side of the House know that I support the notion of a standing committee on science and technology. There is no doubt about that.

I have had debates with some of our colleagues. I believe that the notion of the creation of new committees might have been broached during discussions between the House leaders. I am not absolutely certain, however, because I am not privy to those discussions.

I would hope that somehow someone in the House would see fit to create a standing committee on science and technology. From that could flow debates on whether or not a science officer or a chief scientist would be required and how to structure it, if that was the consensus emerging from the committee. Also flowing from that could be how we conduct research, how we attribute budgets, how we do not seem to have enough cohesion in the approach between departments and how the rate of innovation is important to our economic well-being and, therefore, our own personal well-being.

I would absolutely support that. I talked to my colleagues about it in the recent weeks. I would hope that some day sooner than later we would see a permanent standing committee for science and technology in the House of Commons, as we see it in many jurisdictions around the world.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I too listened with interest to the member's speech. I noticed that about 85% of his speech had to do with municipal government. Then, he talked peripherally about the values in the House.

He mentioned one thing that really intrigued me. When he talked about drinking water, he threw in the word ecodiversity. I was rather confused. My idea of drinking water is that there is not too much ecodiversity in it. I would rather it be pure water. He may want to check the record of what he said and maybe rethink his position on that.

I have one question for the member. We feel in the House that members of parliament are too marginalized. Does he have any comment on the government's very tepid statement in the throne speech on improving the way in which members of parliament can do their work? I would like his comment on that.

 

. 1030 + -

Mr. Mauril Bélanger: Mr. Speaker, biodiversity is an essential component to the health of a river system. If we want to have good, clean drinking water we must have rivers that are alive and that have a great deal of biodiversity in them. That is the case in the Rideau River. It is actually getting better. More species seem to be recovering and re-establishing themselves in the river, which leads to clean water, believe it or not.

I am not a biologist. Therefore I will not get caught up in all the details. I cannot get caught up in them because I do not know them. There is no doubt that a dead water system will not produce clean, drinkable water. We need a river system that is alive and has biodiversity so that it can regenerate itself.

I have not commented, either in the House or publicly, on the debates regarding parliamentary reform and so forth. Sometimes some of the criticism is a reflection of a mindset. I have asked to be here, as all my colleagues have. I fought to be here. No system is perfect. All systems can stand some improvements. I have chosen not to be miserable. I have chosen to work within the system to try to improve it but to use the mechanisms at hand. The one I have chosen to use the most is the committee system.

Colleagues who have sat with me on certain committees know that I have had no difficulty supporting amendments or motions from opposition members, based on their merits, not on party affiliation. We have changed government legislation at committee at least on two occasions significantly and the changes have been approved in the House.

There can be improvements as my colleague suggests, but I disagree with the statement that the system does not work. My experience has been the opposite. If we choose to use the devices, the services, and the resources available to members of parliament, we can effect change. I did not address that issue because it is not uppermost in my mind. I would rather get things done as opposed to whining.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the address in reply to the government's Speech from the Throne.

First off, I would like to thank the voters in Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for the trust they have placed in me once again, by electing me for a third mandate. I will try to represent them with all the vigour and dignity the job requires.

I have nine comments to make on the throne speech. That means I have less than a minute per comment. I will try to do so quickly, but these are things I consider vital.

The throne speech has once again set out the general policies the government intends to follow in its dealings with Quebec and with the citizens of this country.

First off, there still was no recognition of the federal government's flagrant tax imbalance with Quebec and the other provinces in Canada. The money is in Ottawa. The surpluses expected this year will exceed $20 billion, and the needs in health care, education and other areas are to be found in Quebec and the other provinces. There is no concern about striking a tax balance in Canada. That is most disappointing.

We would have preferred to have the Minister of Finance recognize the mistakes of the past and, acknowledge that when he lowered income taxes he targeted first and foremost the very high end incomes, so much so that in the latest two budgets, people earning over $250,000 in Canada, probably not most taxpayers, received a $9,000 tax cut this year, whereas families earning about $40,000 received a $300 tax cut.

 

. 1035 + -

This is outrageous, particularly since the anticipated surpluses for the coming years could have been used to provide immediate relief to families with an income of $40,000 or less, particularly single parent families with two dependent children. With that money, these families might not have had to pay any federal tax and the government would have created a balance in society, instead of granting tax reductions that primarily benefit the millionaires in this country.

We were also very disappointed not to find anything for the unemployed who, over the years, have been hit very hard by the government. Considering that only 43% of the unemployed are covered by the new employment insurance program, one would have expected the government to make adjustments and use the annual surpluses of $6 billion to $7 billion to come up with a much improved program for the jobless.

We are not talking about cosmetic changes such as those proposed in the bill, which only use $500 million per year, out of the surpluses of $7 billion, and which give to the federal government the power required to control the fund's surpluses, to legitimize the robbery of the money in these surpluses that has been taking place over the past four years.

Third, we would have liked the government to recognize the consensus in Quebec on parental leave and to transfer the necessary funding to the government of Quebec, so that it can implement its parental leave policy, which is much more generous and universal than the federal government's policy.

Fourth, we see in the throne speech the government's perpetual desire for confrontation with Quebec. For example, there is the new citizens' council on the quality of health care provided by the Government of Quebec. It is unacceptable that the federal government tell the Quebec government what to do in the health field when this is an exclusive provincial jurisdiction.

It is always this policy of confrontation which drives the federal government in its relations with the government of Quebec.

Fifth, we would have liked to see mention in the throne speech of the fact that Quebec has been enforcing the Young Offenders Act the way it was intended. Quebec is a success story with respect to the reintegration of young offenders into society. The success rate it achieves with its approach is the envy of many. It would have been nice to see this acknowledged in the throne speech.

If the minister really has the courage she claims to have to impose a new young offenders policy, she should have imposed the policy being used in Quebec throughout Canada, instead of the brutal policy of sending 14 year olds to prison.

Mr. Speaker, if it were your son or daughter who made a mistake and was liable to be charged under the new legislation introduced by the minister, with the support of the Canadian Alliance, I think that you would stop and think twice before giving this bill your support.

We would have liked to have seen that consensus respected, and this contemptuous treatment of Quebec and young Quebecers avoided.

Sixth, once again we find unacceptable intrusions into the sector of education and early childhood education, to fuel this confrontation with Quebec.

Seventh, we would have expected the government, with more than 20 criminal investigations on its back relating to presumed fraud, particularly within Human Resources Development Canada, to have addressed an important issue in its throne speech: government ethics. Let it agree to carry out its red book promise to have an ethics counsellor, one who is appointed by parliament, answerable to parliament and guided by rules defined by parliament. Instead, we still have an ethics counsellor who reports to the PMO, who says what the Prime Minister wants to hear, because the Prime Minister is the one paying him.

When it comes to government scandal, to undue pressure from ministers or the Prime Minister on crown corporations, when the ethics counsellor tells us there is no problem, he cannot be believed. Why can we not believe him? Because he is on the Prime Minister's payroll. One does not bite the hand that feeds one.

 

. 1040 + -

Will this matter of transparency be one of the fundamental questions for this elitist government once and for all or will it be sidestepped again? Like the House leader of the government said yesterday in the House, will we again be told “We are a government with an incredible record of honesty and integrity”. There has to be some reason for twenty criminal investigations, because such investigations are not carried out for no reason.

We would also have liked to see an announcement of measures to properly deal with cyclical fuel crises. We would have liked to see the government show a bit more compassion for people like the independent truckers who have to deal at various times throughout the year with the major oil companies and the way they set prices.

Let us not beat about the bush. The government should stop telling us there is no proof of collusion between major oil companies. One simply has to walk around and look at the prices posted by major oil companies at service stations to realize there is collusion.

The Competition Act is full of loopholes. It must be strengthened. It must have teeth so that major oil companies can be confronted about their actions in the areas of gas and heating oil.

It is time the government gave some teeth to that act, teeth as sharp as those of the sharks called oil companies. In other words, it is time the government assume its responsibilities in that area.

The cheque of $125 did not solve anything. It merely eased the plight of the poor. At least they got that, because when it comes to income tax and social transfers, this government has made huge cuts in recent years. At least they got that cheque.

However, mistakes were made and we cannot accept that some inmates received $125 for heating costs.

The government did not solve anything with that. Oil prices are still rising quickly and so are heating oil bills. We would have liked to see the government take that into consideration.

I will conclude by saying that Canada is being built without Quebec. It is absolutely shameful to see that while the summit of the Americas is going to be held in our national capital of Quebec City, our province is not given a place of choice. Quebecers have pride and at some point they will express it.

Forty five per cent of those who took part in the latest poll support sovereignty without a referendum campaign. This is a significant increase in the support for sovereignty. It means that at the next referendum, Quebecers will decide to leave a country that has no room for them, a Canada that is being built without Quebec and without Quebecers. I can assure the House you that Quebecers will make that decision.

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment.

I take this opportunity to respond to my hon. colleague, whose remarks were interesting in some ways and less so in others. It was interesting when he dealt with the economy, but less so when he started to talk again about Quebec's sovereignty and independence.

As members know, the last referendum was not the first one in Quebec. It was the second or the third. The question has been widely debated, and each time Quebecers came out in favour of the Canadian federation.

I cannot understand. When are we going to stop talking about this issue and deal with the important issues for Quebecers, the economic issues?

I would like my hon. colleague to tell me whether or not the economic situation of Quebecers is much better now than it was ten years ago.

The federal government has already given to the provinces, Quebec included, a great deal of responsibility in several areas. What does my colleague want from the federal government for his province to get Quebec off its back once and for all? You know as well as I do, Mr. Speaker, that Quebecers are quite happy with our way of governing. They are very satisfied with the Canadian situation. They are also quite proud of the Canadian nation and of their French Canadian heritage. Could my colleague answer all these questions?

 

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Mr. Yvan Loubier: Mr. Speaker, in case I forgot to mention it, I will be sharing my time with the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

When are we going to stop talking about sovereignty? Never. So long as it is not a fact, we will keep talking about it. He had better hold on to his hat, as my colleague from Roberval would say, because in the coming months we are going to be talking sovereignty more than ever. He has not understood that Quebecers constitute a people and that the throne speech contains no reference to the existence of a people and a nation in Quebec.

Quebecers are a people. Although people readily speak of a Canadian people, we are not among them. Let him make no mistake. The sovereignty option had climbed in this morning's poll, without anyone talking about it. Does the member know what the percentage was prior to the latest referendum, in 1995, six months before the referendum? There was no talk of sovereignty. It was 37% or 38% tops. After the referendum campaign, it rose to about 50%. We lost by 50,000 votes in the latest referendum. We are at 45% now, and there is no talk of it. Give that a little thought.

Quebecers are proud. They are not crazy. They can see how Canada is being built. They can see that Quebec is being left on the fringe in this building activity. They can also see how incredibly arrogant the government is, that it marches right into Quebec's jurisdictions and that it is destabilizing Quebec's public finances.

People should not imagine, and I think it is important to point this out, that it is easy to manage Quebec's finances when the federal government first slashes transfer payments and then leaves us in a state of perpetual uncertainty. We do not know what it is going to do in the coming years. Now we are looking at a throne speech and upcoming bills that show not a shred of respect for provincial jurisdiction.

How is it possible for two independent bodies to run the same sector effectively? Do we want to sit still while the federal government takes Quebecers for a ride in sectors such as education? Are we going to allow three-quarters of the Canadian population, which lives outside Quebec and is primarily English-speaking, to decide the kind of exams French-speaking students from Quebec should have to write to get into elementary school?

There is a problem somewhere. Over the years we defined the separation of powers and the jurisdictions to be respected. However the federal government is not keeping to its part of the bargain. It is more arrogant than ever. The member is asking me what it will take to shut Quebec up? We are not going to beg the federal government for anything.

The day that Quebecers decide to become a sovereign nation, we will stop handing over the $33 billion in taxes we now pay to the federal government. We will manage this money ourselves and will not get down on our knees to ask the federal government for anything.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your new responsibilities. I want to thank voters in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for putting their trust in me for the third consecutive time. I will do my best to live up to the responsibility they gave me.

Also, I would like to congratulate all the new members of the House, who will undoubtedly work very hard to serve their fellow citizens.

I will expand on what our colleague the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot has said. The Speech from the Throne is disappointing, especially for what it does not say. It is interesting to note that as the government is embarking on its third mandate, two main characteristics come to mind to describe it. First, there is this very contemporary will that would certainly be a source of embarrassment for the likes of Lester B. Pearson, André Laurendeau and other nationalists who believed Quebec was a province unlike the others.

It is rather incredible. The new Liberal members, those from Quebec who sit on the government benches, are going to be faced with a real challenge. I do not doubt they wish to serve Quebec just as I do. However, they will have to say once and for all whether they are comfortable with the idea that Quebec is a province just like the others and that when we talk about Quebec, it is the same as if we were talking about Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland. Are they comfortable with this logic imposed through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which considers that all provinces are equal in fact and in law?

 

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We call this the ideology of egalitarianism. However, what is interesting is that this cannot be possible. We cannot say on the one hand that we wish to have a strong French speaking Quebec in North America and, on the other hand that Quebec is a province like the others.

We cannot on the one hand say that there is a Quebec model with the Mouvement Desjardins, with a social safety net that cannot be found outside Quebec and on the other hand maintain that Quebec is a province like the others. We cannot on the one hand vote on a bill in 1997 that allegedly gives Quebec a veto and that recognizes Quebec as a distinct society and on the other hand deprive Quebec of its full powers in immigration.

I am one of those who believe that in the coming years the sovereignist movement, a democratic movement that has deep roots in the Quebec society, will go on. I remind the House that each time the citizens of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve have had the opportunity to do so, they have voted for sovereignty. It is the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, whom I am pleased to represent here, who for the first time elected a sovereignist member to the national assembly, Robert Burns.

In the coming years, Quebecers will have to face a truth test. This identity confusion being maintained by the federal government cannot go on indefinitely. As I said, Canada is a great country for Canadians. I am convinced we have friends everywhere in Canada and that for those living in English Canada that country deserves to be defended.

However this cannot be the case for a Quebecer. We cannot accept that a province like Quebec, which has its own legal system, a language different from that of the majority, its own history and a desire to live together all these things being the attributes of a nation under international law, to be reduced to the status of an ordinary province.

The government could have recognized the specificity of Quebec in the Speech from the Throne. I see new government members who have been democratically elected. It is quite acceptable in democracy for people to choose between the two main constitutional options: the federalist option and the sovereignist option. The issue must always be settled by the voters, democratically.

Now, why does this government keep saying that Quebec is a distinct society while this statement is never backed up by concrete initiatives? For instance, in the case of parental leave, why is it that the government continues to ignore one of the strongest consensuses in Quebec society? Women's federations, management, unions and consumer associations all agree that there should be only one parental leave system and that it would be easier for the national assembly to improve this system.

As an aside, let me remind hon. members of a letter that the Canadian Conference of Bishops sent to those beginning their third term, as well those beginning their first one. The letter pointed out that during the last campaign the Liberal government indicated that 1.33 million Canadian children, one in five, were living in poverty.

There is no wizardry involved here. If there are children living in poverty, it is because there are families living in poverty. Of course, one way to fight poverty is to increase the parents' disposable income to ensure that those who are not in the workforce can access it and that single parents who want to benefit from a parental leave plan can do so, and be assured that they have the best plan possible.

 

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I hope we can count on the new Quebec MPs on the government side to support one of the most solid consensuses in Quebec society, a consensus on the necessity for the federal government to enter into negotiations to ensure that Quebec national assembly be in charge of parental leave.

Let me say that during my third term I will work on various issues, and that the issue of poverty will always be on my agenda.

I am not forgetting that this is the seventh successive year of economic growth. As parliamentarians, we must realize that economic growth and job creation no longer go hand in hand. Things are not as they were in the 1950s. Economic growth does not mean that every person capable of working can get a job.

This is why over the next few months we, as parliamentarians, will have to be extremely ingenious and courageous in terms of the social policies we want to put forward and the means we want to use to fight poverty.

In a few days, I will introduce an anti-poverty bill aimed at giving to the Canadian Human Rights Commission a new mandate in this area.

In closing, I want to mention that, in a few weeks, we will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of the report tabled in the national assembly by the Bélanger-Campeau commission.

Members will recall that this commission has a special status since, even when the federal Department of Intergovernmental Affairs alludes to it, it recognizes its status as a constituent assembly.

For the first time in Quebec history, the national assembly recognized, through the Bélanger-Campeau commission, its inalienable right to make a partnership offer to English Canada and to achieve sovereignty.

As members of the House of Commons, it will be incumbent upon us on this tenth anniversary to recognize the non-negotiable right of the national assembly to make a partnership offer to the rest of Canada and to lead us toward sovereignty, if that is the wish of a majority of Quebecers.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, will work toward that in full compliance with the democratic principles that have always motivated us.

[English]

Mr. John Cannis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I did not have a chance to congratulate you on your new duties so I take this opportunity to do that.

I listened very carefully to the member. He talked about seven years of continuous economic growth. I was very happy to hear him acknowledging that. He also talked about providing jobs and opportunities.

Could he comment on how we work in the House of Commons in terms labour training programs that we were more than happy to transfer the to the provinces because they knew what programs they needed in their respective provinces. Was that not a good move on the federal government's part?

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, could I reserve my answer for after question period, since we do not have much time and I will need to elaborate on that? If the Chair could give me three or four minutes after question period, I would be most grateful.

The Deputy Speaker: It being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members. Of course the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will have the opportunity to answer this question and possibly others after oral question period.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

SOUTH EASTHOPE TOWNSHIP

Mr. John Richardson (Perth—Middlesex, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to announce that on February 18, 2001, a book launching of South Easthope Township will take place in my riding of Perth—Middlesex.

The book, entitled Country Roads: The Story of South Easthope, is the product of hard work. It took the committee of this project almost four years to collect information about South Easthope, and their hard work and dedication has produced an excellent publication. This publication is a quality hardbound book of about 800 pages, with 1,300 photos and it tells the lives of the people who make up South Easthope.

 

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I congratulate co-chairpersons Lester Wilker and Wilma McCraig, and the editor of the book, Jim Hagerty, for their hard work and dedication. The hard work of farmers, business people, teachers, clergy and residents should also be commended.

*  *  *

GRAIN TRANSPORTATION

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the farmers of eastern Saskatchewan are a long way from traditional ports. The port of Churchill is approximately 800 miles from most delivery points in my riding.

Mr. Justice Estey recommended that competent third parties have access to CP and CN rail systems. Implementing this recommendation would mean that the farmers of eastern Saskatchewan would benefit by having access to the port of Churchill at much reduced freight rates.

Canadian farmers are suffering severely from circumstances beyond their control while the government misses yet another opportunity to help our producers by implementing this recommendation.

I therefore urge the transportation minister to give back to farmers some real control over their industry by opening up the rail lines. Let us help our farmers help themselves by giving them the choice and the opportunity to reduce their costs.

*  *  *

EATING DISORDER AWARENESS WEEK

Mrs. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that February 11 to February 17 is Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

The goal this year is to reduce the prevalence of anorexia, bulimia, extreme dieting and body image problems through a public education program emphasizing the impact of social factors on these disorders.

During the week, information will be provided to Canadians to dispel myths and direct them to appropriate resources. These messages are consistent with Canada's food guide to healthy eating, Canada's physical guide to healthy active living and Health Canada's vitality program, which continue to help Canadians make healthy lifestyle choices.

I congratulate the National Eating Disorder Information Centre for its work on raising awareness of this very serious health concern.

*  *  *

[Translation]

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in 1995, parliament passed a resolution proclaiming February Black History Month.

This annual celebration grew in popularity during the 1960s, as blacks in Canada became increasingly aware of their contribution to Canadian society with the growth of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The Mathieu Da Costa awards program shows the importance the government places on Black History Month.

Historically recognized as the first black person to settle in Canada, Mathieu Da Costa helped the Mi'kmaq and the first French explorers understand each other, thanks to his skill as an interpreter.

The awards program is aimed at encouraging primary and secondary school students, aged 9 to 19, to explore the contributions persons of various cultural and racial origins have made to Canada's development.

In this, Black History Month, I hope celebrations are lively and I offer my thanks for their contribution to Canada's culture.

*  *  *

[English]

WINTERLUDE 2001

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton Centre-East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, having worked in the Alberta oil patch I can attest to the indomitable character and determination of the many workers who toil on the rigs of Kenting, Brelco, Nabors and many more. These men and women work in all types of weather, far from the comfort of family, friends and home. It is cold, lonely work on remote, isolated frontier land to bring warmth to Canada's homes.

Today on Parliament Hill, three Edmontonians are charged with the task of carving Alberta's character and spirit into snow. William Purnel, Kelly Davies and Shane Lewandowski are proudly representing Alberta in the Winterlude 2001 snow sculpture competition. Their sculpture, Going Steady, embodies the industrial spirit of all Alberta workers, a spirit represented by members of parliament who too come from all walks of working pasts.

I wish our artists the best of luck and thank them for a wonderful effort.

*  *  *

ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY

Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway plays a vital role in servicing the marine transportation needs of North America's mining, steel, pulp and paper, agriculture and construction industries in the movement of over 250 million tonnes of raw material, finished and semi-finished goods and products to domestic and international markets in a cost efficient, safe and environmentally friendly mode.

The waterway is a major component of Canada's transportation network, being a critical link between east and west, between Canada and the United States, between supply and production, and between potential and prosperity. The waterway's importance extends beyond the Atlantic coast to the western shores of Lake Superior, impacting communities in all regions and people in all walks of life, including those in my riding of Erie—Lincoln.

I challenge all levels of government to work in partnership in the development of a strategic plan to improve the competitiveness and viability of this world class marine trade route.

*  *  *

 

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[Translation]

HEART MONTH

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month, the month in which heart foundation volunteers call at people's homes across the country to collect money in support of research into heart disease.

This month is dear to my heart because, like thousands of others, I too have lost someone dear to heart disease.

In a few days it will be the fifth anniversary of the death of my husband Michel, who died of one of these diseases. This is why my children, Julie and Patrick, and I are asking the people of Quebec and Canada from the bottom of our heart to be generous when a volunteer from the heart foundation calls at their door.

Michel, you will always have your special place within our hearts.

*  *  *

[English]

WHITE CANE WEEK

Ms. Colleen Beaumier (Brampton West—Mississauga, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the many volunteers and supporters of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and to the nearly 100,000 Canadians who are visually impaired.

Since 1947 the first week of February has been designated White Cane Week. During this week the CNIB and its volunteers and supporters across the country conduct programs to raise public awareness about the challenges of blind and visually impaired Canadians as they strive to function independently in a sighted world.

Today the CNIB must respond to an increasing demand for its services as Canadians live longer and experience age related vision loss.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating members of the CNIB for their achievements and in extending our best wishes for a successful White Cane Week.

*  *  *

THE SENATE

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister visits China, in part to promote democracy in that country. On Tuesday, B.C. Senator Ray Perrault retired, giving the Prime Minister a golden opportunity to practise democracy at home.

A replacement senator could easily be elected through B.C.'s senatorial selection act, which encourages the election of senators. This senate vote could be held in conjunction with B.C.'s upcoming provincial election, which must be held by the end of May.

To prove his commitment to democracy, the Prime Minister needs only to tell British Columbians that he will appoint the senator they elect. Respecting democracy at home will clearly make him more worthy to talk about democracy abroad.

With the mechanism in place and an electoral window on the horizon, there seems to be no reason why B.C.'s next senator cannot be elected.

Surely democracy in Canada should come before democracy in China. I hope the Prime Minister takes this chance to show that he agrees.

*  *  *

[Translation]

GOVERNMENT ON LINE

Ms. Hélène Scherrer (Louis-Hébert, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on February 2, the Prime Minister launched the Government of Canada's redesigned website.

The purpose of this site is to help Canadians surf the Net and thus inform and empower themselves.

The site was designed to provide Canadians with easier access to the services and information they need.

Members of the business community, in Canada and elsewhere, will also find the site useful because of the information it contains on Canada's political, economic, social and cultural climate.

As the Prime Minister said, the government on line initiative provides Canadians with electronic access to government services, as reaffirmed in the Speech from the Throne.

The purpose of this project is nothing less than making Canada the most connected nation in the world.

*  *  *

[English]

HEALTH

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, a recent poll in the Vancouver Sun is yet more evidence that Vancouverites are ready to embrace significant change in drug policy reform. It is long overdue.

When I first rose in the House in 1997, I spoke to the Minister of Health and told him about the devastation, pain and impact on crime and safety that are the result of Canada's drug laws. I also spoke about the health crisis in my riding in Vancouver East.

After nearly four years of stalling and wrangling, it is time to take the volumes of studies and expert opinions and reform Canada's drug policies. The Vancouver agreement and the mayor's framework for action are a start, but I believe we need to go further if we are to save lives, reduce crime and improve the health of the community.

In August 1998, I introduced a motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to set up clinical trials for a heroin prescription program. I implore the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice to listen to the people of Vancouver and take the lead in changing Canada's drug strategy by bringing in heroin trials, safe injection sites and decriminalization for possession.

*  *  *

PALESTINIANS

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a few days ago some members of the House met with Professor Halper from Ben-Gurion University in Israel, co-ordinator of the Israeli committee against house demolitions, and with Salim Sharamweh, a Palestinian working alongside Professor Halper. Their description of the occupation in the West Bank and the demolition of Palestinian homes was very poignant and disturbing.

 

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The day prior they had a radio interview with the CBC that was very informative, especially in light of the latest election in Israel.

Many of the media in Ottawa would not grant an interview. The Ottawa Citizen went so far as to say that it was simply not a priority. I say to the Ottawa Citizen, the leading newspaper in this capital, shame. This refusal denotes an attitude of bias by ignoring the plight of the Palestinians. It is the obligation of the Ottawa Citizen to give its readers a complete picture of the crisis in the occupied territory.

*  *  *

[Translation]

REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in his speech on Tuesday, the Conservative-Independent-Liberal member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord told us that he was looking out for his region and that that was why he had gone over to the Liberal Party, a party he did not hesitate to openly criticize barely six months ago.

He attacked the Government of Quebec, which he accused of stifling regional development in the Saguenay region. This is nothing but demagoguery. Here are a few facts.

In the case of road infrastructures alone, the provincial government collected $37.5 million in gasoline taxes and then turned around and put $30 million of that back into roads in the Saguenay region—a return of 80%.

Last year, the federal government collected $35 million in excise taxes on gasoline and did not reinvest a single cent.

The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord should know that there is no one blinder than someone who refuses to see. Once again, he has picked the wrong side to sit on. The people of the Saguenay region know who is really looking out for them—

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Madawaska—Restigouche.

*  *  *

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

Mr. Jeannot Castonguay (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib): Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you and wish you good luck in your new duties.

The Liberal Speech from the Throne proposes a project that will make Canada a country rich in possibilities, a country where excellence is acknowledged, a country in which everyone can participate fully in the economy and in society.

We are going to focus our efforts on ensuring that everyone benefits from the fruits of our economy. The unemployment rate is at its lowest, there is strong growth and workers are prepared to respond to the requirements of globalization within the context of a knowledge-based economy.

All Canadians can be proud of the country they have built together. We are going to build a future in which all of us, from the weakest to the strongest, have access to the programs and services they require.

These are some of the salient points of the intentions expressed in the latest Speech from the Throne.

*  *  *

[English]

HOCKEY

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the many dedicated volunteers and sponsors in my riding who organized and hosted the hugely successful world under 17 hockey challenge in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia.

The tournament took place over the Christmas holidays and featured the best players in the world from Russia, Germany, the Czech Republic, the U.S. and Finland. Canada was represented by five regional teams. I make special mention of locals Gary Matheson and Glen Frazee of Pictou County, who played for Team Atlantic.

The success of this tournament was due to the enthusiasm of local volunteers and sponsors and the dedication of the local volunteer organizing committee. I congratulate committee chair Elaine Flynn and vice chairs John Lynn and Stu Rath, as well as the Pictou County Regional Development Commission and Sport Nova Scotia for their support.

The exceptional planning and event management of these individuals and organizations allowed us to host a super event that provided our region with great sporting events and economic spinoffs.

In the championship game, Team U.S.A. captured the gold in a thrilling 5:4 win over Team Pacific before 3,000 fans. I extend a hearty congratulations to those involved. It was a world class tournament hosted by a world class town.

*  *  *

DIABETES

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Sunday, February 11, will be the 79th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Canadians Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and James MacLeod.

In 1923 Frederick Banting was awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine and was knighted in 1934 for his discovery.

Insulin is used in the treatment of diabetes and is credited with saving millions of lives. Over two million Canadians live with diabetes. This would not be possible without the discovery made by these great Canadians. To them we extend our thanks.

*  *  *

HUMAN RIGHTS

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, trade and investment are great forces for change and prosperity, but these forces alone are not enough. Increasing trade flows to China will do nothing to promote prosperity if its people are not allowed basic human rights.

 

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Canadians from across the country have pleaded with the Prime Minister to use this trade mission to China as an opportunity to raise the issue of human rights. The Netherlands cancelled its participation in an official visit to China in protest over the Falun Gong issue.

Trade and human rights do not have to be mutually exclusive. The Prime Minister has promised to raise human rights issues at every stop on this trade mission. The official opposition will hold him to that promise.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

ETHICS COUNSELLOR

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the ethics counsellor met with the Prime Minister to discuss changing the federal conflict of interest code to prevent the Prime Minister from lobbying heads of crown corporations.

Under these new suggested rules, the intense pressure that the Prime Minister put on the president of the Business Development Bank in 1997, a person by the way whose job depended on the whim of the Prime Minister, would now clearly be unethical. However, if it is unethical now, why was it not unethical then?

Is this change of heart not really a tacit admission that what the Prime Minister did was wrong?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have to reject the premise of the hon. member's question. As I understand it, the ethics commissioner, Mr. Wilson, made some proposals, only, to the Prime Minister for his consideration.

The Prime Minister has joined with business people from all over Canada on the team Canada mission to China. He has not had a chance to consider these proposals. I am sure he will do so and reach conclusions on them.

As I understand it, the hon. member is completely wrong when he says that Mr. Wilson has stated a final conclusion as to what changes should be made in the rules. The Prime Minister will be considering Mr. Wilson's ideas in this regard.

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, he has not come to a conclusion because the Prime Minister has not told him what to say yet.

During the last election the ethics counsellor claimed that the Prime Minister was not in conflict when he forced the Business Development Bank to lend $600,000 to the Auberge Grand-Mère. The ethics counsellor took as an authority the B.C. conflict commissioner's report, yet he deliberately left out the portion of that report that prohibited ministers from lobbying agencies of the crown. Now he has suddenly had a revelation.

Was the ethics counsellor not simply a convenient political tool used by the Prime Minister during the last federal election campaign?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have to reject the unwarranted slur of the Alliance Party on the ethics counsellor.

The appointment of Mr. Wilson was the subject of consultation with the previous Reform Party and the second opposition party. I understand the opposition members spoke publicly in praise of Mr. Wilson, so there is no basis for that unwarranted slur on him now just because he has not turned into a tame tabby cat for the opposition.

The premise of the question is wrong. The ethics counsellor did not find that the Prime Minister did anything wrong. It was just the opposite. He said the Prime Minister was doing what other people do as MPs in carrying out their jobs.

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, even the so-called ethics counsellor, who is by the way another person who owes his job to the Prime Minister—he is there at the whim of the Prime Minister—is now suggesting changes to the conflict of interest rules that would officially make the Prime Minister's actions improper.

On next Tuesday every member in the House will have an opportunity to fix this mess by voting in favour of an independent ethics commissioner who reports to parliament, not to the Prime Minister. This will be a fulfilment of the red book promise. It is exactly verbatim the promise made by the Liberal Party during the election campaign. It is lifted verbatim. It is exactly what the Liberals promised.

Will the Prime Minister allow his members to vote for a red book promise, lifted from his book, or will he tell them—

The Deputy Speaker: The Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, back in 1995 the Reform, the party now called the Alliance Party, said about Mr. Wilson: “The person in the position right now is an honourable person. He is a man of integrity. He is a man that can be trusted”.

Nothing has changed in that regard. The nature of the appointment and the reporting mechanism was known at the time these words of praise and endorsement were stated for the ethics counsellor.

This Prime Minister and this government are the first in the history of Canada to appoint an ethics counsellor to give advice to MPs and ministers on matters of ethics connected with their work.

 

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Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, let us go over the facts again. The Prime Minister pressured the president of the Business Development Bank, a man directly dependent upon him for his job, to give a loan to a hotel next to a golf course in which the Prime Minister held an interest.

This is clearly inappropriate. The Prime Minister insists he did nothing wrong, even though the ethics counsellor now says the rules must be changed. Why did the Prime Minister still not recognize that what he was doing was in fact wrong?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's facts are wrong. The Prime Minister did not pressure the president of the Business Development Bank. I understand he made representations equivalent to what members of all parties do in carrying out their work as MPs.

I do not think it is correct to say that the ethics counsellor now says that what the Prime Minister did at the time was wrong. He has made proposals for consideration of changes in the rules eventually. The ethics counsellor categorically ruled. The opposition has said he was a man of integrity when he was appointed, and he is still a man of integrity. This man of integrity ruled that the Prime Minister did nothing wrong.

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the weakness of the ethics counsellor highlights the ethical weakness of the government.

First the ethics counsellor is forced to exonerate the Prime Minister's inappropriate behaviour, and only when the Prime Minister is ready is the ethics counsellor now allowed to discuss changing the rules.

When will the government create an independent ethics commissioner, like the provinces already have, who can demand a higher standard of behaviour from the Prime Minister and the government?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is wrong when he says that the ethics counsellor was forced to give his ruling. That is totally wrong.

The spokesman for the then Reform Party said “The person in the position right now is an honourable person. He is a man of integrity. He is a man that can be trusted”. That was a fact in 1995 and it is a fact today. On that fact the hon. member on behalf of his party is wrong.

They are casting an unwarranted personal slur on a person of integrity. They should apologize and withdraw that slur.

*  *  *

[Translation]

TRADE

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government has recently imposed an embargo on Brazilian beef, on the grounds that there is a risk of contamination with mad cow disease.

Could the government tell us whether there are scientific grounds for this embargo, and if so, what they are?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will try to be quick. For over two years North American countries have asked other countries that export beef to provide and fill out a questionnaire on how they monitor animals and feed products that come from the European Union where there is mad cow disease. Brazil had not provided that information to us.

When the information came forward from the FAO on January 25 we raised it again with Brazil. It has provided us with some information. We have not had time yet, but we will review that as quickly as possible to maintain food safety for Canadians.

[Translation]

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if the government's decision is based on scientific grounds, how can the minister explain that two Health Canada experts state that there are no scientific grounds and that the decision to ban beef imports is in fact nothing more than a reprisal against Brazil?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday and the day before the very same party across the way was asking for greater food safety and pointing out some of the reasons why it thought that should be the case. We will be as cautious as we possibly can.

Brazil will provide us with all the information. As I speak right now, officials from Canada, the United States and Mexico are reviewing the information they have. There will be a team of Canadian food inspection officials in Brazil next week to review that to see if the monitoring and enforcement there ensure that the meat products from that country are safe. If so, we will resume trade immediately.

[Translation]

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in the dispute opposing Bombardier and Embrair, the WTO largely supported Canada's view, thus allowing our country to implement retaliatory measures against Brazil, while still complying with WTO rules.

Does the government realize that if Canada's decision to ban Brazilian beef is not based on scientific facts, it is tantamount to doing to Brazil what Canada accused that country of doing to Bombardier, that is not to comply with international trade rules?

 

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[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat again that this has nothing to do with trade. This has everything to do with the safety of the Canadian food supply.

Scientists will be reviewing the information when Brazil provides that information to us. When it completes that, and even before it has provided all of that, our scientists are reviewing it and will be in Brazil to review it with Brazilian officials as well.

[Translation]

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if this has nothing to do with trade, does the government realize that Canada's decision could not only intensify a trade war between our country and Brazil, but could also jeopardize current negotiations on the free trade area of the Americas?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. Is it his position that we let this product into Canada before the scientists review it? If that is the case, it is not our position.

We will do whatever is necessary, with our scientists and with our review, to maintain food safety of Canada.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, still on the subject of agriculture, provincial agriculture ministers are meeting today in Regina. For the first time ever they have chosen to meet alone and not extend an invitation to the federal minister.

With agenda items including the crying need for additional federal assistance and even questioning the role of the federal government in agriculture, it is obvious that provincial ministers decided to exclude Ottawa because of the enormous frustration they feel.

Could the minister inform the House when he will be announcing a long term safety net package that will finally provide some solid assistance to farm families right across Canada?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will not get into a debate with the hon. member, but I think provincial ministers of agriculture have met before without the federal minister present. They have every right to do so. I am looking forward to the comments they send to me after the meeting they are having today.

The government has clearly indicated that it recognizes the support that agriculture needs. As we have found resources we have added considerably in the last three and a half years. There is 85% more in the safety net envelope than there was three and a half years ago.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I think that farmers, provincial ministers of agriculture and even members of the House are frustrated and embarrassed that the minister and the Prime Minister's only solution to our agricultural crisis is to go hectoring and lecturing across the world about the level of subsidies offered to farmers in other countries. That may be a strategy, but it certainly is not a solution to the farm crisis we have at home.

Is the minister prepared to offer at least an immediate federal cash injection so that farmers will be able to plant crops this spring?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat that we have been there to assist farmers before and we will be there to assist farmers as we find resources to do so.

I do not know whether the hon. member has personally or not, but I know some of his colleagues and many of our colleagues across the way have asked me and my colleagues why we were not having discussions with those in the European Union and in the United States, such as the one the Prime Minister had.

The first issue he discussed with President Bush when they met earlier this week was what the high level of subsidies in the United States was doing to harm Canadian farmers.

*  *  *

NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry. Premier John Hamm was in Ottawa for several days this week lobbying several ministers to get a change in the royalty formula because the federal government takes the vast majority of gas and oil royalties from offshore resources.

The industry now has come onside and agrees with the province of Nova Scotia that Nova Scotia should get a higher ratio of these royalties because it would allow it to increase productivity and efficiency.

Will the government start negotiations now with the province of Nova Scotia to amend this formula to give Nova Scotia a fair share of the royalties?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, under the pertinent legislation pertaining to offshore accords there is a provision that requires the Government of Canada to pay to the offshore provinces the amount of royalty that accrues to the Government of Canada, just as if those resources were onshore in some other provinces.

In fact we have done that with $50 million dollars over the last number of years. Plus there is a special arrangement with respect to equalization offset which has totalled $32 million over the last number of years. That money has indeed been paid to Nova Scotia.

*  *  *

 

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EQUALIZATION PROGRAM

Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, PC): Mr. Speaker, it is not good enough to say that the equalization formula cannot be changed or adjusted unless the provinces agree.

The federal government has already adjusted the clawback provision for Newfoundland's Hibernia project. The Minister of Finance gave every indication during the St. John's West byelection that an adjustment could be made to the equalization formulas.

Will the Minister of Finance be clear as to whether the former premier of Newfoundland, now Canada's Minister of Industry, raised our hopes in vain on this issue?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first I would remind the hon. member that even at the time of the cutbacks by the federal government in 1995, the equalization program was one of the very few that was not cut. In fact equalization today is at an historic high.

The fact is that the equalization program has always been under review. We sign five year agreements and immediately upon signing, the officials begin to take a look at where they are going. That is a process that is ongoing.

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the auditor general has confirmed that for the past two decades the federal government has permitted massive employment insurance fraud by farm workers and their employers in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.

For 20 years, Canadian taxpayers have seen their hard earned tax dollars being illegally pocketed by a small group of criminals. Despite all the resources that the government has, it continues to allow that to occur.

Will the government please explain to Canadians why it continues to allow their hard earned tax dollars to be used illegally?

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can assure my hon. colleague that this government does not let anyone act illegally in this country.

Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is being used illegally. The government has been aware over its duration that the abuse of EI is occurring and it has done very little to stop it.

As a matter of fact two years ago the Liberal member for Brampton West—Mississauga travelled to British Columbia to accuse the EI investigators of harassing and intimidating farm workers. She actually interfered in the EI investigation that was going on.

Why is the Liberal government allowing the criminal use of EI money, Canadian taxpayer money, to continue?

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, the government does not allow illegal use, but if there is a problem, employment insurance is investigated and can be handed to Revenue Canada if there is a problem.

*  *  *

[Translation]

TRADE

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this morning two top level scientists from Health Canada said that the decision to ban imports of Brazilian beef had more to do with politics than with scientific facts. If the issue had been food safety, we would have supported that measure without any reservations.

Could the minister assure us that what is going on with Brazilian beef is not the beginning of a trade war against Brazil and Latin America in general, a war that could jeopardize the efforts of Quebec, of businesses in Quebec and in the rest of Canada to penetrate Latin America's export market?

[English]

Mr. Pat O'Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, as the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has already said, Canada's position is very clear. There is absolutely no link whatsoever between the beef ban and the dispute over airplanes with Brazil.

May I remind the House that the WTO found that Brazil had failed to live up to the WTO rules.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the WTO issued a ruling that is favourable to Canada. Why did the government opt for such a political solution on imports of Brazilian beef, thus jeopardizing the efforts of businesses in Quebec and Canada to penetrate that market?

I am asking the minister responsible and the government to sit down immediately with Brazilian authorities, not next week, right now, to settle this dispute which could degenerate into something major.

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I categorically deny that this has anything to do with trade and everything to do with the safety of the food system and the food coming into Canada.

 

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If the hon. member is interested in getting the facts, rather than what somebody puts in the paper, he should go down to room 130-S at 12.30 today and listen to the true facts from the scientists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.

*  *  *

HEATING FUEL REBATE

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government just spent $1.3 billion to cushion the high cost of heating fuel for low income Canadians. The problem is that a large portion of that money has gone to people who do not pay heating bills because they are renters and tenants and it is the landlord who pays the heating bill.

My question is for the Minister of Finance. Will he stand up and apologize to Canadians for blowing $1.3 billion of taxpayer money by giving it to people who do not pay the heating bills, or was it just another election ploy to buy votes?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I understand the hon. member's question, he is asking the government to apologize, at a time of rising fuel prices, for giving $1.3 billion to 11 million Canadians, giving this money to low income Canadians, Canadians who have to pay rising fuel prices. The answer is that we will not apologize.

Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, my constituents have no problem seeing through the Liberal government's vote buying schemes. Unfortunately, they are now forced to choose between heating or eating.

The heating fuel rebates have gone to everyone but the people who actually pay the bills. When will the government offer a program that is about heating cost relief and not politics?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan are following the federal government's lead.

The question really is, since federal governments and provincial governments understand the necessity of helping low income Canadians at a time of need, why cannot the Alliance.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ETHICS COUNSELLOR

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in the context of yesterday's debate on the promise in the Liberal Party's red book to create a position of ethics counsellor accountable to the House, the government House leader said, “honesty and integrity must be maintained in our political institution”.

Could the government House leader explain how, despite the creation of the position of ethics counsellor, with the Prime Minister appointing the counsellor to oversee the application of the code of ethics established by the Prime Minister and to report to the Prime Minister, this government is the focus of no fewer than 20 police investigations? It is an utterly shameful state of affairs.

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the shameful part is the gratuitous allegation by the hon. member opposite.

He must know that it is the Prime Minister who has raised this whole issue of public integrity. It was he who contributed so much to improving things, who appointed the first ethics counsellor, who improved the Lobbyists Registration Act. It was he who tightened the rules, continues to head a government of integrity and is a man of integrity himself.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this is an attack.

When will this government understand that any change to the imperfect system we have now will be simply cosmetic, so long as the ethics counsellor is not appointed by the House, accountable to the House and does not follow a code of ethics drafted by parliament?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, earlier, the member added that the government was being investigated. Members will see this in Hansard.

However, the truth is totally different, if I may put it that way. No one in this government, to my knowledge, is being investigated. If the hon. member thinks this is otherwise, let him say so outside the House and name the minister under investigation.

Mr. Yvan Loubier: We will go. That does not bother us.

*  *  *

[English]

HEATING FUEL REBATE

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the administration of this energy rebate system is a total Liberal disaster. Most people paying the high bills are not getting the rebate and thousands who do not pay for energy are getting these cheques from the government.

Prisoners are getting the rebates. We have records of students on student visas who are getting energy rebates. Thousands of people who have never paid a heating bill in their life are getting the cheques but those who are paying the high bills are not.

 

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Why does the government not simply administer this through the utility company billings so that the rebates are targeted to the people who are actually incurring the costs?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the government's move was to provide low income Canadians with the rebate, low income Canadians who were least capable of handling rising fuel costs or in fact the rising cost of living.

We made it very clear. We wanted to move quickly and we took the most efficient way of doing so. We have done exactly what the government of Alberta has done.

We understand, and we said at the time that there would be flaws, but the fact is that those flaws are minuscule, albeit important, we are not denying that and our officials are looking at it. However, what is really important is that the money get—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

Mr. Philip Mayfield (Cariboo—Chilcotin, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government did not take the most efficient way of helping gas consumers.

Considering Canada's climate and frigid temperatures for many months each year, heating our homes in the winter is as essential as food and clothing.

Basing the heating expense relief program on data from 1999, with no reference to current heating bills, was an irresponsible way to distribute almost $1.4 billion. If the government wanted to help people with rising heating costs it could have implemented a system that would have actually helped consumers rather than leaving the billpayers out in the cold.

Will the government eliminate the GST from all home heating fuels?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we did take by far the most efficient and quickest way of providing these cheques to low income Canadians, exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason that the government of Alberta utilized the same mechanism.

The fact is that the purpose of this rebate was to provide the money to low income Canadians, low income Canadians who, among other things, were suffering from rising fuel prices.

*  *  *

[Translation]

INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION

Mrs. Sue Barnes (London West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Cooperation.

[English]

After a catastrophic drought and 20 years of conflict in the region, community coping mechanisms in Afghanistan are totally exhausted now. Huge numbers of people have been displaced and organizations are struggling to meet basic human life requirements.

The United Nations has asked for international assistance. I ask today: What is Canada doing to assist Afghanistan?

Mr. Eugène Bellemare (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on February 8 the minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency announced $1.3 million in response to the current crisis, to provide immediate relief supplies to international displaced persons, including blankets, plastic sheets, clothes and tents, and to help address the most urgent humanitarian needs of Afghan refugees through various UN agencies.

*  *  *

HOUSING

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, in the past week the finance minister's office has been flooded with thousands of letters and e-mails from Canadians who want to know when the minister will develop a national housing strategy based on the recommendations that he produced in his own report 10 years ago when he was in opposition.

Has the minister taken heed of those letters, and especially the fact that Canadians are calling on him and the government to go beyond crisis management and to implement recommendations that will bring us a national housing strategy? Does the minister even believe in his own report that he wrote 10 years ago? When will he develop a national housing strategy?

Mr. Paul Szabo (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government does have a national housing strategy. I will highlight some of the elements for the member.

We provide $1.9 billion annually in housing assistance to 640,000 low income households. Through mortgage loan insurance, housing research and home renovation programs, we are improving housing supply and conditions for Canadians. We also provided $753 million to address homelessness. The Speech from the Throne also included aboriginal housing and affordable rental housing provisions.

Yes, Canada does have a national housing strategy.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, if the government believes that is a national housing strategy then that is pathetic.

Everyone is calling for a national housing strategy: the Canadian Federation of Municipalities, the Toronto Board of Trade, national housing groups and even 85% of Canadians in a recent Maclean's poll.

People are really sick to death of the piecemeal announcements that we have been hearing. It is really an insult to the gravity of the problem.

I ask again: When will the government get the picture, move beyond crisis management and implement a national housing supply program and a national program that will actually build affordable housing for Canadians?

 

. 1145 + -

Mr. Paul Szabo (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, housing is a very complex issue. It requires a comprehensive solution, including dealing with the homelessness as well as affordable housing and aboriginal housing.

The member should note that in the Speech from the Throne the government indicated that it was moving forward with plans to stimulate the creation of new affordable rental housing. It is a government priority and the government will be announcing such initiatives in the near future.

*  *  *

EQUALIZATION PROGRAM

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance.

In responding earlier to my colleague, he talked about the changes to equalization. However, it is really the clawback arrangement that concerns us. When Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and other provinces develop their resources, most of the royalties from those resources go to the federal government and we are left with very little. If we could keep our royalties until we reached the Canadian average, we would be a contributor.

Would the minister look at that? What we need is fairness. We certainly do not need another snow job in Newfoundland.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, under the arrangements that exist in the accords act, the royalties that accrue to the Government of Canada are transmitted to the offshore provinces. Obviously that has to be taken into account in the equalization formula.

To help offset that there is an equalization offset. The royalties over the last number of years have amounted to about $50 million. The equalization offset in the case of Nova Scotia has amounted to about $32 million.

What the hon. gentleman really is discussing here is a long term change in equalization. As the Minister of Finance has indicated that is always under review—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for South Shore.

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, what the hon. minister has not told the House is that equalization for the government members on that side of the House means that for every dollar of revenue from the offshore to Nova Scotia, 19 cents stays in the province of Nova Scotia and 81 cents goes to the Government of Canada.

Does the minister want to stand in this place and try to tell anyone that that is equalization?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member ought to know that equalization is based on the respective fiscal capacities of individual provinces. There are seven such recipient provinces. If we are going to treat them fairly, each among themselves, then we must do so on the basis of their respective fiscal capacities. That is what equalization does. That is why as the country evolves, equalization evolves. It is constantly under review.

*  *  *

GUN CONTROL

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in April 1995 the justice minister promised parliament that the gun registration scheme would run a deficit of only $2.2 million over five years. The actual deficit was 150 times as much, at $300 million. We were promised that user fees would cover the entire cost of the program.

The justice minister has been stonewalling investigators from the Office of the Information Commissioner since last August. Hundreds of pages of registry documents have been declared cabinet secrets. What is the government hiding? Exactly how much has the gun registry cost to date?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadians overwhelmingly support the Canadian firearms system.

We cannot look at this without looking at costs and benefits. Over the last five years this has cost Canadians about $2 per head. That is very inexpensive when we are looking at public safety. We also have to look at the benefits. We are now administering the program and saving roughly $30 million that the police otherwise would have spent in the administration.

This is good legislation. Why is the hon. member and his party trying to undermine this legislation?

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board.

Sources inside the justice department told us last August that the gun registry budget for this fiscal year was $260 million alone. That would put the total cost of the registry at more than $585 million, half a billion dollars more than the original estimate.

Will the President of the Treasury Board explain why there are only two oversight committees in Treasury Board, and why both of them have to do with firearms? Why have these expenditures not come to parliament for approval.

 

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Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the total costs over the last five years are roughly $327 million. This includes the $85 million set up cost.

When the system is fully implemented, we will be looking at roughly $60 million per year to administer it. The cost of the fees will pay for that.

*  *  *

[Translation]

OIL HEATING PRICES

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, a few weeks before the election was called, the government decided to send out $125 rebate cheques, supposedly to offset the increase in the price of heating oil for needy Canadians. It is obvious that this hastily thought up scheme to get more votes has done nothing to improve matters.

My question for the Minister of Finance is this: Does the minister realize that, far from being a lasting solution, his vote getting scheme had no other purpose than to portray him as sympathetic to voters, especially those in the greatest need?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the program was to help the needy with a cheque of $125 per individual and $250 per family, for a total of $1.3 billion. It has been quite a success, with 11 million Canadians receiving cheques. This is a great help right now.

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, nothing has been resolved. The situation is still the same. When is the government going to abandon its short term approach and come up with a genuine policy on competition?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if I understand the member's question correctly, he is saying that we should not have taken quick action. I do not agree. There were increases in the cost of heating oil and it was important for the government to come to the immediate assistance of these families. That is what it did.

*  *  *

[English]

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, last April the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration travelled to Fuzhou province in China. She met with high ranking government officials. We have every reason to believe that the minister met with PLA General Fhang Wei who has since been indicted by the U.S. department of justice for people smuggling.

Will the minister or someone over there confirm that she did not brief General Wei about our national security measures?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that allegation has been thoroughly verified by Canadian officials. I can report to the House that it was wrong and has been proven to be unsubstantiated.

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that is the case at all. I have in my possession a memo from the Privy Council which clearly stated “In Fuzhou the minister met with senior local officials, possibly including senior Chinese security official, Mr. Fhang Wei”.

The RCMP has not investigated this matter. It notified me that it would not. This guy was later indicted by the U.S. for people smuggling. When the government's own security and intelligence secretariat acknowledges—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. government House leader.

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems to want to answer his own question, but perhaps the House would like the government to answer it.

He has made an accusation that an official has received information from a Canadian minister which was cabinet confidential or possibly even a state secret. I can tell him that his accusation is factually incorrect. It was verified, and it is wrong and unsubstantiated.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Ms. Beth Phinney (Hamilton Mountain, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. Persistent organic pollutants are of significant concern for all Canadians but especially for Canada's northern aboriginal people as the long range atmospheric transport of these pollutants has led to contamination of traditional foods.

What is Canada doing to protect the environment and the health of Canadians from persistent organic pollutants?

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada played a pivotal role in the United Nations environment program convention on POPs, successfully completed last December in Johannesburg.

 

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This agreement will reduce significantly or eliminate foreign sources of this pollutant that impact the health and environment of Canadians, particularly in our Arctic. As well, Canada invested $20 million in budget 2000 to help developing countries reduce or eliminate the release of POPs.

Canada has already banned or severely restricted production, use and release of these pollutants in our environment.

*  *  *

CORRECTIONAL SERVICE CANADA

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Drumheller institution in my riding is home to rapists, murderers and various other criminals convicted of serious violent offences.

Correctional officers in this prison are not permitted to carry handcuffs. I ask the solicitor general to provide the rationale on why federal prison guards are not allowed to carry handcuffs.

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, our staff is well trained and experienced, but an example of why they do not carry handcuffs is that when offenders or prisoners have had handcuffs on they have used them as a weapon to attack the guard.

Safety is always the number one issue for our employees in Correctional Service Canada.

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we should take them away from our police officers as well then.

Drumheller guards were bitten, head-butted and kicked while attempting to restrain two intoxicated prisoners in the prison corridors because another guard had to go to the main control office, locate a key, open a restraining locker and retrieve the handcuffs they needed.

Quite obviously the policy of Correction Service Canada is putting our federal prison guards at serious risk of injury. Why will the solicitor general not immediately revoke the directive that forbids correctional officers from carrying handcuffs before more guards are seriously harmed?

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay (Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is simply why we have to be cautious in our correctional institutions. We have some violent people in these institutions. What we have to do is protect our staff. We do not let them carry weapons because it could cause a problem of security for the staff within our institution. It just makes sense.

*  *  *

[Translation]

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on January 6, Haroun M'Barek was deported to Tunisia after having been denied the right of asylum in Canada, a right he had been claiming since 1994.

Upon his arrival in Tunisia, he was arrested, tortured and incarcerated, after being sentenced to 12 years in prison by a tribunal in his country.

My question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In light of such a disturbing situation regarding the assessment of the risks involved when the Department of Citizenship and Immigration sends people back home, will the minister pledge to delegate an observer to look at how Mr. M'Barek appeal is processed?

Mr. Mark Assad (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that we cannot comment publicly on the details of a case.

Obviously, refugee status claimants in Canada undergo a fair determination process. If the hon. member's allegations are true, the department will certainly look at the case.

*  *  *

[English]

YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT

Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice just reintroduced legislation on youth justice. Already some are saying that it will hinder how the provinces can deal with youth justice under their own jurisdiction.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice tell us if this is true, or does the legislation actually help the provinces do the job better?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me assure the House and this member that Bill C-7, the criminal youth justice act, provides sufficient flexibility for the provinces to properly administer our youth justice system.

The legislation provides a fairer and more effective approach. Our objectives are to prevent youth crime. Our objectives are to ensure that there are meaningful consequences. Our objectives are to ensure that there are reintegration and rehabilitation.

This is a very balanced approach. It is an approach that will suit Canada very well and that will suit our young people very well.

*  *  *

 

. 1200 + -

ETHICS COUNSELLOR

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Deputy Prime Minister will know that the ethics counsellor has told journalists today that he will propose guidelines respecting crown corporations.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House whether the ethics counsellor has discussed those guidelines with the government? Will the Deputy Prime Minister further tell the House whether, once received, those guidelines will be tabled directly in the House so there can be a full discussion as to the appropriate guidelines to be attached to crown corporations?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can confirm, as I already have to other questioners from the opposition, that the ethics counsellor met with the Prime Minister on this matter. The ethics counsellor has given some proposals. The Prime Minister will be studying them and will reply further on them in due course.

When the leader of the Conservatives was on his feet earlier in question period he did not explain why he was down on his knees before the Alliance House leader. I did not know things had fallen to such a low state that he had to plead for survival on the floor of the House on his knees before the Alliance House leader. Perhaps he can explain—

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government's response to the agricultural crisis continues to be disastrous. The government promised $1.7 billion to support farmers. To date only 52% of that money has been delivered and some of it is now being clawed back from producers.

Today the price of nitrogen fertilizer has hit an all time high, more than doubling in the last two years. Farmers need help immediately.

Will the agriculture minister finally get the message and deliver the money promised to farmers before seeding?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I assure the hon. member and everyone that the $1.6 billion that was promised to farmers through the programs that we have to support them as a result of the 1998-99 business year, will all be paid out.

Over 2,000 applications are being dealt with every week. The money will be paid out. As I said before in the House today, and as the government and I continue to say, we have been there for farmers and we are not done yet. We know they need more support.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PRIVILEGE

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a matter of privilege, relating to an incident that has just occurred during Oral Question Period.

It seems to me that this was something serious. As an opposition MP, with a duty to monitor the actions of this government, I questioned it on a number of investigations in which it is involved.

In his response, the leader of the government raised doubts, in my opinion, as to my integrity and professionalism, and threatened me with legal proceedings as an individual.

I would like to ask for some direction from the Chair. As an opposition MP, am I forced to keep in mind that, when we rise to demand an accounting from the government and if the matter happens to be a sensitive one involving investigations, we will be gagged, denied our right to speak and met with a barefaced threat of legal proceedings? The government House leader invited me to repeat my words outside the House.

In my opinion it is the role of the opposition to raise questions. Perhaps those questions may not please the government, but since we are a responsible opposition, because in our souls and our consciences we consider it our duty to ensure that the government is answerable for its actions when there is an investigation, I consider this totally inappropriate and unacceptable and I feel that my privileges as a parliamentarian have been breached.

On behalf of my colleagues, I wish to inform you that we are going to ask questions concerning the investigations involving the government.

My expectation is that, out of a sense of responsibility and respect of the duties of parliamentarians, the government House leader will rise in his place and apologize to me, for I have been injured in my responsibilities, in my duties and in the way I represent the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve in this House.

 

. 1205 + -

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I also want to address the question of privilege raised by the hon. member and express my support for what he just said.

As a parliamentarian, I too was surprised and even shocked by the comments of the government House leader. Hon. members know that what the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was referring to has often been covered. On a number of occasions, the media have covered some 20 investigations that are being conducted in Quebec on a number of grants, particularly some granted by Human Resources Development Canada.

I fail to see how, today, a member who raises this issue in the House can be the object of a barely veiled threat on the part of the government House leader, who dared him to repeat the same comments outside the House, thus implying that the federal government would go so far as to sue the member for something said here and repeated outside the House. This is an issue that is widely known, an issue that has been reported by the media and that has been the subject of statements outside this House. I also find it quite unacceptable to see the government starting to resort to the very dangerous habit of daring opposition members to repeat outside the House what they say here, so that the government can sue them.

I respectfully submit to the Chair that our privileges as parliamentarians have been, if not violated, at least seriously threatened by what the government House leader just did.

Mr. Jacques Saada (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that all members have the same privileges and are entitled to express their views as they see fit in the House.

What the government House leader did was to point out that a premise in the question was fundamentally inaccurate, and this is something the Canadian public needs to know, that is that the government is not under investigation. The fact that certain grants are under investigation does not mean the government is under investigation.

All the government House leader did was say that if the members opposite have any proof that the government is under investigation, which is not now the case, they should step outside the House and say so publicly to all Canadians. This is an entirely legitimate attitude. The Government of Canada is not under investigation.

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, that is not true. I would like some direction from the Chair.

The Deputy Speaker: The Chair examines all these issues very seriously. I would not want to see this turn into a debate.

The question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve will be examined seriously, as it deserves to be. First, I must allow the hon. government House leader to reply, I hope at the earliest opportunity.

We will then be able to proceed with this question of privilege.

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am greatly comforted to know that you will give this matter all the attention it requires. You have my full confidence and that of my colleagues as well.

However, I would like you to also consider the fact that when the deputy government whip rose, he asked us to make a distinction. When he rose in his place and said that the government was not under investigation, he was calling ministerial responsibility into question.

I hope you will take into account in your reflections that we cannot make a distinction—

 

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The Deputy Speaker: Once again, I would point out to the House that we are engaging in a debate, which I am going to end.

The question of privilege is still before the Chair, and we shall continue with this matter after we hear the minister.

*  *  *

[English]

POINTS OF ORDER

ETHICS COUNSELLOR

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, I rise with respect to information flowing from both the Prime Minister on Wednesday and from the Deputy Prime Minister during today's question period.

There appears to be a contradiction on a very important matter and the possibility that there may be misinformation before the House with respect to the matter.

The Prime Minister chose to leave the House with the impression on Wednesday that he had not received the ethics counsellor's recommendations concerning ministerial conduct with respect to the heads of crown corporations.

Today we learned from the Deputy Prime Minister that there has been a meeting between the Prime Minister and the ethics counsellor on this issue, a meeting which was also reported in various newspapers around the country today.

The meeting would have included briefing notes or notes that were in the Prime Minister's possession prior to Wednesday's question period.

I fully acknowledge that you are not in the chair to judge the truthfulness of answers, but there is an expectation that no member of the House, particularly the Prime Minister, will mislead the House on issues that go to the very heart of ethical standards.

The Deputy Speaker: I have great difficulty when members use words such as mislead. I would ask the member to be very judicious in his remarks and see if we cannot wrap this up.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Speaker, I expect I will keep within the parameters. What I said very clearly was that there is an expectation that members will not mislead the House.

I am asking you to examine the statements in Hansard made by the Prime Minister on Wednesday and by the Deputy Prime Minister today. I ask you to encourage the government to make full statements on the issue of ethics in order to give everyone an opportunity to remove the cloud that hangs over the Prime Minister on this matter.

I direct your attention, on this point of order to page 378 of Marleau and Montpetit which states:

    During “Statements by Ministers”, Ministers are expected to make brief and factual statements on government policy or announcements of national interest.

I strongly urge the Chair to look at the matter in this context. These words are clear. They are a direction to the cabinet and to the Prime Minister. I ask and encourage you to look at this matter as it appears in Hansard and to have the Prime Minister make a full statement to the House if necessary.

The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member would know, and I imagine the entire House would know, how much respect I have for all colleagues, particularly those with whom I have worked closely over the years, one being the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I say respectfully that it puts the Chair in a very awkward and even difficult situation. I do not believe that the Chair, in all its wisdom, could possibly be expected to reconcile the differences that arise from answers to questions between members on either side of the House. I submit, therefore, that this is not a point of order.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[English]

CONTROLLED DRUGS AND SUBSTANCES ACT

 

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-255, an act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (trafficking in a controlled drug or substance within five hundred metres of an elementary school or a high school).

 

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He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill that would, if passed, set mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of trafficking in drugs within 500 metres of an elementary school or high school.

Children and drugs are a problem in every corner of this country, urban and rural. This bill is only one of many measures that are required to deter and punish those who would profit from selling illegal drugs to our children. I call upon all members of the House to support this important initiative.

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

*  *  *

YOUNG OFFENDERS ACT

 

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-256, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and to amend certain other acts in consequence thereof.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a bill introduced before this parliament that would pertain directly to the existing Young Offenders Act and would lower the age of criminal accountability, from the current status of 12 to 10.

This bill would in fact allow a provision similar to the current transfer provisions that can bring a youth into adult court and would apply to a child being brought into youth court. This is obviously consistent with the government's intention to have early intervention to allow there to be criminal accountability at the younger age of 10.

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

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-257, an act to amend the Criminal Code (attempting to disarm a peace officer).

He said: Mr. Speaker, this a criminal code amendment that would create a specific criminal offence for disarming a police officer. This is an issue that is certainly being closely watched and monitored by police and peace officers across the country. It would create a specific offence, with sanctions attached, for any attempts made by any individual to take away a weapon or an instrument that the police officers use for the protection of society.

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

*  *  *

WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM ACT

 

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-258, an act to amend the Witness Protection Program Act and to make a related and consequential amendment to another act (protection of spouses whose life is in danger).

He said: Mr. Speaker, I reintroduce my private member's bill, which I call the new identities act. Prior to the premature election call, this bill had passed second reading and was before the justice committee.

We have seen a disturbing trend in Canada whereby stalking and domestic violence are on the rise. If passed, this bill will serve to formally protect those persons whose lives are in danger because of acts committed by a spouse, former spouse, common law spouse or former common law spouse by bringing them into the witness protection system.

We as parliamentarians have the obligation to do everything we can to help these people. I hope members from all sides of the House will give this bill the non-partisan support it deserves.

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Mr. Jacques Saada (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.) moved:  

    That the associate membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be as follows: Bill Blaikie, Barry Breitkreuz and Marcel Proulx.

(Motion agreed to)

*  *  *

 

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[English]

PETITIONS

HEALTH CARE

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present three petitions.

The first petition has a number of signatories from across Vancouver who are very concerned about the state of our health care system and are particularly interested in calling on parliament to stop for profit hospitals and restore full federal funding for health care.

HERBS AND VITAMINS

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the second petition has been signed by close to 2,000 petitioners from the Vancouver area who are very concerned about any proposals to create a third category status for herbs and vitamins. This has been a very major issue in terms of access by consumers.

The petitioners request parliament to reject the third category status for herbs and therefore reject the Codex proposal.

TRADE

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the third petition that I am very pleased to present today has been signed by petitioners who are very concerned about Canada's trade policy and the fact that health care, education and culture are issues that are being debated within a trade liberalization agenda.

The petitioners call on parliament to ensure that health care, education and culture are completely carved out of WTO agreements. They say that we must build an alternative model of globalization that will protect the rights of workers and the environment, provide for cultural diversity and provide for governments to act in the public interest.

GST

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions that I would like to table this morning.

The first petition urges parliament to remove the GST from books, magazines and newspapers.

PARENTAL RIGHTS

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the second petition has been signed by several people in the province of Alberta and in my riding.

The petitioners request parliament to affirm the duty of parents to responsibly raise their children according to their own conscience and beliefs, and to retain section 43 of Canada's criminal code.

CRIMINAL CODE

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the third petition deals with the issue of the death penalty.

The petitioners call upon parliament to pass legislation within the next electoral period that would support an amendment to the criminal code that would allow for persons convicted of first degree premeditated murder to receive the death penalty.

BILL C-23

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the last two petitions both deal with Bill C-23.

Fifty-seven petitioners request that parliament withdraw Bill C-23, affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and to ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

*  *  *

[Translation]

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, before question period my colleague was asking me to remind the House that an agreement on manpower training was reached between the national assembly and the House of Commons, and it is true.

Let me remind him also that it took 20 years of repeated requests by successive governments of Quebec to reach that agreement.

I hope all members will recognize that the national assembly, which has an integrated policy for those who are not on the labour market, was finally able to take over manpower training. Lucien Bouchard's government has an excellent track record in this area.

I hope the hon. member will not jump too quickly to a conclusion and start to believe that, since the government of Quebec and the House of Commons were able to reach an agreement, that Canadian federalism is a flexible and collaborative system, because we, on this side of the House, do not agree with that.

[English]

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I will read to the member from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve a few paragraphs from the recent Léger poll in Quebec and then ask him a question.

 

. 1225 + -

The latest poll by Léger Marketing says that three-quarters of Quebec residents see themselves as Canadians and not just Quebecers. According to the poll, more than half the respondents oppose Mr. Landry's plan to have the Quebec government actually promote sovereignty. Further, only about 15% say they want to see the total independence of Quebec.

Mr. Léger added that the poll certainly shows that Quebecers do not want a referendum and do not want the government spending their money to promote sovereignty. It found that 55.3% of decided voters would vote against sovereignty, even if it were accompanied with an offer of a partnership with the rest of Canada.

On the other hand, the pollster said, there is considerable demand for change in Quebec's role in Canada, with only 20% saying they would be satisfied with the status quo. Quebecers, said the pollster, “are rejecting the two most radical options, sovereignty and the status quo”. The bottom line, said Mr. Léger, is that Quebecers “want to remain a part of Canada, even though 45% say they would vote for sovereignty. The problem is that they are not satisfied with either the status quo or with the proposal for sovereignty”.

When are the Bloc members, who profess to be democrats, going to start representing the will of a majority of Quebecers and start looking for a third way, between sovereignty and the status quo federalism of the current Prime Minister?

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, I wish a speedy recovery to my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest.

In Quebec, the popularity of the sovereignist option goes up and down. In 1993 and 1994, it went up as high as 67%. That is democracy, and we accept that.

I am the member for a riding that has been supporting Quebec sovereignty since 1970. We have always advanced our option through democratic means, and we will continue to do so. The difference between the hon. member for Calgary Southwest and me is that I think the renewal of federalism is an impossible task. The hon. member wants to be responsive to Quebec, and that is positive. I know he is a sincere man.

I hope we can count on him to recognize that Quebecers have the right to choose their own future. Sovereignty is one of the choices that can be made, and we will continue to promote this option in the most democratic ways.

[English]

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Madam Chair, I want to advise you of two things. First, I will be sharing my time with the member for Gatineau. Second, and just as important, I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your new responsibilities. I am confident, from the way you have worked in the past with colleagues from all parts of this Chamber, that you will treat us very fairly.

I am actually very glad that as we close the debate I have the opportunity to respond after listening to what has gone on since the throne speech. Before I do that, I want to take this opportunity, my first opportunity after the election, to express my gratitude and my appreciation to my constituents of Scarborough Centre, who for the third time decided, in their wisdom, to show their confidence in me through their vote and permit me to be here to carry their voice to Ottawa.

At the same time I would like to thank my campaign team and the many volunteers. I want to point out with respect to volunteers that we are celebrating the International Year of Volunteers this year. I was blessed to have volunteers from all parts of our society. It was a thrill for me to see both the young and the old participate, especially the young, who came to offer their knowledge and whatever time they had. I say a great big thank you to them.

I also say a great big thank you to my family: my wife Mary, my three children, Irene, who is now married to my new son-in-law Tony, and my sons Paul and Daniel, who participated as well. The family closeness we have gives me the opportunity to be here and speak on behalf of my constituents.

I have listened to the debate over the past little while and to question period and I am not going to go into a lot of the details of what the throne speech had to say, because we have heard it over and over again.

 

. 1230 + -

I want to talk a bit about what was discussed during the debate. All hon. members did not strictly focus on what was said in the debate, for example the points the throne speech brought forward in terms of what we are to do during this session and some of the programs we are to support: the youth programs, the health programs, research and innovation, et cetera.

Before the election call we went to the people of Canada and made a statement. We said that should we be re-elected these were the things we would like to do and these were the programs we would want to implement.

In my view we put our necks on the line. Canadians had clear choices to make. They knew what the Liberal team, headed by the Prime Minister, was planning to do over the next mandate. If they were not pleased with those proposals, they could have voted us out. However they chose not to do so. If anything, the results speak for themselves. They chose to return the government and the Prime Minister with an even bigger majority than we had in 1997, almost equal to the majority we had in 1993.

What does that tell us? It tells us that during our statements on programs and in debates with candidates in the election in my view there no ambiguity in what we had to say. We were telling Canadians, because it was of great concern at that time, what would happen to the system we all cherish, the system that separates us from most other countries: our national health care system.

We said that the government would stand firm to make sure that all Canadians, no matter where they find themselves, no matter in what part of the country, would be protected.

Also prior to the election we made a commitment. We had an agreement with the provinces. All the provinces came on board and agreed to the transfers that will now be implemented. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to talk about that commitment.

I was very pleased in the last election, and I want to do it again, to turn the clock back. In order to appreciate where we are today, we have to think and realize where we came from. It was very appropriate then, and I believe it is now, to reflect back for a moment.

In 1993, when we assumed government, unfortunately we inherited a mess. The country was in a mess, sadly to say, but I am pleased to say that we have turned it around. We had a deficit of over $42 billion that was out of control. We had a debt that was rising continuously and we had no control over it.

We had an unemployment rate of 11.4% or 11.5%. The youth were discouraged, not knowing what tomorrow had in store for them. Seniors did not know whether or not their pensions were secure. The list went on.

Reference has often been made to red book one, “Creating Opportunities”. In 1993 we went to the people with that book. We put down in writing, and it was unprecedented at the time, what we intended to do should we be elected, so that people could come back to us in a year or three or five years to keep us to our promises.

One commitment which has been raised over the last week or so during the debate was the so-called GST. I take this opportunity to read from the red book, because the media clips that were picked up printed only half of a paragraph or a comment. Opposition members, as is their privilege to do so, will only say what they want to say but not complete the sentence.

I will read exactly what was said on page 22:

    A Liberal government will replace the GST with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fair to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal co-operation and harmonization.

 

. 1235 + -

The heritage minister might have changed her position on something, but she did the honourable thing. When she was told to resign, she did so. She went back to the people, and the people at that time had an opportunity not to return her but they chose to do so.

Members from the then Reform Party, today's Alliance Party, made some provocative statements with respect to members' compensation and pensions. They said never. Last night I was watching my good friend Mike Duffy interview the Reform Party member for Medicine Hat.

Mr. John Williams: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order to point out that the Reform Party is not a party in the House. It is the Canadian Alliance. He should withdraw that reference and refer to us as the Canadian Alliance.

Mr. John Cannis: Madam Speaker, I withdraw what I said. The then Reform Party is today called the Alliance. I will state what I was asked during the election. The member has taken me off track what I wanted to say. Maybe I can put it on record right now.

Those members go out during the election and make statements that they are a new party. If they are prepared to say that they were then the Reform Party and have simply changed names, I could understand. I have every right to refer to what it was called then and to what it is called today. I am sure the hon. member will agree with me on that.

Nevertheless, I was referring to an interview that took place of the member for Medicine Hat last night by my good friend Mike Duffy. I appreciate Mike Duffy is an astute reporter and asks the right questions. The member for Medicine Hat had difficulty. He said that he talked to his executive committee before the election. I challenge him to read in Quorum today where it states that the executive did not know:

    The president of Solberg's constituency association said Wednesday he was unhappy with the decisions of Solberg and Grey. “They've done what I call a popular politician's manoeuvre”.

It is a populace party. I am concerned right now with the talk out west that has to do with separatism. Animosity and concern exist. There is talk coming out of B.C. from the new Alberta separatist party.

That is the issue that upsets me as a Canadian. Instead of reaching out, there is a task force that will look into it. I am concerned that the task force might provoke emotions. We are trying to bring the country together, but in the end we will have done nothing but maybe split it further apart. One comment made by the 10 West Group was: Why are Canadians not like Americans?

We do not hear the state of California, Texas or New York saying they will separate, every time they get upset and do not agree with Washington. Maybe that is the difference. Maybe we should just take the word out of the Canadian vocabulary.

[Translation]

Mr. Mark Assad (Gatineau, Lib.): Madam Speaker, before I deal with the throne speech, I would like to thank most sincerely my constituents in Gatineau for putting their trust in me once again. I am deeply grateful for the trust they have given me in the last election. They know I am always there to serve them, no matter what their problems are. They will always be welcome, and I hope to be able to always meet their aspirations and help them with their representations.

 

. 1240 + -

I would like to congratulate the member for Kingston and the Islands on his being elected as Speaker of the House. It is quite an accomplishment on his part, and I have no doubt that his role in the House will be a competent one, thanks to his extensive knowledge of the procedure and the fairness of his rulings.

I would also like to congratulate the member for Ahuntsic on her being appointed Acting Speaker of the House. I know the member for Ahuntsic greatly enjoys being part of the action in the House, and I am very happy for her that she has the opportunity to serve in such a sought after position.

During the last election campaign, a number of issues were raised regarding the national capital region, particularly on the Quebec side of the Outaouais region, which I have the pleasure and the honour to represent as the member for Gatineau.

The national capital region, on the Quebec side, is the most bilingual region in Canada, and we are very proud of that. Over the years, we have played a major role in the Public Service of Canada because of our ability to speak both official languages.

With the new economy, we realize how important it is for both sides of the river to co-operate. I call it “dialogue across the river”. For several years now, we have been witnessing the astounding boom of the high tech sector all across the world, especially in Canada, in the U.S and in Europe. We have been fortunate to benefit from the development of the high tech sector in the national capital region.

We have great strengths on the Quebec side. I met with a group of high tech industry representatives and I told them I was looking for co-operation from both sides of the river to ensure continued progress and development in that sector.

This is extremely important for our young people who graduate from colleges and universities, so that they can find work in this new economy.

In the months and years to come, the region's economy will depend on the development and expansion of high tech, which is not only very important but is also creating an unprecedented prosperity level. That is why co-operation between governments on both sides of the river is so important. We have to ensure continued expansion.

This brings me to what was discussed in the last election, that is the significance of infrastructures in this region in terms of roads or bridges across the Ottawa river.

There is clearly a need for strong co-operation between both provinces and the National Capital Commission, which plays a very important role in the development of our region.

The Gréber Report provided for the building of a new bridge over the Ottawa River. The building of such a structure at a certain place has been planned for 25 years. However recently some members of the new Ottawa city council appear to be hesitating.

 

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We are looking closely at the issue. After having planned for 25 years the building of a bridge a given corridor, we must admit that progress and politics are two different things. We want progress to continue, but we cannot have progress without planning.

In the last 25 years, something has been planned, which should be respected. If there are policy considerations, I believe it is incumbent upon us to conclude that they ought to be put aside and to think about what is best for the whole national capital region of our country.

I would like to point out that if Canadians have put their confidence in the Liberal Party, it was probably for a number of reasons. One thing that characterizes the Liberal Party of Canada is the fact that we are always conscious of the fact that there are people in difficulty in our society, and these are the weakest members of our society.

We have always tried to find solutions, such as social policies, to help them. That is what we did last fall with the rebates designed to counterbalance the higher than expected increase in the price of heating oil. This was but one of the measures we took. All this is to say that we have always been conscious of the most disadvantaged in our society.

During the campaign, we also noticed that the health issue was extremely important in the minds of people. This is why the government decided to invest massively, more than $20 billion, in our health care system, to make sure that all Canadians, regardless of social standard, have access to the medical care they need.

It is also extremely important to ensure that research continues. We know that research is forms the basis for progress in years to come. The importance of research in all areas, to allow us to position ourselves in the new world economy, can therefore not be overemphasized.

This reminds me of when the former French President François Mitterand was re-elected. At the beginning of his second mandate, someone asked him this question: “Mr. President, what do you think the most important issue of your second mandate will be?” Without hesitation, former President Mitterand replied “I wish for all French citizens to be able to have access to education and to be the best educated people in the world, or among the best”.

I am convinced that the Liberal government has as I do, the same aspirations for all Canadians, namely invest more in our education system to allow each and every Canadian to have the best advancement opportunities. This can be accomplished through education. There is no other way to succeed in this world. There is no other way to be part of the new economy. There can be no progress without the highest possible level of education.

I realize that my time is up. I thank the House for allowing me to say a few words. During the weeks and months to come, I will talk again about those important issues, not only on behalf of my riding but also on behalf of our Canadian fellow citizens.

*  *  *

 

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PRIVILEGE

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Earlier today, I believe that two members of the Bloc Quebecois raised a point of order, perhaps even a question of privilege.

At that time, the Chair said it would not intervene until such time as I also had an opportunity to add a few words prior to the Chair's reaching its decision. I see that the Bloc whip is with us, and I believe he is one of the members who spoke a little while ago.

First, I want to take a moment to inform the Chair that I find it totally unacceptable that someone in the House can say that the government is under investigation when no minister of this government as far as I know, is under any investigation. I do not even know of any public servant involved in the matters in question who might be under investigation, far less that the government is under more than one investigation.

Second, if I understand correctly, the members across the way have said that it was unacceptable for me to issue a challenge to them to repeat this comment outside the House. Of course, anyone familiar with Beauchesne's knows that this is a position that has been advanced on a number of past occasions in parliament.

If the members across the way have the right to make accusations that prove false, here in the House, then I certainly have as much right to challenge them to repeat those accusations outside the House where they could be subject to the rigours of the existing justice system.

Finally, I wish to add that certain candidates of that same party on the other side of the floor made similar accusations during the election campaign. A former member of parliament from that party was served with a lawyer's letter during the campaign. From then on, he stopped repeating the accusation.

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Madam Speaker, I am very grateful the House leader set out his point of view for us. If you will permit me, I would like, in a few minutes and without wasting the House's time, to respond or at least correct certain impressions the government House leader may have left.

First, it should be pointed out that my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was referring to the twenty or so investigations of grants by Human Resources Development Canada. They are a matter of fact. This is not rambling. These are not gratuitous allegations. They are not wild imaginings of any sort. They are a matter of fact and have been reported in the media. This is all the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was referring to.

That said, the government House leader can indeed get on his high horse and tell us we can say it outside. What that means and this is the basis for the question of privilege of the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, is that to say it outside implies as he mentioned earlier: repeat it outside and the government could initiate proceedings.

It means that a member could go outside—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Would the hon. member please conclude his remarks, as this is not a debate.

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Madam Speaker, I am arguing on the merits and not debating.

Therefore, this means, to all intents and purposes, that the government is threatening MPs with proceedings, if necessary, if it does not like what is said here in the House and could be repeated outside. That is in direct contravention of the rights and privileges of parliamentarians in this House, especially those of the opposition.

 

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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): As this question of privilege was raised while the Deputy Speaker was in the Chair, and as he has already indicated to the House his intention to return with a ruling once he has heard the government House leader, we will continue with the debate on the motion before the House at the moment.

*  *  *

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session.

Mr. Antoine Dubé (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, BQ): Madam Speaker, I listened to the speech by the Liberal member, who raised two main issues.

He referred to the throne speech, but he also talked about health and education. His speech was pretty low keyed. Anyone listening to him who does not know much about politics could have thought “This is a reasonable man. He is talking about health and education in the House of Commons”.

I know that the member represents a Quebec riding. As a Quebecer, and also as an experienced and very knowledgeable member of parliament, he should understand that he is addressing two sensitive issues. I would like to ask him a very simple question.

Is he aware that health and education are two areas under exclusive provincial jurisdiction and that Quebecers are more than a tad touchy when it comes to these issues?

When he says that education is a must to be successful in life, should he not find the fortitude, and I would appreciate an answer to this question, to say “The federal government must quickly restore its transfer payments to the provinces to the 1995 level and provide additional funds and then make up for inflation”. He could mention that. What the member seems to be saying is that his government will be interfering directly in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

Of course, I cannot really blame him because, unfortunately, the throne speech seems to indicate that there are no provincial governments in this country and that Quebec does not exist. I would like his comments on this.

Mr. Mark Assad: Madam Speaker, of course, I am aware that health and education come under provincial jurisdiction.

Here is what I said: during the election, the health issue was constantly raised. Indeed, the provinces were certainly very happy to get the funds invested in this area by the federal government. The investment was a very major one for the health system, in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

We all know that the federal government made a huge investment in education. Universities need this money for research. I even quoted the former French president to say that, even if the area comes under provincial jurisdiction, it is extremely important not only for Quebec, but also for all provinces and all Canadians. We all live together in the same country and our purpose is to move ahead together, not separately.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Madam Speaker, I did not appreciate the answer from my Liberal colleague.

The Liberal members always refer to the last campaign. I think they have not understood, or did not want to understand, what was said during the last campaign.

We were saying that the government should restore transfer payments to the provinces for health, education and social services to the 1995 level. Right now, in 2001, that has not been done. The crumbs given by the government is money that belongs to the provinces in the first place and all the provincial ministers are asking for it.

I think they should stop repeating what they said during the campaign, as it has no connection with what was done in Canada since 1995. I would like to hear the Liberal member talk about the true facts, to hear him tell the truth.

 

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Mr. Mark Assad: Madam Speaker, rest assured that the Bloc Quebecois are not the only ones telling the truth.

I would like to say to my hon. colleague that the people of Quebec understood clearly what we said during the last election campaign, as evidenced by the fact that we gained ten seats. They understood clearly; the Bloc members are the ones who do not understand.

[English]

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from St. Albert. It is an honour and a privilege for me to rise today to give my third maiden speech.

I take the opportunity at the outset to thank my constituents, the people of Prince George—Peace River, for again entrusting me with the task of representing their interests here in the House of Commons and elsewhere. I made a pledge when I first ran in 1988 to represent my constituents to Ottawa and never to represent Ottawa to my constituents. Today I recommit to abide by that promise.

I wish I had enough time to thank the dozens of people who worked on my campaign adequately, not just in the last campaign but over four successive ones. If I were to start naming the individuals who were so instrumental in my being here today, it would take the entire 10 minutes or more.

The throne speech was a shining example of a government devoid of ideas, reticent of the realities its citizens face, and committed to doing the bare minimum in order to remain in power. That simply is not good enough. Canadians deserve more from their government and we in the Canadian Alliance are demanding it on their behalf.

At the beginning of the 37th parliament I am pleased to have been reappointed the chief opposition transportation critic. As a critic my job is not only to critique the actions and policies of the government but to provide an alternate vision for transportation to meet the economic and safety needs of Canadians.

I am not fluent in vague, so it has been very difficult for me to decipher what, if anything, of substance was contained in the throne speech. Since the government has left the entire speech open to interpretation, I will discuss the Canadian Alliance vision and its plan to meet Canada's actual transportation needs. I will not discuss rail or grain transportation, as my colleagues from Prince Albert and Selkirk—Interlake have either already done so or will do so in the near future.

There is no question that the new economy is an engine of growth for Canada. That does not mean, however, that Canada's traditional resource based industry should be abandoned in the process. The throne speech was all about the information highway and nothing about the Trans-Canada Highway.

The best way to promote innovation, growth and development in all parts of our economy is to establish an efficient transportation infrastructure system that will meet the needs of large industry, small business, e-business, agriculture and natural resource extraction.

The Internet and e-commerce require the ability to get products to the consumer faster. People go online and point and click in order to get immediate gratification, but we must be able to physically deliver products and services faster to meet the demands.

There is a commercial on television which sums up the government's approach to the new economy. The commercial shows a roomful of techies talking about their new business and all the innovative Internet functions it can perform, until one of them asks “What about delivery?” The fact that they needed to get their product to the consumer had escaped them. So too has it escaped the government.

To date the government has all but ignored our deteriorating infrastructure. Canada's highways, ports and airports are falling apart while we pay multiple levels of taxes and user fees which stuff the general revenue's piggy bank.

Taxes are an investment in society. Canadians deserve a return on their investment. They deserve safe roads and affordable air travel, and they should not have to pay more for it. I recommend that the government spend money, not new money, but reinvest the money collected from the transportation sector back into that sector.

 

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The very thought of so-called dedicated revenues sends shivers down spines in the finance minister's office because it limits political choices the government can make about spending. The improvement of our infrastructure is vital to our future prosperity, and as such funding should be dedicated.

The United States, our greatest trading partner and competitor, is way ahead of us in this area. In 1998 the U.S. passed the transportation and equity act for the 21st century. That bill invests $217.9 billion over six years into infrastructure, a large portion of which is for roads connecting its borders to Canada and Mexico. That bill legislatively guarantees that a minimum of 90.5% of federal fuel tax receipts from each state will be returned to that state. That is foresight. That is what we need from our government.

The federal government brings in about $5 billion a year from fuel taxes and last year reinvested less than $200 million in roads. That is only 4%. The Americans spend 90%. We spend less than 5%.

NAFTA has augmented the amount of goods that cross our borders daily. It is essential that the trade corridors through which the economic lifeblood of our country flows be as efficient as possible. We must reinvest in trade corridor initiatives that will improve just in time manufacturing and the other demands of the new economy. Why was there no mention of this in the throne speech?

Recently President Clinton signed the rails to resources act aimed at creating a rail link between Alaska and the lower 48 states through Prince George. A second phase would involve a 90 kilometre tunnel under the Bering Strait. Phase one of this initiative is a tremendous opportunity for Canada, and in particular for northern British Columbia. The city of Prince George in my riding would benefit from the increased hub traffic.

I have spoken to Mayor Colin Kinsley and the Prince George city council about this prospect and they are excited about the potential for growth. Of course, the port of Prince Rupert would also benefit from the increased volume as it is presently underutilized.

The U.S. has set aside $5 million for feasibility studies. All that is required is Canada's agreement to study the project. I believe it would be a huge mistake and an enormous lost opportunity to refuse to consider the proposal.

Not only is there a vision needed for the future but a plan for fixing the mistakes of the past. When Transport Canada was still in the business of running airports, it lost upward of $300 million a year. As a result of divestiture rents collected from the 26 major airports it currently collects $220 million a year, and this will grow to half a billion dollars a year.

This profit is gathered through fuel taxes, ticket taxes, airport leases and the GST, resulting in consumers and smaller airports bearing higher costs. As operating costs and hubs increase, so too does the cost of tickets to and from smaller destinations. This has reduced the number of people able to fly and reduced the amount of tourist dollars spent in local economies. However, the airport user fees are only one of the problems facing Canada's airline industry.

Airline restructuring is creating chaos for the travelling public and is hurting the tourism industry. Government is supposed to protect consumer interests. It has had many options to avoid the present monopoly, including increasing foreign ownership limits for our airlines to better access capital. Instead it chose the wait and see approach, and what have we seen? We have seen a decline in competition, a reduction in service, lost jobs and an increase in fares.

What of the emerging airlines? The government must do all it can to ensure that the emerging airlines are unencumbered in their ability to expand while protected from predatory practices.

It was encouraging to see the announced merger of Canada 3000 and Royal Air. This is a baby step closer to creating competition in Canada. The emerging airlines are succeeding in spite of the government's policies rather than as a result of them.

One such policy, the CARS 308 issue, is indicative of the differences in approach between the government and the Canadian Alliance, and indeed of the problems inherent in the government's approach to business.

 

. 1310 + -

In 1995 Transport Canada began negotiating the divestiture of its regional airports. Local airport authorities feel the federal government negotiated in bad faith when it removed the most costly elements of the airport's onsite and fire rescue service.

After the vast majority of agreements were signed, ironically the government decided it was necessary once more to have onsite fire and rescue, at the airports' expense of course. The fact that the regulations do not augment the safety of travellers and will break the financial backs of some airports seems to be of little or no consequence to the minister.

Obviously I could go on at great length pointing out the failure of the throne speech as it relates to transportation. Unfortunately, as many critics in the Canadian Alliance have found, there is insufficient time to do a proper job. In the days and weeks and months to come I am sure we will be looking at these areas in greater detail.

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.): Madam Speaker, actually I found myself agreeing with much of what the member opposite was saying because I too believe that the federal government should be engaged in developing Canada's infrastructure. I do agree with him that we should be looking at improving the highway systems in the land, because of course it benefits all Canadians.

Will he not agree with me also that the development of roads and that kind of infrastructure is 100% a provincial responsibility, and that when the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois say that the federal government should not intrude into areas of provincial responsibility, is there not a contradiction when he says, and I agree, that certainly the federal government should intrude in areas of provincial responsibility when it is the matter of transportation and infrastructure?

Mr. Jay Hill: Madam Speaker, there is no contradiction whatsoever. I have had private conversations with the hon. member, and he often cites as success, or what he deems as success, the past infrastructure programs that have been set up by the Liberal government.

We have often questioned some of the projects the government has targeted, whether it was building bocce courts or canoe museums rather than investing that money in road infrastructure or water and sewer projects. Some of it was targeted for that and rightly so.

If the member was listening to the thrust of my presentation, he would know I was saying that in the United States the vast majority of money from fuel revenues goes back to the states. Those states then decide how to spend the money on road infrastructure. I do not see a contradiction.

My party and I advocate the dedication of that revenue back to the provinces. Yes, it is primarily their responsibility, but I see no need for the federal government not to be involved at least in some form of negotiation with the provinces so that we have a truly national road system that is supported by taxation from both levels of government.

Rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying that they will continue to collect all the money from the fuel tax revenue which flows into the general revenues piggy bank and is used however they see fit, and rather than the finance minister constantly coming up with new programs in which he doles out money for photo ops for ministers, it should flow back to the provinces to be used for real infrastructure to meet the needs of all Canadians.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River had to say. I have two brief questions to ask him.

Since before the election, the federal government, through the finance minister, has not stopped taking great pride in the $125 they gave to the neediest people. It is now telling us that its generosity cost $1.3 billion.

We have known for some time that about half of that money went to people that do not pay for heating oil, to inmates and even to deceased people. Does the member not find that this government is a grand master in the art of painting a pretty picture?

 

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Here is what I mean. As the member was saying earlier, we know that the government is collecting $10.6 billion in excise tax on gasoline. The cost of the measure it has announced is $1.3 billion.

Does the member not think that, with its surplus, the government is just pretending to be generous, seeing that it has not lowered the price of heating oil?

In my area, I still receive phone calls from elderly people saying “The price of heating oil has not gone down yet. Last year, it cost me $600. This year, it will cost me $1,200”. This means that the government is painting a bright picture.

What has it done for independent truckers with regard to the price of diesel fuel? Over the last year, there has been a 40% increase in the price of diesel fuel. I would like my colleague from the Canadian Alliance to tell me what the government should have done and what it should do, rather than painting a bright picture.

[English]

Mr. Jay Hill: Madam Speaker, I know my time is limited. I will try and address the questions that my hon. colleague from the Bloc raised.

Obviously, what she points out is very true. There is some very poor planning in programs that the Liberal government has brought forward. What we have advocated on this issue all along, and it was in a lot of the questions in today's question period, is that the government should be reducing the levels of taxation, thereby providing relief to all the people faced with these high heating bills and high energy costs.

One of the things the government could do immediately would be to eliminate the GST on home heating fuel. This would be generic to everyone and affect everyone's bottom line. I agree with my hon. colleague from the Bloc, there is a very poor program.

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate. Let me also thank the constituents of St. Albert for returning me as their member of parliament. They decided not to choose John Williams from the NDP, who was also a candidate in my riding, as the candidate, but they got the other John Williams. It led to an interesting little election.

I have to compliment and thank the people who worked so hard on my election. I think of Janet Bailey, my campaign chairman, Charlie Schroeder, who was my assistant campaign chairman, and Marlene and Tom Patterson who ran my sub-office in the city of Spruce Grove.

Today, I want to focus on waste, mismanagement, incompetence and everything else that we find in government. Just before the election the auditor general tabled a report. He tabled another report this week. I will quote from the auditor general's report because these points should be on the record. Regarding the stewardship of public funds he said that they deserve increased attention. I have, as the President of the Treasury Board knows, been trying to elevate the awareness of these things to challenging the spending of this government in parliament.

I refer to pages 7 and 8 of the forward of the report of the auditor general. In that he said:

    But shortcomings of the sort revealed at HRDC—vague and inconsistently applied eligibility criteria, breaches of authority, absence of appropriate control and accountability framework—are by no means exclusive to one program or one department. We observed shortcomings of a similar nature (though of a lesser magnitude) in our 1996 audit of the Canada Infrastructure Works program, our 1997 audit of The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy and our 1998 audit of grant and contributions programs at Industry Canada and the Department of Heritage.

Talking about Canadians, he went on to say:

    Frankly, I share their frustration. It is discouraging to witness new incidents of waste and mismanagement crop up hydra-like after older ones have been discovered and dispatched.

    In my 10 years as Auditor General, I have seen significant improvements...often under the pressure of fiscal constraints. But progress has been too slow—

 

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It has been far too slow and seems to go on and on.

As we all know, the auditor general is retiring on March 31. He has been tabling reports for 10 years with little or no sign that the government wants to take these things seriously. For example, we had the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC. At Heritage Canada, 19% of the files have not been subject to due diligence. A further 30% of files were rated as borderline acceptable. That is in paragraph 33.283 in chapter 33 of his report.

It just seems that the government does not care until such time as somebody points these things out and really slaps the government on the side of the head to get it to do something.

Page 3411 of his report deals with HRDC and the employment insurance fraud which has been going on for many years. For many years HRDC and CCRA officials have been aware of suspected fraudulent practices related to the false record of employment forms and no action has been taken. How can this be?

Think of social insurance numbers which were introduced back in the early sixties.

Mr. Roy Cullen: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was away from the Chamber momentarily but I thought that when I left we were debating the Speech from the Throne. The debate I am hearing is on the auditor general's report. Is this relevant to the debate?

Mr. John Williams: Madam Speaker, money is always relevant and the waste and mismanagement of it is always relevant.

Let us talk about the waste and mismanagement of money that the government outlined in the throne speech, and how it is going to spend it. The problem is that it spends it with abandon, carelessly, without proper control and proper diligence. That is why I am talking about waste and mismanagement in the context of the throne speech. It is relevant and always will be.

I was talking about social insurance numbers which were introduced in the early sixties back in the days before we had sophisticated computers. We now have sophisticated programs to send cheques out to everybody.

However, back in those days an income tax number, social insurance number, was basically a file at Revenue Canada. If anyone had a file with Revenue Canada it basically meant he or she had to pay money. Now if we have file with Revenue Canada, it usually means a cheque in the mail. We talked about it this week. The Minister of Finance has sent out $125 to all people who do not qualify for the heating oil rebate, including my own son. Guess who pays the utility bill in my home? It is not him.

Concerning the social insurance numbers, one person got 76 social insurance numbers and was getting 76 child tax benefit cheques in the mail every month. The government never reviewed the management of social insurance numbers for 30 years, until the auditor general pointed it out. Then it decided that maybe it should do something about it. He does say in the report that the government is doing something, but only after 30 years.

We have treasury board which is not exempt. Let me quote what he says about the treasury board. He said:

      —Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines do stress the importance of balanced reporting and the need to report lessons learned...little reference in the reports to the fairness and reliability of the performance information they contain. Very few reports mention the possibility that there may be shortcomings or problems in the data.

I think he is referring to what we call the performance reports.

Treasury board writes all these rules but it does not police them. It sends them out to the deputy ministers and departments who just say “Well, that's okay”. They do what they want because treasury board does not hold them accountable. Until such time as treasury board starts policing its own rules for departments, we will to continue to find taxpayers' money being wasted every time we turn around.

Money was wasted deliberately by the Minister of Finance. He sent out $1.3 billion of cheques out in the mail which were approved, by the way, under special warrant because parliament was not sitting. I hope the President of the Treasury Board is going to be making a report to us soon because without parliament's approval the government should not be spending any money unless it is urgent. I am not exactly sure that my son really needed that $125 right away. Some may, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who live in apartments.

 

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Yesterday an MP told me that one of his constituents who chops his own wood got a cheque for about $600. That was for he and his family members. It did not cost him a nickel for his heating, but he got a cheque in the mail. We find these programs, at an election time, very susceptible. This should have been a better defined program. It should have been targeted to the people who really need it. We acknowledge that there are people who need it. There are people who have difficulty paying these utility bills as the rates go right through the roof because the provincial and federal governments have not properly managed the production of energy for the country.

Now the consumer has to pay for government's mistakes. The government sends out cheques but to the wrong people, and others still have a hard time. We would hope that the government would listen to Canadians and ensure that their money is well spent.

The other day I pointed out the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle. Now we have the Minister of Health and his problems with the Fontaine native health treatment centre in Manitoba. After years of knowing that there were problems, he has finally decided to have a forensic audit after $30 million went down the drain. There were cruises in the Caribbean and deputy ministers going to Hawaii courtesy of the taxpayer. Only after it became a public issue did the government say that it got caught and that it better do something about it. That is no way to run a household. It certainly is no way to run a business and by far no way to run a country.

I would hope that since we are into a new parliament and we now have a throne speech that the government will take its responsibilities seriously and ensure that if it is going to spend taxpayers' money, that it spends it wisely and well. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice yesterday said that public business is a public trust. I would hope the government will live up to that, starting today.

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I wonder if the people in St. Albert actually made a mistake and sent the wrong person to Ottawa. Perhaps they were as confused as the member for St. Albert is today.

The members opposite talked about the heating oil rebate program. We could have had people filling in forms. The members opposite love filling in forms. The people would have then had their cheques by next winter. That would have been a reasonable option according to the member.

The Alliance Party put a motion in the House just before the election calling for a reduction in the excise tax on gasoline. A comparable amount to the $1.3 billion would have been maybe a cent a litre. Of course that money would have gone to the oil companies. I assume then that when the member says there are people in need, he actually meant the oil companies because a litre of gas goes up and down a cent in one afternoon. We knew that a cent a litre would go straight to the oil companies and not to Canadians. That was the proposition the Alliance Party brought to the floor.

One of the members opposite also talked about the fact that half of the people who are getting the cheques do not need them. Eleven million Canadians are getting them, so a half of 11 million would be 5.5 million Canadians, low income Canadians who do not need heat or who do not have to pay for heat. In some other provinces they might have very generous landlords who do not pass on their costs

Could the member for St. Albert confirm to the House if he really feels the rebate should have gone to the oil companies in line with the Alliance's proposition before the election was called?

 

. 1330 + -

Mr. John Williams: Madam Speaker, this is the typical logic that we get from Liberals. They call themselves the government. We all know that half the price of gasoline is tax. If they were to reduce the excise tax by one cent, five cents or ten cents, surely as a government they could police it too and ensure that the consumer received it and not the oil companies. It is that simple. They are the government.

For the hon. member to say that the oil companies would grab the extra cents demonstrates the incompetence of the government in the House.

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I would like to clarify something with the member for St. Albert. The fundamental problem with the energy rebate was that it was a thrown together, knee-jerk reaction because of an imminent federal election.

If they fail to plan, to set targets or to work with accurate information and simply throw money out in a shotgun approach to buy votes, they are bound to find out in many cases that the people who were not supposed to receive the money or did not qualify to receive it are getting it. That is the fundamental flaw of the plan.

I am sure the member for St. Albert will agree that a conservative thinking government can be shown to be clearly more caring than a Liberal government. A conservative thinking government gives out government money for specific projects to help people. It targets the funds specifically to people who need it, instead of the shotgun approach the Liberal government uses where it throws the money out there and hopes the people who need it get it. In the meantime a lot of people who simply want it get it.

I think I have made my point about what type of government would be a more caring government for Canadians. Perhaps the member for St. Albert could confirm that.

Mr. John Williams: Madam Speaker, we all know that the government cares about the government and does not care much about anybody else. That is a fundamental fact.

The member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley is right. The government's big announcement the week before the election was that it would send cheques out to Canadians to help them with their home heating bills.

Good stuff, but they did not tell people, as they were going to the polls to vote for a government that was to send them a cheque, that some of them would not get one. The Liberals sent cheques out to a few people, the wrong people and say they fulfilled their election promise. If Canadians had known the real facts based on that announcement, that they would not get a cheque, I doubt very much they would have returned the government.

Mr. John Bryden (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am going to dedicate my remarks primarily to the issue of private members' business.

I am also delighted to follow the member for St. Albert so that I can also put on the record some of my observations about that fuel rebate before I go into the main text of my speech.

I would point out to the member for St. Albert that I have an older single woman in her eighties living in the village who lost her husband many years ago. She lives in my village. She lives in an Insulbrick house. Her total income is about $12,000 a year. It is only old age security. If the government had not acted as fast as possible on that fuel rebate, she would have felt the cold.

Moreover, low income Canadians who do not pay for their own home heating fuel, who are tenants of landlords, also benefit from this because, as the Liberal member mentioned, what happens with landlords is when the fuel price goes up they pass on the cost to their tenants.

 

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When those tenants are low income tenants, they are going to feel that pinch. My view is that the government did exactly the right thing. It did away with all the potential red tape that would have come from the conservative proposals we heard opposite. What it did was it got it out as fast as possible. Obviously it was imperfect but at least 80% or 90% of Canadians who needed that rebate, whether they needed it directly or indirectly, did benefit.

Let us just get it straight. If the government did act in a compassionate fashion, and if it had taken the course that was proposed by the Canadian Alliance, then the people like the one that I just mentioned, people who want to live alone but live independently and have small means, they would have suffered. I can tell you, Madam Speaker, the snow is deep in Ontario as well as out west and as well as on the east coast.

I really want to dedicate my remarks to the issue of private members' business. This is relevant to the Speech from the Throne because at various times during the speeches the issue of opportunities for MPs has come up and whether or not backbench MPs in particular and opposition MPs can have a meaningful legislative impact on the House.

I think what has been missing from the debate is the opposition has tended to suggest that there have been no attempts at reform, no attempts at expanding the opportunities of backbench MPs. Well in fact, precisely the opposite has occurred.

I would like, for the benefit of Canadians, to just give a little history of private members' business since 1993 when the Liberals came to power after the Conservatives. If the House will recall, we came back with quite a large majority.

Theoretically, when a government has a large majority, it can do whatever it pleases in the sense that it really can afford to ignore the backbench, but in fact, this government did not.

At the very outset, this government, at least as far as its own members were concerned, decreed that all private members' business would be subject to free votes on this side. As a government, we cannot dictate to what opposition leaders say to their own MPs, but on this side from 1993 onward it was free votes.

Second, the government invited, not initially willingly, but after a little while the government invited private members' business from this side, as a matter of fact, from anyone, of more substance.

Prior to 1993, ordinarily a private member's bill would deal with an extremely non-controversial, even trivial topic, something that the government did not have to worry about, such as a name change or things that cost the government no money, that would have no potential negative political impact.

One of the things that changed after 1993 was that the government showed a willingness to accept private members' bills that dealt with more substance. Indeed, we started out in that line and there were some notable successes.

I remind the House on all sides that—

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening very carefully to the Liberal member from the beginning, and what he is saying has absolutely nothing to do with the Speech from the Throne. I fail to see the connection—

[English]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I wish to remind hon. members that there is a lot of leeway in terms of the type of debate that takes place during the response and the motion to the throne speech on both sides of the House.

Mr. John Bryden: Madam Speaker, actually I am sure the member knew that quite well, but there is some hesitancy on the other side of the House to want to acknowledge that in fact we have advanced the opportunities of backbench MPs and we have advanced private members' business.

There seems to be a theme of the criticism coming from the opposition that it wants to demean the opportunities of being a member of parliament. It wants to demean the fact of members of parliament having all kinds of opportunities. The very opportunity to speak in this place is an enormous opportunity that other Canadians do not have.

 

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Coming back to my theme, and it is relevant to the Speech from the Throne because the throne speech is all about where parliament is going in the near term, where I will lead in my speech is to the fact that indeed there is going to be a new incentive and new efforts to expand private members' business.

Let me return to the history because it is very important to understand that expanding private members' business and having free votes is not as easy as it seems. In theory it seems great; in fact it is very difficult.

As the members on the opposite side will know only too well in the matter of free votes, it took them years before their leaders would allow them to have free votes on private members' business. We could see that on this side because they always voted in unison on private members' business, always in unison, and surely there would be some dissent on that side, one or two, but no, it was always the same.

On this side of course there were MPs who would support opposition private members' bills, and opposition private members' bills actually did pass. I remember there was one from the Bloc Quebecois dealing with the medical use of marijuana. That was an opposition private member's bill and it passed.

It received support from the backbench MPs here. It had nothing to do with the cabinet. It had everything to do with the backbench MPs on this side recognizing that an opposition MP had an excellent bill and that it should be supported, and it was supported.

On this side of the House I remember a Liberal member introduced a private member's bill that determined that those who would deliberately circumvent the Access to Information Act should be subject to a fine and even jail term. That succeeded. It was riding of Brampton West—Mississauga and that was a major step forward.

That did not occur prior to 1990. It just did not simply happen. The opposition, particularly the Canadian Alliance alias the Reform or however we say it, has never been willing to recognize that because it is not in its interest.

Private members' business and free votes brings with it significant problems. Also, introducing private members' bills that have real substance brings in significant problems. The reality is that individual members do not have the resources of government or even the resources of an opposition party to do the kind of due diligence on a weighty subject pertaining to private members' business that perhaps has to be done.

What happens and what we have found on all sides of the House is that the member may advance a very important private member's initiative and the government and the bureaucracy may genuinely find problems that have not been considered.

We wind up with a situation where the government knows that the bill has a very negative impact that the member is not considering. So the government is opposed on the advice of the bureaucracy in the Department of Justice.

Yet the backbench MPs on this side not considering it in the kind of depth that the government is considering the issue and the opposition MPs wanting to encourage a private member's initiative on this side or that side, what happens in the end is that the private member's bill, and several have actually done this, can get through the whole process because it is free votes on this side and get through third reading and actually go on to the Senate and be fundamentally flawed.

This was a problem that those of us on this side who were very interested in private members' business did not anticipate. The Senate on a couple of occasions blocked private members' bills that had passed this House. This is a very significant step because the Senate is not entitled to block a government bill. It can return a government bill to the House for amendment but it cannot actually stop it. The Senate has actually blocked private members' bills.

I would say that what we are looking at here is a very important opportunity for the Senate because I think it is very important to give private members lots of opportunity to bring in bills of significance and substance; but there has to be a check somewhere. Somebody has to do the kind of due diligence that the member himself cannot do and that other members are unlikely to do.

This is another reality about private members' business. When a private member submits a bill, and it is in second reading debate and then it comes to second reading vote, often members want to support that bill on all sides of the House simply because they want to support a private member. They want to support initiatives that come from backbench MPs, be they on this side or that side. What happens is then private members' legislation can escape through the House of Commons and it may not be as well thought out as it should be.

 

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So what I hope in the future is that we will see significant activity on the part of the Senate in examining private members' legislation that reaches the Senate so that the bills, if they do get royal assent, are really bills that will help Canadians and are of value to the nation.

In the free votes I was mentioning that is a problem too, because the fact of the matter is that many members do not study the private members' legislation in the same way as they might government legislation, and in fact the reality, when it comes to party discipline or free votes, is that many MPs on both sides of the House do not usually look in detail at any legislation, be it government legislation or private members' legislation.

Therefore, when it comes to a free vote situation then it becomes incumbent upon the MPs to examine the bills in great detail and often they do not. That is the reality, and they probably never shall. Somewhere along the line, if private members' legislation is going to be a useful addition to parliamentary life, we have to make sure that legislation is examined in depth.

We had a problem on this side when it came to free votes. Because the members are not always reading the private members' legislation or considering the full impact, what was happening was that the backbench MPs on this side, when a private member's bill—even though it is a free vote—was being voted on after second reading, would watch the members stand along the front benches. And because they had not read the legislation and because people want to generally be on side with their leadership, they would take their cue from the front benches. What you would see was everyone standing at the two benches here, and then everyone on the back benches. To address this problem the subcommittee on private members' business held consultations with backbench MPs that went over several years and issued a report, first a report just before the 1997 election and then a final report after the election.

Thanks to the guidance of the chairman of that committee, the member for Mississauga Centre, a number of very, very important recommendations to improve private members' business were made in that report and subsequently adopted by the government. One of those recommendations, which is now the practice of the House and which led to a change in the standing order, is the idea that when the House is voting on a private member's bill the Speaker will count the votes from the back benches forward.

So any Canadian watching a private members' vote will see that the vote is counted from behind. That way, the true backbench MPs do not have the opportunity to take the cue from the front bench. Indeed, it has encouraged them to pay more attention to private members' legislation and it gives the opportunity to the member who has the bill, be it an opposition member or a government member, to actually solicit support.

That has been an enormous step forward in private members' business, just an enormous step forward. I think, if I remember correctly, because I was involved as a witness before the committee, that idea in fact was the idea of the member for Mississauga Centre. I think she has significantly changed parliamentary life just by that one change to the standing order.

That report had other innovations as well. One of the great problems with private members' business is the fact that in order to have one's bill advanced for debate in the House it goes into a kind of lottery. In fact, every now and then, about three times a year, the Commons clerical staff literally put their hands into a hat and draw 30 names of members of parliament. If those members of parliament have motions or private members' bills submitted at first reading, then those bills can go forward and be debated in the House.

 

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Madam Speaker, I have to tell you that I have put in a number of private members' bills over the years and I have never been picked in that lottery in six years—six years, Madam Speaker. The mathematics, the statistics, of that process are such that with 301 MPs it is possible to never be picked for 10 years.

So another innovation that was brought in by the subcommittee on private members' business was the concept of a member of parliament getting the support of 100 members of parliament from all sides of the House. Actually what it breaks down to is 100 members from at least 3 parties, in which 2 of those parties would have at least 10 members supporting the bill. It is a little complicated, but the point is that the member could show broad support from the backbench MPs. It could buy his bill support to bypass the lottery and go directly on the order paper.

That innovation, I think, was a superb innovation because it at least reduces the element of chance. Or to say it another way, it makes it not a factor of chance alone to advance a significant bill. I think that was a very important innovation.

However, in practice it did not work very well. It had a lot of problems because a lot of members found it very difficult, because when they were given a list asking for the support, and the idea was to write their signature, they were torn between whether they should sign it because the bill was good or whether they should sign it because they liked the member who had the legislation.

It is the old story when we have free votes. For free votes, be it signing your signature to something that is going directly onto the order paper or whether it is a free vote on the actual vote going through the House, the problem is that if we do not do our due diligence we might decide that we want to support the legislation simply because we like the member who is putting it forward or because the member is on our side or whatever else.

I guess the jury is still out on that process. I do believe that the subcommittee for private members' business, which has been re-struck just recently, is going to reconsider that matter and see whether there is a way of amending that bit of legislation to make it work a little better.

I should mention, that I am happy to report to the House that the chairman of the subcommittee on private members' business is the member for Mississauga Centre, so can I expect her to give due attention to improving private members' business in every way, including this.

Finally, there is another problem with private members' legislation that I have not so far touched upon. One of the advantages that the government has when it introduces legislation is that the government has all the power of government and the bureaucracy to fight off the special interests that attack legislation. Any bill that is presented before the House, if it has any substance at all, is going to be the subject of attack from special interest groups, because the reality in society is that there are always those who support and there are always those who are against. So in the species at risk bill that is coming up right now, you can be very, very sure that there is going to be an enormous pressure that will come forward from various special interest groups.

So it was, with a private member's bill that I put forward on reforming the Access to Information Act last year. It was defeated in this House, a bill that would have advanced transparency of government. It was defeated in this House by opposition members. It was defeated primarily by the Bloc Quebecois and primarily by the Canadian Alliance. It was supported primarily by the NDP and supported by the Conservatives. It was defeated, not because they were against private members' business. It was defeated because every one of those MPs over there was subject to pressure from special interest groups, because when you bring transparency to government, when you bring transparency to crown corporations, they are going to put a lot of pressure on individual MPs.

There is a lot to do here, but we are making a lot of progress, perhaps not with as much help as I would like from the opposite side.

Mr. Preston Manning (Calgary Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I have a couple of points.

At the beginning of his remarks the member implied that it is our position that the throne speech contains no attempts to improve parliament. That is not our position. Our position is that the provisions of the throne speech to improve parliament are pathetically inadequate. I just want to make that clear.

 

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My comment and question really is on the first part of the member's remarks, wherein he dismisses the idea that energy consumers would be better helped by a tax reduction rather than a rebate.

This member and other members opposite have resisted every suggestion to reduce consumption taxes on fuel or anything else by saying that it will not be passed on to the ultimate consumer, that it will be absorbed by the oil company, the manufacturer, the distributor or someone else. This is their argument as to why there is no point in reducing consumption taxes: that they cannot do it because they cannot pass it on to the consumer.

In 1993 the Liberal Party itself promised to eliminate a consumption tax, the GST. It would never have promised that if it had not believed that there was some mechanism to ensure that the reduction in that tax was passed on to the taxpayer. Why does the government not take that mechanism, which it had in place when it planned to eliminate the GST, and use it to pass on a reduction in fuel consumption taxes to hard pressed energy users?

Mr. John Bryden: Madam Speaker, the answer is clearly speed and target. What we had to do is that we had to get a break on fuel taxes to the people who needed it most. The problem with just an across the board rebate is of course that it benefits the rich and the people who do not need it quite as desperately as those who do. We are definitely a government that, if we are going to respond, we are able to respond to what I think was a real crisis in fuel prices. We responded quickly. If we had chosen the rebate route it would have taken about a year and it would have helped a lot of people who do not need help.

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Madam Speaker, I find it rather paradoxical to hear our colleague on the government side talk about government integrity, and the greater role members have been given by the government, when this very morning we could read on the front page of La Presse that the Liberals were getting ready to vote against one of the red book's promises.

How can the member rise in the House, talk about independence of thought, integrity, giving more power to members, when just like in The Silence of the Lamb he, along with every government member, is going to vote against the red book?

I sincerely believe the member is one of the too many Pharisees on the government benches. Let us hope that one day in the future we and the other opposition parties will be able to wake up the government so that it lives up to the promises it made in the red book.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

[English]

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, in the absence of the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot—

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I put a question to the member. He cannot talk about independence of thought and flee like Louis XVI in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I remind the hon. member that we do not refer to whether someone is here or not here in the House.

[English]

Mr. Richard Harris: Madam Speaker, you were quite right to advise the member of the Bloc not to talk about the fact that the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot fled the House. You were quite right to bring that up, Madam Speaker. There he is.

It was almost laughable, if it was not such a serious thing, when the Liberal member in his presentation talked about how, in order to catch the cabinet members, the whip and the Prime Minister off guard, for private members' bills they count from the back down. How surprised the Prime Minister and the cabinet must be with the votes. How surprised they must be.

 

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Let us say this to all Canadians, that that is not exactly the way it happens. Prior to the members coming in, sitting on their desks, private member's bills or not, is either a demand or a recommendation from the government whip. We have seen those on the government benches. When the member so piously talks about how the Liberals have such free votes and how the whips cannot see how the members are voting, that is absolute hogwash. The member knows it and now Canadians know it.

Mr. John Bryden: Actually, Madam Speaker, that is not done by the whip. The whip does not attempt to interfere in private member's business. What was actually happening with that, and it was something that evolved when the legislation got very controversial because it was not always well thought out, is that I think the person responsible for private members' business was sending notices around indicating the government's position. All it does is indicate usually the Department of Justice's position on it.

That was the initiative of the member who was the chairman of the subcommittee on private members' business at that time, not the member for Mississauga Centre I should stress. It was a subsequent member.

It was a very, very poor practice and I never want to give the impression that we have perfected the operation of private members' business on this side or on the other side. I am hoping that in this parliament that will be discontinued and we will not do that, because I felt the pain of that when my access to information bill came before the House. I think some members were influenced by what was before them on their desks and I hope that will stop.

I have to say further that I have watched that side, particularly that party, particularly when it was under the leadership of the member for Calgary Southwest, and there was not a ripple of dissent during most private members' bills. There was always unanimity. On this side we have had free votes. We have voted contrary to the government's preference more than 2000 times. That is 2000 votes since free votes were instituted for private members' business.

No, what Canadians need to see during a vote is to have the camera panned and watch everyone on the other side jump up and down like monkeys. On this side you will see dissent on private members' business, Madam Speaker, and that is healthy dissent.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I think I can give a simple explanation to the member opposite about the apparent perception of us voting according to instructions. As a matter of fact, I have never ever voted the way I have been told. I have always been persuaded, and that is the way the House should be.

I think that the discrepancy between us apparently all voting together and the members over there voting is that we are all subject to collective fine minds and good wisdom. However, over there occasionally, that being lacking but still being a whipped vote, we get an unwise vote on that side and a good one on this side.

I could give many examples of different votes which were held in the previous two parliaments which were not good for this country. I think of only one, the Nisga'a agreement. I think of the vote on hepatitis C. Did I say only one? I mentioned two before I could stop my tongue.

The idea of votes and members of parliament representing their constituents here is absolutely critical. It just cannot be two or three people putting their heads together and every time without fail getting it perfect. So, why not listen to 301 members who are properly elected and who put forward amendments? Surely we would be able then to get better legislation for the Canadian people because we could improve it.

The mechanism now is that once it is brought in by the government, even in committee, amendments are denied. We bring amendments in here and they are denied. I have had members over there say to me that some of the amendments I put forward in committee were good amendments.

 

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However, when I asked why they voted against it in committee, one of the Liberal members shrugged his shoulders and said that they really did not have a choice. There was a contradiction between what the member is saying and what I heard from another one of his colleagues. I would really like to know what it is, but clearly we do need to have the freedom as elected members to represent—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The hon. member for Vancouver East.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, first may I congratulate you on becoming the Acting Speaker of the House. It is very nice to see a woman in the chair. I hope that it is a worthwhile and rewarding experience. I will be sharing my time today with the member for Palliser.

First, I will thank the people of Vancouver East who supported me and voted for me in my re-election. We went through a very interesting federal election campaign and here we are again, back in the House and listening to yet another throne speech by the government.

I have to say that I came back with some anticipation and maybe even a little bit of eagerness that we might hear something new from the government side, that something from the Canadian people had resonated with the Prime Minister and government members in terms of what would be in the throne speech.

Picking up on the debate that we have just been listening to about parliamentary reform, I would like to begin with that point. Speaking to backbench members of parliament, whether from the government's side or opposition members, there is a very strong feeling in this place that parliamentary reform and the opening up of the Chamber, in terms of the kinds of rules and procedures that apply, is something that is long overdue.

A lot of us were listening keenly to the throne speech to know if there would be any indication that the message had fallen on receptive ears on the government's side. Unfortunately that was not the case. I would agree with the member for Calgary Southwest who said that the so-called comments about parliamentary reform in the throne speech were absolutely pathetic.

I think of the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle who has long championed the issue of parliamentary reform. I think of the discussions I have had with our House leader, the member for Winnipeg—Transcona, a person who really understands what fundamental changes have taken place in the House regarding parliamentary democracy. It is really a sad day that we have come to a point where a lot of us are talking about parliamentary reform but nothing has really changed.

In listening to the throne speech, the thing that I was paying attention to was whether the government would be willing to address what is truly a national crisis in our country: the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Just the other day we had a report from the Vanier Institute that clearly showed that the gap between the rich and the poor was growing. It pointed out that 20% of families with the highest income saw their share of earnings rise 6.6% while the lowest fifth, the lowest 20%, saw their share shrink by 5.2%.

The other day in question period I told the government that the growing inequality in our country, the growing poverty where more and more families are experiencing difficulty in paying the rent and finding work, or living on substandard wages, is a direct result of a decade of failed Liberal policies that have created this inequality. I must say that the throne speech failed miserably to address that issue in any substantial way.

One of the concerns I have, in reading through the throne speech, is that the reference to a national project on poverty was nothing more than a new guise for a program that one could consider a workfare type of program, where low income parents on welfare would be motivated or compelled to work in the low wage ghettos and be subsidized. It is really a subsidization program for employers who provide very low wages.

That is the government's answer to dealing with poverty. It does not deal with the reality that one in six Canadians live below the poverty line. It does not deal with the reality that many aboriginal people are living in destitution and poverty on reserves as well as off reserves.

 

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The messages and the commitments in the throne speech were utterly disappointing in addressing what I believe is truly a national crisis.

The same goes for housing. Any organization that has dealt with this issue, national housing groups, housing advocates and people who deal on the front line, have said over and over again that what the government must do is get back into the housing supply program. There is no getting away from that simple straightforward fact.

Instead, what did we see in the throne speech? We saw one reference where the government will stimulate the creation of more affordable rental housing. What this says to me is that the government is now ready to begin a program of basically subsidizing developers. This is not a national housing strategy. This will not provide affordable housing for families, single people and seniors, the people who really need it.

Canada had good housing programs. They were dismantled by this government. It was one of the things that fell under the axe when the finance minister brought in his draconian cuts which were basically done on the backs of the poor people. The housing program was one of the victims of that. As a result, we now have something like 200,000 people sleeping on the streets. We have millions of Canadians who are inadequately housed.

I was very disappointed that we got a mere line in the throne speech and no reference to a real national housing strategy. This is particularly reprehensible when one considers that the finance minister, who is sitting on a big fat surplus, 10 years ago in the opposition actually produced a very good housing report. The report called for a lot of the kinds of programs that people today are still today calling for. Does that minister believe in his own report that he wrote a decade ago? It is the kind of hypocrisy that makes Canadians feel very cynical about the political process.

As the spokesperson in our party on the issue of post-secondary education, I try to stay on top of what the government is doing or is not doing when it comes to helping students. We only heard about the innovations of the high tech future of Canada, the vision of the future and the knowledge based economy. All these platitudes there were in the throne speech. There was not a single reference to the crushing debt that students are facing in the country.

Why is Canada only one of three OECD countries without a national grants program? Why is the average student debt now $25,000? Why have student loan bankruptcies increased 700% since 1989? It is because the government has abandoned post-secondary education. The retreat of public funding and the dramatic increase in tuition fees of about 240% is now hammering students. They are graduating into poverty. That is the Liberal answer to post-secondary education.

When it comes to issues of justice and equality, the throne speech had nothing to offer. When we put the picture together and looked at where we are headed as Canadians, I and my colleagues and in the New Democratic Party have very deep concerns about the vision of the government. We have concerns about the very role of government. It has changed its vision of helping people, of providing a social safety net and of strengthening democracy. It has now become the propaganda machine and the movers and shakers for globalization.

We were also looking for references that would deal with the threats of corporate globalization, that would respond to the concerns from Canadians about how the free trade area of the Americas and the WTO and these trade agreements and how the issues and concerns about weakening democracy in those agreements were going to be dealt with. Again, the throne speech was silent on this matter. There were no references to banning bulk water exports, something that Canadians are extremely concerned about. There was no commitment to environmental labour or public concern about meeting to carve out these issues in any trade deals.

 

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We in the New Democratic Party see this as the most pressing issue before us. Whether we are talking about health care, education, culture or our very democratic foundation, we are threatened by globalized trade agreements that are literally transferring power from democratically elected governments to private corporations that have no accountability. The government is allowing that to take place.

We are just a small group but we will be a very strong force in taking on this issue in parliament and challenging the government on its agenda in this regard.

[Translation]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): It being 2. 15 p. m., pursuant to order made earlier today, every question necessary to dispose of the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne is deemed to have been put, and the deferred division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Tuesday, February 13, 2001, at the conclusion of Government Orders.  

[English]

It being 2.16 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.16 p.m.)