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37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 040

CONTENTS

Friday, March 30, 2001

VTHE ROYAL ASSENT

. 1000

VThe Speaker
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VFINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT
VBill C-8. Third reading
VHon. Jane Stewart
VMr. Roy Cullen

. 1005

. 1010

. 1015

VMr. Richard Harris
VTHE ROYAL ASSENT

. 1025

VThe Speaker
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VFINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT
VBill C-8. Third reading
VMr. Richard Harris

. 1030

. 1035

. 1040

. 1045

. 1050

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
VALLISON FORSYTH
VMr. Bernard Patry
VSUDAN
VMr. Keith Martin

. 1100

VCAMERON HEIGHTS COLLEGIATE
VMrs. Karen Redman
VGOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC
VMr. Guy St-Julien
VCULTURE LINK
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Inky Mark
VSOFTWOOD LUMBER
VMr. Andy Savoy

. 1105

VGOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC BUDGET
VMs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
VCRIME PREVENTION
VMs. Sophia Leung
VHEALTH
VMr. David Anderson
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMs. Aileen Carroll
VHEATING FUEL REBATE
VMr. Dick Proctor

. 1110

VLIBERAL PARTY
VMr. Ghislain Fournier
VGREAT LAKES
VMr. John Maloney
VHEALTH
VMr. Gerald Keddy
VSOFTWOOD LUMBER
VMr. Mac Harb
VHEALTH
VMr. Garry Breitkreuz

. 1115

VCANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
VMs. Libby Davies
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VPRIME MINISTER
VMrs. Diane Ablonczy
VHon. Herb Gray
VMrs. Diane Ablonczy
VHon. Herb Gray
VMrs. Diane Ablonczy
VHon. Herb Gray

. 1120

VMr. Grant McNally
VHon. Brian Tobin
VMr. Grant McNally
VHon. Brian Tobin
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Herb Gray
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Stéphane Bergeron

. 1125

VHon. Herb Gray
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Bill Blaikie
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Bill Blaikie
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VPRIME MINISTER
VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. Herb Gray
VRight Hon. Joe Clark

. 1130

VHon. Herb Gray
VAUDITOR GENERAL
VMs. Cheryl Gallant
VHon. Maria Minna
VMs. Cheryl Gallant
VHon. Maria Minna
VPRIME MINISTER
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Réal Ménard
VHon. Herb Gray
VMULTICULTURALISM
VMrs. Betty Hinton

. 1135

VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Richard Harris
VThe Speaker
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMs. Anita Neville
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VKYOTO PROTOCOL
VMs. Monique Guay
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMs. Monique Guay

. 1140

VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMULTICULTURALISM
VMr. James Moore
VHon. Hedy Fry
VMr. Jay Hill
VHon. Herb Gray
VTRADE
VMr. Svend Robinson
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Joe Comartin
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VLUMBER INDUSTRY
VMr. Gerald Keddy

. 1145

VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VFRESHWATER EXPORTS
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VMr. Denis Paradis
VLUMBER INDUSTRY
VMr. Andy Burton
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VMr. Paul Crête

. 1150

VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VMr. Paul Crête
VHon. Pierre Pettigrew
VHEALTH
VMr. Kevin Sorenson
VHon. Lyle Vanclief
VMr. Leon Benoit
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMs. Paddy Torsney
VMrs. Karen Redman

. 1155

VMULTICULTURALISM
VMr. Jason Kenney
VHon. Hedy Fry
VMr. Jason Kenney
VHon. Hedy Fry
VVIRTUAL PARLIAMENT
VMr. Stéphan Tremblay
VHon. Paul Martin
VSAGUENAY—LAC-SAINT-JEAN
VMr. André Harvey
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VHIGHWAYS
VMr. Darrel Stinson

. 1200

VHon. David Collenette
VGASPÉ REGION
VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VHon. Martin Cauchon
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VCANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL
VThe Speaker
VORDER IN COUNCIL APPOINTMENTS
VMr. Derek Lee
VGOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS
VMr. Derek Lee
VCOMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE
VProcedure and House Affairs
VMr. Derek Lee

. 1205

VINCOME TAX ACT
VBill C-323. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Ted White
VEMPLOYMENT EQUITY ACT
VBill C-324. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Ted White
VBROADCASTING ACT
VBill C-325. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Ted White
VANTIPOVERTY ACT
VBill C-326. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1210

VPETITIONS
VFree Trade Area of the Americas
VMr. Svend Robinson
VMcWatters Project
VMr. Guy St-Julien
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Derek Lee
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VFINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT
VBill C-8. Third reading
VMr. Dick Proctor

. 1215

. 1220

VMr. Scott Brison

. 1225

. 1230

. 1235

VMr. Ken Epp

. 1240

VHon. Anne McLellan
VMr. Richard Harris

. 1245

. 1250

VMr. Paul Crête

. 1255

. 1300

. 1305

. 1310

VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1315

VMr. Joe Comartin

. 1320

VMr. Ken Epp

. 1325

VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

. 1330

VHEPATITIS AWARENESS MONTH ACT
VBill C-243. Second reading
VMr. Peter Stoffer

. 1335

. 1340

VMr. Yvon Charbonneau

. 1345

. 1350

VGOVERNMENTS ORDERS
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
VBill C-2—Notice of time allocation
VHon. Don Boudria
VPRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
VHEPATITIS AWARENESS MONTH ACT
VBill C-243. Second reading
VMrs. Diane Ablonczy

. 1355

. 1400

VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1405

. 1410

VMr. Loyola Hearn

. 1415

VMr. Peter Stoffer

. 1420

VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 040


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, March 30, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


THE ROYAL ASSENT

 

. 1000 +

[English]

The Speaker: Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

        Government House
        Ottawa

        March 30, 2001

    Mr. Speaker:

    I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Ian Binnie, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 30th day of March, 2001, at 10:00 a.m., for the purpose of giving royal assent to certain bills.

    Yours sincerely,

    Anthony P. Smyth
    Deputy Secretary, Policy, Program and Protocol



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

FINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT

 

Hon. Jane Stewart (for the Minister of Finance) moved that Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here in this crowded House to take part in the third reading debate on Bill C-8, an act to establish the financial consumer agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions.

I think we can all agree that the financial services sector plays a critical role in the Canadian economy. It underpins all other sectors in the economy by providing the means to channel savings into investment, resulting in economic growth and wealth creation.

[Translation]

The role the financial institutions play in the life of Canadians is equally important. In fact, these institutions protect Canadians' assets well and meet the needs of consumers and businesses as far as major financing, purchases and investments are concerned.

Let us not forget that half of Canadians are shareholders of our financial institutions, either directly or indirectly, so this represents an important source of revenue for Canadians now and in the future.

[English]

As legislators, we have an important responsibility to encourage the health of this sector. According to 1999 Statistics Canada data, 863,000 Canadians were employed in the financial services sector, including finance, insurance, real estate and leasing.

Canada's federal financial institutions operate within a legislative and regulatory framework defined by parliament. These legislative acts require the government to periodically review this framework and to bring before parliament any amendments needed to ensure that it remains current and relevant.

I would like to call the attention of the House to the four fundamental principles that underpin the legislation and which guided the government's decision making on the specific measures in the policy paper “Reforming Canada's Financial Services Sector”. It was released to the public on June 25, 1999, as the government's response to the MacKay task force report.

 

. 1005 + -

The first principle is that banks, trust companies, credit unions, insurance companies and other financial institutions must have the flexibility to adapt to the changing marketplace and to compete and thrive, both at home and abroad. Upholding this principle is necessary if the financial sector is to maintain its contribution to economic growth and job creation in the face of increasing globalization and rapidly changing technology.

To this end the bill provides additional flexibility for banks and insurance companies to organize themselves under a new holding company option that would be available to them, thus permitting them to explore opportunities to improve efficiency and grow their businesses by reducing the regulatory burden, among other things.

[Translation]

Similarly, we are raising the limits on widely held ownership of financial institutions in order to permit the exchange of considerable shares which is required for the conclusion of strategic alliances and joint ventures. This important business strategy is becoming increasingly common in other industries and ought also to be available to Canada's financial institutions.

[English]

The bill substantially expands permitted investments for financial institutions and makes these available to both the holding company and the parent subsidiary structures.

The second principle guiding the bill stresses the importance of competition. Specifically, we believe that vibrant competition in the financial services sector is necessary to allow consumers and businesses alike to benefit from a wide range of choice at the best possible price. With this objective in mind, the government is acting to remove unnecessary barriers for a bank start-up. We want to encourage new entrants. To that end, we are lowering the minimum amount of capital required to start a bank to $5 million from $10 million.

We are also proposing a new three tier, size based ownership regime that allows for the single ownership of small banks.

[Translation]

Banks with equity of $1 billion to $5 billion are also allowed to be widely held, provided at least 35% of shares are widely distributed among the public. There will, however, be no restrictions on the ownership structure of small banks with equity of less than $1 billion. These measures will make it possible to increase competitivity in the banking sector and to encourage new players.

[English]

Large banks with more than $5 billion in equity would continue to be widely held. Furthermore, commercial enterprises would also be allowed to establish new banks. This may be potentially attractive to retail companies that already have a network of stores or outlets.

The bill also includes measures to strengthen credit unions and caisses populaires. It contains measures that could accommodate their plans to restructure themselves in a way that reduces structural fragmentation and increases efficiency. It also provides the government with the regulatory flexibility to respond to new initiatives that may be forthcoming from the movement. The end result could be a stronger and more competitive credit union movement in Canada, better placed to challenge other financial service providers across the land.

We also propose to open up the Canadian payments system to life insurance companies, securities dealers and money market mutual funds. We believe that a broader range of participants in the payments system would foster competition because these firms would be able to offer services akin to chequing accounts.

[Translation]

Moreover, we will implement measures to align access rules for foreign banks in Canada with those governing domestic banks, so as to provide greater flexibility to foreign banks that wish to settle in Canada.

All in all, these measures will promote competition in the financial services sector, thus contributing to ensuring that Canadians get the best possible deal from suppliers of financial services.

 

. 1010 + -

[English]

I know the House is interested in the third guiding principle underpinning this legislation and that is to empower and protect consumers of financial services.

To that end, this bill would provide better access to basic services. It would allow us to specify in regulation what are reasonable identification requirements for an individual to open a bank account. The legislation also would provide regulation making authority regarding the provision of a low cost account and would oblige banks to follow a fair and reasonable process if they decide to close a branch.

[Translation]

As for low fee retail deposit accounts, memoranda of understanding have already been signed by the eight largest banks. While such accounts may vary from bank to bank, they must all comply with standards that will allow us to ensure that all Canadians have access to an account at an affordable price.

[English]

The bill would also establish two new organizations to promote and safeguard consumer interests in the financial sector. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, or FCAC, would consolidate related functions currently housed in Finance Canada, Industry Canada and OSFI. This agency would uphold the consumer protection provisions of our financial institution statutes, monitor institutions' compliance with their pledges to self-regulate, and provide consumer information and promote consumer education about financial services.

The government would also work with financial institutions to launch the new Canadian financial services ombudsman. This office would provide an independent, objective and impartial third party who would review complaints from individual consumers and small business owners who believe that their financial institution has treated them unfairly and have not been able to resolve these matters with the management of the financial institution.

However, we are also mindful that regulations are not without cause, which brings me to the fourth and final guiding principle underlying this bill.

We believe that our government should initiate improvements to the safety and soundness of the sector, but we should also take every opportunity to lighten the regulatory burden when we can. Bill C-8 would do just that.

[Translation]

The bill before us today seeks to implement a streamlined approval system for numerous operations that must be approved by the superintendent.

We are also proposing to improve the payments system, to ensure that the public participates more fully in the decision making process, and to ensure that the standards, regulations and rules of the CPA reflect the public interest.

[English]

The bill would also enhance the powers of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions to deal with firms that do not meet the regulatory requirements. It would also bolster the superintendent's power to intervene in the affairs of a financial institution that is heading for trouble. This would ensure that the prudential safeguards for the financial system are consistent with the new reality of stronger competition which we are trying to bring about.

In conclusion, the measures embodied in the bill we are debating today uphold and advance all four of the guiding principles I have just enumerated.

Canada's financial sector has an excellent reputation. Our financial institutions are extremely successful, both at home and abroad. To retain this excellent reputation and to keep our financial institutions strong, we need this new policy framework, a framework for the future. We need it because it recognizes the change around us, it permits our financial institutions to seize new opportunities and it manages change for the benefit of all Canadians.

I would like to thank the members of the finance committee and the hon. members of the House for being very supportive of this bill. I firmly believe that the measures proposed in this legislation provide an important framework whereby we can move forward together.

 

. 1015 + -

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I should like to start my debate by saying how nice it is to see all the smiling faces of Liberals across the way. I am sure they are anxious and eager to be here today to discuss business they were unwilling to discuss yesterday, serious issues that concern the House such as the—

The Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.



THE ROYAL ASSENT

[English]

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

    Mr. Speaker, The Honourable Deputy to the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

 

. 1025 + -

And being returned:

The Speaker: I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

    Bill C-20, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2001—Chapter No. 1.

    Bill C-21, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002—Chapter No. 2.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

FINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, once again let me say how gratifying it is to see so many government members in the House. We have important business to discuss today, as we did yesterday when the ranks were a little thin on the government side.

Members from all opposition parties attempted to discuss important issues, such as the Shawinigate affair and the issue of the junior minister of multiculturalism, issues for which the Canadian people demand answers, and there was an absence of response in the House, to put it kindly.

I am happy to be here on a Friday to discuss government business, such as Bill C-8. I know you were waiting for me to get back to that, Mr. Speaker. I wish government members, including some of the cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, took their roles as seriously as we in the opposition take our roles.

I listened to the presentation made by Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Finance earlier. The Alliance Party will support the bill because it would bring Canada's financial institutions to a more progressive level.

 

. 1030 + -

As we know, since the government took office in 1993 precious little, if anything, was done to put Canada further ahead as a progressive financial institution country despite calls from the official opposition in the 36th parliament. We have stayed on par with countries such as Mexico.

It has taken the government seven and a half long years to realize that one of the most important sectors and pillars of our economy is the financial institution sector which includes banks, insurance companies, securities companies and credit unions. The progressiveness of this pillar of our economy was lagging behind all our global competitors, placing our institutions at a severe competitive disadvantage. Why it took the government so long one can only guess, but given its record over the past eight years I suppose it was the status quo.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said a number of things with which we agree. However he did talk about some things that left us rather confused, considering the motions in amendment that were put by the official opposition and that were voted down at report stage.

I will deal with statements made by the parliamentary secretary and the Prime Minister, as well as those made by his colleagues, indicating that the government wants to run its business in a very open and transparent fashion so that Canadians, the official opposition and other opposition parties can judge how it is doing.

What the government did in reference to our amendment was ask that the financial consumer agency report to the Standing Committee on Finance on a permanent basis. The committee is part of parliament, which includes all opposition parties and government members. That is openness and transparency. Yet in the bill it says that the agency would report to parliament through the Minister of Finance.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not cynical when it comes to the government. What that may mean, though, is that the Minister of Finance would allow only what he wants to report to parliament out of the reports he gets from the financial consumer agency. When it comes to Liberal governments, and the door is opened to allow them to withhold certain information that they do not want to be made public, we have seen time and time again that they have taken every advantage of that opening.

A case in point is the current Shawinigate affair. The ethics counsellor, who is supposed to be the watchdog of how cabinet conducts its public and private business, reports directly to the Prime Minister, the very person who appointed him to the job; in other words his boss.

 

. 1035 + -

There have been enough questions raised about this relationship. The question of the year and maybe of the century is why would Canadians and opposition members sit by when there are questions about how the Prime Minister has conducted his private business and his so-called blind trust.

Time and time again the Prime Minister has stood up and said that the ethics commissioner, the guy that he hired and that he authorized in that position, says that he is okay and that everything was above board.

This is the same situation we have with the financial consumer agency where it reports directly to the very person who will be appointing them to that position. There is a bit of a perceived conflict of interest.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: A master-servant relationship.

Mr. Richard Harris: Yes, as my hon. colleague just said, a master-servant relationship. That is simply not acceptable to the official opposition nor to the other opposition parties. We have since 1993 demanded that the government be open and transparent. When the parliamentary secretary talks about the openness and transparency in the bill, here is one area in which he may be a stranger to the actuality of the relationship.

The government voted against the amendment which would have allowed that openness and transparency.

The parliamentary secretary also made a statement saying that it was the wish of the government, and it is in Bill C-8, that it would lighten the regulatory burden wherever it could.

I refer to another amendment that the official opposition put forward with regard to the payment system. The members of the payment system said very clearly that they knew there were a set of regulations and that they wanted to comply with them, but that in the course of doing business, they now and again need to make some rule changes to streamline their business in order to give better customer service to the people using the system. They said that their association wants to use the most unobtrusive method within a framework. They asked, through the Canadian Alliance, for the Minister of Finance to lay out a very clear and transparent framework under which they could operate, one that would be self-regulating and allow enough flexibility that they would not have to report every single rule change as it occurred. Having to do that is a regulatory burden that is unnecessary.

They wanted a clear and defined framework under which they could operate, which is what is in the amendment, but the Liberal government, despite wanting to lighten the regulatory burden however it could, voted that amendment down.

My last point about the amendments that we put forward deals with a statement made by the parliamentary secretary. He said “Credit unions must have the flexibility to compete and thrive at home and abroad”. How coincidental. Credit Union Central and members of its association want to have the flexibility to compete and thrive at home and abroad but it was not provided for in Bill C-8. We knew how important that was to Credit Union Central so we put forward an amendment respecting its wishes.

For a government that believes that credit unions must have the flexibility to compete and thrive at home and abroad, as the parliamentary secretary said, it voted against that amendment.

 

. 1040 + -

These are three distinct areas where the government is saying one thing yet doing another. Far be it for the government to say one thing yet do another. I am hesitant to bring up the red book wherein it promised to scrap, kill and get rid of the GST.

I will draw a comparison. During the election the Liberals went door to door, doorstep to doorstep, and over fences into backyards. They went to public meetings, to little restaurants and coffee shops, and said that they hated the GST. They hated it since the Tory government brought it in, and to show how much they hated it, they said that if they were elected they would kill that nasty GST. I know you would have been re-elected in any case, Mr. Speaker, because those are words that you never uttered.

Unfortunately the majority of Canadians believed that promise to kill, scrap and abolish the GST and elected a Liberal government in 1993. To their great surprise, the GST was neither scrapped, killed nor abolished. There was a name change, though, in Atlantic Canada where it is now blended and called HST. I am comparing that to the Liberals' continuing readiness to say one thing yet do another.

In those three areas the parliamentary secretary has been caught up in his own words because the bill does not reflect some of the things he said. We now have a bill that will give banks and financial institutions an opportunity to become more competitive at home and abroad. It will give them an opportunity to become more efficient and flexible in their operations, with the exception of the areas I outlined in the amendments the Liberal government voted against. These were amendments members of the financial sector wanted put through, but they were voted down.

Overall the bill would allow banks and financial institutions to become more competitive, particularly in the global economy. Due to the Liberal government's inaction over eight years, financial institutions have lost ground in the global economy. Their competitive position has gone down, so I am sure they will welcome the bill.

While the financial services sector will have this progressive bill to allow it to become more competitive, one wonders why the Liberals have not addressed some other issues that equally need to be recognized as areas where we are lagging behind.

As was reported in the news last night, the outdated medical equipment in our hospitals needs to be recognized. There is even talk about health dangers because some of the medical equipment is old, outdated, and possibly becoming a danger to patients who use it.

The government embarked on many new spending programs such as: the millennium project, fountains, golf courses and any kind of vote buying scheme that it could come up with. It has increased spending every year on brand new programs. It has raised taxes every year in the neighbourhood of $3 billion to $7 billion.

Yet there are areas of our country that are suffering because the Liberals have not considered them important enough to make them progressive, as they have finally done with Bill C-8 for banks and financial institutions.

 

. 1045 + -

I bring to the attention of the House the trouble farmers have when they go to financial institutions to apply for financing. Almost every farmer in Canada has either tried to get financing or is considering doing so and is not able to. They cannot do so because their farms are at risk, and their farms are at risk because of the government's refusal to help them compete with our American neighbours. U.S. farmers receive all kinds of subsidies and assistance because their government recognizes the important role agriculture plays in the United States.

Our government has refused to recognize Canada's agricultural industry to the same extent that our biggest trading partner does with its farmers. As a result, we are just an imaginary border away. American agricultural products come into Canada and sell at lower prices than we can produce them at in Canada. This is because the government has failed to recognize the importance of agriculture. It has failed to recognize the great disadvantage our farmers have when competing with our trading partners in the United States and abroad.

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick: Golf courses are more important than farmers.

Mr. Richard Harris: That is right. The government is certainly willing to finance golf courses and hotels and highway projects in the maritimes. One former cabinet minister from Nova Scotia built a highway to nowhere for about $30 million. That brought a bit of shame on to the government, but shame does not last long with this government.

One need only look at the current situation with the junior minister of multiculturalism who has brought shame, embarrassment and dishonour to her office. The government has not recognized that shame, embarrassment or dishonour. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have stood in the House every day and said she was sorry and that we on this side should recognize that.

They said that one of our members had done something and apologized and that they had accepted the apology. However there is a difference. The minister of multiculturalism is still sitting in her chair in the role of junior minister after giving an unrepentant and half-hearted apology. Our member for Edmonton—Strathcona is sitting in the backbenches after having been duly disciplined.

Mr. Roy Cullen: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not like to interrupt the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley, but I would like to know the relevance of what he is speaking about. When we started this debate we were discussing Bill C-8.

The Speaker: The parliamentary secretary is quite right. I was seeking to draw the attention of the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley to the bill. I know he has drawn several parallels to various things, but this has gone so far off topic I am not sure we can get it in parallel any more.

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Speaker, there is a direct parallel here. I was comparing the way the government treats farmers to the way it treats financial institutions. The government feels that the way it treats our financial institutions is important, and I agree. However it has forgotten about farmers. It has forgotten about how its lack of interest has affected our farmers. It has no shame.

We are happy that the government has put forward legislation to allow banks to develop their holding company structures. That will be progressive. We are also happy that we have a competitive, thriving and vibrant insurance industry in Canada. We are happy that the government has seen the wisdom of disallowing banks from retailing insurance products through their branches. That day may come, but the insurance industry now has a five year window to prepare for any impact it might cause.

 

. 1050 + -

Alliance members also know there is a competitive, vibrant auto leasing industry in Canada. We know that Canadian consumers who are considering buying automobiles can get leasing from a number of different areas, in some cases down to 0.9%, 0.19%.

We are happy that the government has seen the wisdom of telling banks they cannot retail auto lease products in Canada, and that it recognizes the great deal for consumers that now exists in the auto leasing business.

In order to keep down the actuarial risk in auto leasing there must be good risks to offset people who are not such good risks. Overall, one can keep lease rates down and recognize that the automobile companies, which produce automobiles and have subsidiaries like GMAC, Ford Credit or Chrysler Credit, have an interest in selling automobiles. All that seems to work together pretty well to keep interest rates down when it comes to leasing.

It is a conflict when we see the government doing something pretty good that we can support and then doing all the other things that it does. It makes us wonder who is in charge over there. We can draw many examples. I can draw one in my own riding.

Bill C-8 is as very progressive bill. It will allow one of the pillars of our economy to be more competitive globally. That is a good thing.

Members must ask the question: If the government can put through a bill like this, how can it be so neglectful of other important issues? In my riding of Prince George—Bulkley Valley, in Burns Lake, B.C., there is the Burns Lake Indian Band. The band has had an agreement for the last number of years in which the village of Burns Lake, which parallels the band, provides water and sewer facilities to the band. For the last seven and a half years the band has decided that for some reason it would stop paying taxes.

The village of Burns Lake has a very small tax base and to lose $150,000 a year in taxes has a big impact. The federal government would not want to lose tax dollars either, as evidenced by the paltry tax cuts it has given Canadians. However, I digress a bit.

All of a sudden, after seven years of non-payment of taxes, the village of Burns Lake said it would cut off the band's water, sewer and other services because it was not paying its bill. Hon. members would think the department of Indian affairs would be concerned about this and try to make up the back taxes and get the thing rolling again. The shutoff date for the band's water, sewer, fire protection and emergency services is April 30, 2001.

The mayor of Burns Lake and his officials were here a few weeks ago and I met with them and the minister of Indian affairs. We said that the issue was a problem and we agreed to get an independent negotiator to work it out and—

 

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Mr. John Cannis: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As we are trying to get a parallel it is only fair that we clarify. We all have a tendency to stand in caucus and say things.

The member earlier referred to certain commitments that were made. I will quote for the record what the Liberal government said, because the member was a bit misleading.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I know the hon. member will have an opportunity to participate in the debate later. It sounds to me as though he is raising not a point of order but a debate.

Mr. Darrel Stinson: And he should know better.

Mr. John Cannis: He should represent the people, the facts.

The Speaker: Different members' views of the facts, sometimes of the same facts, are seen through different eyes or maybe different glasses. However the hon. member for Prince George—Bulkley Valley has the floor, and if he kept his remarks more directly relevant to Bill C-8 perhaps there would be less controversy.

Mr. Richard Harris: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the attention Liberal members are giving my presentation. That has certainly been lacking in the House over the last few days and as a result they lost their position yesterday.

After an agreement there is still no negotiator and no extension of the services planned. As we speak, the Liberal government and the Indian affairs department know very well that there is a full blown infrastructure program on the reserve.

To set up a stand alone system on a temporary basis would cost $600,000 or $700,000 plus $60,000 a month to maintain. That is just a temporary system. The Liberals are looking to embark on a permanent system that would cost in the neighbourhood of $4 million to $7 million over the next five years.

All this could have been avoided if they had paid the back taxes and kept current. They could have saved themselves about $5 million over the next five years. However the government and the minister of Indian affairs do not see the wisdom of that.

I am happy they saw some wisdom in our financial services sector. If the member was wondering when I would get back to that, I had to draw that comparison. There is wisdom in Bill C-8. I know that the banking industry, insurance companies, securities companies and the payment system are applauding it to a large extent. It has a lot of deficiencies. We wish the government had been 100% progressive rather than 97%. The other 3% represents the three amendments we put forward that the government voted down.

I know this has been interesting for Liberal members. We have had a chance to talk about a lot of important issues and I appreciate the attention of my Liberal colleagues across the way.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Translation]

ALLISON FORSYTH

Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to congratulate Allison Forsyth, winner of the giant slalom for the fifth year in a row at the Canadian championships at Mount Orford, Quebec.

[English]

Ms. Forsyth, a native of Nanaimo, British Columbia, counts this as her eighth championship victory, tying the record of Kathy Kreiner for the most national championship titles.

[Translation]

Congratulations are in order as well for Geneviève Simard of Val-Morin, Quebec, and Anna Prehal, of Outremont, Quebec, for placing second and third, respectively.

Canada's alpine team is very well prepared for the 2002 winter Olympics. We have no doubt these young athletes will continue to make Canada proud.

Congratulations, once again.

*  *  *

[English]

SUDAN

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, last week I returned from Sudan where I had an unprecedented opportunity to meet with human rights workers and victims of that terrible conflict. This week I released a seven point peace plan that would stop the bloodshed and end the famine in that country.

The plan asks the Sudanese government, first, to enact an immediate ceasefire and stop arming its proxy militia; second, to allow relief shipments and NGOs unrestricted access throughout the country; third, to stop all bombing; fourth, to implement the declaration of principles it agreed to; fifth, to propose an oil revenue sharing agreement with the south; sixth, to stop supporting the Lord's Resistance Army; and, seventh, to start an intertribal dialogue in the south that focuses on peace and development.

 

. 1100 + -

Canada is in an ideal position to work with the international community to save the lives of a million people who are poised to die in the next few weeks. So that we can secure a long lasting peace, let us act now and save lives.

*  *  *

CAMERON HEIGHTS COLLEGIATE

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a progressive school in my constituency of Kitchener Centre.

Cameron Heights Collegiate has launched the Cameron Institute of International Studies to introduce the global perspective to all its classes. International studies is seen as a natural progression for Cameron Heights, as its students hail from 57 countries with almost one-third of their families not having English as a first language.

A wide variety of learning opportunities is presented to each student, creating informed, tolerant, compassionate and lifelong learners.

In the knowledge based economy of the 21st century, people are key to Canada's productivity and competitiveness. Canada's multiculturalism stimulates innovation and creativity.

I invite all members of the House to join me in congratulating Cameron Heights for adding this exciting component to its curriculum. It is through this sort of initiative that we can bridge differences, bring down barriers created by racism and discrimination and help more Canadians participate fully in society.

Cameron Heights International Studies provides a window to the world for Kitchener youth.

*  *  *

[Translation]

GOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Quebecers pay over $7 billion annually in interest on the debt of the government of Bernard Landry.

Why not pay down the debt by $1 billion rather than the $500 million announced? This is a gimmick, not good sense.

Last year, Bernard Landry put his surpluses of $750 million in non-profit bodies headed by his Péquiste friends.

Today, he is doing the same thing. The sum of $950 million is being put in the Caisse de dépôt et placement for the next election campaign in Quebec or for the referendum.

*  *  *

[English]

CULTURE LINK

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parkdale—High Park, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today I would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2001 Toronto's Commitment to Diverse-City Awards.

I was honoured to be present when the awards were presented on March 23 by Culture Link, a non-profit community based organization located in my riding which facilitates the settlement of newcomers in Toronto.

The awards honour those who have made a special contribution to ensuring an equitably diverse community.

I want to congratulate Shaun Chen, a recipient of the award in the youth category. Consuelo Rubio was the recipient of the award in the settlement sector. In the general community category, the award was given to June Veecock.

I wish to extend congratulations to all the winners and to Culture Link for its continued commitment to the inclusion of all our people in our diverse community.

*  *  *

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Inky Mark (Dauphin—Swan River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the farm crisis in Canada is not over. Our food producers are struggling harder than ever to survive.

In my riding of Dauphin—Swan River, the Farm Credit Corporation is beginning to foreclose on farm accounts.

The government does not understand the value of the family farm or the value of our food producers to the economic wealth of the country.

The government does not understand that killing the family farm is the death knell for all rural communities of Canada.

How many of us in this Chamber would survive if our incomes had been slashed by up to 50% over the last three years?

Instead of helping the farmers by working together with provincial governments to come up with long term solutions, the federal government takes the easy way out and blames international subsidies.

It is low commodity prices that have created the crisis, not the farmer. I call on the government to do the right thing and help those who have fed us for over 100 years.

*  *  *

SOFTWOOD LUMBER

Mr. Andy Savoy (Tobique—Mactaquac, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in less than 48 hours, the softwood lumber agreement and the maritime accord expire.

For New Brunswick the outcome of a potential trade war would be disastrous. One in eight jobs in the province is dependent on the lumber industry. It is a $670 million business.

Since 1842, when the Webster-Ashburton treaty was signed, New Brunswick has enjoyed continuous free trade with the United States. However, this is quickly coming to an end. The U.S. coalition for free trade in lumber is embarking on its fourth attempt in less than 12 years to block Canadian access to American lumber markets. All have proven unsuccessful in the past and the Government of Canada anticipates a similar outcome in regard to this one.

Given our unique lumber relationship with the United States and our exclusion from previous trade action, I urge the federal government to move quickly and renew the maritime accord before it expires at midnight on March 31. Time is of the essence.

*  *  *

 

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[Translation]

GOVERNMENT OF QUEBEC BUDGET

Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, for the first time a woman, Pauline Marois, tabled the government's budget in the Quebec National Assembly.

This budget stood out for its sensitivity to the needs of the public and its resolutely social democratic thrust, including an additional $2 billion for health care funding which is coming out of the Government of Quebec's revenues and not from federal transfers, which now account for only 14 cents on every dollar invested in health care in Quebec.

The budget also contains commitments for education funding which are well above what was expected, tax cuts which target low- and middle-income earners, major support for the resource regions through tax holidays and other incentives for local processing and, finally, additional anti-poverty funding.

In closing, I wish to draw the House's attention to the announced creation in Laval of a biotechnology and human health complex and of the Centre de développement des biotechnologies, evidence of the Bloc Quebecois' firm desire to support the research and development sector. In short—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Vancouver—Kingsway.

*  *  *

[English]

CRIME PREVENTION

Ms. Sophia Leung (Vancouver Kingsway, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on March 9, for the Minister of Justice, I was pleased to announce $2.6 million to fund 80 crime prevention projects in B.C.

These crime prevention grants support community projects across the country in regard to the efforts of communities to prevent crime. It is the people who work in our local communities to reduce crime who deserve much credit for continued action and success in improving the safety of our streets.

I am pleased that B.C. benefited from those grants. Clearly our Liberal government is committed to a proactive approach to crime prevention and to safe communities for all Canadians.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the impact from foot and mouth disease is very real. Canadians have watched the devastation of the European rural areas.

In Canada people are willing to work to prevent this disease from entering the country. They are waiting for direction from the government.

For the last month the Canadian Alliance has called on the government to ensure that inspection and prevention measures are adequate and for programs to educate the general public.

I would like to take a few moments this morning to talk about a real life issue where Canadian people need direction. Across Canada there are hundreds of high school students who are planning on going to Europe over the Easter break. These young people want to do the right thing. If they go, they are concerned about bringing foot and mouth back to their communities, but if they cancel and stay home, they are being told that they will each lose approximately $1,500 of their deposit.

The government was willing in the last 24 hours to charge the Canadian taxpayer thousands upon thousands of dollars in airfare by forcing its members to return to Ottawa last night. What is it willing to do to help these young high school students do the right thing? Can the government give these students help or direction in making this decision?

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the latest of a series of decisions reversing environmental restrictions, President Bush has withdrawn the U.S. from the Kyoto accord. He places the needs of the American economy ahead of such global obligations.

A spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists said “This is the most anti-environmental act by an American president in modern history”.

Our domestic initiatives will not diminish our competitive edge with the U.S. Let us not wring our hands and feel compelled to slow our efforts to follow the incredibly short-sighted decision of President Bush.

Canada should seize the moment to save the protocol and enhance our moral authority internationally as we continue to negotiate with the European Union countries. It would underscore our determination to move forward with them in our commitment to the reduction of global warming. It would give evidence of our firm commitment not to put all our eggs in one sink.

*  *  *

HEATING FUEL REBATE

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Canadians know that the $1.5 billion home heating rebate had many difficulties, not the least of which was the sending of cheques to prison inmates and the deceased. What is less well known is the manner in which the government accessed this money.

The government did it through the issue of special warrants, which, according to long established House of Commons procedure and practice, are only to be used in very special circumstances. Indeed, the questionable practice does not escape the watchful eye of Canada's auditor general, who leaves office tomorrow.

Mr. Desautels has suggested that upon assuming office his successor should investigate how the government accessed the money without parliamentary approval and whether there is a precedent for using special warrants to approve new programs.

Clearly the government's haste to implement the program resulted in a significant waste of taxpayer money. It appears that not only were Canadians duped with their own money in last November's election but it was accomplished in a highly questionable and perhaps unauthorized manner.

*  *  *

 

. 1110 + -

[Translation]

LIBERAL PARTY

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ): Mr. Speaker, with a 21-seat majority, a low turnout in the last federal election, one scandal after another, and motions to gag the opposition, the Liberal majority was taken by surprise.

In their rush to get back home, leaving members of the public waiting for answers from the government, the Prime Minister and his MPs made it only too plain how they run the nation.

But what was particularly evident was that the Prime Minister lacks any leadership over his own party, and is no longer even able to convince his MPs to do their job.

It is high time that this Prime Minister bowed to the public interest and gave some thought to his future.

*  *  *

[English]

GREAT LAKES

Mr. John Maloney (Erie—Lincoln, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes are home to 45% of Canada's industrial capacity and 25% of Canada's agricultural capacity, providing for $180 billion in annual Canada-U.S. trade.

The Great Lakes basin includes eight of the twenty largest Canadian cities and 9.2 million Canadian inhabitants.

Water level fluctuations in the Great Lakes result from environmental factors such as precipitation, runoff from the drainage basin, inflow from upstream lakes and rivers and outflow to downstream lakes and rivers, as well as human factors, such as dredging, diversions and consumption.

This year lake levels are low once again, which is a cause for alarm for Canadians whose lives depend on these bodies of water for employment and recreation.

I call upon the government to take action in the fight against unnecessary water loss in the Great Lakes due to human involvement. It is essential that we maintain this valuable resource for Canadians today and for Canadians tomorrow.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, Prince Edward Island's Kensington Intermediate High School has cancelled a school trip to France and the United Kingdom because of concern over hoof and mouth disease.

I call upon the federal government to take heed of the P.E.I. example and immediately take measures to educate Canadians in a massive Canada wide program to ensure this disease does not enter the country.

Canada needs more stringent preventative measures to protect Canadian livestock from hoof and mouth disease. Canadian travellers must be told what steps they can take to prevent bringing this disease into the country, whether it is through dried meat or infected clothing.

Returning travellers from infected areas now have to disinfect their shoes, but what about the other two pairs of shoes they have in their suitcases? What about the clothes they are wearing?

Canada can no longer remain passive about this issue. We must start a program tomorrow and it is the government's responsibility to impose it.

*  *  *

SOFTWOOD LUMBER

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the current softwood lumber trade dispute between Canada and the United States.

Yesterday the subcommittee on international trade tabled a report that calls on and supports government action to vigorously defend Canada's interests under international laws.

We also call on the government to appoint a special envoy with the aim of developing unified strategy for the whole country. It is critical that Canada speak in a unified voice on this file.

I congratulate the minister and his department for his leadership and hard work on behalf of our industries.

I would also like to congratulate my fellow committee members and the 120 members of the House who have signed their names in support of free and fair trade on softwood lumber.

There is still time for those other members who would like to sign on to this report.

*  *  *

HEALTH

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the risk of foot and mouth disease entering and gaining a foothold in our country has many farmers and their families losing sleep at night.

An article in the Edmonton newspaper quoting a lead veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has me worried. To quote Larry Delver, the veterinary program officer with the CFIA, he said:

    We are at risk. We don't have sniffing dogs at the Edmonton or Calgary airports and we can't go through a traveller's luggage unless we are suspicious...Once people go through the foot baths at the airports they are gone. We just have to trust them.

This is not a time for partisan politics. All members of the House and all levels of government need to put every ounce of effort into protecting our borders from this outbreak.

If the government is so dedicated to Canadian farmers and, for that matter, our economic prosperity, then how does it justify only six dogs, minimal baggage inspection and flat out failure to inspect people and baggage coming here from areas infected with foot and mouth?

We should not be needlessly ringing alarm bells, but we are talking about a $20 billion industry that needs protection. Why has the government not put in place a plan to better handle this issue?

*  *  *

 

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CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, does anyone over there on the government's side of the House care any more?

The Canadian Human Rights Commission has issued a serious and damning report on the government's failure to meet its own objectives and there has been zero response. Why has the government fallen down on meeting its employment equity objectives? Why has it again failed the aboriginal people of the county and robbed the community of its dignity, human rights and basic needs to health, housing, income security and decent work opportunities?

I applaud the Canadian Human Rights Commission for speaking out and recommending that social conditions be added to the act to prohibit discrimination of poor people.

The question remains, however, of whether the government will address these serious shortcomings outlined in the commission's report. While scandal racks the multiculturalism minister and the PM ponders his bill of sale, people are hurting. Government policy is failing from neglect and indifference.

We in this party will not let the government off the hook on human rights, employment equity and justice for the poor.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

PRIME MINISTER

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canadians have a right to expect their Prime Minister to obey conflict of interest rules 100%, yet the evidence so far confirms that the Prime Minister had a real and substantial personal stake in the value of the Grand-Mère golf course during the time he influenced the allocation of public funds to surrounding real estate.

Is the Liberal government refusing to submit this apparent breach to an independent inquiry because it knows the Prime Minister's role in l'affaire Grand-Mère cannot pass close scrutiny?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is starting off on the wrong foot again.

There is no conflict of interest here on the part of the Prime Minister. This was demonstrated by the documents which have been tabled. The Prime Minister has been quite clear on this. It has been made quite clear by the agreement of sale between himself and Jonas Prince, and in Mr. Prince's later agreement of sale to Mr. Michaud of these very same shares.

There is no conflict of interest. Once again the opposition is failing Canadians with no questions about softwood lumber, no questions about agriculture, no questions about unemployment, no questions about the economy, no questions about the—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the documents clearly show just the opposite of what the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Yesterday he evaded a question about the possibility that the Prime Minister not only had an interest in the golf course in the form of a debt owed on his shares, but also that he had retained some of the actual shares not covered by the 1993 note with Jonas Prince.

I will ask the question again. Did the Prime Minister or any member of his family personally hold any shares in the Grand-Mère golf course after November 1, 1993?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, the debt is not an interest in the golf course. Second, I think the documents are clear. Neither the Prime Minister nor any member of his family held an interest in the shares. They were all sold to Mr. Prince on November 1, 1993.

Again the hon. member is letting Canadians down, as is her party. It is failing in its duties as an opposition party by not asking questions of interest to Canadians as they affect the lives of Canadians in areas like health care, the environment, the economy, agriculture and softwood lumber. She and her party ought to go back to dealing with real issues of concern to real Canadians.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister is clearly letting Canadians down by not answering simple questions that would clear up an ethical cloud over the Prime Minister's head.

The Prime Minister's company held 25% of the shares of the Grand-Mère Golf Club. We know that. Yet the note with Jonas Prince clearly refers to only 22% of those shares.

What happened to the other 3%? Did the Prime Minister or a member of his family retain, after November 1, 1993, those 3% of shares representing an interest in the golf course, yes or no?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, she has misquoted the agreement of purchase and sale of November 1993. It spoke of approximately 22%.

The agreement by which Mr. Prince sold all the shares he had acquired from the Prime Minister in November 1993 said that in fact he had sold all the shares he had acquired. There are no missing shares except in the fog in the hon. member's brain.

 

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Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, for two days we have asked the Minister of Industry, who is responsible to the House to uphold the Canada Business Corporations Act, to tell us whether the Grand-Mère Golf Club complied with all applicable laws.

The letter from the head of his corporations branch said that the registry did not comply with the requirements of the act. Will the minister stop evading the question and tell us whether or not the Grand-Mère Golf Club broke the law?

Hon. Brian Tobin (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the examination is complete and direction has been given. Information will be filed, posted and made public.

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is his responsibility to uphold the law. I will ask him the question again. He says the information is coming. We want to know the answer to the question. He should have the information already. Did the Grand-Mère Golf Club break the law?

Hon. Brian Tobin (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the member understood the act, he would know that I cannot comment on the details under the act. The Prime Minister and other parties had to give consent for the release of documents because they cannot be released under the act. He knows that.

[Translation]

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, now that the Liberal contingent is out in full force, I hope that we will be getting some real answers on the Grand-Mère golf club and Auberge Grand-Mère situation.

Far from exonerating the Prime Minister, the documents that have been released, the September 1999 sales agreement in particular, prove that the Prime Minister still had an interest in the golf course when the shares were transferred to Mr. Michaud.

In light of the September 1999 agreement, does the government at last acknowledge—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: I am beginning to realize, from the way they are fussing, just how unhappy they are.

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that he placed himself in a conflict of interest situation when he intervened with the bank in favour of the Auberge—

The Speaker: The Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is showing a complete lack of confidence in her own parliamentary leader, who said in connection with the record of sale:

    Let him provide that, and the problem will be over.

It has been provided, yet the hon. member keeps on with her questions. What lack of confidence in her own parliamentary leader.

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am like the general public. We lack confidence in both the Prime Minister and this government.

When reference is made to the sales agreement of September 1999, the Deputy Prime Minister refers to standard clauses. Yet there is nothing standard about these clauses, because it is the Prime Minister and not Jonas Prince, supposed owner of the shares, who renounces all interest in the golf club and provides guarantees to the new purchaser.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister admit that the evidence has been provided that the Prime Minister had a financial interest and placed himself in a conflict of interest position when he used his position—

The Speaker: The Deputy Prime Minister.

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no conflict of interest. The Prime Minister's shares were sold back in November 1993. When the lawyers prepared the documents, they did so prudently. It is a matter of the lawyers' decisions.

Once again, the hon. member's own parliamentary leader is the one she is attacking with her lack of confidence in asking these questions, when her leader has said that tabling the bill of sale would put an end to the situation.

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the documents released this week did not solve anything in the Auberge Grand-Mère issue. These documents show that, more than six years after the alleged sale of his shares in 1993, the Prime Minister got involved again in 1999.

When a seller gets involved in the resale of his house six years after its alleged sale, does it not mean that he still has an interest in the property? Is this not the real position in which the Prime Minister found himself in 1999, that of a person who had an interest in the transaction?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is wrong. The Prime Minister did not get involved. The shares were sold by Mr. Prince to Mr. Michaud. That is the whole story.

Again, another member is showing his lack of trust in the Bloc Quebecois leadership by asking such questions. In spite of the commitment made by his parliamentary leader, when he asked that the bill of sale be tabled, they continue to ask similar questions.

Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, perhaps some members opposite have misplaced their trust, however, by putting it in their current leader.

 

. 1125 + -

A number of questions remain unanswered, including this one: How can the Prime Minister justify his involvement more than six years after the alleged sale of his shares in 1993, if it is not because he still owned these shares in 1999?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again, the Prime Minister did not get involved. He no longer owned the shares after November 1, 1993. Once again, the parliamentary leader of the Bloc Quebecois said “Table the bill of sale and we will stop asking questions”.

The bill of sale was tabled, which means that the Bloc Quebecois violated its commitment to the House and to Canadians.

*  *  *

[English]

NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, this has not been a good week for the future of planet Earth with American President George Bush simultaneously rejecting the Kyoto accord and saying that he would like oil and gas to flow freely from Canada to the United States.

I would like to ask the government, perhaps the Minister of Natural Resources, whether the government will state today that it does not want Canada to become an unlimited supply of energy for a country that does not realize that the name of the game is to consume less energy rather than more energy. Will the government commit to ratification of the Kyoto accord in 2002 and repudiate George Bush's position on the Kyoto accord?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the position taken by the Government of Canada with respect to the development of our natural resources is a position that is based entirely upon the principles of sustainable development. That means the effective integration of economic, environmental and social considerations.

We have enormous resources to develop. They can be developed to the great advantage of Canadians in terms of jobs and growth and investment, but we will do so very squarely protecting the interests of our environment, our social concerns and, in northern Canada particularly, the concerns of aboriginal Canadians.

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I hope the House would notice the silence with respect to the Kyoto accord and the lack of any condemnation coming from the Canadian government with respect to President Bush's position, unlike leaders of the European Union countries who have expressed their outrage at Mr. Bush's position.

I ask the minister to recall a previous time when we had an American president who did not realize the problem of acid rain and the stand that Canada took at that time trying to bring that American president around. Ronald Reagan was his name.

We could do the same with George Bush if we had a government that was willing to stand up and say that George Bush is wrong.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada still believes very much in the principles that are contained in the Kyoto protocol.

We signed that protocol in 1998. We have been working assiduously to see that its terms are implemented. Just last year, for example, we invested $1.1 billion to pursue all the initiatives, some 400 initiatives, to implement the principles of the Kyoto protocol.

*  *  *

PRIME MINISTER

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Mr. Speaker, the side deal on Grand-Mère, signed on the Prime Minister's behalf, refers explicitly to the costs of any inquiry by parliament or any other body. It explicitly obliges the Prime Minister's personal company to pay any costs of such an inquiry incurred by Michaud company that ultimately bought the shares.

The Prime Minister has a financial interest in avoiding any inquiry. If his government can stop an inquiry it saves the Prime Minister's personal money. Does that not in itself constitute a new and serious conflict of interest?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): No, Mr. Speaker.

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Well then, Mr. Speaker, if that is the standard, there is no such thing as a conflict of interest. If that is the standard, the government can roll over the rights of any citizen or any institution in the country.

Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a straightforward question about the handwritten document the Prime Minister claims to be a bill of sale. I did not get an answer. Let me try again with the loquacious Deputy Prime Minister.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us whether both parties signed the document at the same time? In what town or city and province was that note signed? And sir, were there any—

The Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

 

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Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I said yesterday that the agreement speaks for itself. If my hon. friend wants to get further evidence of the accuracy of what the Prime Minister and I have been saying in the House, let him look at the agreement dated September 29 between Park Inns and Placements Louis Michaud.

It says in part:

    Whereas—Akimbo Development—on behalf of and as agent of Park Inns Canada Limited—and Park Inns hereinafter—referred to as “Akimbo”, purchased from J. & A. all of the Shares—

The agreement referred to the agreement of November 1, 1993—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

*  *  *

AUDITOR GENERAL

Ms. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in his 2000 report the auditor general condemned CIDA for a lack of due diligence in awarding a $6.3 million contract to Transelec, a company owned by a close friend of the Prime Minister. A senior CIDA official admitted in public accounts committee that CIDA had made a mistake in awarding the contract to Transelec.

Why, after numerous questions in the House on this issue, did the minister responsible for CIDA never once admit that her department made a $6.3 million mistake?

Hon. Maria Minna (Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact the department saved $2 million for the public.

Seven companies were proposed to the minister and three went to bid. Transelec's bid was 30% below bid and $2 million was saved to taxpayers.

Ms. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on February 15 of this year the minister stated that the auditor general was wrong and CIDA was right.

Questions asked of the minister soon after the release of the auditor general's report again gave the minister the opportunity to admit her mistake. She did not.

Why did the minister send her official to do what she should have done herself and take the blame for her department's $6.3 million mistake?

Hon. Maria Minna (Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, I said no such thing. Second, as I said, this contract saved taxpayers $2 million. The bid was 30% below every other bidder. It was a properly bidded contract. That is exactly what I said then and that is what I am saying now.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PRIME MINISTER

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have a very specific question for the government, a question the Prime Minister has refused to answer all week.

Article 3.6 of the agreement the Prime Minister signed in September 1999 provides that, if there is an investigation into this matter, the Prime Minister must assume the legal costs of Louis Michaud, the purchaser of his shares.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge that the Prime Minister has a financial interest in there not being an investigation or a committee looking into his transactions in the matter of the Grand-Mère golf club? Will he recognize this once and for all?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, no.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, can the Deputy Prime Minister tell us on what interests the Prime Minister is basing his decision to reject an inquiry?

Are they those of a Prime Minister who must ensure the integrity of his government or the financial interests of a Prime Minister who knows he is in conflict of interest?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no reason, there is no basis for an inquiry. The RCMP said there was no reason to continue these inquiries. The ethics counsellor confirmed that there was no conflict of interest. Most importantly, the documents tabled in the House of Commons show once again, clearly, that there is no conflict of interest.

I think we can ask the member why, once again, he is contradicting his own House leader and calling for an inquiry following the tabling of the record of sale.

*  *  *

[English]

MULTICULTURALISM

Mrs. Betty Hinton (Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, late yesterday afternoon the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism reluctantly faxed a qualified apology for her inflammatory comments about make-believe racist activities in Kamloops. However, her foolish comments have completely destroyed her credibility as a fighter against racism.

 

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The Prime Minister said that we should respect House tradition. He and his minister should respect cabinet tradition: When one misleads the House, one resigns. Will the minister stand in her place today and resign from cabinet?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has shown why the Alliance Party has been running out of steam. It is the same old stuff, in spite of the clear answers that I have given and I repeat. The hon. secretary of state recognized she made a mistake. She then apologized to the House.

If the hon. member and her party were serious about respecting the House and treating it seriously themselves, they would accept the apology and get back to their job as the opposition of asking questions of importance to Canadians.

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister for multiculturalism wanted to stand but the Deputy Prime Minister beat her to it.

The junior minister for multiculturalism fabricated a story about Kamloops. She fabricated a story about Prince George. She fabricated the story about her staff never calling police officials.

She remembered all that, but yesterday when the member for Edmonton North brought up an incident that really did happen, she had no idea of it despite the fact it was a story in a major—

The Speaker: I do not know that there is a question there. The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre.

*  *  *

NATURAL RESOURCES

Ms. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as Californians prepare for more periodic blackouts the Bush administration is talking about an energy crisis and the need for a North American energy policy to address this problem.

Could the Minister of Natural Resources tell the House if there is an energy crisis in Canada. Could he expand further on the position being taken in response to the U.S. point of view?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is no energy crisis in Canada. We are blessed with enormous assets: conventional fossil fuels, hydro power, heavy oil, the oil sands, new frontiers in the north Atlantic and in the Arctic, plus nuclear, plus a growing portfolio of renewable and alternative fuels, new technologies like fuel cells, and the best energy brain power in the world.

We do not have a crisis but we do have an enormous opportunity to seize that opportunity. We are not pursuing a North American energy policy. We are pursuing the expansion and successful functioning of energy markets in the Canadian interest.

*  *  *

[Translation]

KYOTO PROTOCOL

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, while Quebec has made considerable efforts to meet its objectives for decreased greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is dragging its feet, and this affects Quebec as well. Yesterday, the United States decided not to ratify the Kyoto protocol, and this too is likely to affect Quebec and Canada.

Since the beginning of this week, the government keeps on telling us it wants to get back to real business. If this is so, can the Minister of the Environment explain his lack of reaction to the American decision?

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada is very seriously pursuing its international obligations. We negotiated with respect to the Kyoto protocol. We have been very active in the years since Kyoto in not only elaborating upon the international implementation mechanisms but taking action at home in Canada.

Last year in the budget of February and the mini budget in October we committed $1.1 billion over the next five years, which will eliminate 65 megatons of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.

[Translation]

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, that is not the question.

Yesterday, the minister said “We are going to ask them what can work for them, if this does not”. The minister appears to be giving up on the Kyoto protocol, while because of our geography the American decision will inevitably impact upon Quebec and Canada.

If the government was serious about wanting to deal with real problems ought it not to be fighting for the Kyoto protocol instead of just throwing up its hands?

 

. 1140 + -

[English]

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asks us to do something about Kyoto. In fact we are. We are investing over $1.1 billion in climate change solutions.

We will also continue to work with all our international partners to put together an international arrangement that works. We obviously disagree with President Bush's decision and we will work very hard to obtain an international consensus to bring down greenhouse gases and mitigate the problem of climate change.

*  *  *

MULTICULTURALISM

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on top of the Prince George cross burning smear, on top of the Kamloops smear, on top of the fictitious letter defence, on top of all we have heard, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism admitted to the House yesterday that she has not been doing her job in policing and shaming a real cross burning that happened in Montreal last year.

She has misused her office on one hand and has been absent and irresponsible on the other. Will the secretary of state do herself, her government, her department and her constituents a big favour and the honourable thing and just resign?

Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, following question period I asked my department to follow up on the question by the hon. member for Edmonton North.

My department assures me that it did not fund this activity. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, I certainly do not condone that type of behaviour.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there is only one thing we want to hear from the minister and it is the two words: I resign.

The people from Prince George are demanding accountability. The citizens of Canada are demanding she should be held accountable. Even some of her own Liberal colleagues are suggesting that she should resign.

The Prime Minister talks a lot about parliament's tradition of accepting a member's apology. Why does the Prime Minister not follow the time honoured tradition of ministerial accountability and fire his junior minister of multiculturalism?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the mayor of Kamloops, according to a press report in the Calgary Herald, speaking of the secretary of state with respect to Kamloops, said:

      —she says she's sorry, and let's move on—I accept it as a full and unequivocal apology.

If the mayor of Kamloops under these circumstances is willing to accept what the secretary of state has said, the full and unequivocal apology, why is the hon. member and his party not big enough to act with the same degree of class? What is wrong with him?

*  *  *

TRADE

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade. The minister's trade policy is coming under increasing attack with the Council of Canadians and CUPW this week launching a constitutional challenge of chapter 11 of NAFTA and the respected group, Rights and Democracy, urging that any free trade of the Americas agreement must clearly give primacy to international human rights treaties.

Will the minister tell his colleagues in Buenos Aires next week that Canada will not sign any FTAA treaty that does not put universal human rights, workers rights and the environment ahead—

The Speaker: The hon. Minister for International Trade.

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Finance, are all working very hard with their counterparts in the Americas to make sure that on the trade front and on every front we make progress in our hemisphere.

We have been making remarkable progress in the last 20 years. There is a lot more democracy in the Americas than there was 20 years ago. There is a lot more respect for human rights in our hemisphere, and I think trade that leads to development has contributed a great deal to that progress.

*  *  *

NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Mr. Speaker, since we cannot seem to get an answer from the Minister of Natural Resources, let me address my question to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Environment ministers and leaders from around the world have been vocal in their condemnation of the U.S. for its repudiation of Kyoto, yet our environment minister and our Prime Minister remain silent.

Will the Canadian government join the international community, repudiate the American rejection of Kyoto and commit to a 2002 ratification of an effective protocol? Yes or no.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman does not listen. I have said very clearly that we do not agree. We do not agree with the American position.

*  *  *

LUMBER INDUSTRY

Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore, PC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade. What has the minister done to guarantee that Canadian sawmillers will not wake up on Sunday morning facing U.S. anti-dumping measures against Canadian softwood lumber?

 

. 1145 + -

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, anti-dumping investigations are company specific. We have worked with the industry over the last year and have consulted with it very narrowly. We briefed it solely on the American legislation on anti-dumping. It is not up to us to keep the books of our companies.

I am confident that our companies have respected their international business obligations, and that when we wake up on Sunday morning we will be defending Canadian access to the United States market as we must within NAFTA.

*  *  *

FRESHWATER EXPORTS

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, the premier of Newfoundland has reintroduced the bulk export of water issue. He said that even if the governments of Canada and other provincial jurisdictions think that it as not in their best interests he will do it anyway.

The premier has told the ministers of industry and trade to butt out as he has “deserted and abandoned any right to have a direct say”.

Does the government approve of the stand by the only Liberal premier? If not, how does the government plan to stop this man on a mission of self-destruction and protect our valuable water resource?

Mr. Denis Paradis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada's position on this issue is clear, just like our water. The Canadian government has full sovereignty over the management of water when it is in its natural state. What is important is that the NAFTA parties confirmed in 1993 that water in its natural state was not a good.

We strongly urge Newfoundland to stand by its original decision and actions to prohibit bulk water removal. Everyone needs to be on board to protect this environmental resource.

*  *  *

LUMBER INDUSTRY

Mr. Andy Burton (Skeena, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister just asked for a question on softwood lumber. Here it is. Will the government—

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.

The Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Skeena has the floor.

Mr. Andy Burton: Let us hope we get an answer, Mr. Speaker. Will the government allow the softwood lumber agreement to automatically expire tomorrow night? Yes or no.

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the agreement negotiated in 1996 will terminate tomorrow night, March 31 at midnight. That has been the agreement of the House for a very long time.

There is a consensus in the industry from all regions of our country not to renegotiate or re-enter that sort of agreement. Our government policy is to reflect that.

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the clear answer. There was some non-clarity over the last few days. I am happy to know that with 24 hours to go the government knows where it is going.

We have a national industry consensus that emissaries represent a good option to advance Canadian interests on softwood lumber. When will the minister announce the Canadian representative?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there was no clarity on the opposition side. It has certainly not used question period to try to illuminate a lack of clarity on our part. They have absolutely ignored softwood lumber. They have not put any questions to us during the whole week on the softwood lumber issue, even though it is a very important one.

We have been working very hard on the envoy issue. I have raised it in every conversation I have had lately with Mr. Zoellick. We will continue to promote it because we are looking with the Americans for a long term solution to the problem.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, as the minister said, the softwood lumber agreement comes to an end tomorrow. On Sunday, free trade will automatically kick in.

But the government has reiterated its offer to appoint a special envoy to defend Canada's position with one voice.

Can the minister assure us that this envoy's sole mandate will be to negotiate a return to free trade in the softwood lumber market?

 

. 1150 + -

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as everyone knows, with the support of the five parties in the House, including the Bloc Quebecois, the parliamentary committee unanimously approved the idea of having one federal co-ordinator and one envoy who could work with the Americans to identify possible courses of action and long-term solutions.

I am therefore a bit surprised at this question from the Bloc Quebecois, which itself supported the appointment of such an eminent person, who could help us with this situation.

We are therefore going to continue to work on this front, and I believe that the United States is also interested.

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister did not understand the question. I will repeat it.

Can he assure us that this envoy's sole mandate will be to negotiate a return to free trade in the softwood lumber market, so that Quebec will finally be entitled to equal treatment for its exporters?

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe that the member did not understand the answer. We have always been very open-minded on this issue. I have said this many times in the House. It is now March 30. The agreement negotiated in 1996 is ending tomorrow.

What will happen on April 1? There are NAFTA rules which apply in the case of softwood lumber. This is what Quebec is asking for. It is what Canada wants. It is what the whole industry asked for and it is what we will have.

*  *  *

[English]

HEALTH

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has announced increased security at our international airports to ensure that foot and mouth disease does not enter our country. These measures include disinfectant mats and sniffer dogs.

However we have reports from travellers that these measures are not being followed at all international airports. Has the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food personally taken any action to ensure that the CFIA's increased security is rigorously and universally applied at all international airports?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in co-operation with customs and immigration, has stepped up the surveillance of people, goods and materials coming into Canada.

I met again with the agency as recently as 9 o'clock this morning. I went over the communications plan, the actions and the ways in which we will inform business and travellers on the responsibility that we all have in keeping this dreaded disease out of North America.

Mr. Leon Benoit (Lakeland, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, foot and mouth disease, if it entered Canada, would devastate our livestock industry, tear farm families apart and cost up to $20 billion. We must ensure that every effort is made by all branches of government to keep this disease out of Canada.

Could the minister responsible for customs and revenue tell the House and farmers across the country what specific measures he has taken to educate customs officials on the seriousness of foot and mouth disease, and how he personally is monitoring the preventive measures taken?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is a very important question indeed. As has been said by my colleague, we are working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as well as with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

We have made sure that over the past few weeks all the necessary measures have been put into place. The mandate of Canada Customs is both economic development and the safety of our community. Since there is a risk we have taken all the necessary measures to protect our society as well as our farms.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Ms. Paddy Torsney (Burlington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in 1995 the House passed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, an act to ensure that we have clear assessments that contribute to sustainable development in Canada.

For the past year there has been an extensive review of the act, and last week the minister introduced an amendment to it. Could the parliamentary secretary tell the House how the bill will improve the assessment for all Canadians?

Mrs. Karen Redman (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will help safeguard our environment through a process that is predictable, certain and timely. It will improve quality assessments through measures to improve compliance and ensure more follow up. It will increase opportunities for Canadians to have a meaningful say about projects in their communities.

Use of the Internet will provide Canadians with easy access to information about projects across the country, and it will reflect the unique perspective aboriginal peoples bring to environmental assessment.

 

. 1155 + -

Project by project, the revised act will help deliver the government's environmental priorities. Clean air—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Calgary Southeast.

*  *  *

MULTICULTURALISM

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the disgraced Secretary of State for Multiculturalism is so busy imagining cross burnings that we find it hard to believe she did not notice a quarter page picture in a national newspaper of four crosses being burned in front of a major Catholic church in broad daylight in Montreal a year ago.

Perhaps the minister just did not notice this because she is the same person who disgraced Christians by saying that a basic tenet of Christian faith is bigotry. How does the minister have any moral authority to criticize this anti-Christian bigotry when she perpetuates it herself?

Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said before, my department did not fund the particular activity, and I certainly do not condone the behaviour that went on in Montreal.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in fact her department did fund International Women's Day. The group that ransacked this cathedral had participated in the parade funded and promulgated by her department earlier that day.

How can this minister stand here as a self-styled defender of tolerance when she spreads religious intolerance and division across the country, when she has been condemned for doing that by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Muslim Federation, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Catholic Civil Rights League, and when her own department supports marches that lead to this kind of violent anti-religious bigotry?

Hon. Hedy Fry (Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that my department did not fund this activity, and I do not condone this type of behaviour.

*  *  *

[Translation]

VIRTUAL PARLIAMENT

Mr. Stéphan Tremblay (Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on March 7, I sent a letter to all the members of this House on the need to develop a virtual parliament. That idea was later approved by the interparliamentary forum of the Americas. Yesterday, at the Crossing Boundaries National Conference, the Minister of Finance showed a great deal of interest in this project.

My question is for the Minister of Finance and chair of the G-20. Considering that the summit of the Americas and the current globalization process clearly show that parliamentarians must play a more prominent role, how does the minister intend to move from words to deeds regarding an e-parliament project?

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member was suggesting in his letter—and I congratulate him on that—as did a number of Liberal members who made the exact same comments, was an ongoing process.

We are not talking about going from one summit to the next, but about an ongoing process. Everyone on our side agrees that greater co-operation is necessary between parliamentarians from all over the world to truly improve the globalization process.

*  *  *

SAGUENAY—LAC-SAINT-JEAN

Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Revenue.

While the opposition wastes its time trying to fabricate a scandal, would the minister tell us what Canada Economic Development has been doing, particularly in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, to help us with the difficulties we are facing?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question. I also thank him for the excellent work he is doing throughout the lovely Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

As is known, Canada Economic Development is taking action to help all regions, particularly the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region. Since 1996, 748 projects have been funded by Canada Economic Development out of its total programming, to the tune of $50 million, for a total of over $170 million in investments, not including the Institut de recherche sur l'aluminium. Right now, my colleague and I are working on a very important project, which we are in fact rethinking with our stakeholders at the Zoo de Saint-Félicien.

*  *  *

[English]

HIGHWAYS

Mr. Darrel Stinson (Okanagan—Shuswap, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, last November 27, a busload of Taiwanese tourists collided with a transport truck in a snow shed near Revelstoke. In addition to the 6 people killed that day, 120 more were killed and 2,278 injured in accidents on this section of the Trans-Canada Highway in the past 12 years.

How many more must suffer before the transport minister sits down with his B.C. counterpart to negotiate a 50:50 cost sharing agreement to rebuild this deadly part of Canada's national highway?

 

. 1200 + -

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will realize that in last year's budget some $600 million was provided for the beginning of highway renewal across the country. We are now in the process of negotiating these arrangements with the various provinces. Certainly we would hope that the pressure points, particularly the one at Revelstoke that he mentioned, can be dealt with.

I have to emphasize that the priority for building highways rests with the provinces. Certainly the federal government wants to be part of any final solution on the matter.

*  *  *

[Translation]

GASPÉ REGION

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, everything appears just dandy in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, but it is far from the case in the Gaspé.

Despite the apparent impatience of the member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine—Pabok with the time it is taking Canada Economic Development to release funds from its special program in the Gaspé region, he and the minister refused to take part in a debate on this very subject yesterday on Radio-Canada.

How does the minister and Secretary of State responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec intend to remedy the situation and provide the funds from this program in the Gaspé?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, I did not refuse to take part in a program. I could not take part in the program, that is a different matter.

An hon. member: Ah, that is different.

Hon. Martin Cauchon: Give me a few minutes to answer the opposition.

While the people in the Gaspé were effectively having economic development problems, while the people were represented by a Bloc member, the members on this side of the House met the people of the Gaspé in order to develop specific projects.

Together with the people, we invested in a special $35 million fund. We, the Liberals on this side of the House, opened an office in the Gaspé. At the moment, Mr. Speaker, it is important that—

The Speaker: This concludes Oral Question Period for today.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[English]

CANADIAN HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL

The Speaker: I have the honour to lay upon the table the 2000 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal annual report.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ORDER IN COUNCIL APPOINTMENTS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments made by the government.

Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these are deemed referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.

*  *  *

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PETITIONS

Mr. Derek Lee (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

*  *  *

[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.): Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the parliamentary calendar.

Mr. Keith Martin: Madam Speaker, earlier this week I released a report on the Sudan, a seven point plan to address the two major issues affecting that country: war and famine.

 

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In order to be helpful to all members in the House, I seek unanimous consent to introduce this report to the floor of the House.

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

*  *  *

INCOME TAX ACT

 

Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-323, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (political activities by charities receiving public funds).

He said: Madam Speaker, the bill, when it is finally passed, as I am sure it will be based on the history of private members' bills in this place, would disqualify from charitable status corporations, trusts and organizations that have received discretionary funding from the public money of Canada or a province, if they then give direct or indirect support or endorsement to parties or candidates for election in a federal election.

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

*  *  *

EMPLOYMENT EQUITY ACT

 

Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-324, an act to amend the Employment Equity Act (elimination of designated groups and numerical goals) and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

He said: Madam Speaker, this is another bill which I am sure the government will be rushing to pass at the earliest opportunity.

The enactment would amend the Employment Equity Act to remove the concept of designated groups and numerical goals and repeal the employers' reporting requirements to finally put an end to government sanctioned quotas based on race, which is nothing more than state sponsored racism and needs to be stopped.

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

*  *  *

BROADCASTING ACT

 

Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Canadian Alliance) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-325, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act (designation of cable channels).

He said: Madam Speaker, we really should do this one right away because it gets rid of a terrible irritation for consumers of cable television, where the CRTC forces suppliers, like Rogers or Shaw, to reallocate channels on the band of one, channels 2 to 13. It creates great annoyance for consumers.

This would remove the CRTC's power to do that and allow cable companies to negotiate cable channel positions based on viewer preferences.

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

ANTIPOVERTY ACT

 

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-326, the Antipoverty Act.

He said: Madam Speaker, my antipoverty bill proposes to add a new prohibited ground of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act, namely social condition. It also proposes to suggest to parliamentarians that it is unacceptable that financial institutions refuse to open a bank account for an individual by reason of insufficient funds. It further proposes that the Minister of Justice submit an annual report on poverty in Canada.

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

*  *  *

 

. 1210 + -

PETITIONS

FREE TRADE AREA OF THE AMERICAS

Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP): Madam Speaker, more than 18,000 people across Canada, particularly in Quebec, have signed petitions that I have the honour to present today. These petitions deal with secret negotiations for a future free trade area of the Americas, or FTAA, including 34 countries.

The petitioners are asking that all documents pertaining to the FTAA be made public on or before March 20.

They also say that, if this fair and reasonable request were not honoured, they would support legitimate and strictly non-violent means to obtain these documents.

These petitions were written by the alternative group Opération SalAMI, the Fédération des infirmières du Québec and the group Rights and Democracy. They were submitted to me, as member of parliament, as well as to the member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

MCWATTERS PROJECT

Mr. Guy St-Julien (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I would like to present a petition signed by residents of Val-d'Or and workers of the Sigma mine.

The residents of the city of Val-d'Or and of the RCM of the Vallée de l'Or are asking the government, through its national highways program, to intervene in the McWatters project for the Sigma-Lamaque complex on the Trans-Canada Highway, highway 117, in the municipality of Val-d'Or. The government should reinforce its presence and increase its activities in mining regions that are experiencing difficulty in adapting to the new economy.

*  *  *

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

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

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.



GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[English]

FINANCIAL CONSUMER AGENCY OF CANADA ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate in the House today on financial sector reform. I want to indicate to the House that I have a time sharing arrangement with my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair.

Bill C-8 is really a reincarnation of a bill that was introduced in the last parliament and died on the order paper following second reading. It purports to implement 57 measures contained in the June 1999 finance policy paper entitled “Reforming Canada's Financial Services Sector—A Framework for the Future”.

The paper was the finance minister's response to an extensive and expensive two year consultation by the MacKay task force on reforming Canada's financial services sector. The consultation culminated in the fall of 1998 with a report entitled “Change, Challenge and Opportunity”. There was a subsequent response by the Standing Committee on Finance.

[Translation]

One of the positive aspects of this bill is that it expands the access to the payments system, which is one of our long held positions in the NDP. This is a measure that increases competition by allowing insurance companies to offer chequing and saving accounts and helps credit unions compete by allowing the creation of a single national entity—

[English]

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I do not know if he is aware that the first three speakers have 40 minutes and that those 40 minutes, under the rules of the House, are not divisible unless we have unanimous consent of the House. Is there unanimous consent?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

 

. 1215 + -

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): Is the hon. member aware of that?

Mr. Dick Proctor: I was not aware of that, but I am now. What you are saying, Madam Speaker, is that I will not be able to share my time. Just for the record, I stood to speak because nobody from any other party stood at that time. I thank you for the clarification.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I realize the hon. member stood for that reason. I want to make sure that if he wants to take advantage of the 40 minutes he can, but he cannot share his time.

[Translation]

Mr. Dick Proctor: Madam Speaker, I will go on with my speech. This legislation will help credit unions, designate a financial services ombudsman, something the NDP has been asking for for a long time, and create a consumer protection agency, that is called the financial consumer agency. It will launch a consultation process whereby the banks could legally be forced to provide a low fee retail deposit account. This is a position we have held for a long time in the NDP; however, nothing will happen in the short term. The bill will formalize a process of collecting data on small business lending but will not expand the banks' business powers into the areas of auto leasing.

[English]

These are some of the positive things in the bill. There are also in the 900 pages many things with which we disagree. Among those negatives is the wide ownership rules which lead to the concentration of banking powers in the hands of very few individuals.

This provides too much power to the Minister of Finance. Unlike parliament, the minister would then have the final say in virtually every major change that dealt with financial institutions, including mergers, acquisitions, regulations and ownership levels. It also fails to provide a real framework of accountability between large financial institutions and their local communities.

There is no community reinvestment act similar to the one in the U.S. which works very well. There is no effective improvement in accessing basic banking services, especially in rural areas. There is no right to lifeline, no cost accounting and no effective way to stop bank branch closures. Banks are only required to provide a four to six month window of notice to close under the legislation.

There are no teeth for the independent banking ombudsman and it reduces requirements for small banks. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions has been given more powers to deal with the potential for increased risk in the system, but there is no guarantee that the OSFI would be able to use these powers effectively because of the complex structures introduced in the bill, for example bank holdings and new ownership regimes.

There is nothing on the control and regulation of high risk derivative products and off balance sheet liabilities or on new monetary policy tools for the Bank of Canada.

We have dealt with some of the positives and the negatives. We note as well that it is a highly complex 900 page omnibus bill which changes eight major financial industry acts and is probably the largest bill ever to come before a Canadian parliament. Its main thrust is to increase competition, foreign and domestic, and flexibility through deregulation and re-regulation.

The Minister of Finance is easing entry requirements in the financial services market. He is purporting to broaden the powers of financial institutions including credit unions, increasing the flexibility and the complexity of ownership regimes, and allowing access to the payment system by non-bank entities, for example insurance companies. The legislation also creates a financial consumer agency, an independent financial ombudsman.

 

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Bill C-38, its predecessor, included cosmetic measures to improve access to basic banking services and guidelines for a bank merger review process which were made available with the bill but are not included in the current version of the legislation.

The New Democratic Party opposes the bill. We emphasize that there is some support, as I have indicated in my remarks. We support parts of the bill, including the modernization of financial services, expansion of powers to credit unions, a potentially better deal for consumers, a better competitive position for insurance companies, and status quo on the distribution of insurance and leasing.

We would support the bill at third reading stage if changes to the wide ownership rules were rescinded, if it provided for more power to the House of Commons to review megabank mergers and if the government adopted an effective framework of accountability among banks, their communities and fully regulated bank holding groups.

In conclusion, there is quasi-unanimity among major financial industry players to speed up the passage of the bill which has incorporated the majority of the MacKay recommendations and has virtually gone through an invisible committee of backroom lobbyists. Bill C-8 is a done deal which the government is selling as a progressive financial consumer package.

Mr. Ken Epp: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder whether there would be unanimous consent, since the member used only 10 minutes of his 40 minute allocation, to allocate the 30 minutes to a speaker from the Bloc if he gets here from the scrums, or to me since I have a lot to say on the bill. Would there be unanimous consent for that?

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC): Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-8. The legislation will have a very important effect on the level and quality of services available to Canadians and consumers of financial services. It also has the potential for a significant impact on the competitiveness of our financial services sector globally.

We are in an increasingly competitive financial services sector that from a global perspective has become hyper competitive. The amount of change in the financial services sector in the last 10 years has been greater than the level of change that has occurred in the entire 150 years preceding that.

In this rapidly changing hyper competitive environment the government has dragged its feet since 1993. It has avoided making the necessary updates and improvements to reflect this reality and the new realities in the financial services sector. There is very little in the legislation that could not have been introduced in 1994-95. Instead, the government used every delaying mechanism at its disposal to wait as long as it possibly could to introduce the legislation, and that is unfortunate.

Further, the MacKay report of about a year and a half ago provided an extraordinarily comprehensive and well thought out long term visionary plan for the financial services sector that has been butchered by the government. It has selectively chosen based on political palatability certain elements of the MacKay task force to recommend.

It has chosen to ignore and to turn a blind eye to many of the other recommendations which may have been more politically contentious but would have contributed significantly to improved competitiveness in our financial services sector and to an improved environment to create more jobs and opportunities for Canadians in this sector.

 

. 1225 + -

The government has treated the MacKay task force like a buffet where it could selectively choose from the menu of public policy options. It chose the various options based on political criteria, not on economic criteria or on achieving what was best for Canadians and the financial services sector.

The government has delayed and dithered on this issue for a long period of time. It is with a pinched nose that the PC Party supports the legislation because it does not reflect the type of measures and policies that we believe would harness the power of the financial services sector in Canada. While it does have some of the elements that could help to improve the environment for the financial services sector and create greater levels of wealth and opportunity for Canadians, it does not go nearly far enough in many ways.

In 1993 Canada was ahead of the U.S. in terms of deregulating our financial services sector. Today we have fallen behind the U.S. With the last vestiges of the Glass-Steagall act gone from the U.S., American financial services, such as banks and trust companies, are better positioned to participate in the opportunities of the 21st century than their Canadian counterparts.

The government's approach to the financial services sector has forced Canadian banks to grow in the U.S. and to limit their growth here in Canada. This is unfortunate because many of the jobs and opportunities could be here in Canada. I fear that the government is driving people offshore and limiting opportunities within our borders.

There has been a significant amount of lost opportunities in the last couple of years. The last time the issue of bank mergers was pursued, the finance minister's response in December 1999 closed the door to bank mergers. There was an opportunity for dialogue between the banks and parliamentarians, and between the banks and people served by the banks about some of the issues of concern to Canadians.

Instead of the finance minister taking opportunity to address those concerns in a constructive way by sitting down with the banks and negotiating terms that would protect the interests of Canadian consumers, borrowers and small business people, he slammed the door shut for short term political reasons. He not only denied an opportunity for a more efficient financial services sector, he also denied Canadian consumers the opportunity to have better, more competitive services well into the future.

During that time, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank agreed to several long term commitments which would have given improved services to consumers. These included doubling the amount of lending to small businesses and the setting up of a separate bank to do that, reducing bank service charges, protecting services to smaller communities and increasing staff in branches.

Instead of taking advantage of these opportunities on behalf of Canadians, the minister, for political reasons, made a shortsighted decision. Part of that was to appease the Liberal caucus witch hunt on banks—I am sorry—the Liberal task force on banks which constructed the most partisan, poorly written and researched, short term document ever in the history of parliament. Instead, he capitulated to the forces of evil on that side of the House with its short term, populist, pandering perspective which denied Canadians the long term opportunity of a stronger financial services sector and better levels of services to Canadians.

 

. 1230 + -

The Liberals opposite are convenient free marketeers. It is focus group economics on the other side of the House. It is whatever is popular this particular week, or month or year. There was a time when those members opposite campaigned vociferously against free trade until of course they were elected. At that point they saw the benefits of free trade and embraced it. Some would say the government claimed the invention of free trade in the same way that the former vice president of the U.S., Al Gore, claimed invention of the Internet. We also saw that with the GST.

It must be great to be able to go through life unburdened by the yoke of principle and consistency. Fortunately we on this side of the House are burdened with the yoke of consistency, principle and values that may not always be popular but are consistently well thought out and based on sound values.

This piece of legislation would give the Canadian government a greater level of intrusion and regulation of the financial services sector than any other sector or industry in the country. The government will say that this growth of regulations is good for consumers, but I would argue this would in the long term cost Canadian consumers more in the following ways.

First, Canadian bank service charges are competitive globally. None of us like to pay service charges but the fact is our bank service charges are competitive. In fact they are lower than those of American banks. Sometimes it does make sense for us in this place to deal with reality and not simply perceptions when we are voting public policy.

Second, this growth of regulation is going to cost a great deal for financial services players to participate in and to comply with. Ultimately those costs will be borne by someone. Will they be borne by shareholders? Perhaps they will in part. I would argue that ultimately those costs will be borne by consumers, the very people who the government is claiming to be trying to protect. Consumers will be paying higher service charges in order for the financial services institutions to comply with the government's egregious, oppressive levels of regulations in this particular area.

Hon. Anne McLellan: Egregious and oppressive.

Mr. Scott Brison: I heard the Minister of Justice opposite agreeing with my comments and echoing them.

Hon. Anne McLellan: I did not.

Mr. Scott Brison: I recognize that in a sea of ambition over there she may represent a thimble full of principle. Her roots are in Hants county, Nova Scotia. She and I share similar roots. I guess that is where her sudden regaining of the good common sense of people from the Hants shore prevails here today. It is great to have her support on my position on this very important piece of legislation.

Further, the legislation and the government's position and perspective in dealing with this very important financial services sector ignores the seven million Canadians who are shareholders in the Canadian banks. The overwhelming majority of adults in Canada today in one way or another, either through their pension funds, unions or mutual funds or through direct investment, have an ownership in one or more Canadian banks.

The government is not only denying Canadian bank consumers and the financial services sector consumers the opportunity for sustainably competitive services, it is also shackling investors in Canadian financial services entities with a regulatory burden that is unacceptable.

 

. 1235 + -

The government says that it is very important that we regulate and ensure there is a low cost account provided to Canadians, and force the banks to provide services to Canadians regardless of income.

In theory nobody would argue with what the government is trying to achieve in that sense. If the government is going to actually embrace this from an ideological perspective, the logical corollary of this argument would be that the next step for the government would be to regulate the food companies. That is Loblaws, Sobey's, et cetera, should have to introduce a new low cost food provision service to Canadian consumers regardless of income.

In other words, because of the fact that the government is forcing Canadian financial services institutions to provide services to Canadians regardless of their ability to pay, it is only logical to expect the next step will be that the government is going to be forcing Canadian grocery distributors and stores to provide food to Canadians regardless of their ability to pay. Surely food or the availability of food is more important to individual Canadians than simply the ability to obtain financial services.

Shelter is very important too. I would fully expect that the government is going to be introducing legislation in the coming months to force real estate developers to provide free apartments to people, regardless of income, because clearly the government determines that that is in its best interest based on this legislation, if we look at it from a logical perspective.

If we are going to go along this route and abdicate any free market principles that we may still have left, perhaps we should start at the top with a crown agency. Canada Post should be giving away free stamps to people if they do not happen to have the amount of money required to buy a package of stamps.

Clearly the government is going in the wrong direction on this piece of legislation in many areas from the regulatory perspective.

That being the case we recognize some of the positive elements of this legislation, including the ability for greater flexibility in the financial services sector and greater opportunities for our Canadian financial services players to compete and grow. We would like to see those opportunities for jobs to be created and for shareholder value to grow for Canadians. We would like to see more of those opportunities.

Unfortunately the government in this hodgepodge legislation, this buffet style of picking and choosing from those comprehensive reports like the MacKay report and focusing on the politically palatable while ignoring any long term consistency or vision from an industrial strategy perspective for the country, is giving us a piece of legislation that we will be supporting with pinched nose.

I know the Minister of Justice agrees with me on this. I know she as well would like to see a more competitive, stronger financial services sector in the 21st century, and not one shackled by the Liberal incompetence in this very important part of the Canadian economy.

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's speech. He has perhaps a confused view of the role of government in protecting the rights of people who deal with banks.

He used an analogy of grocery stores and people who own apartment buildings being forced to provide facilities. If I am not mistaken, the legislation does not address that question with respect to the low cost accounts. It does not state a specific amount. It simply says that the bank shall provide a low cost account for people who have limited financial means. He has perhaps to some degree not fairly represented the purpose of the statement that was put in the bill in this particular regard.

Would he care to clarify that and perhaps correct his small error?

 

. 1240 + -

Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I urge him to look up the word irony in the dictionary and at the same time to look up the word humour as well.

The fact is that the legislation provides an unprecedented opportunity for the Canadian government to intrude in a private sector environment and tell financial services players what to charge for various services. My point is, which I would expect the hon. member would agree with in a more whimsical moment, that it is analogous and comparable to telling grocery stores what to charge for their produce or telling real estate developers in private settings what to do. There is no difference.

Hon. Anne McLellan: Hogwash.

Mr. Scott Brison: I hear again more support from the Minister of Justice opposite on my point, and I thank her. The fact is banks are not a utility. That is the first thing we have to realize. When governments start telling private entities what to charge for products and services, it is embarking upon a very slippery slope. I do not think it bodes well for the future of the free market in the country.

Hon. Anne McLellan (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I must rise in response to some of the things that I have heard my hon. colleague say here this afternoon. He has accused the government, I think “of an oppressive regulatory regime”.

I would like the hon. member to explain to us what he means by suggesting there is an oppressive regulatory regime in the country as it relates to financial services? Is the hon. member suggesting that there should be no regulation in the name of the public good of financial institutions? If so, I would ask him to stand in the House and tell the Canadian public who use those financial institutions that he does not support regulation thereof.

Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I appreciate the hon. minister's question and her continued support. She mentions oppressive regulatory burden, and I think that is the key. That is what I am going to be focusing on in my response.

I will give her another example of oppressive regulatory burden from the government. That is a gun registration that does not in any way protect Canadians in their homes or elsewhere. It in fact adds an immense amount of costs to the Canadian taxpayers' burden and at the same time treats law-abiding citizens in this country of ours as if they are criminals, and yet does not provide any level of protection. That is a position that I am sure she would like to speak further on and try to defend, but one cannot defend the untenable.

When the hon. member talks about helping rural communities, I would remind her of what I, the member for Kings—Hants, did on behalf of people in Kennetcook in working with the credit union to ensure there continued to be banking services after the Bank of Nova Scotia closed its branch there. That is the type of progressive and co-operative effort that I would urge her to engage in with me.

I am sure she would appreciate the comparison of the banks' oppressive, egregious regulatory burden with that of her own department with Bill C-68. I am certain she would see that this is a fair comparison because in fact the government, that party, believes in big government telling Canadians how to run their lives. My party believes in Canadians' ability to run their own lives and make their own decisions.

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member this question. I know he has looked at Bill C-8 quite extensively. He knows the government has been talking the talk about giving more flexibility to the credit union movement in Canada.

 

. 1245 + -

Would the hon. member give us his opinion on why the government voted down a very key amendment which would have provided this flexibility to credit unions in Canada in spite of the fact the government has talked about its wish to make this more flexible?

Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I, at committee, and our party, in the House, did support that amendment.

While the government talks about wanting to encourage competition, to encourage the credit unions and the co-operative movement to compete more fully with banks, this is only a half-hearted initiative by the government to enable the credit unions and co-operative movement to do so.

The fundamental tenet of the co-operative movement is very different from that of the banks. There is a democratic cornerstone to the co-operative movement that is not reflected in the government's failure to support that very important amendment, which would allow credit unions and the co-operative movement to compete more fully and at the same time not have to betray the principles of democratic management which have been a tenet of the co-operative movement since its inception in Canada.

I would suggest that it was a significant mistake for the government not to support the credit union and co-operative movement more fully by recognizing the importance of that movement and allowing and in fact supporting that amendment which would have made a huge difference in a realistic sense.

Hon. Anne McLellan: Madam Speaker, I have to rise again to respond to what I can only describe as the outrageous response to my earlier question. In fact, I think what we see is why the hon. member's party and other parties are destined to stay in opposition for a very long time.

As opposed to dealing with and responding to my legitimate question about his outlandish assertions regarding oppressive regulation, what does he do? He attacks a program committed to public safety, a program that derives support from well over 75% of Canadians.

I would ask the hon. member to get his head out of the sand and respond to my earlier question. Does he or does he not support reasonable regulation in the financial services sector?

Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for her question. She is a pretty good questioner and I hope she is practising, because in four years she will have an opportunity to be asking members, including some of us here, questions more regularly, although she will have to hone her questions significantly to less than 30 seconds.

Hon. Anne McLellan: Answer the question.

Mr. Scott Brison: I would suggest that her preambles—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): I guess it is Friday again. I would like to caution hon. members about impugning motives in terms of questions and answers. The hon. member for Kings—Hants still has 49 seconds to answer the question.

Mr. Scott Brison: Madam Speaker, I do thank the minister for her question. It is interesting, and perhaps unprecedented in this parliament, to have members of the government looking for answers to questions, because we have been trying to get answers to questions on some very important fundamental issues and the government has not provided us with any answers on these issues.

The minister mentioned regulations again. I think it is important to get back to Bill C-68, the gun legislation that is costing the Canadian taxpayers now upward of $1 billion that could be going into health care, that could be providing rural services, that could provide the money to—

Hon. Anne McLellan: Answer the question.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Grant McNally: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It seems as though the Minister of Justice would like to ask a few more questions of the opposition. I am wondering if we could have unanimous consent to extend the question period so the Minister of Justice may ask my hon. colleague one or two more questions.

 

. 1250 + -

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

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to take part today at third reading stage in the debate on Bill C-8, an act to establish the financial consumer agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions.

What we have before the House is a major piece of legislation concerning the overall structure of the banking system in Canada and all the operations of our financial institutions. This bill deserves our full attention. It is the result of a lot of hard work that started when the Minister of Finance announced the mandate and membership of the Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector on December 18, 1996.

This bill is the result of an extensive consultation process. We finally have a bill we find acceptable after making significant representations and winning on a number of points concerning the implementation of the bill.

This bill deals with major issues such as the banking sector. It deals with changes to the rules governing bank ownership, with bank holding companies and with the whole issue of foreign banks. With globalization, deregulation and new developments, it was important to review the bill. This is what this legislation does in a major way.

However, the Bloc Quebecois had major concerns regarding the treatment of banks with assets of less than $5 billion. We have one of those in Quebec: the National Bank. It may not be the biggest bank in Canada but it is the biggest one in Quebec. We wanted to ensure it would be adequately protected under the act.

The first version of the bill, introduced before the election, contained no provisions to this effect. I believe our representations helped, since we were opposed to Bill C-8 which gave the Minister of Finance too much power over the future of banks. In the first bill, there was no guarantee that he would take into consideration the specificity of Quebec's financial system.

The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve rose to say that we wished there were in this bill important additional provisions allowing community reinvestment by the banks. The United States has such legislation, and it has yielded interesting results. We do not have this type of adjustment. People living in regions have seen in recent years a reduction of the number of bank branches. We have noticed that the services provided to customers, namely credit services, are not always those we should expect from a competitive system. We would have liked the bill to provide for greater competition.

After several representations, in particular by my colleague the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who kept a close eye on the federal government, the finance minister and the parliamentary secretary with respect to this issue, the government established guidelines on the reclassification of the banks previously listed in schedule I with an equity capital of less than $5 billion. This is the case of the National Bank.

We would have liked to see these guidelines in the bill. At least, they now exist. They have been published by the Department of Finance and will have to be taken into consideration when decisions are made about the ownership of this type of bank.

Under these guidelines, the Minister of Finance may reclassify such banks in restricted ownership categories. The guidelines set out the framework for the review of transactions requiring reclassification. A certain number of factors are identified, which will have to be taken into consideration by the minister when he has to make a decision following a transaction dealing with the ownership of a bank.

 

. 1255 + -

For example, the cost-effectiveness and objectives of the proposal would be analysed. Consideration would also be given to the impact of protecting the proposed transaction on the security and soundness of the bank, on direct and indirect employment, on the location of the centre of decision making and management of the bank, on the needs of consumers, on the business and activities of the bank and on the future prospects of the bank in world markets.

In other words, there are a series of criteria which will oblige the Minister of Finance to consider all these issues when making his decision. This means that the people working at the National Bank, its owners and shareholders, will have to ensure that these guidelines are observed because Quebecers want this bank to continue to serve Quebecers.

In the case of transactions the Minister of Finance will have to ask questions to determine whether there is sufficient protection for direct and indirect employment and where the bank's centre of decision making and management is located.

In this connection, I will digress for a moment. Our arguments have also contributed to a debate within the National Bank, which has adopted administrative rules to protect itself against a hostile takeover, a takeover not wanted by its shareholders. These people took a stand on this issue and on the issue of the bank's head office.

Thus, in this respect, not only through Bill C-8 but also through the way the bank has responded to adopt a responsible attitude, it now seems to us that the necessary protections are there to protect this type of bank and particularly the National Bank in Quebec.

One of the other major criteria that are particularly a cause for concern for me and that the minister will have to consider when he determines the value of the transaction, is the interests of Canadians and, when the institution is operating mainly in a region, the interests of the people in the region.

We know what the word region means to the federal government. Usually, it means Ontario, Quebec, western Canada or the Atlantic. In this regard, it will have to consider the interests of the people of Quebec, if ever there were a transaction relating to the National Bank.

We wish this had been included in the legislation, instead of being covered simply by guidelines, since we do not know who the finance minister will be in a few years. We do not know what pressure he will be under. We know the value and the strength of lobbies here in Ottawa, particularly in terms of our funding rules. This allows for very strong lobbies.

In the past, we have seen banks make very large contributions, especially to traditional parties. We hope that through these guidelines the bill, once enacted, will provide adequate protection to small and medium size banks within Canada.

As I said earlier, this is major legislation because it deals not only with the banks but also with all other financial institutions. As concerns the protection of savers and investors, this bill contains interesting features.

We have proposed many amendments but they have not been selected. I want to put them on the record so that people will know that the Bloc Quebecois took to heart the protection of their interests.

I will say a word later about community reinvestment. In the last parliament my colleague for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve introduced a bill on community reinvestment, and he also tried to have the content of his bill included in Bill C-8. Unfortunately, the government refused.

There is always room for improvement and I am sure my colleague, with his great tenacity, will find other ways to ensure that financial institutions assume their social responsibilities.

When I hear about the profits our banks make throughout Canada, I think we should look at what they do and see whether financial benefits in the regions where they operate are high enough. In the same vein, I think we should legislate in order to have the power to make an assessment of the situation and to require of the banks that they correct the problems, or perhaps establish criteria, a code of conduct or procedures that would go beyond what exists now.

 

. 1300 + -

Bank branches have disappeared year after year in my area. Having made a lot of money with our people for many years, when they do not meet the levels of profitability demanded by the shareholders, not because they are in deficit but because they are not meeting the levels of profitability anymore, the banks get rid of their staff, their facilities and their branches. This is always hard on the regions.

When we want to negotiate a loan for a small or medium size business at the regional level, it is always better to talk to somebody we know, somebody who understands our business. I do not think that we can say that we are really happy with the Canadian banking system in that respect.

Let me go back to the proposed amendments. For example, we suggested limiting the number of boards a director is allowed to sit on at any one time. The House certainly understands from the terms of this amendment that we want to ensure, in all logic, that power and financial decision making capacity is not excessively concentrated in the hands of a few.

We were also talking about an amendment on the suppression of potential conflicts of interests between board members and those who supply goods and services to the institution. This is also self-explanatory.

Amendments also provided for the requirement to submit financial statements for review and discussion during the annual shareholders' meeting. Hon. members know that the banks' small shareholders are more and more interested in having a say in decision making. They do not want to just sign proxy letters; they want to be able to influence decisions, even if they are only minority shareholders. We want them to be able to have a voice. The purpose of this amendment was to enhance their powers.

There was also talk of making shareholder presentations for approval of the officers' remuneration policy. This too is in line with the banks' social vocation. When we heard of inordinately high salaries being paid to people who may have generated substantial financial profits, but did so at the expense of the bank workers, with more than 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 jobs cut to maximize profits, while officers were getting considerable salary increases, we figured it would be extremely appropriate to bring in an amendment. It did not make its way into the bill however. There was one but it was rejected. We feel it ought to have been part of this bill.

There was also talk of proposing a code of procedure for shareholders' meetings, a requirement for companies to make a full report of each and every shareholders' meeting to be sent to each shareholder, all with a view to improving the transparency of the banking system.

All of these amendments would have made this bill even better and given it more transparency. They were rejected, and the way it was done strikes us as improper. We do not question the pertinence of the bill, but the amendments would have made it possible to make the bill a more significant one.

I will say a bit more about community investment. It is based on the banks' social responsibility to the community. It is still not a part of C-8, despite the comments by the Bloc and, as I was saying earlier, the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve.

He proposed important objectives for the bill, including having the banks analyze their operations, their systems, their rules and their practices and measure the spread between deposits and loans to designated persons in a given community. This way one can see the economic impact a bank has on a community, its relevance, and assess whether it has fulfilled its social role and table a report on the remedial action to be taken. The superintendent of financial institutions should have been required to propose assessment criteria to promote implementation of the concept of community reinvestment.

This is therefore a positive contribution that could have been made to the bill but that the government rejected. It still seems relevant to us but unfortunately it was rejected.

I would like to remind members of something my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve said: “There are whole communities where banks are pointedly absent and, when they are present, there is a real problem of availability of banking services for low income individuals that only the passage of legislation will correct”.

 

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I congratulate him on his very accurate view of what goes on throughout Quebec. The member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve is from an urban centre, where the problem of people with limited incomes accessing banking services must certainly be an issue.

This quote shows as well that he is informed on the situation throughout Quebec, in the regions, and that a member from the Montreal area can be very much aware of the situation throughout Quebec. This quote reflects that. This is what I was saying earlier. In Quebec, the problem is often one of not finding bank branches any more.

We hope that Bill C-8 will at least solve the competition problem to provide for good competition and adequate services in our regions. However, it will not solve the issue of community reinvestment because the government refused to act on it.

In this regard, we could say that market forces do not support economic growth. The community is less competitive when there are community disinvestment.

In the end, a community where investment ceases to flow is a community where there is no capital movement. When capital movement slows down because banks invest the money from the checking and saving accounts of the people in other regions, the population of the affected community loses out.

Overall, the bill will change and update the banking system and all the other financial institutions. I think that it includes many positive aspects. It results from relatively broad consultations. We had major concerns regarding the protection of banks like the National Bank, but thanks to our pressing demands, the Minister of Finances produced guidelines to protect them.

Even though they are not included in the bill, these guidelines represent an improvement that will ensure an adequate level of protection. We also think that the banks themselves can take steps to improve the situation. However, we think that the government could have taken this opportunity to make the administration of banks and the functioning of boards of directors more transparent.

We are sorry that these amendments were rejected. We are also sorry that our amendments on community investment were not accepted. However, we believe that overall it is a good piece of legislation which deserves our support.

When proposed measures seem positive the Bloc Quebecois is happy to support them. In the last parliament I think that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, were the ones who most often supported the government when we deemed it appropriate to do so. We know how to address the real issues people are faced with in their everyday lives. When we disagree, we say so, hoping to find interesting solutions.

To end the week on a bill such as this one is a lot more interesting than the general attitude shown by the Liberal government this week. For example, we had to set the record straight on Thursday. During statements by members the member for Laval East said that we had not spoken about the vast police offensive against criminal biker gangs when the previous day, the same day the police operation was carried out, the member for Berthier—Montcalm had made a statement on that very subject.

It seems that the Liberal majority is not paying much attention to the debates, as evidenced by the fact that yesterday afternoon, throughout oral question period, the majority kept telling us that the opposition was not interested in the real issues, that its only concern was the Auberge Grand-Mère. Half an hour later, when the question was put on a motion, the Liberal majority was unable to find enough members to ensure continuation of House proceedings.

As far as I am concerned, this clearly demonstrates how irresponsible the Liberal majority is. We taught them a good lesson. Even from the opposition side, the Bloc Quebecois can address the real issues like the integrity of the Prime Minister. We are also able to consider any other problem coming our way, and we do so. We make representations. We make our points forcefully. We believe the House of Commons should be taken seriously, should hold real debates.

 

. 1310 + -

This is why I think we should conclude consideration of Bill C-8 this afternoon. It will give some sense to the House business. I hope Liberal members will go home this weekend and acknowledge that they made a serious mistake in believing that they could determine for the House of Commons what the important issues are. However, I think that the people of Quebec and of Canada need to be sure that their Prime Minister is honest but also that other problems are being dealt with. So I hope the Liberals have learned their lesson for the week.

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Madam Speaker, I heard my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques talking about community reinvestment.

In my region and my riding, we have just experienced the closing of two branches of a major financial institution in two important centres, Matane and Amqui.

I would like to ask him a question on a point that I am very interested in, because these two regions are going through a crisis at this time. What happens when a financial institution leaves a town with bank accounts, with depositors' money, and transfers this money to another town? What does it mean for a town to lose a significant amount of money, a lot of capital, when it is already in a difficult financial situation?

I ask my colleague to elaborate.

Mr. Paul Crête: Madam Speaker, I am happy that the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane is actually giving us a very specific example of the reality I was describing in my speech. Matane and Amqui are small towns, and when a number of jobs are lost because a bank branch is closed, there is a major impact. In a large city, this could translate into the loss of hundreds of jobs.

I think the solution was to be found partly in the proposal of the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. He wanted to ensure control of community reinvestment by banks. I believe this could have been an objective of this bill. It could have led to an interesting solution.

I also hope that Bill C-8 once passed will allow greater competition in the banking system, thus forcing banks to finally have more respect for their clients. I would also challenge people as shareholders, as bank clients, not to be afraid of making representations to see where their capital is going and how it is used, to really be actors more than spectators, in the development of the financial situation in their region.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Madam Speaker, in our caucus and in the House, the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques is an asset. He makes a brilliant contribution to our debates. I hope the Minister of Justice has understood these recommendations, and that she also understands what I am saying.

I have two questions for my colleague. Does he think it is possible that the pattern of lack of banking services in Canada is a reflection of the geographic distribution of poverty?

I am very disappointed with the Chair, Madam Speaker, but not with you in particular. I am very disappointed that my amendments, which had been accepted previously, have not been accepted this time. Some day, in fact, we should discuss with the Chair about the excessive role given to traditions from the United Kingdom. But that is another matter.

Does my colleague agree with me that as parliamentarians we cannot really fight poverty if we do not secure access to financial services for all Canadians? I am sure that in Alberta, where the Minister of Justice was re-elected with a comfortable majority, banks are also closing some branches.

 

. 1315 + -

Just this morning, I tabled an antipoverty bill, which brings me to my second point. I hope we will be able to count on the support of the Minister of Justice—who is spending a lot of time in the gymnasium with me—to amend the role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to recognize that social condition must be included in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Does my colleague believe that including “social condition” as a prohibited ground of discrimination could make a difference for the poor in this country?

With the unanimous consent of the House, the justice minister could be given two minutes to answer.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Bakopanos): I am sorry, I believe the question was for the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Mr. Paul Crête: Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the question from my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. There is indeed a direct connection between the presence of banks and economic development.

We should perhaps hearken back to what happened in the early 20th century. Mr. Desjardins, a former clerk of the House, came to the realization that small investors had no way of maximizing their savings, and this led to the creation of the Dejardins movement.

Its creation was prompted by the inability of the banking system of the day to meet the needs of small investors, people with only a small amount of capital. Now, in the early days of another century, the solution to the problem lies perhaps in the proposal we have made relating to community reinvestment.

If we have not managed to convince the Liberal majority to include this in the bill, the banking system might perhaps develop a code for itself, to show the public that they can achieve the same result on their own. I have some doubts that this would be something it will impose on itself. I think the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve needs to continue his action, to continue to call for legislation to be put in place. Nevertheless, I call upon those in charge of the banking system to do it for themselves.

As for the second question, on making social condition one of the grounds for discrimination prohibited the Canadian Human Rights Commission, this strikes me as a good approach to ensure a solid foundation which any subsequent legislation will have to take into account.

As we saw with the human rights charter and with basic documents of that type, this can have an impact. Sometimes it suits our needs and sometimes it does not. If the suggestion of the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve was implemented, we as a society would ultimately benefit. Social condition is an important issue that deserves to be taken into consideration to ensure that it is not an accepted grounds of discrimination, but rather something that drives us to amend the legislation and provide equal opportunities to everyone in our society.

[English]

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP): Madam Speaker, I have worked extensively with the credit union movement in Windsor and across Ontario. Looking at the legislation I cannot help but wonder if more could have been done to facilitate the development of the credit union movement outside Quebec in a way that mirrors the success the Desjardins movement has had in that province.

Could my hon. friend from the Bloc suggest improvements to the legislation that would help the credit union movement across Canada duplicate the successes that have occurred in Quebec with that movement?

 

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[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête: Madam Speaker, the Desjardins movement is indeed a very good example of how to provide adequate services to people, through co-op or credit unions, as they exist in other regions of Canada.

I would invite the hon. member to take a look at the relevant legislation prepared by the Quebec National Assembly. For years now, this legislation has allowed the Desjardins movement to develop, to become increasingly competitive and to face the bank network; thus helping to create a better balance between the financial interests that govern the banking world and the more social or personnel interests of community groups.

For us, the Desjardins movement is a good policy insurance. Again, the hon. member should take a look at the legislation, and he should also meet officials from Desjardins to help them improve their contacts with co-operatives in the other provinces, so that all Canadians can benefit.

[English]

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I am both pleased and somewhat distressed to speak on the bill today. The reason I am distressed is that after a long week of sleep deprivation I am not my usual bubbly self. I am struggling with a sore throat and other things. I feel sorry for myself and I am sure the Speaker does too.

Today we are dealing with Bill C-8. I have estimated that to read the bill would take 15 hours. If one were to read it with meaning, in other words read it to understand what is going on and actually verify some of its claims, it would take many more hours.

It is a huge undertaking for us today to go through Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. The bill would basically set up the way financial institutions in the country are run.

On balance I support the bill, although I definitely have concerns. Ever since 1992 when the then Conservative government changed the rules for banks, there has been a need for revisions and for our banking sector to, if I can use the phrase, get with the times and be able to compete in the international market.

In a sense the bill is much overdue. The government moved very slowly in that regard. To make matters worse, in June 2000, not quite a year ago, the government introduced Bill C-38 in first reading. The bill then sat there and the government basically did nothing about it. It did not call for a debate on the bill in the House. It was a very slow process.

Then, to our chagrin, there was a totally unnecessary election in the fall which caused a great number of bills to drop off the order paper. The bills were enveloped into nothingness with the call of the election. The election was called for only one purpose, and that was a political purpose. The business of the country and helping our financial institutions with a new bill took a secondary position to the Prime Minister's overriding goal of getting yet another mandate. That seems to be so important to the Liberals, hanging on to power.

In retrospect we see that it was a good strategy, politically speaking. It is very much in keeping with a cartoon I saw in which the Prime Minister is shown reading a newspaper that says “Liberals have overwhelming third majority government”. The Prime Minister is saying to the people reading the cartoon “That is the best $200 million of your money that I ever spent”.

 

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It is incredible that the government could drop all the business of the country and hold an unnecessary election one and a half years early, an election which cost the taxpayer $200 million and was conducted strictly and totally for political reasons. The Prime Minister wanted to win and did not care what it cost.

This bill along with many others was dropped and has now been resumed. It is interesting that Bill C-38 became with a few technical changes Bill C-8. If I wanted to reluctantly compliment the government I would thank it for bringing the bill back to the House with some urgency and allowing us to debate the issues in it.

Previous speakers, including my colleague from Prince George—Bulkley Valley, have spent quite a bit of time talking about the structure that is involved. It comes under the broad topic of having a bank we can trust. I really think that is important.

From my life experience and from having been on the finance committee studying this bill and other issues, it is my view that Canada is richly blessed with a financial system that is strong and trustworthy in the big picture.

In other words, we do not have a great deal of fear about our banks collapsing or about financial transactions not being completed in a timely fashion. As a matter of fact, and I do not believe this should be addressed in legislation, we should have a website where people can post their complaints about the banks for everyone in the country to see, unfiltered by the press. That would give huge accountability to the banks.

As a member of parliament I receive complaints, not many but some, about the banks. It says something about our post office that these days I receive more complaints about the banks than about the post office. Neither type of complaint is huge in number, although some are of significance to the people who visit their members of parliament on an issue. However by and large our banks are trustworthy and we can count on them.

We have a banking system in which we can conduct financial transactions and know that everything will work clickety-clickety-click. It is all very smooth. It is a well structured organization. That is due to the combined efforts of the Bank of Canada, which has been well run during the last number of years, and the individual banks that have taken their responsibilities very seriously.

I have a question for the banks if any of them happen to be listening. If I get a cash advance on a Friday it is posted within two seconds, but if I make a payment on that same advance I do not get the credit until the next banking day. Sometimes it takes two days if it is a weekend. I wonder why that is.

The banks should be consistent. If I bring a cheque to the bank I know it has the capability of cashing it and doing the electronic transaction immediately.—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The hon. member will have 11 and a half minutes when we resume debate on the bill.

[Translation]

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



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

 

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[English]

HEPATITIS AWARENESS MONTH ACT

 

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NDP) moved that Bill C-243, an act to provide for a Hepatitis Awareness Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

He said: Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure after three and a half years of researching, studying and working with activists to finally bring the bill for debate before the House of Commons.

I wish to thank the following people for their tireless efforts in promoting hepatitis awareness throughout Canada and the world. Mr. Bruce DeVenne and Mr. Neil van Deusen of Nova Scotia have been tireless in their efforts to bring an understanding of the effects of the disease to parliamentarians and to all Canadians. I also thank Mr. Joey Haché from Ottawa who is one of the bravest young men I have ever met and the House of Commons has ever met. Joey and his father, Joe Haché, are with us today and we thank them very much for coming.

Joey Haché has been very effective in raising the profile of hepatitis throughout the country on his bicycle tour across Canada. He has sent numerous e-mails and faxes to high schools and school groups advising children about the terrible effects of hepatitis and how it can be prevented. The House and the country owe young Joey a debt of gratitude.

I also thank the hon. Pat Binns, premier of Prince Edward Island. Through the efforts of young Joey Haché and myself to bring this issue to the attention of Mr. Binns, he and the legislature, without further ado, moved an enactment to make the month of May hepatitis awareness month in P.E.I. We are now trying to do that in the entire country.

We have breast cancer month, cancer awareness month and various months that are designated to bring awareness to the population as a whole. Hepatitis is a disease that is serious enough that parliamentarians at all levels and of all political stripes should do what they can to raise its awareness so that people will not be inflicted with it as they go through life.

I will now give more information about hepatitis. There are seven forms of hepatitis in the world today. Canada's first nations are at the highest risk of contracting hepatitis either through blood contact, sexual contact or, what is most frightening, drinking water.

Everyone knows what happened in Walkerton. Had the people of Walkerton been aware that they may contract hepatitis through their drinking water, the fear would have been even greater. Everyone is concerned about contracting hepatitis from drinking water, from sexual contact or from blood contact. Seven different forms of hepatitis can be contracted through these means. It is estimated that almost half a billion people in the world today may have one form of hepatitis or another.

When I began the debate on hepatitis three and a half years ago, my neighbour came over and told me that she had hepatitis. When I lived in the Yukon, some personal friends of mine called me and said that they had hepatitis. It makes me wonder how many other people in Canada have it?

It is estimated that over 700,000 Canadians are inflicted with one form of hepatitis or another. It is one of the most widely spread diseases and yet it is very rarely debated or talked about, except for hepatitis C which has been discussed at great length, not only in parliament but throughout the country.

 

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However there are six other forms of hepatitis. What is frightening is the number of people who have hepatitis. There are approximately 50,000 people who are unaware that they have hepatitis. Some people find out when they go to their doctor for a blood check or medical treatment. It is very frightening that over 50,000 Canadians are unaware that they may have hepatitis.

We are not asking the government for any money or to stop all the business of the nation and just concentrate on this one issue. We are asking to make the month of May hepatitis awareness month and proclaim it through the House of Commons. That is not very difficult. The reason is that it is only through education and awareness that the disease will stop being spread as easily as it is now.

In all the things we do in life, awareness of a particular disease and education about the particular disease are extremely beneficial to unsuspecting people throughout Canada and the world. There are about six billion people on the planet and half a billion of them have one form of hepatitis or another. It is spreading because many people are basically ignorant of the disease itself.

It is extremely frightening. Some people find their daily lives hardened by this terrible disease, hepatitis C or the other forms. They really have to struggle. I consider myself extremely healthy. By the grace of God, I am very lucky because I do not have a disease like that. Nor do any of my family members. However I cannot help thinking about the over 700,000 Canadians who do.

In the previous parliament I passed around the bill and received 100 signatures in one day. I had over 60 members on the government side sign the bill willingly because they knew people who have hepatitis in their ridings. The official opposition signed it willingly, as well as the Bloc, the Conservatives and ourselves.

It was not a political motive. We are not discussing this issue because of politics. We are discussing it so that all parliamentarians can say to the nation that we recognize hepatitis is a terrible disease and thus will make the month of May hepatitis awareness month, just the same way we do with breast cancer month in October.

There is not a person in the House, either elected or working, who is not proud to wear the pink ribbon for breast cancer. We all know some women and we all have a mother in our lives. Some of us are fortunate to be married to a lovely woman like I am. I have two beautiful daughters and I am very concerned about them ever getting breast cancer, so the attention we pay to it is very important.

Another concern out there is hepatitis, and that is why I bring it forward. Many people over the years have contacted me through the e-mail system or knocked on my door and said that they have hepatitis. They ask me what they can do to promote awareness and education in terms of this terrible disease. I tell them to contact their members of parliament and their members of the legislature or house of assembly, wherever the case may be. I ask them to tell their counsellors, neighbours, doctors or anyone they speak to in order to get the idea across that hepatitis can be easily transmitted through blood, sexual contact or drinking water. Everybody should know about the effects of this terrible disease. Maybe then we can stop it from spreading.

It is too late for the over 700,000 Canadians who have it now. It will be too late for the over 50,000 Canadians who do not suspect they have it. However through awareness and education we can eradicate this disease. I have been an optimistic person all my life and we have the technology to help eradicate this disease. Several drugs companies have contacted me and said that they would like to help to assist in eradicating this disease. They would like to disseminate promotional materials throughout the country

I ask the government to assist in terms of proclaiming the month of May hepatitis awareness month. If we do that it will show Canadians that we recognize hepatitis is a terrible disease, especially after what happened yesterday. I am just as guilty as anyone for entering into the fray and for showing Canadians how silly parliamentarians can be sometimes. I apologize to my constituents and to the House for my own behaviour.

 

. 1340 + -

We have a chance to put that behind us and to move forward. We can say to those people who are inflicted with hepatitis that this House of parliament has a heart. It does care and we can proclaim the month of May hepatitis awareness month.

Unfortunately the bill is not votable as I have to wait my turn and it was not made votable. I welcome comments from fellow colleagues at the conclusion of my remarks and I hope to make the bill votable. I will be moving that motion at the end of the debate.

I thank colleagues who have come to me and discussed this issue with me, especially the former health critic for the Alliance who is extremely aware that this disease is very frightening. All members are aware of what we can do by educating people to be more aware of this terrible disease.

It was Mr. Bruce DeVenne of Lower Sackville, one of my constituents, who brought it to my attention. He came to me, not in a panic, a rush or condemning me or anyone else, but to educate me. I cannot thank him enough for that. Mr. DeVenne, Mr. van Deusen and Mr. Joe Haché have diplomatically shown me that there are ways we can work together to put political differences aside and move forward.

I even thank the hon. Mike Harris, premier of Ontario, who addressed this issue very quickly. I thank the other provincial premiers who addressed the issue as well, but we need to do more.

It is quite simple. If we can make the month of May hepatitis awareness month, then quite possibly we can eradicate disease in the near future. We have to think of the children because if we do this for them then we can give them a better life and a world free of diseases.

I know that sounds holistic and it may not happen. The government has been active in terms of financial contributions to the department of health. It has been working on one form of hepatitis, but we need to go a bit further and it does not cost any money.

All it takes is for members to stand and say that they support the bill and that they will make May hepatitis awareness month. Then we can tell Joe Haché, Neil van Deusen, Bruce DeVenne, their families and friends, and those 700,000 Canadians who have the disease that we recognize they have a terrible disease. We can tell them that education and awareness is the way to go and we as parliamentarians will do what we can to assist them in trying to eradicate this disease.

It has been over three and a half years since I first introduced the bill. Many members have signed the bill to make it votable and to move it forward. I will ask again at the end of the debate to make the bill votable.

I welcome remarks from my colleagues in this non-political debate. If we do this we will be doing a world of good for over 700,000 Canadians who are afflicted with hepatitis.

Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity to speak about the important issue of hepatitis. I commend the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore for his efforts to declare the month of May hepatitis awareness month. I support the principle behind the bill notwithstanding that it has been deemed not votable. I am sure all members appreciate the value of various awareness months. All hon. members would agree that awareness months raise the profile of a particular issue and thus public education opportunities.

 

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Greater awareness about hepatitis will help to create a compassionate and caring public environment for those infected or affected by this disease.

[Translation]

I agree entirely with the member who said that awareness months for different causes or illnesses are a very effective way of raising public awareness on those issues.

I would now like to talk about some particular aspects of hepatitis. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, mostly caused by one of the five viruses called virus A, B, C, D and E.

It was noted that about 90% of acute hepatitis cases in Canada are caused by viruses A, B or C.

Hepatitis A can cause a liver inflammation, which can become serious but is mild in most cases and disappears fairly rapidly. This inflammation is propagated by contamination of hands, food and water. This is why the virus spreads more easily in areas where sanitary conditions are poor.

[English]

Unlike hepatitis A, hepatitis B is not spread by contaminated food or water. In Canada, as in western Europe and the U.S., the majority of infections are acquired during young adulthood by injection drug use and sexual activity.

Although acute hepatitis B continues to be an important clinical problem in Canada, the majority of acute cases will clear spontaneously. Chronic infection accounts for the greatest burden of disease. There are an estimated 250,000 persons who have chronic hepatitis B infection in Canada.

[Translation]

I would like to take the rest of my time to talk about hepatitis C and the initiatives taken by Health Canada to deal with this serious public health problem.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can be transmitted by blood; it infects the liver and can cause serious damage.

[English]

Although some people may experience symptoms such as fatigue and jaundice, many others have no symptoms following initial infection. The hepatitis C virus progresses slowly in the body. Symptoms can take 20 to 30 years to appear after initial infection.

Having said that, the federal government, specifically Health Canada, committed $50 million over five years in September 1998 to develop and design a prevention, support and research program for Canadians living with hepatitis C.

[Translation]

Moreover, over the next 20 years, the government will transfer $300 million to provincial and territorial governments so that they provide these people with the medical care they need. That financial assistance will ensure that no Canadian, wherever he or she may live, has to pay for the health care and treatment required.

The hepatitis C program encompasses support for health care and treatment. This component is aimed at increasing awareness about hepatitis C by providing a better understanding of this disease and the related risk factors.

Prevention and community support are also components of the prevention, support and research program for Canadians living with hepatitis C. The community support component includes dozens of programs, hundreds of initiatives aimed at supporting both a strong community response to the needs of persons infected or affected by hepatitis C and a substantial role for community organizations involved in the area.

Moreover, the program supports targeted projects aimed at preventing transmission of hepatitis C to people not currently infected, particularly those with a high risk level, especially injection drug users and young people, for whom risks are high.

[English]

This component has funded 27 research projects and 11 training and salary awards through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and has contributed toward the endowed research chair in liver diseases at the University of Manitoba health sciences centre foundation.

 

. 1350 + -

Health Canada already supports the Canadian Liver Foundation declaration of “Help Fight Liver Disease Month” for the month of March. Hepatitis C is one of the viruses that can cause liver disease, and Health Canada is a major sponsor of the first Canadian conference on hepatitis C which will be held in Montreal in May 2001.

[Translation]

The Canadian Hemophilia Society, the Hepatitis C Society of Canada, the Canadian Liver Foundation and other non-profit organizations all work in co-operation with Health Canada to ensure that this conference will be beneficial for Canadians.

In conclusion, members will no doubt have realized that the cause of hepatitis in general, and of hepatitis C in particular, is among the first priorities of Health Canada and of this government. The government devotes much attention to this disease and its various forms.

We wish to congratulate the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore for having taken the initiative, over the years and again now, to promote this bill and hence this debate, which will have helped once again, at least I hope, to focus public attention on the risks of this terrible disease and on the damage it can cause.



GOVERNMENTS ORDERS

[English]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT

BILL C-2—NOTICE OF TIME ALLOCATION

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. An agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) and 78(2) with respect to the report stage and the third reading stage of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stages.

That being said, negotiations are still under way. There is at least the possibility of an agreement to a format. It is just that it was difficult to achieve it by the end of the day today. I do not want the House to think that negotiations are not continuing. They are, and even though I am now giving this notice I hope the negotiations will come to fruition at least as is possible.

Such being the case, I would not be moving the motion on Monday. Instead, I would be moving the motion that there has been a majority party agreement, which is still possible at least in theory. I wanted to notify members of that as well.


PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[English]

HEPATITIS AWARENESS MONTH ACT

 

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-243, an act to provide for a Hepatitis Awareness Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-243. I appreciated the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health today. I hope his remarks mean that he will support my colleague's motion to make this item votable so that we can get on with the job of increasing awareness of hepatitis and all the problems it can cause. It is a preventable disease.

Awareness is very important if we are to get to prevention. As my colleague mentioned, we have with us today Joey Haché and his dad Joe. We acknowledge the work of members of the Hepatitis C Society, including the Hachés who have worked tirelessly and put a great deal of their own money, time and credibility into moving forward public awareness of this very important issue.

As has been pointed out, hepatitis is preventable, but prevention hinges on education and education brings awareness. That is why my colleague has been asking that May be designated hepatitis awareness month.

This is a non-partisan issue. It touches any family, any Canadian. We need to work together to try to address the situation.

 

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Many people are not aware of the great deal of information about hepatitis. For example, there are a number of kinds of hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. We know about hepatitis C particularly, but a lot of people do not know that there are also hepatitis D, E, F and G.

It is interesting to note that chronic viral hepatitis in the United States, and we assume the figures are somewhat comparable here, represents the 10th most common cause of death. We are talking about a very big issue for Canadians and one which is appropriate for us to address in the House.

Hepatitis A can occur from contaminated water or foods being ingested. It can also be passed from person to person and from hand to mouth. That is why the kind of education that would take place in an awareness campaign such as my colleague is proposing would make people aware of these dangers.

Hepatitis A can also result from poor housing, poor water supplies and sewage treatment. These are major factors in periodic outbreaks of hepatitis A. Again that is why we need awareness. Then the public and legislators would be more aware of the need to deal with the issues of water safety, housing quality and poor sewage treatment.

If our citizens are not made aware of the ramifications of some of these issues and some of these public policy matters, they cannot apply the kinds of demand and pressure that provide checks and balances in our system.

According to the Minister of Health it is likely that considerably more than 100,000 Canadians have chronic hepatitis B. That is also a big issue for Canadians. We also have the situation with hepatitis C, which is passed on by the unsafe use of needles especially in drug use and to people who receive blood transfusions.

In 1990 donor screening for hepatitis C began. However, as we know and as we have talked about at some length in the House, there was a real problem with innocent Canadians becoming contaminated through blood transfusions that were not properly screened. Had we had the kind of awareness campaign my colleague is proposing, there would have been a great deal more knowledge that could have prevented some of the tragedies we have been talking about in the House and for which the government is being asked to compensate.

The Minister of Health also pointed out in his public documents that the cumulative burden of hepatitis C was large and its future societal and medical costs were likely to be high. This is another reason all of us should care very much about the hepatitis problem. The cost to society, to our families, and the demand on our medical system are high.

People with hepatitis C are at risk of consequences such as profound fatigue. At least half the people with hepatitis C experience profound fatigue. Some 25% experience sclerosis of the liver and liver cancer after having the disease for a number of years. Liver disease is related to hepatitis C infection and is the leading reason for liver transplantation in Canada. This is another costly procedure that could be prevented.

Then we have hepatitis D. Although 90% of active hepatitis cases are A, B and C, there are others. Hepatitis D tends to enhance the frequency and severity of the symptoms of hepatitis B.

 

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Hepatitis E is often transmitted through contaminated water, and although it is not a huge problem here, it is both endemic and at times epidemic in the developing world.

More awareness can help us provide the assistance and the aid to people in other parts of the world, which could save a lot of lives and a lot of human misery. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E. Again, prevention is very important. There is only a handful of hepatitis F cases, but again, it is a part of the disease of which we need to become more aware.

Hepatitis G is another uncertain phenomenon. There is uncertainty about risk factors. There is uncertainty about means of prevention. Its transmission through blood transfusion has been documented. We also know there is an increase in the prevalence of hepatitis G among groups that have frequent exposure to blood and blood products.

There are a number of aspects of this disease of which most people are not aware, and that awareness can be a key to prevention and to taking proper steps to deal with this disease and this issue.

In particular, we have had so many concerns about people with hepatitis C, which is the most common form of hepatitis. We need to be aware of the cost to society. When people have hepatitis C they have a very difficult time not only earning a living but getting the kind of insurance they need to protect their families, such as mortgage, life and medical insurance. It is very debilitating.

It also is something that is not properly provided for in our health care system. For example, in the Atlantic provinces there is a real shortage of trained medical personnel. There is money allocated for only one hepatologist in an area where there are 12,000 people infected with hepatitis, one doctor who has a specialty in a disease that affects 12,000 people in only one part of our country, the Atlantic provinces.

There are a number of other examples of funding shortages. If members of the public were aware of the need for better treatment and a better emphasis on prevention, these issues could be dealt with. I support my colleague's bill to declare May hepatitis awareness month and I urge the House to support it as well.

[Translation]

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Madam Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating my colleague on his excellent initiative. I understand this is the second time he has tried to raise our awareness of this issue through the means available to him, namely a private member's bill. Should he ask for unanimous consent for his bill to be deemed votable, therefore allowing the debate to continue in the House, he will have the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

I have been the Bloc Quebecois health critic for three years now. I was appointed during the Krever inquiry. I believe it should be recognized that Quebecers and Canadians were made aware of hepatitis C, among others, through the Krever inquiry.

Today we must reflect on the importance of an awareness month. It is not simply an academic exercise when we have an awareness week, month or day, or when parliamentarians want to declare an awareness month just as we have World AIDS Day. Earlier the parliamentary secretary reminded us that there is also a liver disease awareness day and a cancer awareness day.

 

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It is not just academic, since an awareness day, we hope, will lead people in the various communities in Quebec and Canada not only to discover the various forms of hepatitis but to work together to support those who have the disease.

It has been pointed out that there are various types of it. I think we are more familiar with hepatitis C, which is transmitted by body fluids, by the blood. We are more familiar with hepatitis C, of course, because of what happened in Canada's blood supply in the early 1990s.

The first recommendation of the Krever Commission was that there be a no fault compensation package. A person with hepatitis C may have contracted it not only because of what they have done but through circumstances over which they had absolutely no control, such as in the case of a blood transfusion.

As the person receiving the transfusion is not responsible for anything other than for needing a transfusion, for needing blood at one time or another in their life, we do not understand why the compensation package is not universal. However, different types of hepatitis are transmitted in different ways, and in these cases, prevention is necessary. This is the case with food, water and certain health conditions.

If there were awareness days and programs, if the media got involved, if people in the various communities mobilized to get this information out, we as parliamentarians are betting that the more people are informed, the less they will be at risk. This was what we counted on in the early 1980s, when acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, better known as AIDS, was first discovered.

I well recall how, in the early 1980s, the various forms of AIDS, its side effects and methods of transmission, were unknown. There were international conferences. Canada hosted two: one in Montreal, in 1992, and the other in Vancouver, in 1996. Once again, awareness is needed, because awareness leads not only to less risky behaviour, but also to the reflex that is necessary in a certain number of cases of transmission of hepatitis C, where one can be a carrier without knowing it.

The House was reminded earlier that there are 700,000 Canadians with hepatitis C; this is also the figure I had. It is staggering. This means that hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, is the 10th most frequent cause of death. There is also another reality which governments face and for which awareness is important. That reality is that there are close to 50,000 Canadians who, as we speak, are perhaps at work, perhaps playing sports, are perhaps in a classroom, in a park or with their parents or friends, and who do not know that they have hepatitis.

This is why governments must support any initiative that will promote awareness.

Technology is changing. There are more sophisticated technologies that help to track these people. If my information is correct, the Government of Canada announced in 1999 or in 2000 that $300 million would be provided in the next years to help track, through the blood banks and the hospitals, people who have had blood transfusions.

 

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Governments must implement mechanisms for reaching people and tracking those who, at some stage in the medical chain, may have had access to blood products and may be carriers.

That being said, there is no point in panicking, in thinking that the blood system is not safe. I remind members that the Krever commission, in its report, had come to the conclusion, after the various corrective measures it had proposed were taken, that right now, in Canada, there is one chance in a million that a blood product is not safe.

In Canada and in Quebec, we have a very safe system of blood transfusion, supply, collection and distribution. But as a physician reminded us, there is always some danger associated with a blood transfusion just as there is with an operation. However, statistics show that the blood supply and distribution system in Canada is just as safe an anywhere else.

Also, community awareness can be increased. The example set by young Joey Haché is quite something. Members will surely agree with me that it took a lot of courage to cycle across Canada and visit every community along the way. This young man, still a minor, represented our best hope and gave us our most solid and real example of how community awareness and support can be increased.

Should we not be asking ourselves if someone in the House will continue the remarkable work started by Joey. In a sense, our colleague, the hon. member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, is asking us to complete the work started by Joey.

I am quite proud that I was able to remember the whole name of the member's riding. It is more complicated than Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. What our colleague is asking us to do is to continue the work started by Joey.

To conclude, I hope that this bill will be made votable and that we will be able to increase community awareness and support, because that is where our best hope lies.

[English]

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to support the bill brought forward by my colleague from the NDP, the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, a beautiful area of Nova Scotia that I visit quite often.

I wish to congratulate him on his initiative in bringing forward this bill and I wish to congratulate individuals such as Joey Haché and his father, who have shown great initiative in this field. I look forward to their visit to Newfoundland. Hopefully we can join the hon. member and spend some time there in the near future.

The issue of hepatitis is certainly not a new one for our party. I would like to remind the House that the Conservative Party was the leader on this issue in November 1997 when the member for New Brunswick Southwest raised the issue and debated it for quite some time, as members are aware. The file is now carried by our health critic, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

We in our party are proud and pleased to join in supporting the bill, which creates an awareness month for a disease that so many of our friends and neighbours have.

In my remarks I will try to concentrate on hepatitis C. We have been told today that there are many types of hepatitis, but hepatitis C is perhaps what has initiated this bill and is the type that most concerns us.

 

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One of the major concerns we have, despite the agreement of support on the government side, is the government's slowness in reacting to the needs of people affected by hepatitis. People are affected by the government's inability to recognize that many people are outside the four year time frame, from 1986 to 1990. The government should assume responsibility for them.

While the health committee is doing a very good job of moving the file forward, all those people who were not involved in the positive side of the government decision are again facing, as many people have pointed out, great hardships in their lives. Perhaps the government should expand that file and recognize the people who are outside the minuscule time frame that it has set.

All of us have friends and relatives affected by different diseases. We recognize the pressures on them, on their families, on the communities which quite often support them, on the agencies that are directly and indirectly involved and on the country generally. If a disease limits our ability to be a contributing partner in society or within our own families and despite the fact that while we are contributors the costs of trying to deal with our afflictions are above and beyond what we can master ourselves, then the rest of society is involved and has a major concern.

That is what the country is all about. That is what confederation is all about. The rich provinces help the poor provinces, the pendulum swings every now and then and those who were helped find themselves the healthy ones.

It is the same way in society. Many of the people affected by diseases, especially a disease like hepatitis C, are some of the strongest willed individuals. They show us through their determination how to fight such afflictions and are important players in society. It is an example to the rest of us.

The government should recognize that and look for avenues where this should take place, not continue to look for ways of escapism. The word escapism as it relates to hepatitis C should not be a word used by government or by any of us. The government should recognize the fact that people need assistance, they deserve assistance and it should be there to help them. Not only should the government be there to help but to help expeditiously. That is a word the government does not recognize either.

Many people have waited too long for too little. Unfortunately, the amounts that were set aside to help them have eroded through the process, whether it be through the legal process or just by dragging it out. Let us concentrate on the fact that there is a major problem and people are being affected by that. The needs and the wants are there. As a government, let us fulfil our responsibilities, move up to the plate and address it quickly.

We wish the best for those who are involved in this initiative. I say to my hon. colleague that we certainly support the bill. We support his call to make it votable, and hopefully in turn we will see government do its part also.

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NDP): Madam Speaker, first, I wish to thank all my hon. colleagues who spoke on this important initiative which I brought forward on behalf of many people throughout the country.

I will allow the words of Joey Haché to speak through me to the House. He said that awareness equals prevention. That can save lives, and as parliamentarians we have an obligation to all Canadians.

 

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Joey Haché is a young man fighting a terrible disease. He knows it is too late for him. However he is trying to get some good out of the disease by saying to people throughout the country, especially to teens his own age and kids who are younger, that the disease can be prevented and that it can, with hope, love and optimism, be eradicated. However that cannot happen unless there is awareness, education and prevention. That is all we are asking for.

Hon. members have spoken about the various issues, and I am sure we can all relate not only to hepatitis but to other diseases as well. We implore the government to look into itself and to understand that this is not a political or monetary issue but an issue of love, caring and sharing.

That is especially true for the sectors of our society which are most at risk. These include aboriginal people in coastal and rural communities without proper water and sewer facilities, poor people, and the functionally illiterate who are unaware of the dangers. It is our responsibility to let them know this disease is out there. Again, as young Joey Haché would say, if we can make them aware of it we can prevent it.

I will not take up much more of the time of the House. If I could get on both knees to ask this I would, but I would be hidden under the desk. I ask for unanimous consent to make the month of May hepatitis awareness month. If that were made votable and passed on to the health committee, I would be forever in debt to the House of Commons.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos): The House has heard the suggestion of the hon. member. Is there unanimous consent?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

Some hon. members: No.

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

It being 2.23 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.23 p.m.)