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37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 015

CONTENTS

Friday, February 16, 2001

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1000

VELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT
VBill C-3. Second reading
VHon. Jim Peterson

. 1005

. 1010

. 1015

VMr. John Duncan

. 1020

. 1025

. 1030

. 1035

VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1040

. 1045

. 1050

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VNATIONAL MICROBIOLOGY LABORATORY
VMs. Anita Neville
VCANADA CUSTOMS AND REVENUE AGENCY
VMr. John Duncan
VNATIONAL FLAG DAY
VMr. Marcel Proulx

. 1100

VREGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
VMr. Jean-Guy Carignan
VSHIRLEY HARRISON
VMs. Paddy Torsney
VLABOUR
VMr. Jim Gouk
VBLACK HISTORY MONTH
VMs. Carolyn Bennett

. 1105

VSUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
VMr. Stéphan Tremblay
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. Irwin Cotler
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Grant McNally
VMONTGOMERY LEGION
VMr. Mac Harb
VABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
VMr. Pat Martin

. 1110

VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Odina Desrochers
VYOUNG OFFENDERS
VMs. Raymonde Folco
VFISHERIES
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VJEFF SPENCER
VMrs. Judi Longfield
VTRANSPORTATION SAFETY
VMs. Cheryl Gallant

. 1115

VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VTHE ECONOMY
VMr. Monte Solberg
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Monte Solberg
VHon. Jim Peterson
VMr. Monte Solberg
VHon. Jim Peterson
VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. Herb Gray

. 1120

VMr. Charlie Penson
VHon. Jim Peterson
VTRANSFER PAYMENTS
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Jim Peterson

. 1125

VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Herb Gray
VHEATING FUEL REBATE
VMr. Pat Martin
VHon. Jim Peterson
VMr. Pat Martin
VHon. Jim Peterson
VTRADE
VMr. John Herron
VHon. Lyle Vanclief

. 1130

VMr. Gerald Keddy
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VWATER CONTAMINATION
VMr. Scott Reid
VHon. Art Eggleton
VMr. Scott Reid
VHon. Art Eggleton
VGOVERNMENT SPENDING
VMr. Pierre Brien
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. Pierre Brien
VHon. Stéphane Dion

. 1135

VGOVERNMENT OF CANADA
VMr. James Rajotte
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VMr. James Rajotte
VHon. Stéphane Dion
VWATER CONTAMINATION
VHon. Art Eggleton
VHon. Art Eggleton
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. James Moore

. 1140

VHon. John Manley
VMr. James Moore
VHon. John Manley
VMr. Mac Harb
VHon. John Manley
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Dick Proctor
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Dick Proctor

. 1145

VHon. David Anderson
VGUN CONTROL
VMr. Peter MacKay
VMr. John Maloney
VEMPLOYMENT
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VMrs. Raymonde Folco
VABORIGINAL AFFAIRS
VMrs. Betty Hinton
VHon. Herb Gray
VMrs. Betty Hinton
VHon. Robert Nault
VPAY EQUITY
VMs. Monique Guay

. 1150

VMr. Alex Shepherd
VMs. Monique Guay
VHon. Claudette Bradshaw
VCOAST GUARD
VMr. James Lunney
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Herb Gray
VORGANIZED CRIME
VMr. Larry Bagnell
VMr. John Maloney

. 1155

VCANADIAN MINT
VMr. Ken Epp
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VMr. Ken Epp
VHon. Alfonso Gagliano
VORGANIZED CRIME
VMr. Marcel Gagnon
VMr. John Maloney
VJUSTICE
VMr. John Godfrey
VMr. Lynn Myers
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. James Moore

. 1200

VHon. John Manley
VTRADE
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VEXPORTS OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT
VHon. John Manley
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMr. Derek Lee
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-269. Introduction and first reading
VMr. John Herron

. 1205

VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMotion for concurrence
VMr. Derek Lee
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Derek Lee
VPRIVILEGE
VOral Question Period—Speaker's Ruling
VThe Deputy Speaker

. 1210

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT
VBill C-3. Second reading
VMr. Odina Desrochers

. 1215

. 1220

. 1225

. 1230

VMr. Pat Martin

. 1235

. 1240

. 1245

. 1250

VMr. Brian Fitzpatrick

. 1255

VMr. Gerald Keddy

. 1300

. 1305

VMr. Larry Bagnell

. 1310

. 1315

VMr. Deepak Obhrai

. 1320

. 1325

VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 015


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, February 16, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1000 +

[English]

ELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT

 

Hon. Jim Peterson (for the Minister of Natural Resources) moved that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of the Minister of Natural Resources who unfortunately cannot be with us.

Bill C-3 is an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. This is the same bill as Bill C-39 which received second reading last fall but died on the order paper.

At that time, three out of four of the opposition parties in the House agreed to support that bill. I do hope that we will have their support for the bill today.

Members will recall that when the bill was first introduced, it was done extremely capably by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Timiskaming—Cochrane. He spoke eloquently of the merits of the bill and of our natural resource sector. He pointed out that resource industries are not relics of the past. They are important engines of economic growth in Canada.

Energy, mining, forestry, geomatics and related industries currently account for 11% of our gross domestic product and 22% of new capital investment. They employ directly 780,000 Canadians and drive the economies of over 600 of our communities from coast to coast.

In 1998 the resource sector exported $97 billion worth of goods and services. Our resource sectors are in fact dynamic and vital elements of not the old economy but the knowledge based economy of the 21st century.

Resource companies are not in competition with high tech businesses. They are high tech businesses. They are investing $35 billion a year in leading edge technologies and other capital. Their productivity is growing three times faster than the rest of the economy.

[Translation]

Several factors explain the excellent performance of the resource industry in the world economy. The policies based on economic tendencies and markets which successive Liberal governments have implemented are good examples of this.

 

. 1005 + -

That being said, this kind of work is never finished, and our constant challenge is to ensure that the Canadian resource industry remains competitive and continues to support our economic prosperity. We must keep fine tuning our legislative and strategic framework so that companies in the resource industry have the leeway and capacity they need to make strategic decisions and secure a better position on the Canadian and world markets.

[English]

That is the rationale for the bill. The legislative amendments being proposed today are intended to allow two of our major performers in the natural resources sector, Cameco Corporation and Petro-Canada, to continue their record of economic growth and environmental stewardship.

I would like to quickly review the history behind these proposed amendments.

At one time both Cameco and Petro-Canada were crown corporations wholly owned by taxpayers. By 1995, however, the Government of Canada had sold all of its shares in Cameco, which is the dominant company in Canada's world leading uranium industry. As for Petro-Canada, although the government currently owns 18% of its shares, it does not influence the management of the company.

At the time of privatization, certain ownership restrictions were placed on both these companies. These restrictions were implemented at that time for good reasons, but circumstances have changed within the continuing evolution of global energy markets. The bottom line today is that some of these ownership restrictions have outlived their usefulness and are actually preventing these companies from taking advantage of new business opportunities.

[Translation]

Changes are needed, obviously. Restrictions on ownership provided in the two statutes do not give these companies the freedom enjoyed by their competitors to be able to grow and face competition on the world market. If Cameco and Petro-Canada are to continue performing well as private businesses, we have to ensure that the rules of the game are the same for everybody. The government also intends to ensure that these two corporations continue to make their decisions in Canada, with due consideration for Canadian interests.

[English]

To accomplish that, the bill will modify or remove certain restrictions that are limiting the ability of Cameco and Petro-Canada to attract new investment capital to forge new strategic alliances.

Specifically, the bill amends the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act to increase the limit on individual ownership of shares from 10% to 20%. It will also eliminate the 25% limit on the quantity of shares that could be collectively owned by non-residents of Canada. In other words, we are removing the restrictions on foreign ownership of Petro-Canada.

As for Cameco, we continue to believe in the need for some restrictions on foreign ownership. The bill therefore proposes to increase the limit on individual non-resident share ownership from 5% to a maximum of 15%. Similarly, the cap on total non-resident ownership of Cameco will increase from 20% to 25% of the company's shares. The current ownership limit for individual Canadians, which is 25%, will remain in place.

[Translation]

At the same time, the bill insists that these two corporations remain in Canada and be managed in Canada.

 

. 1010 + -

[English]

To further ensure that Cameco remains under Canadian control, the legislation will continue to require that the company's head office be located in Saskatchewan and that the majority of its directors be Canadian residents.

The legislation also requires that Petro-Canada's head office be located in Calgary and that the majority of its directors also be Canadian residents. The 20% limit on individual ownership of voting shares of Petro-Canada will prevent a takeover by a large multinational.

Finally, Petro-Canada has reoriented its major activities so that they are truly Canadian. They are concentrating on the east coast offshore and on the oil sands.

Bill C-3 will prevent Petro-Canada from disposing of all or substantially all of its commercial or production assets. The goal is to give Petro-Canada far greater freedom in administering its portfolio of assets, at the same time ensuring that it cannot dispose of these assets through a wind up.

The outstanding Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources made it clear in the previous debate that the sole intent of these changes is to give Cameco and Petro-Canada increased agility and better global positioning. It does not reflect a major shift in energy policy. These changes confirm our commitment to allow market forces to work, but within reasonable and responsible limits.

Officials of both companies have strongly supported these changes, showing that they are not trying to entrench their management positions as some might have otherwise suspected.

In closing, I should like to address briefly two of the other issues that were raised in debate when this matter came before parliament last spring.

First, let me reassure members that the proposed amendments will have no impact on the price of refined petroleum products. Gasoline and diesel oil prices in Canada rise and fall with crude oil prices, which in turn are set by supply and demand in a global market. They are not set by ownership rules applying to any one company in the Canadian petroleum industry.

Second, let me assure members that Bill C-3 does not affect Canada's commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or to nuclear security.

As I outlined earlier in my remarks, these amendments have been supported and endorsed in principle by a big majority of the House, with most hon. members recognizing that these changes will be good for the two companies, will be good for investors and will be good for all Canadians.

In this spirit, I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly this morning and I commend the bill to all members of the House, asking humbly that it receive quick passage at second reading and go to committee for full discussion.

 

. 1015 + -

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we are speaking on Bill C-3 this morning, which pertains to the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and also to the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act. The enactment relates to the mandatory provisions in the articles of Cameco Corporation and Petro-Canada. Cameco was formerly Eldorado Nuclear Limited, to which many Canadians can relate.

This enactment provides that the articles of Cameco Corporation will have to contain a 15% individual non-resident share ownership limit for voting shares as well as a cap of 25% on aggregate non-resident share ownership voting rights. The enactment also provides that the articles of Petro-Canada will have to be amended to allow for a 20% individual share ownership limit, while the aggregate non-resident share ownership limits will be eliminated.

In addition, the prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of Petro-Canada's upstream and downstream assets will be replaced with a similar prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of its assets, without distinguishing between upstream and downstream sectors of activity.

That is a pretty concise legislative summary.

I think what is important to many Canadians is that, one, we are dealing with two assets that Canadians, either historically or today, have considered strategic assets. One of course is uranium and that is why we had special rules for Eldorado Nuclear. The other is the grand experiment known as Petro-Canada, which was brought in by the Trudeau government in 1975. This all became part of the national energy program of the early 1980s, so as a consequence it has been very controversial.

We have heard much discussion recently about the possibility that Petro-Canada could be on the chopping block in terms of the remaining ownership of shares held by the Government of Canada. That is in the amount of 49.4 million shares. As of a week ago, at an ownership or market price of $36.70, the shares would be valued at approximately $1.8 billion.

The question is, is this the platform to sell off the remaining shares in Petro-Canada? Bottom line, that would still not recoup the government's investment in Petro-Canada, but I think many Canadians, the international community and certainly the business community would be satisfied if the government was finally out of this business.

It is important if we are going to take that step that the government does the right thing in terms of what it does with those moneys that would be accrued at that time. My personal view is that seeing as how the taxpayer subsidized this and it has contributed to our previous deficits and our debt and is currently the subject of interest payments coming from all of us, the moneys should go to debt retirement automatically, without debate.

As for Cameco, this bill ensures that foreign ownership is capped, thereby eliminating the risk of foreign ownership of uranium resources.

 

. 1020 + -

On this question I believe Canadians think very differently than they do about our oil, gas and other resources. The main reason is the fact that uranium, obviously, is involved in nuclear energy and nuclear fuel. That whole area is one that we want to tightly regulate and highly regulate, which is appropriate. There is a big difference. If we look at the oil and gas sector, for example, when this whole national energy program was put into place Canadians were told by the government that we had less than 20 years' worth of recoverable oil reserves and that a high gasoline tax burden was justified in order to conserve for future energy needs.

Canada is in a unique position. We know now that was an incorrect statement. We now know that in northern Alberta alone we have 400 years' worth of recoverable oil reserves in the tar sands, which will obviously supply our needs well into the future, and that changes everything. We are very skeptical about the need for government to retain any ownership in Petro-Canada for any purpose.

In 1991 the government decided that Canada no longer needed a crown corporation in the energy business and began the privatization process. We all know that. That is why current ownership is at 18%, not something much higher. In the end it became clear that after fluctuations in the markets, business setbacks and the ever present political struggles, Petro-Canada ended up basically as an oil company, much like any other in Canada except that the taxpayer still owned 18% of the company and was the single largest holder of the stock. No one but the government could own more than 10%.

In 1994 we questioned why the government would not sell off its national oil company while the industry was strong to recoup some of the billions of taxpayer dollars that were used to create Petro-Canada in the first place. In 1994 we asked the government why it would not do something significant and use the revenue from the sale of Petro-Canada to reduce Canada's debt burden. We know there was a crushing debt burden in 1994. It is still a crushing debt burden, but it was much worse in 1994 because we were still incurring annual deficits at that time.

In 1995 a Liberal budget promised to totally privatize Petro-Canada. We can see how reliable Liberal budget promises or even red book promises are. Indeed, that is something we should consider deeply, particularly after the events of this week which saw the government say that if its members voted for a red book promise it would be a confidence motion and the government could fall if its own members voted to keep a government promise. This turns parliament and parliamentary principle upside down.

The fact remains that Petro-Canada cost Canadians over $5 billion. Petro-Canada has never provided a benefit to Canadians that could not have been provided by the private sector, and when it was finally privatized, guess what? Petro-Canada started making a profit and competing effectively.

 

. 1025 + -

Governments since Petro-Canada was established have never had the courage to admit to Canadians that they will be able to recover less than $2 billion, 40% of the original cost of Petro-Canada. If Bill C-3 is indeed, as we think it is, the first step in the process of the government selling off its remaining shares of Petro-Canada, my only response can be that it is finally time, long past time.

I am curious about why we are getting this bill now. Petro-Canada's share prices have moved up in anticipation of the government selling off its shares. The shares have gone up by at least 50% this year and there is potential for the price to go higher. Also, with the bill in place, foreign ownership restrictions are removed, which will allow for an expanded market and that theoretically should expand the price once again.

As a business proposition this was a poor one. We are recovering less than 40% of what we put into the exercise and that is with rather inflated dollar revenues and non-inflated costs. This has basically been a disastrous business transaction. Since taxpayer dollars originally paid for Petro-Canada, I have already explained that the best way to go would be to put it into debt reduction.

There are other things that might be considered, such as our looming crisis in transportation needs and the need for transportation improvements. Or we could actually be really revolutionary. I know when it comes to these kinds of initiatives that the government has great difficulty prying its fingers away from these revenues, but we could be really revolutionary and use these moneys to cut taxes. However, that is a rather clear cut, simple, direct way to deal with the problem, so as a consequence it may not occur.

The bill does some things I can support. Referring to Petro-Canada, it does move toward opening up ownership of the company to national and international interests while still ensuring that the majority of the company is Canadian. The legislation clearly states that resident Canadians must still make up the majority of the board of directors. It also stipulates that the head office will remain in Calgary. The Canadian Alliance supports the removal of restrictions on Canadian businesses to allow for both domestic and foreign investing. We expect to see that Petro-Canada, once it is no longer manipulated by the government, will continue to show profits and growth.

Of course the legislation does not just address issues surrounding Petro-Canada. It addresses issues relating to the sale of shares in Cameco, Canada's largest uranium producer.

 

. 1030 + -

Canada's Kyoto commitments have increased the need for Canada to find green energy. One option of course is nuclear energy. That needs to be examined. At this point today I do not want to get into a debate about the merits or lack thereof of nuclear energy. However, the fact remains that uranium is a resource that, should nuclear energy be a factor in the world's efforts to reduce CO2 levels, will become a very important resource.

We all intrinsically know this. Nuclear energy has become a very controversial way of providing for our energy needs, but we have some nations in the world that are almost singularly reliant upon nuclear energy. We do not think about that from time to time.

France, for example, in the European community is over 70% dependent upon nuclear energy for its needs. That has all occurred over a long period of time. It continues to be the way that it functions. Its operations have never created an incident that has been worthy of international comment. That is a wonderful track record. We need to keep our minds open and our options open in terms of that whole field of endeavour.

The bill regarding Cameco raises foreign and individual ownership limits. Individual non-resident ownership increases from 5% to 15%. The limit on the total amount of non-resident ownership of shares increases from 20% to 25%.

I am pleased to see that the legislation is still mindful of the possible consequences of high levels of foreign ownership of our uranium resources. The lower limits on Cameco shares reflect across the board government restrictions on foreign activity in uranium mining.

While the Canadian Alliance is all for Canadian businesses having the opportunity to succeed, we must also be conscious of the need to keep such a potentially volatile resource within Canadian control. The bill in effect allows for greater flexibility in the selling of shares in Canadian companies. We can certainly support that effort.

As I have already stated, if the legislation leads to the government finally selling off its remaining shares of Petro-Canada, it would be legislation that is long overdue. We will just have to see what initiative will come next from the government.

At this point in time the government and many parts of the public have long since forgotten what the original purpose of Petro-Canada, emanating from the government of the day, was actually supposed to be. Unfortunately, many taxpayers have also forgotten how much money was sunk into this enterprise, never ever to be recovered.

 

. 1035 + -

Our policy document in regard to this whole initiative says:

    We will foster a healthy economic environment for the benefit of consumers by pursuing free and open trade at home and abroad, including the elimination of inter-provincial trade barriers. We will withdraw government from areas of the economy where the private sector could deliver the same services more efficiently and will end the unfair practice of providing subsidies to industries, businesses and special interest groups.

There is a lot of wisdom in that statement. If the government of the day had subscribed to that policy statement we would not have sunk money into a sinkhole. We would not be looking at a multibillion dollar loss at a time when the country had a debt. That added to our debt and contributed to our interest payments today.

Even today with all the health care debate that we are going through on an almost daily basis, we are paying twice as much federally to service interest on the debt as we are in contributing to health care transfers to the provinces. That is a very strong indictment of mismanagement of the first order and just displays what a country Canada could have been if we would have had appropriate fiscal management throughout the years.

The people know it. That is why they endorsed this policy when it was created. As a matter of fact they were instrumental in creating this policy.

We are in favour of privatizing Petro-Canada. This bill does set the stage for doing that. The legislation ensures that foreign ownership of uranium resources will be monitored and capped. It is important for us to make sure that our support of free market competition and access does not however give away our uranium resources to foreign ownership. I want to be very clear on that and I think I have been consistent throughout my statements today that that is a direction we are simply not coming from.

I recognize that I have not used up all the valuable time of the House but I certainly put across the points that I wanted to get across today on Bill C-3.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, before I proceed, I request unanimous consent of the House to share my time with my colleague from Lotbinière-L'Érable.

The Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Speaker, it is with rather mixed emotions that I rise this morning to speak to Bill C-3. There are so many important issues that should be discussed with some urgency in the House that I do not see the point in debating the bill before us today, because it will not change much of anything for Canadians, in my opinion.

There certainly is a problem in the oil industry throughout Canada, but the government is ignoring it and keeps on introducing bills that do not do anything to solve the problem. It is as if the government were telling us that it wants to keep the House busy.

Bill C-3 is entitled an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act

 

. 1040 + -

In short, this enactment relates to the mandatory provisions in the articles of Eldorado Nuclear Limited—now Cameco Corporation—and Petro-Canada. It provides that the articles of Cameco Corporation will have to contain a 15% individual non-resident share ownership limit for voting shares as well as a cap on aggregate non-resident share ownership voting rights of 25%.

It also provides that the articles of Petro-Canada will have to be amended to allow for a 20% individual share ownership limit, while the aggregate non-resident share ownership limit will be eliminated.

The prohibition of the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of Petro-Canada's upstream and downstream assets will be replaced with a similar prohibition on the sale, transfer or disposal of all or substantially all of its assets, without distinguishing between the upstream and downstream sectors of activity.

Today, I will be focusing mainly on the provisions concerning Petro-Canada, but I still want to say a few words about Cameco.

In the press release announcing the proposed changes to the legislation, the minister made the following statement, to reassure the public, I guess:

    These amendments conform to the Government of Canada's policy on non-resident ownership in the uranium mining sector and do not impair Canada's ability to fulfill its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

We could carry on for hours and hours about the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. I have the honour of having the Minister of the Environment in front of me this morning. The Minister of the Environment is currently promoting nuclear energy at the international level while industries throughout the world are opting for new approaches. I find that rather bizarre.

Actually, it is not that bizarre when one is aware that the Canadian government is trying to sell its Candu reactors to underdeveloped countries, just to make money.

We went through the same thing last autumn, during the previous parliament, when a very hot topic, the transportation of MOX, gave rise to heated debate throughout the country.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the residents of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and the hundreds of thousands of people who opposed the movement of MOX from Russia and the United States for testing in a nuclear plant. In his last report, dated December 2000, the auditor general says these nuclear plants are now very dangerous because they have not been well maintained. Huge investments are needed to make them properly operational.

During the debate on this, the Minister of Natural Resources, the hon. member for Wascana, consistently refused to hear the voice of the ordinary people, despite what was stated in the Baird commission report. In this report it was said that before moving forward in such an important area there had to be public consultations.

I think this week we have had yet another example of the kind of government we have. In its 1993 red book, the Liberal Party had solemnly committed to appointing an ethics counsellor who would be accountable to parliament. This week, representatives of that party broke their promise.

 

. 1045 + -

They are not here to protect the environment for the future; they are here to work on a piecemeal, short-sighted basis.

I am concerned, and I think the MOX issue is a good example. I can tell the House that we will not give up, that we will scrutinize what the hon. member for Wascana says and does to ensure that he does what he said he would do when answering the questions I asked him during last parliament.

I wonder about the relevance of the government's approach. Is it really necessary to seek more foreign capital for the extraction of uranium? I hope the minister will adequately answer our questions in committee. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the head office of Cameco is located in the minister's province, Saskatchewan.

Petro-Canada has its head office in Alberta because it used to be a crown corporation. Now, the federal government owns approximately one fifth of its shares. In our opinion, this corporation already belongs to foreign interests. Therefore, even if the individual share ownership limit is increased from 10% to 20%, this will not impact on the problem of competition in the gasoline market.

It is amazing to see this bill being presented when the Conference Board is currently conducting a review of this whole issue. Would it not have been preferable to wait for the conclusions of that review before making any changes in the share ownership of Petro-Canada?

The report from that review, commissioned by the Minister of Industry during the last parliament, should be tabled soon. It was to be submitted at the beginning of January 2001, but we have not seen it yet. The review will cost nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

In my opinion it would have been better to wait for that report before making any commitments. Studies are now underway which might give us another standpoint on whatever is happening in the gas industry, on the issue of competition in that industry and on whatever is being said across the country.

Also surprising is the fact that Petro-Canada contributed a little over $5,000 to the campaign fund of the Liberal Party of Canada in 1999. I would like to give our viewers some information regarding other contributions made that same year. The Alberta Energy Company contributed $17,233 to the Liberal Party campaign fund; Amoco Canada, $14,433; Canadian Occidental Petroleum, $52,676; Golf Canada Resources, $7,233; and Imperial Oil, $25,000.

I suppose that when the CEOs of these companies ask for changes to the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, close attention is paid to what they have to say. All roads lead to the campaign fund of our friends across the way.

As for the review being carried out by the Conference Board, I want to remind the House that a parliamentary committee examined Petro-Canada and the fuel industry in 1998. In one of its recommendations, the committee warned against a possible merger of Petro-Canada and another oil company. This is another fine example of the Prime Minister ignoring the work of his own members. Despite all the work that was done, he is trying to hide the fuel issue by commissioning the Conference Board to conduct a review.

The federal government is not only collecting fuel taxes, it is grabbing part of the huge profits being registered by the oil companies this year. Petro-Canada's profits increased by $195 million during the second quarter of the year 2000. That is a 304% increase. To increase its tax revenues, the government will stop at nothing. During the next campaign, the Liberal Party theme could very well be “We want nothing but your good, and your goods”.

 

. 1050 + -

Increasing the foreign ownership limit to 20% will not allow an individual to take control of Petro-Canada. However, 20% of the shares of a company can give someone a lot of power.

We, in the Bloc, think that competition is one of the major problems in this industry. The federal government identified a dangerous level of concentration in the industry, but it decided against doing anything until the problem reached crisis proportions since the winter of 2000.

The Bloc Quebecois has been demanding for some time that the federal government make sure there is more competition in the Canadian oil industry. Three refiner-marketers control 75% of the wholesale trade in Canada, which is reason enough to wonder if there is any real competition in this industry.

The Competition Act should be amended to guarantee competitive prices for consumers. The House committee that has been poring over this legislation for a year has clearly indicated that the Competition Bureau had a very hard time enforcing the law. There are two things that could be done immediately in this regard: first, there could be changes made to the onus of proof with respect to anticompetitive behaviour and, second, the Competition Bureau could be given the authority to initiate investigations.

Despite what the government says about Canada's refineries, right now Esso, Shell, Petro-Canada and Ultramar have a monopoly on distribution. The four oil companies serving the Canadian market posted a record overall net profit of close to $2.5 billion in the first nine months of 2000. It is a bonanza for shareholders.

Petro-Canada alone made record profits of $893 million in the last year, almost three times more than the preceding high of $306 million reached in 1997.

There is other problem with the federal government's attitude with respect to fuel price hikes. Only 17% of federal taxes on fuel are invested in the transportation infrastructure on a Canada-wide scale.

The federal government then feels it has to set up infrastructure programs in order to gain more visibility.

The member from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area who sits across the way was a Progressive Conservative, then an Independent and is now the Liberal member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. He says that he is a regionalist.

I have a brief comment for him. The federal government collected $35 million in fuel excise taxes in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in 1997-98. Our return on this was 0.8%, because all the federal government reinvested was $287,000 on highway 175. What happened to the other $34.3 million?

The member is still staying that Quebec does not look after the regions. I am going to give an idea of what is being said. The Quebec government collected $37 million and reinvested $30 million for highways in my region alone. That is an 80% return.

The cat is now coming out of the bag. As we say back home, the truth will come out, and it will, faster and faster. We will discuss the real issues. Right now, this government is taking money from the pockets of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers and using it to pay off its debts. That money is being used to pay for something other than what it is collected for.

 

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I find it hard to see the relevance of this bill. I am not opposed to it and nor is the Bloc Quebecois. But I wonder why the government is introducing this bill now. Is it because some foreign investor who is anxious to invest in Petro-Canada and contribute to the Liberal Party's campaign fund needs a higher ceiling for foreign ownership?

I suppose the Minister of Natural Resources will be able to explain to us in committee why this bill is being introduced now and why the government does not deal instead with the issue of competition in the gasoline market across Canada.

The Speaker: The hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable can begin his speech if he wishes to do so, but unfortunately I will have to interrupt him very shortly, because we are about to proceed to statements by members. The hon. member has one minute if he wishes to begin.

Mr. Odina Desrochers: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to postpone my speech until after statements by members and oral question period.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

NATIONAL MICROBIOLOGY LABORATORY

Ms. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the last three weeks the National Microbiology Laboratory, Health Canada, situated at the Canadian Science Centre for Animal and Human Health in Winnipeg, has been called upon to respond to three separate incidents: two involving testing a potentially lethal material and the third to provide urgent diagnostics on a Congolese woman suspected of having viral hemorrhagic fever. In all instances the staff responded in a competent, timely and highly professional manner.

The Canadian Science Centre for Animal and Human Health is a maximum containment, state of the art facility which houses what many believe to be the premier level four containment laboratory in the world. It was built to enable Canada to respond to current and emerging infectious disease threats which seem to be on the rise. It is heartening to see that the staff of the facility have responded so capably to these major challenges.

Events of the past week have reinforced the wisdom of the investment in the laboratory and have shown that it can be considered to be on equal footing with other maximum containment labs in the world.

*  *  *

CANADA CUSTOMS AND REVENUE AGENCY

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, now that the finance minister has announced some teeny tiny tax cuts, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency is trying to fill those little holes. It has harassed employers who are now ferreting out taxable benefits.

B.C. Ferries has implemented new parking rules as a result. I will quote from a bulletin to its employees:

    The terminal managers will record the period of time you parked...You will accumulate a taxable benefit for each day worked based on the daily parking rate of ten cents...based on a personal tax rate of 40%, the cost to you is eighty cents per month...Please note: Employee parking lots will be monitored by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

This reads like a Monty Python skit. Total revenue will be exceeded by new administration costs. Is it any wonder people think the bureaucracy has gone mad?

*  *  *

[Translation]

NATIONAL FLAG DAY

Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday was National Flag of Canada Day. Thirty-six years ago, many of us were assembled in schoolyards to proudly witness one of the key events in the history of our country. Even the cold wintry day could not dampen our enthusiasm in hearing the story of the creation of a distinctive symbol that was soon to become recognized and respected throughout the world.

 

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For months, debate and controversy had surrounded the creation of our flag. Hundreds of design submissions, hundreds of speeches in parliament, but all focused on one common goal, finding an emblem for the Canadian people that would represent justice, peace and equality for all.

We attained that objective. Whether it flies over our efforts to build a country or our assistance to another country in time of need, our flag inspires respect and harmony. We can feel justifiable attachment and pride in the flag of Canada, for it is the symbol of a united society.

*  *  *

REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Jean-Guy Carignan (Québec East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on January 26, the Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State for Economic Development Agency of Canada announced a contribution of $10 million for the establishment of a national downhill ski training and competition centre at Le Massif de Petite-Rivière-Saint-François.

Completion of this project should in fact lead to the creation of 75 seasonal jobs with the resort corporation, as well as to additional economic spinoffs of more than $16 million over four years.

We feel it is important to point out that this initiative by the Government of Canada is part of its strategy to provide all regions of Quebec with the opportunity to fully develop their economic potential.

The government is proud to associate itself with this project which will enhance the ski area's international reputation.

*  *  *

[English]

SHIRLEY HARRISON

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the outstanding volunteer efforts of Ms. Shirley Harrison.

Ms. Harrison went on assignment to Russia to assist a fashion house to become more competitive. She provided vital guidance on marketing strategies, recommending a company logo, fashion shows and brochures, not to mention her key role in drafting a marketing plan so the company owner could upgrade his store.

Finally, Ms. Harrison proposed administrative changes to delegate responsibilities to the employees so as to provide some relief for the company owner.

Ms. Harrison's work will have a tremendous impact in alleviating the stresses and challenges associated with running a company in Russia. Her wealth of experience and generous volunteer spirit demonstrates the best of Canadian values. Ms. Harrison is an exemplary grassroots ambassador.

I am sure all of my colleagues, as well as Shirley's many friends and family, join me in commending her for her impressive contributions and accomplishments in Russia.

Way to go, Shirley.

*  *  *

LABOUR

Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there is a very clear pattern in the way the government handles labour disputes falling under federal jurisdiction: wait for a problem to occur, wait for some real damage to be done and then legislate an end to the strike.

In 1994 longshoremen at the Port of Vancouver went on strike. They lost wages, the port lost business and farmers thousands of miles away came one step closer to losing their farms.

In 1997 Canada Post went on strike, with the same results for the employer and employees, and thousands of small businesses suffered major losses as the Christmas shopping season approached.

In both of these examples and in many others, the dispute was ended by legislation after the damage had been done. The losses suffered by everyone were for nothing. This year we are facing the possibility of more disruptions at our ports, with both the national railways, with the air traffic controllers, among others.

Does the Minister of Labour have any proactive ideas to end this lose-lose situation or does she simply plan to allow Canadians to continue to suffer because of her failure to act?

*  *  *

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Ms. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as you may know, in December 1995 parliament officially designated February as Black History Month.

[Translation]

Black History Month provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the importance the history of Blacks in North America.

[English]

In Canada, Black History Month gained acceptance in the late 1960s and has become an annual event across the country, particularly in major urban cities.

The federal government's commitment to the recognition and education of Black History Month is the Mathieu Da Costa Awards Program. Mathieu Da Costa was the first of many persons of African origin who have made important contributions to the building of Canada. The program encourages Canadian students to research, discover and celebrate the contributions of Canadians of ethnic and racial minorities who have contributed to the building of Canadian society and allows them to develop a more inclusive notion of Canadian citizenship and identity.

[Translation]

I encourage all of you take part in the events and activities of Black History Month and to recognize the extraordinary contribution Black people have made and continue to make in building Canadian society.

*  *  *

 

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SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

Mr. Stéphan Tremblay (Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, BQ): Mr. Speaker, globalization is a very covert phenomenon. The person surfing the Internet, the pensioner examining the state of his pension fund, the farmer milking his cows and selling the milk are all affected by various aspects of globalization.

The issues are determined around international tables. Only sovereign states sit at these tables. Quebec, a mere province of Canada, does not exist for the world. The country of Quebec would.

The Summit of the Americas to establish a free trade area for the entire hemisphere will be held in Quebec's capital city. The Premier of Quebec, the Premier of all Quebecers, has not received any sort of an invitation to this summit, which nevertheless will be held in Quebec's capital city.

The federal government is trying to minimize the Quebec nation. While Quebec's economic future will in part be decided at this summit, Quebec itself will be absent.

One day, Quebecers will truly host the whole world in the country of Quebec.

*  *  *

[English]

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, oil development in the Sudan may not be a cause of one of the most deadly killing fields in the world, where two million have died and four million have been internally displaced, but it is certainly a catalyst, if not a condition, for its continuance and the obstacle to any peace.

Indeed, Sudan has not only used its oil revenue to double its military expenditures in the last two years while using scorched earth warfare to secure the oil fields, but it has breached its promise to Canada and the international community to increase vital investments in agriculture and food security. Rather, the warfare exposes its people to more depopulation, more human misery and more killing, including the warnings from the United Nations of a war induced famine and a genocide warning from the Committee on Conscience of the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Canada must use its good offices to press the Sudanese government to cease and desist from its scorched earth policy, to negotiate peace in good faith, and to provide its people with food rather than target them with oil generated weapons.

We in this place must explore the legislative means—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Dewdney—Alouette.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, today in Washington state hundreds and perhaps even thousands of Canadians will be gathering at a public hearing where the decision on granting a permit for the Sumas 2 power plant will be announced.

This power plant will be built within a stone's throw of the Canadian border, spewing its pollution into the air and drifting north into the Fraser Valley of B.C.

Because of the geography of the area, which is surrounded by mountains, and the prevailing wind patterns, the poisonous particulate will hang over the residents of our communities.

My constituents oppose the project because of emissions into the air shed, electrical transmission lines and polluted waste water. This power plant would also violate the spirit of the 1991 air shed agreement signed between our two countries.

The environment minister has dropped the ball on this file and has even said “How can Canada ask America not to build Sumas2?”

It is obvious that our environment minister does not care about clean air in my community. However, I will stand up for my constituents against Sumas 2 at hearings next week, along with my Alliance colleagues, to counteract the minister's muted silence.

*  *  *

MONTGOMERY LEGION

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Montgomery Legion in my riding will be hosting a charity auction this Thursday, February 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in support of the branch.

For many years Montgomery Legion has been at the heart of my community and an active supporter of local charities. Now the Montgomery Legion needs the assistance of the local community to carry on. I am extending an open invitation to join me and my highly talented staff for this very special event.

All those in attendance will have the additional pleasure of having dinner cooked by me, proof that elected representatives can serve their constituents in more than one way.

I ask everyone to please show their support for the Montgomery Legion on February 22. They can buy tickets by calling 233-7292. For $10 they can have a wonderful chicken served à la Mac.

*  *  *

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Innu of Labrador are not registered as Indians under the Indian Act and consequently are not allowed access to the range of programs and other services generally afforded first nations.

In September 2000 the minister agreed to seek cabinet approval for the registration of the Innu under the Indian Act.

The minister's colleague, the former premier of Newfoundland, now the minister of everything, actually called upon the federal government to grant the Innu status. He said:

    The Innu communities of Labrador need the tools that can only be made available to them if they have First Nations status.

The failure of the Government of Canada to recognize the constitutional status of the Innu constitutes a breach of its fiduciary obligation to the Innu as an aboriginal people. The Innu have been waiting for equal treatment since 1949. How much longer must they wait?

 

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I take this opportunity to call upon the government to move quickly to grant the Innu of Labrador first nation status as an integral important first step in healing these troubled communities.

*  *  *

[Translation]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—L'Érable, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General of Canada is very critical of the federal government's misappropriation of the surplus in the EI fund, and I quote:

    The Canada Employment Insurance Commission has not explained how it sets premium rates under the Employment Insurance Act. These rates have resulted in the rise of the Employment Insurance Account's accumulated surplus. Although it is notional in nature, the accumulated surplus balance has increased by $7.2 billion for the year to $28.2 billion at 31 March 2000. This is almost twice the maximum amount considered sufficient by the Chief Actuary.

Clearly, this shows that the federal government has used employment insurance premiums to pay down its deficit on the backs of the unemployed, workers and employers. Now it wants to use Bill C-2 to legalize this misappropriation of funds.

Seasonal workers in Quebec and in Canada are entitled to ask the federal government for what is owed them and in fact is theirs.

*  *  *

YOUNG OFFENDERS

Ms. Raymonde Folco (Laval West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week in the House, the Minister of Justice reintroduced her youth criminal justice bill.

Bill C-7 provides for a fairer and more effective system by setting out to prevent youth crime, ensure the reintegration of youth into society and provide for consequences that offer positive outlooks for young people who commit offences.

Above all, this bill offers the required flexibility so that Quebec and the other provinces can continue to pursue the approach they feel is effective for them.

I therefore urge all members of the House to support Bill C-7 and to help develop and maintain the best possible youth criminal justice system.

*  *  *

[English]

FISHERIES

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, concern has been expressed about the state of the snow crab stocks in Newfoundland. Last year when such concern was expressed the minister made an across the board cut. This year he has committed to zone by zone management.

Zones 8A and 6C have managed their stocks extremely well. In fact, experimental fisheries have shown that returns are four to five times the acceptable rate.

We are asking the minister to make sure this year that instead of being cut these areas are rewarded. It is also about time that fisher persons in that area are given licences to fish crab rather than having the permit system under which they presently operate.

*  *  *

JEFF SPENCER

Mrs. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Ajax, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on February 6, 2001, acting Captain Jeff “Spinner” Spencer, of the Toronto Fire Services, lost his long and courageous battle with brain cancer, a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board recognized occupational induced illness.

Mr. Spencer, a resident of Whitby, was 45 years old and had over 20 years of service on the job at the time of his death. He leaves behind his wife and three children, as well as many other family members, co-workers and friends.

Mr. Spencer was diagnosed with primary malignant brain cancer just after completing his 20th year as a firefighter in the Toronto Fire Services. Since 1999 there have been over 10 cases of firefighters with brain cancer reported and the number continues to grow.

Firefighters are exposed to a number of substances dangerous to their health in carrying out their duties. The mixture of these substances in unknown quantities presents a serious health hazard to firefighters.

I take this opportunity to extend my sincerest sympathies to the Spencer family for their loss. I hope this loss brings attention to the numerous hazards faced by firefighters every day and inspires people to do their part for the Fire Fighters Cancer Research Fund.

*  *  *

TRANSPORTATION SAFETY

Ms. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I rise to draw attention to the continuing tragedies that are occurring on that portion of the Trans-Canada Highway No. 17 that runs through my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Since the House has been in session no fewer than three needless deaths have occurred. Highway 17's reputation as a killer highway has been established over the years. How many deaths need to occur before some action is taken to fix the problem?

 

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The people of Renfrew county have been waiting for over 30 years for highway 17 to be upgraded from two to four lanes. The recent decision of the federal government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars during the last election on highways east of the Ottawa River has those of us living west of the Ottawa River wondering how many deaths must occur before the government takes notice.

It is time to end the reputation of highway 17 as a killer highway. I appeal to the government to show fairness when it comes to the safety of Canadians.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

THE ECONOMY

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there are growing concerns that Canada might be headed into some kind of economic downturn. Just a month after a predicted strong growth, Nortel has just announced 6,000 more layoffs. Meanwhile, the markets are adjusting to an economic slowdown, as is the U.S. government.

This government on the other hand refuses to re-examine its course. Why will the finance minister not table an updated budget?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, certainly experts say that the Canadian and U.S. economies are headed for a slowdown. However, there are no indications that there will be a recession. The experts all say that we are well positioned to offset the slowdown.

The budget update of the Minister of Finance last fall confirming $100 billion in tax cuts I think will be very useful in helping us offset any possible slowdown.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the U.S. federal reserve is not famous for being reactionary but he is arguing that government action is needed to stave off a downturn. He is arguing for deeper tax cuts.

This government's mini budget was based on a booming outlook but things are much different now than they were four and a half months ago.

Why will the finance minister not send a positive message to the markets, table a new budget and deliver deeper tax cuts to Canadians?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to assure you and Canadians that we remain on track for our budget projections. Yes, there is turbulence out there and Canadians know very well that we face many international challenges right now.

We are being very vigilant. We are watching this very closely. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that should it be necessary we will come before the House and take whatever actions may be necessary.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, that is like closing the barn door after the horse is already out.

Canadians are very concerned when the minister announces to the House, like he just has, that the government is concerned about the future but will not act until we are actually in the trough of some kind of economic downturn. At that point it is too late.

My question again to the minister is, why is the government so stubborn on this issue? We are talking about the prospect of jobs and prosperity for Canadians. In the face of that, why will the government not be responsible and bring down a budget immediately?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we are monitoring this issue very closely and we remain on target to meet our budget projections of last October.

I can assure the hon. member that we are looking at this very closely and we are being very vigilant. Should the necessity for changes occur we will certainly come before the House.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government cannot afford to pretend that our economy chugs along in isolation. When the giant next door moves, we will feel it.

The Americans are about to deliver a massive tax cut that will increase the gap between us and them. Canadians will become even more uncompetitive compared with our American counterparts.

Why will the Minister of Finance not bring in a new budget which reflects the changing economic conditions?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, from what I have read and seen in the news reports about the U.S. economy, the tax cut that it is talking about will not be legislated or come into effect for months or years from the time it will be first proposed.

 

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On the other hand, the tax cuts announced by the Minister of Finance in his budget update are in play now and are already having a positive effect in offsetting a possible slowdown, in my view. This will continue to be the case. The Americans in my view are just catching up with what we are already doing.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, that does not explain why Canada's productivity is 20 points behind the United States and still losing ground.

The minister's pride should not get in the way of updating the budget just because we are suggesting it on this side of the House. That will happen sooner or later. Maybe it should be sooner.

The 10,000 jobs at Nortel are not theoretical, those jobs were lost. That is continuing to happen. It is very real to the families affected.

The Minister of Finance is not exercising his responsibility by pretending that everything is fine. It is not fine. Why is the Minister of Finance opposed to updating his plans in the face of the new economic circumstances?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is very simple. We are monitoring this very closely.

Let me just say what the Deputy Prime Minister just said. We got the jump on the Americans with the tax cuts in our October budget. We brought in $100 billion of tax cuts over five years, a stimulus from the federal sector alone this year of $17.3 billion. When we combine that with provincial tax cuts, it amounts to about 2.3% of gross domestic product.

That is the stimulus we have put in—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Longueuil.

*  *  *

[Translation]

TRANSFER PAYMENTS

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this week the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs affirmed that few countries in the world redistributed so much wealth regionally.

As he was saying that, a poll appearing today in L'Actualité revealed that 76% of Quebecers feel Ottawa does not assume its fair share of health spending in Quebec.

Since the surpluses predicted for this year are nearly double the amounts estimated by the Minister of Finance, is it not time the federal government carried out its responsibilities and increased transfers for health care and for education, where the need is vital?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.

The Prime Minister has a habit of saying that Canadians share two convictions: the first is that theirs is the best country in the world and the second is that their province does not receive its fair share.

The fact of the matter is that, year after year, Statistics Canada reveals that Quebecers contribute about 21% of federal revenues and receive some 24% or 25% of federal spending, which corresponds to the fact that Quebec is somewhat below the Canadian average in terms of its wealth. This is the redistribution I was referring to.

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, every time the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs responds, it is clear he is out of synch and out of touch with what is actually going on.

Does the minister realize that, while the federal government contributed 50% of the funding of shared cost social programs when they were established, its contribution now represents only 15%, although people's needs have grown spectacularly? Does he realize this?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it must be remembered that tax points were transferred to the provinces in 1977, so they are used by the provinces for basic programs such as health care.

Therefore, it would be an error to not take into account the increased value of these tax points in an attempt to evaluate the federal government's cost in helping the provinces with health care, for example.

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, four years from now, in 2005, federal transfers for health, education and income security will be $500 million lower than what they were in 1993, before the drastic cuts made by the Liberal government.

Does the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs realize that, since federal surpluses are accumulating at an alarming rate while health care and education needs are rapidly growing, it is time the federal government transfer new tax points to the Quebec government, as unanimously requested by all the parties in the National Assembly?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I assure the hon. member that Quebec has the same kind of fiscal resources as the federal government. As the minister just said, with the transfers, the provinces' revenues are now greater than those of the federal government.

 

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What we did on September 11 was to increase health transfers. I must say that equalization payments received by Quebec remain the highest in Canada.

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the secretary of state is like his Prime Minister: he is always patronizing, he refuses to answer questions properly and he does not care about the public interest.

My question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, a great academic. Instead of lecturing Albertans, will the minister recognize that, by trying to impose its views, its laws and its standards to provinces in their jurisdictions, it is the federal government that resorts to blackmail, not separatists?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that the Bloc Quebecois member is confirming the value of living in a federal system, and receiving, in Quebec as in all of Canada, cash transfers and tax points.

I thank the hon. member for praising our federal system.

*  *  *

[English]

HEATING FUEL REBATE

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the overnight temperature in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut was minus 38, minus 68 with the wind chill. Yet the price of home heating oil is so high people are having their fuel delivery cut off because they cannot pay their bills. People are having to pay cash up front to get oil to heat their homes.

Short of throwing money away in a home heating rebate program that does not work, what is the government's plan to give some relief to all those Canadians going broke trying to heat their homes?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the problem that the gentleman speaks of is one that we anticipated when we saw fuel prices going up last year. We knew we had to act but according to two principles. First, it had to be delivered quickly for the relief to come. Next summer would just not do.

Second, the relief should not go to all Canadians, just to those who needed it most. That is why we used the only mechanism available to us, the GST tax credit rebate. That is why the cheques went out on January 29 to 11 million Canadians.

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, there is a growing outrage out there that people who do not even pay heating bills are getting the rebate, and people who need help desperately are not getting anything at all.

The government has thrown $1.3 billion away in a rebate program that does not work, and winter is not over yet. What if anything can the government say now to all those people who did not qualify for any rebate. What is the national energy strategy of this government, wait for spring?

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, our commitment remains the same: to help those who need it most. This is why cheques have gone out to 11 million Canadians, those of low and middle income. They were the ones who needed the help the most, and this is the way we have delivered it.

*  *  *

TRADE

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of agriculture.

Health Canada officials have publicly stated that there is no scientific justification for the ban of Brazilian beef and, guess what, Canadian scientists are not alone. The minister's U.S. counterpart, the U.S. agriculture secretary, Ann Veneman, announced to CNN on February 8 that there is no need to pull Brazilian beef products.

The minister is not only jeopardizing $210 million of product exports from Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, he is also hanging the political minister for Saskatchewan, the minister of natural resources.

Will the minister stand before Canadians and say that he knows this ban is not about health but about trade and apologize to Brazil for damaging our relationship?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I will stand before Canadians and say that this is about health.

We have come to the knowledge that over 5,000 head of cattle were imported into Brazil in the 1990s from countries in the European Union where there is known BSE. Until we are comfortable with the tracing of that and that the end product from those animals has not, will not and is not in the food chain, the ban will remain. It is about food safety.

I am really disappointed that the hon. member is not concerned about the food and the safety of Canadians.

 

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Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is worried about importations to Brazil from Europe, yet the Minister of Industry continues to ban Brazilian beef.

Could the minister of agriculture tell Canadians how many products are coming into Canada that utilize European beef, beef extract or beef byproducts from Europe? How many of those products are coming into Canada today?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should get his facts straight. It is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that banned the imports. It is the Department of Health that had the recall on products. Canada does not import meat or meat products from any country that is known to have BE.

*  *  *

[Translation]

WATER CONTAMINATION

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, for some time now, families in Shannon, near Quebec City, have been having serious water contamination problems.

This morning, on the front page of the daily Le Soleil, these families could read that the Department of National Defence has had a report since 1998 detailing water problems in this area. And since 1998, nothing was done by the department.

Why has the department kept this report secret?

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we received the report in 1998 we immediately passed it on to the minister of the environment of the province of Quebec. We knew there could be some problems on the base at that time. We have since taken action to study that further and are now taking corrective action.

We appropriately advised the minister of the environment whose ministry was responsible for this matter and for the municipalities that might have be involved, or might be involved, in April 1998.

[Translation]

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this answer will bring little comfort to families in Shannon.

The Liberal government is quick to criticize others, but slow to recognize its own mistakes.

[English]

Could the minister at least tell us what are the possible dangers for the population of Shannon and what measures the minister intends to put in place proactively in order to ensure the health and security of the people of that town?

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is not yet known what is the source of the problem in the town. There is also an adjacent property that could be the source of that contamination. We certainly brought that to the attention of the ministry of the environment of Quebec.

We will be doing everything we can to alleviate this problem. We have spent substantial sums of money to deal with this matter in terms of study and in terms of clean up. We will continue to take our responsibilities quite seriously. The ministry of the environment for the province of Quebec also has to do so in relation to the municipality.

*  *  *

[Translation]

GOVERNMENT SPENDING

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, while the government is busy implementing its tax strangulation policy toward Quebec, it is at the same time continuing its costly and pointless duplication.

Since 1997, the Liberal government has spent $15 billion in areas that fall under Quebec jurisdiction.

Can the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs explain to Quebecers why he would rather spend $15 billion on duplication than merely transfer that money to Quebec, particularly in the areas of health and education?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no pointless duplication. What there is, is a collaborative effort with the governments of the provinces.

We have greatly enhanced our capacity to work with them, while respecting the respective areas of jurisdiction of each level of government.

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is so obsessed by visibility that it has spent $500 million—half a billion dollars—in Quebec alone on propaganda since 1995.

Three-quarters of Quebecers would prefer it to do its part in funding health services.

Can the minister explain to Quebecers why his government has placed priority on propagandizing instead of transferring this money which could meet Quebecers' true priorities: health and education?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we worked very hard with the provinces to reach an agreement last September 11. That agreement was signed by all provincial premiers, and representatives of the three territories, as well as the Prime Minister of Canada.

In this agreement, the provinces said “No money, no plan”. We said “No plan, no money”. Now we have money and a plan, and we are going to work together.

*  *  *

 

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[English]

GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, many Canadians from different regions across the country feel disconnected from their federal government. There are two ways to deal with this regional discontent. One way is to address their genuine grievances and build bridges across the country. A second way is to ignore their legitimate concerns and attack them personally.

Will the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs please explain how ignoring the legitimate concerns of Canadians from various regions and attacking people personally will help resolve our regional problems and build a better nation?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it would be much more helpful if the hon. member were able to quote from my speech or tell me what he likes or dislikes about it, instead of invent things that I never said. It is not helpful in the House.

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I will tell the minister exactly what I do not like in his speech. The minister used his speech at the University of Toronto to attack two prominent western Canadians. This is a simply a continuation of the Liberal Party's practice of demonizing those who disagree with its uncooperative, unimaginative, centralist approach to governing Canada.

Will the minister please explain how attacking a former prime minister and the present leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition helps the cause of Canadian unity?

Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the hon. member is speaking about, but if he is referring to what I asked his leader, I have an obligation to quote what I said:

    Canadians are entitled to hear Mr. Day (the Leader of the Opposition) make his simple statement: “Nothing in Canada today justifies secession: not in Quebec, not in the West, not anywhere else in Canada.

I also said:

    He needs always to make a crystal clear distinction between his ideas for improving the country, including the West's place in Canada, and separatist blackmail.

*  *  *

[Translation]

WATER CONTAMINATION

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, after the water problem in the Sept-Îles beaches area, a second case of contaminated drinking water has come to light. In the first case raised by the member for Manicouagan, the federal Department of Transport was involved. This time, responsibility lies with the Department of National Defence, in Shannon, a community in the Quebec City area.

We now know that authorities on the Valcartier military base kept news of the water's contamination from the residents of Shannon. How can the Minister of National Defence justify his refusal to share the information he had with the municipalities concerned, as recommended by a report submitted to his own department? The blame should not be shifted to others.

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in response to the earlier question, we did take the responsible position, finding contamination on our property. We found it in the well. We do not know that the source is on our property. It could be on another property. We have in fact been spending a fair bit of money to try to determine the source.

Meanwhile, we provided information to the ministry of the environment of Quebec. It is its responsibility to then deal with the municipalities as indeed the minister has most recent announcement in which he offered filtration systems to the people who live in the community of Shannon. We will continue to co-operate with all parties involved in this matter.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this new cover-up puts us in mind of certain military investigations in the past, where the truth was buried. In this case the residents of Shannon could see their health endangered, to the complete lack of concern of the Liberal member for Portneuf.

What about the fine promises of the election campaign, the idea that the mere election of a Liberal member was supposed to be the solution to all the ills of the planet?

[English]

Hon. Art Eggleton (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member should well ask his question of the government of Quebec.

They seem to have an embarrassment about asking their own provincial government about these matters. They were advised in April 1998. Why did they not engage the municipalities more in that period of time to get this problem cleaned up?

*  *  *

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will spend 62 hours in Hong Kong, the only part of the People's Republic of China with any real experience in democracy. The Prime Minister will not be meeting with Martin Lee, the leader of Hong Kong's largest party and one of Asia's leading Democrats. The Prime Minister said that he could not find a way to fit him into his schedule.

If the Prime Minister wants Canadians to believe that he is promoting democracy and justice in China, how could he explain snubbing Martin Lee?

 

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Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member shares with all members of the House the pride that we feel in the Prime Minister's clear statements on human rights in China. As one example I give this quotation from his speech in Shanghai where he said:

    True friends are never shy about exchanging views on important issues. And so, as a friend, I must tell you that Canadians are concerned when they hear reports from China of interference in the right of free expression.

That is the kind of message that Canadians expected the Prime Minister to deliver in China, and he has done so.

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, economics is one thing and human rights is another.

Mr. Lee is the leader of the democratic party, one of the most important in Hong Kong. He is internationally known as a staunch defender and advocate of democratic rights and is a past winner of the democracy award of the U.S. national endowment for democracy.

How could the Prime Minister overlook such an important democratic ally? What message does this snub send to friends of democracy and human rights in China?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that in the preamble to the member's question he does not recognize that human rights and economic rights are very closely linked.

It is the mentality that is necessary to overcome in order to encourage investment, the mentality that expropriates without compensation, the mentality that does not respect the rule of law and the transparent regulatory system, which is the same mentality that leads to abuses of human rights.

That is why economic interests and human rights interests are so closely aligned. That is why the human security agenda is so closely linked to the economic interests of Canada.

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask this question on behalf of the member for Ottawa—Vanier and my colleagues in the Ottawa-Carleton region.

On January 27 Madam Catherine MacLean was killed and another woman, Madame Catherine Doré, was severely injured in a tragic car accident involving a Russian diplomat. At the time the Minister of Foreign Affairs assured the House that the Russian government indicated that it would take appropriate measures against the individual.

Could the minister give us an update today in terms of what has taken place with this issue so far?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we received notice today that the general procurator of the Russian Federation has examined the materials that were delivered to him concerning the accident on January 27 and, having done so, has taken the decision to open a criminal case under article 264, part II of the criminal code of the Russian Federation.

We welcome this decision. It is an important step which demonstrates the commitment that was given to us previously by the foreign affairs minister and by the Russian ambassador to Canada to proceed with this matter. However, we will not be satisfied until we see justice finally done in this case.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it was clearly and correctly demonstrated yesterday that Canada has a very different view of the death penalty than the United States. Nevertheless, the states of New York and Connecticut assert that Ontario coal fired power plants are guilty of exporting death through deadly contaminants to residents of those two states.

Last month the environment minister indicated that he would ask the Canadian environmental review agency to review this issue. Will the minister update the House today on the status of this review?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the member is aware, in late December I signed an agreement with my counterpart in the United States government with respect to air quality in the eastern half of North America.

We will be reducing smog causing chemicals going into the air in the province of Ontario by some 70% during the smog season of April through September. The United States will be reducing its emissions some 50% year round.

I can assure him that the letters of the attorneys general of both Connecticut and New York are under advisement. The question is indeed whether the requests they have made for an inquiry will illicit new material or whether it will simply point out what we already know, which is the basis of the decision taken.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the attorney general in the United States suggests that even with scrubbers and other anti-pollution devices that are to be installed in some of the power plants in Ontario by 2004, this will not in and of itself be sufficient to reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions and the acidic rain, et cetera, that are spewing into the Adirondacks and that area.

Could the minister comment on that, given what he has said in his previous answer?

 

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Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, certainly I could comment on that. The American authorities are putting forward information which was made available to them, I understand, in part from Environment Canada.

We agree that the proposal of Ontario will be inadequate to meet our goals. We are now discussing with the province of Ontario ways to upgrade its proposals to make sure we do in fact meet the targets I outlined in my answer to the previous question.

We are very pleased that we have American states working with us. I remind hon. members that 50% of the air quality damage done in Ontario comes from the United States in the first place.

*  *  *

GUN CONTROL

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, earlier this week came the revelation that the Minister of Justice was flirting with the notion of setting up and privatizing the ill-conceived and problem plagued gun registry.

Now facing non-compliance and non-enforcement from frontline police officers, could the minister confirm that she has recently created a stand alone police force called the national weapons enforcement support team, NWEST, to be headed by Bob Frolic, which has been mandated with the sole purpose of enforcement of the new gun registry?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have not set up a new police force. The enforcement of the gun regulations will be done by the regular RCMP and provincial police authorities.

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. Yesterday I raised concerns about the fact that under the summer student placement program this year municipalities are being treated like the private sector and must contribute 50% of the wages.

Many municipalities cannot do that. Could the minister review the regulations to make it possible for municipalities to hire students this year in worthwhile employment?

[Translation]

Mrs. Raymonde Folco (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the best way of helping our young people is to encourage them to stay in school—and that is one of our goals—and to acquire the training they need to build a career.

That is why we have invested over $1.2 billion annually in assistance to young people as part of the youth employment strategy, including Youth Service Canada.

*  *  *

[English]

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS

Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned that the government paid the AMA native health agency in Manitoba twice for medicines and dental services it had not even delivered once. This means that children have gone without dental care and families have gone without the prescriptions they need.

The auditor general has been reporting about these problems for the past four years. When will the minister be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health is carrying on a special audit into this matter. I understand that the AMA agency is co-operating.

We look forward to the results of the audit, and in the light of those results the department and government will take any and all necessary action.

Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago the Eskasoni Band of Nova Scotia was $13 million in debt. Today that band is more than $35 million in debt, thanks to the federal government's third party management.

I think it is a perversion of logic to call that successful. Third party managers do not get to the root of the problem; forensic audits do. When will the minister institute forensic audits whenever financial problems are so obvious?

Hon. Robert Nault (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to report to the opposition, because it has asked this question a couple of times, that this minister and this department do not have the authority to implement forensic audits. That is done by the RCMP or the proper policing authority.

If there are allegations or misrepresentation of funds in any way, those allegations should be brought forward to the police authorities and they will take the action as it relates to forensic audits.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PAY EQUITY

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Canadian Human Rights Commission tabled a special report on pay equity, criticizing the current formula, which is based on the lodging of complaints.

This formula subjects the process to judicial control, as we have seen from the behaviour of the federal government, which, for 13 years, used the courts to avoid its statutory obligations.

My question is for the Minister of Labour. When will there be proactive legislation on pay equity favourable to women based on the law in Quebec, among others?

 

. 1150 + -

[English]

Mr. Alex Shepherd (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on October 29, 1999, the Government of Canada announced a review of section 11 of the Human Rights Act.

The review responds to numerous concerns about the current pay equity regime and how it is administered. The minister remains very committed to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. I look forward to contributing to the review and the support of the Minister of Justice.

In addition, the government is currently examining options for implementing a gender neutral job classification system.

[Translation]

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, 200,000 public servants waited over 13 years to see justice done and through, for more than 20 years, the application of a vague and ill defined law.

And yet the Liberal government voted in favour of a Bloc Quebecois motion on economic equality for women.

When will this government finally introduce proactive legislation to correct the inequity women still face?

Hon. Claudette Bradshaw (Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last October, the Minister of Justice and I appointed R. E. Bilson, the dean of the faculty of law at the University of Saskatchewan, to chair a task force to review federal legislation on pay equity and present a report in the fall of 2002.

*  *  *

[English]

COAST GUARD

Mr. James Lunney (Nanaimo—Alberni, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the west coast has one of the most heavily travelled marine corridors in Canada, making the waters near Vancouver one of our busiest rescue centres. Now the government is planning to abandon coast guard search and rescue diving activity even though the team has saved lives and has a spotless safety record.

The coast guard has primary responsibility for marine rescue. Why exactly is the minister cutting important search and rescue capabilities on the west coast?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has raised an important question and I thank him for it. I will take the question as notice and will get back to him with a full response as quickly as possible.

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this story has been on the west coast news for the last five nights running. The government should be embarrassed that it has to take the question under advisement.

The value of these divers is recognized by the RCMP and by other police forces in the lower mainland that call on them for underwater rescue. Their diving capabilities have saved lives and are essential for any aircraft mishap in the waters off Vancouver airport.

Will the minister stop this wrongheaded, bureaucratic initiative now?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member again has asked an important question. When these types of specific questions are of interest to members, if they would give us notice ahead of time we would have the answer in the House. Under our system we have questions without notice. I just point that out as a matter of fact.

I again thank my hon. friend for the question. We will get back to him in writing before the end of the day, or we can respond to the question again on Monday. We do treat the matter seriously.

*  *  *

ORGANIZED CRIME

Mr. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Montreal four individuals were convicted under Canada's anti-gang law. Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice inform the House of the government's commitment to the fight against organized crime?

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government is very pleased that section 467.1 of the criminal code is being used by prosecutors with success. The section of the code established the offence of participation in a criminal organization and was introduced by the government.

The Minister of Justice is continuing to work to break the back of organized crime. We have undertaken talks with our provincial partners and with law enforcement agencies, and we anticipate introducing new legislation which will fight organized crime.

*  *  *

 

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CANADIAN MINT

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, several years ago the government approved the building of a coin plating facility at the Canadian Mint in Winnipeg. This was in direct competition with a business in my riding. I warned that the world demand was inadequate to support this facility, but the government bullied forward anyway.

The demand is not there. Forty-five mint employees have now been laid off. Today is the last day for 26 of them. Another 30 jobs are at risk.

How could the government and the mint so badly misread world markets and make the mistake of getting into the coin plating business?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we supported the mint project. We believed that the mint project was appropriate and we continue to work with the mint.

Actually the situation is only temporary, but the demand is there not only in Canada but around the world. I am sure that in the near future the situation will be the way it was before.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in a February 8 press release the director of the mint said the facility could not sustain the rapid growth of the last two years and that there was a fall off in demand in the foreign market. We told them this two years ago, but they would not listen.

Here now is a very important question. Will the government get out and stay out of competing with private businesses in the country?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is very important not only for the Government of Canada but for Canadians that we have a minting capacity. This is what we did at the plant in Winnipeg. We brought it up to speed with high technology so that we could save natural resource products.

In terms of receiving orders from other countries, we continue to work with other countries. As I said, this situation is only temporary.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ORGANIZED CRIME

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Quebec courts just sentenced several bikers for being members of a gang. The crown attorneys involved in that case said that the act is very complex and requires superhuman efforts to achieve its purpose.

Will the Minister of Justice agree with the Quebec Minister of Public Security that a new act on organized crime to make it a criminal offence to belong to a gang is justified?

[English]

Mr. John Maloney (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I already mentioned to the member for Yukon, in recent months we have consulted with our counterparts in the various provinces and with law enforcement agencies to discuss measures to combat organized crime.

We anticipate that measures will be introduced shortly to give our police and our prosecutors the necessary tools to fight this phenomenon.

*  *  *

JUSTICE

Mr. John Godfrey (Don Valley West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it has been seven months since the federal government opened Canada's long awaited DNA databank.

Could the solicitor general tell the House when Canadians can expect to see results from its operations and how the DNA databank will help improve public safety?

Mr. Lynn Myers (Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me say that in the interests of public safety and ensuring our communities are safe and secure, and with great vision and foresight I might add on the part of our government, we have had tremendous success with the national DNA bank.

For example, last week the solicitor general announced that there were 11 matches. We have had a number of links between crime scenes and convicted offenders. The bottom line is that this has been a tremendous asset for safety and security in our communities and for all Canadians.

*  *  *

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the foreign affairs minister said that human rights is intrinsically linked with trade. While that is true, since 1994 and the first team Canada trade mission to China, our trade deficit with China has increased over 300% and human rights abuses in China have become worse, with persecution against the Falun Gong.

He is bragging about this team Canada trade mission to China, but what he is failing to tell the House is that corporate welfare agreements to build the Three Gorges dam is not an avenue to better human rights treatment of the people of China.

Could the foreign affairs minister explain how he will improve human rights abuses in China and ensure that the people there have a better future?

 

. 1200 + -

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have built with China a very active dialogue relating to human rights that is the privilege of very few countries in the world.

I am not sure if the question suggests that the Alliance policy would be to withdraw from engagement with China. That would cost us not only the Canada-China human rights dialogue process that goes on several times a year, but also the work we have done in sharing our knowledge with the Chinese judiciary on how to conduct trials and maintain an independent judicial process.

That is the value of engagement. Is it enough? No, it is not enough. That is why the Prime Minister delivered some very clear messages when he had the opportunity to do so this week in China.

*  *  *

[Translation]

TRADE

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Canada recently sent a team from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to assess the system of food traceability and detection used by the Brazilian food inspection agency.

As the auditor general explained in his most recent report, there is no system to detect the pathogen PRION at Canada's borders for pork and beef.

Will the minister agree that, before going to check the quality of Brazil's food inspection system, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should ensure that it has an adequate detection system and the necessary resources to improve controls at the U.S.-Canada border?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we do have a proper system. We have one of the best food safety inspection systems in the world. That is demonstrated again by our actions to ensure that the food Canada produces for its domestic and export markets is safe. We are also working with the technical team in Brazil to ensure that the beef we import from Brazil does not endanger Canadians as far as BSE is concerned.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Translation]

EXPORTS OF MILITARY EQUIPMENT

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages, the annual report on exports of military equipment from Canada for 1999.

Similar reports have now been produced for ten years in a row. This initiative is aimed at fostering better international openness with regard to sales of military equipment.

Many other countries have since followed our example by producing their own report. However, I believe that as far as information is concerned, very few of these documents, if any, meet the standard established in our report.

*  *  *

[English]

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the second report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the selection of votable items. In accordance with Standing Order 92, the report is deemed adopted on presentation.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the third report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding Standing Order 87(6). If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the third report later this day.

*  *  *

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-269, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (exemption of long guns from registration).

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to reintroduce my private member's bill, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act, exempting long guns from the registration system.

The purpose of the bill is to remove the need to register long guns commonly used by deer hunters, duck hunters and farmers from the Firearms Act.

I believe the registration scheme is nothing more than a tax on innocent and law-abiding Canadians. The bill will put an end to their needless harassment.

 

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Moreover, the bill would give the Canadian government the capacity not to waste $800 million on an ill-advised long gun registry. It could use the money on Canadian priorities such as health care, post-secondary education, fighting organized crime or putting more money into the RCMP. Those are the priorities of Canadians, not the silly long gun registry.

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

*  *  *

COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE

PROCEDURE AND HOUSE AFFAIRS

 

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

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

*  *  *

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

The Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PRIVILEGE

ORAL QUESTION PERIOD—SPEAKER'S RULING

The Deputy Speaker: I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised last Friday by the hon. member for HochelagaMaisonneuve regarding comments exchanged during oral question period between him and the government House leader.

The hon. member for HochelagaMaisonneuve contends that the comments made by the government House leader were abusive and threatening.

[English]

Before addressing the question of privilege I would like to thank the hon. member for having drawn the matter to the attention of the House. I would also like to thank the government House leader, the whip of the Bloc Quebecois and the hon. member for Brossard—La Prairie for their contributions to the discussion.

[Translation]

I take this opportunity to remind all hon. members that anything said outside this House that is not directly related to the proceedings of the House or one of its committees is not protected by parliamentary privilege. In such circumstances, members run the same risks and have the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen. Consequently, I do not wish to comment further on a matter over which the Speaker does not have authority.

[English]

Here in the House, however, members enjoy absolute privilege. I would refer the hon. members to page 74 of Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which states the following:

    Freedom of speech permits Members to speak freely in the Chamber during a sitting or in committees during meetings while enjoying complete immunity from prosecution for any comment they might make.

[Translation]

This freedom is essential to the work done within the parliamentary precinct. At the same time, such freedom implies great responsibilities. We must all bear in mind the potential impact of our comments not just on the reputations of our colleagues in the House but also on those of individuals outside the House.

The use of provocative or threatening words, regardless of their meaning in absolute or abstract terms, can also hinder the effective conduct of House business. For this reason, the Chair must pay careful attention to what is said here, especially during Oral Question Period.

Comments which are not intended to create disorder, but which have that effect, should be strictly avoided. Previous Speakers of the House have often recalled that every member shares part of the responsibility for maintaining order in the House. The efficient conduct of business, especially during Oral Question Period, requires the co-operation of all members from both sides of the House.

 

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In this matter, I have carefully reviewed the comments of both members. In my view, there is simply a disagreement on the facts or the interpretation of the facts. Differences of opinion on facts are not rare in the House and do not constitute a violation of parliamentary privilege.

I again thank the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for having raised this matter. Determining the sort of behaviour that will enable us to conduct our business in an atmosphere of decorum and respect should be of the utmost concern to all of us.

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask for clarification.

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I do hope, indeed. I wish, in the spirit of co-operation that is always necessary in the House, that this ruling will not be appealed. I am sure that there will be opportunities to bring some informal clarifications. However, with all due respect, decisions made during the proceedings of the House are final.


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Translation]

ELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—L'Érable, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Bill C-3, which was originally introduced before parliament was dissolved.

First, I would like to make a comment. The Bloc Quebecois is not against this bill. However, the fact that we have to debate an issue that could already have been discussed, if an unnecessary election had not been called, leads us increasingly to realize with all these bills that this government has no legislative agenda.

The only items we have been called on to debate are bills which had been introduced before the House was dissolved. Those bills are brought back with minor technical changes and are presented to us as an important legislative agenda.

This shows once again that this government has no vision nor any clear policy. It does not know where it is heading. It is the first time in my short political career, and also in a previous life as a reporter, that I see a government with so poor a legislative agenda.

When I looked at Bill C-3, I hoped the government might have taken advantage of this opportunity to really deal with the problem of the oil companies. All we are asked to do is to amend rules and regulations in order to permit a deal involving the owners of Petro-Canada, those who might buy its shares. However, this does not get to the heart of the issue.

This bill does absolutely nothing to alleviate the crisis faced by Quebecers, especially in areas where gas prices are very high. There has been no change in spite of the oil companies' record profits. What we see is that there has been no change in the concentration and centralization of decision making. When we talk about capitalist countries, we are talking about the United States, of course.

 

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In the U.S., there are laws protecting companies, distributors and retailers, thus improving the economy within this system. Here, over the last 25 years, we have seen retailers and distributors disappear, and big companies take over the market.

This is of great concern to me as my riding of Lotbinière-L'Érable is very rural. Over the past 25 years, we have seen the local garage disappear. We were better off when we had a gas station, at least then there were attendants to serve us. Now we are left with self-serve gas bars. They are run by the oil companies. The managers of these outlets have nothing to do with pricing and the profit margin.

Let me give the House a very specific example. The managers of two related companies, Petro-Canada and Esso, met with me to give me a press release issued by each of their companies. Both press releases were issued at 7.04 a.m. and were similar in that they informed their managers that both companies, Petro-Canada and Esso, were setting the price at a certain amount and indicating what their profit margin would be that day.

The problem with gas is not only at the pump. It is also a management problem. These people told me “Do not mention the municipalities. Do not try to identify us, because we will suffer reprisals at the hands of our companies. If they find out that we tried to get a little more, that we tried to be a bit fairer, they will reduce our profit margin”. These people are terrorized.

According to a report not yet published, but which we had an opportunity to get a glimpse of, “All is well in the wonderful world of the oil companies”.

My riding is rather small, let us say that it is 120 kilometres from one end to the other along highway 20. My riding is on the south shore near Quebec City. The price differences can be 6, 8, or 10 cents. Could someone explain that to me?

Is it due to transportation? I doubt very much that it could increase the price of oil by 8 or 10 cents. Is it due to taxes? As far as I know, politicians, in Quebec as well as in Canada, explain in their budget how they manage it.

This is not due to transportation or to taxes and, as I said, management has nothing to do with it neither. This means that oil companies are increasingly taking control of retailers.

A television channel called LCN is now presenting the hit-parade of gas prices. Here is the hit-parade: in the Eastern Townships, 82 cents; in Lac-Saint-Jean, 81 cents; in central Quebec, 79 cents; in the Quebec City area, 77 cents, and so on. But this is ridiculous.

When this government tells us that everything is fine in the oil industry and when the Conference Board of Canada tells us officially, as it will soon tell us, that there is no problem, they are laughing at people.

 

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They are laughing at people because, as I explained with many examples, the retailer has no control on his profit margin nor on prices. In addition to that, the situation is so ridiculous, prices changes so much, going up and down like a yo-yo—so to speak—everywhere in Quebec that we now see the hit-parade of gas prices on LCN. This is ridiculous. Who foots the bill? It is the workers, both wen and women, and the small and medium size businesses who foot the bill.

I will now move on to the heating oil issue and the $125 or $250 that were paid. Could someone please explain to me why a person living alone gets $125 and two persons living together get $250. As far as I know, the price of fuel oil is the same. This government is always determined to put forward diversionary measures.

It would have been far simpler, instead of having this propaganda operation, this flag-waving exercise by the great Liberal Party of Canada, to really attack the problem at its source and find a means to ensure that the people paying for fuel oil are the ones to receive the $125 and $250, and to make the amounts uniform. Prisoners got cheques. People who have been bedridden for the past ten years in chronic care hospitals got cheques. Young people got cheques.

This week, a minister announced in the House that they were going to get parents to have their children return the $125. I am not here to promote the clothing stores, but I can tell hon. members that that $125 has already gone on jeans, coats and cool shirts. A person would have to be out of touch with reality to not realize that a kid with a cheque for $125 is going to cash it. He is not going to mention it to his parents. I have had parents calling me to ask “What is this business of $125?” They had not heard anything about it. This is unacceptable.

Now we have the government turning up here with a bill aimed at transactions and trying to get out of a field from which it ought to have pulled out a long time ago. Much editorial ink has been flowed about this bill since the start of the session. The latest clipping I have in hand is this one of an editorial by Jean-Paul Gagné in Les Affaires. I would advise hon. members to listen carefully.

    Petro-Canada has just made the highest net profit in its history: $893 million or $3.28 a share in the year 2000, compared to its 1999 figure of $233 million or 86 cents a share.

He goes on to tell us what Petro-Canada is about.

    This company was created in 1975 by the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau to enable Ottawa, so they said, to acquire an indicator sector in the petroleum industry, which was and remains dominated by foreign multinationals, and to better understand the industry.

The Liberals of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s or 2000s do not change. They say any old thing. We have the proof once again with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who tried to get us to believe that, with the creation of Petro-Canada, we would be protected from the multinationals. What a monumental joke. The editorialist continued, saying:

    At the same time, this was an opportunity to plaster maple leaf designs throughout a vast network of gasoline sales points from one end of Canada to the other.

The fine symbol of the maple leaf was at the heart of the creation of Petro-Canada. When will this government get down to dealing with the real problems? I have talked about the problem that stands out with the price of gasoline. I have talked about the problem that stands out with heating oil and the problem of the fluctuations in the price of gasoline not only within regions but even within my riding.

 

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I also mentioned that, in the last 25 years, self-service stations have cropped up while service stations and small local garages disappeared, and all the government has to offer is Bill C-3.

The Minister of Industry and the Minister for International Trade keep saying “We are going to table the report of the Conference Board of Canada. You will see, they will come up with some solutions”. Nothing will be changed and once again the poor will foot the bill.

What I find unfortunate is that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, when we rise in this House, we seem to be the only ones in touch with what is going on in our ridings, in touch with the people. How many times have people come to me saying “Look, Mr. Desrochers, if the gas price keeps going up, I will no longer be able to drive to work, about 10 miles away from home, because I already have a house, two kids, a car and I cannot make ends meet”.

The government does not seem to care, since it does not have any qualms about the oil companies getting richer on the backs of the ordinary citizens. The current government, which has been in office since 1993, has worked extra hard to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. We have huge debates on market globalization and global economic integration, but we do not get to the bottom of these issues.

When we talk about concentration, as in this case with oil companies, and when we talk about market globalization, as we are doing today, people get worried. When they see Americans, Asians or Europeans, who have a different mentality than North Americans, Canadians and Quebecers, move into their communities, people are afraid they might lose their jobs.

These are direct consequences of market globalization. It is a direct consequence of corporate concentration. These things are all happening under the federal government's nose. The federal government should closely monitor them, if it wants to maintain a sound economy. But no, the government would rather boast. It is pleased to see our heritage being sold. Who is paying for all this? It is ordinary workers.

The average salary back home has nothing to do with the figure provided Statistics Canada, because it makes no sense. Back home the average salary is around $25,000 or $30,000 a year, and I am being generous, for a family with two children and a mortgage.

Recently, I saw an add showing a person who was choking and losing his voice. I am losing my voice today, but it is because, like many, I was caught off guard by the sudden changes in temperature. But that person was losing his voice because he continuously felt choked. The same thing is happening in our ridings. People come and see us because they feel choked. They do not know how they will manage to pay their bills at the end of the month. They do not know how they will be able to plan for their holidays.

This is all because of the little games played by oil companies. This year, they were rather nice, they did not hit us too hard during the Christmas season. But I can guarantee that we will pay dearly when the nice weather comes, in May and June.

It is not for nothing that some oil companies have already begun changing the prices at the pumps. It is no fluke that Ultramar, to take one example, has set its sights on being able to post a price of $1 on its pumps. These people know what is in the wind. They point to international rulings, but they have some leeway and they do not approve.

Bill C-3 is not the way to sort out the whole business of increases in gasoline and heating oil prices.

 

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We hope, through comments such as these in the House, to bring home to the federal government the human misery—I am not afraid to say it—that is taking hold in our regions.

I will not go over the entire history of Bill C-2, the employment insurance bill. It has been addressed at length this week. As I was saying a few minutes earlier, in everything it does, the federal government is overlooking the middle class. The middle class is fading right out of existence.

Yet it is the middle class that paid most of the taxes levied by the members across the way. It is totally unacceptable. Will we go back to social democratic values, family values, values of mutual support and solidarity to save Quebec society? I doubt it.

Lastly, I want to mention that the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Bill C-3, but it condemns all of the government policies adopted in the last few years concerning the concentration and the consolidation of oil companies. It also condemns the government for ignoring those who always end up paying: the poorest among our workers. I have this to say to the Liberals: wake up.

[English]

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to enter the debate on Bill C-3. Most of the country is seized with the issue of energy as we speak. Many homeowners and small businesses are reeling with the shock and the horror of the rising, out of control, skyrocketing fuel prices, so it is timely that we are having this debate now.

It is timely but maybe not fitting, given the content of the bill. We see Bill C-3 as the death rattle of a national dream. There was a time when Canadians believed that the federal government had some role to play in looking after the interests of ordinary Canadians in terms of access to energy.

In 1975, the minority Trudeau government, held up by the David Lewis NDP, saw fit to enter into the energy industry with some presence, whether it was as a watchdog or a producer. It saw that the whole oil and gas industry was owned by offshore interests.

We really did not know if Canadians were getting gouged. We did not know if we were paying a fair market price or a grossly inflated price. Given that Canada is, first, geographically challenged in that it is huge and, second, that it has a cold northern climate, this was no small issue.

However, in 1975 people had the vision and forethought to try to do something about it. They still believed in the nation state of Canada that we could do something to control our own future and destiny.

When we raise the subject, people look at us as if it is heresy to even recommend that the federal government might be able to do something to help Canadians. Government shrugs its shoulders and says that it actually traded that away in the last free trade agreement it signed, that it used to be able to influence and dictate domestic market prices for our energy resources but it traded that away and cannot help us any more.

Frankly that is why I think it is sad today that we are dealing with the death rattle of a national dream, when people with vision actually had some idea and some awareness of how critical access to reasonably priced energy resources would be to the economic stability of the country.

It is even more galling to Canadians when they realize that our energy resources are part of our common wealth. There is that old term. We used to use that word that in the name of our party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Our natural resources are part of our birthright as Canadians. They are in the ground. They are under our feet. They are something we all need and we all should be able to share.

 

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We believe some things should be regulated. We all know that capital has no conscience as such, so it is government's role to introduce regulation on the free market to make sure that it meets ordinary people's needs. We could certainly argue that the absence of any national energy strategy is not serving Canadians well. We could ask any homeowner in this country what he or she thinks about the way the free market has served the interests of Canadians when it comes to energy supply. We could ask any small business person or any trucking company representative how he or she likes waking up in the morning not knowing if the price of fuel has arbitrarily fluctuated by six, seven or ten cents.

What really annoys Canadians most is this seemingly arbitrary nature of the wild price fluctuations. That is what really galls people. That is why, when we did have Petro-Canada, when we did actually own a piece of the action, we knew what the real cost of production was. Then we could tell if we were paying the real cost or if we were being gouged like most Canadians feel they are being gouged now.

I am not at all impressed with Bill C-3. It is a huge step backward. It is the end of an era in terms of the nation state of Canada being able to dictate its own domestic price for energy strategy.

There is a growing interest, of course, in the whole issue of energy resources. As prices skyrocket there is a growing realization that we have to do something about energy conservation. We have to get more involved in the demand side of our resources rather than the supply side.

I am a carpenter by trade. I used to build hydro dams and oil refineries. I worked on megaprojects of that nature. It used to be heresy for a tradesperson to advocate demand side management because we wanted the jobs. We wanted to build hydro dams to put people to work.

In actual fact, the more people dig into the subject, we are pleased to be able to say that there are far more job opportunities in demand side management in terms of energy retrofitting buildings like schools and hospitals than there are in building a hydro dam. We have to start considering that a unit of energy harvested from the existing system by demand side management measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy generated at a generating station except for a number of key things: it is available at about one-quarter of the cost; it creates as much as seven times the number of person years or jobs; it is available and online immediately instead of the 10 year lag time there is to build a new generating station; and it does not degrade the environment, but in fact rehabilitates the environment by reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

That is the type of message we should be getting from our federal government as we enter into an era of energy supply crisis. Instead of throwing money at it with a dysfunctional rebate system, why are we not hearing about a progressive approach to serving the needs of Canadians by demand side management energy conservation? If I heard the government say that even once, it would be of some comfort. Instead we have a token gesture.

Let us start with the federal government itself as a demonstration pilot project. The federal government owns 68,000 buildings in Canada, many of which are absolute energy pigs because they were built in an era when people did not worry about energy conservation. These buildings waste energy like crazy.

All the empirical evidence now shows that we can reduce the operating costs of those 68,000 buildings by as much as 40% by working on the building envelope. I am talking about new insulation, smart thermostat controls, basic caulking and sealing of windows, and smart lighting systems that dim and light up as the day brightens and darkens. All of these measures are easily done and would serve as a demonstration project to the private sector that it too can reduce its fuel consumption and operating costs. We all have to realize that our energy resources are extremely finite and that Canada is the most wasteful country in the world when it comes to energy consumption.

David Suzuki was quoted recently as saying that for the rest of the world to live in the same manner we do or use the same level of energy we do, seven more plants would be required to provide the raw resources. There are not enough energy resources in the world for every man, woman and child in developing nations to live the lifestyle that we enjoy with our energy use.

 

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Let us face it. Essentially the jig is up as far as our cheap access to unlimited energy use is concerned. Conservation is going to be the key and will ultimately save the planet. Sooner or later we are going to have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels altogether.

In regard to the demand side management I described, possibly there would be some optimism and hope on the part of Canadians if they heard our government make visionary statements like that. Frankly, we could show the world how to do it. We could be a centre of excellence for energy retrofitting technology because we are a harsh northern climate and we have challenges in terms of energy supply now. We could develop and export the technology and become world leaders in the sensible use of energy resources instead of showing the world just how wasteful we can be, which is our practice, frankly.

I started by saying that there was a time within living memory when Canadians still believed that we were not impotent as a government, but now as we sign more and more trade agreements we are locking ourselves in deeper and deeper, to the point where we can no longer dictate our own domestic energy strategy. We cannot give preferential pricing to our own customers, our own citizens, our own kids. We are not allowed to because somebody traded it all away. I call it economic treason to trade away our birthright and our ability.

In the 1980s and 1990s in the private sector, in the Business Council on National Issues and the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, everybody wanted to deregulate everything. The idea was to let the free market prevail and get government out of business because it was tying up the free hand of the marketplace. The government sold Petro-Canada. It sold the goose that laid the golden egg. Why did we want to get out of the energy sector just at a time when world prices were going through the ceiling? We sold it off.

Last year, $800 million in profit would have been in the coffers of the federal government, but no, we had to let the free market handle things: all things private, good, and all things public, bad, and the public sector could not organize a peanut stand. Although frankly, with the way the government has managed its energy rebate system there is not much room for confidence in its ability to run anything else.

However, the really galling thing is that we used to own it. We used to have a piece of it. It was called Petro-Canada. Bill C-3 puts to bed any idea of ever getting involved in that kind of thing again because the powers that be simply will not tolerate it.

We are not being served well. Ask Californians with their energy problems how much they like deregulation. They are trying to re-regulate as fast as they can to save their bacon, to save their industries, to save their economic base. Ask Albertans how much they like deregulation. They always say they do, until the price of natural gas goes up 125% in one year. Thanks a million. The free market is really servicing them well. These outrageous gouging costs have to be offset by energy rebates to Albertans every month.

However, we never get to the root of the problem. Rebates are just offsetting the profits of the oil companies. If we are in fact being gouged—and we do not know if we are being gouged or not—rather than the government intervening to try to put some semblance of order into the industry, it is telling us that if we are being charged too much it will help us by giving us a little bit of money, a $125 lump sum payment.

That does not even heat one house for a week in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. I had phone calls from people in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut—I spoke about it in question period today—who were complaining that the fuel oil delivery guy will not deliver now unless customers have cash up front. Many people are defaulting on their monthly bills. They have to pay cash in advance to get oil to heat their homes. That is a desperate situation when it is 40 degrees below zero or worse in Nunavut.

 

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We are not being well served with what is our common wealth, with what we used to consider our birthright and our property. We are not being well served when we cannot even afford to heat our homes or we are paying $500 or $600 a month for an 800 square foot house in Nunavut. The $125 rebate will not even heat that house for a week. One cannot be without heat for more than an hour in that part of the world.

Deregulation has hurt ordinary people. The previous speaker from the Bloc Quebecois was saying that the average joe, the little guy, the working person, has suffered in all of this. People who own shares in the oil companies have benefited while the rest of us have suffered. Who will stand up for us? Who will be our champion, our advocate? Who will say on behalf of the Canadian people that enough is enough?

Who will say that they will find a way to produce and distribute energy resources in a way that is fair and equitable so that all Canadians can share in the benefit of what is ours, not theirs but ours collectively? That was the dream of Petro-Canada. The government is putting the final stake through the heart of that dream as we deal with Bill C-3. That is nothing to celebrate. I have heard other speakers saying it is great that we are moving forward with a whole new way of dealing with our energy resources. We are not. We are moving backward.

People cannot survive without energy. It is one of the fundamental basics. It gets to be an economic development issue because he who has the energy can attract the business. This is why in all the free trade agreements the Americans have been quite up front. They are after our energy resources and our water because without those two resources no country will move forward. They are two resources that we used to have in great abundance.

Now, frankly, that natural gas might as well be in the United States because we have to sell it to our own domestic customers at the same price we sell it to our export partners south of the border, who have an insatiable appetite for our resources. Even if we run short and are freezing in the dark, we are not allowed to turn off the tap once it is turned on. That is the miracle of NAFTA.

This is the frustration that Canadians are feeling. They feel that we are no longer in control and that their freely elected representatives, like us in the House of Commons, cannot even help them. They are right, because in my opinion somebody committed economic treason by signing away our economic sovereignty and giving it away for next to nothing in a trade agreement that we neither wanted nor voted for. It does not serve ordinary Canadians. It only serves the powerful and the elite or maybe those who have shares in oil companies.

We are worried that we have lost the ability to have any kind of national energy strategy. That is why I recently introduced a private member's bill calling on the government to create a national energy price commission. On energy issues the commission would at least be an advocate on behalf of ordinary Canadians. It would champion their issues, so that if the oil companies wanted to raise the price of gas or home heating fuel or whatever, they would have to come before this independent tribunal and justify why the increase is warranted. What is so wrong with that?

Granted, it would be a regulation, and maybe it would be the first tentative step toward a new national energy policy that would in fact set policy which would provide for ordinary Canadians. Maybe that same energy price commission would say that charging the GST on home heating fuel is not only wrong but amoral and fundamentally antithetical to anything Canadians should be standing for.

Maybe that energy price commission would say that we need to start investigating more sources of alternative energy. Maybe it would be the think tank that would actually set some energy policy. Perhaps it would say that the real value of a barrel of oil is not $25 or $27 but that the whole cost of a barrel of oil is about $150, because we have to factor in the price of the American military to keep supertankers in the Persian Gulf to get the oil out of there and then we have to factor in the environmental degradation and the cleanup afterward.

If we look at the whole cost of burning fossil fuels, all other sources of energy seem cheap in comparison. Even if solar energy and wind energy need some investment before we are ready for them, that seems like a bargain when we start really viewing what burning fossil fuels does to our planet and our environment and what the whole cost of that is.

We are ready to move on. We would hope that most Canadians are also ready to move on and into an era of progress and new maturity about our energy resources. That includes taking the bull by the horns and not saying that we cannot do it. We are always making excuses about why we cannot shape our domestic policy. There is a saying I heard that “there are no more prizes for predicting rain, that from now on we are only giving prizes for building arks”. There should be no more excuses.

 

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The government should not tell us that it cannot help us. It must get creative and find a way to make sure there is a reliable supply of affordable energy so that Canadians can heat their homes without breaking the bank.

We do not want more repeat situations like Cambridge Bay where people have to go down to the fuel dealer with five gallon jerry cans and pay in advance to get ten gallons of fuel oil to heat their homes. That is a disgrace.

It is a complete abdication of responsibility by the federal government in not representing the interests of Canadians in this way. Bill C-3 takes us one step further from the complete abdication of responsibility by the government. It simply does not think it has a role in any kind of a national energy strategy, and we think that is wrong.

I look back fondly on the days when David Lewis had the official balance of power in a minority government. He could influence government and demand that government exercise its sovereign right to manage the affairs of the country in terms of energy supply. That was 1975. This is 2001. Bill C-3 will drive a stake through the heart of any national dream we might have in taking care of our own interests.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this topic concerns me. I should like to address what I think is a deficiency in the bill, the 18% ownership by the Government of Canada of Petro-Canada.

I come from Saskatchewan. I should like to draw on the history of that province in dealing with this topic. In 1944 we elected a Baptist minister as the premier of that province who embarked on a different way of doing things. There was a lot of state intervention, state ownership and state control of the economy.

At the very same time in our sister province to the west we elected a Baptist minister who believed in self-reliance and the market system. At that time Saskatchewan had approximately one and a quarter million people. Saskatoon and Regina were far larger centres than Edmonton and Calgary. Alberta had approximately 600,000 people. At the end of the last century we now see which model has worked.

Saskatchewan has a million people. Many of the members sitting on this side of the House from Alberta are transplanted Saskatchewan people. Even some of the Ontario people are transplanted Saskatchewan people. We have been great at exporting people from our province. Alberta has three million people today.

This 18% ownership is a reminder of a flawed, failed policy in the seventies where the federal government decided to use the Saskatchewan model to embark in the economy in a major way. It cost the Canadian economy a lot of money. It created a lot of unity problems that are still lasting in the country.

I wish the Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs were here today so we could deal with some of the grievances out west which he says do not exist.

I think the 20th century was a contest among many things. One of the big contests was a contest between a free market driven economy and state controlled command style economies. The verdict came in loud and clear—

The Deputy Speaker: Perhaps I did not make it clear, and I may be jumping in a little too early, but this is the question and comment period on the speech of the member who last intervened in the debate, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. I would ask the member for Prince Albert to wrap up his comments, and if he has a question to please deliver it.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Mr. Speaker, almost anyone who would look at the history of the 20th century would say that the market driven economy clearly is a superior model to a state command dictated type of economy. Why does my learned friend keep on bringing up a model that has obviously failed as an economic model for creating wealth, opportunity and jobs?

 

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Mr. Pat Martin: Mr. Speaker, what has actually failed Canadians is the free market in terms of not being able to ensure a regular supply of affordable energy. Some level of state intervention is necessary to regulate that market.

I think the hon. member, in his history lesson about the former premiers of the two provinces, should keep in mind that the most significant difference between those two provinces was the fact that in 1947 Leduc No. 1 struck oil. It is not rocket science to start showing a more balanced budget when there is gold coming out of the ground in Leduc, Alberta.

Tommy Douglas was elected premier in 1944. There were a number of things that the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation was known for, one of which was medicare. He was elected on a promise to create socialized medicine. Sometimes people forget that he was not able to do that until he had enough money. It took about 20 years to implement that promise. He did it to our collective benefit. It is inarguable that Canadians should thank Tommy Douglas for the single thing that we are most proud of.

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to preface my remarks with a comment on the remarks from the member for Winnipeg Centre. He led us through an interesting discussion though I am not quite sure that he was completely on subject. Still, it was a very interesting discussion.

I think the question is not whether Canada wants to have a private crown corporation run oil firm, but how much that firm cost us. Is it responsible and reasonable to continue in that direction today? Is it time to get out from under that burden of debt?

I would like to see a tally sheet of what Petro-Canada has cost us on one side and the profits that we made on the other side. I expect to have that information before we finish the bill in committee. I think then we could get into a very interesting and hopefully enlightening debate on whether or not we should keep the company in Canada.

Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, will allow for greater foreign ownership of the two companies, Petro-Canada and Cameco. That is plain and simple.

As previous speakers have said, the proposed legislation would provide greater flexibility to both companies in their respective industries. It should allow them to continue as well-respected participants in the oil, gas and uranium fields. It should also provide them with increased opportunities for strategic management and positioning within those sectors.

I would like to repeat something that my colleague from St. John's West said when he spoke to the bill in its previous life as Bill C-39. Speaking as a member from Newfoundland, where Petro-Canada has a large involvement through its development of the Hibernia project and other potential oil and gas fields, he said “Even though we can appreciate, perhaps more in Newfoundland than anywhere else in the country, what Petro-Canada has done for oil and gas development in our province, we also must realize that to grow, companies need investment. We cannot restrict that investment or we are putting companies at a disadvantage.”

I could not agree more with my colleague. We all know that we operate in a global environment. Free trade agreements, technological advances and developing countries and markets require innovative and evolving responses to new challenges and opportunities. It is not in Canada's best interest to restrict any company from taking advantage of those opportunities or from moving into new and unexplored areas and markets.

However, there are other issues respecting the legislation that still need to be studied and examined as the legislative process continues.

First, Petro-Canada is an oil and gas company in a market where the price of crude oil has significantly increased over the past year. Petro-Canada has announced record earnings for the year 2000. In a press release the company says “Petro-Canada's performance reflects both an exceptional business environment and our success in capitalizing on that environment.”

 

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No one would argue that if the government is going to take steps to get out of the oil and gas business, now could be one of the best possible times to do that. The industry is on a high and prices reflect that reality. With annual net earnings in 2000 of $893 million, the company far exceeded its previous high of $306 million in 1997.

We all know that the price of oil and gas has increased. We are reminded of that on an almost daily basis when we fill up our cars and pay our heating bills. While this points out the reason why companies like Petro-Canada are experiencing record highs, it also begs the question of what do Canadian taxpayers get out of this deal.

If the government has indicated that it is going to divest itself of the 18% stake it continues to hold in Petro-Canada, taxpayers who funded the purchase of this former crown corporation in 1975 need to benefit directly from the government's decision to get out of the energy sector. Many Canadians are ready to let Petro-Canada be privatized completely and have that money either paid on our national debt or invested in alternative and sustainable energy.

We can stipulate certain requirements in the privatization process, in this case the location of headquarters, Canadian directors and a limit on individual ownership.

The province of Nova Scotia recently announced that it is selling its share in Nova Scotia Resources Ltd., a company established in 1981 to allow the government to participate in the oil and gas industry. Over the course of time a debt of almost $800 million has been amassed. This is a debt that Nova Scotia taxpayers have had to assume. If the $425 million deal that the government announced goes through it will be one less burden on Nova Scotia taxpayers and the government will reduce its debt load. That deal allows the government to cut its losses.

I would suggest that now is a favourable time to get out, just as it is for the federal government with respect to its position in Petro-Canada. If we are going to privatize, now is the time to do it. It also shows that unless there are public policy reasons for direct involvement, the risk inherent in the oil and gas industry may outweigh the benefits for governmental involvement.

In both cases, Petro-Canada at the federal level and Nova Scotia Resources Ltd. at the provincial level, the decision to get directly involved in the oil and gas industry stemmed from global conditions of the day, namely the energy crisis. Petro-Canada was established as a crown corporation in 1975 by an act of parliament to allow Canada to have a stake in the oil and gas industry and improve exploration and development of new oil and gas sources within Canada. This is precisely what happened. Petro-Canada went on to make purchases that led to a share in the Hibernia project and the gas discoveries off Nova Scotia, as well as the tar sands in Alberta. These are still some of the company's primary areas.

However, the federal government divested its interest over time to the point that today it controls exactly 18.2% of the shares but it has no management involvement. With no public policy reasons for its continued participation in the company, the time is seen as appropriate for a complete divestiture. This bill is one more step toward that objective.

The bill deals with two companies, Petro-Canada and Cameco. While many of the points I have already made also apply to Cameco, their respective industries are significantly different. I would like to discuss those differences for a few moments.

Cameco is involved in the uranium business. In fact, it is the world's largest uranium company. As I mentioned, the similarity with Petro-Canada is that this legislation will increase the percentage of foreign ownership on both an individual and aggregate basis, again stipulating that the head office remain in Canada, in this case Saskatchewan, and with Canadian directors. However, the nuclear industry is quite different from the oil and gas industry and Canadians remain skeptical about the safety issues surrounding nuclear power, perhaps with good reason. The auditor general recently reported to parliament and he highlighted some concerns respecting risk assessments at Canada's nuclear power generators. As well, the issue of disposal of radioactive waste remains largely unanswered.

 

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I have been told that the legislation in no way affects the non-proliferation policy and uranium will continue to be sold only to those countries that are signatory to the non-proliferation agreement.

World markets are changing dramatically, and by loosening rules on foreign ownership, it is anticipated that this will provide Cameco with increased opportunity to take advantage of new opportunities and new market conditions.

What both of these companies highlight is Canada's and the world's dependence on energy sources, whether those sources be oil and gas or nuclear. There are a lot of exciting developments taking place in both of these sectors. The Mackenzie Delta pipeline looks like it could soon become a reality and new nuclear reactors have increased safeguards.

Canada needs to be in a position to take advantage of these new prospects and new technologies. I look forward to studying the legislation more closely at committee to see whether the legislation will benefit Canadian taxpayers and be one step toward helping these companies position themselves for future growth and productivity.

In closing, the issue here is exactly that. Does the legislation benefit Canadian taxpayers? It would be my position that the legislation does benefit Canadian taxpayers. There is a significant difference between developments in the petrochemical and petroleum industry energy sector and the nuclear and uranium industry sector.

That is what we have to take a look at in committee. This is only the first time the bill has been debated. We will have an opportunity to discuss it further, and we plan to have some more numbers to look at when we come back to parliament the next time.

Mr. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the last intervention was quite thoughtful. I will comment on the ownership later.

The previous speaker, my colleague from the NDP, was a little off topic when he was talked about things in NAFTA only going to the elite. That precludes all the workers who have got thousands upon thousands of jobs because of NAFTA. They are not elite, they are every day working people. It also precludes the lowering of prices because those poor people do not have to pay tariffs that they artificially had to pay before the agreement. I find it difficult that the NDP would call those poor people and the workers who have benefited from that elite.

He also said that he would like to hear this side of the House just say once that demand management is good. I will say that I think demand management is good. In fact, if he would like to be positive on this point, perhaps he should consider making an enumeration of the hundreds of initiatives of provincial and federal governments that are helping save energy across this country. They have for decades.

Both he and the previous speaker were back on the topic of the energy program, which has been mentioned numerous times. They talked about some examples where it may not have gone to the most appropriate person. This is getting a bit tedious. We got the message. I do not think there has been any program in history dealing with millions of people that has always been right. The bottom line is millions of poor people benefited from that program, which is good. In fact, the argument by the member from the Bloc got so circuitous at one point when he complained about children having money to buy clothes.

He also said there should be a more in-depth discussion on globalization. He was referring to poverty again, which is great, admirable and a good topic to discuss. However, maybe he missed my remarks yesterday when I talked about the in-depth analysis which showed that globalization reduces the tariff barriers and the customs that poor people would have to pay. It reduces the control of companies that are hiding behind tariff barriers. It opens up markets for those poor and undeveloped countries. Poorer people can now market their goods more easily because they do not have to cross a huge tariff barrier.

 

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My last comment is related to the point about the ownership of Petro-Canada, which has been raised by most of the Alliance members. We live in a free market economy in the western world. We believe basically that the market in appropriate circumstances should work freely and bring lower prices. Therefore, we can all have those lower prices. However, the market does not always work perfectly by itself. There are times when there needs to be government intervention.

I personally believe that the effort of this bill to maintain Petro-Canada's 18% in government control is a good safeguard in the event that we need to be involved in this industry when it is in a oligopoly position. When there are only a few large companies involved, it is good to have a player from the government to keep track of what is going on and to be on the ground in the day to day involvement of pricing and operations. That way we get a true picture of the on the ground situation.

That would help the concerns of every member in the House with things like prices of energy, which we are all concerned about. A closer attachment to the operation of what is going on, such as the partial control of Petro-Canada, would be a benefit to us all.

Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, I realize the member is a new member of parliament and I welcome him to the House. I understand he spoke here before, but it is the first time I have had an opportunity to reply to one of his questions. We look forward to many more.

He made several points but I would like to respond to two of them. First, the member for Yukon made reference to the oil rebate and said that it helped millions of people. Imagine how many people it could have helped had it been applied fairly and with any sense of conscience whatsoever? I mean this was child simple.

The government had $1.4 billion. It wanted to give an energy rebate to Canadians who needed it most. The Liberals decided that the venue they would use to choose those Canadians was the GST rebate. It made good sense. All they had to do to make that work was ask for an energy receipt showing that people had paid their oil or electrical bill or bought fuel wood. Lots of provinces have done it. It is not complicated.

I would guess, and I do not think I am too far wrong but we will never get the real numbers out of this crowd, that 50% of the $1.4 billion or $1.3 billion, or whatever it was, was wasted. There were double cheques, triple cheques, quadruple cheques to one household. We could have a widow living on one side of the street in a two bedroom bungalow who received $125. On the other side of the street there could be a married couple who received $250. Explain to me how that got money to Canadians who needed it. Explain to me how that is fair.

It is hopeless. The government cannot even give away $1.4 billion and do a good job at it. It is scandalous. Do not try to defend that, it is not worth it. He made some good points but he should not defend the oil rebate.

The other issue is the Petro-Canada position. Now is the time to get out of Petro-Canada. Do not delay. Sell the shares. There is lots of money out there. Its shares are at a premium price. The government does not have any managerial position in Petro-Canada. It holds 18.2% of the shares. It does not make decisions any longer on Petro-Canada.

We are going to put a board and a director in place. All of those people will have stipends. All of those people will get per diems. All or some of those people will be on salary. We are going to create a bureaucracy where there is no need to create one. We have a good opportunity to sell our shares and get out from under a burden of debt. Now is the time to do it. We can get the most money for our investment. Let us move on.

Mr. Larry Bagnell: Mr. Speaker, who owns more than 18% in Petro-Canada?

Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, I did not hear the exact question but it was something about who owns more than 18% in Petro-Canada. We own 18.2% of the shares. The rest of the shares are owned throughout the country. This will open them up to foreign ownership as well.

 

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The 18.2% is a non-managerial position. We do not make the decisions regarding Petro-Canada, nor should we make them.

Petro-Canada had its place. Petro-Canada helped start the Hibernia field. It helped develop Panuke and Cohasset off Sable Island. I worked in those oilfields for eight years as a driller. Petro-Canada was needed then. It was a wildcat operation with high pressure and deep wells. It had some of the iffiest wells being drilled in the world at the time.

However those days are gone. We found the gas and oil. We have better technology. We can drill faster and cheaper and can find gas and oil better than we ever could before. We no longer have the high risk in the energy sector that used to be there. It is time to move on and sell the shares.

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to talk about Bill C-3 pertaining to Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and also to Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, Bill C-39.

Basically the bill allows both companies greater access to sell themselves and to get more outside shares.

The Canadian Alliance has no problem with the bill as such. Our natural resources critic will allay whatever fears he has when the bill goes to committee. We will be supporting the bill as it now stands.

The bill also talks about Petro-Canada and the attempt by the government to increase individual share ownership and remove non-resident ownership. I wish to draw attention to the oil sector as we are talking about Petro-Canada.

Sometime last summer the Calgary caucus, the members of parliament from Calgary, showed through calculations how much money the federal government was taking from Canadians through taxes on gasoline. It was interesting. We highlighted that there was a tax on a tax. The GST on gasoline was a tax on a tax. The government levied the excise tax and whatever the other taxes were, and then the GST came in on top of every other tax.

We came out and said that it was double taxation and it should be removed. We called on the federal government to reduce taxes on gasoline. This was a cry that went out when gas prices went up.

When gas prices went up the government resisted reducing taxes, despite what we showed them. It did so because it was reaping benefits from the tax on gasoline prices. Who was benefiting from increasing gas prices? The federal government. It benefited because of the way the tax structure is set up on gasoline. As prices and the excise tax went up, the 7% GST on top of that started to reap windfall profits.

At no time did the government think it necessary to return the money it was getting, the windfall profits, back to the taxpayer by reducing taxes. No, the government kept the money.

Then the government tried to offer what I will call a band-aid solution to the rise in heating oil prices. My colleague from the Conservative Party indicated to the government that it was a very ill-conceived program.

 

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Let me give an example. I got over 50 calls to my office from Canadians talking about their heating bills and how unfair they were. People say that when the government wants money from them, it takes the money right away through Revenue Canada with no questions asked. However when it comes time to give the money back the government brings in a stupid, ill thought program

Here is what happened. The government decided that those eligible for the GST refund would receive the rebate. Just for a second let us think about the GST refund. It is the goods and services tax imposed uniformly across the country. That is fine. We can understand the government giving GST rebates across the country.

The government is now trying to give money to homeowners, a segment which is not uniform across the country, but which needs money to pay for heating costs. Suddenly people who did not pay heating costs and had no heating bills were receiving the cheques. Those who paid heating costs were not receiving the cheques. Children were receiving the cheques while parents, who paid the heating bills, were not. Naturally they phoned our offices to say it was unfair.

Another point is that the GST rebate is based on the previous year's income. In this case it was based upon income from 1999. The heating oil crisis is in the year 2001, not 1999. Why is the government basing the rebate on the year 1999? There were changes in 2000 where people were not earning the same amount of money and needed help. However they did not qualify because their income from 1999 was slightly higher than it was in 2000.

The government in its haste, without thinking, brought in the plan. We have heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance say that the government has given money to 11 million Canadians. It may have given money to 11 million Canadians, but were they the 11 million who needed the relief? Were they the ones paying the heating bills? No, they were not. That is why even prisoners were getting cheques. Does the government think prisoners pay heating bills in penitentiaries?

We now have an ill conceived program, as is normal. Half the programs coming from that side are like that. All my colleagues here have received numerous calls from their constituents on this foolhardy program.

The government gave back $1.2 billion to the Canadian public without thinking. What an idiotic program. If it wanted to really help there were ways it could have done so. It has a huge bureaucracy. Could all those bureaucrats and mandarins not have thought up a plan where those who were paying would get a cheque? No, they did not. They used a quick solution without thinking about it.

The government has wasted $1.2 billion. Canadians notice the unfairness of the system, the unfairness of the high taxes they pay. The government has stated that it will reduce taxes, but the way taxes are being reduced is not uniform.

 

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On behalf of my constituents I needed to bring up the point of the heating oil and let the government and those mandarins know that this is a wrong and ill thought out program that is wasting $1.2 billion.

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

Some hon. members: Question.

The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The Deputy Speaker: It being 1.27 p.m. the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 1.27 p.m.)