Skip to main content Start of content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication
PDF

37th Parliament, 1st Session

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 005

CONTENTS

Friday, February 2, 2001

VGOVERNMENT ORDERS

. 1005

VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VResumption of debate on Address in Reply
VHon. David Anderson

. 1010

. 1015

. 1020

. 1025

VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. Bernard Bigras

. 1030

VMr. Loyola Hearn
VMr. Paul Forseth

. 1035

VMr. Jean-Yves Roy

. 1040

. 1045

VMr. Paul Crête

. 1050

VMr. Réal Ménard
VMs. Francine Lalonde

. 1055

VSTATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
V37TH PARLIAMENT
VMr. Alan Tonks

. 1100

VCYPRESS HILLS—GRASSLANDS
VMr. David Anderson
VINTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
VMr. Paul Harold Macklin
VHULL—AYLMER
VMr. Marcel Proulx
VYUKON
VMr. Larry Bagnell
VSANDRA SCHMIRLER
VMs. Carol Skelton
VSPORTS
VMr. John Finlay

. 1105

VANDRÉ D'ALLEMAGNE
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VNUNAVUT
VMs. Nancy Karetak-Lindell
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Richard Harris
VHUMAN RIGHTS
VMr. Irwin Cotler
VOCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY
VMr. Pat Martin

. 1110

VSTATUS OF WOMEN
VMs. Sarmite Bulte
VAUDITOR GENERAL OF CANADA
VMr. Odina Desrochers
VASBESTOS INDUSTRY
VMr. André Bachand
VLIBERAL GOVERNMENT
VMs. Carole-Marie Allard

. 1115

VMEMBER FOR ELK ISLAND
VMr. Ken Epp
VORAL QUESTION PERIOD
VAGRICULTURE
VMr. Stockwell Day
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Stockwell Day
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. Stockwell Day
VMr. Larry McCormick

. 1120

VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. John Manley
VMr. Chuck Strahl
VHon. John Manley
VPARLIAMENTARY REFORM
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Don Boudria
VMs. Caroline St-Hilaire
VHon. Don Boudria

. 1125

VHon. Herb Gray
VHon. Don Boudria
VFUEL PRICES
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMs. Alexa McDonough
VHon. Herb Gray
VBUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BANK OF CANADA
VRight Hon. Joe Clark
VHon. Herb Gray
VRight Hon. Joe Clark

. 1130

VHon. Herb Gray
VLUMBER INDUSTRY
VMr. Gary Lunn
VMr. Pat O'Brien
VMr. Gary Lunn
VMr. Pat O'Brien
VFOREIGN AFFAIRS
VMs. Francine Lalonde
VHon. John Manley
VMs. Francine Lalonde

. 1135

VHon. John Manley
VLUMBER INDUSTRY
VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Herb Gray
VMr. John Duncan
VHon. Herb Gray
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Paul Crête
VHon. Jane Stewart
VMr. Paul Crête
VHon. Jane Stewart
VINTERNATIONAL AID
VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VHon. Maria Minna

. 1140

VMr. Deepak Obhrai
VHon. Maria Minna
VTRADE
VMs. Judy Sgro
VHon. Rey Pagtakhan
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
VMr. Yvon Godin
VHon. Jane Stewart
VMr. Yvon Godin
VHon. Jane Stewart

. 1145

VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Loyola Hearn
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VTAXATION
VMr. James Moore
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VMr. Grant McNally
VHon. Herb Gray
VCINAR
VMs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral

. 1150

VHon. Herb Gray
VMs. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral
VHon. Herb Gray
VHEALTH
VMr. Keith Martin
VHon. Allan Rock
VMr. Keith Martin
VHon. Allan Rock
VMr. Ivan Grose

. 1155

VHon. Allan Rock
VTHE ENVIRONMENT
VMr. Paul Forseth
VHon. David Anderson
VMr. Paul Forseth
VHon. David Anderson
VCONTAMINATED WATER
VMr. Jean-Yves Roy
VHon. David Collenette
VNATURAL RESOURCES
VMr. Stephen Owen
VHon. Ralph Goodale

. 1200

VFINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
VMr. Yvan Loubier
VHon. Jim Peterson
VPRESENCE IN GALLERY
VThe Speaker
VROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
VEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
VBill C-2. Introduction and first reading
VHon. Jane Stewart
VELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT
VBill C-3. Introduction and first reading
VHon. Ralph Goodale
VCANADA FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TECHNOLOGY
VBill C-4. Introduction and first reading
VHon. Ralph Goodale

. 1205

VSPECIES AT RISK ACT
VBill C-5. Introduction and first reading
VHon. David Anderson
VBANKRUPTCY AND INSOLVENCY ACT
VBill C-203. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Pat Martin
VLABOUR MARKET TRAINING ACT
VBill C-204. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Pat Martin

. 1210

VCANADA WATER EXPORT PROHIBITION ACT
VBill C-205. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Pat Martin
VWHISTLE BLOWERS PROTECTION ACT
VBill C-206. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Pat Martin
VENERGY PRICE COMMISSION ACT
VBill C-207. Introduction and first reading
VMr. Pat Martin
VCRIMINAL CODE
VBill C-208. Introduction and first reading
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold
VINCOME TAX ACT
VBill C-209. Introduction and first reading
VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1215

VMARINE LIABILITY ACT
VBill S-2. First reading
VHon. Allan Rock
VQUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
VMr. Joe Jordan
VGOVERNMENT ORDERS
VSPEECH FROM THE THRONE
VResumption of Debate on Address in Reply
VMs. Francine Lalonde

. 1220

VMr. Geoff Regan
VMr. Réal Ménard

. 1225

VMr. Geoff Regan

. 1230

. 1235

VMr. Pat Martin
VMr. Lynn Myers

. 1240

VMr. Irwin Cotler

. 1245

. 1250

VMr. Keith Martin

. 1255

VMr. Jason Kenney
VMr. Jason Kenney

. 1300

. 1305

VMr. Roy Cullen

. 1310

VMr. Paul Forseth
VMr. Charlie Penson

. 1315

. 1320

VMr. Pat Martin

. 1325

VMr. Lynn Myers

. 1330

VMs. Sarmite Bulte

. 1335

. 1340

VMr. Keith Martin
VMr. Richard Harris
VMr. Lynn Myers

. 1345

VMr. Paul Bonwick

. 1350

. 1355

VMr. Deepak Obhrai

. 1400

VMrs. Bev Desjarlais
VMr. Paul Crête

. 1405

. 1410

VMr. Marcel Gagnon

. 1415

VMs. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold

. 1420

. 1425

VMr. Pat Martin
VAppendix

(Official Version)

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 005


HOUSE OF COMMONS

Friday, February 2, 2001

The House met at 10 a.m.



Prayers


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

 

. 1005 +

[English]

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

The House resumed from February 1 consideration of the motion for an address to Her Excellency the Governor General in reply to her speech at the opening of the session and of the amendment.

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have rise in the House since your election. I am delighted to see you in the chair. You have demonstrated great skill in the role as the Deputy Speaker. We look forward to one of the most productive parliaments that one could possibly expect as a result of your leadership and your skills as Speaker.

I am pleased to rise to speak on the Speech from the Throne. As Minister of the Environment it is my particular responsibility to concern myself with Canada and our natural heritage from coast to coast to coast.

We are blessed to live in a country that is rich in nature, wilderness and ample resources. This rich natural heritage is a sacred trust passed from one generation to the next. Indeed, as former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau used to remark “geography and nature defines us as Canadians”.

[Translation]

As Canadians, we understand that protecting the environment is not an option. It is a must-do. Nothing is more fundamental in this country.

[English]

That is why one of the key planks in the government's plan for its third mandate is to ensure a clean, healthy environment for Canadians and the preservation of our natural species.

For its part the Government of Canada has already made significant investments in the environment by supporting community initiatives, funding research, facilitating the development of new environmental technologies, supporting international environmental initiatives, and strengthening measures to reduce air and water pollution.

[Translation]

Our work is paying off. Just last month at the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, a study was released which shows that, together with Finland and Norway, Canada is one of the top three countries in environmental sustainability.

Canada ranks third on an environmental sustainability index, the most comprehensive global report comparing environmental conditions and environmental performance across 122 countries.

[English]

We can be proud of that progress, but we should not be content to rest on our laurels. I would like to speak today to how the government intends to build on this and other environmental achievements to ensure the preservation of our vast landscape and the wealth of our natural resources for future generations to come.

Specifically I will address clean air and clean water, the conservation of Canada's parks and species at risk, health protection and climate change.

[Translation]

Our goal is to help Canadians push the frontiers of environmental science and technology. Let me stress that science must be the foundation of all our environmental policies.

[English]

If we do not have the science right we obviously will not get the policies right. By investing in our science capacity and sustainable practices we can harness the power of science to support our environmental goals and to protect and promote the health of Canadians.

[Translation]

Science is already showing us that children do not react the same way as adults to toxic substances. They are not small adults. They are at the most delicate stage of development and one of the most at risk groups.

[English]

In its third mandate the first key step for the government will be to fill critical research gaps that exist now so that we can assist in developing the appropriate standards to safeguard the special vulnerabilities of our children.

Our science also tells us that some 5,000 Canadians annually die prematurely because of air pollution. Hundreds of thousands of others suffer from aggravated asthma, and I am one of them, bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses. Now we are learning that air pollution affects our health at lower levels than we previously thought.

 

. 1010 + -

[Translation]

Canada has already launched the beginnings of a clean air strategy. It addresses transboundary pollution, vehicle and fuel standards, industrial sectors and the science of air quality. In so doing, it engages Canadians and the communities in which they live to become part of the solution.

[English]

We have also reached other important national and bilateral agreements related to air pollution. In December I had the pleasure and privilege of signing on behalf of Canada the ozone annex to the 1991 Canada-United States air quality agreement, committing both our countries to significantly reducing the creation of smog causing pollutants in the eastern half of this continent.

In our new mandate the Government of Canada will move quickly to implement that ozone annex and to extend it to the western part of the continent. The annex complements many other initiatives already underway to improve air quality in Canada itself, including the Canada-wide standards for particulate matter and ozone agreed to by the federal, provincial and territorial governments only some six months ago.

[Translation]

The quality of our air is rightly one of the top concerns of Canadians. So is the quality of our water. Indeed, the quality of our water is now preoccupying Canadians from all walks of life and all levels of government.

[English]

The Government of Canada is committed to working with all partners and all levels of government to protect Canadians from the dangers of polluted water. During their June 2000 meeting the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of the environment agreed to establish three task groups to deal with water management issues including water quality, demand, use management and preventable measures for water hazards such as flooding. We have put some $135 million into supporting municipal projects through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that protect the environment such as waste water treatment and solid waste management.

[Translation]

The Speech from the Throne commits the government to do more and to take leadership in developing stronger national guidelines for water quality. Drawing on expertise within the government and across Canada we will significantly strengthen the role of the National Water Research Institute.

We will invest in research and development to protect surface water and groundwater supplies from industrial and farming activities. We will fund further improvements to municipal water and waste water systems.

[English]

We are also taking action to protect fragile ecosystems. We have created seven new parks. We have also provided Parks Canada with an additional $130 million over four years to establish new parks, manage the existing ones and build on our scientific capacity within the parks system. My neighbour, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, will no doubt be saying more on this later in this debate. I look forward to hearing her remarks.

In addition, the Government of Canada is committed to protecting species at risk through strong and effective legislation, stewardship to protect habitat, a productive recovery process in partnerships with provinces, territories, stakeholders and aboriginal groups.

I stress the importance of effective legislation. Duplicating less effective legislation elsewhere simply because it appears to be stronger is not the way to go. Let us learn from the mistakes of others, craft something totally Canadian and effective on the ground, which is where we can protect species and the battle lines can be drawn.

[Translation]

I will be reintroducing the species at risk act in the House today, but I want to point out that our strategy to protect species at risk is already producing good results.

 

. 1015 + -

[English]

Legislation is supported on the ground through voluntary activities by conservation groups and individuals who are taking action to help protect species, protect habitat and conserve biodiversity where it matters most: on the land, in our streams, oceans and forests.

Our strategy balances strong regulations with voluntary measures and incentives. When Canadians, for example, donate ecologically sensitive lands to an environmental group, they can now benefit from a 50% reduction in capital gains.

I applaud the Minister of Finance for his recognition of the importance of this measure in getting the goodwill and co-operation of landowners in the battle to protect habitat of species, endangered and otherwise.

[Translation]

Let me turn now to the issue of global warming. Canada is extremely concerned about climate change, and with good reason.

The North, and our country is a northern country, is the area which perhaps is experiencing the most severe impacts of climate change. We see that the ice is melting. Polar bears are starving. The traditional lifestyle of aboriginal peoples is threatened. The fauna and flora are highly disturbed.

[English]

As a northern nation we are on the frontline of the impact of climate change. We have taken action to respond and will take more action throughout the coming decade. We are beginning to see results.

Since Kyoto we have succeeded in decoupling economic growth from emissions growth in Canada. Indeed that has dropped to one-fifth of what it was before. Previously for every 1% increase in gross domestic product we would see a 1% increase in emissions. Now for every 1% growth in GDP we see one-fifth of that. Indeed that is a dramatic change.

Canada has become a leader in the science and modelling of climate change. Last fall we adopted the first national climate change action plan.

[Translation]

This $500 million action plan captures many of the best ideas that came out of a consultation process with representatives of industry, environmental organizations, aboriginal people, municipalities, academic institutions and other.

We engaged all our provinces and territories in the effort. All relevant federal departments were involved in preparing the action plan.

[English]

No other country in the world has gone through such an extensive process to develop its national plan. This means that once the decisions are made we will have an already high level of buy in and acceptance and hence, we trust, a smoother path to implementation.

The action plan targets key sectors that will provide both environmental and economic benefits. As a result Canadians will enjoy cleaner air and water. They will save money from energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy technologies.

Ultimately our climate change action plan will make the Canadian economy more innovative and more competitive on the world scale.

[Translation]

When fully implemented, the plan will take Canada one-third of the way to achieving the target established in the Kyoto protocol. It will reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by about 65 megatonnes annually during the commitment period of 2008 to 2012.

This is a major step forward that sets the stage for future reductions and reflects the seriousness with which Canada takes its international commitments.

[English]

On the world stage we have championed a comprehensive approach to climate change that will lead to practical action.

I must confess disappointment at the results of the meeting in The Hague where inflexibility on the part of the European Union did not allow for an agreement between the United States and the countries of the umbrella group and the European Union. Nevertheless that is a minor setback. We will continue to play the role of bringing people together on climate change and other key environmental issues because Canadians have told us they want Canada to take a leadership role in protecting the global environment.

 

. 1020 + -

We have already played an instrumental role in bringing about the Montreal protocol on CFC reduction, the persistent organic pollutants, or POP, negotiations, which took place in Cartagena and again in Montreal, in addition to the successful outcome to the Montreal conference on biosafety and genetically modified organisms.

[Translation]

This weekend, I will be joining my international colleagues, the various environment ministers, at the United Nations environment program meeting in Nairobi to continue in our efforts to build a world that is more secure, more prosperous and more sustainable.

I would like to turn now to an important tool to promote development that is sustainable, and that is environmental assessment. By bringing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act into force in 1995, this government has ensured that the environmental effects of our actions are fully considered before decisions are taken.

Each year the Government of Canada assesses almost 6,000 projects each with the potential to affect our air, our health, our water, our wildlife and natural spaces. Project by project, and step by step, we are using environmental assessment to avoid adverse effects of development.

I will report to the House soon on the outcome of the recent review of this act. I plan to take the measures needed to make it an even more effective tool in support of this government's focus on a clean, healthy environment for Canadians.

[English]

In closing, I will tell a story that captures the essence of these issues. It demonstrates the holistic nature of environmental issues today, and the need to embrace new ways of thinking and new alliances.

The Georgia Basin ecosystem initiative from the west coast of Canada, an area which we share with the United States, is a partnership among the federal and provincial governments, business and industry leaders, first nations, citizens and volunteers.

The initiative tackles environmental issues such as clean water and air and species at risk. At the same time, it addresses the social and economic needs of communities within the Georgia Basin.

[Translation]

In one of their projects, they have developed an interactive computer model that shows how three prime systems, the biosphere, human society and the economy, interact with each other. Community members have had the chance to plug in their choices and see the kind of world they can create for the Georgia Basin by the year 2040.

[English]

I like that project for a number of reasons. First, it is a great management tool that will be useful for decision makers. Second, it is a motivator of ordinary citizens. It gets people involved and shows them the consequences of their potential actions. In that way it allows a higher level of debate about society and its goals.

[Translation]

In the months and years ahead, as we struggle to protect the myriad aspects of our environment, we need to use all the available tools. We need to embrace innovation, whether it comes from a computer model or an aboriginal elder. Finally, we need to promote the notion of personal stewardship among all Canadians.

[English]

Our ancestors have thrown us the torch. It is for us to hold it high, to keep it burning brightly and to pass it on to our children. The government and I, as Minister of the Environment, are committed to that task.

 

. 1025 + -

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the environmental situation that the minister has pictured is as rosy as he would lead us to believe.

I encourage every interested member of the public to obtain a copy of the environmental commissioner's report. It excoriates the federal government on its actions and its failure to deal with a wide range of environmental challenges.

I ask the minister if there will be any obligation on the government to deal with private landowners and the provinces to protect critical habitat.

Given that Canada is the third largest conduit for the trafficking of endangered species products around the world, a multibillion industry threatening species as far ranging as the Siberian tiger, the black rhino, and many fish of the sea, will the minister work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice to develop a plan of action to address this serious problem?

Hon. David Anderson: Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne is a general outline of approaches which I reiterated in my speech. In response to the first question of the hon. member from Esquimalt, I indicated that within the last week Canada has been named third in the world with respect to the environment and its protection. Finland and Norway are ahead of us, and both are small Scandinavian countries in terms of population and area.

I could pluck a myriad of reports out of the air to support this. However, it is the most prestigious of the various reports dealing with Canada and its position with respect to the environment.

The hon. member has plucked out another report which says that in the view of a certain group we are not doing enough. I tend to prefer the type of report which analyzes objectively on the basis of some 66 criteria reduced to 22 headings and dealing with 122 nations. I tend to prefer that objective approach and analysis.

This is not to say, as I said in my speech and which the hon. member appears to have missed, that we should sit back and say nothing more should be done, we are doing well, who cares. Not at all. Third is not good enough. We wish to be first. We will continue to work. We know that many other countries have the same objective, so it will be a tough race.

He is demonstrating, like so many members in the opposition, that a Canadian optimist is someone who says things could be worse. There are times, when it comes to issues such as this one, when we should sit back and say we are doing well. The next thing to say is we could do better and where we can do better. Let us not always bring forward the negative, negative, negative, because that discourages people.

I mentioned in my speech that we work with large numbers of people throughout Canada on voluntary co-operative efforts. Occasionally we should point out to them that their good work on the ground is recognized at the highest levels internationally.

The second point raised by the hon. member is CITES. I will certainly work closely with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is a major problem.

We will be putting resources where we think they are most effective. Just as with many other smuggling issues around the world, it is extraordinarily difficult to deal with it simply at the borders. We will have to deal with it in some of the markets of Singapore or Hong Kong or elsewhere in the world. We will have to deal with it in concert with other countries. This is not simply a question of more and more heavy enforcement at border points.

[Translation]

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, before dealing with the legislation the Minister of the Environment is introducing today, the species at risk act, I want to come back to the issue of climate change.

The minister engaged in a lot of rhetoric and bragged about the government's record on the environment. He even went as far as changing the whole concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 reference levels.

 

. 1030 + -

That is the real comparison base, not the ratio of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to Canada's GNP. I thought it was important to remind people of this.

My question is a very simple one. The minister just told us that he will be introducing this afternoon an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada. Is the minister aware that in 1989 the government of Quebec passed legislation to protect species at risk? When introducing his bill today, will the minister take into account all the expertise and the work already done on this issue so as to avoid any overlap with the 1889 legislation, which was passed by members of the national assembly, some of whom are federal Liberal members sitting in this House today?

I am thinking about the hon. member for Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who were sitting in the national assembly when the act was passed.

Does the minister intend to abide by the Quebec legislation on endangered species?

Mr. David Anderson: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I can assure him that we will indeed table the bill on endangered species this afternoon, at least I hope so. I appreciate that we should wait before discussing a bill that we have not yet seen.

He said something very important regarding greenhouse gases. We are working together with the provinces and I salute everything that Quebec has done. It has been very well done. It can serve as an example for many other provinces.

I am not saying that everything is perfect or that we have reached our ultimate goal. Not at all. I am saying we must work with the federal government within the federal jurisdiction, with the other provinces and territories, and with other countries in the world. The efforts made by the Quebec government have really been appreciated at the federal level and we are working together.

We have the same objectives and I hope that with this co-operation between the federal and provincial governments, with the Quebec government and the other provinces and territories we will succeed. I am sure that the targets set—6% below 1990 levels—we can reached. This objective is not so out of reach that it impossible to achieve.

I think that with the co-operation of all jurisdictions and the awareness of the Canadian people, we will be able to achieve the Kyoto objective, which was a 6% reduction by 2010.

[English]

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, would the minister elaborate on his relationship with the environment departments at the provincial level. I am particularly concerned about the Newfoundland government's plan for development on the Main River which is a heritage river in a pristine environment and the home of the pine marten. There is some concern that the government is not being sensitive.

In his concern for species at risk, how does the minister look upon the disagreement?

Hon. David Anderson: Mr. Speaker, I will be answering the member's question in more detail when we discuss the species at risk legislation. However, I can assure the hon. member that if a province or territory fails to take adequate measures to protect a species at risk, the architecture of the legislation suggests that we should step forward. I will be happy to give more details when the legislation is before the House. I appreciate the member's concern and it should be flagged.

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, on page 13 in the throne speech, it says that the government will focus on three priorities: clean air, clean water and the conservation of Canada's natural spaces.

Last December the Government of Canada signed an agreement with the United States to significantly reduce emissions that cause smog. The spinning wheel turns. How do those statements square with the minister's apparent lack of resolve to send a strong signal regarding the Sumas 2 power project?

Instead of just letting bureaucratic processes roll on, will the minister send a strong signal that Sumas 2 is not on? The Americans get the electricity and we get the pollution.

 

. 1035 + -

Hon. David Anderson: Mr. Speaker, the proposed Sumas 2 plant is under investigation by the energy facility site evaluation council of Washington state. I have had discussions with the governor of Washington on this matter. It would be thoroughly inappropriate for me to take the NIMBY approach of the hon. member before the body which has been given the task of analyzing the impact of Sumas 2 reports.

If we are to succeed on issues of this nature we must be realistic as to the process. We must submit our interventions respectful of American jurisdictions and of American agencies that are charged with the task of analysis. If we do not show respect for the system, if we simply raise our hands and scream and say that nothing is acceptable, we will not have them considering our views.

I remind the member that the change in fuels in the Fraser Valley due to the increase in the price of gas has had 30 times the impact on the air shed of the Fraser Valley as would have the proposed Sumas 2 plant. That is not to say that Sumas 2 should go ahead. It is just to point out how important it is to be consistent in what we do.

[Translation]

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, first I wish to inform you that I am splitting my time with my colleague from Mercier.

I wish to begin my first speech in this House by an introduction and acknowledgements.

First off, I wish to describe to you my riding, Matapédia—Matane. I can say without false modesty, and I believe that all my colleagues will agree, that Matapédia—Matane is one of the most beautiful ridings if not the most beautiful riding in Quebec.

An hon. member: Even more than Champlain.

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy: Even more than Champlain, as my colleague just said. Matapédia—Matane has more than 60 towns and villages and a population of almost 75,000 people, some 55,000 of voting age. Matapédia—Matane borders on two regions of Quebec: the Lower St. Lawrence and the Gaspé Peninsula. Two regional county municipalities, Haute-Gaspésie and Avignon, are part of the Gaspé Peninsula region, while the Matane and Matapédia RCMs are part of the Lower St. Lawrence region.

It is a huge area of more than 743 kilometres around and covering 17,000 square kilometres. Incidentally, the well-known expression “one day per riding” finds its full meaning here because it actually takes a full day to go around the riding. And it is not even enough to cover all the area, which is as large as a country.

The economy of my riding is, so to speak, uneven because the socio-economic situation and recessions of the last decades have taken their toll. Moreover, the fact that the federal government has abandoned communities like mine does not help economic recovery.

However, I wish to say in this House how proud I am of representing the great riding of Matapédia—Matane. The population that I represent is, without a doubt, extremely worthy and noble. The men and women and young people of my riding are deeply attached to their area, their legacy and their heritage. This country was built by men and women and it is an area worthy of being inhabited.

Now for a few acknowledgements. First of all I would like to thank the man who came before me as member for Matapédia—Matane, Mr. René Canuel, who for seven years devoted his life to the service of his fellow citizens. Thanks go also to my election team, as well as to all those who voted for me, my party and our agenda. It is something I am proud of.

I would be remiss if I forgot to thank my spouse, Louiselle, and my children, Stéphane, Lucie and Frédéric, who have lost a full time father but got a member of parliament. I would also like to congratulate my opponents in the last election campaign.

Finally, I want to address a message to the population of the riding of Matapédia—Matane: I will endeavour to help them to the best of my knowledge and capacities with my team: Francine, Thérèse and Raynald.

We are all ready to tackle the hard work coming up our way, as we say back home. My staff have faced such difficulties in the past with courage and persistence.

 

. 1040 + -

Today, they are ready for action and determined to forge ahead. Tomorrow, the people in our ridings will judge our actions as parliamentarians and they will be in a good position to attest to what this government wants to do and can do.

Understandably I now wish to comment on the Speech from the Throne made last Tuesday by the Governor General. The throne speech was both arrogant and devoid of meaning. Arrogant, for it outlays the plan of a government that failed to boost the economy of my riding, the plan of a government that managed to hurt my fellow citizens.

During the last electoral campaign, voters from Matapédia—Matane not only showed what they thought of what the liberal government did or neglected to do, they also sent a very clear message about the present government's agenda which is to deny our existence and compromise our future. The government's agenda must be profoundly changed. It must include communities like mine and regions.

The economic recovery of our regions requires, commands a radical change of direction. We should begin by doing away with the arrogant notion that we live in a prosperous Canada with a strong and healthy economy. This is an illusion where I come from. It is a complete illusion in my area.

But such statements are not surprising since the Prime Minister did not even bother visiting our regions during the last campaign. Maybe he was afraid he would not be welcomed.

If isolated areas are really included in the government's development plan, how can we explain its absence, its failure to respond to the call for help of a whole community? A few months ago my community's feeling of alienation led to the creation of a grassroots movement, the Action des Patriotes gaspésiens, which is now 12,000 members strong.

That movement came about because a population felt abandoned, pushed aside and completely ignored. The organization's popularity reflects the deep despair of a community which firmly believes that the present government does not want to hear or see its situation.

I declare that the Speech from the Throne is a scandal. It is outrageous to hear or to read that the government intends to continue to deny, forget and abandon regions like mine.

The examples of this are legion. I will speak of just two that are very striking. First, there is unemployment insurance—that is right, unemployment insurance, not employment insurance—a program that has literally pillaged the most disadvantaged members of our society, the honest and courageous workers who have struggled and yet not accumulated enough hours to qualify for this program which is rife with injustices, so they end up on welfare.

What is more, this program particularly prevents the youth in our regions from benefits. They are required to have 910 hours of work the youth in our regions from benefits. They are required to have 910 hours of work before drawing employment insurance for the first time, whereas our economy is based on four major industries that are more than 80% seasonal. This is a disgrace. The young workers are entitled to equal and equitable treatment.

To quote the spokesperson for the coalition chômage Gaspésie les Îles, “the changes announced in the bill to be introduced this afternoon are but a drop of justice in a whole ocean of injustice”.

Regional development is another example of this government's arrogance and of the scandal of the throne speech. Regions such as mine have been totally abandoned by this government. Economic Development Canada is one concrete example of this abandonment; the government response to the serious crisis facing my community was a meagre $35 million, spread out moreover over three long years, and with no action plan to boot. There is no clearly defined strategy. Those are beautiful, or horrible, examples of the arrogance and scandal of this government, which wants to pursue its policy of abandonment of the regions. My response to this is no. The response of the people in my area, the people of my riding of Matapédia—Matane, to such a policy is no.

 

. 1045 + -

People back home are ready for the battle. They are determined not to throw in the towel; they are determined to take action and to build a better future, but not the one promised and built by this government. Again, we are opposed to abandoning the regions. If necessary, the lower St. Lawrence, the Gaspé Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands will become symbols of that battle, of that struggle for dignity and a better future.

On a somewhat different note, but just as pressing, I am now going to provide more details on the issues I intend to fight for in the months and years to come.

In addition to my primary duties as member for Matapédia—Matane, my leader, whom I congratulate on his brilliant performance during the last election campaign, has given me other responsibilities.

Indeed, I will be the associate critic for fisheries and oceans and, without necessarily getting into the details of my mandate, perhaps I could point out to members that I will fulfil my mandate with four main points in mind: first, I will demand a true management policy for Quebec fishers, followed by a true groundfish strategy, a real improvement of port infrastructures and, of course, a true employment insurance program.

I will also sit on other committees to help achieve the global objective of our political party. We Bloc Quebecois members are here to protect and promote Quebecers' interests.

I may add that another responsibility was recently bestowed upon me in that I am the chair of the eastern Quebec caucus. I intend to meet this new challenge just like the other ones, with determination and hard work. We are here to serve our fellow citizens. We are here to build a better future for Quebecers.

I am convinced that there is only one real solution for us and that is sovereignty.

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the new member for Matapédia—Matane on his speech.

Because I know him personally, I know that he has developed considerable expertise in running a riding office in recent years, and we all know how important that is. To this is now added the responsibility of representing the people of Matapédia—Matane. I am certain that he will carry his new duties off with great aplomb.

I would like him to elaborate a bit on the situation of people in his region, specifically with reference to the Prime Minister's statement during the election campaign to the effect that there had been serious errors in the EI regime.

On behalf of the residents of Matapédia—Matane, I would like to know just what these important factors are that need correcting, that we expect to see corrected and that we want to see included in the bill the government intends to introduce this afternoon. Does the member intend to make this a major part of his mandate for the people of Matapédia—Matane?

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Obviously, the situation in the riding of Matapédia—Matane is unique. It is the same for the Gaspé. The two RCMs of Matapédia and Matane were always considered part of the Gaspé for the purposes of the Coalition-chômage, because the situation was very serious.

In our regions, the official rate of unemployment is 22% or 23%, but 40% to 50% of the public relies on employment insurance or income security in the winter.

What we desperately want in our region is a real employment insurance regime that will cover people not just for 38, 42 or 44 weeks, but for the whole year. When people manage to work at least a certain number of weeks, it should be possible to provide them with security that will last 365 days of the year. That is what we want. We want a real employment insurance regime. The regime was set up to protect such people, but it is not doing so right now.

I would add, for the benefit of my colleague, that another very important issue, one which I intend to fight for personally, is that of young people. As I was saying earlier, in the riding of Matapédia—Matane, the major industries are forestry, agriculture, fishing and tourism. These are all industries where work is almost exclusively seasonal.

 

. 1050 + -

When young people graduate from tourism courses, particularly in my colleague's riding, where there is an institution offering such training, they can never collect employment insurance because they are never able to accumulate the required number of weeks. So they leave the region and head for places where they can find work.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, to start with I would like to congratulate my colleague, who will be a welcome addition to our caucus. I have a couple quick questions for him.

Could he tell us why people should visit his area? Mr. Speaker, you yourself might be looking for a place to go to on your summer vacation. I would like our colleague to extol the virtues of his beautiful area and tell us what tourist attractions that can be found there.

Also I would like him to tell us a thing or two about the vibrant social fabric of his community.

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this opportunity to promote my riding.

There are four MRC municipalities in my area. First, there is Avignon, or Carleton, on Chaleur Bay, which is known worldwide as a tourist destination.

Then there is the MRC of Matapédia, which is more agricultural. There is a bit of tourism too, mostly in the wintertime of course, but also in the summer.

On the other side, there is the MRC of Matane, famous for its fisheries and major industries. It too is a very nice area.

Then there is the upper Gaspé, further on, which relies mainly on fishing, is increasingly developing its tourism industry.

This is almost exclusively a coastal area, stretching over nearly 743 kilometres. On the one side there is Chaleur Bay, and on the other the St. Lawrence River; in the centre is the Gaspé Park with many outstanding tourist attractions such as the delightful Gîte du Mont-Albert.

I thank my colleague for this opportunity to promote my riding.

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I also want to take this opportunity to thank my constituents for re-electing me a third time. To get such strong support for a third time is both moving and challenging.

It means that we have to do the utmost to express what our constituents need to make their lives better. There is no better time than an election campaign to go out and meet the people where they live and where they shop and to understand how huge the problems they face are.

It is a responsibility we have to deal with every day and my constituents can be assured that my colleagues and I will do our best to live up to their expectations. I also want to spend as much time as possible in my riding.

For someone like me, the throne speech is truly offensive. It is offensive in the way it describes the reality in Quebec and in Canada, because that is what it is supposed to do. Yet what it describes has nothing to do with what is really going on.

The federal government, or shall I say the executive branch of the federal government, talks as though it were the only true government, the main government in charge of culture, education, the economy, the environment. It talks as though it were the major stakeholder. In fact, this is far from the truth.

 

. 1055 + -

It is offensive to see that, since 1993, this government has been bent on reducing the deficit without making sure to do so in the least possible harmful way. Sure, such an exercise was in order, but the government conducted it without caring about what was happening, particularly in Quebec, and even though it knew, I am sure, what the impact would be in our province.

The suffering—and I say it again because this is just that—endured by citizens in health, education and other areas, not to mention of course the services that were cut by the Quebec government, are the result of the drastic federal cuts.

What do we see in that document? That the Government of Canada will invest, that it will care about improving Canadians' health, that it will make sure young people succeed at school and that it will be a leader in the protection of the environment. This is very upsetting.

The federal government is the one responsible for these serious problems in the health sector. Sure, an agreement was signed, but not one penny will be paid before April, when it will take effect.

An hon. member: No indexing.

Ms. Francine Lalonde: And no indexing, with the result that instead of being at 20%, we will be at 14%. So, the situation remains very serious in the health sector.

In education, there is the issue of dropouts. Dropouts are not good for the new economy. I realize that. But why do dropouts drop out of school? It is often because they have problems at home and because their parents are unemployed or do not have an adequate income.

The employment level has gone up and we are proud of that—Quebec worked hard to improve the situation—but the unemployment rate is still high and the underemployment rate is extremely high. The result is that a large number of families do not have what it takes to live decently.

Young people drop out of school because they live in families that have difficulties, but also because the schools were also subjected to a rigorous regime. When there is a shortage of teachers, when everyone is overworked, it is harder to make sure that young people can keep up with the rest of the class.



STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[English]

37TH PARLIAMENT

Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to offer my congratulations to you and all members of the House elected to the 37th parliament. I would like to extend my commitment to working with you, Mr. Speaker, and to all the members to achieve those objectives which have been outlined in principle in the throne speech.

Second, I would like to thank the residents of York South—Weston for once again supporting my candidacy for public office, this time as member of parliament. I truly believe the message that my residents are sending is that they want to see us working together on actions that will improve life for all Canadians, particularly those who are most vulnerable within our communities.

To this end, I would again pledge my commitment to work diligently through our committee and our House systems and structures with all members to build bridges between rural and urban communities and to reinforce the principles of sustainable development.

In so doing I believe that we will achieve that which we desire for our children—

 

. 1100 + -

The Speaker: I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has expired.

*  *  *

CYPRESS HILLS—GRASSLANDS

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this morning I thank the constituents of Cypress Hills—Grasslands for their overwhelming support and confidence. I thank the people who worked with me. It is solidly in the spirit of southwestern Saskatchewan that people will still help others to get ahead without asking for anything for themselves.

I want to thank my family, particularly my wife Sheila and my children Amy and Andrew, for their sacrifice. I thank God, who has directed my steps for many years and who deserves the credit, but most certainly not the blame, for who I am.

I thank my predecessor, Mr. Lee Morrison. His rock solid preparation, his intelligent understanding of the issues and his insistence on standing firmly for his principles and for his constituents have given me an example of what is needed to effectively represent the people of Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

*  *  *

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Mr. Paul Harold Macklin (Northumberland, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as next week is International Development Week, it is an honour for me to praise the work of Horizons of Friendship, a non-profit agency in my riding.

Horizons of Friendship is a Canadian non-profit international development agency committed to addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice. It supports central American and Mexican organizations that undertake local initiatives which further this goal. In Canada, it raises awareness on global issues and works with Canadian organizations at the local and national levels to bring about positive and lasting change.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Horizons of Friendship for being such an active part of the community of Northumberland and for the life saving support that they provide to so many, especially now as they work to help the victims of the recent earthquake in El Salvador.

*  *  *

[Translation]

HULL—AYLMER

Mr. Marcel Proulx (Hull—Aylmer, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, it is with pleasure and enthusiasm that I rise today to thank the voters of my beautiful riding of Hull—Aylmer for having re-elected me for the second time in two years as their representative in the House of Commons.

Bolstered by this new gesture of confidence from my constituents, I begin this 37th parliament in a spirit of optimism. I am privileged to represent a riding here in the House that is dynamic and flourishing, and I shall continue to do my utmost to fulfil my commitment to act as the ambassador within the Government of Canada for all the residents of my riding.

Once again, my thanks to the voters of Hull—Aylmer. They have my assurance that they have made the right choice to guarantee a better future for all. Thank you.

*  *  *

[English]

YUKON

Mr. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I bring greetings to the House from the farthest constituency in this land, the beautiful Yukon, home of a strong and proud people, some of whom are descendants of the world's greatest gold rush, home of the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre and some of the most innovative self-government agreements in the world today, and home of the Canadian poet who wrote the best selling book in poetry history, Robert W. Service.

I am proud to serve here with my 300 colleagues to fulfil the mandate that we were all given in the last election: to build a strong economy so that we can help those most in need.

[Translation]

In the days to come, people will be hearing about our mandate, and about the Yukon. Thank you, Merci, Mahsi Cho, Gunetisch.

*  *  *

[English]

SANDRA SCHMIRLER

Ms. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election win.

This morning I would like to thank the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar for electing me in the last federal election as its member of parliament.

The beginning of Winterlude this weekend in the beautiful city of Ottawa makes me remember the wonderful young woman who, so sadly, passed away last year in Saskatchewan. Sandra Schmirler, Olympic women's curling gold medallist, was born and raised in my hometown of Biggar, Saskatchewan. Today, in this historic building, I pay tribute to her and her family.

*  *  *

SPORTS

Mr. John Finlay (Oxford, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my sincere congratulations on your election. You have the confidence of your colleagues and I know you will preside with honour and fairness over Canada's most cherished democratic institution.

I also rise today to welcome the 2001 Nokia Cup Ontario Men's Curling Championship to the city of Woodstock in my riding of Oxford.

 

. 1105 + -

All eyes will be on the Woodstock and District Community Complex next week, February 5 to 11, as the top men's curling teams from across Ontario compete for the Nokia Cup. This is the final step before the winning team represents Ontario at the national championships in Ottawa this March.

I commend the organizers and the over 300 volunteers for all their hard work. In particular, I recognize Mr. Verne Kean, the chairman of the committee, who is a former student of mine. Best wishes to all for a fantastic event.

*  *  *

[Translation]

ANDRÉ D'ALLEMAGNE

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Quebec is in mourning. Yesterday André d'Allemagne, a pioneer of the sovereignist movement, passed away at the age of 71.

A founding member of the Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale, he made a significant contribution to the advancement of the indépendantiste cause.

A figurehead for the Quebec sovereignist movement, he was also a visionary whose analyses have not become dated.

In a text that appeared in the magazine L'Indépendance in December 1962, he wrote as follows about the new relationship between a sovereign Quebec and Canada: “In this field, as in many others, everything possible under Confederation is possible within independence, while many things impossible under Confederation would be made possible by independence”.

André d'Allemagne leaves a rich heritage for all those who share his belief that Quebec must assume its rightful place in the world.

On behalf of all members of the Bloc Quebecois, my sincere condolences to the family and friends of André d'Allemagne.

*  *  *

[English]

NUNAVUT

Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell (Nunavut, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Nunavut, I congratulate you on being elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

I want to thank the wonderful people of Nunavut for their resounding endorsement of me to continue representing them in the House of Commons. I look forward to working strongly on their behalf and the throne speech contained very positive announcements to start on that road. We are thankful that there is a strong commitment to the aboriginal people in the mandate of our government because we only want to share opportunities with other Canadians.

The Speech from the Throne gives us great hope for the future. I look forward to working with the government of Nunavut and the federal government on key issues such as education, health and housing. Mutna.

*  *  *

NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the examples of indifference or even ignorance shown by the Liberal government toward British Columbians occur on a regular basis.

Here is just another example of many. B.C.'s forest industry is being devastated by a mountain pine beetle infestation that is a natural disaster equal to an ice storm in Ottawa or a flood in Quebec. Yet, while the mandate of the Canadian Forest Service includes assistance in regard to insect damage, the federal government has done nothing to help British Columbia's forest industry out of this true natural disaster.

Once again, as a B.C. MP, I say to the Liberal government, thanks for nothing.

*  *  *

HUMAN RIGHTS

Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the welcome release of Chinese-Canadian academic KunLun Zhang should not however obscure the following facts: that Professor Zhang should never have been arrested, detained, tortured or imprisoned to begin with; that thousands upon thousands of Falun Gong remain in detention for nothing other than giving expression to their fundamental freedoms of belief and conscience, assembly and association, expression and information; that an exercise in meditation spiritual movement dedicated to values of truth, compassion and tolerance has been declared illegal; and, that we are witnessing the most persistent and pervasive assault on human rights in China since Tiananmen Square, including violations of rights of religious adherents, Tibetans, Internet users, democracy supports, workers and the like.

While Chinese-Canadian relations should be encouraged and trade is a form of constructive engagement, the trade mission cannot proceed as if this is business as usual. The protection and promotion of human rights must be a priority on the Canadian agenda, an expression of who we are and what we do.

As one who acted as counsel to Professor Zhang, I take this opportunity to thank all members of this place and, in particular, the ministers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for their assistance in this matter.

*  *  *

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we are nearing the 10th anniversary of the Westray mine disaster, where 26 miners were killed due to gross negligence and a wilful blindness to workplace safety and health.

Last spring the justice committee unanimously agreed that the government should table legislation to amend the criminal code to include corporate accountability in the case of gross negligence causing death in the workplace.

Today we are reminded again of the need for a Westray bill. Nova Scotia courts have just found a company guilty of a workplace accident causing death. It was fined a paltry $50,000. This is pin money for a large corporation.

 

. 1110 + -

I call it murder when a worker is killed at work through gross negligence. If an employer is found guilty he should not just be fined under the workplace safety and health act. He should be charged with murder under the Criminal Code of Canada. That is what the committee directed parliament to do, to table that legislation, and we are anxiously looking forward to the opportunity to debate that bill.

*  *  *

STATUS OF WOMEN

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parkdale—High Park, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank our Prime Minister for his commitment to the advancement of women and women's issues. In fact, Liberal governments both past and present have always supported the advancement of women in society.

It was under a Liberal government that Canada saw its first woman Speaker of the House of Commons and the first woman Governor General. It was under our Prime Minister that a Liberal government appointed a woman as Canada's first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Beverley McLachlin. It was our present Prime Minister who appointed the first woman Commissioner of Official Languages, Madam Dyane Adam. Also, since taking office our Prime Minister has made sure that half of all Canadians appointed to the Senate are women.

Again our Prime Minister made history. On January 15, 2001, he appointed the first woman to occupy the position of chief government whip, the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean. I congratulate both the Prime Minister and the member for Ottawa West—Nepean for this milestone.

*  *  *

[Translation]

AUDITOR GENERAL OF CANADA

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—L'Érable, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on February 6, Denis Desautels, the Auditor General of Canada, will be tabling his last report in the House of Commons.

This report will summarize the ten years of Mr. Desautels' mandate. Indeed, Mr. Desautels spent ten years pointing out serious problems in all important areas, including the programs run by Human Resources Development Canada.

He spent ten years conducting fully independent audits and reviews and communicating his findings to parliament in an informative and objective fashion.

He spent ten years trying to improve parliamentary control over public moneys and promoting the use of effective management methods in the public administration.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois wishes to stress here the exceptional work done by Denis Desautels, the Auditor General of Canada. Once again, thank you for having helped improve the well-being of all Quebecers and Canadians.

*  *  *

ASBESTOS INDUSTRY

Mr. André Bachand (Richmond—Arthabaska, PC): Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election as Speaker of the House. I also want to thank the residents of Richmond—Arthabaska for having made history in their own way.

That said, the asbestos industry has often been denigrated, usually in an exaggerated way.

Government standards for the chrysotile asbestos industry are not strict, consistent and accurate enough. For example, the 0.1% standard for construction work is neither measurable nor scientifically verifiable. This creates a problem for those who work in that industry.

Simply put, the regulatory provisions generate confusion and are harmful to the asbestos industry. Let us look at what is being done on the Hill with regard to buildings.

The federal government, which is a great protector of the asbestos industry on the international scene, would greatly improve its credibility if it became a facilitator, along with its provincial partners, to implement scientific methods of analysis to determine the standards relating to the use of chrysotile asbestos.

It is with the hope of seeing a true desire on the government's part to protect the interests of the asbestos industry that I join the provincial MNA for Richmond, Yvon Vallières, in asking my government to make representations to its provincial partners so as to arrive at an agreement establishing realistic standards.

*  *  *

LIBERAL GOVERNMENT

Ms. Carole-Marie Allard (Laval East, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last November 27, Canadians did the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Liberal team the honour of giving them a third consecutive mandate. Credit for this stellar achievement goes to our Prime Minister.

The new Liberal government is going to continue its efforts to help Canadians. With our track record, all signs point towards an even better future for all.

 

. 1115 + -

For instance, we have reached agreement with the provinces on the implementation of a comprehensive health action plan. We have also signed an agreement with them on early childhood development to increase assistance to families with children throughout Canada.

These are some of the ways in which we are responding to the appeal so often launched by the Prime Minister to continue our efforts to make Canada an even better place in which to live.

*  *  *

[English]

MEMBER FOR ELK ISLAND

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the week leading up to the opening of parliament was a very emotional one for me.

First, the supreme court ruled to protect our children and grandchildren from pornographers. We hope now that the government will close the remaining loopholes.

Second, the court ruled that Robert Latimer's sentence for taking the life of his daughter be upheld.

It is now almost a year since my handicapped sister passed away. I restate again my profound and deep thanks to my parents for caring for her and protecting her for 55 years. What they did was immensely courageous and heroic. I thank my dear mom and dad.

I would also like to add my deepest thanks and express my appreciation for the staff at the many care centres across the country, including Maureen and her staff at my sister's care place in Saskatchewan. These people also are true heroes, working lovingly and unselfishly in their efforts to reduce and control pain and to provide a caring home life environment for their patients. I thank all of them.



ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[English]

AGRICULTURE

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the opposition has raised concerns about some of the layoffs in the auto industry and the high tech industry because of an economic turndown.

As important as those jobs are, there are tens of thousands of workers across the country who want to go to work this spring and may not be able to do so. Those are the farmers of our nation who have been waiting, some as long as three years, for dollars that are due to them from the crisis fund that is set up for them. They have not received those dollars.

Why does the Prime Minister call this program a success when many farmers are facing disaster?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we recognize the problems of many farmers across the country. The Prime Minister referred to the need for further action in his speech in the House the other day. There was also a signal in the throne speech. We are very conscious of our responsibilities and we will carry them out.

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has shown that he does not hesitate to pick up the phone to call a banker to say somebody needs some money. Will he indicate today that he will pick up the phone, call whoever administers that fund and tell them to get the dollars out to the farmers who are waiting for them today?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has done more than that. He stood in his place in the House of Commons and talked about our desire to do the right thing for Canadian farmers.

Mr. Stockwell Day (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, desire is a wonderful thing but action is what is required here.

Is the Prime Minister aware that farm incomes on average over the last five years have decreased up to 65% for grain farmers and the money sits on the cabinet table when it should be on the kitchen tables of the farmers?

The Prime Minister said he would do something. Will he pick up the phone, talk to the administrator of the program and tell him to get the dollars out, yes or no? Will he also release his negotiators in the area of pulling down subsidies, which are far too high, and the user fees that the government continues to charge on the backs of farmers already faced with low prices? Will the Prime Minister do these things? Will he pick up the phone and get things moving?

Mr. Larry McCormick (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the concerns of the farm commodity groups. We realize that they are hurting because of the low commodity prices and because of subsidies around the world. Our minister met with farmers from at least six provinces yesterday. I know I did myself.

We have and we will recommend that we add additional funding for our farmers. We put a program in place that will provide $5 billion over the next three years. Yes, more is needed. However, we do believe in our family farms and we will be there for them in the future.

*  *  *

 

. 1120 + -

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is pretty clear that if the Department of Foreign Affairs had not intervened to stop the police from pressing charges against Mr. Knyazev for drunk driving, justice would have been done and Mr. Knyazev either would have been convicted or thrown out of the country long ago. Instead, his drunk driving charge was ignored the first time, covered up the second time, and it was not until the third incident, after he had killed a Canadian citizen, that action was taken.

Why did the minister allow diplomatic niceties to take precedence over the safety of Canadian citizens?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we have said over the last couple of days in the House, we are very concerned about the situation that developed last Saturday and the terrible tragedy that occurred.

At this point I do not think I have any information to indicate, as the member has suggested, that the Department of Foreign Affairs intervened to prevent charges being laid. That is not a practice that we condone or expect. Those decisions are taken by the police and the crown attorney. They chose not to press charges in that case.

However, I want to assure the member that we are investigating the situation and that we will do a thorough investigation to ensure this does not happen again.

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we have a copy of the letter that was sent from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Russian embassy which was written after the arrest by the police and suspension of this person's driver's licence for 90 days. The letter reads:

    The Department finds the actions of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police unacceptable and wishes to apologize for this incident. The issue has been raised with the police in a full and frank manner.

    The Department wishes to inform the Embassy that Mr. Knyazev's driver's licence is attached and that all the charges have been withdrawn. The Embassy will be reimbursed for the incurred expense for the towing of the vehicle.

How can we possibly say that the Department of Foreign Affairs did not intervene when it sent a letter like that apologizing for—

The Speaker: The hon. the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the letter was sent in response to a diplomatic note from the Russians. We have taken the unusual step of making this exchange of notes available to the opposition and to the media so that they know what happened.

In fact the apology did reflect the fact that a diplomat was treated not in accordance with the Vienna Convention, but at the moment that is of less significance to me than the fact that we need to see justice done in the case that arose subsequently.

*  *  *

[Translation]

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government House leader said he wanted to modernize parliamentary procedures and, in the same breath, “avoid having the opposition parties table hundreds, indeed thousands, of amendments to bills at report stage”.

Is the government House leader telling us that his reform consists in gagging the opposition once and for all so that it cannot properly do its work, which the public expects of it?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. What I find surprising is that the member is claiming that amendments to change commas to colons constitute a change or an improvement to anything.

She must certainly know—and I suggest she give it some thought—that the amendments she wants to propose, which would no doubt be much better than the amendments of those who used similar tactics in the past, warrant hearing by this parliament.

Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): Mr. Speaker, who is the government leader to judge our amendments to bills?

He must understand and agree that the thrust of his reform, given all the scandals and criminal investigations involving the government, has to be to make the system more transparent and more democratic, as we, the auditor general, the privacy commissioner, the information commissioner and all the opposition parties in the House have asked?

Are transparency and integrity not what the people want?

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, although I do not agree with all the member's gratuitous accusations, I do agree entirely that we must further improve the operations of the Parliament of Canada. We did so yesterday when we changed a standing order. We do it all the time among parliamentary leaders.

I think we are doing a good job, if I can put it that way, in improving things for all parliamentarians. We intend to continue to do so at all levels in the coming months.

The Prime Minister has said I would be approaching the other leaders with definite proposals on various issues, and I will.

 

. 1125 + -

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the low participation rate in the last federal election clearly shows the public's lack of interest in the political process.

Will the government's determination to further gag the opposition not have the effect of increasing this loss of interest, since gagging the opposition is tantamount to gagging the public?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have absolutely no desire to gag the opposition.

It is obvious that the public had no intention of supporting the Bloc Quebecois and its loony ideas.

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Mr. Speaker, perhaps we should look at the participation rate across Canada.

With its reform, is the government not setting the stage for imposing, without any debate, those intrusions into Quebec's jurisdictions that are contained in the throne speech? The government should have the courage to admit that this is the main reason for being in such a hurry.

Hon. Don Boudria (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is prone to exaggeration. To claim that reforming procedure to improve the operation of parliament is tantamount to amending the constitution to change areas of jurisdiction is quite the exaggeration.

*  *  *

[English]

FUEL PRICES

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Canadians are suffering because of energy cost hikes. In Winnipeg, for example, people are paying 30% more this year for home heating.

The one time fuel rebate is not sufficient. Some who do not need it receive it. Some who desperately need it do not get it. It is true that the government had to act fast. Now it is time to act wisely.

Will the government finally establish an energy price review commission to protect Canadian consumers from wild price fluctuations and excessive price hikes?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the leader of the New Democratic Party has recognized the assistance that was announced in the economic statement last October. Those cheques will be processed by the Government of Canada and should be in the mail to Canadians during the month of February. Eleven million Canadians will benefit. The total benefit amounts to about $1.3 billion.

With respect to the matter of price regulation, as the hon. leader will know, that is entirely within the jurisdiction of the provinces.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Mr. Speaker, is not the real reason for the government's resistance to an energy price review commission the flawed trade agreements? It appears Canada is hell bent to embrace American demands for a general agreement on trade and services with even more restrictions and penalties for Canadians.

Next week the Prime Minister goes to Washington. Will he tell President Bush that Canada does not intend to be the refrigerator of the Americas or the solution for its unlimited energy appetite? Will he tell President Bush not to count on us to support his GATS energy position?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will defend and support the well-being and the best interests of Canada, both at home and outside of Canada. I wonder what my hon. friend has in mind. Is she attacking the province of Alberta for what it is doing in terms of its own energy production? It is implicit in her question.

*  *  *

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT BANK OF CANADA

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Prime Minister, who spoke so knowledgeably yesterday of Mr. Jean Carle, can the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House if Mr. Jean Carle was involved in any way, in any aspect, of the Auberge Grand-Mère file either during Mr. Carle's tenure in the office of the Prime Minister of Canada or at the Business Development Bank?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to take that question as notice.

Right Hon. Joe Clark (Calgary Centre, PC): Mr. Speaker, in the absence of the Prime Minister, can the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House whether Mr. Cedric Ritchie, the new chairman of the board of the Business Development Bank, was briefed on every detail of the Auberge Grand-Mère file before he assumed his position?

 

. 1130 + -

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will take the question as notice, but I do think we should say something about the fact that a Canadian as distinguished as Cedric Ritchie has been willing to assume the responsibilities he has. That is a mark of confidence in the work of the bank and in the government.

*  *  *

LUMBER INDUSTRY

Mr. Gary Lunn (Saanich—Gulf Islands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. expires next month. The issue has come before the U.S. senate at the confirmation hearings of trade representative Robert Zoellick as the most important trade issue between our two countries.

The new industry minister has bumbled into this issue, making comments completely contrary to Canada's interests, forcing the international trade minister to burn up the phone lines and fix the problem.

I would like to ask the government: Who is in charge of this file, the Minister for International Trade or Captain Canada?

Mr. Pat O'Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, it is quite clear who is in charge of international trade for the government. It is the Minister for International Trade.

The goal of Canada is quite clear as it relates to softwood lumber. It is to achieve free trade in lumber with the United States. That is the surest way to establish fairness for all provinces.

As soon as the trade representative is confirmed in the United States, the minister will be seeking a very early meeting with him to pursue this file and many others.

Mr. Gary Lunn (Saanich—Gulf Islands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that it is in fact the Minister for International Trade.

It is imperative that Canada speak with a united voice on this issue. Yet we have two ministers of the crown who cannot get their act together. I must admit Captain Canada does appear to have an insatiable appetite for the camera.

Given the recent power struggle between these two ministers, what is the position of the government? Will the Minister of Industry have any influence over this matter, or has he been silenced?

Mr. Pat O'Brien (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that various ministers comment on files from time to time, but the goal of Canada is very clear. It is free trade in lumber with the United States.

The hon. member might be aware that there will be a meeting on Monday in Ottawa of federal-provincial trade ministers. There will be an opportunity to pursue the various concerns that he has raised today.

*  *  *

[Translation]

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs informed us that an investigation had been carried out within his department on the allegations of negligence leading to the tragic death of Ms. MacLean. He also assured us that the diplomats arrested for impaired driving offences would not drive again in Canada. At least that is what I read in the blues.

There is one thing of which he did not give us assurance, however: that justice will be done.

What guarantee has the minister received from the Russian government that justice would indeed be carried out?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it has been my priority right from the start, on behalf of Ms. MacLean and her family, to ensure that justice is done—she herself was a lawyer. That is perhaps the most important aspect of the whole matter. We also want to ensure, if possible, that such a thing never happens again in Canada.

I have spoken with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs and he has assured me that, after investigation, the legal procedure will be followed. Representations have already been made as well by the Russian embassy to obtain from the Canadian police the information required to continue the investigation in Russia.

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Yet, Mr. Speaker, one cannot help but be concerned by all the reports by Russian commentators and by what we hear of public opinion in that country.

Could the minister tell us whether the government is prepared to meet the necessary costs to ensure that all of the evidence can be submitted at the trial of Mr. Knyazev, and that all witnesses will be able to testify without having to incur personal costs?

 

. 1135 + -

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are two things I want to point out.

Our request that diplomatic immunity be waived has not been withdrawn, and that is my preference. Should it be necessary, and should additional costs be incurred, we are ready and willing to pay them, because justice must be done.

*  *  *

[English]

LUMBER INDUSTRY

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Alliance position on softwood lumber has been well known for eight months and reflects the current industry position. The recently formed Canadian Lumber Trade Alliance with co-chairs from Quebec and British Columbia is speaking with one voice.

Yesterday we heard ill-informed and unfortunate comments by the Bloc Quebecois and by the Minister of Industry. Will the Prime Minister assure Canadians that there will be one voice speaking for Canada on this issue?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government will speak in one voice and will work in the best interest of softwood lumber producers all across Canada.

Mr. John Duncan (Vancouver Island North, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the softwood lumber agreement is about to expire eight weeks from now. Until recently the position of the federal Liberals was unclear.

We wanted the assurance, and I think we have now it, that we will have one voice coming from cabinet on the issue. May we also receive assurance that the federal government will not be pitting one province against another in this discussion?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, our objective as always is to work with all parts of the country to see that all parts of the country are dealt with fairly. We intend to vigorously pursue Canada's interests once the U.S. trade representative is confirmed.

We know that three investigations in the United States have found that there are no improper subsidies of Canadian softwood lumber. We will pursue our objective for free trade in softwood lumber with the United States. In so doing we will work to ensure fair treatment of producers in all parts of our great country.

*  *  *

[Translation]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the government House leader said, and I quote “If there are amendments, they will be minor. In principle, it is the same bill”.

The government House leader thus contradicted the minister responsible for Quebec and the minister responsible for amateur sport, who said they were open to significant changes to the act.

Could the Minister of Human Resources Development tell us the real position of the government?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the hon. member continues his interest in employment insurance. I am glad to convey to the House that today the government will be making good its commitment to the Canadian public made during the last election.

We will be reintroducing the amendments to the Employment Insurance Act. As usual the bill will follow the normal process through the House, including committee stage where witnesses are heard. I am sure the hon. member will engage fully in that process.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, is the minister saying that her bill will simply give back 5% of the annual surplus of $6 billion to the unemployed, while making it legal to misappropriate the fund surplus?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the hon. member wait to see the bill once it is tabled.

*  *  *

INTERNATIONAL AID

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canada has two highly trained emergency units specialized in saving lives and offering relief assistance. It is our responsibility to offer the services of these teams when countries are hit with natural disasters.

My question is for the Minister for International Development. The minister failed to offer the services of our disaster assistance teams to either El Salvador or India. Why?

Hon. Maria Minna (Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that is not so. The hon. member is certainly wrong. We do not have two search and rescue teams in Canada, to start with.

We have responded immediately to both. I was on the ground with the El Salvadoran team and I surveyed the damage myself personally with the president of El Salvador. I can tell the hon. member that we responded appropriately and immediately.

 

. 1140 + -

With respect to India it was the same situation. I was on the phone immediately with the high commissioner of India on the day that it happened. I was on the phone with the high commissioner of Canada. He faxed me at my home over the weekend so that I could talk to him on an ongoing basis.

I have staff on the ground from CIDA and we are responding appropriately. At the moment we have close to—

The Speaker: The hon. member for Calgary East.

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Canada's search and rescue disaster assistance team stayed home. Other countries sent their rescue teams immediately and other countries continue to do so now.

Canadians feel that the government failed to respond fully to these two unfortunate disasters. Will the minister tell the House if her government has a comprehensive plan to deploy our teams to respond to disasters anywhere in the world?

Hon. Maria Minna (Minister for International Cooperation, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member is getting things confused. We have one disaster response team, DART, which is not a search and rescue team. It deals with the second phase of a situation.

With the information we have from the ground from our own officials and officials from India, we are responding accordingly. The Red Cross is providing through our funding a 350 bed hospital, which is providing shelter, clean water and sanitation to 300,000 victims in the earthquake area.

We are providing for 400 communities through CARE Canada. Some 20,000 people are being assisted, again with shelter, water and sanitation.

*  *  *

TRADE

Ms. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, some have questioned the effectiveness of the team Canada trade missions. Given this, could the minister tell me why the government is now leading another trade mission to China?

Hon. Rey Pagtakhan (Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her interest in team Canada and its partners in Asia-Pacific.

The team Canada formula works. Since the first team Canada trip to China in 1994, Canada's commercial presence in China and Hong Kong has more than doubled. Moreover, the high level exchanges that team Canada offers also allow our two countries to work together to advance human values.

I am pleased to be joining this team Canada trip to China and Hong Kong from February 9 to February 18.

*  *  *

[Translation]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Tuesday's throne speech talked of ensuring that all children are protected from the torments of poverty.

My question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. Since the reform of employment insurance is in part the cause of this great poverty, will the changes to the employment insurance program to be announced by the Liberal government finally eliminate this scourge and give families and children especially some relief?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to see in the Speech from the Throne the commitment from the government to redouble our efforts to ensure that no Canadian child suffers the debilitating impact of poverty.

We have a number of strategies in place to work co-operatively with the provinces and territories to eradicate poverty in Canada. They include the national child benefit, the recent agreement on early childhood development, changes to the Employment Insurance Act, and other measures. I am glad to see the hon. member is interested and will work with us on this very important national undertaking.

[Translation]

Mr. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP): Mr. Speaker, over 800,000 people do not qualify for employment insurance. The 1996 cuts to employment insurance left many families down because of the gap. They are without income of any sort for 4 to 8 weeks.

Could the Liberal government guarantee that the changes to the employment insurance program will finally eliminate the problem of the gap and make the program more humane, once and for all, for the children of Canada?

[English]

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, employment insurance is there and provides a very important support for Canadians who through no fault of their own find themselves between jobs.

For us the most important social program is a job. That is why we are so glad to see levels of unemployment at record lows. Canadians are employed in numbers that we have not seen in decades. There are other strategies that we engage along with employment insurance to help Canadian families so that they can contribute to the success and benefit from the prosperity of the country.

*  *  *

 

. 1145 + -

NATURAL RESOURCES

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

In March 1998 during the photo op used by the then premier of Newfoundland and the then premier of Quebec in relation to the development of the lower Churchill, a commitment was made by the Prime Minister and the premier of Newfoundland to undertake a feasibility study on the construction of a transmission line from the lower Churchill to the province of Newfoundland.

The results of that study were supposed to be known within a year, and I understand the minister's department was responsible. Could the minister tell us the status of that feasibility study?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister and the premier of the day undertook to examine a number of issues. There were no commitments made at that time with respect to particular outcomes or resolutions of those issues, but a good deal of study and investigation was required. That work has been ongoing.

In terms of bringing the House completely up to date, and in particular the hon. member, I will inquire as to the exact status of the report material and provide him with a response as soon as I have that information.

Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's West, PC): Mr. Speaker, it is amazing that after three years we have not heard anything of the feasibility study that was supposed to have been completed within a year. I know there was a study done and it should be tabled.

I ask the minister, or perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister, in light of the power shortages in the United States and in light of the need for stable power, if they will now commit to fund or share in the cost of a transmission line from the lower Churchill to the province of Newfoundland?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the studies that have been undertaken has been to illuminate this entire issue, both in terms of the pros and cons of the particular approach referred to by the hon. gentleman and many other approaches. When the information is fully available, sound decisions will be possible to make.

One of the great virtues of the country is that we do have an abundance of energy resources of all kinds, both renewable and non-renewable, and that is a great Canadian strength.

*  *  *

TAXATION

Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign the Liberal government made one meagre small promise to my province of British Columbia: mild assistance for home heating fuel costs. We are only a couple of days into this parliament and already the Liberal government is backpedalling from that promise.

With Christmas bills rolling in and temperatures dropping, why has the government not moved to fulfil its campaign province to British Columbians who are facing soaring fuel costs?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at the end of December the Minister of Finance confirmed the details of the home heating fuel program and indicated that the cheques would be processed in February.

I would point out that it is February 2. Those cheques will be forthcoming very shortly, as promised.

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I think British Columbians and all Canadians who are waiting for this home heating assistance will take cold comfort in that sub-zero response.

Yesterday, when asked about this failed campaign promise, the finance minister admitted “there are obviously defects”. Now that the Liberals have admitted that their home heating assistance program is not working, just how long will the Prime Minister leave British Columbians and all Canadians waiting out in the cold for this assistance?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Natural Resources has said, we are carrying out our commitment. The cheques should be mailed to British Columbians and all Canadians in February.

Perhaps, if the Alliance Party had not voted against our ways and means motion to bring into effect the budget update, things might have happened sooner. They voted against it. They voted against the interests of British Columbians and all other Canadians.

We are not only moving on our fuel tax rebate, we are bringing into effect $100 billion in tax cuts which will help British Columbians and all other Canadians.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CINAR

Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, this morning, we learned that the RCMP is recommending to the deputy attorney general of Quebec that charges be laid against the former directors of CINAR.

According to many witnesses, it is common practice in the industry to submit inflated invoices.

 

. 1150 + -

When is the government going to ensure that taxpayers' money is legitimately spent and ask the auditor general to look into the subsidies and tax credits enjoyed by producers?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the deputy attorney general of Quebec has his responsibilities as a member of Quebec's public service. This is not up to the Government of Canada. Nor is it for us to comment on a specific file under the jurisdiction of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. I am certain that the agency will assume its responsibilities fully.

Ms. Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral (Laval Centre, BQ): Mr. Speaker, last year, when the RCMP released certain disturbing facts in connection with CINAR, the government began, as usual, by trying to play down the affair.

How can the government justify waiting for other scandals to surface before investigating?

Hon. Herb Gray (Deputy Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I categorically reject the ridiculous premises of the hon. member. The government is assuming its responsibilities in this situation, but the rules of parliament prevent us from commenting on an individual tax file.

*  *  *

[English]

HEALTH

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, MRIs are an essential medical tool used by physicians to treat their patients. We now know that the waiting list in Ontario is increasing by 12,000 people per year. In an Ottawa hospital the waiting list is 7,000 people, with a waiting list of seven months to get that MRI.

Why has the health minister allowed this situation to become so deplorable? It deprives Ontarians and Canadians access to lifesaving MRI scanners.

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member has it all wrong. As a result of the health accord last September, we will be transferring to Ontario in the course of the next five years over $42 billion that can be used for health. Apart from that, we set aside $1 billion just for the purchase of new medical equipment. Ontario's share is almost $400 million.

We call upon the government of Ontario to make the right and wise decision with respect to that money, and to put the equipment where it is needed by Canadians so that there are not undue waits for MRI scans when they are medically necessary. Now that we have furnished the tools, we expect the government of Ontario to do the job.

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this is a symptom of a larger problem of the government falling asleep at the watch. The government has allowed Canada and Canadians to fall into the lowest third of all developed nations in their access to top of the line essential health care services.

My question is very simple. Why has the minister allowed sick Canadians to fall to the bottom of the heap among the developed nations in their access to new lifesaving technologies?

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member would do well to look at just where the responsibility lies. The Government of Canada furnishes the funds to the provinces to provide for the health care system. The provinces then deliver the services and the required equipment.

Many provinces have already reported publicly how they are using their per capita allotment of the medical equipment fund to purchase things like MRIs. We have not yet heard from Ontario. I, too, have read the troubling reports of the waiting lists in Ontario. It was raised yesterday by one of our colleagues from Nepean—Carleton.

I call upon the government of Ontario to do the right thing with the additional money and buy and put the MRIs where they are needed.

Mr. Ivan Grose (Oshawa, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what measures is Canada taking to ensure that beef imported to our country does not pose any health risks for Canadians. In other words, is my Big Mac safe to eat?

 

. 1155 + -

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada is recognized as BSE free. We are determined that will remain so. As a result, acting on information received and on the advice of scientists, today the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will announce the suspension of beef imports from Brazil.

For its part, and consistent with that suspension, Health Canada will recall from the Canadian market any products containing beef.

*  *  *

THE ENVIRONMENT

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The Sumas 2 gas fired electric plant has British Columbians really upset. The Americans get the electricity and Canadians get the pollution. The hapless provincial NDP government missed its opportunity to defend the province.

Will the minister wait for more deliberations, or will he use his powers now to defend British Columbia and stop Sumas 2?

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know this will come as a surprise to the hon. member but the powers of the federal Canadian Minister of the Environment do not extend to the continental United States.

We have made representations to the energy facilities site evaluation council of Washington state. That was done on May 2. We pointed out there was insufficient information on air quality impacts. There was a problem with respect to alternative fuel, in particular oil firing, and I could go on. When they came back with their revised proposal, we once more put our objections forward.

The system is now awaiting the energy facilities site evaluation council to report to Governor Locke.

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister's weakness shows. He is hiding behind the bureaucrats, and that is not good enough. The science is clear, yet the minister is hedging. In fact he is implying that approval of Sumas 2 is possible.

If ever there were a test for the government to resolve to defend all of Canada, this is it. Will the minister use his rightful powers and stop Sumas 2? Yes or no.

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I pointed out that the environment and scientific information to which the member refers came from my department.

I do not understand why the opposition talked earlier about the softwood lumber agreement and the need to have one Canadian voice. It has played fast and loose with the interests of the people of the Fraser Valley and the interests of Canada on the issue of Sumas 2. It is outrageous that we have had this behaviour.

We will continue to play the cards as best we can, in the right form and in the right order. We will not simply go out there, as he and his fellow members of the Canadian Alliance Party have done, and say that it is in our backyard, of course it is unacceptable.

*  *  *

[Translation]

CONTAMINATED WATER

Mr. Jean-Yves Roy (Matapédia-Matane, BQ): Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Manicouagan questioned the Minister of Transport yesterday about his plans for dealing with the contamination of the water table in the beaches area of Sept-Îles. He got no answer.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. Since the minister acknowledged his responsibility three years ago, why can we not know what he plans to do now?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, we have a very good plan.

I am told there are four options. An ion exchange treatment device, a reverse osmosis treatment device, bottled water delivery and the payment of a sum for the purchase of bottled water.

That means we have four options for the residents of Sept-Îles. I am told the resident have chosen options. I think the matter will be resolved.

*  *  *

[English]

NATURAL RESOURCES

Mr. Stephen Owen (Vancouver Quadra, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the forest products industry is of immense importance to the economy of British Columbia and the people of my riding. An important part of that industry, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, is having its annual meeting in Montreal this week.

My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. What action is the Canadian government taking to ensure the sustainability of this immensely important part of the forest industry?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is correct with respect to the importance of the Canadian forestry sector, including pulp and paper. It is important for investment, employment, exports, environmental stewardship, and for new science and technology.

Two areas are of particular importance to the Government of Canada: our support for research, such as our financing for PAPRICAN in relation to pulp and paper, and trade and market access where we assist in developing and opening markets around the world and in defending our Canadian reputation in markets around the world, as I did very recently on a European mission.

*  *  *

 

. 1200 + -

[Translation]

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, recently the government tabled its bill to reform financial institutions.

Could the government assure us that this bill is going to include amendments that will protect the medium sized banks such as the National Bank in Quebec?

Just before the election was called, the Secretary of State for Financial Institutions had committed to amending the bill with the conditions set out in a letter from Bernard Landry, Quebec's minister of finance and deputy premier, specifically in order to protect the specific nature of Quebec as far as its financial institutions are concerned, the National Bank in particular, in the event of a control bid by a single individual, which would be contrary to the interests of Quebec.

Hon. Jim Peterson (Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased with the question by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

I must inform him that we made no promise of a specific time but that the minister did indeed respond to the letter setting out Mr. Landry's concerns. I am sure something will be done.

*  *  *

[English]

PRESENCE IN GALLERY

The Speaker: I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Steve Ashton, Minister of Transportation and Government Services of the province of Manitoba, and the Honourable Jack Anawak, Minister of Community Government and Transportation of Nunavut.

Some hon. members: Hear, hear.



ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[English]

EMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT

 

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-2, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations.

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

*  *  *

ELDORADO NUCLEAR LIMITED REORGANIZATION AND DIVESTITURE ACT

 

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act.

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

*  *  *

CANADA FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TECHNOLOGY ACT

 

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology.

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

*  *  *

 

. 1205 + -

[Translation]

SPECIES AT RISK ACT

 

Hon. David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Lib.) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-5, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada.

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

*  *  *

[English]

BANKRUPTCY AND INSOLVENCY ACT

 

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-203, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (unpaid wages to rank first in priority in distribution).

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present this bill today. The purpose of the bill is that in the event of a bankruptcy the interests of the employees will be put before the interests of any other creditors. In other words, if there are unpaid wages or severance pay owing, the company will have to deal with those debts first before the debts to the banks or other creditors.

We believe it is overdue. It stems from the drastic situation of Giant Mine in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

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

*  *  *

LABOUR MARKET TRAINING ACT

 

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-204, an act to provide for the establishment of national standards for labour market training, apprenticeship and certification.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this is another bill that I feel very strongly about. It would put the onus on the government to set national standards for apprenticeship, curriculum and training.

In the interests of the mobility of working people going from province to province, the certification of a journeyman carpenter would be the same in B.C., Manitoba or Newfoundland. There is a great demand for this in industry. I think it is in the interests of industry that we adopt this bill, and I am very proud to present it.

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

Hon. David Collenette: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. First, I congratulate you on assuming the position of Deputy Speaker.

I would ask for unanimous consent of the House to revert to Senate public bills as I have to leave to catch a flight. I apologize to my hon. colleague over there. It will take a few seconds and he will then be able to introduce the remainder of his bills.

The Deputy Speaker: Does the minister have unanimous consent to proceed to the first reading of Senate public bills?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

An hon. member: No.

*  *  *

 

. 1210 + -

CANADA WATER EXPORT PROHIBITION ACT

 

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-205, an act to prohibit the export of water by interbasin transfers.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present this bill which would try to act in the interest of all Canadians in the matter of the interbasin transfer of water and the inherent dangers of that.

The Minister of Industry recently said that water would be the oil of the coming decades. There is great interest in other countries getting access to Canadian freshwater resources. We believe that we have to act now to outlaw and ban the interbasin transfer and the bulk sale of water.

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

*  *  *

WHISTLE BLOWERS PROTECTION ACT

 

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-206, an act respecting the protection of whistle blowers and to amend the Auditor General Act, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Staff Relations Act.

He said: Mr. Speaker, this bill regarding whistle blowers looks at the public service and public sector. Many employees in the public sector would come forward with perhaps cost saving measures, or even evidence or allegations of wrongdoing, if they knew they would not have to fear being disciplined for being that honest.

We believe that as an employer, the Government of Canada should encourage its employees to come forward if they know of some wrongdoing or misuse of funds. The whistle blowers bill would give them a licence to do so without fear of losing their jobs.

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

*  *  *

ENERGY PRICE COMMISSION ACT

 

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-207, an act to establish the energy price commission.

He said: Mr. Speaker, Canadians are shocked and horrified at the spiralling and out of control energy costs, especially for their home heating fuel.

This bill seeks to encourage government to create an energy price commission which would regulate the cost of home heating fuel so that we would not have the terrible shock of seemingly arbitrary increases in prices.

Canadians feel they are being gouged, cheated and ripped off. They are looking to the federal government for some direction to add some semblance of order to energy pricing. This regulatory body would serve that purpose.

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

*  *  *

[Translation]

CRIMINAL CODE

 

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-208, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences).

She said: Mr. Speaker, as you know, following the tabling by the previous member for Jonquière of a petition signed by more than 100,000 persons, I committed to introduce a bill regarding this matter.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the criminal code to modify offences for sexual interference with a person under the age of fourteen years and for invitations to sexual touching involving such a person, to change the punishment for offences committed by persons in a position of authority and for sexual assault, and to require persons convicted of any of these offences to undergo treatment.

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

*  *  *

INCOME TAX ACT

 

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-209, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (public transportation costs).

She said: Mr. Speaker, with the strong support of a number of groups that have indicated great enthusiasm for such a bill, among them the Canadian Urban Transit Association and the Société de transport de l'Outaouais, I introduce this bill to amend the Income Tax Act in connection with public transportation costs.

The bill amends the Income Tax Act to allow an individual to deduct certain public transportation costs from the amount of tax payable.

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

*  *  *

 

. 1215 + -

[English]

MARINE LIABILITY ACT

 

Hon. Allan Rock (for the Minister of Transport) moved that Bill S-2, an act respecting marine liability and to validate certain bylaws and regulations, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

*  *  *

QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER

Mr. Joe Jordan (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?

Some hon. members: Agreed.


GOVERNMENT ORDERS

[Translation]

SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY

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

Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is always hard to break off, especially when the subject is the Speech from the Throne, and to resume cruising speed in a very emotional speech.

For our viewers, I mention that I started by pointing out that the throne speech was offensive, because in it the federal government set itself up as the main government, if not the important government, the only government of a state that is becoming increasingly unitary.

It is also offensive because this speech sets out an idyllic vision of Canada and of the role of the government, which wants to promote health, reduce the student dropout rate, make Canada, which is currently in fifth place, one of the world leaders in research and development and a leader in environmental matters, whereas the facts are quite different.

In terms of health care, education, research and the environment, cuts and a lack of policy have led in many cases to a dramatic situation.

I must target my remarks, since I will be short of time. I want to point out that, with respect to poverty, the fight against student dropout, the fact that children need families and that early childhood will be one of the important issues of this government, what we have learned in the past 30 years, what we now know and what we rediscovered during the Canada wide tour by the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, is that social policy must be integrated if it is to be effective and achieve its objectives. They must not go all over the place.

What we are seeing is Canada wanting to intervene in a sense, while—and I will speak of Quebec with pride—the government of Quebec has for years had a family policy which is becoming increasingly integrated and may be effective, but for which Quebec is lamentably short of money because of the cuts made everywhere due to the federal government's refusal to negotiate parental leave.

 

. 1220 + -

If the government is really serious about its goals, it will have to change the way it deals with Quebec in terms of these plans. It is all very well to state in the throne speech what one's intentions are, even though they seem to be going all over the place; in fact, for policies to be effective—money being scarce—they must be complementary.

When it comes to child poverty, one must look at the parents' income as well as social housing policies. One must also make sure there are enough teachers in the classroom, and that services are provided after school to help children with their homework. The very minimum of course is to have a decent income. Quebec has shown leadership. It has done more than pay lip service to child policy. Resources have to be set aside.

I find this throne speech very disheartening because we can only expect further battles about being able to use, in the most efficient manner, our own tax money, which unfortunately has to go through Ottawa before it can come back to us, not only covered with little red flags, but also with strings attached, which may be go entirely against our own goals and wishes, and in the end be counterproductive.

It is not surprising that so many Quebecers are in favour of sovereignty and want to run their own affairs. We are going to keep working toward that end.

Mr. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member. She mentioned that, in the throne speech, the government is moving towards a unitary state. I find it hard to believe that she would even suggest such a thing.

Does the hon. member not recognize that the government system in Canada is one of the most decentralized systems in the world? Can she not compare our system to that of other countries?

Ms. Francine Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, I said “in an increasingly unitary direction.” I would remind the House that in 1867 John A. Macdonald wanted a unitary state, but George Étienne Cartier as well as the New Brunswick representatives were against the idea.

However, what we point out is that, not counting the Constitution—because the Constitution gives some powers to the provinces—what is starting to truly hinder Canada is the central government's unrestricted spending power. The Meech Lake agreement would have solved this problem, albeit in a somewhat modest and timid way however for now there is no limit to the spending power of the federal government nor to its power to levy all the taxes it wants, regardless of need.

That gives the federal government a disproportionate edge, because it can interfere at anytime and anywhere, and impose conditions for every $10,000 it hands out to any group, just because it is the one with the money.

That being said, what was supposed to be a confederation at the very start and turned into a federation has now increasingly becoming a unitary state, with some decentralization or concentration in regions that have nothing to do but cash cheques.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have two short questions for my colleague from Mercier who has been very much involved in social issues, both in the labour movement, in the past, and as a member of parliament.

 

. 1225 + -

Could she remind the House why it is important that Quebec should have an integrated plan of parental leave, and why the Chrétien government should accede to Quebec's demands in terms of numbers and eligibility?

The Deputy Speaker: I know this is a new parliament, but we should never forget that hon. members should be referred to, not by name, but by their title or the name of their department.

Mr. Réal Ménard: Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I did refer inadvertently to the Prime Minister by name.

That was my first question. My second question to the hon. member for Mercier is this: would she remind us why the national vision the Bloc Quebecois is pursuing is most relevant, and why it will be important in the coming years?

Ms. Francine Lalonde: Mr. Speaker, these are two short questions requiring two long answers, but I will try to get to the basic points.

In the first case, Quebec—more than other provinces, if they want it—needs, not a favour from the federal government but payment of the portion of employment insurance to which it is entitled for parental leave so that it could, not only as is now provided by the legislation, grant leave with 55% of earnings to women who are eligible for employment insurance, but to all those who need it and are self-employed workers or other workers. This would ensure that they get a decent income because, even with the extension, few women will be able to take advantage of parental leave because their earnings are inadequate. What we are talking about here is eligibility and income.

Why does Quebec need it more than any other province? Because in Quebec there is a serious demographic problem because of a drop in the birth rate. Consequently, it is essential that the Canadian people and the Quebec nation be able to grant decent parental leave.

[English]

Mr. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Mount Royal.

After an absence of three and a half years, it is a great honour and a privilege to return to the House today and to convey on their behalf the concerns of the constituents of Halifax West.

I wish to talk about some of those concerns today, but first let me tell hon. members about my constituency of Halifax West. It is comprised of the western portion of the Halifax regional municipality. It is a riding of great diversity, from the suburbs to the seaside, from places like Clayton Park, Spryfield and Bedford to Peggy's Cove, Hubbards and Seabright, a beautiful area along the sea.

This is the fastest growing area in Atlantic Canada and it is of great concern to people in my riding that there is not the infrastructure needed to support that growth throughout Halifax West. As a result, we have congested roadways, aging and overcrowded schools and a need for new and more schools, and a shortage of recreational facilities.

Throughout Halifax West, there are hard-working people. The unemployment rate in the metropolitan Halifax area is something around 6%, lower than the national average. We have a strong and in fact a booming economy. There are many young families, who are concerned about education, health care, recreation and taxes. There are students coping with rising tuition and trying to handle debt loads. There are empty nesters who are struggling to save for their retirement. There are retirees on fixed incomes.

Over the past few months, particularly during the federal election campaign, I have talked to thousands of people. I have knocked on their doors and visited them in meetings around the riding. I have heard their concerns, their priorities and their frustrations. They are very pleased to see the progress that has been made over the past seven years on issues like the debt, the deficit and taxes. However, they certainly still face problems and they still have concerns.

For instance, at my office this week I have heard a lot about the high cost of home heating as people try to make ends meet during a difficult winter with high heating costs. I have passed on those concerns to the Minister of Finance and to other members of the government. I have made their concerns very clearly known.

 

. 1230 + -

I mentioned that Halifax West is the fastest growing area in Atlantic Canada. The Halifax metropolitan area is one of great growth.

What are the sources of that growth? The first and most well known source would be the Sable gas program, which has had a huge positive impact on the economy of Nova Scotia in recent years. It is only beginning. We have seen the development of one field near Sable Island. More fields have already been discovered which we will see developed in the near future and will bring tremendous benefits to Nova Scotia.

One of the concerns I heard during the election campaign was about the royalty scheme for the benefits generated by Sable offshore gas and other gas resources off the Nova Scotia coast.

During the eighties the governments of Premier Buchanan in Nova Scotia and Prime Minister Mulroney in Ottawa made a deal on gas royalties whereby the province of Nova Scotia receives 30% of the royalties and the Government of Canada receives 70% of the royalties.

In comparison, western provinces at their inception received huge areas with great natural resources. They have been able to benefit from those resources. I would argue that Nova Scotia ought to have the same kind of benefit from its offshore resources, as should Newfoundland.

I hope the government will examine the situation with regard to the royalty scheme and consider a more equitable scheme for royalties.

The port of Halifax is another source of great growth in the Halifax area. It is the major east coast port for Canada and the only east coast port that is ice free. No ice breaking is required for the port of Halifax. Yet a concern that has been raised in the past is that fees paid by Halifax shippers have subsidized ice breaking in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The port is a key economic engine for the metropolitan Halifax area and for the Atlantic economy. Last year, just in containers alone, 548,404 container units went through Halifax. That is an increase of 18.5% over the previous year. I am not talking about roll on, roll off cargo, bulk or break bulk cargo but about containers. We see tremendous growth in that sector of the port's activities.

The port must remain competitive and it needs the government's attention and involvement. I was pleased that a couple of years ago the Government of Canada committed, as part of the bid that Halifax made, to win the business of Maersk Canada Inc. and to spend $75 million if Halifax were to win the bid to develop a super terminal for post panamax vessels.

The government should maintain its interest in that matter. I hope there will be support for growing the port and building a new terminal when the time comes.

Halifax is also a thriving high tech community with companies like InfoInteractive in the information technology field and MedMira Laboratories in the biotechnology field, both of which have developed in exciting ways with new technologies.

We have seen many companies developing in Halifax. There are now over 200 companies in the high tech sector. Many of them have developed because of developments in research at universities and other institutions of research in the Halifax area. That is why it was so important when last June the Government of Canada announced the Atlantic investment partnership, part of which is the Atlantic investment fund that provides $300 million to increase the research capacity in the region.

Dalhousie University, DalTech, Saint Mary's University and Mount Saint Vincent University will benefit from that kind of research, as is the community as a whole because those companies provide good paying jobs with good benefits. That is so important for families in our region.

Halifax is also the home of a vibrant east coast music scene. It is a great centre for nightlife, music and the arts. There is also a growing film industry. Nova Scotia has been the site of the filming of many feature films in recent years. It has an excellent supply of people who are trained in working on films.

 

. 1235 + -

The navy is another major employer in Halifax. It is the east coast home of Canada's navy and the arrival of the Oberon submarines is very important to Halifax. Residents of the area are appreciative of the government's decision to purchase the Oberon submarines. They are also anxiously awaiting the swift replacements for the Sea King helicopters.

Shipbuilding is another important industry in the area. Like aerospace, shipbuilding faces stiff competition from subsidized yards around the world. Until recently, the Halifax shipyard has been very active, however, lately it has been a little less active because of the competition. Many families, who rely upon the employment generated by that shipyard, are looking to the Government of Canada to come forward with a shipbuilding policy that will be positive for the future of this shipyard, as well as others across the country.

There are also many people who are employed in the health care sector. That was probably the top area of concern that I heard about during the election campaign. People were pleased to learn of the health care accord, with $21 billion being invested into the system and transferred to the provinces over the next five years. They were pleased to see that the government has paid attention to this important concern and are now anxious to have the provincial government manage these dollars.

It is important to note that people want their concerns to be heard by government. I feel it is my responsibility to come here and convey the concerns that I hear.

It is also important to go back to the riding and listen to the people. That is why I have begun a series of meetings called “Let's Talk”, which I had when I was previously a member of parliament. Last week, I started with a meeting in Spryfield in my riding. I hold these meetings because I believe in our democratic process. I believe the public must have a role in policy making. I think it is a challenge that all of us need to face and take on in order to engage our citizens in policy making in a meaningful way. I challenge my fellow colleagues to find new ways to involve those who have been voiceless.

Many of us like to hear ourselves talk but not everyone does. We need to hear from those who do not have that particular inclination.

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax West commented on the issue of offshore gas, the distribution of that gas and the net benefit to his province and to other customers who may avail themselves of that resource.

It raises the whole thorny issue of the production and distribution of energy resources. I am sure Nova Scotia, with its Sable Island offshore resources, is starting to wrestle with the issue of who will be getting the net benefit from energy resources.

The province of Alberta has staked claim on absolute ownership of what is under its soil. Many Canadians actually feel that it is part of our common wealth, that energy resources are not theirs but ours, and that it is part of our birthright as Canadians to have access to it and share in the benefit that it offers Canada in terms of economic development possibilities, namely the revenue and the sales that it generates.

In order to address that, we need some real leadership from the federal government. Would the member agree that the federal government does have a role to play in trying to bring some semblance of order to the production and distribution of energy resources? Would he support the idea of a regulatory body set up by the federal government, an energy price commission, that would be charged with the responsibility of regulating the price, so that Canadians are not as furious about the seemingly arbitrary fluctuations in energy costs, home heating fuels and gasoline? Does he see a role for his Liberal government to intervene now and establish a regulatory body such as an energy price commission?

Mr. Geoff Regan: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member is familiar with the constitution and will be aware that this is an area that is the responsibility of the provinces not the federal government. It would be encroaching on provincial jurisdiction for the Government of Canada to create such a body.

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Halifax West for a very good speech and one which I think all members of the House listened to intently because of the merits that were contained therein.

I want talk a little bit about the government's plans. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, the cabinet and caucus are working toward a very good system of tax cuts that are starting to kick in right now. They will have an impact not only on ordinary Canadians but, in a macro sense, on the entire country.

 

. 1240 + -

I wonder if the hon. member for Halifax West can comment on the precise nature of the impact of those tax cuts. What will it mean for Canadians no matter where they live? What will the impact be on the country as a whole, especially as we move more and more into a globalized economy where the interconnectedness is very much in play? I would like to hear the hon. member's comments because I know he is a seasoned veteran and has great wisdom in this area.

Mr. Geoff Regan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his generous and kind words. The tax reductions committed to by the government will be of great benefit to our country. I heard a great deal about it during the election campaign in my riding of Halifax West. Many people in that area were concerned about the level of taxation and were anxious to see taxes lowered. They are very pleased to see that as of the first of this year tax cuts have already begun. These tax cuts will continue over the next five years and amount to a total of $100 billion. That will be a lot of dollars back in our pockets and it will help the economy.

Many Canadians are concerned right now as they watch the U.S. economy. The government is also concerned about the slowing of that economy and will watch it closely. However, it is important to note that our economy remains very strong and in good shape. The fact that we are having these tax cuts at this particular time will help to strengthen our economy and encourage people to spend, buy products and support the economy.

I think we will probably see interest rates come down some more over the next year. That will also boost the economy. I think we can expect a soft landing. There are many other factors, but I think we are near very good things with more good times ahead.

Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank my family for their engagement in my work, and the electors of Mount Royal for their renewed confidence and trust in me, and both for their espousal and support for the human rights agenda which will be the burden of my remarks today.

In the Speech from the Throne and in yesterday's address by the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister spoke of Canada's deep commitment to democracy and human rights. The Prime Minister mentioned that we have become a model for the world and that international involvement will be a main theme of this parliamentary mandate.

I will share with members a series of principles and policies which may underpin such a commitment.

First, combating hate speech, hate crime and hate movements. We are witnessing today a growing trafficking in hate from central Asia to central Europe and North America, reminding us that we have yet to learn the lessons and are repeating the strategies of 50 and 60 years ago. As the Supreme Court of Canada put it in upholding the constitutionality of anti-hate legislation, “The Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers, it began with words”.

Fifty years later, this teaching of contempt and this demonizing of the other has led us down the road to genocide in the Balkans and Rwanda.

What is so necessary today is a culture of human rights as an antidote to a culture of hate, a culture of respect as an antidote to a culture of contempt, including in particular, respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, respect for the equal dignity of all persons, respect for the right of minorities to protection against group vilifying speech, respect for our international treaty obligations which remove incitement to hatred from the ambit of protected speech, recognition of the substantial harm caused to the targets of hate speech and hate crimes, be they individuals or groups, and respect for the underlying values of a free and democratic society.

Second, the communications revolution, the Internet as a transporter of the best and the worst. Television, radio and now the Internet, all have incredible power to move people to act. As with most technologies, there is power for good and potential for evil.

On the one hand, the Internet can be used for human rights education as a means of organizing human rights defenders, as a means of accessing human rights violations and mobilizing the international community to act. Urgent appeals and public campaigns can be received instantly and can prevent further abuses.

 

. 1245 + -

While the information highway can transport the best, it can also transport the worst. The ability of the Internet to reach out to people on a grand scale is what attracts not only the human rights defenders and civil society generally, but also the terrorist, the child molester, the hate group leader and the pornographer.

Hate on the Internet, particularly cyberhate, also seeks to target and recruit children. We have seen a proliferation of hate sites from just one in 1995 to over 2,500 today.

What we find now is that while technology races, the law lags. Once again the scientists are beating the lawyers. We need a strategy of cross-commitment, an imaginative use of legal remedy, education, anti-racist education, heightened awareness, media exposure and community advocacy.

Third is the combating of xenophobia and discrimination in the multicultural societies of the 21st century. Xenophobic, discriminatory and exclusionary attitudes and policies toward refugees, migrant workers, minorities, immigrants and les étrangers, the stranger generally speaking, characterize multicultural societies of the 21st century.

If a watershed issue in the 1980s was the right to emigrate, particularly for those behind the iron curtain, then a watershed issue as we begin the 21st century is the right to asylum and to protection against discrimination generally.

Fourth is the global struggle against torture. Torture, be it through rape, mutilation, beatings or any form of cruel and degrading mental or physical punishment, finds expression today in at least 150 countries, three-quarters of the world states, while children are tortured in at least 50 of those countries. People have died from torture alone in at least 80 countries in the past three years. The unconditional and absolute right to be free from torture, one of the most basic rights of all of the human rights, is under international assault.

Canada must become a leader in this crucial global struggle against torture. Working against torture should become a central piece of our foreign policy, a commitment we bring to all of our dealings with other states in the international community.

Fifth is the rights of children. The convention on the rights of the child was ratified more quickly by more countries than any other treaty in history. The international community recognized that children, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, need to be protected from the violation of their rights.

In the last year alone, three international conferences were held on war affected children, culminating in Canada in the Winnipeg conference where 132 governments issued a resounding call to action on behalf of children affected by conflict.

The Speech from the Throne should be commended for its emphasis on the rights and needs of children. As my own daughter put it when speaking to me on human rights, “Daddy, if you want to know what the real test of human rights is, always ask yourself, at any time, in any situation, in any part of the world, if what is happening is good for children. That is the real test of human rights”.

Sixth is the rights of women. The genocide in World War II and the ethnic cleansing and genocides since have included horrific crimes against women. Moreover, these crimes have not only attended the killing fields or been in consequence of it, which would be bad enough, but now become in pursuit of it.

We are witnessing 50 and 60 years later once again violent crimes against women in armed conflict. The lessons of those days need to be relearned and acted upon. The struggle for international women's rights in all its expression must be a priority on our human rights agenda. The notion that women's rights are human rights and that there are no human rights without the rights of women must be not only a statement of principle but an instrument of policy.

As UNICEF recently reported that discrimination against women was an injustice greater than South Africa's apartheid. As the women's rights movement has put it, significant numbers of the world's population are routinely subject to torture, starvation, terrorism, humiliation, mutilation and even murder, simply because they are female.

Seventh is the plight of indigenous people. If we look at the Speech from the Throne we see its commitment to the question of the dignity and welfare of aboriginal people. What is needed here is a new cultural sensibility, a respect for difference, a politics and policy of inclusion, a recognition of aboriginal people's right to self-government, a recognition of their unique status by reason of their historic presence as first nations, a generous rather than a grudging or recriminatory respect for their aboriginal treaty rights and land rights, a radical improvement of economic and social conditions on reserves, a reform of the Canadian justice system to accommodate the distinctiveness and sensibilities of aboriginal culture, and the adoption of the draft UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Eighth is the struggle against impunity. The 20th century has been characterized by crimes that have been too terrible to be believed but not too terrible to have happened.

 

. 1250 + -

It is also characterized by the impunity that has accompanied the commission of these atrocities. Establishing accountability is not only a moral imperative but a practical one. The adoption of the international criminal court in 1998 was a watershed in the fight against impunity and in the struggle for accountability in protecting the rule of law while deterring those responsible for the commission of the worst of atrocities, be it genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Accordingly the struggle against impunity requires that we recognize that states have an obligation to prosecute or extradite the most serious of international crimes. It requires that we invoke the full panoply of remedies at our disposal internationally and nationally to bring those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice in Canada and elsewhere.

Canada should lead a campaign for the necessary ratifications to bring the international criminal court into being. We should continue to take the lead in engendering justice both at the international criminal tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and the prospective International Criminal Court. We should develop mechanisms for the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, refugee camps, security, and the integration of human rights into peacekeeping missions.

I will close with the reminders of my own constituents. We can best give expression to the struggle for human rights in the understanding that each one of us has an indispensable role to play in the individual struggle for human rights and human dignity.

Each one of us can and does make a difference. Human rights begins with each of us, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our human relations, in our daily capacity for active care and compassion. We are each, wherever we are, the guarantors of each other's destiny.

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your new post. I would be remiss if I did not begin by congratulating the hon. member on his courageous stand with respect to Falun Gong. I know his work has saved the life of at least one individual and has brought the attention and attraction of the international community on this terrible situation.

The points that he articulates about human rights abuses, torture, the rights of children and conflict are well known. The amount of conflict taking place in the world today has been exploding over the last few years. The international community has been ill able to deal with this in a preventive fashion. I was very happy and encouraged to see in the throne speech an explicit reference to the prevention of deadly conflict.

Many of the things we have seen that the hon. member mentioned in his speech about abuses to children, torture, et cetera, are products of conflict in many cases, so I will confine my comments and questions to that.

Will the hon. member and his government look at international organizations and how we can prevent conflict? Will he advocate conditionality on World Bank activities in certain countries such as Tibet, Chad and Angola? Will he put pressure on companies in the international communities and countries to ensure that their resources will be applied to primary health and education instead of war efforts?

I cite the specific example of Angola. It receives a $3.5 billion infusion of capital every year from international organizations and companies while their people are living in abject poverty and are dying. One-third of the children in Angola die before the age of five.

Will he fight for conditionality in loans from the World Bank, in actions by the IMF, and in CIDA's activities internationally?

Mr. Irwin Cotler: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question goes to the heart of what a human rights foreign policy is all about.

I mentioned just yesterday the fact that China in the year 2000 has been the recipient of $1.67 billion in loan assistance from the World Bank. We need to review the policies of the World Bank, the IMF and international financial institutions to ensure that we are not licensing or rewarding human rights violations, be it in Angola, China or elsewhere.

With respect to the question of my involvement in these issues, my whole approach with regard to human rights foreign policy, including not only international financial institutions but corporate involvement, is that we cannot have a situation where corporations are themselves, however inadvertent, acquiescing in those violations.

 

. 1255 + -

We need more than just voluntary codes of conduct. We need to review whether we can regulate the character of our corporations when they are carrying out mandates that are effectively given to them by the Canadian government in the manner in which they relate to other countries.

I am referring to where the Export Development Corporation may be assisting corporations acting in countries that are committing the most egregious of human rights violations.

We will need to review our whole pattern of both corporate involvement as well as assistance by international financial institutions to human rights violator countries.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I join my colleague in commending the member for Mount Royal. I think that he is a model member of this place in his passion, intellectual honesty and commitment to issues of conscience.

I should like to ask him two questions. First, will he join with me in encouraging the Prime Minister and ministers who will be travelling to China this month to raise as a top priority Canada's very grave concern about the continued atrocious human rights record of the People's Republic of China?

Will he join with me in raising concerns about the labour camps, not just the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners but minority Christians, Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Muslims and other religious minorities, and the people of Tibet?

My second question touches on what the member passionately said at the outset of his remarks in terms of the need for greater sensitivity about hate speech and hate crimes. Will he agree with me that it is very potent language, that it must be used with great care, and that we must use the most potent language in our rhetorical arsenal against those who are guilty of such crimes?

Will he therefore join with me in regretting the remarks during the recent campaign of his colleague from the riding of Thornhill? Although my party, according to the Globe and Mail, had the distinction of having the highest number of ethnic minority candidates of any party, the member for Thornhill ascribed to it the inclusion of many “bigots, racists and Holocaust deniers”.

Mr. Irwin Cotler: Mr. Speaker, on the matter of human rights in China generally, I would refer the hon. member to my Standing Order 31 today. I identified a list of human rights violations in China in addition to the matter of the Falun Gong. I also recently identified 10 categories of human rights violations by China, which I take to be performance criteria by which we measure the character of China's standing in the international community.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the opening session of this new parliament and begin by thanking the constituents of Calgary Southeast for their renewed confidence in my representation here. I was honoured to receive an increased majority. I would also seek permission from the Chair to split the balance of my time with the member for Peace River. It is a particular honour to come back here with a larger majority.

I will address the balance of my remarks to the question of the lack of real economic vision presented in the throne speech. Economic and fiscal questions at a time of increasing economic uncertainty were unfortunately excluded from any serious discussion in Her Excellency's speech. That reflects a general attitude of carelessness from the government when it comes to the economic prospects we face.

I cannot help but note in the recent exchange I had with the honourable and esteemed member for Mount Royal that he failed to address my second question. I hope that at some point, when it is appropriate, he will do so.

This is not the right place for us to completely rehash the last election. However, issues and comments that are raised during an election campaign which are of profound importance to the tone and tenor of public discourse should be addressed.

I hope he will agree with me that it was very regrettable that a member of his caucus and a member of cabinet who continues to be supported by the Prime Minister engaged in the most foul, defamatory and scurrilous sort of remarks that are possible in public discourse.

 

. 1300 + -

At the outset of this parliament I for one want to put on the record how deeply hurt I and many of my colleagues were by those remarks made by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. I furthermore want to say that a substantive and not merely rhetorical commitment to human rights and civil rights such as that expressed by the member for Mount Royal is a tremendous thing and a great value to this place. However, members opposite would have greater credibility in addressing such issues if they were to identify the kind of language which frankly is hateful in itself and inflammatory.

I want to put on the record that I think the member for Thornhill stepped beyond the bounds of anything close to civil discourse and impugned herself as somebody who is willing to direct frankly hateful thoughts toward honourable, civil and tolerant members of this place and many who participate in our national politics.

Having addressed that regrettable matter, I turn to the issue of the growing economic uncertainty which we now face. Yesterday we heard reports from Statistics Canada that manufacturing orders and production will be declining even further in this quarter. This matches the reduced output being seen in the United States in reduced consumer demand. This also comes at a time when the principal economic authority in the developed world, the U.S. federal reserve board, has decided to reduce its prime rate by 100 basis points in three weeks, an unprecedented action.

All of this gives credence to those very credible voices and economists who suggest that our largest trading partner is now likely in the midst of a recession and that Canada may very well be headed into a similar recession. I note on the front page of one of our national newspapers today an economist being quoted as saying that we are in at least a brief recession.

Recession means two successive quarters of negative growth. We asked the government what it plans to do, how it plans to respond and whether it plans to act on this very troubling new economic development which will inevitably impact the standard of living of all Canadians and the fiscal projections and incoming revenues of the government. The government refused to do so. It is back to the don't worry, be happy theme which the Prime Minister is so adept at striking.

Last October the government introduced not really a budget but a statement, really a political statement, which had been done very quickly. Finance department officials were given very short notice by the Prime Minister to produce an election statement that was not able to take anything into account with respect to the recent developments in the U.S. and Canadian economies. The government is planning to maintain a fiscal plan right through to March of next year based on an outdated political document.

I know that some of my Liberal colleagues, those who came of age in the 1960s, still have a strong streak of anti-Americanism and they still do not appreciate the degree to which we are reliant on the American economy. Let me explain that we export to the United States more of our manufactured goods than we consume domestically, so when consumer demand goes down in the United States, manufacturing output will go down in Canada. That will inevitably affect our economy.

When our economy is negatively affected and we see a reduction in growth, according to some projections, of .1%, which is substantially lower than that projected in the fall statement, or potentially negative growth according to some economists, we will see government revenues decline. When government revenues decline, especially when the government is increasing spending in all sorts of unidentified areas, the conditions exist for potential deficits. That is precisely what the second most heavily indebted country in the OECD does not need to incur at a time of economic uncertainty, yet government members put their heads in the sand.

 

. 1305 + -

At the outset of this parliament we call on the government, not out of a sense of partisanship but out of a sense of prudence, to introduce in the spring, as is our convention, a comprehensive budget that takes into account all of these factors.

Let me suggest some things the government might want to introduce in that budget. First of all it might want to review the $52 billion of new spending outlined in the fall statement, much of which was not identified. It may care to identify the costs, which it has so far refused to do, of the 14 specific new spending commitments outlined in this week's Speech from the Throne and of the 51 other vague commitments to and promises of new spending programs. It may also wish to outline precisely how it intends to accommodate the Prime Minister's red book commitment to spend 50% of future surpluses. This is a figure clearly not accounted for or anticipated in the finance minister's fall economic statement.

We have contradictory directions. We have the old spending, welfare state, Trudeau Liberal in the person of the Prime Minister, who is promising to spend, spend, spend. We have the finance minister suggesting continued fiscal prudence. We have a potential recession coming on. With all of these contradictions and this atmosphere of uncertainty, there is no action. There is no precision. There is no response. The government cannot even tell us how much it plans to spend.

It is an important question, because as spending rises and a recession comes on we will continue to see our productivity gap grow. As my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition, reminded us the other day, our standard of living, which is measured by real disposable income per capita, has declined from 70% of the U.S. average in 1990 to just over 63% in the year 2000. We have moved to the rank of 24th out of 25 OECD countries in the last decade in terms of growth in per capita GDP. Ireland has doubled its per capita GDP in a time when we have seen ours shrink.

We do see a diminishment in our standard of living. We see it in the fire sale prices of Canadian companies, such as the recent purchase of the Montreal Canadiens. We see it in the continued impoverishment of the Canadian currency, which affects our standard of living. We see it in the brain drain, with tens of thousands of bright, mostly young, talented Canadians leaving this country to pursue brighter economic opportunities elsewhere. We see it in the fact that Canadian taxes are on the whole one-third higher than they are in the United States.

All of these issues need to be addressed. The opposition has, and will outline through the course of this parliament, its comprehensive plan for tax relief, debt reduction and spending restraint. We invite the members of the government to do just that.

Mr. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the voters in Etobicoke North for supporting me again and giving me the opportunity to represent them in the House of Commons.

I am sure the member from Calgary Southeast has heard of the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. In spite of that, he and his colleagues stand in the House and pick out every tiny shred of negative comment that might have come from the United States or from selected economists. It is almost like they are wishing that the economy would go into a significant downturn. I think that is scandalous.

I would like to quote from an independent, reliable source, the International Monetary Fund. The report is dated January 26, 2001. Today is February 2, 2001. This report says many things, and paragraphs and sentences of it have been quoted. One thing it does say is:

    The strong policy framework in place (in Canada) has positioned the real and financial economy to cope with any new major economic shock, including a slowdown in U.S. growth. The Canadian authorities are to be highly commended for their policy accomplishments.

The government had a mini budget in October and introduced the largest single tax cut in Canadian history. In fact, in the year 2001, at around $17 billion in tax savings, it is the largest single monetary tax cut in Canadian history and is coming right at a time when there is somewhat of a slowdown. However, most reasonable, educated economists are saying that even a slowdown in the United States will be a temporary slowdown and that the economy will start to pick up at the end of the year.

 

. 1310 + -

Notwithstanding that, the government has consistently built prudence into its economic forecasts and estimates. There is prudence in its budget planning. The finance minister said that this situation is being monitored and that he will take action if required.

I wish the hon. members would look at something more positive. Instead of being the doomsayers and feeding a self-fulfilling prophecy, why do they not talk about the realities in Canada instead of the myths?

Mr. Jason Kenney: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite does not believe that the OECD is a credible economic source when it says that our standard of living has fallen over the past decade.

Perhaps he does not believe that his colleague from the riding of Markham was an honest and thoughtful economist when he said in October of last year “I believe in being honest” and “the mini budget is firm but other promises might have to be delayed a year if the economy is not as good as what we believe it will be”. He went on to talk about the fact that there was a $2.6 billion hole in the Liberal budget promises. That is what one of the member's own colleagues said. I do not know what source he would find more pleasing than that.

The point is this: no amount of hot air opposite will turn around the reality of the uncertainty we are facing right now. The hon. member did not make a case for the lack of a conventional, full spring budget. All he told us is that he hopes and expects that the recession which we may now be facing will shortly be curtailed. That sounds an awful lot like Michael Wilson and Don Mazankowski in this place 12 years ago, when they denied for a full year that we were even in a recession.

Governments do not want to face up to economic prudence. We believe they should do so by accelerating meaningful tax relief so that we can increase consumer demand, investment in the economy and productivity, and so we can see our dollar appreciate over time and our standard of living go up with it, unlike the decline we have experienced over the past decade of Liberal government.

Mr. Paul Forseth (New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in listening to the members opposite, I was remembering Trudeau saying that the land was strong, and we all know what his economic record was.

My colleague calls on the government to act, but beyond just calling for a real, comprehensive budget, what elements does he think would be wise for Canada to take on in view of changing realities? I can think of four: reduced spending, creating a low tax environment, long term debt reduction commitments, and balanced budget legislation. Perhaps my colleague can elucidate a little on what would really be wise for this country.

Mr. Jason Kenney: Mr. Speaker, my colleague identifies debt reduction as an important long term priority. In the fall economic political statement, there was no outline of a long term debt reduction strategy. The government's attitude is that maybe if we are lucky, maybe if we run a surplus and do not use the contingency fund, if the minister for heritage and her big spending colleagues like the minister for HRD do not get their hands on it, we might allocate it to debt reduction.

We need a legislated debt reduction strategy, which some of the provinces have successfully implemented, and major tax relief, which we can afford and which will keep us competitive even after the Bush tax cuts are passed by congress this spring.

Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to respond to the Speech from the Throne as the industry critic for the Canadian Alliance.

First I would like to thank the electors in the Peace River constituency who have returned me for a third term and who in doing so again placed a responsibility upon me to carry out their interests in Ottawa. I intend to do just that.

In order to respond to the Speech from the Throne, I think we need to examine the government's proposals to help Canadian industry through the looming downturn in the economy by increasing Canadian competitiveness in the new economic environment, which is necessary.

In order to do that, we need to look at Canada's historical position in terms of what we have done in the economic area in the last several years. We have to ask what went wrong in the past and evaluate whether the proposals in the mini budget and the throne speech are adequate to see us through. I would like to make the case that these are not the right formula. The formula the Liberal government has in those two areas will not see us through adequately and will not put us back into a competitive position.

The finance minister and the industry minister both maintain that everything is okay, and we heard it from the parliamentary secretary too. It is sort of a head in the sand approach that has become all too common from the Liberal government; everything is going to work out, do not worry about it.

 

. 1315 + -

Let us look at an historical review. Last spring the Standing Committee on Industry tabled a report regarding Canada's productivity. The study was initiated in response to concerns expressed by many prominent economists and business leaders who warned of an alarming productivity gap developing between Canada and the United States, particularly over the past decade.

These leaders confirmed through statistical evidence what Canadians instinctively already knew. Our standard of living had fallen over the past 30 years and the rate of decline had accelerated in the 1990s. Witnesses told the committee that on average Canadians earn $9,000 less per capita than their American counterparts. This illustrates how Canadian productivity has impacted on our standard of living. That is what this is all about. It relates to our standard of living; are we better off or worse off than we were a decade ago.

Between 1996 and 1998, the U.S. increased its productivity at double the rate of Canada. No wonder the 1990s were called a dec-a-dis hor-ri-bil-is by the hon. member for Markham when he was the chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada. All of a sudden he has completely changed his tune. I wonder why?

What happened to Canada's productivity and why did we slip out of the game? We went from being number two in 1976 but we slipped badly. In fact, from the 1950s to the mid 1970s we had tremendously high rates of growth of productivity in this country. In 1976 Canada was second only to the United States in terms of productivity among the G-7. While the United States remains number one, Canada no longer holds that second place position. By 1997 we were in fifth place. Italy, France and Germany have all passed Canada by and more countries will do so if we do not get our fundamentals right. Members might rightly ask how did this happened. We need to pursue this further.

The issues related to Canada's loss of productivity and weakened competitiveness are complex, to say the least. Many factors, including external shocks to the economy of a country can cause disruption. However, the United States was better able to adapt and restructure their economy. The restructuring which took place in the U.S. during the 1980s enabled the Americans to lead the way in growth for much of the 1990s, as is the case today.

Why did it happen? How did it happen? I suggest that it is 30 years of bad public policy in Canada that has caused that to happen. I see a denial happening in government ranks again that they do not recognize what happened and therefore cannot make the shift.

I would like to argue that the fundamental shift in government policy in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically major social programs that were introduced and the federal government expansion during those years, created the conditions that led to Canada's decline of productivity and currency devaluation.

One might ask whether it was a coincidence that the Canadian dollar has had a 30 year decline, that Canada's productivity has had a 30 year decline and that the investment in Canada had a 30 year decline. I suggest that at the same time taxes went up, the debt went up. There is no coincidence. It is bad public policy by the Liberal and Conservative governments of the day which has led to the decline and currency devaluation that we are suffering today.

As an example, changes to the employment insurance program moved it away from the concept of an insurance program to more of a social program function. The result was an increase in unemployment rates, several points higher than that of the United States over the last 30 years. It remains there in good times or bad times. It is just an example of growth or government expansion.

Federal government spending continued to grow every year, which had to be financed by tax increases and deficits. The result was a $585 billion debt. It was largely glossed over until about 1993-94 when we had to finally admit that we were virtually bankrupt.

What was the government's response at the time? That was a brand new Liberal government and many of the members here today came in at that time. The newly elected Liberal government raised taxes and cut transfers to the provinces to get itself out of the problem.

Did it cut its own spending? Very little. Program spending is starting to grow again, which shows the Liberals do not recognize what needs to be done. They increased excise taxes on gasoline which added to transportation costs. They hiked capital gains tax in those years which discouraged investment. They allowed the discounted Canadian dollar to insulate Canadian exporters from restructuring and improving their own productivity through investments in technology and innovation.

No wonder the Canadian standard of living was slipping away and our best and brightest were leaving for better opportunities in the United States and other countries.

 

. 1320 + -

Despite what the finance and industry ministers are saying today, Canada is not well positioned as a low tax jurisdiction. We just have to look south of the border. We have not even caught up to them from the last time. Now the Republican government of George W. Bush is moving the yardsticks again with lower taxes.

While the overdue tax cuts in October's mini budget were welcome, their value is hampered by long phase-in periods and other half measures. For example, the corporate tax rate was reduced by a mere 1% this year. The planned seven year reduction will not be fully achieved until 2005-2006.

I maintain there is a very real danger that Canada will become the incubator economy for the United States and our people will be lost to foreign multinationals. Why does this government not learn from the experiences of Ireland, the Netherlands, Georgia, Michigan, Ontario and Alberta. They cut taxes and within a year or two saw their revenues grow as an increased growth in the economy quickly made up for those cuts. Canada's national debt right now is roughly $565 billion; 25 cents out of every tax dollar goes just to pay interest on debt.

We know what is happening in Washington. It is moving again to cut taxes. In fact, it is telling us that the U.S. debt is going to paid off by the end of this decade. Where is the finance minister of Canada's plan to pay down the debt? At the rate he is going it will take him 190 years. That is simply not good enough. We are not sending the right kind of signals to our business community for investment.

I think this begs the question. Where is Canada's plan? I do not see it in this throne speech. I did not see it in the mini budget and I do not think they have one.

What about the low Canadian dollar? Defenders of the low Canadian dollar argue that it helps exporters and therefore creates jobs. It begs the question. If a 66 cent dollar is great, why do we not move to 50 cents? Would that not be better? The answer is no because it does not encourage investment by Canadians and foreigners in our country. What it does encourage, I would suggest, is other people from other countries coming up and buying up companies like the Montreal Canadiens and taking them outside the country because our dollar is so weak.

We have to look at investment. Currently, I think the real problem in Canada is the lack of private investment, especially investment in research and development. Canada is currently ranked 15th amongst OECD nations on how much it spends on R and D. U.S. venture capital investments were 12 times that of Canada in 1995 and have moved to 18 times what Canada spent on venture capital in the year 2000.

We are going the wrong way. Public money under the Prime Minister's leadership cannot fill that void. It has to be filled because we need to have investors confidence that they will get a return on investment. I would argue that that is happening because we have an unfavourable tax climate which has caused lack of confidence.

To sum up, it is simply a matter of bad public policy. I am concerned that that bad public policy is continuing. We have had 30 years of decline and it is not over yet. Canadian industry needs the government to finally pay attention to getting the fundamentals right and creating the business environment so Canadian companies can succeed on their own. They need to boldly cut taxes to get not just the same as the United States but more.

My belief is this is a very weak, timid response. We have to do much better. I would encourage the Liberal government to bring down a budget to that effect as soon as possible.

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the previous speaker for pointing out many of the obvious shortcomings of the Speech from the Throne and many of the obvious flaws in the reasoning.

One of the specifics he dealt with was the problems with the EI system. It was very timely that he pointed this out and I am glad he did. Today a new bill was introduced, allegedly to try and repair the completely dysfunctional and broken unemployment insurance system in the country.

The hon. member spoke to the fact that the system is so broken that it ceased to become an insurance system at all. It does not provide insurance benefits to unemployed people. What is the point in having an unemployment insurance system if it does not provide insurance to the unemployed?

It is really common sense. The fact is that less than 40% of unemployed people qualify for any benefits whatsoever. If the person is a woman that figure is 25%. If the person is a youth, the figure is 15% of unemployed people who qualify for any benefits, even though they are forced to pay into it. They have no choice. It is a mandatory deduction off your paycheque. As a result, the government is getting a surplus from the EI fund of $500 million a month, not per year, per month. That is really another tax off the paycheque. It is not an insurance system any more.

 

. 1325 + -

The negative nature of not having an employment insurance system has added to the profound economic difficulties that some regions in the country find themselves in. Just how much of an impact has the absence of any meaningful insurance program had on the hon. member's riding?

Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, I guess I would maintain that I do not think any employment insurance program can substitute for a job. Most people want to have a job. That is their number one criteria. I suggest that the moves the Liberal government is taking to correct the fundamentals are not good enough to allow that to happen.

For the last 30 years we have had chronic unemployment in the range of 5% to about 12%. That is going to vary. I am suggesting, and the analogy I was making, that up until about 1970 the business cycles of Canada and the United States could be charted on a graph. We could look at the two of them in good and bad times. The economic indicators were always the same. We could put them together.

It was the same with employment insurance and the unemployment rate. However, starting in the 1970s we had a divergence because we expanded the employment insurance program to become more of a social program. I do not think that was the right method because we built in a penalty for Canadian business.

I agree with the member from Winnipeg that there are many shortcomings in the employment insurance program. He raised the example of a person who has to pay into the program but cannot collect benefits. Canadian farmers are in that category as are lots of people. It should be one way or the other. If a person is not going to get benefits from the plan, he or she should be exempt from it.

Overtaxing workers and employers to build up large surplus funds for general revenue for the government to squander away on its priorities is not good enough. We need to have a true insurance program where we have dedicated revenue, not where it is going into the general revenue for governments to fritter away.

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I listened with some interest to the member for Peace River.

He talked about bad public policy. Since when is bringing interest rates down, since when is bringing unemployment rates down, since when is bringing in and delivering the largest single tax decrease in Canadian history of $100 billion and since when is reinvesting strategically in things like health care, children and poverty bad public policy? Since when is paying off debt and reducing the deficit to zero bad public policy?

What I object to is those members opposite always need to bring in the Americans. They are lovers of the Americans. Listen to how they invoke the name of George W. Bush. Look at how they always want to cozy up to American cultural, economic and social ways. Canadians object to that. More to the point, they reject that.

Is it bad public policy for a person who has carved out his career by saying that taxpayers' dollars should be used wisely and then turn around and use $800,000 of Albertan taxpayers' money to do something that $60,000 could have done? I ask the member for Peace River if that is good public policy.

I also want to ask the member for Peace River—

The Deputy Speaker: I regret that with only five minutes for questions and comments, I am trying to be as co-operative as I can be with all members on both sides of the House. I will give the floor to the member for Peace River for one final minute.

Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that it was largely the Liberal government that put us in this terrible mess to begin with.

It was Brian Mulroney's government that was elected to go in and clean up the mess which had been created. The failure of the Conservative government to do that was the reason why the Reform Party and the Alliance were formed. It did not listen to the huge majority and clean up that mess.

In regard to the lawsuit, I would like to talk about Pearson and Airbus. I believe over $2 million of taxpayers' money went to pay for Mr. Mulroney's expenses when the Prime Minister and the current Minister of Health had to admit that there was no evidence to back up their accusations. They had to publicly apologize to Mr. Mulroney.

 

. 1330 + -

Ms. Sarmite Bulte (Parkdale—High Park, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Simcoe—Grey. Let me begin by joining all my colleagues in congratulating you on your election to the chair. We look forward to your presence in the chair during this session.

I also take this opportunity to thank the people of Parkdale—High Park who re-elected me for a second term. They have renewed their trust and confidence in me to represent their interests in the House of Commons. I am truly honoured by the privilege which they have again bestowed on me and I undertake to continue to work on their behalf.

On the day the election was called I told my constituents I was proud to run on the record of the Liberal government and on the policies and programs that have assisted individuals and communities in my riding. I unequivocally repeated this message on election night. Today I once again confirm how proud I am to be a member of the Liberal government and of the Prime Minister's team.

Today I will address the government's commitment in the Speech from the Throne to a vibrant Canadian culture and how this commitment is integral to fulfilling our government's other commitments to creating opportunity, investing in innovation, connecting Canadians, investing in skills and learning, and helping our children.

In 1997 in my first speech in the House of Commons I spoke about the fact that I truly believe we must invest in programs, opportunities and partnerships which support our arts and culture. I said then and still believe today that this is one of our greatest responsibilities. I am proud to say that in the Speech from the Throne and in the Prime Minister's contribution to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne we made a commitment to fulfilling this responsibility.

I commend the Prime Minister and the government on its commitment to innovation by not only increasing federal investment in traditional research, institutes and granting councils, but also by committing to a reinvestment in arts and culture.

The Speech from the Throne clearly states that the focus of our cultural policies must be on excellence in the creative process. Investing in the creative process is what Canadians need and what our children and grandchildren will need to participate in the new economy.

Let me begin by applauding the government's renewed support for the CBC to assist it in fulfilling its distinct role as a public broadcaster serving all Canadians.

The CBC is truly one of Canada's national institutions. It connects Canadians from sea to sea to sea. It speaks to Canadians by Canadians about Canadians and provides the Canadian perspective to national and international issues at home and abroad.

The CBC provides services in English, French and aboriginal languages. It also opens up opportunities for our creative people, our artists, directors, set designers, lighting designers and writers, just to name a few. It provides a venue for independent producers to produce Canadian content that is not only generic and exportable but is important to Canadians and talks about our history.

Canadians have been very impressed with the public response to the history series on television. The Minister of Canadian Heritage recently said that it was a type of project that could not be undertaken by the private sector and really ties in with the core mandate of telling Canadian stories. I am very proud to say that the producer of the history series, Mr. Mark Starowitz, resides in my riding.

Let me turn to the arts in the new economy. In June 2000 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released an analysis on why the new economy was arriving sooner in some places. In trying to pinpoint the driving forces of the new economy so that governments can nurture them, the OECD highlighted the importance of innovation.

 

. 1335 + -

For governments the OECD offered a menu of what is quickly becoming standard advice: foster competition, encourage startups and venture capital, invest in research and shape education and immigration policies to enhance human capital. It also noted that wiring schools will not be enough.

Yesterday in the House the Minister of Industry confirmed that Canada had surpassed the United States in being the first to connect all its schools, and said that the government would continue to connect Canadians and provide them with fast, high speed efficient broadband.

While this connection of Canadians is very laudable, I would add that it is simply not enough. In the Prime Minister's address in reply to the Speech from the Throne, he clearly stated:

    In a globalized society, in a universe of hundreds of channels, in the age of the Internet, it is more important than ever to support Canadian culture.

I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment thereafter to provide significant new support to ensure that our cultural institutions, our performers and our artists can play the critical role of helping us know ourselves.

Yesterday the Minister of Industry spoke about the importance of our scientists and their innovations. Today I want to talk about the importance of our artists, writers and creators and their innovations. We need to encourage creativity and innovation, and our artists are well suited to play an important role in this.

I refer my colleagues to an article written by Robert Everett-Green that appeared, unfortunately, on the front page of the arts section of the Globe and Mail and not the business section. It was entitled “Art, not IBM, makes kids smarter”.

I think we have to remember that the arts provide essential training for a more creative world. I too believe that arts, not computers, make kids creative. Many studies have found that children exposed to music at an early age score much higher on scholastic entrance exams than those who are not.

The Speech from the Throne also talked about the important role the arts play in our communities. It also noted the role they play in improving our quality of life.

In his speech to the Canadian Club in Toronto last September, Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, spoke about the importance of the arts to quality of life. He urged the arts community to articulate the idea that, controversial as it might sound, culture is as important as health and education.

Handling reminded everyone that the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao transformed a once run down port in northern Spain into a vibrant city that attracts millions of tourists each year.

However we do not have to look to Europe for examples. We need only look to Stratford, Ontario. It was on the verge of dying as a town after the demise of the steam engine. What happened? Tom Patterson, with the assistance of the town council and $100, went to New York, obtained the necessary rights to produce theatre, and made Stratford what it is today.

Not only is Stratford a wonderful city to visit and a major tourist attraction, it has also served, and continues to serve, as a training ground for our wonderful artists.

I would be glad to speak about the importance of the arts for Canada's future. However, I will end now with a quote from Jane Alexander's book Command Performance, which recounts her term as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. The quote explains why the arts are so important. It says:

    When we teach a child to sing or play the flute, we teach her how to listen. When we teach her to draw, we teach her to see. When we teach a child to dance, we teach him about his body and about space, and when he acts on stage, he learns about character and motivation. When we teach a child design, we reveal the geometry of the world. When we teach children about the folk and traditional arts and the great masterpieces of the world, we teach them to celebrate their roots and find their own place in history.

Who knows if we will remember the F-22 400 years from now? I submit that we will still be reading Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondatjie and Mordecai Richler.

 

. 1340 + -

Mr. Keith Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the hon. member. In her speech she said culture was as important as health care. Would she rather have access to a play at Stratford or access to the emergency department at St. Joseph's Hospital in the area where she lives?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte: Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is about either/or. There is not one thing that we as Canadians need. We need a balanced approach. We need all choices. We need a healthy environment. We need a good medical system. We need to invest in our children and we need to have a vibrant arts community. To say that the arts are dispensable, with all due respect to my colleague, we will have to agree to disagree.

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to some statements the Minister of the Environment made today.

I was surprised when the government talked about its grand plan for going to Kyoto and holding Canada out as an environmental standard for the world. It went to Kyoto without a plan or a cost estimate, and yet it promised the world to all the other nations there.

When the government came back to the House we asked how it would finance its plan and carry it out. The government did not know because even at that time, after it made its promises, it did not have a plan.

The K word is missing from the throne speech, K being Kyoto. Yet there are statements about the environment which are quite vague and meaningless. It seems reality has caught up to the government in terms of its Kyoto promises.

Because the Kyoto agreement and the promises Canada made are so significantly absent from the throne speech, where exactly do the Liberal government's ill-conceived environmental promises stand on its agenda now? Could the hon. member tell us in detail?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte: Mr. Speaker, I love to address questions on the environment because the issue is very important to the people in my riding. I have worked very hard with a number of environmental experts who live in my riding.

We spoke about the Kyoto protocol. Yes, it is true we have not signed it. However that does not mean we have not acted on it. We have acted on it. We have worked at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We have worked with the provinces, the territories and the municipalities to ensure that we have clean air and water. We do not need an agreement to act on what we have agreed to. We will work with other countries to ensure we all sign the Kyoto protocol.

We cannot look to Germany as an example just because it was the first to sign the Kyoto protocol. Germany was able to close its industries, but we are not able to do that. However we will work together in partnership with the corporate sector, the labour unions and the private sector to ensure that all of our protocol targets are met.

Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park is truly an expert when it comes to things cultural and things related to the arts.

I was astounded during the election when those reform alliance people wanted to privatize the CBC and strip it of the great unifying effect it has on the country. I was shocked when those members opposite wanted to get rid of small theatre grants, destroy French immersion schools, and strip every cultural venue in our great country that makes us strong. It is a disgrace even to hear them today echo the fact that they were prepared to do that.

 

. 1345 + -

Would the hon. member be so kind as to outline the kind of activities that she has been involved in on a personal basis? I know she is a cultural icon in Toronto. What she needs to do for the House is tell us a little about what she does on a very grassroots, personal level to make this an even better country, unlike what the Alliance people—

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I cannot imagine where I am going to find the time for the hon. member to do all that, but in 30 seconds or less will she please give the House the short version?

Ms. Sarmite Bulte: Mr. Speaker, let me tell you what the arts does for my community in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. Every year the Canadian Stage Company, of which I am a former chairman and director, produces Dreams in High Park, which is a venue that provides experience through training for actors and directors. They actually have an opportunity to perform Shakespeare and practise classic theatre. What else does it do? It also makes the park safe. It makes people come out into the community. It makes our community safe and prosperous, so we see another role for it, as Mr. Handling said at the film festival. It works to build our community.

Mr. Paul Bonwick (Simcoe—Grey, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute pleasure to rise in the House today to provide my reply to the Speech from the Throne.

Before I do so, I want to take a moment to offer my thanks to the residents of Simcoe—Grey for once again establishing their confidence in my party, my Prime Minister and myself in the election this past fall. They have bestowed on me incredible honour and responsibility and I once again take this opportunity to tell them that I do not take that honour and that responsibility lightly.

To my family, friends and supporters, I could not possibly say thank you enough for their help and the confidence that they have shown in me. I take this job very seriously. I tell them from the bottom of my heart that I do appreciate their confidence and I will not let them down. I know that my Liberal colleagues will not let them down either as we focus on the future of this great country to ensure that our generation and future generations enjoy a higher quality of life than those which have proceeded us.

I want to send a special thank you to my wife Sandi and my three children, Amy, Alex and Matthew. Without them, it certainly would have been incredibly difficult. Sandi certainly has done an incredible job in allowing me to come here and represent the constituents of Simcoe—Grey.

I would also be remiss, Mr. Speaker, if I did not offer my thanks and congratulations to you. The citizens in your riding are certainly well served by one of the most effective and honourable men in the House of Commons. I want to offer my sincere appreciation for the help and guidance you have provided to me over the last three and a half years. In my first term of parliament your experience was called on by me on numerous occasions, and you never ceased to direct me in the appropriate way to best serve my constituents. I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart.

To Her Excellency, our Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, I offer my thanks. Her Excellency has provided a vision for Canada that all Canadians can buy into. She has set bold goals and bold visions. She has made a very bold statement as well, that is, that all Canadians will, as they have in the past, come together to make sure that Canada will continue to be the best place in the entire world in which to live. I offer my thanks to her for making such an incredible statement in such a few short minutes.

That is exactly what Canadians will do. We will work together, because that is the type of people we are. We are a caring and compassionate community. We certainly appreciate tolerance and diversity, but we build on our weaknesses to create strengths. We have done it in the past and we will continue to do it under this Liberal government.

As Liberals, as Canadians, we will seize the opportunities. With those opportunities in this ever changing global economy will come challenges. We recognize those challenges on this side of the House. We work very hard with our cabinet colleagues and with the members in the caucus to make sure that Canada overcomes all of those challenges, whether we are dealing with agricultural, cultural or industrial issues, all of the aspects that the House and our committees deal with.

 

. 1350 + -

The government has done a very good job of trying to make Canada the best place in the world in which to live. It could not have happened without the 30 million plus Canadians who joined us in that fight. They have joined us in the fight to make sure that the next generation has more advantages and is better positioned to carry forward in this new age economy. This government has been successful. The last election speaks very clearly to that.

Canadians were loud and clear. They told us that they wanted a balanced approach. They told us they wanted government to work with the people, the provinces and the municipalities and to make sure that it is not simply the strong that move forward, to make sure that as the country moves forward as a whole we take the weakest with us as well. The throne speech has done exactly that. It has laid out a course. It has laid out a vision that the country as a whole can buy into to ensure that as we in the country move forward the weakest are not left behind. It is not the Canadian way to leave the weakest behind.

Contrary to what some of my friends in the Alliance might think, it is incredibly important for the federal government to play a key role in the everyday lives of Canadians. There is a need for a strong federal presence in the country, from coast to coast to coast. Through the delivery mechanisms and bureaucracies we have, we are doing that, and we will do a better job.

I can cite numerous examples within my own riding. There is Human Resources Development Canada, without doubt one of the hardest working bureaucracies we have in government today. I take this opportunity to thank the dedicated men and women who have been delivering the programs that have made a difference in the lives of people in my riding. My hat is off to those people, because despite the scurrilous accusations that have been made in the House and outside the House toward some of those individuals, the federal government has made an incredible difference through these bureaucracies, with the support of Canadians throughout our great country.

One of the things that touched my heart in the throne speech, perhaps because I have three children of my own, is the focus on a national children's agenda. I was moved when the Governor General talked about the new challenge for Canadians. “Seize this challenge” was the statement. We were told to come together and make sure that there are new opportunities for our young people, not simply for those in the upper or middle economic classes but for all young people. When I hear those kinds of things, I get terribly excited. I think we can make another big difference in this coming 37th parliament.

A lot has been done. I am looking across the floor and people are nodding. These people recognize that the government has done an incredible job with the young people of the country. I certainly appreciate the fact that they are acknowledging that.

Whether we talk about Canada's national child benefit program, the $2.2 billion investment signed in September 2000, or the extending of parental leave for new parents, the Liberal government has made a big difference.

However, what is very clear in the throne speech is that there is still a lot of work to be done and a long way to go to make sure that things gets better. That is the government's responsibility: to make sure that as we move forward as a society the weakest are not left behind. I have heard the Prime Minister say that we will not leave the weakest behind. I have heard cabinet ministers say it. I have heard my colleagues say it when I have visited their ridings and they have visited mine. We will make sure that this is a country founded on one country moving forward, not on parts of a country moving forward.

The throne speech also touched on a variety of other topics, many of which will play a very critical role in the development of my riding.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, having visited it in the past, my riding has an economy made up of three separate and distinct things: agriculture, tourism and industry. I was extremely pleased to see that all three areas were touched on in the throne speech because that provides an opportunity for municipal councils, non-profit organizations, agricultural groups and private sector companies to know in just what direction the government is heading.

 

. 1355 + -

The government has clearly outlined a path for positive growth. It does not hoard negativity. it does not use fear mongering. Rather it lays out a vision for Canada of which I know everyone in the House is extremely proud.

Some questions have been raised in the House over the last couple of days about how the throne speech will position the Canadian economy in relation to the downturn in the U.S. economy.

I would be remiss if I did not thank our finance minister for the wonderful job he has done in ensuring that our youngest Canadians have an incredible foundation, a secure foundation, which is a complete change from seven or eight years ago. Based on that foundation, Canada will move forward. It will be a global leader, not only economically but, unlike my friends in the reform alliance party, it will be a leader socially as well.

I tip my hat to the Governor General, the Prime Minister, my colleagues, the newly elected members and to you, Mr. Speaker. I will enjoy working closely with them to make sure the 37th parliament is the best parliament in Canadian history and that we achieve the results to which the Liberal government is committed: a stronger and more united Canada.

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, my colleague on the other side seemed to dwell on the economy and stated that things were going very well in his riding. I am very happy to hear that things are fine in his riding and that Canadians are in good hands. His riding is fortunate to be represented by him.

He gave a very nice speech using flowery words. We would all like to see those things happen, but there are clouds hanging over the economic scene and throwing cold water on the projections they have made.

We have seen the tug-of-war between ministers taking place on that side of the House. It is a cause of concern for us, especially on the question of international trade. I heard the Minister for International Trade talk about Canada following WTO rules and Canada needing a rules based system because that is where our prosperity lies.

Then another minister throws cold water on Canada's stand of following a rules based system, which will have a long term impact. We can see the war beginning in Brazil.

He mentioned that in his riding the economy is doing well but there are clouds on the horizon. I would like him to comment on the tug-of-war that is taking place on his side of the House.

Mr. Paul Bonwick: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member that there are clouds on my horizon. As I look across and see the Canadian Alliance it is always cloudy. It is always gloom and doom. That is not the reality in the country. It is not about negativity; it is about being realistic.

Canada is very well positioned to weather any economic storm. When one looks at the economy and what has been achieved in the last seven years, it is an absolute economic miracle. Those are not my words. Those are the words of the Financial Times.

I see my colleagues in the reform alliance getting upset because they do not have a plan to deal with these kinds of issues. They do not want to talk about positive growth, what has been done to reduce debt or the most massive tax reduction strategy in Canadian history. They do not want to talk about an incredible shoring up of our social programs. They want to talk about gloom and doom in the U.S. There are times when I am not totally positive whether I am debating with members of parliament or congressmen.

I will tell Canadians that Canada is very well positioned to lead the way in this new age technology globally. We will do it. We will continue based on the track record and on the historical evidence the government put forward today. I am proud to say that I will be part of that parliament.

 

. 1400 + -

Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Simcoe—Grey mentioned that it was important for young people to have faith in their country and to have something to look forward to. I wonder if he sees that going beyond just the opportunity for cultural endeavours, which I agree is equally important, but also to educational opportunities.

I also think it is important to have faith in a democratic system that allows the people of Canada to express their disagreements with the Government of Canada and to have the right to express by open demonstrations their beliefs that not everything the government is doing is okay.

This leads me to the issue of free trade not being mentioned a great deal within the budget. We have seen a situation where we agree that trade is important, but free trade seems to be open season on labour rights, environmental rights or human rights within the different countries.

I am specifically referring to Canada talking about trade agreements but not making any stipulation that the countries with which it will trade will ensure that human rights violations are not taking place and that environmental standards are met.

Just to give an insight into this matter, I have a list in front of me of 77 Columbian trade unionists who have been assassinated over the last year by paramilitaries. I wonder if Canada is making sure that those countries it trades with are treating their people fairly as well?

Mr. Paul Bonwick: Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious by the member's statements that she is truly concerned about not only the plight of young people here in Canada but those abroad as well. There were many topics touched on in her comments. I might have to relegate myself to one.

She spoke about the opportunity for youth. I would like to provide an example of where we can really make a difference with youth but not simply on the cultural side of things.

There is a program under Youth Service Canada and delivered through Human Resources Development Canada. It has made an incredible difference in the lives of young people in my riding. It has provided them with the necessary lifestyle skills and the necessary job skills to secure full time permanent employment in our society. Those young people have become productive and happy members of society. In that regard, I think the government has done an incredible job in making sure we deal with the problems our young people face.

[Translation]

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Jonquière.

At the start of my third mandate, I am very pleased to rise for the first time in this House. As a member elected with the support of 60% of the people, as a sovereignist and an MP, I want to say that there are pressing social concerns. I am not saying that those who voted for me were all sovereignists, but I know they supported someone they knew to be one.

So, members will not be surprised that my attention is drawn particularly in the throne speech to the section on celebrating Canadian citizenship. One sentence struck me considerably, and I quote it:

    Canada was born of a noble vision and an act of will.

Noble, people might think so, but I would say a pragmatic vision in which four provinces decided to form an organization that suited them. However, in their act of will, they made a serious mistake, namely, and among others, giving the federal government spending power.

This creature born of the provinces has worked systematically to become the government of all the people living in Canada. Today, in the throne speech, we have a specific example in which the government regularly and systematically denies the responsibilities of the provinces and the very foundations of our society.

At the outset, there were two founding peoples. Even here, in parliament, we have doors symbolizing this. Today, the federal government is categorically denying this fact by its action and its vision.

In addition, it swept away not only the protection of Quebec society but all of the French fact within the country. As regards the proportion of francophones, we need only compare the situation as it was in 1867 with the situation today to see that there is an operation underway to assimilate francophone communities. Today, the government refers to them as “sustainable francophone communities”, which means there are some that are not.

 

. 1405 + -

We should refrain from boasting too much. Many signs point to the fact that we are not in an ideal society. I think this will only be possible when it is recognized that there are two nations in Canada, that Quebecers have a right to their sovereignty, and that the Canadian federalism is not the best way to foster better relations between these two nations. That is my response to the very basis of what the federal government wants to do.

At the same time, there is a profound lack of vision in this throne speech. There is no mention of the challenges of the future or the kind of Canada we want in the next 20 years.

Why have we not been given more details, in a transparent way, on what to expect in the next 20 years? We will have a free trade area that will include the three Americas. We will probably have a common currency. And we will have, willy-nilly, an even stronger emergence of nationalism.

We do not need vast political spaces in order to develop markets. Canada became a large political entity when, because of protectionism, large countries were necessary in order to develop sizeable markets.

Today, with free trade, this is no longer the case. Small political entities can set up democratic organisations capable of acting rapidly and efficiently. We see that particularly in Europe.

This Speech from the Throne lacks vision. It contains some sort of grocery list of things that the government would like to do in the short term. I think that, ultimately, when history judges this Prime Minister's governments, this will probably be the main criticism.

Children are often mentioned in the throne speech. We are told they will be given priority. We first have to see who is responsible for what. In my opinion, the federal government's responsibility in this matter should be to give money to the provinces to help them manage their education systems properly, and not to create new programs on top of the ones already in place for early childhood development and for children at risk.

Each time the government interferes in education like that, it creates duplication. Of course, this can be very interesting from a visibility point of view. This is probably the main reason why the Speech from the Throne is putting all that forward. However it would have been much more efficient if the government had actually said it was going to use the surplus money it has collected.

The federal government collects much more money in income tax than it needs to fulfil its responsibilities. It would have been much better to use these surpluses to lower income tax or to give the money back through its redistribution of wealth function, so that the provinces could have the money they need.

In Quebec and Canada there are indeed areas where the programs that should be set up are not those announced by the federal government, but those the local governments want.

If federal money went directly to Quebec, the province could in turn give more autonomy to local school boards. That means they could have money to keep the small village school open. For our rural communities this is often a priority, much more so than programs put forth by the federal government.

In this respect, I believe the federal government does not assume its responsibilities. It tries to increase its visibility by intervening in areas outside its jurisdiction.

There is another thing with regards to children. Fundamentally, I find this a major problem. The government keeps talking about programs to help children. On the other hand, for the past five years, we have had an employment insurance scheme that has been creating poverty.

Children are not poor per se. They are poor because their parents are poor. Eligibility rules have been tightened; benefits have been cut; young workers need 910 hours of work to qualify. The same applies to women re-entering the labour market. All these measures have resulted in an increase in child poverty.

Today the government says it is going to issue cheques for children, but their parents will remain trapped. I find this behaviour unacceptable. It cannot continue.

 

. 1410 + -

The Speech from the Throne provides for many intrusions in education. It would appear that the federal government is sorry that it does not have a department of education. Now, with globalization, it feels it is important to properly train people. The problem is this is not its responsibility. It belongs to the provinces. The government should accept this fact by withdrawing from taxation sectors and to allow the provinces to deal with this issue more effectively.

I was satisfied with a part of the minister's answer, yesterday, when he said that, on the lumber issue, the priority will be to return to free trade when the agreement expires. I find that in this industry the federal government has been slow to act. It might well, for a lack of time, have to renew part of the current agreements or reach compromises with the Americans, to the detriment of some Canadian regions covered by the current agreement.

Let us not forget that four Canadian provinces are covered by this agreement, but not the others. In the export trade this is very prejudicial, for example to my riding, the Témiscouata area where many sawmills export lumber. Both owners and employees want us to revert to free trade in the lumber industry.

Today, and I will conclude on this, there is concrete evidence that the Speech of the Throne is sometimes devoid of substance. On page 11, it says:

    There was a time when losing a job also meant immediate loss of income for workers and their families. And so Canadians created Employment Insurance.

That program generated a surplus of $30 billion. Today, the government is introducing a bill which should be a logical follow-up to this policy statement. However all it does is confirm that the government wants to grab that $30 billion surplus. The government does not want to put the money back into the program even though some young people and some women are not eligible and even though seasonal workers do not have an income throughout their period of unemployment, in spite of the economic prosperity we are experiencing. This is totally unacceptable.

For all these reasons, I think people will understand that we cannot vote in favour of such a Speech from the Throne. This applies to people of Quebec of course, because the speech is a denial of Quebec as such, but it also applies to all those who care for social justice because, in this Speech from the Throne, there is no basis to ensure the proper distribution of wealth that we ought to expect.

Mr. Marcel Gagnon (Champlain, BQ): Mr. Speaker, my colleague just pointed out how people confuse things in the House. I have been here since the beginning of the week and I have been listening carefully to find out what is going on. We have heard some incredible things.

I spent nine years in the Quebec National Assembly. We had some idea of how we were treated. However I am shocked to hear some of the things that are being said here.

The federal government is constantly and increasingly trying to interfere in Quebec's jurisdictions—I am here to protect Quebec's interests—but that is also true for all the provinces. The government is trying to create confusion. When we criticize the government for not taking its responsibilities, for example as regards the environment, we are told that this is a provincial jurisdiction. On the other hand, when the government should leave the money to the provinces to fulfil their responsibilities, it gets involved. This is truly scandalous.

I have a question for the hon. member who just spoke. Two things are confused. The government talks about tax cuts and employment insurance reform. Tax cuts will help the rich get richer, while employment insurance reform will make the poor poorer. These two issues are discussed together.

Let me quickly give an example. Under the most recent tax cut, a person earning $100,000 will save about $2,000 in taxes. If that same person, or his brother, earned $35,000 under the same conditions, he would save seven times less or about $350.

 

. 1415 + -

I ask the hon. member: Could he tell me if he has figured this out? I would like him to explain this to me. Why is the government creating confusion? Is it to fool people or is it because it does not really know the different impact of these two issues?

Mr. Paul Crête: Mr. Speaker, the member for Champlain mentioned a major concern about the current system and the way the federal government wants to achieve equity.

I would like to add that if a worker earning $100,000 is eligible to EI he pays premiums on the first $39,000. He does not pay any premium on his income over $39,000, while workers earning $39,000 pay premiums on 100% of their income. This is the money that was used to eliminate the deficit.

When there is a tax cut, we tell high income workers:“We have eliminated the deficit on the back of workers who earn less than you and now we can give you a rebate”. This is unacceptable in my opinion.

It does not mean that we do not need to cut taxes or to put money back into the taxpayers' pockets. What we see however is a very unfair approach for those who need a better EI system to achieve equity.

Seasonal workers earning $15,000, $18,000 or $20,000 a year, and their families, do not necessarily need a tax reduction more than they need EI benefits that will give them the money they need while they are unemployed. That would be the right way to achieve equity in our society.

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold (Jonquière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today. Before I begin, I would like to thank the people of Jonquière for renewing their confidence in me this past November 27. I can assure them that I am going to focus all my energies, as I have in the past, on meeting their needs. My thanks to the people of Jonquière, Lac Kénogami, Shipshaw, Larouche and Laterrière.

I am pleased to speak today in response to the Speech from the Throne. I witnessed the throne speech masquerade this past Tuesday, and today I have just witnessed another with the introduction of the bill on employment insurance reform.

Canadians and Quebecers will no longer be fooled. This is the last time the government will manage to pull the wool over their eyes.

We had an election this past November. The Prime Minister took everyone by surprise, calling an election after only three and one-half years in office. No one expected the government, with its boasts about its surplus, its so-called good management and its claims to have settled all the problems of Canadian society, to call an election. Unfortunately it did.

What was there on the legislative agenda on wich to build a campaign? The government said it was going to share the wealth between the poorest and the wealthiest. I attempted to discuss this matter of the distribution of wealth with the Liberal candidates in my region, but none had any idea what this was all about. They all realized that the government was lying by telling the public that the wealth was going to be distributed between the richest and the poorest.

I think that the Prime Minister called an election because he knew that the leader of the Canadian Alliance was not ready to go out on the hustings. We can no longer be taken in by this sort of arrogance from a party that walks all over the working class and the disadvantaged.

In my riding of Jonquière, many workers are soon going to lose their jobs with large companies, such as Abitibi Consolidated Inc.—not to name names—which have decided to modernize their operations, which will lay off 250 workers aged 55 or older. They are called older workers.

 

. 1420 + -

In the three and a half years I have been in Ottawa, I have put questions to the Minister of Human Resources Development. There used to be a program for older worker adjustment known as POWA to help older workers. This program made it possible for them to look forward to a decent retirement, to head into retirement with benefits under the EI plan. They had, after all, paid premiums throughout their working lives, without ever reaping the benefit. For three and a half years, the minister has been telling us that these people should take job retraining, be mobile and change their line of work.

Most of these people do not have much education. In my region at that time, it was easy to get a job. Right after second or third year high school, young people went to work in the factory and were sure of staying there until they retired. The situation has changed today.

Now they ask them to do it, but they have no money for these people. However there is money in the employment insurance fund. This year alone there is a surplus of $6 billion in this fund.

What is the government doing with the employment insurance fund? In the latest bill it has tabled, it is returning 8% of the $6 billion to the contributors. Only four out of ten will get benefits. What is it doing with the remaining 92% of the fund?

As far as I know, we do not contribute because our salaries are above $39,000. The Government of Canada does not contribute a cent to the EI fund. Only workers and employers contribute. Why does the government give itself the right to dictate the rules and why has it the power to decide who will and who will not draw benefits?

In the coming years, I think there will be real problems, as the result of what is happening in Ottawa. These problems will arise because there is no respect for the legitimacy of the ordinary people, people who manage to provide decent social conditions for themselves with the little they earn, but when they pay insurance, they cannot draw on it.

The bill the Minister of Human Resources Development has just tabled is no different from the one tabled before the election. I think we will do a real job on them, in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. We will make them abide by their promise.

I saw the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and the Minister of Public Works come to my area with the Minister of Regional Development and say to the people of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean “We will listen to you and we will amend the act. Rest assured of that and vote for us. If you vote massively, we will satisfy you all”.

I can see today that this was only cheap talk to get votes. No, ordinary people will not be deceived again.

I also want to talk about the Speech from the Throne, which completely ignores the status of women. Last spring we had the women's march. Women marched on Ottawa. I marched with them. They came to make demands. There is no mention of those demands in the Speech from the Throne.

Where is the chairwoman of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, Françoise David? Why has she not come to Ottawa to berate the government, which does not care about women? Most of these women are single parents. I will not tolerate this any more as a woman and as a citizen of Quebec and Canada.

This government's arrogance must come to an end. I cannot see how I can do anything but vote against this Speech from the Throne.

 

. 1425 + -

This morning I listened to the fine speech by the Minister of the Environment. As members know, I was the Bloc Quebecois environment critic during the last parliament. I would always tell the minister in committee and elsewhere “By gosh, you make good speeches; but you never deliver”. People always say “Ah, he is very good at delivering good speeches”. Today I listened very carefully to the minister. Things have not changed at all. The government is still infringing on provincial jurisdictions.

In Quebec municipalities are the creatures of the provincial government. Municipalities come under the municipalities act. Now the federal government is creating programs that are directly geared to these municipalities.

What will the government do with endangered species? We opposed the bill during the last session. It could not be passed by the House because, again, the government wanted to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.

Habitat is a provincial jurisdiction. We all know that birds and endangered species go together. The federal government has its own jurisdictions, its parks, but it does not act. It wants to tell others what to do.

It is sometimes difficult to look at one's self. It is easier to tell people “Do as we say, but not as we do”. The government is very good at governing in an arrogant manner by telling others to do as it says, but to ignore what it does.

In the next three, four or five years, I will keep a very close eye on this government. I am currently concerned with regional development, which is another interesting issue. The government will have to stop creating in the regions needs that do not meet the expectations just because it wants visibility. Enough is enough. We are entitled to a tax refund. We pay federal taxes and the time will come when this government will have to meet our needs with our taxes. This is just the beginning. I will vote against the throne speech.

[English]

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Jonquière for raising the important issue about the state of the employment insurance system and how it is failing Canadian workers in every respect.

The hon. member pointed out something that is very important and I am glad she did. She pointed out that the federal government does not pay into the employment insurance fund anymore. It stopped doing that in the late 1980s. Only employers and employees contribute to the fund. Where then does the government get the right to use the surplus for anything other than income maintenance for employees, which is what it was designed to do?

Would the hon. member not agree that if we deduct something from people's paycheques, tell them that it is for a specific purpose and then use it for something completely different, that it is, in the very best light, a breach of trust? In the worst light, it is out and out fraud. An absolute fraud is being committed on working people because they are paying faithfully into an employment insurance program but are being denied benefits. No wonder there is a surplus, no one qualifies anymore. Less than 40% of unemployed people, less than 25% of women and less than 15% of youth qualify even though they have to pay into the program because it is mandatory.

In my own riding, the third poorest riding in the country, the changes to EI cost $20.8 million a year in benefits that would have come into the riding. Can members imagine what they would do if a company wanted to move into their riding with a $20.8 million payroll? They would pave the streets with gold to do that.

I would ask the hon. member to tell us the situation in her riding and the impact the cuts to employment insurance have had on the unemployed people in Jonquière.

[Translation]

Ms. Jocelyne Girard-Bujold: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member of the New Democratic Party. All ridings are having to cope with an extremely serious problem relating to employment insurance.

We have a saying in our area “Piquer, c'est voler”. That means if a person goes into another's pocket and takes his money it that is considered stealing until proven otherwise.

What this government is doing at the present time in the matter of employment insurance is dipping directly into the workers' pockets. This is a serious matter, and I will respond to the member's question.

We are a heavily unionized region. I believe that Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean is the most unionized area of Canada and of Quebec.

Before the last federal election, there was a movement in our area that rallied together hundreds and hundreds of workers who took to the streets to protest the employment insurance bill. They even told the minister of revenue, who is also the minister responsible for regional development, “Hit the road back across the Parc des Laurentides; you are not wanted here”. He had to pack up his bags and head back home.

We had great plans for the construction of the Alcan plant at Alma, where hundreds of thousands of workers were employed. Now these people have no work and they will end up on employment insurance. There are no measures whatsoever to help them, no structured programs that will let these workers gain some benefit from what is rightfully theirs or to allow them to be directed into employment.

All of this needs looking into. If I had any more time, there is much more I could say.

[English]

The Deputy Speaker: It being 2.30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)