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38th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 080

CONTENTS

Tuesday, April 12, 2005




1000
V ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
V     Green Municipal Funds
V         Hon. R. John Efford (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.)

1005
V     Government Response to Petitions
V         Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
V     Criminal Code
V         Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
V         (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
V     Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC)
V         (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

1010
V     Petitions
V         Marriage
V         Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, CPC)
V         Missile Defence Shield
V         Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ)
V         Canada's Ambassador to UNESCO
V         Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ)
V         Assisted Suicide
V         Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ)
V         Immigration
V         Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.)
V         Marriage
V         Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC)
V         Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC)
V         Child Care
V         Mr. Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre, CPC)

1015
V         Marriage
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)
V         National Defence
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)
V         Marriage
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)
V         Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
V     Questions on the Order Paper
V         Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
V         The Deputy Speaker
V Government Orders
V     Budget Implementation Act, 2005
V         Hon. Jim Peterson
V         Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

1020

1025

1030

1035
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)
V         Hon. John McKay

1040
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
V         Hon. John McKay

1045
V         Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC)
V         Hon. John McKay

1050
V         Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, CPC)

1055

1100

1105
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

1110
V         Mr. Charlie Penson
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
V         Mr. Charlie Penson

1115
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)
V         Mr. Charlie Penson
V         Mr. Guy Côté (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, BQ)

1120

1125

1130

1135
V         Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

1140
V         Mr. Guy Côté
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
V         Mr. Guy Côté

1145
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)

1150

1155

1200

1205
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

1210
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

1215
V         Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.)

1220

1225

1230

1235
V         Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ)

1240
V         Mr. Paul Szabo

1245
V         Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC)
V         Mr. Paul Szabo
V         Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, CPC)

1250

1255
V         Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC)

1300
V         Mr. Loyola Hearn
V         Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)
V         Mr. Loyola Hearn

1305
V         Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's, CPC)

1310

1315
V         Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
V         Mr. Gerald Keddy
V         Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.)

1320
V         Mr. Gerald Keddy
V         Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.)

1325

1330

1335

1340
V         Mr. Randy White (Abbotsford, CPC)

1345
V         Hon. Bryon Wilfert
V         Hon. Bryon Wilfert
V         Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

1350
V         Hon. Bryon Wilfert
V         Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

1355

1400
V STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
V     Volunteerism
V         Hon. Brenda Chamberlain (Guelph, Lib.)
V     Veterans Affairs
V         Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's, CPC)
V     Pope John Paul II
V         Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.)
V     Agriculture
V         Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ)
V     Coast Guard
V         Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.)

1405
V     Men's World Curling Championship
V         Mr. Ken Epp (Edmonton—Sherwood Park, CPC)
V     Immigration
V         Mr. Russ Powers (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, Lib.)
V     Place aux jeunes
V         Ms. France Bonsant (Compton—Stanstead, BQ)
V     Terry Fox
V         Hon. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.)
V     Capital Hill Experience
V         Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin—Caledon, CPC)

1410
V     Etobicoke Business Excellence Awards
V         Hon. Jean Augustine (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.)
V     Landmines
V         Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)
V     Terry Fox
V         Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC)
V     Rail Transportation
V         Mr. Raynald Blais (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, BQ)
V     Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival
V         Ms. Helena Guergis (Simcoe—Grey, CPC)

1415
V     Royal Canadian Mounted Police
V         Mrs. Susan Kadis (Thornhill, Lib.)
V     Aboriginal Affairs
V         Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP)
V ORAL QUESTION PERIOD
V     Federal-Provincial Relations
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V     Air-India
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V     Sponsorship Program
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)

1420
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)

1425
V         Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP)

1430
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V         Mrs. Diane Ablonczy

1435
V         The Speaker
V         Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

1440
V         Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC)
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC)
V         Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC)
V         Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.)
V     Immigration
V         Mr. Mark Holland (Ajax—Pickering, Lib.)
V         Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.)
V         The Speaker
V     Human Resources and Skills Development
V         Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP)

1445
V         Hon. Lucienne Robillard (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)
V         Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP)
V         Hon. Lucienne Robillard (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)
V     Sponsorship Program
V         Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         The Speaker

1450
V     Border Security
V         Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V         Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC)
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V     Sponsorship Program
V         Ms. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ)
V         Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)
V         Ms. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ)
V         The Speaker
V     Infrastructure
V         Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC)
V         Hon. Jacques Saada (Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie, Lib.)

1455
V         Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC)
V         Hon. John Godfrey (Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), Lib.)
V     Health
V         Hon. Don Boudria (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.)
V         Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.)
V     Natural Resources
V         Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, CPC)
V         Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.)
V     Canadian Forces
V         Mr. David Chatters (Westlock—St. Paul, CPC)
V         Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)
V     Sponsorship Program
V         Ms. Nicole Demers (Laval, BQ)

1500
V         Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)
V     The Budget
V         Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.)
V         Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.)
V     Presence in Gallery
V         The Speaker
V         The Speaker
V     Privilege
V         Appointment to National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
V         Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC)

1505
V         The Speaker
V         Comments by the Prime Minister's Director of Communications
V         Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC)

1510
V         Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages, Minister responsible for Democratic Reform and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.)
V         Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
V         The Speaker

1515
V     Points of Order
V         Oral Question Period
V         Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Newton—North Delta, CPC)
V         Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.)
V         Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V         Hon. Joseph Volpe

1520
V         The Speaker
V         Mr. Gurmant Grewal
V         The Speaker
V         Civil Marriage Act
V         Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V         Oral Question Period
V         Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

1525
V         The Speaker
V         Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V         Mr. Jay Hill

1530
V         The Speaker
V Government Orders
V     Budget Implementation Act, 2005
V         The Speaker
V         Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

1535

1540
V         Hon. John Godfrey (Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), Lib.)

1545

1550

1555
V         Ms. Bev Oda (Durham, CPC)

1600

1605
V         Mr. Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre-North, CPC)

1610

1615
V     Business of the House
V         Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
V         The Deputy Speaker
V         (Motion agreed to)
V     Budget Implementation Act, 2005
V         Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jim Prentice

1620
V         Hon. Larry Bagnell (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.)

1625

1630

1635

1640
V         Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
V         Hon. Larry Bagnell

1645
V         Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)

1650

1655
V     Business of the House
V         Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.)
V         The Deputy Speaker
V     Budget Implementation Act, 2005
V         Hon. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)

1700
V         Mr. Peter Julian
V         Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP)

1705

1710
V         Mr. Randy White (Abbotsford, CPC)
V         Mr. Brian Masse

1715
V         Mr. Randy White
V         Mr. Brian Masse
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

1720

1725

1730
V     Civil Marriage Act
V         The Deputy Speaker

1805
V     (Division 56)
V         The Speaker
V     Parliament of Canada Act
V         The Speaker

1820
V     (Division 57)
V         The Speaker
V         (Bill read the third time and passed)
V     Supply
V         Opposition Motion--Air-India
V         The Speaker

1830
V     (Division 58)
V         The Speaker
V Routine Proceedings
V     Committees of the House
V         Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
V         The Speaker
V         Hon. Karen Redman
V         The Speaker
V         Hon. Rob Nicholson
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         Mr. Yvon Godin

1835
V     (Division 59)
V         Hon. Karen Redman
V         The Speaker
V         Hon. Rob Nicholson
V         Mr. Michel Guimond
V         Mr. Yvon Godin
V     (Division 60)
V         The Speaker
V PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
V     Employment Insurance Act
V         Mr. Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC)

1840

1845

1850
V         Ms. Beth Phinney (Hamilton Mountain, Lib.)

1855
V     Business of the House
V         Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)
V         The Speaker
V     Employment Insurance Act
V         Mr. Yves Lessard (Chambly—Borduas, BQ)

1900

1905

1910
V         Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP)

1915

1920
V         Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ)

1925

1930
V         Mr. Gérard Asselin (Manicouagan, BQ)

1935
V         The Deputy Speaker
V         Hon. Peter Adams
V         The Deputy Speaker
V GOVERNMENT ORDERS
V     RCMP and Law Enforcement in Canada
V         (House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 10, Mr. Strahl in the chair)
V         Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)
V         Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

1940

1945
V         Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, CPC)
V         Hon. Anne McLellan

1950
V         Mr. Robert Vincent (Shefford, BQ)
V         Hon. Anne McLellan

1955
V         Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)
V         Hon. Anne McLellan
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)

2000

2005
V         Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, CPC)
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield
V         Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC)

2010
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield
V         Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC)

2015
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Mr. Peter MacKay

2020
V         Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, CPC)
V         Mr. Peter MacKay

2025
V         Mr. Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, BQ)

2030

2035
V         Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)

2040

2045
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V         Mr. Joe Comartin

2050
V         Hon. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.)

2055
V         Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP)

2100
V         Hon. Paul DeVillers
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Hon. Paul DeVillers

2105
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Hon. Paul DeVillers
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC)

2110

2115
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Lib.)
V         Mr. Vic Toews

2120
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V         Mr. Vic Toews
V         Ms. Rona Ambrose (Edmonton—Spruce Grove, CPC)

2125
V         Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC)
V         Ms. Rona Ambrose

2130
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Ms. Rona Ambrose
V         Hon. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development), Lib.)

2135

2140

2145
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Hon. Wayne Easter

2150
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield

2155
V         Hon. Wayne Easter
V         Mr. Robert Vincent (Shefford, BQ)

2200

2205
V         Mr. John Maloney (Welland, Lib.)
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

2210

2215
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Hon. Roy Cullen

2220
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield
V         Hon. Roy Cullen

2225
V         Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC)

2230
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield
V         Mr. Bob Mills

2235
V         Mr. Brian Jean (Fort McMurray—Athabasca, CPC)

2240
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

2245
V         Mr. Brian Jean
V         Mr. John Maloney (Welland, Lib.)

2250
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

2255
V         Mr. John Maloney

2300
V         Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC)
V         Mr. John Maloney
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC)
V         Mr. John Maloney

2305
V         Hon. Denis Paradis (Brome—Missisquoi, Lib.)

2310

2315
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC)
V         Hon. Denis Paradis
V         Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC)

2320
V         Hon. Denis Paradis
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V         Hon. Denis Paradis

2325
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC)

2330
V         Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)
V         Mr. Kevin Sorenson
V         Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC)

2335
V         The Assistant Deputy Chair

2340
V         The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)






CANADA

House of Commons Debates


VOLUME 140 
NUMBER 080 
1st SESSION 
38th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.


Prayers



+ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

*   *   *

  +(1000)  

[English]

+Green Municipal Funds

+

    Hon. R. John Efford (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the Green Municipal Funds annual report of 2003-04.

*   *   *

  +-(1005)  

[Translation]

+-Government Response to Petitions

+-

    Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 49 petitions.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Criminal Code

+-

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-361, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate).

    He said: Mr. Speaker, more than 1 million Canadians each year regularly use payday lenders and another 1.4 million use high interest rate lenders at a great cost to their families and to their standard of living. Once hidden charges are accounted for, the effective rates on those payday loans exceed 50% despite much lower interest rates in the mainstream financial sector.

    Banks have abandoned the small loans business on the grounds that it is not profitable enough, so many of these individuals who take these loans have no alternative.

    I am very pleased to table today this private member's bill with the objective to protect consumers and their families from abusive and usurious lending practices by amending section 347 of the Criminal Code to reduce the definition of criminal interest rates in half from 60% to 35% above the official Bank of Canada rate.

    The bill would also broaden the definition of interest to include the calculation of hidden charges paid by a person to obtain insurance coverage.

    The bill addresses an important issue that affects families in many parts of Canada and I hope that it will receive broad support from the House.

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

*   *   *

+-Canadian Forces Superannuation Act

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): moved for leave to introduce Bill C-362, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act (marriage after the age of sixty years).

    He said: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of veterans, like Gordon Read of Kelowna and their families, I am pleased to table a bill to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.

    The bill would remove section 31(1) which prevents spouses who marry veterans after the age of 60 from receiving the veterans pension upon their death. It is wrong to penalize veterans and their families simply because they choose to marry later in life. This policy is outdated and there is no rationalization for the disqualification.

    2005 is the year of the veteran. Veterans have given our country so much. I hope my colleagues will support the bill, support veterans and their families and show veterans just how grateful we are.

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

*   *   *

  +-(1010)  

+-Petitions

+Marriage

+-

    Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the petition I present today is one of many that I have received on the subject of marriage.

    The petitioners draw to the attention of the House the fact that marriage is the best foundation for families and the raising of children, that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is being challenged and therefore ask Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

    I note, in conclusion, that this petition is entirely consistent with Conservative Party policy.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Missile Defence Shield

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

    The first is a petition calling on the federal government not to join U.S. President George Bush's missile defence shield. This is evidently a very popular position in Quebec.

*   *   *

+-Canada's Ambassador to UNESCO

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the second petition I want to present was circulated by the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and calls for the recall and dismissal of Yvon Charbonneau as Canadian Ambassador to UNESCO because of his various positions on international policy, in the Middle East in particular.

*   *   *

+-Assisted Suicide

+-

    Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the last petition I am presenting was launched by Benoît Dutrizac, a broadcaster from radio station 98.5 FM in Montreal, who filed an excellent report on Télé-Québec on assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity. The petition calls on this Parliament and this government to initiate a discussion on assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity so that those wanting this right can exercise it.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Immigration

+-

    Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by 28 people from the greater Toronto area and sent to me by constituents in my riding of Etobicoke Centre.

    The petitioners pray and request that Parliament increase the quotas for parental sponsorship admissions and reduce the processing times of sponsorship applications with respect to immigration.

*   *   *

+-Marriage

+-

    Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of my constituents who pray that Parliament pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

    It is a pleasure for me to assist these petitioners and support them in their petition.

+-

    Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today and present two petitions on behalf of my constituents from the Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre riding and members from Regina Beach, Buena Vista, Moose Jaw and Regina proper.

    Both these petitions deal with the definition of marriage and, more specifically, the desire of the petitioners to let the decision on civil marriage be determined by members of Parliament and not unelected judges and that the members of Parliament choose to retain the current definition of marriage, that being the traditional definition of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

*   *   *

+-Child Care

+-

    Mr. Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to rise and present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Calgary Centre who believe that it is parents and not the government who is in the best position to determine which type of child care best suits their children and leaves more money in the pockets of parents to spend as they see fit rather than a government run day care system.

*   *   *

  +-(1015)  

+-Marriage

+-

    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present three petitions to the House today.

    The first petition is on the definition of marriage. It has been signed by a number of Canadians, including from my riding of Mississauga South.

    The petitioners would simply like to draw to the House that marriage is defined as the lifelong union of one man and one woman and is the best foundation for families and raising children. They also point out that it is the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament to define marriage.

    They therefore call upon Parliament to define marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

*   *   *

+-National Defence

+-

    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on the subject matter of veterans.

    The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that veterans and electoral residents from the province of New Brunswick want the House to be aware that the Canadian Forces has plans to remove the Maltese Cross from the hat badge of Canada's military chaplains because it now has one Muslim chaplain.

    The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to cause the armed forces to retain the badge of honour for its military chaplains and devise another method to recognize non-Christian chaplains when so employed.

*   *   *

+-Marriage

+-

    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the final petition is on the issue of the notwithstanding clause under the charter.

    The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the majority of Canadians believe that fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by the unelected judiciary.

    They therefore call upon Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including the invocation of section 33 of the charter, commonly known as the notwithstanding clause, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage which is the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

*   *   *

+-Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages

+-

    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of numerous constituents and other Canadians who are concerned with an issue dealt with of late in the House. It pertains to fetal alcohol syndrome. The petitioners believe it is important to put labels on all alcohol beverage containers indicating that drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. They are concerned that the government has failed to respond to the wishes of the Canadian population and parliamentarians and ask for immediate and urgent action.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Questions on the Order Paper

+-

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

+-

    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.


+-Government Orders

[Government Orders]

*   *   *

[English]

+-Budget Implementation Act, 2005

+-

    Hon. Jim Peterson (for the Minister of Finance) moved that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to introduce the 2005 budget implementation act at second reading. This is all about the government delivering on its commitments. That has been the theme of this year's budget and indeed it is the theme of the bill before us today.

    Canadians expect the government to take major steps to deliver on our commitments and that is exactly what we have done. I hope over the next few minutes to demonstrate that this is exactly what we have done.

    In the 2005 budget we have set out an ambitious agenda to promote national well-being, centring on five mutually reinforcing commitments: first, maintaining sound fiscal management; second, encouraging a productive and growing economy; third, securing our social foundations; fourth, promoting sustainable environment and communities; and fifth, strengthening Canada's role in the world. As I said, I hope that these five mutually reinforcing commitments will become obvious over the course of the next few minutes.

    Proposals contained in the bill take major steps to deliver on these commitments, with action carefully paced over the next five years. I hope in the next few moments to illustrate how the measures contained in the bill reflect each one of these commitments. Before I do that, I think it is important to make a few comments about our economic situation, because this underlies each and every budget.

    Canada is in an enviable position. Since balancing the federal budget in 1997, Canada has led the G-7 industrial nations with the best job creation record and the fastest growth in living standards.

    Right now I can hear someone calling in their support, Mr. Speaker, so certainly there does seem to be someone who is agreeing with me on that very significant point.

    Looking ahead, and based upon the average forecast by economists from the private sector, the real growth in 2005 is expected to be 2.9% of GDP, rising to 3.1% in the 2006. I would note in parenthesis, however, that since the budget has been proclaimed, private sector economists have actually rounded down the GDP growth for 2005 from 2.9% to 2.6%, so it gives us some sense that private sector economists are possibly not as robust as they were when the budget was being made. That of course is a concern to each and every one of us who considers a sound fiscal framework to be the cornerstone of our prosperity.

    These forecasts are always subject to risk, including the evolving impact of the rapid rise in the value of our dollar. Canada is probably one of the most global trading nations, if not the most global, and because of that our risks are frequently risks that are outside of our control.

    For instance, the principal risk is with the twin U.S. budget and account deficits. These could cause higher interest rates, slower U.S. growth and further depreciation of the American dollar, all leading to slower Canadian growth and some economic adjustment which could in many instances be quite painful for each one of us.

    As I said, we do not have control over how the U.S. issues its budget or controls its current account deficit. These are principal risks to the forecasting which are completely outside of our control, similarly with the economy of China and with rising oil prices and things of that nature which are by and large outside the control of our economy.

  +-(1020)  

    It is the possibility of future risk that motivates the government's first commitment, and that is to sound financial management, with balanced budgets or better based on prudent fiscal planning. Even after dramatic investments in funding for provinces and territories and further new measures, budget 2005 projects a surplus for the current fiscal year ending March 31, a surplus for the eighth year in a row. That is the longest string of surpluses since 1867 and the founding of the nation.

    The budget projects balanced budgets or better over the next five year period. The five year fiscal projection reflects the fact that the vast majority of the commitments it makes extend beyond the traditional two year planning horizon. This has further positioned Canada as a world leader and the only G-7 country to post total government surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation that can expect to be in surplus in 2005 and in 2006.

    Our strong performance has fueled a $60 billion plus reduction in Canada's public debt and a saving of more than $3 billion annually each and every year in debt servicing costs. This has led to Canada having a triple-A credit rating, producing lower interest rates for provinces, cities, businesses and families.

    Again as a parenthesis, in my own community of Scarborough—Guildwood what we have noticed is a vacating of a lot of lower-end apartments while people get out and buy homes, because the interest rates are now such that the home which was heretofore unaffordable has become affordable. People are leaving the apartments and moving into their homes because their mortgage payments are the same as or less than their rental payments.

    The combination of lower debt and lower interest rates has meant that the share of government revenue going to debt servicing or interest rates has been cut from almost 38¢ of each revenue $1; that is, 38¢ or well over one-third of every $1 was going to service debt. Now we are down to around 19¢. We have shaved it entirely in half. For the provinces, on average that has meant a significant reduction in their debt interest costs as well. Some provinces are down around an average of 12¢ of every revenue $1, and again, these are savings that are passed on to any entity that borrows money.

    To sustain these benefits and to position Canada to meet future pressures such as our aging population, the government aims to bring down the debt to 25% of GDP within 10 years.

    Balancing budgets and bringing down debt do not happen by accident. They require prudent fiscal planning. For this reason, budget 2005 again sets aside $3 billion in an annual contingency reserve. If not needed to keep our books in balance, these funds will go directly to reduce the debt.

    We have also continued to build economic prudence into the budget plan, starting at $1 billion. If not needed, it will be used to invest in other priorities of Canadians.

    Fiscal discipline also demands a rigorous approach to delivering value for the taxpayer dollar. That is why the government established the expenditure review committee of cabinet to scrutinize each and every line of government spending.

    The committee has identified $11 billion in cumulative savings over the next five years. Almost 90% of that $11 billion comes from greater efficiencies in procurement, property management, service delivery and program administration. These savings have been incorporated in budget 2005 and are being reinvested in core federal programs and services.

    The government's second commitment to Canadians is to encourage a productive and growing economy. Canada's current economic progress shows that we are on the right path, but increased prosperity and growth need constant improvements in productivity and our ability to compete in a fast-changing global environment.

  +-(1025)  

    Again in parenthesis, we have noticed in the last year some fall off in productivity, which is worrisome. I think it is largely reflected by the rapid appreciation in the Canadian dollar and that has made it very difficult for some businesses to adjust quickly. We can live with a higher Canadian dollar, but it is the haste at which that change occurs which makes it very difficult for businesses to adjust and build into their situation and productivity improvements that keep them competitive.

    We face the challenge of a soon to retire baby boom generation followed by a much smaller generation of workers. This means we will no longer be able to automatically rely on labour force growth to boost the economy. It means that the workforce has to be as inclusive as possible, and we need the workforce to be as skilled and productive as possible to beat international competition.

    Budget 2005 takes action to meet those challenges. This action starts with the understanding that quality child care and early learning is much more than just merely good social policy. It is also an investment in better productivity and economic success in the years ahead. I will reference this back to when I said that we needed an inclusive workforce. Clearly, men and women, as they raise children and work, need to have the most flexible arrangements possible for raising families.

    Bill C-43 would provide for the creation of $700 million trusts for provinces to invest in early learning and child care programs. This amount is the 2004-05, 2005-06 portion of the $5 billion commitment by the federal government for five years to develop a shared early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories.

    We are also taking action to reduce taxes. A competitive tax system makes individuals more prosperous and firms more productive. That is why the federal government has cut taxes each and every year since the budget was first balanced in 1997, including the record five year $100 billion tax cut introduced in the year 2000.

    The budget builds on these reductions by committing to increase the basic personal amount of income that all Canadians can earn to $10,000 by the year 2009. This will benefit all taxpayers, but in particular, it will remove 860,000 low income earners from the tax rolls, almost a quarter million of whom will be seniors.

    Next, to help Canadians save for retirement, Budget 2005 boosts the overall contribution to the RRSPs and registered pension plans to $22,000 by the year 2010. This especially will benefit those who are entrepreneurs, the self-employed and small businesses, people who have no large pension entity to support them. As well, to expand the investment opportunities for Canadians, the government will remove the 30% foreign property limits, such as shares on RRSPs and pension plans.

    Bill C-43 also takes action to maintain a competitive corporate tax environment to stimulate growth and jobs. It proposes to eliminate corporate surtax in 2008. This will benefit businesses, both small and medium sized. By 2010, the government proposes to reduce a 21% general corporate income tax rate to 19%. Even in the face of corporate tax reductions in the U.S., these measures will still maintain a tax rate advantage for Canadian businesses.

    Further, a productive and environmentally sustainable economy is only part of the Canadian well-being. Budget 2005 also delivers on the government's fourth commitment to make further investments to secure social foundations. These investments build upon a $41 billion agreement for health care in Canada, which the Prime Minister entered into with the premiers last fall, and the new $33 billion framework for provincial equalization and territorial financing.

  +-(1030)  

    For example, the Prime Minister and the territorial first ministers have agreed to work together to develop a comprehensive strategy for the north. The north is entering into a time of unprecedented promise and opportunity, particularly with respect to the economic opportunities relating to oil, gas and diamond development.

    Bill C-43 proposes to create a $120 million trust to help the territories meet the goals of the northern strategy, a joint initiative between the Government of Canada and territorial governments aimed at improving the quality of life for northerners.

    Budget 2005 also recognizes our debts to seniors. Indeed, the budget makes significant investments across a wide range of policies that matter to seniors. An investment in health care, which was made in the fall, is of most benefit to those who are aging. People use up most of their health care allotment in the latter part of their lives. The health care investment is for us all, but is of particular significance to those who are seniors.

    In Bill C-43 the increase in the guaranteed income supplement is a payment of $2.7 billion over five years, with improvements in place in less than two years. This will benefit 1.6 million seniors, the majority of whom are women. The maximum GIS will go up by more than $400 per year for a single senior and almost $700 for a couple.

    The third commitment on the government's agenda is in recognition of the fact that a smart economic policy and environmental policy can go hand in hand, improving the quality of life, the health of communities and opportunities for growth. Budget 2005 introduces a $5 billion package of measures over five years to support sustainable environment. These include the new clean fund and a partnership fund to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Bill C-43 proposes to establish a new agency under Environment Canada to manage the $1 billion climate fund which will provide incentives for reduction and removal of greenhouse gases. Moreover, the bill proposes to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to facilitate the future addition of greenhouse gases to the list of substances under the act. This will allow the Minister of the Environment to regulate emissions and implement the proposed large final emitter regime and emissions trading system.

    Bill C-43 also would provide $300 million to the green municipal funds to support local environment projects. Of this amount, $150 million would be used to help communities clean up and redevelop brownfields.

    A key element of the environment for Canadians is our cities and communities. Budget 2005 builds on the new deal for communities launched last year by providing municipalities with a growing share of the federal excise tax on gasoline. Bill C-43 proposes to provide initial funding of $600 million for this initiative, the equivalent of 1.5¢ per litre. This will grow to $2 billion a year for additional revenues over five years, delivering again on this government's commitment.

    Canada's meeting its domestic needs should not obscure the fact that events like tsunami disaster emphasized that we in live in a global village. For example, when the tsunami struck southeast Asia last December, Canadians were deeply affected by this tragedy. Again in parenthesis, the Sri Lankan community, of which I have the honour to represent in my riding, is deeply affected by this tragedy. Canada responded very generously with an assistance package totalling $425 million.

    In true Canadian fashion Canadians responded generously with their personal donations of approximately $200 million to charitable organizations and the government matched that.

  +-(1035)  

    Finally, the measures contained in Bill C-43 represent a comprehensive, integrated plan to enhance the well-being of Canadians. Over this period and over this budget, we have delivered on our commitments.

+-

    Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member like to comment on the deductibility for investments?

    The Canadian Real Estate Association has met with many members of Parliament and is particularly interested in whether we plan on doing anything with capital gains by not including it in the definition of the expected profitability for investors.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Mr. Speaker, representatives of the real estate industry were on the Hill yesterday. Regrettably I did not have an opportunity to meet with them and hear their representations, although a meeting had been set up.

    Their concern is with respect to deductibility of the costs of property where there is a question of gain. This arises out of a Supreme Court decision when the government took the position that where there was no real prospect of making money on a property and having a capital gain then the deductions would not be deductible.

    An example may be a hobby farm where the expenses are being run through it, therefore reducing other income where there is no real prospect that it will make money. Maybe that is a poor example, but it is the only example I can think of off hand. That is the dilemma raised by the representatives of the real estate industry arising out of the case before the Supreme Court.

    I look forward to the opportunity to talk further with them to see whether there is something that can be done on that issue. On the face of it, the government's position is that of the decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada.

  +-(1040)  

+-

    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I found it very interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary boast about the number of surpluses the government has run over the last number of years. Not once did he mention some of the critical situations facing students, the homeless and low income Canadians. He failed to address the absence in the budget of some initiatives in those areas.

    The member talked about the government rolling in surpluses, but he said nothing about students drowning in debt. He failed to mention that there was nothing in the budget nor in the budget implementation act to deal with education, the one program that would give families hope that their children would be able to break through their economic circumstances and build a better future. The one program that would offer some hope of equalizing conditions in the country has been neglected and ignored by the government.

    Since we are talking about elections a lot these days, in the last election less than a year ago the Prime Minister stood in Newfoundland and Labrador and said to the world that he was interested in putting $8 billion into education. The world applauded because he was touching on one of the most critical issues facing Canadians today. What has happened in the space of one year? There has been no mention of education since that election campaign. This was another broken promise. The need for access to quality post-secondary education, one of the most critical issues facing this nation, was given no attention.

    Why was there nothing in the budget and in the budget implementation act about education when the Prime Minister made such a grandiose promise and offered such hope less than a year ago? Why did the government spurn the remarks and contributions made by students' associations, professors' associations and education associations during the prebudget consultations about the failure of programs like the learning bond, the registered education savings plan and the millennium scholarship fund to address the issue of universal education? Now we learn that cabinet has documents showing these programs have limited success and only provide limited access.

    I would like to hear the full goods from the member. I would like to hear the true story about education and what the government plans to do and how fast it intends to act.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Interestingly, Mr. Speaker, I just came from a meeting with the president of the University of Toronto. We had a really interesting and fascinating discussion about the variety of issues that the Government of Canada has taken with respect to research primarily, of which the University of Toronto is a very significant beneficiary. It certainly appreciated not only the contributions to the various foundations which it can access for funding but also the funding of research chairs and a whole variety of issues in the area of post-secondary education.

    I do not frankly accept the premise of the hon. member's question with respect to our involvement in post-secondary education. It is profound. It has been significant and it has put the Canadian universities back in the research game. In fact, it has also reversed the brain drain. We now have a brain gain.

    The question is twofold. The second question is with respect to student access. The member is right in the superficial analysis of the bill. The budget did not address access issues by students, but I direct her attention to the 2004 budget where we dealt with a number of issues: RESPs, learning bonds, millennium scholarships, and things of that nature that is being objected by the hon. member.

    In the spirit of candour, I would say that in some respects those have had an uneven success rate. I know, for instance, my family uses RESPs. That is one of the major ways in which my children will access post-secondary education. I would expect that going forward those issues will be continually evaluated and addressed.

    The final point is with respect to homelessness. The draw down on the funds that has been put aside over the last few years has not been as vigorous as we had hoped. I would also point out to the hon. member--

    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: I wonder why.

    Hon. John McKay: Well, in part because of provinces that cannot seem to get their acts together. I have had people in my office complaining that the money is sitting there and it is not being drawn down. When the money is drawn down, we will again review the situation. I would point out that affordable housing has become a lot more affordable under this government.

  +-(1045)  

+-

    Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to return to some of the comments that the parliamentary secretary made when answering questions from the member for Blackstrap.

    He was talking about eligible expenses and gave the example of hobby farming. I know the parliamentary secretary is aware of the difficulties facing the farm community. We have a situation where we are going to see a sustained loss in that industry. A lot of the farms are not going to be able to show they have the potential to profit under the current definitions.

    We also know that these current definitions affect other industries like real estate investment and would take some time to start showing any profit and any opportunity to have a return on those investments. How is the parliamentary secretary going to ensure that the stringent rules and guidelines we have today are not going to affect our productivity in the future.

    A recent article in the Ottawa Citizen said that one of the greatest hamstrings we have in this country are the rules and regulations that prohibit investment. This is one of the things that is going to make people think twice about investing and starting these small sideline businesses while they work, and what hopefully will become a successful business down the road.

+-

    Hon. John McKay: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member actually asks a good question. I know it is kind of a novelty here. The question revolves around REOP, reasonable expectation of profit. There are a lot of businesses that start up and, frankly, some are more successful than others. In fact, probably the vast majority are less successful than more successful. I do not remember what the statistics are on it, but my recollection is something in the order of 1 or 2 out of 10 are actually successful.

    The government takes the view that there has to be a reasonable expectation of profit before one can deduct that against other income. If people set up businesses that have no expectation of profit, but they want to deduct their expenses against other income, whether it is pension income, other earned income or capital gains, then they will have troubles. I think that is the actual position to take.

    As to encouraging small business to actually take off and go that way, there are a number of programs in place. The trouble with being in government is that one has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. One still has to have a reasonable expectation of profit and meet that definition. If one does not, I do not think anyone should expect to have deductions.

  +-(1050)  

+-

    Mr. Charlie Penson (Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate today on Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget which was tabled just a short six weeks ago on February 23.

    Unfortunately, this budget implementation bill is reflective of the Liberal government's arrogance that has plagued this Parliament for over a decade, back in 1993 when it was first elected. However, in this minority Parliament, it is time for the Prime Minister to stop behaving as if he had a majority and start governing, and take into account the best interests of Canadians. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be happening.

    We in the Conservative Party have made it very clear that we believe the legislation contained in Bill C-43 should be divided into three stand-alone parts: first, legislation enacting Kyoto provisions; second, measures that fulfill commitments made to the provinces including the implementation of the Atlantic accord; and third, clauses traditionally found in budget implementation legislation.

    Let me deal with the Kyoto measures first. We have a last minute decision by the government to include changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and enabling legislation for a Canada emissions regulations agency. All it is, in this minority climate, is a crude bait and switch tactic that is not fooling anybody. I notice that the environmental community is not very happy about the government's tactic either, although the environment minister may have thought that he was going to have support there.

    The Liberals knew the majority in the House however would not approve the Kyoto measures if they presented them in stand-alone legislation. That is why they attached it in a last minute amendment to Bill C-43. This move, at the very least, has delayed legitimate budget measures from implementation and may have even, depending on what happens in the next couple of months, put their very implementation at risk.

    The government's cynical effort to divide and conquer has had the opposite effect. It does not matter what side people are on regarding the Kyoto debate. No one is prepared to swallow hasty, superficial and highly questionable Kyoto measures that are being presented in bad faith.

    I would like to take a moment to talk about Kyoto and the whole business that was first developed in Rio back in the late 1980s. This is the government that sleepwalked its way to a very bad Kyoto agreement to begin with. Although it had left it for almost 10 years, it had to develop a position to take to Kyoto, Japan for the international conference that was taking place.

    The Liberals hastily put a government position together. They went out and consulted with the provinces in about a week. They came back with a position the provinces could finally agree to, went to Kyoto, and doubled the amount of concessions that Canada was prepared to make, double what the provinces had just agreed to a week earlier. That is the kind of rocky start that they got off to, and quite frankly people are shaking their heads at the way that the government has handled this whole file.

    From our point of view, these are not the same set of budget measures which the Conservative Party was presented with in the budget, and so we refused to defeat the government on the budget. Now we find this late amendment that has been brought in as a way to change things. It is a very strange approach.

    Let me deal with the Atlantic accord. It is another problem we have with this budget implementation bill. I would say equally contemptuous is the Liberal tactic of holding the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia hostage by linking the Atlantic accord provisions, which most members of the House support, with the obviously problematic Kyoto measures.

    Members will remember the Atlantic accord. This was the promise that the Prime Minister made when he was slipping very badly in the last election, less than a year ago in June. He went to Newfoundland and Labrador to shore up his support and agreed that we had to make changes to the measures, especially on the offshore resource revenue. Then when the Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia asked him to hold up his part of the bargain just a few months later, he was not prepared to do that. We all saw the negotiations that went on, including Danny Williams and his disgust at the way the Prime Minister had backed away from that agreement. Finally, under great pressure, the Prime Minister gave in.

    We think the provisions of the Atlantic accord in Bill C-43 could be passed in one day in the House if the Liberals would table stand-alone legislation, but so far they have not agreed to do that very simple matter.

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    However, on April 6, just a short time ago, the leader of the Conservative Party rose in the House to seek unanimous consent for the following motion: “That, notwithstanding the Standing Orders or usual practices of the House, a minister of the Crown be permitted to table a bill without notice that implements the Atlantic accord; when such a bill is called for debate it be deemed read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage, deemed read a third time and passed”.

    Therefore, it is clear that the intent was to move this through very quickly. The accord was finally reached between the Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and the Liberal government after a great deal of pressure. However, the Liberals have linked it to the Kyoto amendment and this is problematic.

    The member for Toronto—Danforth, the leader of the NDP, seconded this motion. We may disagree on many issues, but the Conservatives and the NDP share a sense of fair play and apparently the Liberals do not as they would not give their consent. Nevertheless, we remain united on this point. The Atlantic accord should be passed with no further delay, finally giving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia what they were duly promised in the last election campaign, which is a fair deal they so justly deserve.

    The bottom line is that the Conservative Party does not believe in playing games with the well-being of Canadians and Canadians of that particular region on this issue. It is high time that the Liberals stop trying to score points and follow the lead of the Conservative Party by acting in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. We request that this be split away from this bill and if the government refuses to do so, we will try to accomplish that in committee when it comes to us.

    Traditional budget measures are normally contained in these budget implementation bills. In the last election the Liberals campaigned against many of the Conservative initiatives which they seem to very strangely now accept, such as tax reductions. Our last platform, which the Liberals criticized as being fiscally irresponsible just about 10 or 11 months ago, committed to $58 billion in new spending and tax reductions over five years.

    In budget 2005, the Liberals made $55 billion in new commitments for the same time period. Eerily and remarkably, almost exactly the same numbers. We could not afford them in June during the election campaign. They were highly irresponsible. Then the budget came down February 23, and strangely, the are exactly the same numbers. So it was just a crass political ploy at election time to discredit the Conservative Party. Now we see that it was affordable all along.

    Unfortunately, many of the tax cuts embraced by the Liberals in the budget do not go far enough or occur fast enough to have a substantial impact on the well-being of Canadians. In fact, some people are calling the last budget “budget 2008” because many of the measures do not take effect until late in the five year period.

    The personal tax relief measures in the bill are insufficient and back-end loaded. They amount to a reduction of no more than $16 next year. It is called the pizza of tax relief. One family could maybe buy a pizza with the tax relief it is going to get next year. So the Liberals back-end loaded many of these provisions and they are only going to be $192 when fully implemented in 2009. Not nearly enough, but it is the right direction.

    The productivity enhancing measures in budget 2005 however are insufficient. They serve only to illustrate that the government is not taking the warning signs that Canada's high priority programs could be in jeopardy if comprehensive steps are not taken to grow the economy before the demographic crunch happens. I have been on the finance committee for some time. We have heard this story about the looming demographic change. We have an aging population in Canada. We will have less people paying the bills down the road. We believe that we have to take measures now to get Canada's economy going. We know that we are trailing our major trading partner, the United States, very badly in terms of productivity.

    People may ask what that is, it really means we have a lower standard of living. It is not good enough. We have fallen behind very badly in the last 25 years. It means in real terms that people can understand that the average family of four in Canada has a take home pay of about $24,000 less than the average family in the United States.

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    What could people do with that? They could put some $2,000 a month on their mortgage payments. That is really what it amounts to in real terms. They could pay down their mortgage considerably faster if we had the same kind of standard of living as they have in the United States.

    Why would we think that we should not aspire to have as high a standard of living? We have had it in the past. It is only in the last 25 years that we have drifted very badly. Our productivity has fallen so we are only about 75% as productive as the United States.

    I would suggest that it is not the fault of Canadians. It is the fault of policy makers who put us into a whole bunch of areas of government spending in which we do not need to be involved any more.

    Let us take some steps now to correct that before the big demographic crunch happens. Canada's productivity slack not only curtails the Canadian standard of living now but it puts the future affordability of our social programs into serious jeopardy. The time to fix a leaky roof is when the sun is shining, not to wait for a downpour to flood the house.

    Some of the measures in the bill do not reflect how they were presented in the budget document. While the budget noted that each of the territories would equally share $120 million in trust, part 6 of Bill C-43 leaves the allocation up to the terms of the trust indenture. Maybe that is fine but maybe it is not. It does not spell it out.

    Budget 2005 said that $150 million for the green municipal fund would be applied to clean up brownfields. We heard about the need for that many times but no stipulations to that effect were made in part 8 of Bill C-43, which I think is also an oversight or an error.

    With regard to the much talked about gas tax transfer to the municipalities that the parliamentary secretary talked about a little earlier, part 11 of Bill C-43 only authorizes payments to the provinces regarding the gas tax until 2005-06 even though the budget stated that the amount of the share of the gas tax would rise to $2 billion annually by 2009-10.

    I think some provisions still need to be cleared up.

    Provisions to help low income seniors do not come out as beneficial as the Minister of Finance's budget speech would lead us to believe. For example, part 23 of Bill C-43 says that unless the provincial governments raise the comfort allowance amount, the total amount increased to the GIS, the guaranteed income supplement, would not be paid to seniors living in subsidized nursing homes but rather to the nursing home operator or the province.

    There may also be provincial programs, such as GAINS in Ontario, which would claw back half of the GIS increase so that it may not be quite as rosy as the finance minister has suggested.

    The area on which I am the most critical is the area of surplus projections. We just had the budget six weeks ago. The finance minister told us that the budget surplus for the year that just ended March 31, and he was only a few weeks away from it at the time, would be $3 billion. That has been changed many times this last year but we have heard him say there would be $3 billion.

    Unfortunately, I suggest it is somewhat like the fiasco of last year when the finance minister stated that the budget surplus would be $1.9 billion and it magically turned out, after the election I might point out, to be $9.1 billion. A lot of people thought that maybe the finance minister was dyslexic or something when he got the numbers opposite but it turned out to be a huge advantage for the Liberal Party during the campaign. The Liberals said that they could not afford all the promises that were made by the Conservative Party but, alas, they could have afforded it all along because instead of a $1.9 billion surplus it turned out to be a $9.1 billion.

    I am suggesting that the finance minister pull up his forecasting socks and stop hiding taxpayer dollars by lowballing surpluses.

    Some people might want to know what is wrong with lowballing. What is wrong is that in the last seven years we have had seven consecutive budgets where the finance ministers have lowballed the surpluses and we actually had $80 billion more than the government said we had over the last seven years.

    Why is that important? It is important because Canadians are shut out of the debate of how that money should be spent and what their priorities are, or, conversely, maybe too much tax money has been collected from Canadians. Eighty billion dollars would have been a pretty nice hit in terms of having tax relief.

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    Old habits die hard and the Liberals are at it once again using false numbers and saying that there would be a $3 billion surplus for 2004-05, the year just ending. We find those numbers strange because the fiscal forecasting group that the finance committee hired came up with a surplus of $6.1 billion. In terms of 2005-06, the Minister of Finance was saying that his estimate of the surplus would be $4 billion while the fiscal forecasters are saying $8 billion and that it could be considerably higher.

    We know it is not an exact science, a point the parliamentary secretary has made many times, but it seems to me that if the government is going to be out it would be high as often as it would be low. However that does not seem to be happening. It seems to be quite a different process it has and it seems very deliberate.

    I want to talk about the minister's fiscal update last November and how inaccurate that also was, which ties into this. What I am saying is that Canadians already have a problem. I remember when the Prime Minister was the finance minister he was in Toronto lecturing the business community about corporate malfeasance, how important it was that Canadians could rely on the numbers of the corporations and that they should be accurate in their projections so that when people wanted to buy stocks and bonds they could feel confident that these companies were providing accurate information.

    Would that not also apply here? In fact, should this not be the place that sets the high standard on how projections are done? To that end, the finance committee, on behalf of especially the opposition parties that made amendments to the government's throne speech, asked that we have more accurate fiscal forecasting and asked that we look at an independent budget office.

    We are in the process of doing that at committee. We have independent economists looking at the last two quarters of 2004-05. They have been able to give us timely updates, which is very important to parliamentarians in order to tell Canadians that we are reflecting their priorities and giving them the most current information.

    The Auditor General has criticized the government in the past. The Conservative Party is working on the finance committee to bring truth and transparency to fiscal forecasting by establishing the independent parliamentary budget forecasting office. We believe it is in the public interest to have a healthy debate on what to do with the surplus, if there is one, and not play a game of hide and seek as to how big the surplus really is.

    The Conservative Party will continue to hold the Liberals to account for spending that is unfocused and wasteful. Over a decade of Liberal waste, mismanagement and scandal has shown that billions of dollars sent to Ottawa could have been more effectively managed by Canadians themselves if left in their pockets. Canadians were overly taxed by $80 billion.

    The Conservative Party has also said that it will strive to make this minority Parliament work so long as it is in the best interest of Canadians. Currently, the bill is not reflective of that principle. That said, we will try to turn the bill into pieces of legislation that are in the best interest of Canadians.

    We can only hope the Liberals will keep those interests in mind and allow themselves to be guided by those same principles.

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    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for some time the House has had an interesting debate going on about surpluses. I can remember one of the reporters saying that it was a real good problem to have.

    One of the things the member may want to comment on is the issue of the debt. We have paid down some $60 billion worth of debt. The debt I believe is still as high as it was when the Conservatives left office. It is a little out but very close.

    The amount of surpluses that have been accumulated since the Liberal government came into office in 1993 basically have kept us at the same level of national debt that we were in when we came. Therefore to suggest that it is an inappropriate or usurious amount would be perhaps premature to make that conclusion.

    I would ask the member to make some comment on the level of the surplus and on the importance of paying down debt and saving some $3 billion a year permanently that can be reinvested on behalf of Canadians. The member has been on the finance committee and he knows that the contingency and prudence factors, assuming that all things come in as budgeted, should generate surpluses. Could he comment on whether or not that is a responsible policy?

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    Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, the question from the member for Mississauga South is important and it is one that Canadians want us to debate in the House. In fact, I think they would make it a priority that we pay down debt. However I do not think they want a sort of accidental paydown; something that is left over when we cannot find enough programs on which to spend the money, which is essentially the way it has happened under the government.

    I want to remind the member that when the Liberal government came to office in 1993, the debt was at some $495 billion, a debt that was accumulated by two governments, including the Liberals' own. When the Liberals took office in 1993, I think they ran the debt up another $88 billion before they started to make any changes to bring it down. The debt still stands today at over $500 billion, which is not an acceptable level.

    Canadians want us to pay down debt but they want it on a planned basis. In terms of the prudence and contingency reserves that are put in place in the budget, yes, we agree with those, but we think that should be enough to handle that category. The budget surpluses have been coming in two to three times higher than the combination of the contingency and prudence reserves set into the budget. That is showing that something is out of control here. If people in the private sector had that kind of forecasting and ran their businesses that way, I think the forecasters would be fired.

    Quite frankly, this is irresponsible forecasting. That is one reason that the House, in the throne speech amendment, decided to look at an independent budget office. They have those in other countries, such as the United States and Great Britain. The idea is to act as a check and balance against the administration's numbers. That has worked very effectively in the United States.

    When the member talks about the surpluses going to debt, yes, that is fine in the end, but it should be something that is discussed as a priority and where that ranks in priority. Maybe tax relief is also a priority they want to achieve.

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    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, one of the most interesting developments around this whole budget implementation act has been the support of the Conservatives for this Liberal budget, a budget that has been questioned by all sectors of our society for its failure to put forward an appropriate balance between paying down the debt and reinvesting in programs that will build this country. It is a budget that is seen as fundamentally flawed because of the amount of money that will be stashed away in trusts and hidden funds for which there will be no accountability to Parliament.

    We have a sponsorship scandal in the making with the likes of the budget: millions of dollars stashed away in trust funds and no way for the public or for Parliament to maintain some sort of oversight.

    How can the Conservatives justify supporting a budget that contains the seeds for a scandal as big, if not bigger, than the sponsorship scandal with us today?

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    Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg North has a lot of bravado today about the budget vote that took place some time ago but my understanding was that if the Conservative Party had voted against the budget instead of abstaining, the NDP members would have been running for the hills so they would not have had to bring down the government.

    There will be a time when the government will be brought down but we believe that Canadians are the ones who have to make that decision.

    We were not happy with the budget either. It went some ways to satisfying Canadians about things like tax relief. That said, I have already pointed out in my speech today that they were not fast enough and they were not deep enough.

    We are not in favour of Bill C-43, which would implement the budget itself, and I have just pointed out our reasons. We want three provisions separated out of the bill and then we will deal with those items separately.

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    Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate a comment from the member about airport rents.

    In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan the airport authority will be facing rent of up to $700,000 beginning in January. This is a huge amount of money for the small city of Saskatoon. The airport was taken over by the Saskatoon Airport Authority because Transport Canada was losing money running the airport.

    Would the member comment on the contradiction?

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    Mr. Charlie Penson: Mr. Speaker, that is an important question and not just for large airports. Toronto and other major airports are facing difficulties on the issue of the rents, but small airports are really in trouble on this issue. I was surprised that the government did not take measures in the budget to correct this situation. We know that some airlines are now saying that they will have to review their policy on flying into Pearson in Toronto because the airport rent is too high.

    When the Government of Canada decided to ask the airport authorities, in effect the communities involved, to take over the airports, it did so under a certain set of criteria. No one expected the government to get into the sleazy landlord type of situation where it kept raising rents when it could not be justified. I think there has been a massive overcharge in rents. It is similar to a slum landlord.

    It seems to me that this is going to kill a lot of small airports in the process. The airport in Grande Prairie is facing difficulties on the rent issue. Also, the airport authority has gone back to the city of Grande Prairie saying that there has to be firefighting ability there. It was one of the things that the government said 10 years ago that the airport would not have to have. There were major cost savings by having the firefighting ability just a quarter of a mile away where the city ends. Now the rules have changed. That is really hurting a lot of airports and airport authorities.

    I agree with the member for Blackstrap that the government has to revisit this issue. I know that when the Conservatives become the government, which may be in the very near future, we will review that whole area.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Guy Côté (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on February 23, the Liberal government tabled a budget that was and still is unacceptable to Quebeckers because it fails to consider their priorities.

    Naturally, we cannot oppose a budget and support the bill to implement it. So, it is clear that the Bloc Québécois has the duty, on behalf of Quebeckers, to oppose Bill C-43 to implement the February 23 budget.

    However, the government could have and indeed should have used the opportunity presented by Bill C-43 to make major improvements consistent with Quebec's interests to the budget. However, the Liberal government, in addition to rejecting improvements to EI and the fiscal imbalance, even went so far as to add items that are totally unacceptable to Quebec, such as the special agreements on equalization with Newfoundland and Labrador and with Nova Scotia, and the polluter-paid principle under the Kyoto protocol.

    Furthermore, the minority government should have made compromises. Instead, it has chosen arrogance and actions befitting a majority government. It has behaved like a government itching for a snap election. If this bill results in the dissolution of the House, the Prime Minister will have to tell Quebeckers why, and the government members will take the fall in a new election. For all these reasons, we cannot support this motion.

    I said earlier that the Bloc Québécois, on behalf of Quebeckers, was opposed to the budget. We will oppose this bill too. Why? We have held a broad-based consultation in Quebec on the real needs and priorities of Quebeckers. We have reached a number of conclusions, namely that, in Quebec, the fiscal imbalance is a major issue that must be resolved.

    What do Quebeckers want? In the long term, they are calling for the transfer of tax fields. In the short term, they are calling for increased transfer payments for education and social assistance. They want increased equalization payments along with changes consistent with the demands of the Quebec government, such as the use of the ten province standard instead of the five province standard.

    What do we have in this budget as far as the fiscal imbalance is concerned? We have a Minister of Finance who announces no additional measures to loosen the financial stanglehold on Quebec, a problem the Liberal Party refuses to acknowledge. We have agreements on health and equalization payments that are clearly inadequate and in no way resolve the fiscal imbalance. God knows,with its enormous, virtually scandalously huge surplus, the federal government has the financial means, at this time, to resolve this issue.

    All workers in Quebec, and naturally—I am tempted to say “unfortunately”—the unemployed, have one priority. That priority is employment insurance. The Bloc Québécois called for an independent EI fund and commission; improved coverage including reducing the eligibility criteria to 365 hours; more weeks of benefits; a new program to assist older workers.

    Once again, there is precious little in the budget on this and almost nothing relating to employment insurance, despite the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which called for a far more sweeping reform, and despite reports which had, I might point out, unanimous support in committee. Unanimity means that Liberal MPs voted in favour of those reports. Nevertheless, there are no improvements that could, for instance, apply immediately to seasonal workers.

    As far as seasonal workers are concerned, there is of course one markedly inadequate measure involving some pilot projects. That may amount to $300 million spread across Canada. In addition, the 2005 budget prevents any actual improvements to the EI program because the main objective in changing the fund is to eliminate the annual surplus.

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    Earlier, I mentioned Kyoto, and I am sure my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie will speak much longer on it than I will.

    I will however mention quickly that Quebec has called for substantial expansion of the wind energy support program,; tax deductions for public transit passes, the abolition of tax incentives for non renewable and nuclear energies and even the creation of tax credits for the purchase of hybrid vehicles. And what do we find? We find a budget that confirms the choice already expressed by the federal government of a voluntary approach to the Kyoto protocol, which will not lead to the achievement of the objectives for the reduction of greenhouse gases and will place the financial burden on the taxpayers rather than the major polluters.

    There are absolutely no tax measures in the transport sector. This oversight will not help Quebec to improve its greenhouse gas reduction record. These measures are not appropriate to Quebec.

    In recent years, Quebec has had a serious crisis in agriculture. The expectation was that the federal government would help farm producers struggling with the mad cow crisis, for example, in terms of the compensation needed to reach the floor price. There is the situation with cull cows in Quebec. Here again, the government's record is pretty poor in the context of the budget and Bill C-43. It is simple. There is nothing for agriculture. There is only the small sum of $17 million for slaughter, which in fact is not new money. This government has completely ignored the situation of farmers across Canada and Quebec.

    The government keeps telling us about all its funding for the military. As in health care, I think that prevention will always produce better results. We expected this government to take concrete action to achieve the UN goal of increasing international aid to 0.7% of GDP by 2015. What are we seeing? We are seeing an extremely timid commitment from the government, which will in no way allow us to reach that goal. As things stand, we will not achieve 0.7% of GDP in 2015 but rather in 30 years. We are far from the mark.

    An extremely important issue for Quebec is respect for its areas of jurisdiction. With regard to the child care initiative, Quebec is asking for the right to withdraw from the federal program, unconditionally and with full compensation. With regard to parental leave, the transfer payments must be made as soon as possible to the Quebec government so that it can finish implementing the initiative it had presented. The negotiations with the municipalities must be terminated. The gas tax revenues should not go directly to the municipalities but rather directly to Quebec, so that the latter can determine the terms and conditions and its allocation among the municipalities.

    These are Quebec's traditional demands, and it is difficult sometimes to understand why the Liberal government will not listen to reason since it has been told the same thing for years. So what do we see in the budget? We see a final agreement on parental leave between the Government of Quebec and the federal government. It should not be forgotten, though, that this is Quebeckers' money that the federal government is using to invest in one of Quebec's jurisdictions. So this agreement is only fitting. It does not prove that asymmetrical federalism works. Instead, it is the result of a struggle that the Bloc Québécois has waged in this House since 1997. It took eight years to finally reach an agreement on parental leave, despite all the historic announcements about this program every month, to the effect that this matter was about to be settled.

    As far as child care is concerned, the Prime Minister agreed to give Quebec its share of the federal funding with no conditions attached. However, we should recall that the federal budget speaks about Canada-wide standards and reporting. The transfer of part of the gasoline tax to municipalities may well be carried out under conditions that are unacceptable for Quebec. There is talk of strategic objectives, Canadian results and bilateral agreements specifying how the municipalities will share the funds.

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    Well, these three areas are very clearly within the jurisdiction of the provinces and Quebec. Once again, Quebec's demands regarding Bill C-43 and the budget have been disregarded.

    Social housing is another area where the government's management has been so sad that it makes you want to cry. The federal government was asked to ultimately devote the equivalent of 1% of its program spending to contribute to the development of new social and community housing. So what do we see? Nothing. There is nothing at all for social housing. If there is one sector that has just been forgotten in this budget, that is it.

    As I say, it is enough to make you cry. Families are having difficulty finding adequate housing. Some families in Quebec spend about 60% of their income just on housing. Meanwhile, this government has the nerve to bring down a budget with nothing for social housing.

    For the Bloc Québécois, it is also important that this budget not neglect our francophone friends in the rest of Canada. We felt that the federal government ought to follow up on the budget requests from francophone associations in the Canadian provinces and raise to $42 million the budget allocated to them under the Canada-communities agreements. That budget, incidentally, is currently $24.4 million. Once again, there are no provisions for the Canadian francophonie, which is most unfortunate.

    Yet the government had the means to do far more. The federal Liberals had enough financial leeway to do far more. According to the Bloc Québécois forecast, that leeway will attain the $50 billion mark, more or less, within three years, not the meagre $15 billion figure the Minister of Finance has given for that same period.

    The federal government therefore had all the leeway necessary, but not the political will. It is as simple as that. Once again, the Minister of Finance turned Prime Minister is up to the same old tricks, giving priority to paying off the debt—they are talking about $15 billion over five years—at the expense of the people of Quebec.

    That is the general situation. Now I will touch upon some of the more specific aspects of this bill which are of particular significance to me.

    I will start with part V, which concerns the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. This allows the transfer of up to $700 million to a trust to help Quebec and the provinces develop their child care system in keeping with the following principles: quality, universal inclusiveness,accessibility and development.

    The Bloc Québécois calls for an unconditional right to opt out, with full financial compensation, from implementation of the federal child care program. Adoption of part V of Bill C-43 just as it stands would mean that the money in trust available to Quebec and the provinces would suddenly be tied to the application of four national standards in an area over which Quebec and the provinces have exclusive jurisdiction. While all Liberal ministers involved promised that all this would respect everyone's areas of jurisdiction, in reality this budget includes an obligation to meet national standards.

    Such legislation means Quebec would have to meet national standards set by the federal government in an area outside federal jurisdiction. This also means Quebec would have to be accountable to the federal government for the proper application of these national standards.

    Quebec is being heavily penalized by this bill. Quebec parents are still waiting for additional funding, while the Government of Quebec is ready to receive this funding and use it for improving its own system.

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    I remind this House that the Bloc Québécois is in Ottawa to protect the interests of Quebeckers. The federal government's interference in Quebec's jurisdictions and its foot-dragging in signing a bilateral agreement with Quebec so as not to penalize it for having one of the best child care systems in the world, are not the best ways to achieve this.

    I am talking about early childhood, but this government's handling of the Old Age Security Act is hardly any better. I am referring to Part 23 of Bill C-43. The government is quick to remind everyone that it injected money into old age security, but the governing party forgets—I am being polite—to dig a little deeper to look at what this money represents.

    First, the increase in funding will not begin before January 2006. The situation for seniors will not improve immediately. This will not begin until January 2006, or almost a year after the budget was tabled.

    Second, there is also an increase of $18 monthly for single pensioners. As if eighteen dollars a month really improves the life of seniors. I should rush out and dance in the street to show my delight. Eighteen dollars a month is a scandal. The federal government had the means to do a lot more for seniors.

    In addition, this bill makes no reference to the money seniors have been deprived of over the past 11 years, because of the government's failure to provide the information they needed to receive the guaranteed income supplement. I believe seniors in Canada lost out on $3 billion and those in Quebec on $800 million for lack of information. This is really scandalous, in my opinion. The bill makes no provision for this aspect of an extremely serious situation.

    I have spoken of young people and seniors. Let us talk about workers now, people in the labour force, who, often for distressing reasons or sometimes for economic reasons, need financial support from the government, in the form of employment insurance, for example.

    Previous Liberal governments have turned the employment insurance fund into an employment tax, which has enabled them to pay down the debt and eliminate the deficit. This bill contains no provision on access to the plan. Imagine an insurance company where only 40% of those paying premiums manage to get benefits when they need them. This is what is happening with employment insurance. The few amendments in the bill have nothing to do with access to the plan. They have nothing to do either with extending EI benefits. Only slightly, through pilot projects, do they have anything to do with extending benefits for seasonal workers. This bill, overall, responds to none of Quebeckers' needs.

    In conclusion, I point out that this budget, tabled on February 23, is totally unacceptable. It completely ignores the priorities of Quebeckers. The federal Liberals have behaved exactly like a government looking for a quick election. We voted against the budget. We have a duty on behalf of Quebeckers to vote against Bill C-43.

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[English]

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    Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is essentially nothing that the Government of Canada can do to make the Bloc Québécois happy, so I do not know why we would spend a lot of time trying to do that.

    One of the notable omissions from the hon. member's speech had to do with the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador accords. As we know, this was a very significant sum of money, $2 billion, to Newfoundland and Labrador, and another $830 million to Nova Scotia, moneys that were agreed to by the Prime Minister after a great deal of negotiation and which have led to some other difficulties.

    Part of the rationale for the government doing this was the very difficult fiscal situation in which Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia find themselves, with debt to GDP up around 62% in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador and around 38% in the case of Nova Scotia, I think, as well as declining populations and economies that are simply not performing.

    One of the reasons that Newfoundland and Labrador finds itself in such great difficulty is that the Churchill Falls accord is so disadvantageous that the province is in effect selling its hydroelectricity to Quebec at a scandalously low rate, which effectively creates a great deal of difficulty for Newfoundland and Labrador in raising revenues.

    I would ask the hon. member two questions. First, would he would support a renegotiation of that agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec so that the rates generated can actually reflect market rates? Second, would he support the passage of this accord which in effect in part makes up for the difficulties that disadvantageous agreement has created for Newfoundland and Labrador?

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[Translation]

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    Mr. Guy Côté: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his question. I have two or three quick answers for the parliamentary secretary.

    In regard to the impossibility of ever making the members of the Bloc Québécois happy, I would simply point, as I said in my speech, to the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities calling for in-depth reform of the employment insurance system. The report was unanimous. If the government had had the courage to implement these measures, the Bloc Québécois would have been happy and would have voted in favour of such a bill. That is the first thing.

    Second, regarding the agreement between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, we in the Bloc Québécois, in contrast to the Liberal Party, do not interfere in provincial affairs. We are on the federal level. This was a contract between two parties. If the parties want to renegotiate it, they should do so. However that may be, these are matters for Quebec and the provinces and we will not interfere in that.

    Let us turn to the special agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. As the parliamentary secretary knows very well, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Finance, namely the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance, is currently on a cross-Canada tour that will end soon. Allow me to draw a somewhat hasty conclusion in light of the various witnesses who have appeared: the equalization system has been completely perverted by this government , among other ways through special agreements. Equalization is supposed to be a matter of equity to ensure that the provinces can provide comparable services. So as they get richer, their equalization goes down. That is only natural.

    These equity principles are called into question, though, by the agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. These are agreements that completely upset the equalization system, which was already in difficulty as a result of the policies of this government.

    Furthermore, we are now witnessing attempts to reach more special agreements, in particular with Saskatchewan and Ontario. Rather than trying to solve the problem piecemeal by signing agreements that only accentuate the inequities, why does the federal government not undertake an in-depth reform of the equalization system and solve the problem of the fiscal imbalance? That is the question.

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    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for his very interesting speech. I want to ask him a question, along the same lines as the parliamentary secretary, regarding the fiscal imbalance and equalization.

    Yesterday, the hon. member and I were in Quebec to hear witnesses talk about equalization. It was incredible. All the witnesses from all parties, whether the Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois or Action Démocratique, indicated that the equalization program was a disaster, that we were looking at a crisis in Canada and that we were in the process of losing a very important program for our country.

    I have the following question for my colleague. What solutions did the witnesses offer yesterday in order to guarantee a future for the equalization program?

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    Mr. Guy Côté: Mr. Speaker, indeed, the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance met in Quebec City yesterday.

    The situation is Quebec is extremely clear, and numerous witnesses presented the same political analysis. What we have seen, particularly since 1995-96, is the government's withdrawal in terms of transfer payments to the provinces. This has had a ripple effect.

    The federal government has cut transfer payments to the provinces. The provinces have a social mission to provide services in areas, such as health and education, that often consume between 60% and 70% of provincial budgets. As a result, they have had no choice but to make cuts in other areas.

    A few years later, the federal government has a surplus. What does it do? It makes conditional reinvestments in areas that have been somewhat neglected, after cuts imposed by that same government, and it passes itself off as the saviour. Naturally, it often concerns pan-Canadian programs that do not meet the specific needs of any one province or Quebec.

    For Quebec, the situation is relatively simple. The solution to the fiscal imbalance requires, first, a comprehensive reform of equalization. It means moving from the five province standard to the ten province standard. All revenues in all provinces must be included. It means better assessing the fiscal capacity with respect to taxes. That is the first thing; we must restore the role of equalization, which is to ensure tax fairness across Canada.

    Second, the transfer payments are often conditional and subject to the government's will. One word comes to mind and, if we heard it once yesterday, we heard it 50 times. It is this government's “unilateralism”. “Unilateral decisions” are constantly being made.

    Quebec is proposing, in exchange for transfer payments in health and education, that it recover the taxation field occupied by the GST. At present, these amounts are approximately equal. Thus, we would no longer be subject to the unilateral actions of this government, and the provinces and Quebec, where my interest lies, would be in a better position to make better choices in these areas of jurisdiction.

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[English]

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    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting debate on the budget. It is interesting how things can change in just a couple of weeks. Normally, the budget implementation bill is a rather perfunctory process. It is a rubber stamp after the budget debate has occurred, the vote has taken place, and it is simply a matter of housekeeping. It is interesting how much can change in just a short period of time.

    It was just two weeks ago that the Liberal government decided to put the finishing touches on Bill C-43 and added interestingly a new aspect that had not been part of the budget debate at all. That was of course the amendment to the Canadian environment protection legislation. It was all done, as we understand now, to force some interesting divisions around the issue of Kyoto and the environment, and presumably to create a fight that might lead to an election. It was leaving the options open to consolidate its forces around Kyoto, and to divide and conquer in this place and possibly go to the polls on that issue.

    That was on the assumption that we would not have heard too much from the Gomery commission at that point. It was pretty tame two weeks ago with not a lot of interesting stuff coming out. The Liberals were trying to act before that would happen to pre-empt the inevitable and get on the hustings before the truth came out.

    Here we are with a whole new set of developments. The lay of the land has changed completely. A bill that is normally quite anti-climatic has become a focal point for just what is wrong with this government, what is wrong with its budgetary approach, and how it is linked to the scandal of the sponsorship program as it unfolds around us.

    I want to speak today on the budget implementation bill, but I do so with the realization that this has become far more than the customary debate about budget items alone. It is interesting what has just happened. Liberal infamy has drawn the world's eyes upon us today like never before. In the world of 21st century technology, the stench of corruption spreads almost instantaneously to all corners of the globe. It has riveted attention particularly on the way Liberals handle all money transactions and economic matters, such as the budget.

    The Liberal government's fiscal judgment is under the microscope and the world is watching. What does it see? I see the parliamentary secretary is anxious to know how the world perceives the Liberal government. Canada is seen as one of the wealthiest countries in the world and one of the most envied societies floundering on a rock of its own creation.

    Canada is not an economic superpower like our neighbour to the south, but we are still looked to for leadership. We are still looked to for moral leadership, as a promoter of peace, development, greater social equality, and a builder in the best sense. The scandal swirling around the Liberal government has undermined that reputation. The Liberals' backroom agenda has become front page news, and that news is worrisome both to Canadians and to those beyond our borders.

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    People want to know if they can trust the Liberal Government of Canada. They are looking to this bill, the budget implementation act, for some answers. They are looking for answers on whether Liberals can be trusted to keep their promises to Canadians, answers about whether Liberals can be trusted to put Canadians' priorities before their corporate buddies, and answers on whether the Liberals can be trusted to keep their international promises and honour our Kyoto commitments.

    Hon. John McKay: Done.

    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: The parliamentary secretary says “done”. Well I guess he is living in a little bowl with his rose-coloured glasses on because in fact the rest of the people in this country do not have such optimism. They do not see such faith maintained by the Liberals in terms of the promises made.

    They want answers on the government's commitment to women's equality. I hope the parliamentary secretary does not say “done” because we are a long way from achieving our objectives around a fully equal society. They want answers about the government's commitment to international development, and the list goes on and on. Suffice it to say there are many unanswered questions on the part of Canadians.

    The Liberal Party may be doing fine financially and certainly Liberal friends are millions of dollars richer, but the vast majority of Canadians are not so lucky. They are stressed out. They are struggling to hold their ground. They are fighting to keep pace. Many are working at more than one job, either in the paid workforce or unpaid family-related jobs, trying to pick up the slack from public services that have not survived previous Liberal budget cutbacks and downloads. These are the Canadians who have heard the Liberal speeches. They have endured the Liberal smugness and they now expect the Liberal government, through this budget, to deliver.

    How does this budget bill measure up and what does it say in real terms about how the Liberals measure up in meeting the basic needs of Canadians: housing, education, child care, infrastructure, reducing poverty, and of course our share of the planet and environment.

    To start, let us just take $4.6 billion right off the top, money that the Liberals have given away, no strings attached, the way only Liberals can, to their corporate pals in new tax cuts despite, interestingly, having promised not to bring in any new cuts until social program needs had been met. Then, let us carve off another $4 billion with no discussion and no debate in Parliament for accelerated debt reduction.

    Let us look at what is left. Who better to ask about the impact of Liberal budget priorities than the people who work day in and day out on these issues, the people who are knowledgeable about what was needed and can best judge just what was given. Here is what a few of them had to say.

    On the Liberal broken promise on post-secondary education, which as I have said many times is the foundation of our future workforce and continuing prosperity, university graduates are dragging an average debt load of nearly $25,000 with them when they leave school. Tuition fees have more than doubled under Liberal rule, an area completely ignored by the Liberals in this budget.

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    What are folks saying?

    The Canadian Association of University Teachers said, “There is nothing in the budget that provides any relief to students and their families struggling with record high tuition fees” and record high debt. Of the Prime Minister's election vow to restore core funding, the Canadian Federation of Students said simply, “He broke that promise”.

    On the Liberal broken promise on affordable housing, another vital area for Canadians, all ignored in this budget, the child poverty advocates of Campaign 2000 said:

    We are extremely disappointed that the Liberal Government did not follow through on their election promise to invest $1.5 billion in housing.

    The National Aboriginal Housing Association said:

    Once again, the federal government has ignored the housing crisis facing non-reserve Aboriginal communities.

    The Canadian Real Estate Association, with us in the halls of the House of Commons today, expressed disappointment and said:

    The government should have taken this budget opportunity to specify its commitment to a new affordable housing strategy.

    On the Liberal broken promise to take into account the budget impact on women, last promised by the Liberals in February, the Coalition for Women's Equality said:

    This budget has once again let women down.

    La Fédération des femmes du Québec said:

    For the 2.4 million women currently living in poverty have very little to celebrate today. The government has not followed through on its housing promises nor has it made substantive changes in the EI program. These programs matter a lot for women.

    The YWCA said:

    Promise after promise, budget after budget, the federal government is ignoring women's needs and rightful place in Canadian society.

    On the Liberal broken promise to make aboriginal issues a priority despite the long overdue round table process, the Assembly of First Nations said:

    This budget will condemn our people to last place for a lot longer.

    The National Association of Friendship Centres said:

    The lack of attention to urban aboriginal issues, despite the Prime Minister's commitment...is disheartening.

    Even in the areas where the government is slowly inching forward on its long time commitments, the municipal gas tax funding, the 12 year overdue promise on a national child care program, the response has been cautious as the projects are so far from complete.

    As the Canadian Labour Congress said:

    What we have are short-term half-measures that still don't deliver the goods for the majority of Canadians...nothing on a range of issues important to working people.

    Let us not forget the environment, where again the Liberals just could not control their natural impulse to arrogance and deception by trying to sneak in changes to disguise the real inadequacy of the environmental proposals in the budget bill. I do not think the Liberals take the environment seriously. Twelve years after taking over an urgent environment file and promising to attack pollution, they still have not got their act together to take on the Kyoto challenge.

    Climate change is a worldwide issue already bringing catastrophic results in ecologically vulnerable regions. People's lives, indeed the life of the planet as we know it, are at stake and the government, these Liberals, continue to dither around with half measures that question their commitment.

    Many nations are wrestling with the same Kyoto adjustment pains that we are. They are watching closely to see how Canada resolves the contentious environmental issues and moves forward. It would appear that they have been waiting in vain. Instead of commitments and strategies, the Liberals offer only game playing, machismo, and measures not supported by the environmental community.

    The budget has paraded a string of Liberal broken promises before the world that seriously challenges the government's credibility.

    The Liberal broken promise that has the world community most concerned is Canada's lagging commitment to the millennium development goals, the 35-year-old broken promise to contribute .7% of our GDP toward developmental assistance. Two years ago under the Liberals, Canada's contribution had sunk to only .24% of GDP. This is incredible. It is an embarrassment.

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    I have just returned from the 112th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The topic of the day was international commitments to the millennium goals. Once again, Canada was hard-pressed to explain how, given our wealth and our economic stability, the government was contributing so little and had not even set a target date for meeting its promised funding obligations.

    Some countries are already delivering their .7%. Others, including France, Britain, Spain, Finland, Belgium and Ireland, are on track to raising funding to this level by 2015. That is a reasonable target. That is a target we in the New Democratic Party have been calling on the government to adopt.

    However, the Liberals seem as enthusiastic to address the world poverty issues as they are to lower poverty right here at home in Canada. They have failed to set targets to lower poverty here just as they have failed to meet their targets internationally.

    Interestingly, the results speak for themselves. The gap between the rich and the poor keeps growing. Even with repeated promises to relieve child poverty, 15% of Canadian children still live below the poverty line. Broken promises led UNICEF to openly criticize Canada's record last month.

    Whether we are in Winnipeg or Halifax, Kampala or Geneva, the conclusion from the budget is clearly that we cannot trust the Liberals.

    Just as the Liberals will not own up to their responsibility for the sponsorship scandal, neither will they admit to their failures and broken promises. Instead, they preach to the world about what others should do. The Prime Minister, while still in waiting, having devastated public services to Canadians, issued a report to the United Nations extolling developing nations to base their economic future on the private sector instead of the government intervention route that helped forge the Canadian economy over the years.

    Perhaps the most insipid and, as it turns out, ironic example of Liberal arrogance was Jean Chrétien's farewell tour. His farewell tour stopped in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2003, where he had the nerve to lecture those attending from southern nations about the need to clean up corruption as the most important step to attracting investment and strengthening their economies. He chided their record and cited Canada as exemplary in this respect.

    The hypocrisy. Words escape me. I just cannot understand the Liberal government, those who came before and those who are now in the seat of power. Denial and then more denial.

    A number of us were on the public accounts committee last year before the last election. We were examining in great detail the sponsorship scandal. We suspected the treachery now being recounted daily at the Gomery commission. What happened when we tried to ask those questions and raise those concerns? We were dismissed by Liberals as not knowing anything. We were dismissed arrogantly by the Liberals at the time.

    We wanted to hear from key witnesses before the last election. Who stopped us? Who denied us the opportunity? The Liberal majority on the public accounts committee.

    Well, the jig is up. There will be no more Liberals stuffing their friends' pockets while Canadians are wanting. Canadians will no longer abide it. The NDP certainly will not vote for it.

    The budget is another chapter in the Liberals' long budget legacy of opportunities squandered to improve the lives of Canadians, and huge corporate tax cuts given, serving Liberal friends first.

    The world sees the gap growing between the rich and the poor. Child poverty is beginning to increase again. The number of food banks is rising. And the Liberals do not understand it. Neither do Canadians. Under Liberal majority and minority governments, the wealthy continue to recycle wealth among themselves. There is nothing in the budget to keep investment in Canada instead of offshore tax havens.

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    There is ongoing chopping of programs to Canadians but nothing to recover millions in lost corporate taxes and loans. There is however an increase in the amount people making more than $100,000 can put into RRSPs where it is not taxed.

    Maybe the Liberals when cornered can just steam off to their home ports in Barbados or other tax havens, but the rest of us are stuck here to face the world with their mess and their reputation. Today as we examine the Liberal budget bill, the story that is exposed to the world is one of a Liberal government that, in the midst of great riches, has greatly impoverished Canadians.

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    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to the member.

    The member raised a very important issue tangentially to the budget implementation bill, that being the issue of poverty and what we have been doing. I would like to simply remind the member of a couple of points.

    It is easy to say that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, but what really matters is the condition of the least of our society. The member would know that human resources and other departments have been doing work on what is called the market basket measure. They determine what amounts are necessary for food, shelter and clothing, but also for those expenditures that are necessary so that someone can integrate and live in a community without being noticed. It is an interesting angle to look at.

    The member probably would agree that if we are talking about poverty and about the poor, we are also talking about the homeless. Let me remind her of who the homeless in Toronto are. Based on the Anne Golden report, 35% suffered from mental illness; 28% were youth who were alienated from their families; 17% were aboriginals off reserve; 10% were transient women and abused women; and the balance was for a variety of other reasons.

    It really is not an economic problem with the homeless. It is primarily a social problem which requires social solutions. We have to put a little more balance between talking about what we can do economically to drive a social condition. There has to be some balance in that regard.

    In terms of child poverty which is family poverty, 15% of all families are lone parent families and they account for 55% of all children living in poverty. What would the member suggest with regard to addressing the most serious cause of poverty in Canada which is the breakdown of the Canadian family?

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    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: Mr. Speaker, first, the member has it all wrong. If he cannot understand the simple fact that the economics of one's situation determine the way in which one deals with family issues and problems that come along, then there is no hope for us in ever convincing the government to come to its senses and start to bring in balanced budgets that reflect the needs of Canadians.

    If we want to talk about transient single parent women, aboriginals coming off reserves, people with mental health issues, families with children living in poverty, kids going to school hungry, the member should first look at what kind of economic circumstances are at play such as where are they living, how much money do they have, how are they surviving.

    The facts are that under the government the number of people who have been driven into poverty, who are living on the edge, who are eking out an existence, who are struggling with health issues, who are stressed trying to juggle work and family responsibilities has increased dramatically because the government has pulled the rug out from under them.

    The cuts that happened in 1995, in the infamous budget, have trickled down and affected every aspect of our lives. They cannot be dealt with by a Liberal approach of band-aid solutions and boutique projects. We cannot keep cutting the heck out of programs, off-loading the responsibility on to provinces, on to municipalities and then on to families, and then bring in some new little side projects that require the provinces and municipalities and/or families to cost share. That is ludicrous thinking and it is wrong-headed public policy.

    I want to remind the member just how bad the situation has become under the government. I refer to a report that just came out a few weeks ago, on March 14, by Statistics Canada. It has shown the amount of money that has been moved offshore under the government. Between 1990 and 2003, almost completely under Liberal rule, the amount of Canadian money stashed overseas skyrocketed eightfold from $11 billion to $88 billion. That amounts to one-fifth of all Canadian direct foreign investment; twice as much as in 1990.

    Let me also refer the member to another statistic which became apparent once an analysis of the present budget was done by economists and academics. The finding of these individuals has been most revealing in terms of the government's tendencies and directions over the last decade. Liberals have consistently put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. Billions of dollars in losses through corporate tax cuts, tax havens and uncollected corporate bills are waved through on the fast track while child poverty, job training, student debt and the environment are left waiting on the side. It has taken them over a decade to even begin delivering on their child care promise.

    According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, over the next five years revenue coming from corporate income taxes will drop as percentage of total revenue from 15% to 11% while the personal income tax portion will rise from 45% to 65%. Relative to GDP, corporate income tax drops from 2.3%, personal income tax goes up and the pressure builds on families, on working people, on low and middle income Canadians while the wealthy and the corporate interests in our society continue to accumulate and continue to benefit from tax breaks.

    There is little from the government to deal with the day to day pressures facing Canadians, little to help them climb out of poverty and little to help single parent women struggling to make a difference, to make a living for their kids. There is little hope for aboriginal people, either living on reserve in third world conditions or off reserve, where not a penny in terms of housing and other needs has been allocated in the budget today.

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    How can anyone stand here and accept the notion that these are problems caused by families, that there is a breakdown of the family and that is at the root of these issues. How narrow-minded, how frivolous, how supercilious can we get?

    If the member cannot understand that economic circumstances determine one's outlook and one's ability to shape the circumstances around us to enable us to break through the difficulties which many families feel and give hope, then I do not know what we can do or say to get through to the government.

    Has the Liberals' time in office led to such arrogance and to being so out of touch with Canadians that they cannot even make the link between economic and social equality? Can they assume that social equality is like a train that runs on a track on its own without any connection to the economic circumstances, to the very essence of eking out a living and surviving in society today?

    How can the member and the Liberals be so out of touch with the reality of Canadians that they can take a time when we have this huge surplus and blow it? At a moment in the life of our nation when we have this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Canadians, how can they ignore it? How can they spend it so frivolously on corporate tax breaks and on debt reduction to the point where there is no balance left?

    When will the government understand that in order to build a society, we have to invest in Canadians and in Canadian institutions that will help create families, communities and a country and, indeed, a civil society.

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    Mr. Paul Szabo (Mississauga South, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to participate in the debate on the budget implementation bill.

    I have spoken a number of times on budget-related matters. After some 11 years of being involved in the process on the finance committee and looking at estimates in government operations committee, et cetera, I have come to realize how complicated governing and the budgeting process are. It is an enormous challenge with tremendous competing interests.

    I recall one of the very first finance committee meetings I attended. The then finance minister, currently the Prime Minister, made a statement which I thought was very telling about what I would learn as a member of Parliament. In his address to the finance committee on the state of the financial affairs of the country, he made the overarching statement that good social policy made good fiscal policy and good fiscal policy made good social policy. There is clearly an integration. When we are addressing the social needs of Canadians, it is important to note that we are creating an environment in which economic growth and prosperity can occur and that economic growth and prosperity leads to dividends for Canadians.

    We had a terrific discussion in 1996 about how we would dispose of the surplus when we finally slew the deficit and had a surplus. Should it be put toward paying down the debt? Should it be used for tax cuts? Should it be used for program spending or enhancing existing spending?

    Having a surplus is a good problem to have. It is better than the alternative. When the government came into office in 1993, there was a $42 billion deficit in Canada. As a country, we were spending $42 billion more than what was coming in as revenues. That was an enormous amount of money relative to all things.

    No government would be able to simply cut $42 billion in one year in spending. It would take a concerted effort and rationalization of expenses across a broad range. In fact, everyone in Canada was asked to do their share.

    I can recall how people were very concerned about the size of the cuts. I remember the finance minister saying to me at that time that we had to make those cuts to save 80% of what we had. If we did not make those cuts, we would lose it all. Tough decisions have to be made in government. It comes down to that.

    One thing I learned about the budget process was that the budget could not be looked at in isolation. It is important to look at a series of budgets. We had to find out where we were and how to move things forward. With the diversity of priorities that Canada has, both social and fiscal, it is difficult to address each and every one of them in every budget and move them forward in a substantive way so they would have the necessary impact to take advantage of the opportunities or the circumstances in terms of global impact.

    We have to be strategic when doing budgets. Budget 2005 and the implementation act that we are now debating is another step in the process of securing the fiscal health as well as the social health of Canada.

    I want to make a few comments about the budget in particular. Key commitments were made in the following areas. The first was maintaining sound financial management, which we have done since 1997. We have had balanced budgets ever since. People have been complaining that the surpluses, not only balances, are a problem. I will address the importance of debt repayment a little later.

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    The next area is securing our social foundations. Health care comes to mind. In achieving a productive and growing economy, that mix, what are we doing to make sure that we have an environment that continues to promote a productive and growing economy? It is good fiscally. It is good socially.

    The fourth area is moving toward a green economy and sustainable communities. Canadians should link up to the initiatives with regard to our Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. They should also look to our commitment to communities in a number of ways to ensure that our communities can provide sustainable activities with regard to infrastructure and other areas of assistance to them so that they can also do their share in promoting a good fiscal environment in which the economy can grow and prosper.

    Finally, there is the commitment with regard to our global responsibilities. Canada is respected around the world. The reason for that respect is that it is something Canadians have earned.

    They have earned that respect because of the tolerance, generosity and peacefulness of Canada and because of the good governance that it has experienced and the wise counsel that Canadians have been able to give in the global community over so many generations. That is a very important asset for Canada, because we are a global player. We are a global trading partner with many countries. That earned respect has come by making wise decisions, both fiscally and socially, and has continued to grow the reputation of Canada all around the world.

    With regard to the economic outlook, we are looking now at growth of 2.9% in 2005 and about 3.1% in 2006. These rates are at the upper end of the G-7 projected growth rates, so again the outlook is very good.

    However, our economy does face some challenges because of the high American dollar. I know that a number of members have expressed concern about our competitiveness with the differential against the U.S. dollar, not the high American dollar but in fact the high Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar. It has moderated somewhat, but it still remains a significant influence in terms of the economic trade between our two countries. Seventy per cent of our exports go to the United States.

    We do not live in a vacuum. We are not an island. We also have some concerns about the growing deficit in the U.S. It is extremely large. It affects our largest trading partner in ways that will also provide potential difficulties for our Canadian economic activities.

    Since balancing the budget in 1997, we have had seven consecutive surplus budgets. I must admit that I am surprised at the amount of discussion that has been going on about how terrible this is. Most of the discussion has been around looking at the forecasting or estimates of what the budget surplus is going to be.

    When we talk about the magnitude of things that the government has to deal with and the factors which influence the economic activity in Canada and are beyond our control, I am not sure what level of accuracy anyone could produce in a budget for a forthcoming year, and indeed for the next two to five years in many of the budgets based on economic scenarios given the input of some of the largest economic forecasters in the country.

    I am not sure whether it is a useful discussion to say that somehow we are not being forthright in terms of the surplus. One thing I know is that once there was a balanced budget, Canadians said categorically, “We do not want Canada to be operating in a deficit scenario ever again”. Deficits are a non-starter.

    Thus, immediately, to respond to Canadians' wish to keep balanced budgets, the budgeting process started to incorporate what are called contingency and prudence factors, which were to be included where there were unseen factors which would negatively affect the economic performance of Canada. There were contingency funds put in for those serious unforeseen items which would have a major impact.

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    There were also what are called prudence provisions, so that if the economic forecasters were saying that the growth rate was going to be 2.5%, the budget would assume that it was going to be about .25% less. There also were prudent assumptions with regard to short term and long term interest rates.

    If everything in the budget came in exactly as planned, there would be a surplus. Since 1997 the government has in fact planned a surplus in its budgets, not just a balance but a surplus.

    Earlier I had a conversation with a member of the Conservative Party. I had been talking about debt reduction. As background, let me give members an idea of where we have been in the last decade. When this government took office back in 1993, the national debt, the cumulative deficits of previous years, was $562 billion a year. It was gobbling up an enormous percentage of every disposable dollar that we were taking in. Debt servicing was extremely high. Today the national debt is $498 billion. This means that cumulatively since 1993 $64 billion of debt has been paid down.

    We are not much farther ahead right now than we were when we started in government in terms of the scenario on the debt. The surpluses simply have been used; it is automatic. Once the year is over and once the accounts are audited, there is a determination of the final surplus and that final surplus is totally applied against the debt. It is not a choice. That is the way it happens.

    I raise this because the member of the Conservative Party said to me that maybe sometimes tax cuts are a greater priority than debt reduction. I had to think about that for a little while. If debt reduction is a consequence of a surplus, but the member wants to argue that tax cuts may be a greater priority than debt repayment, he , therefore must be saying that tax cuts are okay even if we are creating a deficit. We cannot have it both ways. If we are not going to have debt repayment as a priority, we must therefore contemplate that there should be deficits.

    There is another aspect the member did not understand. It really concerns me that after all these years the member still does not understand that there is a fundamental difference between tax cuts and spending. Spending can be a one time item as opposed to a new program, whereas a tax cut is a recurring annual charge or a reduction in the revenue of the country.

    It is not enough to say that since there was a $4 billion surplus we should have a tax cut. The surplus was a one year occurrence. A tax cut would be each and every year. If we were to give a tax cut that effectively eliminated that $4 billion surplus, we might have a balanced budget in that particular year, but every year thereafter we would have a $4 billion deficit simply because tax cuts are ongoing.

    I am a little concerned and a little nervous about the lack of understanding of some of the members, who somehow seem to suggest that a surplus is something that one must spend right away. There has not been an extraordinary paydown on the national debt, but from what we have had we have brought it down. Now we are below the levels we were at a decade ago. It is saving Canada approximately $3 billion a year in interest costs. It has reduced our costs from some 43% of every Canadian tax dollar to about 22¢ on the dollar. That is very significant. Most important, that $3 billion saving is an annual saving. It is available year after year to be able to sustain items, whether it be tax cuts, new programs or enhancement of existing programs.

    That is the true fiscal dividend to Canadians in terms of getting one's fiscal house in order. It is getting the debt servicing paid down and it is the savings on interest that are available to Canadians, either to return to Canadians in terms of tax cuts or indeed to enhance programs and important priorities of Canadians, such as health care.

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    Having said that, let me move on to another aspect. Certainly health care is one in securing our social foundations. In our recent commitment in the health accord, there is $75 billion in support of a 10 year plan to strengthen health care and the new framework for equalization and territorial formula financing.

    This has been extremely important, particularly for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia in these new arrangements. From time to time there are important needs of regions of our country that we have to address. I am glad that the Prime Minister and the premiers were able to address them, but we have a matter consequential to that, which is e a province like Ontario looking at its own situation in isolation and saying, “How about us too?”

    That is a problem. I am going to try to address very briefly at the end of my speech some of the elements of the so-called gap between how much money a province contributes to the federal coffers and how much money goes back into that province. It is a very interesting argument.

    In terms of health care, the budget provides $805 million over five years in direct federal health investments, including: $300 million over five years for healthy living and prevention of chronic diseases; $200 million in support of health human resources and improved wait times; and $170 million over five years to implement measures to enhance the safety and effectiveness of drugs and other therapeutic products, which is very important to Canadians.

    As members will know, there is also the $5 billion for the early learning and child care initiative. I believe that is a start, but I also personally believe that in a subsequent budget we have to look at the needs of those families who choose to provide care in the home to their own children. It is an important job. It is unpaid work, but it is important work. It deserves to be recognized. I hope we will see some movement on that in a coming budget.

    There is the increase in the guaranteed income supplement. There is also new funding of $735 million for aboriginal communities and $398 for immigration settlement services and client services.

    These are very important elements of the budget. I know that we have had an excellent debate on it. I know that members would like to see some of our other priorities take a higher line in this budget, but I have to repeat that each and every budget cannot address each and every item, each and every year. It just cannot happen and have budgets still have a meaningful impact, respond to the opportunities or defend ourselves against the threats of the current day. Budgets have to be responsible for the realities of the day.

    I would like to look at moving toward a green economy and sustainable communities. Having been the vice-chair of the environment committee, I spent a fair bit of time with my colleagues across the way working on a number of initiatives. I am pleased to see that moneys have been set aside in the budget to look at renewables such as wind power. There is money for that in there. I also am very encouraged that we are moving forward on our Kyoto commitment with $1 billion to make sure that Canada does its share in that regard.

    It was a very difficult one, but a very significant arrangement deal has just been made with the auto sector, as members know, whereby it has voluntarily come up with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 megatonnes by 2010, I believe. This is a very significant accord that has been reached with one of the sectors that is one of the largest areas in which we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is no question that we have more work to do on that file. Some of the large emitters, particularly those involved in hydro generation or other heavy manufacturing, are areas that have work to be done. We are going to need some progress, but I know that the House is committed to doing that.

    With regard to cities and dealing with sustainable communities, I am pleased that we have been able to respond in terms of the $5 billion in federal gas tax revenues, the $600 million they will receive in 2005-06, the $300 million for green municipal funds and the infrastructure money as well. These are not federal jurisdictions per se, these moneys going to municipalities, but it shows some leadership on behalf of the government when it says that strong communities right down to the municipal level are to the benefit of all Canadians.

    I am pleased to have participated in this debate. I welcome the members' questions.

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[Translation]

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    Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague's speech with interest, and one particular point caught my attention. He was selling the notion that it was an extraordinary accomplishment to have been able to pay off such a large portion of the debt .

    What he did not say, however, was that during that same period, that is between 1993 and the present, they must have amassed a surplus of some $48 billion in the employment insurance fund. This was money they took from the pockets of workers and employers, and even from the unemployed, who have had to endure two very severe reforms aimed at cutting back the number of weeks of benefits, as well as the amount received, in addition to increasing the number of weeks required to qualify for benefits, to such an extent that many people have ended up no longer eligible. For example, young workers had to accumulate 910 hours in order to quality for EI.

    As a result of all these changes, over 10 years a surplus of $48 billion was built up. If we look closely at the way the debt was reduced, a significant portion came from this source. The money deducted in EI contributions from workers' earnings is not a kind of payroll tax, but is intended to provide employment insurance.

    How would the hon. member describe what the federal government is doing, which is to take the money paid into the employment insurance fund and use it for its standard expenditures, including servicing the debt? Is this theft? Is it embezzlement? What label can we put on it? I do not know, but I would like to hear what the member has to say about it.

    I, for my part, see people in my riding, in Quebec and across Canada making a real effort to fight the deficit. They have had no return on their investment. For 12 years, they contributed to a plan thinking that, in the end, they might help reduce the debt, balance Canada's budget, knowing that the money belonged to the most disadvantaged. People contribute to EI up to a salary level of $39,000. Those who earned more or were not covered by it did not contribute. They did not pay their share.

    What does the government say to men and women who have made the effort and who, today, see no improvement in their situation? It might be expected that the budget and subsequently the bill to implement the budget would contain something in this regard. The government has continued to leave them out.

    Is this not one of the reasons the Liberal Party of Canada no longer elects MPs in a number of regions in Quebec and Canada? It promises, election after election, that it will change the EI system, but the day after, it leaves things as they are. Should there not have been clear measures in the budget to improve the employment insurance plan so as to meet the needs of the people, given the surplus that exists? Would it not have been reasonable to pay these people back?

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[English]

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    Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has come up many times in the House. Maybe it is important that we look at where we came from.

    During the Mulroney years back in the eighties, cash for the unemployment insurance fund, which is what it was called at the time, was put into a separate pot. The premiums went in there and the benefits were paid out to people under the unemployment insurance program.

    At the time the government was running large deficits. The Auditor General made its problem even worse by saying that the government was operating at about a $15 billion deficit in the unemployment insurance fund at the time. It was off balance sheet financing, if the member knows what that is. The Auditor General said that the government had to cover the losses in the unemployment fund and that henceforth it had to put all of the unemployment insurance premiums into the general funds of the government and pay the benefits out of the general funds and then there would be no more off balance sheets.

    Then we came up with a thing called a notional account. The member is quite right. If we kept a record on the side since that time on a net basis, there is about $48 billion of surplus. We have taken in over all years $48 billion more than we have paid out in benefits for programs, et cetera.

    What has happened in the last 10 years? We have not had a recession. The economy of Canada has been so strong that we have built up a surplus. The Auditor General will tell us that if we hit a deep recession, in one year we could wipe out $15 billion. Under the laws governing the treatment of the employment insurance fund, it says that we should keep about two years worth of reserve in the event that there is a severe downturn, a severe depression, but there is still more than two years and probably about three years' worth at the worst.

    The legislation also says that if there is a surplus beyond that, we must reduce premiums to lower the future year's surplus so that it will ease down, or introduce new programs. Both of those have actually happened. Every year since we took office the EI premiums have been going down.

    Indeed, the member is well aware that extending parental year to a full year under the EI is another part of the element of the program which has also responded in terms of the legislation guiding the EI surplus.

    Everything that should happen has been happening. Unfortunately, and maybe it is a good problem, there is still a surplus, probably about a year's worth of benefits that may have to be paid out in extraordinary circumstances.

    The member has also made the argument about all the people who pay into the fund and who do not qualify for benefits. I did my daughter's tax return. She attends university but works during the summer. She had EI deducted just like everybody else but she did not make enough money to pay it and she got it back as a refund.

    The member has not taken into account that people who do not make enough money, even though they have made some, once they get down below a certain level there is no EI premiums payable and they get them refunded on their tax return.

    I think the member's numbers are somewhat inflated on this. However I will concede to him that we have a situation that has been caused by good things and the good things are that Canada has had a strong, resilient economy so that we have not had to pay out EI benefits at the historic levels that we did. We have not had a recession in some 10 years. This result cannot be a surprise to anybody but the member should be encouraged that at least premiums continue to be reduced and that programs continue to be enhanced.

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    Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment and ask a question of my colleague across the floor.

    In his presentation he spoke about surpluses and seemed to suggest that perhaps opposition parties were paying a little too much attention to surpluses and how difficult it was to accurately forecast surpluses when there was a range of economic forecasts on the issues.

    However I hearken back to the last election in 2004 when the Conservative Party came up with its platform. On the financial aspect of it, we had suggested that there would be a series of personal income tax cuts primarily to middle and lower income tax earners over a five year period. Plus we had a program spending platform totalling about $58 billion. We had calculated that to be realistic based on our projections in the previous year's budget, the 2004-05 budget. Using the government's own figures we conservatively projected a surplus of around $7 billion to $8 billion. As we all know, it turned to be about $9 billion.

    My point is that at the time the Liberal Party accused the Conservatives in our platform of being fiscally irresponsible and yet in the 2005 budget, lo and behold, the Liberals have come up with a spending program totalling about $55 billion, plus tax cuts graduated over five years. In other words, this is very similar to what we had proposed a short year ago. At that time, we were branded by the Liberals as being fiscally irresponsible and now they are calling themselves fiscally prudent.

    I would just like to know why the double standard.

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    Mr. Paul Szabo: Mr. Speaker, it is not my style to engage in partisan rhetoric. I heard the member and I understand. I think each party has a fiscal and economic plan that it would like to put forward and say that it can do it.

    However the member must concede that even though it is a balanced budget, if the contingency and the prudence factors are not necessary, if everything came in as planned, there would have been a $5 billion surplus in the year. It came out at $9 billion. We also know that the fourth quarter economic performance was way beyond anybody's realistic assumptions and contributed probably another $2.5 million to $3 billion, bringing that up to about $8 billion. He is saying that it turned out to be $9 billion. I do not think that the gap is that wide.

    The important thing is that every commitment that was made to Canadians with regard to keeping the important programs and priorities for Canadians were met and the consequence was a healthier economy than anybody could have unless there was a larger surplus. I think that is a reflection of the hard work of all Canadians and Canadians will benefit from today forward from the success that they have achieved. I do not see that there is a problem.

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    Mr. Loyola Hearn (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I want to limit my remarks to mainly one section of the budget bill. I will refer to at least one other section to which I will refer briefly as part 19.

    We are talking about, in case people are wondering, 24 different and separate pieces of legislation, all of which have been lumped together in what we refer to as the budget implementation act, 2005.

    Part 19 is very relevant, particularly today. Everyone in Canada is aware of the department of public works and some of the contracts the department would have let in the past. However, part 19 of this bill gives the department of public works even more leeway, complete control of all procurements, the issuing of contracts, more or less carte blanche. It is an invitation to more of the same. We are very concerned to have that section there.

    Mr. Speaker, I would also like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's.

    Having said that about part 19, I want to return to part 12. This is the section that deals with the revenues that should be flowing right now as we speak to the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

    I will give a little bit of history. During this time last year actually, we were gearing up for a campaign. Leading up to the election, two parties in this House, the Conservatives and the New Democratic Party, committed to the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia that if elected, they would give these provinces 100% of their share of the royalties flowing from the offshore developments.

    The Liberal Party made no such commitment. In fact, it was during the campaign, after written commitments had been made by the other parties, that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador first, because of the intense pressures put on the Prime Minister by his own members down there and members of the Liberal Party and various associations, put the squeeze on. On one of his visits, perhaps they told him he would not be allowed out of the province, after an all night session under tremendous pressure, he called the premier of our province at seven o'clock in the morning to say, “I will accept your proposal”.

    The Prime Minister did not put it in writing and, unfortunately, he was not asked for it. When a Prime Minister makes an open commitment that is carried by the press, one would think that we can keep a Prime Minister to his word.

    The universe unfolded, the Liberals won the election, and then the question came from Nova Scotia, which by the way had also received that promise the day before the election in a last minute attempt to secure some seats. The provinces waited and waited. Our party kept asking the question, “When will the Liberals deliver their promise?”

    We had a number of things happen. I know on this side of the House we raised the issue 35 times in question period alone, mostly as lead questions. This never happened before in history that a province had so much attention paid to it because of the importance of the issue to the province involved. We also had statements. We had a major debate in this House on that very issue. All of this was putting pressure on the government which was not moving at all on the issue.

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    Premier Williams, at an equalization meeting in Winnipeg, walked out to protest the lack of attention by the government on the issue.

    I am glad to see we are joined by the Parliament Secretary to the Minister of Finance because he has been supportive of us on this issue. I am glad he is here to listen to my speech and verify what I am going to say.

    We eventually went through the fall and there was still no movement. Just before Christmas, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador ordered that Canadian flags be removed from all provincial buildings. That drew a tremendous amount of attention across the country, but not all positive. However, people began to ask what was going on? When they realized what was going on and the shafting the provinces had been getting, then they also started to put pressure on the Prime Minister.

    Finally, on Valentine's Day, a day for love, we received the agreement. The agreement was signed giving Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia control of their own share of the revenues from the offshore developments.

    We would think, if we watched what went on that day, that this was it. It was all over because people were kissing the hem of the Prime Minister's garment and even on Valentine's Day almost kissing each other. If the players had not been the specific players they were, they might have kissed each other. It was a rough thing to think about kissing the Minister of Natural Resources, I am sure.

    In any event, the agreement was signed and both provinces said they had it. As time went by more questions were asked about the legislation. We were told that it was complicated and we agreed with that. Then suddenly we found out that the provinces had reached an agreement with the federal government on the legislation. They were okay. There was nothing wrong with the specific piece of legislation. Bring it in, get it passed.

    We knew that the government would support it. Even though people like the parliamentary secretary did not want to, it is government legislation so he would have to support it. We also know that the Bloc members would probably not support it, even though they should because it is giving provinces some control over their own resources which they always ask for. We knew our party, the NDP, and most of the people in the governing party would support it and the legislation would be passed quickly and money would flow to the provinces.

    As this time goes by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is losing around $3 million a week. If we factor in all the spin-offs that this could create, it is getting closer to $1 million a day. That is a tremendous amount of money.

    What did the government do? Did it bring in clean-cut legislation that could be passed quickly? No. It lumped that legislation in with 23 other pieces of legislation. Some of them are very complicated and controversial. Some are attractive pieces of legislation that can go through very quickly.

    I go back to part 19 giving public works, of all departments, free rein in procurement, the issuing of contracts, and doing favours for its friends or whatever it wants to do. We also have legislation talking about child care funding and moneys for cities. There are no plans. Of course there are the infamous Kyoto clauses. I understand these will come out.

    If they can be taken out of the bill, maybe in committee, the government will see that it is much more beneficial to it or particularly to the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia if it would also take out the part dealing with revenues and there could be a vote.

    I know my 10 minutes are up, but I am sure my colleague will continue in the same vein.

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    Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have one question for my colleague that deals with equalization but from a different perspective only inasmuch as Saskatchewan also had been looking for the same or similar deal as the Atlantic accord. We in Saskatchewan recognized the untold benefits we could receive were we able to retain 100% of our non-renewable natural resource revenue. By today's oil and gas prices alone I think it could easily total $1.5 billion a year, which could certainly make a huge difference and a huge positive financial impact on the province of Saskatchewan, something we have not seen in Saskatchewan's history.

    I would like my hon. colleague to comment on that and whether he thinks, on the issue of fairness and equity across the board, that all provinces should be in the position to receive the same deal as Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia with respect to retention of 100% of the non-renewable natural resources.

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    Mr. Loyola Hearn: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members from Saskatchewan, the western provinces and most of the country for solidly supporting my province when it had to fight so hard to get the control of and benefits from these resources.

    In relation to his general question, I am sure he is not asking if Saskatchewan should benefit from its offshore resources. He is asking about the fundamental issue addressed by our party generally when we committed to give Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia 100% of their share of revenues from offshore development. The fundamental commitment was to take non-renewable resources out of the equalization formula, which would ensure that Saskatchewan and other provinces that had non-renewable resources would benefit from the development of these resources.

    I agree totally with what the member has been fighting for. I say to him that our support for his province will be just as strong as the Saskatchewan support for us throughout this process. Hopefully, in the very near future there will be a government in power that will be able to deliver on that commitment. It is not a wild promise. It is not throwing away money. What it is doing is leaving money from non-renewable resources. There is a finite time. Sooner or later they are gone.

    Alberta benefited from the original development. For 8 or 10 years Alberta received all the revenues from the development of its resources. That is why we should get it also because it gives poorer provinces the chance to get the infrastructure and start moving so that we in turn can be a contributing partner in Confederation.

    We do not want to be taking from the rest of the country, such as Alberta and Ontario. We can be givers. We have the resources. All we need is to get our share of the development, so we can also be a contributing partner.

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    Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the essential part of the hon. member's statement has to do with the issue of taking non-renewable resources out of the equalization equation in order for it to get 100% of that benefit. That is the position that the government has acceded to, but it raises in turn a whole bunch of other very complicated questions.

    The first question, where a province does not have non-renewable resources, is why should a manufacturing sector, for instance, in Ontario be penalized effectively for including in its fiscal capacity things such as manufacturing and a variety of other ways in which people generate fiscal capacity? It begs the essential question of what the basic intellectual argument is to remove renewables or non-renewables or property tax revenues or any one of the 33 elements in the fiscal measuring capacity out of the formula so that one particular jurisdiction is preferred over another jurisdiction. Either it is all in or it is all out.

    I would ask the hon. member his basis for why people in Ontario should be penalized for having manufacturing included in the measurement of fiscal capacity?

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    Mr. Loyola Hearn: Mr. Speaker, the member has an argument, but he has to remember that what we are talking about here is Confederation. We are talking about developing strong provinces by using their resources, whatever those resources might be, so that they can be contributing partners.

    How can Ontario justify the fact that all the fall-out from the establishment of the federal government here in this province, the amount of money that flows into Ontario, is because the federal government is based here? All the federal departments are based here, and all the people who work here pay taxes. This benefit is not spread to the other provinces. We all have our strengths. If those strengths are developed, the funding from those developments, regardless of whether they are used properly, could make the provinces strong. Strong provinces make a strong country, and therein lies our argument.

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    Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to speak to the budget implementation bill.

    My colleague from St. John's South--Mount Pearl has already given a very good background history and chronology of the Atlantic accord. I am certainly going to speak to the Atlantic accord, but I also want to speak to some of the comments that have been made in the House. I hope to set the record straight on a number of issues.

    I could not help but listen with amazement to the Liberal member for Mississauga South. He quite often has his own version of reality in this House, but to go back to 1993 and somehow blame the state of the country's affairs on a previous government which was in power 12 years ago is a stretch of the imagination even for the member for Mississauga South. He talked about a $42 billion deficit that the government inherited in 1993. I am not trying to deny that; that is a fact.

    What the Liberals never seem to bring up is that the Conservative government of the day governed for 10 years and it had inherited $38 billion of that deficit from the Trudeau era government. The Conservatives operated for 10 years at 19% interest rates and only increased the deficit by $4 billion. They did not cut services to the provinces. They did not cut the transfer dollars. They did not cut health care.

    The Conservatives signed, which is still the largest and most important environmental accord ever signed in North America, that being the acid rain treaty signed with the United States. They brought in free trade. They brought in the GST. They governed and they did that in difficult times.

    The Conservatives laid the framework for the Liberal government to come into power and reap the benefits without a plan, without any course of action, without any road map for the country. The Liberals simply govern, reap the benefits of somebody else's planting, harvest the benefits of somebody else's crop and drive this country into the worst of times during the best of times. It is absolutely incredible that any member of the government would try to blame the situation it is in on a Conservative government that was in power 12 years ago.

    When we listen to this fabrication of events that somehow, as my colleague from Newfoundland has said, we cannot cut the Atlantic accord out of this budget, that is absolutely ridiculous. We passed the health accord in this House in 11 days. We did not talk about it for four, five or six months. We were able to separate that out of the budget. We were able to put that through the House as stand-alone legislation. We passed it in 11 days.

    My hon. colleague from St. John's South--Mount Pearl mentioned that this issue was brought to the House 35 times, including by our leader. Thirty-five times we questioned the government on the Atlantic accord before the Liberals finally succumbed and said that they were going to have to do something. On the eve of the last election and not before, when they saw that they were losing seats in Atlantic Canada, then they became supporters of the Atlantic accord.

    The Liberals have an absolutely abysmal record and to somehow rewrite history and reconfigure the facts of what actually happened is not acceptable in any way, shape or form. We brought the issue up in question period 35 times, but what my colleague missed was that there were another 13 times we spoke about the issue in statements pursuant to Standing Order 31 prior to question period. The members from Atlantic Canada raised the issue 45 times, not counting the times our leader raised it.

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    We are at an interesting time in Canadian politics. There is a lot of discussion going on about the budget. There is a lot of discussion of how we cannot separate out the Atlantic accord, that it has to stay in. The Liberals managed to separate out Kyoto because it was wrong-headed and had no business being included in the budgetary items.

    There are 24 items in the budget, one of them being the Atlantic accord. The challenge to the government is to separate out the Atlantic accord, pass it forthwith, send it to the Senate and make sure that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province of Nova Scotia get their funds from the Atlantic accord that they very rightly deserve.

    The other thing we never hear the government bring up is the fact that last year's budget is still in the Senate. It is not as if it has been passed and has been implemented. Budget implementation takes time, but those guys are dragging their feet. It is still in the Senate.

    Let us consider a couple of points on the budget implementation process. Last year's budget is still in the Senate. The previous budget implementation bill, Bill C-30, was introduced on March 31, 2004 and passed in the House of Commons on May 5, 2004. It took 35 days. These bills do not have to take time. The government is dragging its feet because it is caught up in the middle of the biggest scandal ever to hit Canadian politics since the railroad scandal during John A. Macdonald's time in 1872.

    This is not about the Atlantic accord. This is about a Liberal government grasping with its fingernails trying to hold on to power. It is all about power. It is not about doing what is right for Canadians and doing what is right for Atlantic Canada.

    Let us go back a little further in history. The last budget took 67 days to pass the House. The one previous to that one took 35 days. The one previous to that one took four months because the government was expecting to go into an election and it wanted to tell Canadians what a great job it was going to do for them. If the health accord went through the House in 11 days, in contrast the Atlantic accord could go through the House in 11 days. The average time that it took the last four budget implementation bills is 51 days.

    Are we supposed to wait 51 days before Newfoundland and Labrador gets its just and fair share of its offshore resources, before the province of Nova Scotia gets its just and fair share of its offshore resources, or are we going to separate this out from the budget? We have challenged the government to do that. Our leader has challenged the government on many occasions to separate it out, send it to a committee of the whole, and pass it in the House in one day. The opposition parties are in agreement.

    The government needs to show some leadership, but we have not seen leadership. The country is absolutely dying for leadership.

    We have a budget here that is supposed to address the difficulties that Canadians are facing, difficulties that seniors are facing, difficulties that low income Canadians are facing, difficulties with delivery of health care services, difficulties of equalizing the transfer payment system. Unfortunately, the government would rather try to cling to power than deal with the issues of Atlantic Canada, of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Nova Scotia.

    We have a unique history in this place. What we say in the House is on the record. I challenge Canadians and I challenge those watching this debate today to look at the Liberals' record. Listen to what they have been saying. I challenge them to take a look at the Atlantic accord and ask themselves why it cannot be a stand-alone piece of legislation. There is no reason it cannot be.

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    Canadians should take a look at the record, the deliberate shading of the facts, the obfuscation of the facts, that the Liberals have embarked upon. They should ask themselves why they would not simply set out the Atlantic accord in a separate, stand-alone piece of legislation and pass it forthwith. I think they will all come up with the same answer.

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    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech from the member opposite, particularly when he referred to the ad scam scandal as being the biggest one since the railway scandal. I imagine he was talking about the previous century.

    However, as I am sure he is aware, the biggest scandal that we have had until ad scam, which I agree is a deplorable abuse of taxpayer money, was in the 1980s with the Mulroney government. I would ask the hon. member to re-read On the Take by Stevie Cameron about the continual misuse of public funds in the way to further private fundraising for party coffers. In the same way the Liberals did with ad scam, we saw that with the PC Canada fund, which became very notorious in the 1980s. In a sense, what we have seen is both parties, same old same old, acting the same way, the Liberals taking their example from the Mulroney Conservatives. We see today the result.

    The other comment I would like to make is in regard the record deficits that we saw in the 1980s. We have seen, under the Prime Minister, the fiscal projections being the worst among countries studied. In other words, the government misses the mark by the greatest amount of western countries studied. In the 1980s, under the Mulroney Conservatives again, we saw record deficits that were unprecedented, before or since.

    Given the track record of his own party, the Mulroney Conservatives and their deplorable scandals, which were just as bad as the Liberal scandals, and the deplorable lack of financial management, the same as the Liberals missing the mark on fiscal projections, how can he say that his party is any better?

+-

    Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, that was quite a tirade for a new member of Parliament who has not yet got his feet wet in this place.

    I would have very quickly said that the biggest scandal prior to this scandal was the NDP provincial government in British Columbia, on several occasions. Then I would have gone to the absolutely total incompetence of the NDP government in Ontario, which was booted out. If the member wants to compare apples to apples instead of apples to oranges, I am happy to do that on any given day.

    I think what the hon. member really wanted to talk about was the government's budgetary projections, which I agree have been abysmal. This year the Liberals projected they would have a budgetary surplus of $1.8 billion. Last week we learned from our parliamentary advisers on the budget that it would be $6.8 billion or $6.1 billion, a total of $5 billion more in the coffers than we thought there would be at the beginning of the budgetary process.

+-

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we heard from the member across the way the word “scandal”. Talking about the budget, is it a scandal that we have had eight balanced budgets or better? Is it a scandal that we are the only G-7 state paying off the national debt? Is it a scandal that the government reached a significant health care agreement of $41.5 billion, with every premier signing on for 10 years, the accountability factors? Is it a scandal that we reached an agreement with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador on the Atlantic accord? Is it a scandal that we have invested in cities, unprecedented in the history of the country?

    We are talking about budget. We are talking about something that many Canadians country want to see. They want to see the budget go through because it is important to families and to communities across Canada.

    I am disappointed in the hon. member because I have a high degree of respect for him. I would like him to respond to that. I would like him to tell me why his party is toying with the idea of an election when these commitments are needed by Canadians?

  +-(1320)  

+-

    Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, I do not recall in any part of my speech where I said anything about an election. Again, that is a fabrication of the hon. member. What I did say very consistently was that his government could have and should have done more when it was governing in the best of times. At low interest rates, it reaped the benefits from the GST and from a North American free trade agreement, with the greatest amount of north-south trade we had ever seen on this continent.

    In the best of times the Liberals managed to do what? Find $162 million to send to their Liberal friends? I do not think that is a record of which any government needs to be proud.

    With regard to the budget implementation bill, I challenge the government to separate the Atlantic accord from it, pass it forthwith and move on with the business of governing the country, if it can.

+-

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, this budget builds on the successive budgets of the government in terms of a balanced approach. We have balanced the books again. We have reduced the national debt. Canada is the only G-7 country that has paid off its national debt. We have gone from 71.5% to below 40% and are on target for 25%.

    That is a pretty enviable position given the record of other countries and given the $42.5 billion deficit the government inherited in 1993. Given the fact that the New York Times in 1994-95 suggested that Canada was an economic basket case, we have done not too bad given the fact that we have had eight balanced budgets.

    Some members of the House have suggested incorrectly that we have not made our targets. The previous Conservative government did not make its targets either. Unfortunately, that is how we wound up with a $42.5 billion deficit, which we inherited in 1993.

    This government ensured that the deficit was eliminated. It started to invest in key social programs. It has ensured that the debt of future generations has been reduced and reduced significantly, by $60 billion in the last five years. That is very important to the average Canadian.

    Some members of the opposition would like to pick and choose. I was parliamentary secretary to the finance minister for two years so I have some idea of how this works. We cannot carve out what we like. We like the Atlantic accord so we are prepared to deal with that. The government House leader suggested that if the opposition really wanted the Atlantic accord, then it should pass the budget bill and pass everything at once. After all, this is a budget for Canadians, for families and for cities. It is also a green budget, which is what I really want to talk about.

    I also want to point out the fact that the members of the Conservative Party, the Alliance, paid no attention to cities for 10 years. When the Federation of Canadian Municipalities proposed a national infrastructure program in 1983, the Conservatives, when they came into office in 1984, did nothing, and they did nothing for 10 years. I happen to know that, having spent 12 years in municipal politics and as a former president of the FCM. I would not hang my hat on anything those people say because clearly they did nothing for 10 years. What did we do? We came into power, and we have had successive infrastructure programs and they have worked very well for cities.

    I listened to the hon. member across the way. Some of those members would rather hoot and holler than listen. They have no respect unfortunately, but that is the way it is. They would rather try to shout down people than listen. If they have questions, they can ask the questions.

    Mr. Randy White: Sounds like an election speech.

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert: A member across the way said it sounds like an election speech. We are not interested in an election. We are interested in the facts. It would be nice if that party for a change lived up to its own commitments. If members want to hear the facts, then let the process work.

    The budget was called the greenest budget in Canadian history. Why was it called that?

    I hear the NDP chirping in the corner. Those members are supposedly the champions of a green budget. They supposedly wanted climate change dealt with. Action is better than words. That party voted against the budget. I have no sympathy for those members. They have no credibility at all because they clearly do not support a green budget.

    From the beginning, we said that we wanted a sustainable and competitive economy and a green budget. I am very proud to say that the Minister of the Environment indicated from the very beginning that economic competitiveness and the environment were not mutually exclusive.

    We delivered a green budget. We delivered a budget with new direction, transforming the economy in terms of a model of sustainability. Tomorrow we will unveil an enhanced climate change plan for the nation. I would suggest that all members in the House take a careful look at what is in that plan before they react.

  +-(1325)  

    I want members to know that we now have the fiscal instruments to do what I think all Canadians want and that is to address the serious issue of climate change in this country and indeed in the world. I am very proud that this government signed and ratified the Kyoto protocol. We will be hosting the United Nations framework conference on climate change, COP 11, at the end of the year. This will be an opportunity not only to look at Kyoto, but beyond Kyoto. It is an opportunity to look at the issues of the environment and sustainability worldwide beyond 2008-2012.

    I have said that this budget strikes a balance for short term investments. For example, the environment is everyone's concern. Obviously anything that helps in terms of dealing with health related issues, whether it is asthma or anything to do with protecting species at risk, it is very important. We want to see transformative change in public behaviour and obviously in business practice. I must say that we have done a tremendous amount of consultation as we move forward to tomorrow's announcement.

    The government cannot do these kinds of investments unless it has a solid economic framework. Clearly, successive governments, both under this Prime Minister and the previous prime minister, delivered that. That is why we were able to pay down the debt and invest in health care, in post-secondary education and in the environment.

    Federal investments in the environment will stimulate partnerships. We are interested in partnerships. We are interested in ensuring the advancement of green technologies, not only wind power, solar power and hydrogen power and others, but also the export of these technologies. Canadians are a leader in areas such as air quality and water quality. This gives us an opportunity to work abroad, particularly in places like Asia which I am particularly familiar with. I can say that there are tremendous opportunities in places, even such as Japan, in dealing with contaminated sites as an example.

    We are on the cusp of a new era in dealing with the environment and ensuring that it produces new jobs and new opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs in this country.

    A healthy ecosystem provides tangible economic benefits to Canadians. This budget includes immediate investments for the protection of Canada's oceans, other important ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes, and a network of our national parks. Again, reinvesting in our national parks is also part of this budget. This is another important milestone to ensure that we not only have the best parks in the world but also to make sure that we have the most up to date facilities for people. We need to invest in our laboratories in Environment Canada. We must be able to provide the kind of tools needed to ensure that they are the best in the world.

    In this budget we have market based mechanisms. We have research programs and infrastructure investments. I talked earlier about the cities. The fact is that we are providing $5 billion and at least half of that is looking at the area of a green economy, dealing with public transit as an example, along with improved water and sewage systems. These are things that municipal governments y have been asking for in terms of the gas tax. I have already said that under the previous government the national infrastructure program lay dormant.

    Although there are some in this House who claim that they are big fans of supporting cities, the mayors and councils know who their friends are. They know who was there at the beginning to support them. They know who has consistently been there. We eliminated the GST costs for goods and services for municipal governments which will save them $7 billion over a 10 year period.

    Eighty percent of Canadians live in cities and therefore the agenda for cities has been very important. It has been one of the most important on the Prime Minister's agenda. I can say, as a former FCM president, how proud I am to serve in a government where not only cities are being dealt with but all communities. This budget deals with the issue of communities from coast to coast to coast.

  +-(1330)  

    We are dealing with issues that will improve the health of Canadians with the quality of our ecosystem, which is unprecedented. We will be hosting the world at the end of the year on COP 11 because we will be able to not only demonstrate the ingenuity and commitment of Canadians but we will also able to clearly demonstrate that we are moving ahead as a country and as a government.

    Environment Canada, in conjunction with Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada, Industry Canada and others, is working effectively to ensure that all aspects of the government are green. The issue of moving forward is demonstrated with the hybrid vehicles and our very strong agreement with the auto sector. We have had 14 voluntary agreements with the auto sector, which will result in a reduction of 5.3 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Some aspects of the budget are rather significant, such as the climate fund which was originally referred to as the clean air fund. It will create permanent, market based institutions as one of the primary tools for Canada's approach to climate change. We will be tapping the potential of the market which I think will be very exciting.

    By tapping into this market we will stimulate innovation and allow Canadians across the country to take action. We will continue to encourage energy efficiency, deliver cost effective reductions and sequestration and drive the adoption of best available technologies which is one of the most important things.

    We are committed to doing this. The funds purpose, which I think is rather unique, is to secure domestic emission reductions and qualifying international credits that will assist Canada in complying with its Kyoto commitments. We are not buying any Russian hot air. We are only buying credits that can be Kyoto confirmed.

    Over the coming months the Government of Canada will consult with Canadians on how best the fund may achieve this particular mandate. We know that Canadians trust this government in terms of dealing with the environment agenda. Some of the members on that side do not even believe the ice age occurred. I would suggest that when it comes to the environment this government is dealing with it effectively.

    The funds' primary mandate is to promote domestic greenhouse gas emission reductions, which is extremely important, and that will be elaborated on with the unveiling tomorrow. It will position Canada to compete in the 21st century. Some of the members on the other side do not even know that we have passed the 20th century. Some of their thinking on the environment is really quite appalling.

    I want to point out that this clean development mechanism will be important in greening the economy. We believe that a competitive economy can be a green economy and can provide the necessary jobs, which is what the budget is all about and why the budget implementation bill is so important.

    If people are really committed, actions speak louder than words. If they really support some of these key initiatives they will vote for this and make sure it goes through.

    The climate change fund agency will also be an agent of the government, which means that it will carry out activities on behalf of the Government of Canada. It also will be accountable to Parliament. I point out that people have asked for a clear plan. We now have the economic instruments to do so. It is the greenest budget in Canadian history and it has provided us with tremendous opportunities.

    I am pleased by this budget and the fact that the climate fund will be established through legislation. Aspects of this fund are going to be important to benefit investment, international emission reductions and give an opportunity for Canadians to see real and demonstrative change in the country.

    Another aspect of the budget that I would encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to take note of is the greenhouse gas technology investment fund. It is an innovative funding arrangement that will recognize qualifying investment to research and development, as well as meeting mandatory greenhouse gas emission requirements which is very important.

  +-(1335)  

    The budget deals with the real issues of Canadians and one of the issues that continues to be at the top of people's consciousness is the environment.

    The government will be very clear tomorrow in its plan in terms of its emission reductions, what it is doing and how it will be working with different sectors, both in the large final emitters sectors and others in the country. I think it is important that they will be able to contribute to the greenhouse gas technology investment fund in exchange for special emission credits. They will be investing and, in turn, that will provide jobs for people.

    Having a green economy and no jobs would benefit no one. Having no green economy will not help future generations. We have made a balance and have demonstrated that. What we are doing, in terms of bringing everyone into the tent on this particular issue, has been well received by the minister over the last nine months.

    The revenue that will be generated from these investments by large final emitters will be used to make strategic investments into new innovative technologies. Innovative technologies is important as opposed to simply relying on old ways.

    One of the things that some members of the opposition have suggested, particularly in the official opposition, is that somehow this is a carbon tax. There is no carbon, climate or green tax. There is no tax at all. In fact, if we were to have a tax we would have to bring in new legislation. As the parliamentary secretary I want to point out to all hon. members in the House that they can put that rumour aside.

    NRCan and Natural Resources will be the ones best placed to manage the greenhouse gas technology investment fund as part of ongoing operations. They have been dealing with the whole energy technology development file. This will give opportunities, in dealing with expertise gained over the years, to ensure these investments of the fund are allocated to projects that will yield the optimal emission reductions for large final emitters on a sector by sector basis.

    This is a tremendous opportunity not only for the environment but in terms of the investments for Canadians, whether they be young people or seniors. The environment is the area which I think is particularly important in terms of moving the budget implementation bill forward.

    The budget is not a smorgasbord where we come along and take something because we like it but not take something else because we do not like it. We are not here to carve up a roast. We are here to pass a budget so that Canadians will be able to prosper and we will be able to move forward in a number of these areas. We want our cities to be assured of the funding that so many mayors and councillors across Canada have supported, that environmental groups are assured of funding in terms of the environment and that assistance is provided to Canadians generally.

    It is good to see that we have the bill before the House but we have a long road to go in terms of ensuring that it gets passed. I would caution my colleagues on the other side that having this budget implementation bill go through will in fact deliver not only on what we ran on in the last federal election but what Canadians have clearly said, other priorities in terms of the economy.

    We have had eight balanced budgets or better, which is unheard of in Canadian history. I think that alone demonstrates the economic leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

  +-(1340)  

+-

    Mr. Randy White (Abbotsford, CPC): Mr. Speaker, was that not a nice speech about how great this budget is? For the people out there who cannot see what is going on in here, let me point out that the Liberals are giving themselves some applause.

    Let us talk a bit about how this affected the people in Abbotsford, British Columbia. We have a pretty serious drug problem in Abbotsford as well as in lower mainland British Columbia and throughout this country. The government spent $8.1 million giving heroin to addicts; now there is a great program. I wonder if the budget reflects that. There is no money at all in the budget for rehabilitation. There is no money for the rehabilitation of individuals who are addicted to drugs. There is no money for advertising. Yet, rather than get addicts off drugs, the government spent millions on an injection site to make sure that those who are addicted can go to a place to inject their drugs.

    In Abbotsford, British Columbia we are still fighting for fairness in the avian flu situation. The government in its wisdom decided that it had a schedule to reimburse farmers. For instance, on the schedule pigeons were worth $30, but anybody who knows much about specialized pigeons knows that some of them are worth $2,000 each. In its wisdom, the government did not do anything about that in the budget.

    Tomorrow's announcement is an interesting thing. We have a lot of pretty bad air quality emissions in the Fraser Valley. There is nothing in the budget about that.

    Here is the real question. The member opposite talked about revenue that has been generated. It would be interesting to know how much more money we would have available for the projects that I have just mentioned if it had not been ripped out of the pockets of the taxpayers and given to the Liberal Party. People in my area think that is pretty disgusting.

    There is another bit of revenue the member opposite did not mention. Bill C-17 here in the House of Commons is for the decriminalization of marijuana, which the government is going to be made effective for anybody over the age of 11. What the government is saying is that anybody over the age of 11 will be given a fine for carrying as much as 60 joints. That is for grades six, seven, eight and nine in our country, for over two million students. What the government really does not understand about that little generator of revenue, according to the Department of Justice, is that we cannot fine anybody between the ages of 11 to 16, so the police will not be issuing fines on the spot to anyone who is 12, 13, 14 or 15, and reasonably so. This convoluted idea of a government trying to raise money because children in grades six or seven carry joints is a bit stupid, to say the least.

    Budgets are more than just standing up and making some sort of philosophical statement on Kyoto or some other thing. They are about how Canada is working. I can tell the government and the hon. member across the way right now that the budget covered nothing about drugs that was motivating, to say the least. It covered nothing about the ethics and morality of stealing money from taxpayers. It covered nothing about some of the issues that are important to my area in terms of the avian flu and our emissions problem.

    Maybe the member could stand up and tell us about what other little things I missed out on that did not affect my area at all.

  +-(1345)  

+-

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert: Again, Mr. Speaker, these people seem to be more concerned about elections than the actual delivery of programs to Canadians.

    The hon. member has the audacity to stand in the House and suggest that the Liberal Party ripped off people. Maybe he has already read Mr. Gomery's report, which is not due until the end of the year. We know that allegations are allegations. I am sure the member, who has been around the House long enough, knows better. He should stand outside and make those kinds of statements.

    The hon. member should know that Transparency International, one of the most respected--

    Mr. Randy White: Let's go.

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert: If you go outside I will be more than happy to deal with it, more than happy.

    I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I should not speak to the member.

+-

    Hon. Bryon Wilfert: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Transparency International, one of the most respected organizations that deals with the issue of looking at corruption around the world, looks at 144 countries every year. Canada consistently is in the top 10, one to ten being very minimal in terms of the difference, very minuscule in the difference.

    The fact is that when we talk about corruption, and I do not know whether members on the other side can spell the word, I find it offensive that people would use the word “corruption”. First of all, they should read the facts before they make those kinds of outlandish statements in this place. They have a duty to Canadians to do that. They also have a responsibility.

    The government cancelled the sponsorship program as its first act. The government in fact named the Gomery commission, because these people said, “We have to get to the bottom of it”. We have no problem getting to the bottom of it. We have a process in place. These people seem to forget that. They seem to forget rather conveniently in terms of due process that we will have to get all the facts on the table. In fact, we have already seen contradictory testimony this week. We have an inquiry in place.

    The member asks what the budget does. Obviously I guess the member has no ecosystems in his riding. I guess the member has no issues dealing with climate change in his riding. I guess the member has no municipal governments in his riding. I guess the member has no issues dealing with health care. Clearly one budget does not do everything, but it clearly has done a lot and it continues to deliver, and I think that is what Canadians want to see. I think they are a little tired of hearing some of these terms bandied about.

    Clearly what we are seeing from Canadians is that they want to see the process work. They also want to see that this budget goes through so they can have delivered what in fact this government has stood for and continues to stand for, which is honesty and integrity. I challenge anybody on the other side to say otherwise and no doubt they will.

+-

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned that he thought this budget was balanced, so I have a series of questions for him.

    How can he say the budget is balanced when we have increasing homelessness across this country?

    How can he say this budget is balanced when poverty is growing, particularly child poverty, which we were supposed to eliminate by 2000? There are now 1.1 million children across this country living in poverty and those numbers are growing.

    How can he call this budget balanced when it does nothing to address the crisis in post-secondary education that is afflicting students and youth across this country? The average debt load now is over $20,000 because tuition fees have doubled over these past few years during the Liberal reign.

    How can he say that this budget is balanced when people with disabilities are living harder and harder lives because there is no support from the government? In fact, the government has cut one of the major employment programs that addressed the issue of integrating people with disabilities back into employment.

    How can he say the budget is balanced when we have a crisis in rural Canada? The government has done nothing to address the border issues that are hurting our rural communities across the country.

    How can he say the budget is balanced when seniors are living tougher lives and their quality of life is eroding? This budget offered nothing but a buck a day to help seniors when they have seen their real incomes eroding because pensions are actually eroding due to real cuts.

    How can he say this budget is balanced when average Canadians are earning 60¢ an hour less in real terms than they were a decade ago when this government came to power? We are seeing fewer and fewer jobs with pension benefits, fewer and fewer jobs that actually carry benefits, more and more temporary jobs and more and more part time jobs, and the average Canadian family has seen a real erosion in their quality of life.

    Given all these facts, how can the member opposite possibly say this budget is balanced?

  +-(1350)  

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    Hon. Bryon Wilfert: Mr. Speaker, I know the member is new. I have great respect for the member. I know he probably just forgot that the government led a national campaign in terms of the issue of homelessness and invested over $640 million in conjunction with the provinces and municipal governments and NGOs.

    Maybe the member forgot that 800,000 people, of which about 400,000 are seniors, came off the tax rolls because of this budget.

    Maybe the member forgot that in fact the issue of rising tuitions is a provincial issue, not a federal one, but this government has done more to deal with the issue of student debt load.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I know that I will have only eight minutes for this speech before question period. I would like, therefore, to use this opportunity to begin my criticism of the budget brought down recently by the Minister of Finance.

    First, we must condemn the fact that the Minister of Finance said that, for the first time, a Canadian finance minister would meet the critics of the official opposition and the other opposition parties to discuss the budget. I spent more than an hour with the minister explaining our party's priorities for serving the citizens. Now, we have a budget that fails to respond in any way to the priorities expressed to the Minister of Finance. I was extremely frustrated, as were all my colleagues, with this phony consultation by a minister who says he is open to new ideas for serving the community better, but failed to include in this budget any of the priorities that were expressed.

    One of my party's priorities took precedence over all the others. This was the fiscal imbalance. I know that the Prime Minister has never acknowledged either the concept or the problem of the fiscal imbalance. He spoke about fiscal pressures. I do not know why this Prime Minister has an aversion to such a fine concept. However, I know very well, as chair of the House's Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance and having gone on a tour that took us from Halifax to Victoria by way of Toronto, Quebec City and other stops, and is still continuing, that people everywhere agree on the problem of the fiscal imbalance. People also agree on all its effects on the provincial governments and their responsibilities for health, education and assisting the most disadvantaged families.

    There is agreement as well on the fact that Ottawa has too much money in relation to its responsibilities. The provinces, on the other hand, do not have enough to be the direct, front-line responders to the citizens. I thought that we would see a start in this budget on correcting the fiscal imbalance and that it would be recognized. It should be said in passing that this imbalance was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne thanks to the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party. We expected, therefore, that there would be an initial response in the budget. However, there was not even a hint of a response to this problem.

    The Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance are saying that because of the health agreement and equalization there is no room to manoeuvre for the coming years. That is not true. There is more money than they know what to do with. Even with the commitments made in the September 2004 health agreement, even with the $10 billion in equalization indexed at 3.5% a year, even with the agreement reached with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to exclude oil revenues from the equalization calculation, over the next six years there will still be a surplus of some $100 billion in the federal government's coffers. That is a lot of money.

    This is not the first time we have been in a situation like this. In 1956, the Tremblay Commission recommended looking at the Constitution, the provincial jurisdictions, and the federal government's jurisdictions and ensuring that the fiscal capacity of both levels of government was consistent with this level of responsibility. It favoured transferring these fiscal responsibilities from one level to the other, in other words, from the federal government to the provinces. The Constitution is in fact very clear on this: education, health, and helping out families in need are not the responsibilities of the federal government, but of Quebec and the provinces.

    Since these are basic services we must provide in order to meet the public's demands, is it possible that we are back where we were in 1956, at the time of the Tremblay report, when we needed to look at the balance and review the allocation of taxing power between the two levels of government?

  +-(1355)  

    The report of the Tremblay commission led to the initial first ministers' conference in Quebec City. At that time, the first ministers were Mr. Pearson for the federal government and Mr. Lesage for Quebec.

    The taxation powers of both levels of government were redefined at that conference. Why? Because, at that time, the federal government wanted to implement a pan-Canadian education system, with a loans and bursaries program, a pension fund, etc. The Quebec government refused to conform and asked for the right to withdraw with full compensation.

    In 1964, it became possible to withdraw with full compensation. This compensation was then offered in the form of tax points to all the provinces, but only Quebec accepted. The tax points from 1964 and others from later years, particularly 1977 and 1978, are now worth $18 billion and the revenues go directly to the Quebec government.

    Why deny the evidence? Why not admit that the current situation is identical to those in the 1950s and 1960s, and that the balance needs to be restored? There is no hint of a solution, or even any recognition of the fiscal imbalance in the budget, even though it is in the throne speech. There is nothing about it.

    Year after year, the provinces record major shortfalls. For just this year in Quebec alone, we are talking about $2.5 billion that should have gone to the Quebec government but which has gone to Ottawa, due to the fiscal imbalance. If Quebec had that $2.5 billion, clearly, the underfunding of education over the past 15 years and the shortfall in the health care system would be history.

    But first, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance would have to understand, which apparently is not the case at present. Our first major disappointment with the budget is this whole issue of the fiscal imbalance, which this government continues to deny. Perhaps we need to shove this question down its throat more forcefully in the next election campaign. I will come back to this after oral question period. As the saying goes, “The best is yet to come”.


+-STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[S. O. 31]

*   *   *

  +-(1400)  

[English]

+-Volunteerism

+-

    Hon. Brenda Chamberlain (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, next week is National Volunteer Week when we recognize so many who donate their time to fellow Canadians.

    I thank the thousands of volunteers in Guelph who do so much to better our community. Their generosity was overwhelming in response to the tsunami in South and Southeast Asia.

    The Rotary Club and Valentini Hair Design hosted a cut-a-thon. Harcourt Memorial United Church staged a benefit show where many, including Robert Munsch, performed. The Guelph Storm Hockey Club and the Guelph Fire Department collected donations. Youth undertook action in their schools to help raise money. The local Red Cross alone received over $770,000 from thousands of individuals and businesses.

    These fundraising efforts could not have occurred without so many generous volunteers. I congratulate them and thank them for all of their hard work.

*   *   *

+-Veterans Affairs

+-

    Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's, CPC): Mr. Speaker, many Canadian veterans were subjected to chemical warfare testing while serving their country. Because of this the government brought forward the chemical warfare agent testing recognition program with the aim of compensating these veterans. Unfortunately, this program has become underfunded and overburdened. The government must correct this injustice to ensure our veterans are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

    Some residents of my constituency of South Shore—St. Margaret's who are eligible for this program have made enquiries on the status of their applications. They have been told that the line is so long they cannot even know when their application will even be looked at.

    This is a shameful way to treat our veterans. This is a serious situation which needs to be addressed immediately as time is running out.

    The government has proclaimed this to be the Year of the Veteran. It is paramount that we recognize their great sacrifice and ensure the best possible care for our veterans.

*   *   *

+-Pope John Paul II

+-

    Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the remarkable life of His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

    As we mourn his death, we also celebrate his life, his incredible courage and the comfort that his faith brought to people all around the world. His Holiness was a remarkable leader, an inspiration of extraordinary faith, strength and courage to us all. He was especially graced with a very special power to bring people around the world together.

    Canada was honoured when he visited our country three times. I had an audience with him some years ago in Italy and was left in awe of his radiance and the aura that surrounded him.

    We were blessed to welcome the Pope to Toronto for World Youth Day in July 2002 when I had the great privilege of celebrating mass with His Holiness.

    I want to express my deepest condolences to members of our religious communities, his brothers and sisters, and to all Canadians as we honour the exceptional life of Pope John Paul II.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Agriculture

+-

    Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, having taken part in the parliamentary conference on the WTO, organized jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the European Parliament, I am convinced that Canada needs to double its educational efforts in order to show the rest of the world that the agricultural supply management system is one of the ways to put a human face on globalization.

    Agriculture was, of course, at the heart of those debates, but the focus was far more on market access than on the producers' quality of life. The position I defended was that we ought to focus on greater market fairness for all and, at the same time, respect the status of those involved in agriculture, that is the producers and farm workers.

    The WTO is slated to table the outcome of the process in Hong-Kong this December, and this ought to result in some considerable progress in the negotiations.

    I invite all members of this House to take ownership of this debate, since it is the responsibility of us all as elected representatives to ensure that the new rules for the global market are democratic ones.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Coast Guard

+-

    Mr. Michael Savage (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, recently in my riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced that the Canadian Coast Guard would become a special operating agency, the largest SOA in Canada, which recognizes its unique and important role to Canadians.

    This special designation allows the Coast Guard to focus its resources on providing excellent marine services while enhancing its responsibilities in the areas of national security, environmental response and the facilitation of maritime commerce. The Canadian Coast Guard will continue to play an integral role in scientific research, conservation and protection of our fisheries.

    The Coast Guard is an important agency. It is important to the people of Dartmouth. While more operating dollars are critically needed, this new status along with over $400 million invested in this year's budget for new vessels will ensure that this proud organization will continue to be a world leader in providing marine services to Canadians.

*   *   *

  +-(1405)  

+-Men's World Curling Championship

+-

    Mr. Ken Epp (Edmonton—Sherwood Park, CPC): Mr. Speaker, there is great joy in Edmonton—Sherwood Park these days. We are all excited about Randy Ferbey's fabulous victory in the Ford Men's World Curling Championship in Victoria this past weekend.

    Randy and his teammates, David Nedohin, Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque, kept Canadians on the edge of their seats during most of the games in this tournament. We all heaved a collective sigh of relief when they won their last game, beating Scotland 11 to 4.

    These curlers from my riding are absolutely fabulous. They have won 30 of their last 35 games, coming out victorious in the provincials and the Canadian Brier. Now they are the world champions for the third time.

    We congratulate them and wish them success as they move toward representing Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympics. They truly are world champions.

*   *   *

+-Immigration

+-

    Mr. Russ Powers (Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to reflect on last month's observation of Anti-Discrimination Day and to honour the men and women of the Settlement and Immigration Services Organization of Hamilton, our outstanding community based centre dedicated to the well-being of new Canadians who choose to settle in the greater Hamilton area.

    Hamiltonians are very proud of the diversity of immigrant services offered by this organization. Highlighting its work are the programs directed at the promotion of social justice, equality and equity. It is family sensitive and well networked. All federal and provincial stakeholders mandated to spearhead the integration of almost 4,000 new immigrants who arrive in Hamilton annually participate.

    The professionals at SISO break down barriers that immigrants and refugees inevitably face as they seek to become Canadians. As a member, I along with others salute those committed to this wonderful program in Hamilton and to those beyond, from coast to coast to coast in our great Canadian home.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Place aux jeunes

+-

    Ms. France Bonsant (Compton—Stanstead, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on March 20, I had the pleasure of attending the final day of the activities of the 2005 edition of Place aux jeunes in the Haut-Saint-François region.

    The purpose of this familiarization program is to stem the exodus of our young people. It encourages social commitment, facilitates job entry and stimulates the creation of businesses in the outlying regions, while raising the awareness of young people and local stakeholders of the impacts of relocation.

    These familiarization visits, organized by the Carrefour jeunesse du Haut-Saint-François and spread over three weekends, give more than a dozen young people a chance to explore the region. In past years, they have resulted in several dozen young people deciding to relocate to the Haut-Saint-François regional municipality.

    We congratulate Christian Gauthier, the director of the East Angus Carrefour jeunesse-emploi, and Nadia Latulippe, Eastern Townships migration officer, for their commitment to this cause and for helping entice young people back to our fine region.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Terry Fox

+-

    Hon. Maria Minna (Beaches—East York, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on April 12, 1980, 25 years ago today, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope to raise funds for cancer research.

    As a young athlete who had lost his leg to cancer, Terry crossed 3,339 miles over 143 days on his incredible journey. Many said that the idea was ridiculous, but Terry proved them wrong.

    When he arrived in Toronto, Terry Fox was greeted as a national champion by some 10,000 people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square.

    On the morning of September 1 the Marathon of Hope came to a tragic end when Terry collapsed outside of Thunder Bay. Cancer had spread to Terry's lungs. Nine months later, one of Canada's greatest heroes passed away.

    Terry's philosophy was simple: research money equals hope. I encourage all Canadians to reflect on the remarkable life of this young man and give generously until a cure is found.

*   *   *

+-Capital Hill Experience

+-

    Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin—Caledon, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of introducing several guests from my riding of Dufferin—Caledon who are in the House today. For the past three days, students Pavan Sapra, Michael Lucci, Marissa Hunter, Angela Davenport, Bartosz Junik, Rebecca Snelgrove and Nathan Wynes, as well as chaperones Nicole Robins and Real Gagnon, have been touring our nation's capital and learning about our Canadian government and Parliament on the Capital Hill Experience.

    Not only have these students had an opportunity to tour Parliament Hill, but they have visited the Supreme Court of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the CBC studios, the New RO, and attended a lecture at the British High Commission.

    This experience has been made possible through funding by the rotary clubs of Shelburne, Orangeville, Caledon West and Bolton. These rotary clubs have worked with my office to select students and provide a capital hill experience these students are sure to remember.

    Mr. Speaker, please join me in welcoming these students to Ottawa.

*   *   *

  +-(1410)  

+-Etobicoke Business Excellence Awards

+-

    Hon. Jean Augustine (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Etobicoke—Lakeshore, I would like to congratulate those who were honoured last night at the eighth annual Etobicoke Business Excellence Awards gala.

    The black tie event was co-hosted by the Etobicoke Chamber of Commerce and the Etobicoke Guardian to recognize businesses and business persons for their exemplary accomplishments in the Etobicoke community.

    I wish to congratulate Gino Piscelli, Don Gain, Greg Flagler, Ron Crosby, Naresh Bangia, John Lyon, Ignacio Musalem, Gerry Vandergrift and Paul Floyd. Through their hard work, diligence and integrity, they have achieved excellence.

    They and their employees and employers may all take great pride in their accomplishments. Congratulations to all of the Etobicoke Business Excellence Awards recipients.

*   *   *

+-Landmines

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to congratulate the Royal Canadian Legion Mount Pleasant Branch 177 in my riding of Vancouver East. The branch marked its 60th anniversary in a remarkable way by an important landmine clearance project.

    Its contribution will support demining operations for a 12 week period in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. As part of the Adopt-A-Minefield global campaign, this project will fund the work of a 30 person team from the Afghan Technical Consultants.

    The Mount Pleasant Legion has a long history of contributing to the community. This latest initiative is another fine example of its service and commitment to human security and peace. The global landmine crisis has killed or maimed tens of thousands of people worldwide. The eradication of anti-personnel mines is a vital task facing the international community and action needs to be taken.

    I applaud the Mount Pleasant Legion's initiative. This is an excellent project taken up by this branch and it most definitely lives up to its motto, “We joined to serve; we're serving still”.

*   *   *

+-Terry Fox

+-

    Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC): Mr. Speaker, 25 years ago today, Port Coquitlam's Terry Fox began his inspirational journey to fight cancer. On April 12, 1980 Terry dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean and began his Marathon of Hope.

    He ran 26 miles a day, seven days a week, through the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Ontario. It was a journey Canadians will never forget.

    On September 1, 1980, after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres, Terry was forced to stop running outside of Thunder Bay because cancer appeared in his lungs. An entire nation was stunned and saddened. Terry passed away on June 28, 1981. He was only 22.

    Cancer research and treatment has come a long way since 1981, in part because of the courage of Terry Fox. Some $360 million has been raised worldwide in Terry's name to fight cancer, and he inspired millions.

    When he died, Terry Fox said, “Even if I don't finish, we need others to continue. It's got to keep going without me”. That is our challenge. Let us never give up doing all we can to fight cancer. It is the only way to truly honour Terry's legend, courage and memory.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Rail Transportation

+-

    Mr. Raynald Blais (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, BQ): Mr. Speaker, two organizations, Dignité rurale and Vision Percé-Gaspé, recently presented me with a petition signed by more than 2,200 people concerned about the future of rail transportation in the Gaspé Peninsula.

    For 15 years we have been living with a threat over our heads about the future of Via Rail's Chaleur route. The once daily service has been cut to three trips a week.

    In 2004, the federal government asked Via Rail to reduce its operating costs and it has been confirmed that various scenarios were considered, including eliminating its service to the southern Gaspé Peninsula.

    In the Gaspé Peninsula there is a close connection between passenger trains and freight trains, which rely on well-maintained tracks. Without adequate funding to maintain the Gaspé network, both services are threatened.

    It is time to put an end to this suspense and for the federal Minister of Transport to tell us clearly and precisely his plans for the future of rail in the Gaspé Peninsula.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival

+-

    Ms. Helena Guergis (Simcoe—Grey, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Saturday, April 23 marks the 39th annual Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival in my riding of Simcoe—Grey.

    Each year the Town of Elmvale explodes in a celebration of nature's rites of spring. Close to 30,000 visitors line the streets to enjoy sugar bush tours, fresh maple syrup, shopping, the all day pancake breakfast and the midway, of course.

    I would like to thank the organizers, Tony Hope, Dave Stewart, Ted Hore, Peter Cowcola and Heather Sewell for their hard work and dedication in making the festival such a success.

    Through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, $20,000 is raised each year for local organizations: the library, minor baseball, Girl Guides, Community Living, the Dare program, the Legion, the fall fair youth program and the Elmvale co-op nursery.

    On Saturday I will have the opportunity to challenge Mayor John Brown in a log sawing contest. I invite all members to join me in what promises to be a fun filled weekend for the entire family.

*   *   *

  +-(1415)  

+-Royal Canadian Mounted Police

+-

    Mrs. Susan Kadis (Thornhill, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canada has one of the most respected national police forces in the world. The RCMP is renowned across the globe as a historical symbol of law and order in this country.

    Yesterday the deputy leader of the official opposition called into question the integrity of the RCMP, claiming it is not competent. Being the son of a former solicitor general, the comments were even more surprising.

    Clearly the Conservatives are willing to attack anyone or anything in the name of political expediency. They have already dragged the charter through the mud, condemned the role of the Supreme Court, and do not support the Canada Health Act, official bilingualism and the federal government's proper place in the Canadian federation.

    How many other symbols that are integral to the hearts and minds of Canadians will the Conservatives tear apart in the name of political opportunism?

*   *   *

+-Aboriginal Affairs

+-

    Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the sponsorship scandal the Liberals claimed the problem was just a couple of isolated bureaucrats. The political stench coming out of the Gomery inquiry has shown just how misleading this claim was. Still, they want us to believe the same thing about one of their other scandals, Health Canada's dealings with the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation: tens of millions of public dollars misdirected at the highest levels of the department.

    Just as they tried with the sponsorships, the Liberals have stonewalled and played down this scandal. They say, “One bureaucrat convicted with a minimal sentence. End of story”. That is not good enough. That is not accountability. Lots of questions remain. Who else knew? Why did they not act? How does this fit with the pattern of Liberal corruption and scandals?

    Canadians deserve to know. The NDP has repeatedly called for a public inquiry. If the Liberals have nothing to hide, why will they not help us get to the truth and call an inquiry?


+-ORAL QUESTION PERIOD

[Oral Questions]

*   *   *

[English]

+-Federal-Provincial Relations

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Dalton McGuinty is quoted today as saying the Prime Minister will not meet with him. Mr. McGuinty is a Liberal, and I know the Prime Minister now wants to be careful with which Liberals he associates, but I am sure the Premier of Ontario is not looking for sponsorship money.

    Will the Prime Minister meet with Premier McGuinty at the first opportunity?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, obviously I will meet with Mr. McGuinty. I am prepared to meet with any premier. In fact, it is either this afternoon or tomorrow that I will be meeting with Premier Lord. I have met with Premier Williams. I have met with Premier Calvert. It is part of my job. I would be more than happy to discuss the affairs of state with a provincial premier.

    Hon. Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, I am sure when that meeting eventually happens, the Premier of Ontario, like the Liberal Premier of Quebec, will want to discuss the fiscal imbalance which the Prime Minister should start to take seriously.

*   *   *

+-Air-India

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this past weekend Senator Terry Mercer, a Liberal senator, suggested that racism is the real reason for the government's refusal to call an inquiry into the Air-India tragedy. He said:

    If there were 350 white people on that plane, would we be waiting for an inquiry?

    Will the Prime Minister change his position and vote with the Conservative Party on a motion today that calls for an Air-India inquiry?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, any notions of racism are odious and any accusations of such are simply not acceptable.

    I would simply point out to the hon. member that today the Deputy Prime Minister is in the process of meeting with the families. She has said that she will take action. She is seeking the best way to do so. She is seeking the questions that the families want to have answered. Unequivocally, the government will take action in an appropriate way.

*   *   *

+-Sponsorship Program

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, judging from the families' comments after that meeting, they were not terribly impressed.

    Yesterday the Prime Minister wrongly suggested that the Liberals were not responsible for shutting down the public accounts committee looking into Liberal corruption prior to the election. For the record, I checked. The then Liberal majority voted to produce a premature report before hearing all the witnesses on May 11. On May 13 it voted against hearing further committee witnesses.

    I have a simple question. Did the Liberal members act on their own, or did they act on the Prime Minister's instructions?

  +-(1420)  

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is acting in total disregard of the facts.

    Let me point out that on April 6, 2004 Liberal members of the public accounts committee proposed a schedule of witnesses of which Jean Brault and Groupaction were the first on the list of the advertising agencies to be heard. On May 11 the Liberal members had a motion to have an interim report. The opposition voted against it. Then the opposition began a lengthy filibuster and the chairman of the committee went to Mexico.

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, once again the Prime Minister omits the fact that the Liberal Party voted against hearing further witnesses.

    Yesterday the government misled the House on another matter. It claimed full audits were done on the Liberal Party's books to find dirty sponsorship money. That is not true. PricewaterhouseCoopers even stated emphatically that what it did did not constitute an audit.

    Will the Prime Minister admit that an audit was never done, only reviews?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte were engaged proactively by the party to get to the bottom of the issue. The reports were provided to Justice Gomery. We are cooperating fully with Justice Gomery.

    It is also notable that the reports did say that all contributions were handled and receipted properly. If there were profiteers who were operating below the radar screen of the party, we want to ensure that those individuals are punished.

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister declined to answer this question and he should, because after all, he has told the country he is “the moral authority”.

    So let me ask the moral authority this. PricewaterhouseCoopers says that what it is doing here does not constitute an audit. Deloitte says its services were engaged to perform a forensic accounting review, no audits. Will the Prime Minister admit that, contrary to what the government has told Canadians, they never performed an audit?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a forensic accounting review is a very thorough review of all accounting. That is exactly what Deloitte did and that is exactly what PricewaterhouseCoopers did. I would urge the hon. member to stick to politics and not try business if he does not understand anything more about accounting than that.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, after he was pushed enough by the opposition parties, the media and public opinion, the Prime Minister finally took some action in connection with the sponsorship scandal. Yesterday, in the House, the Prime Minister indicated that it was he, in response to the sponsorship scandal, who recalled Canada's ambassador to Denmark and dismissed three heads of crown corporations.

    Since the Prime Minister is establishing a link between Alfonso Gagliano, Jean Pelletier, André Ouellet, Marc LeFrançois and the sponsorship scandal, can he tell us whether these individuals were members of the parallel group?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc is quite right in saying that I acted from the outset. The very day the report of the Auditor General was tabled in the House, I created the commission of inquiry and I appointed Justice Gomery as commissioner. We, the government, have supported the Gomery commission so that it will come up with answers. We want answers and we will act in consequence.

  +-(1425)  

+-

    Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I will ask the question, since he is boasting of dismissing Alfonso Gagliano and three heads of crown corporations. He certainly did not cause heads to roll just because of allegations. He had facts that justified the dismissal of Gagliano, Pelletier, Ouellet and LeFrançois for their involvement in the sponsorship scandal. This is what he has just said.

    Were these people part of the parallel group? On what grounds did he dismiss them?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in each case, we gave the reasons for our action. For example, in the case of Mr. Pelletier, it was because of the statement made by Ms. Bédard. In the case of Mr. Gagliano, it was because the Minister of Foreign Affairs said it was hurting Quebec's image.

    In each instance, we provided explanations. I guess the leader of the Bloc was not here. Whatever the case, it was done here in the House.

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in his haste to distance himself from the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister fired some of those associated with it, such as André Ouellet, Alfonso Gagliano and Jean Pelletier.

    What we would like to know from the Prime Minister is the reason for his decision to dismiss these people. Was it based on allegations, or was he certain that they were part of the little parallel group directing the operations of the sponsorship scandal?

[English]

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is positive to finally see the opposition giving credit to the Prime Minister for some of the actions he took in response to the sponsorship program. In fact, he ended the sponsorship program. He fired some of these individuals.

    Furthermore, he established Justice Gomery and supports Justice Gomery, which is a far cry from what the opposition members do. They would rather get to the polls. Canadians want to get to the truth and that is why they depend on Justice Gomery: to do exactly that.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister explain that he decided to get rid of Pelletier, Gagliano and Ouellet before the end of the Gomery inquiry yet refuses to do something else—put the dirty money in trust—with the excuse that the inquiry is not over?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the party has made it clear. If it has received any inappropriate funds, it will reimburse the taxpayers.

[English]

    It is very clear that the opposition members do not want to hear the truth, because otherwise they would listen to Justice Gomery. They would listen to the government and wait for his report. That report will give Canadians the truth and Canadians can make a reasoned decision based on that truth.

+-

    Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

    The fact is that this Liberal corruption is putting a corrupt face on federalism in Quebec and it is smearing Quebec's name all across Canada, yet we know that in Nova Scotia Liberal friendly ad firms were getting sponsorship contracts for projects like the Pan-Am Games.

    Given what we know from testimony about how sponsorship fees end up getting funnelled back into the Liberal Party, will the Prime Minister refer that testimony and the Pan-Am contract to the RCMP?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again I would urge the leader of the NDP to listen to his own caucus member, the member for Sackville--Eastern Shore, who said on CBC radio:

    To be completely honest with you, what's going on in the House of Commons is nothing short of really quite sad. Everyone is just talking about the Gomery issue and nothing else. We are not talking about seniors or veterans or children or families or the environment or anything else. We're just...trying to score cheap political points on the Gomery trial and I think Canadians in general have had enough of this and we should focus on the issues that matter to Canadians and let Gomery do his work.

    The member is right and his leader should listen.

+-

    Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we would not have to be dealing with any of this if it had not been for the corrupt behaviour of the Liberals in the first place.

    Speaking about quotations, what about the letter the Prime Minister sent out to Liberals across the country last night? He said that corruption “is not the way we do politics in the Liberal Party”.

    This is amazing. We are told we are supposed to wait for the results of the Gomery inquiry, yet the Prime Minister has already decided that the Liberal Party is exonerated and completely innocent. If he can say the Liberal Party is innocent, why can he not just say he is sorry to the Canadian people?

  +-(1430)  

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have said from the very beginning that I regret this event very, very much and I find it profoundly troubling.

    That is why, right from the very beginning, we put in place the Gomery commission. We did it because we want to find out the facts. We want to find out the facts so that we can punish those people who engaged in inappropriate activities. There may be members of the Liberal Party, but that is not the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is made up of thousands of hard-working and dedicated Canadians from coast to coast to coast who want only one thing, and that is the betterment of their country.

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the government now seems to be at least admitting it did not do audits, but the question is, did it do thorough reviews? Not only were these not full audits, the Liberal Party refused to provide the accountants with all the necessary documentation. According to Deloitte & Touche, it was forced to rely on the Liberal Party for the accuracy of the information it received.

    I ask the Prime Minister again: will he admit that no audit was done, that it was simply a review and that the source of the information for the review was the Liberal Party of Canada?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, allow me to quote directly from the Deloitte report, “We made sure to obtain detailed supporting documents for every amount deposited in the Liberal Party accounts during the period covered by this mandate”.

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Prime Minister and minister to read the rest of those statements, because what it says, according to the accountants, is that the Liberals set the rules for what transactions they actually looked at. That did not include any money to riding associations, which is where all the sponsorship money was funnelled.

    Will they admit that the information for this review came from the Liberal Party and did not include dirty money to riding associations?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): First of all, Mr. Speaker, a forensic accounting review is a very thorough one. The Liberal Party in fact established proactively these reviews, working with Deloitte, working with PwC, and in fact shared all this information with the Gomery commission in December. We continue and the party auditors continue to work with Justice Gomery's auditors as we review this information.

    It is very clear that the Liberal Party is being completely cooperative with Justice Gomery and that the Conservative leader wants to kneecap Justice Gomery before he provides Canadians with his report.

+-

    Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberals suddenly promised to give Judge Gomery party records. Before then, they were claiming that two outside audits proved no wrongdoing. It turns out they knew full well those were not really audits at all. PricewaterhouseCoopers specifically stated their work was not an audit and complained about lack of documentation provided by the Liberals.

    The Prime Minister again tried to sneak one by Canadians. Why is he caught time and again trying to mislead Canadians?

+-

    The Speaker: I have grave concerns about the question that is asked because it appears to be dealing with Liberal Party audits. I am not seeing the tie any longer in that question to any ministerial responsibility, and accordingly, in my view the question is out of order. The evidence before the inquiry that a party is giving is one thing. What the government is giving is another. The hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill has I think crossed the line in this case.

+-

    Mrs. Diane Ablonczy: Mr. Speaker, both audit firms complained about lack of proper documentation. Deloitte emphasized that only four bank accounts were reviewed. Nothing that went to Liberal ridings or candidates was reviewed, yet the Prime Minister, a former finance minister, had the nerve to pretend this was a real audit.

    Now we learn of money laundering, extortion, kickbacks, bribes, envelopes of money. No wonder the Prime Minister was frantically waving around his whitewash audit. Why has his word--

  +-(1435)  

+-

    The Speaker: I could not hear the end of the question, but everything before it appeared to be following the same pattern so I will have to conclude that the question is out of order in the circumstances.

    The hon. member for Roberval--Lac-Saint-Jean.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we have asked the Prime Minister numerous times already whether he did all the necessary checks to ensure that none of his ministers, past or present, was connected in any way to the sponsorship scandal.

    Today, I am asking the Prime Minister, who claims to have the moral authority to lead this government, whether he asked his ministers about this and whether he received all the necessary assurances that none of his ministers had any involvement with any agency in the sponsorship scandal?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that when a minister or a parliamentary secretary is appointed, there is a security check, a background check. All the ministers have gone through this check.

+-

    Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we know that all the ministers are investigated by the RCMP, but we have already seen cases where the results left something to be desired.

    What I am asking the Prime Minister is not whether the RCMP conducted an investigation. Did the person who claims to have the moral authority to lead the government question his ministers himself, clearly and specifically, and did he receive assurances from them that they had nothing to do with the sponsorship scandal and the firms involved? That is my question.

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat, checks were conducted, not only by the RCMP but also by the transition team, whose duty it was to do so, in accordance with the standards.

+-

    Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ): Mr. Speaker, during Alain Renaud's testimony, Justice Gomery reminded him that by acting as a lobbyist without being registered, he broke the law. In addition to being convicted of this, he could be fined $25,000.

    When he appointed the Minister of Transport, did the Prime Minister ask his lieutenant if he had acted as a lobbyist for, among others, Onex, Imperial Tobacco, Loblaws, the Reichmann brothers of Olympia and York in connection with developing the Bickerdike pier, and for the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when the minister was appointed, a check was done of his assets and his background, as is the case for all ministers. I can assure the hon. member that the Minister of Transport, and the other ministers, passed the test with flying colours.

+-

    Mr. Benoît Sauvageau (Repentigny, BQ): Can the Prime Minister confirm, from his seat, that the Minister of Transport never approached his ministers or opposition members to arrange meetings for his clients, which clearly constitutes lobbying?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that the Minister of Transport has always acted appropriately and with the utmost integrity.

[English]

+-

    Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claimed in sworn testimony that he had no relationship with sponsorship kingpin Claude Boulay, that he barely knew him, that he had no contact beyond a casual hello. Yet we learned yesterday that the Prime Minister discussed contracts with Boulay over lunch at a Liberal convention.

    Will the Prime Minister now admit that he met with Claude Boulay to discuss contracts?

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is commenting on yesterday's testimony. If he wanted to be truly transparent about this, he would also say that yesterday's testimony actually contradicted some of Mr. Brault's testimony of last week.

    The folly of commenting on daily testimony is that one runs the risk of making grievous errors on an ongoing basis, and that is what they are doing. That is irresponsible when we are dealing with an issue of this importance. That is why we should be trusting Justice Gomery to go through all the testimony and in a reasonable way develop his report and provide it to Canadians. That is what Canadians deserve.

  +-(1440)  

+-

    Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is the Prime Minister who has said that he has the moral responsibility to clean up this mess, yet he has that minister answering questions. This scandal is worse than Watergate and the Prime Minister has an obligation to answer these questions.

[Translation]

    Perhaps I will get an answer if I ask in French.

    Will the Prime Minister admit that he dined with Claude Boulay and that they discussed contracts? Will he admit that?

[English]

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is putting country above party. The Prime Minister is putting principle above strategy. That is exactly the opposite of what the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP are doing with this issue.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Justice was indignant at the opposition for suggesting what every Canadian believes, that the Liberal Party has some explaining to do.

    Now Canadians have learned as a result of sworn evidence that a former member of the minister's own staff, his special counsel, has been identified as pocketing thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for favours for the Liberal Party.

    When were these facts about his special counsel brought to the minister's attention?

+-

    Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I read about those allegations at the same time the member opposite read about them in the newspapers.

+-

    Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as the highest law officer in the country, the minister has an obligation to advise the Canadian people fully about this matter. Canadians have heard that his special counsel was picking up envelopes of sponsorship money.

    When he heard about this, what steps did he take when this matter came to his attention?

+-

    Hon. Irwin Cotler (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am stunned that a former crown attorney does not understand what the rule of law is all about, does not understand what the integrity of the administration is all about, does not understand what a judicial process is all about and comes here, goes ahead and pronounces conclusions without any evidence and without any attribution to any judicial authority. It is a scandal.

*   *   *

+-Immigration

+-

    Mr. Mark Holland (Ajax—Pickering, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, amid allegations of $50,000 cheques for bonds being taken through the offices of a Conservative member of Parliament, many members of the House are deeply concerned.

    What is the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration doing to look into this matter and how is he going to ensure the integrity of our immigration services are not put up for sale?

+-

    Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is not talking about allegations, but about admissions by the member for Newton—North Delta. It is a very serious misrepresentation of the immigration system, where a member of Parliament asks a constituent to sign a bond of $50,000 to $100,000 made out to his name or to his party in return for writing me a letter.

    I have asked the conflicts commissioner to take a look at this. I further will ask him to see who gets that money when the conditions go into default and whether the leader of the--

+-

    The Speaker: The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

*   *   *

+-Human Resources and Skills Development

+-

    Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, disturbing questions have arisen as to whether HRSD training dollars are being siphoned out of volunteer organizations and into the hands of Liberal friendly organizations. Each of these contracts are worth a half a million dollars. Further, we have had a steady stream of witnesses coming forward with tales of harassment and intimidation by HRSD bureaucrats if they speak out.

    Will the minister explain why front-line volunteer organizations across Canada have learned that it is not the merit of the work they do, it is “who you know in the PMO”?

  +-(1445)  

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Lucienne Robillard (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the allegation the hon. member is making in this House is a very serious one. What is going on at the present time needs to be closely scrutinized.

    The request for proposals procedure is there to award contracts in a very transparent way to organizations, the majority of which are community organizations delivering services to our fellow citizens. A kind of invitation to tender is issued and the organization with the best proposal is selected.

    This is the context we work in with the volunteer sector in order to improve the system as a whole.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Transparency, Mr. Speaker? Tell this to the volunteer groups that are being shut out. We have documented a culture of fear, fear of losing contracts, fear of losing out to Liberal friendly organizations. These organizations are working with the poor, the immigrants and the homeless. My God, it is like a cross between Gomery and a Charles Dickens tale.

    Will the minister explain why the Liberal government has taken to shaking down widows and orphans in order to do damage control for HRSD policy?

+-

    Hon. Lucienne Robillard (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the request for proposal process is a very transparent process to ensure that we receive value for money each time we sign a contract with any organization, including a community organization in the volunteer sector.

    We have heard about some difficulties they are having with the new process. We are working very closely with the volunteer sector to improve the system. I think no one is against the principle to be very transparent and to have good contracts with those organizations.

    I can assure the members of the House that we will work very closely with the volunteer sector to have a better organization.

*   *   *

+-Sponsorship Program

+-

    Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Claude Boulay is one of the ad scam kingpins, the head of Groupe Everest. The Prime Minister claimed last year in the House and this year at the Gomery commission that he barely knew the man, sort of a passing acquaintance, might say hello every now and then.

    Now we have learned that the Prime Minister actually lunched with Mr. Boulay while discussing contracts for Attractions Canada, a major recipient of dirty Liberal ad scam money.

    The public works minister does not know. He cannot answer this question. Only the Prime Minister can.

    Is this true? Did he indeed lunch with Claude Boulay to discuss contracts, yes or no?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the entire history of my relationship, which was very short, he is a political acquaintance, is well set out in the testimony that I provided to the Gomery commission. It is there for anybody who wants to read it. It was examined and cross-examined by counsel. I would simply ask the hon. member to read it.

+-

    Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, watch the prevaricating, listen to the wiggling, not an unequivocal answer. Here is an unequivocal question. Did the Prime Minister have a lunch meeting with Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest to discuss contracts? I do not want prevarication. He says that he has moral authority. Then exercise some moral responsibility to tell the truth. Did he have that meeting, yes or no?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is nonsense, as is the allegation. All the hon. member has to do is go and see the Gomery testimony. It is very clear, and one thing comes out. Witnesses before the commission have testified unequivocally that I have never interfered in any contract, and I never did.

+-

    The Speaker: There seems to be a slight breakdown in order in the chamber at the moment. I would remind hon. members that these conversations can be carried out elsewhere. We are in a question period and I believe the hon. member for Central Nova is now going to ask a question.

*   *   *

  +-(1450)  

+-Border Security

+-

    Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the record will show the Prime Minister did not answer the question or who picked up the tab.

    U.S. Congressman Mark Souder, a senior member of the homeland security committee, says that Canada risks becoming a junior rather than a joint partner in North American border security. One of his chief concerns is the same as voiced by Canadian border authorities: inadequate and incomplete watch lists and no computers available to provide accurate and updated information.

    At least 62 border crossings do not have 24/7 real time live access to CBSA computers. Instead officials have to sift through reams of paper to determine if the person crossing the border is a terrorist. When are these glaring gaps at the border--

+-

    The Speaker: The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

+-

    Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are not going to get involved in the context of the comments from customs officers in the middle of labour negotiations. However, all the customs offices at our borders have all the information at their disposal. In fact, the department and the Canada Border Services Agency is investing $433 million over the next five years to enhance our capacity. A good part of that will be devoted to information technology and to improve the links between our border operations and the head office database.

+-

    Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it was a U.S. congressman who said this.

    In addition to having little information about terrorists or dangerous offenders, our unarmed border officials have to contend with inadequate backup from police. Over 50 border crossings, many with a single agent, are at least 25 kilometres from a police station. Internal RCMP documents show that on some weekends at Quebec crossings there is little or no police coverage. What is the government's response? Close more detachments and leave the border agents to fend for themselves.

    Again, when will the government beef up border security and expand RCMP support for these entry points?

+-

    Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last year alone more than 71 million people crossed at Canada's borders at the land points of entry. The government has invested in the Canada Border Services Agency $433 million over the next five years. We are building capacity. Since 9/11, the government has invested more than $9 billion to enhance the public security environment in Canada. We will continue to do that. Our smart borders is a number one priority for the government and we are working very closely with the U.S. to implement that.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Sponsorship Program

+-

    Ms. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in connection with one of our questions on his riding assistant's presence on the finance committee of the Liberal Party with Jacques Corriveau and Alain Renaud, the Prime Minister tried to minimize his assistant's role, describing it as simply selling tickets.

    I ask the Prime Minister once again to explain how he can tell us today that he knew nothing of what was going on, when his own assistant was sitting in the middle of the finance committee where it was all happening?

+-

    Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, everything I knew, my assistant knew. She was selling tickets. The job had to be done. It was a fundraising dinner. I imagine that even the Bloc sells tickets to cocktail parties or dinners to raise money. That is what she was doing.

+-

    Ms. Pauline Picard (Drummond, BQ): Mr. Speaker, is the Prime Minister trying to have us believe that the only role of the Liberal Party of Canada's finance committee, on which sat the top leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada, is simply to sell tickets to fundraising dinners? This is what the Prime Minister—

+-

    The Speaker: As the hon. member knows, that question is unacceptable. It has nothing to do with the administration of the Government of Canada.

    The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Infrastructure

+-

    Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we learned this weekend of a cozy relationship between the Mont Tremblant ski facility owned by Intrawest and the health of Liberal Party coffers. It seems that when donations to the Liberal Party by Intrawest began to rise, the amount of taxpayer money funnelled into the ski resort also increased.

    One begins to wonder whether this kickback culture is not just exclusive to the Liberal advertising program.

    Can the Minister of Industry explain the relationship between the increase in Liberal Party donations by Intrawest and the increased taxpayer money going to Mont Tremblant?

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Jacques Saada (Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a large part of the federal public money given Mont Tremblant must be reimbursed. The remainder comes from the infrastructure program, under which the Government of Canada simply acts on the priorities of the Government of Quebec.

  +-(1455)  

[English]

+-

    Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, here are the facts. The Liberal government has given $100 million in grants and interest-free loans over the last decade to Mont Tremblant, a ski resort owned by Intrawest Corporation. At the same time, and there is an interesting relationship along the way, Intrawest has donated more than $100,000 to the Liberal Party. That is a relationship that the government has to explain.

    Is this simply not another kickback program instituted by the government?

+-

    Hon. John Godfrey (Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have just been working very hard to make the northern part of Quebec an economically prosperous area. Because of our investments, it is the city of Mont Tremblant, the region of Mont Tremblant, that is going to benefit from the public infrastructure, such as roadways, waterworks and sewer systems. That is what we are investing in, the region of Mont Tremblant.

*   *   *

+-Health

+-

    Hon. Don Boudria (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today is the 25th anniversary of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope. Given that cancer is still the cause of too many deaths in this country, and as a Canadian who ran with Terry Fox at that time, I want to ask the Minister of Health on this historic day what he is willing to give as hope to Canadians who are still suffering from this terrible disease.

+-

    Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have made cancer control a priority.

    In terms of the five areas where we need to reduce wait times, cancer is one of the priorities for wait time reduction. Also, we provided in the last budget $300 million for an integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease control to face this important challenge. This year we have given $10 million to the Terry Fox Foundation in recognition of its work and in order for it to pursue research on this very important issue.

*   *   *

+-Natural Resources

+-

    Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in the media today there are headlines stating that the fate of the government and its programs may well depend on the outcome of the Gomery inquiry. There is one initiative, however, that need not wait for Judge Gomery's report. That is the Atlantic accord legislation.

    Will the government reconsider its position today and remove the accord legislation from the omnibus budget bill and immediately put it before the House as a stand-alone bill?

+-

    Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has said that the budget measures generally are a step in the right direction. He has said that there is nothing in the budget that should defeat the government. He has also indicated his support for the Atlantic accords.

    It seems that all those things have come together in one very happy package, and the answer is to pass the budget.

*   *   *

+-Canadian Forces

+-

    Mr. David Chatters (Westlock—St. Paul, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence promised the members of the Canadian Forces that they would be getting a 6% pay raise on March 1. They did not get the pay raise on March 1. They did not get the pay raise on April 1. They still have not got the pay raise, despite an $11 billion surplus.

    When is the government going to live up to its promises, obligations and commitments and provide the raises to our members of the Canadian armed forces?

+-

    Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the hon. member is basing his information on, but I have to tell him that I was recently in Esquimalt speaking to members of our Canadian navy and they are thrilled with the pay raise. I have spoken with members of the army and they are very pleased with the pay raise, as are members of the air force.

    The hon. member may not like it, but the fact of the matter is that members of our armed forces are very grateful for it and it is improving their quality of life. I am thrilled with the fact that we can show how the government appreciates the tremendous service of our armed forces.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Sponsorship Program

+-

    Ms. Nicole Demers (Laval, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the PMO sets up the sponsorship program; the finance minister allocates money to it; the Treasury Board President closes her eyes; the PMO selects the projects; the friends of the Liberal Party pocket the money; the organizers take their cut; and the Liberal Party gets rich.

    Does that not sum up the whole Liberal Party of Canada food chain?

  +-(1500)  

[English]

+-

    Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member is quoting from testimony as if it is fact. She is quoting allegations as if they are facts. She should realize that her provincial cousin, Mr. Landry, has in fact said that Mr. Brault, one of the witnesses, has no credibility and is in fact wrong in some of his testimony before the Gomery inquiry.

    I would urge her in this case to listen to her provincial cousin, Mr. Landry, who tells her and her party that she ought not judge this testimony as truth. In fact, what she ought to do is wait for Justice Gomery to submit his report. That way she can have the truth, and all Canadians can.

*   *   *

+-The Budget

+-

    Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, debate started today in the House on implementing the measures announced in the budget last month, a budget for which the Leader of the Opposition could not wait to state his support in the foyer of the House of Commons, a budget about which the Leader of the Opposition stated “there is nothing in this budget that would justify an election”, a budget that the same leader is now flip-flopping on as he contemplates triggering a quarter billion dollar election.

    Could the Minister of Finance please remind the members of the opposition why a few short weeks ago they thought this budget was “a step in the right direction”?

+-

    Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, maybe it was the $5 billion for cities and communities, or the $5 billion for children and early learning, or the $2.7 billion for senior citizens, or the $3 billion for Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, or the $5 billion for the environment, or the greenest budget in Canadian history, or the $3.4 billion in foreign aid, or the $13 billion for the Canadian armed forces, or the $12 billion in tax relief. Maybe it is just that we have the best fiscal performance since 1867 and the best fiscal performance in all the G-7 countries.

*   *   *

+-Presence in Gallery

+-

    The Speaker: I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Tan Sri Dato'Seri Dr. Abdul Hamid Pawanteh, President of the Senate of Malaysia.

    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

+-

    The Speaker: Order. The Chair has notice of a number of questions of privilege and points of order. We will start with those now. We will begin with the hon. member for Red Deer.

*   *   *

+-Privilege

+-Appointment to National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy

[Privilege]
+-

    Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege will charge the Prime Minister with contempt for his total disregard for the motion adopted on Wednesday, April 6, 2005 regarding the appointment of Glen Murray to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

    Page 67 of Marleau and Montpetit states that the House can claim the right to punish for certain affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament.

    At what point does Parliament take a stand against a Prime Minister who continually thumbs his nose at Parliament?

    In this Parliament the Prime Minister reneged on his very first obligation to the House with respect to the amendment to the throne speech to allow members an opportunity to consider all public information pertaining to the missile defence agreement and to vote prior to a government decision.

    My House leader raised a complaint in the House with respect to the defeat of Bills C-31 and C-32. In the case of Bills C-31 and C-32, the trade minister shrugged off the defeat of two bills that would create a new international trade department separate from the Department of Foreign Affairs, saying that the two branches of government will continue to operate independently without Parliament's blessing.

    Now we are faced with a situation where a committee has rejected an appointment made by the government. That vote was nine to two. It reported that rejection to the House. The House has concurred in that rejection on a vote of 143 to 108. The Prime Minister has continued to ignore it. We brought this about because the person was not qualified for the position of the appointment.

    The excessive power that lies in the Prime Minister's office prompted the Prime Minister in his address to the law students at Osgoode Hall in the fall of 2002 when he was trolling for support for his leadership bid, to state that the essence of power in Ottawa was who you know in the PMO. We thought he was complaining about it. We thought he was promising to clean that up, but if one wants a government appointment in his government, it is not Parliament that matters, it is who you know in the PMO.

    In the future why would any member question an appointment and bring it before committee? The Prime Minister does not listen. Why would we debate it in the House with our three hours? The Prime Minister does not listen.

    Mr. Speaker, I feel that my privilege has been taken away because of what the Prime Minister has done. I would ask you to look at that.

  +-(1505)  

+-

    The Speaker: I will take the question of privilege the hon. member for Red Deer has raised under advisement and get back to the House in due course.

    The second notice is from the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

*   *   *

+-Comments by the Prime Minister's Director of Communications

+-

    Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege resulting from the comments made by the Prime Minister's director of communications, Scott Reid, on national television, CBC Newsworld, on Thursday, March 17, 2005, slandering my reputation as a member of Parliament which, in effect, slanders the reputation of all members of the House.

    The remarks were only recently brought to my attention and this represents the first opportunity to bring this question of privilege before the House.

    It has become an unfortunate, unsavoury practice in Canadian politics to malign the reputations of individuals who have been elected to serve the people of Canada. There is an expectation that members of the Prime Minister's staff, as they represent the Prime Minister, would demonstrate restraint and some degree of professionalism in the exercise of their duties. Many Canadians judge the words they are speaking as though they were coming from the Prime Minister's mouth himself.

    It is ironic that when a senior member of the Prime Minister's staff maligns the reputation of a member of Parliament, they, in effect, malign the reputation of their boss, the Prime Minister, as surely as they are attacking all of our reputations and the reputation of the House.

    In the case of Mr. Reid, as the Prime Minister's director of communications, his comments were tasteless and over the top. I am tabling a copy of those comments, Mr. Speaker, for your review and determination on this question of privilege.

    On March 22, 1983, on page 24027 of Hansard, the Speaker ruled:

    A reflection upon the reputation of an Hon. Member is a matter of great concern to all Members of the House. It places the entire institution under a cloud, as it suggests that among the Members of the House there are some who are unworthy to sit here.

    Rightfulness, fair play and the people I represent in the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, along with a great many fair-minded Canadians who are quite frankly shocked at the comments of the Prime Minister's representative, demand that I challenge the comments made by that individual. Justice cannot be served if this slanderous comment against me is left unchallenged and unresolved.

    On page 214 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada there is a reference to reflections on members. It states:

    The House of Commons is prepared to find contempt in respect of utterances within the category of libel and slander and also in respect of utterances which do not meet that standard.

    As put by Bourinot, “any scandalous and libellous reflections on the proceedings of the House are a breach of the privileges of Parliament and libels upon members individually”.

    I would also refer you, Mr. Speaker, to a Speaker's ruling from October 29, 1980 at page 4213 of Hansard. The Speaker said:

--in the context of contempt, it seems to me that to amount to contempt, representations or statements about our proceedings or of the participation of members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper and import a rung of deceit.

    The comments made by the Prime Minister's employee were not only incorrect but I charge Scott Reid with deliberately and maliciously making a statement that was politically motivated and was a deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation.

    With the daily unfolding spectacle of the sponsorship scandal, many accusations will be made and many reputations attacked, including, in all likelihood, the reputations of members of the House.

    A strong message regarding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to members of the House, particularly comments coming from someone in the position of personal spokesperson of the Prime Minister, will send the right message in the days and weeks ahead as the House seeks the truth regarding the missing millions in the sponsorship inquiry.

    An MP's staff should not be allowed to get away with what the MP himself would be held account to. If you find this to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

  +-(1510)  

[Translation]

+-

    Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages, Minister responsible for Democratic Reform and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, after hearing the comments of the hon. member opposite, I think you will agree that the question of privilege does not apply in this case. First, these comments were made by someone who is not an MP and, second, these comments were not made in this House.

    Allow me to make the following comment: in both cases, it would be quite easy to determine rather quickly that this matter is certainly not a question of privilege.

[English]

+-

    Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same question of privilege to add to what the deputy government House leader said.

    If every time a member of the House was unhappy about comments made by a spokesperson for another party or another member outside the House, Mr. Speaker, you would be hearing a lot of questions of privilege.

    Mr. Speaker, I hope you would suggest to the member that her recourse, if she feels that she has recourse, lies outside the House. She has a number of civil remedies available to her if she feels so aggrieved. This certainly is not a question of privilege.

+-

    The Speaker: I have listened to the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke on this point. She did not read out the offending comments but she did say that she would make them available to the Chair and I will look at those comments.

    However I must say that I have concerns about which privilege it is she is alleging has been breached in this case. It is entirely possible that she may have a grievance but that is something that is not normally dealt with by the House.

    Statements made outside this place, and the rulings she quoted were all ones with which I quite agree, but I am sure they dealt with words that were used in the House by one member in relation to another member, which would be the subject of a question of privilege if the privileges of the member were breached by the comments that were made. That sometimes happens in the House. Members do get up and say that unparliamentary terms were used about them and get the Chair to order the withdrawal of the word if in fact it was unparliamentary, or to get an apology from the member who said the words. Speakers can do that.

    However, Speakers do not have authority over those who are not members of the House and who make statements, even if they are employees of members of the House in making them. If those persons came before a committee and made statements there, perhaps the member would find that her privileges as a member were in some way breached. However statements made outside the House by others, whoever they may be, I do not believe are the subject of claims for privilege in the House.

    While I am prepared to look at the sheet that she said she would table and if necessary come back to the House, my guess is on everything I have heard today that there is no question of privilege here.

    I have a point of order from the hon. member for Newton--North Delta.

*   *   *

  +-(1515)  

+-Points of Order

+-Oral Question Period

[Points of Order]
+-

    Mr. Gurmant Grewal (Newton—North Delta, CPC): Mr. Speaker, during question period today a Liberal member and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration made statements tarnishing my character, integrity and honesty.

    The minister accused me of having my constituents post bonds payable to me. That is absolutely false. Neither I nor my staff have ever done so. This issue was raised in the media and has been corrected in the media. The minister should do the honourable thing and stand up and apologize to me and my constituents.

    I reserve the right to raise a question of privilege down the road after I review the blues from question period.

+-

    Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I guess members of the opposition are learning the damage that is caused by allegation, innuendo and slander. However I am not into that game.

    All I did was simply read the transcripts from a committee hearing wherein the member for Newton--North Delta actually admitted to all of those things that he now alleges have been fabricated by those on this side of the House. Not only is that type of feeble defence absolutely abhorrent, it is doubly so because the activity to which the member admitted compromises the integrity not only of the immigration system but in fact of the concept of government and service by members of Parliament to their constituents.

    If there is anything for which to apologize, I think that the Leader of the Opposition, who is so smug in his concern that others abide by his standard, might stand up in the House and dissociate himself from that practice or admit that he has actually been directing it.

+-

    Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I certainly will take a look at the blues on that kind of allegation. I think the member knows full well that was a news story that was not correct. He would have us believe that the member of Parliament for Newton--North Delta got up in committee and admitted to some kind of inappropriate or criminal behaviour. Seriously, nobody believes that.

    There was a story in the newspaper that was erroneous. I believe the newspaper has even corrected the record on that. We will certainly look at what the hon. member said.

    However I must say, with this minister, that I read with some interest his comments about the Sikh community in Toronto. I now see him slandering a Sikh member of Parliament. I think this kind of behaviour toward Sikh Canadians on behalf of the minister of immigration is unacceptable.

+-

    The Speaker: It seems to me that we are getting into a debate. If the hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has something new to submit to the Chair on this I will hear it, but I do not want to have a continuation of the kind of debate we are getting into here.

+-

    Hon. Joseph Volpe: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to at least address a point of order that must be raised. I never suggested that there was criminality. I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition accuses his own members of same. I would remind him as well that all the constituents who approached his member of Parliament are from that same Sikh community that they have so desperately maligned. Perhaps it is time that he came out of the closet and stopped being the spineless chameleon that he is known to be.

  +-(1520)  

+-

    The Speaker: We will hear one more submission on this from the hon. member for Newton--North Delta but I do not think we need to hear more than that.

+-

    Mr. Gurmant Grewal: Mr. Speaker, the minister has restated false information and has misled the House with respect to the citizenship and immigration committee meeting.

    I clearly stated in the committee that I had not taken money from anyone. Why--

    Hon. Joseph Volpe: There is a transcript. Read the transcript.

    Mr. Scott Reid: You're a bigot, Joe.

    Hon. Joseph Volpe: Who gets the money?

+-

    The Speaker: Order, please. I would urge hon. members to come to order in this case. I have heard enough argument on this matter. My suspicion is that this is a dispute as to facts. However, in the circumstances I am going to review the transcript of the committee that was mentioned. I will also review the remarks made today by hon. members and get back to the House in due course.

    I have another point of order from the hon. member for Saskatoon--Wanuskewin.

*   *   *

+-Civil Marriage Act

+-

    Mr. Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask your judgment, your ruling and your response to what I believe is a problem with Bill C-38 in clause 3. With the consent of our justice critic, I will read part of that clause. It states:

    It is recognized that officials of religious groups are free to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

    The authorization to solemnize marriage is really a matter of provincial jurisdiction but the clause implies that somehow it is a federal responsibility. I am asking whether this clause should be in the bill. I would like to receive a response from the Chair whether in fact it has been indicated that it is ultra vires and it is unconstitutional and therefore should not be in the bill. I would like your ruling in respect of that so that this clause could be removed from the bill.

+-

    The Speaker: I am sure the hon. member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin knows that the Speaker does not make rulings on matters of law; on parliamentary law perhaps, but not on the law of the Constitution or on other laws that affect us. The question of the interpretation of the section of the bill is one that would be determined by a court if the bill in fact becomes law. At the moment, it is a bill before Parliament and Speakers in the past have not ruled on the constitutionality or otherwise of clauses in a bill.

    What they may decide is whether the terms of a bill are in compliance with a prior resolution of this House, a ways and means motion, for example, or a royal recommendation in respect of a money bill, but beyond that, Speakers do not intervene in respect of the constitutionality or otherwise of provisions in the bills introduced in this House.

    Rulings of courts may chuck out some of the clauses that are adopted by this House in a bill, but that happens after the House has passed it and the Senate has passed it and it has received royal assent, because even the courts have no jurisdiction in the matter before.

    The usual ground for ruling an issue unconstitutional is either that it is in breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or that it contravenes the provisions of our Constitution with respect to the division of powers. Those are the normal grounds. It is not for the Speaker to make rulings on those grounds.

    I hate to disappoint the hon. member, but I am powerless in the circumstances to assist him. He will have to wait and, if the clause passes, deal with the matter in a court somewhere else.

    The hon. opposition House leader is rising on a point of order.

*   *   *

+-Oral Question Period

+-

    Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, you have already indicated to the House that you intend to review the blues of what transpired not only during question period but during the dispute that arose between my colleague from Newton—North Delta and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

    I would ask that you review this very carefully in regard to some of what I believe was inappropriate and unparliamentary language used by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. If you do find that indeed those comments were unparliamentary, he had the honourable option to withdraw and apologize to my colleague and to the House but he did not choose to do that. Therefore, I would ask that if you find that is the case, you raise it at a future time and ask him to withdraw those comments.

  +-(1525)  

+-

    The Speaker: I thank the hon. opposition House leader for his vigilance in this regard. There was a lot of unparliamentary language used by more than one hon. member in the course of the exchange, which is partly why I was putting an end to it. While I appreciate the hon. member's comments, if I reviewed it too carefully and found a whole lot, we might spend a long afternoon on apologies after that particular episode. I am not sure that it would be worthwhile to have the House spend its time doing that, but of course I will bear his comments in mind as I do the review, as I always do.

    The hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill is rising on a point of order.

+-

    Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC): Yes, Mr. Speaker. We have obviously decided that your life has been too boring and want to give you some interest.

    I rise with respect to a point of order on questions I asked in question period. They were with respect to a review of some financial matters of the Liberal Party of Canada. You questioned that and in fact you ruled that those questions were not properly in order.

    I would like to point out to the Chair, Mr. Speaker, that it was the government itself that raised these audits in the House, not the opposition. I would also like to point out that the so-called audits dealt with money which came from the taxpayer through contracts awarded by the Government of Canada.

    I would also like to point out that we have a responsibility to ensure that public funds are properly dealt with, no matter what their final destination is. We have a difficult situation where we have a government whose members are all members of the Liberal Party, of course, and I believe that on behalf of taxpayers we are entitled to get to the bottom of this situation. Particularly when the government raises defences like a so-called audit or a review of financial matters in the House, we in the House should be entitled in reply to question the matters that are raised by the government.

    Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that you review this matter and advise me as to the points I have raised.

+-

    The Speaker: I thank the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill for her intervention.

    Yes, I ruled the questions out of order and I did so on the basis that they dealt with internal party matters. If the audit had been one that was paid for by the government at the request of the government because of problems and had been ordered by the ministry specifically, I might have had more sympathy, but that does not appear to be the case.

    I do not know all the facts. I will review the situation, but it looked to me as though this was a standard review that had been done by someone and the report was made. Whether it was at the request of the commission or some other person, I do not know, but normally party finances are not the administrative responsibility of the government even where there is a case of government moneys having been paid to the party for some reason or another. That is why I disallowed the question.

    We have had a lot of questions on whether government funds were properly expended, but that was not the question the hon. member asked. It was about the internal affairs of the party and for that reason I ruled the question out of order. She was not the only one who had that misfortune today.

    I will review the matter and get to the back to the House should I feel that my ruling was incorrect. I will let her know accordingly.

+-

    Mr. Jay Hill: Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point. I draw to your attention that you yourself just used the term “normally”. I would suggest to you that we are in uncharted territory here, because the government itself, as my hon. colleague just indicated, was using these forensic reviews, not even audits but forensic reviews, of their party books as a shield to try to deflect the attention being paid to those funds as allegedly coming from the public through expenditures under a government program.

    Therefore, I would contend that it should be admissible to probe further in this regard, because these are not normal times.

  +-(1530)  

+-

    The Speaker: Even if the forensic audit was being used as a shield for the purpose intended, questions about the internal party financing are out of order. I do not understand why one necessarily would make the other follow, but as I have indicated to the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill, I will review her arguments and questions on the point and come back to the House, if need be, to make appropriate adjustments.


+-Government Orders

[Government Orders]

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Budget Implementation Act, 2005

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    The Speaker: Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot had 12 minutes remaining to complete his remarks. He may now resume his speech, to be followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments.

+-

    Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ): Mr. Speaker, when we left off, before statements by members and oral question period, I had started to list the reasons we oppose the budget recently tabled by the Minister of Finance.

    The first reason is the bogus consultation by the Minister of Finance of the opposition parties' critics. He claimed he was open to including the various priorities of the opposition parties in the budget. During our over 60-minute meeting with him, he seemed quite sensitive to each of our proposals. However, here we are, several weeks later, with a budget that makes absolutely no mention of the priorities we had identified to him. Among those priorities is the whole issue of resolving the fiscal imbalance.

    I had the opportunity, in my seven-minute presentation, to explain the negative impact of this imbalance and what we expected to see in the budget to at least begin to fix the fiscal imbalance.

    I want to repeat that the government has ample means to resolve this issue. Even given the health accord of last September, the equalization agreement and even the special agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and with Nova Scotia, we know that, over the next six years and under the current federal tax system, the government will have over $100 billion in surplus funds. And that is a conservative estimate.

    While the federal government pockets the excess taxes paid by Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, the governments of the provinces and Quebec are having a hard time and are barely achieving their objectives and fulfilling their responsibilities, such as providing front-line services to people.

    There was the health agreement. It is obvious that the governments of the provinces and Quebec cheered the amounts that were freed up last year. They have been bled dry, in any case, since 1997 by the former finance minister, who is now the Prime Minister, and they lack funds. So any additional $100 million to meet the needs of an aging population is very welcome. But it is clearly not enough.

    I will use the example of Quebec because it is the one I know best. The agreement last September which provided more than $500 million for health will only produce enough funding to run the Quebec health system for nine days. This amount seems enormous, but the needs are very great as well. As I was saying, when the Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut the Canada social transfer, the transfers for health, education and assistance for the most disadvantaged families. So we find ourselves in a situation in which there is a lack of funds for the governments of the provinces and Quebec.

    First, there is not even a hint of recognition of the fiscal imbalance, and second, there is no sign of any attempt to resolve it.

    We also thought that the federal government would be better disposed toward the equalization issue. As we know, the bogus agreement reached last October between the provinces and the federal government only takes the amounts that the federal government paid in 2001-02 for equalization, caps them at $10 billion, which was the amount of the transfer for the recipient provinces at the time, and indexes this amount at 3.5% a year.

    Such an agreement makes a travesty of the basic, prime objective of equalization. As for the two other agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, we will return to them in a moment.

    Equalization is there to even out the fiscal capacity of all the provinces so that they can provide a variety of services of equal or nearly equal quality from east to west across Canada.

    In order to achieve this, the true fiscal capacity, in other words, the capacity of the governments or a province to collect taxes from their taxpayers, needs to be determined. This is no longer done. The federal government simply takes the amount paid in 2001-02 and adjusts it for inflation without taking into account any change in the provinces' wealth.

  +-(1535)  

    In a given year, a province might receive an equalization payment because of a major setback. For example, if the price of oil dropped considerably, some provinces would perhaps experience some difficulties and might be entitled to equalization. Others could see an increase in cash flow another year, in which case they would not be entitled to equalization.

    Taking the $10 billion amount from three years ago and simply indexing it without taking into account the change in the situation, is nonsense. This is a travesty of the equalization formula devised in 1947 by the Rowell-Sirois Commission.

    The agreement reached with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia is an example of this, but worse. We have nothing against Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. On the contrary, we have friends throughout Canada, in the Maritimes and in the west, in particular. I realized this during the work of the Subcommittee on Fiscal Imbalance. We have friends from east to west in Canada, from coast to coast.

    However, to properly measure a province's fiscal potential, none of its sources of revenue can be eliminated. Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil revenues, for example, cannot be excluded from the calculation of these provinces' ability to earn revenues from natural resources, property taxes, personal taxes, goods and services taxes.There cannot be a different treatment in another province that cannot have a special agreement like that. Nothing gets measured if a source of revenue is excluded. But this is what is happening with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, which benefited from a $2.8 billion agreement over 10 years, with the first $2 billion paid already from the surplus of the last fiscal year.

    Let us consider the amount allocated to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia per capita under the agreement with Ottawa. If the agreement were applied to the residents of Quebec, the province would get a lump sum payment of $38 billion tomorrow morning. That is a lot of money. Mr. McGuinty and Mr. Sorbara of the Ontario government, whom I had the honour to meet three weeks ago in subcommittee proceedings, were disconcerted by this agreement. It means that the per capita fiscal potential of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia exceeds not only that of Quebec, but also that of Ontario. This is how they skewed the system.

    Equalization is the only program in the Constitution, the aim of which, as I was saying, is to try to standardize provincial tax capacities so that Canadians are served well across the country. However, this objective has been totally ignored. Equalization would no longer exist but would simply be called a $10 billion subsidy indexed to inflation and it would change absolutely nothing.

    There is one other problem, employment insurance. When I met with the minister, he was all ears and all heart when he spoke of the 60% of unemployed people who are excluded from the EI program. He said this was unfortunate, and was full of compassion at our meeting. Yet there is nothing in the budget to ensure better access and better coverage. There are just a bunch of very limited pilot projects for areas of high unemployment.

    What kind of government do we have? Not only is its morality open to question now, it has already been questioned because of past actions. It has slashed EI, treated the unemployed as fraud artists, and excluded people who had paid 100% of the contributions to the EI fund when they were working. Yet now 60% of them, or 6 out of 10 workers, cannot benefit from EI. Is that moral? Is this not immorality?

    Since this government has been in power, that is since 1993, it has done a number of immoral things. When I use that word, I am not referring to the sponsorship scandal, which is just one more thing to add to the dubious immorality of the present Liberal government. There is nothing for the unemployed.

    I have met with agricultural producers and I am sure my western and Quebec colleagues do as well, every day in their respective ridings. These people are the victims of a disaster caused by one sick cow in Alberta and a ban imposed by the Americans. As a result, there is a total disaster as far as our farmers are concerned.

  +-(1540)  

    In addition, farmers in Quebec and across the rest of Canada have had negative net incomes for three straight years. Do members know what that means? It means that these producers work 365 days a year or close to it—they do not take vacations because the animals cannot wait—and have nothing to show for it. They do not have one red cent to put in their pockets, even if they have dozens of animals and tonnes of grain to sell. They have been going through this for three straight years.

    How does the federal government respond to the mad cow crisis, for example, or the grain crisis caused by an increase in American subsidies for wheat in particular? It responds by providing $1 billion, which it was very pleased to announce last week. Farmers have been going through an unprecedented catastrophe for 25 or 30 years now. What does this figure mean for a beef producer? It amounts to $20 a head. For two years, these people have been losing $800, $900 or $1,000 a head, and now they are offered $20, while the government claims that it has done all it can, that it tried to persuade the Americans and develop a coherent policy. Well, these people are all starving.

    So this is the federal government's response, despite its ability to collect a $100 billion surplus out of our pockets over the next six years. It could have done more to help farmers escape the catastrophe that they are currently going through.

    In my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot and in the rural ridings of most of my colleagues in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, farmers are expressing their dismay, even after the fabulous announcement last week.

    Nothing is provided for social housing, even though people have been waiting for a long time. All that the government has done since 1991 is invest in maintaining the existing social housing, while nothing is provided for new construction. Many families currently spend more than 50% of their incomes on rent. It is said that when people spend more than 25%, they are living in poverty. When they spend twice that, they are living doubly in poverty. But there is no answer to this in the budget.

    I will leave it to my colleagues who will follow, including the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, to speak about the environmental question.

    In conclusion, those are the reasons why we oppose this budget.

[English]

+-

    Hon. John Godfrey (Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak in support of the 2005 budget implementation act. The theme of the bill before us today is “delivering on commitments” and that is exactly what this year's budget will achieve.

    These commitments have been designed not only to face the challenges within our nation's borders but to meet global pressures and support the ever increasing ambition of our nation and our people.

    As the only G-7 country to post total government surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation expected to continue to be in surplus again in 2005 and 2006, the government's sound fiscal management model offers the rock solid basis upon which these and future commitments can be delivered.

  +-(1545)  

[Translation]

    Canadians expect nothing less, and we have decided to respond to such high expectations with an ambitious program promoting a marked increase in our overall quality of life and based on five mutually reinforcing commitments: healthy fiscal management, promoting a productive and growing economy, reinforcing Canada's social foundations, enhancing the sustainability of the environment and our communities, and reinforcing Canada's role abroad.

[English]

    The proposals contained in this bill take major steps to deliver on all these commitments. What my opposition colleagues miss however is that this budget is an inter-related road map for sustained improvements to Canadians' quality of life, not some à la carte menu with no relationship between one item and another.

    The days when the fiscal, social and foreign challenges facing Canada could be addressed by our government in isolation are over. The approach underlining this budget reflects this new reality. Unfortunately, our friends across from us, as they have been on so many occasions, are clearly stuck in the past.

[Translation]

    I want to give an example taken from my own sector of responsibility, as Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities.

    During the election last summer, barely nine months ago, this government committed to implementing the new deal for Canada's cities and communities. Canadians elected us so we could fulfill that promise, among others.

[English]

    In particular, mayors and municipal councillors across this country held forth the hope that the government would be capable of providing them with two equally important benefits that no other government had been capable of finding a way to provide to them before: first, long term, stable and predictable financing; second, development of new working relationships between federal, provincial and municipal levels of government with a view to developing better long term strategies for improving the economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability of the places Canadians live.

    How do I know this? When the Prime Minister first created the infrastructure and communities portfolio, what were we hearing from our municipal friends across the country? We were hearing that there was an infrastructure gap rapidly reaching an unsustainable level, that our cities, the face of Canada to the world, did not have enough institutional fora to express their views to the federal government, that fresh thinking was needed on how best to ensure our rural communities could remain viable and strong, and that new partnerships were needed between all three levels of government to begin to think about how best to move forward together.

    Of course, while no one order of government can be responsible for meeting these challenges alone, what has the government been able to deliver as a response in less than 18 months?

    In budget 2004, a GST rebate went to every municipality in this country. It was worth a total of $7 billion over 10 years. This source of funding will grow with the economy and can be used by municipalities for any priority they wish, namely, stable, long term, predictable financing.

    Budget 2005 was the fulfillment of our pledge made during the last election to provide 5¢ of gas tax revenues over five years with $600 million coming as part of this bill, rising to a running rate of $2 billion a year in year five and every year thereafter, targeted at environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure such as public transit, water and waste water treatment, and community energy systems.

    We also committed to renewing existing infrastructure programs as necessary, programs which have combined to flow over $12 billion to municipalities over the past 12 years and have leveraged over $30 billion in total investment by all partners. Moreover, we more than doubled our contribution to the green municipal funds administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to a total of $300 million for projects designed to deliver cleaner air, water, soil and climate protection.

    All this means that the government has crafted a strategy for helping municipalities gain stable, predictable and long term funding to the tune of $22 billion over 10 years.

  +-(1550)  

[Translation]

    However, it is not just about money. The funding must be accompanied by new partnerships and a long-term vision enabling the transformation of these financial resources into a concrete reality that Canadians want and need. It is a matter of respect.

[English]

    That is why the Prime Minister met with mayors from some of Canada's largest cities at 24 Sussex last fall and gave them a literal seat at the national table. That is why the finance minister and I met with another group of mayors from across Canada in formal prebudget consultations. That is why I met with each of my provincial and territorial ministerial counterparts in November. That is why I have and will continue to meet with elected and other municipal stakeholders from communities across Canada large and small as their advocate at the cabinet table. All this of course being entirely respectful of provincial jurisdiction.

    If some politically motivated marriage of convenience between opposition parties would choose to prevent the fulfillment of these commitments by seeking to modify or defeat this bill, let me remind them of some of the reactions shortly after the budget was delivered, which they would surely pay the price for rescinding.

    The president of the FCM said, “We have been waiting for this. The new deal is now a real deal. It is a good deal for our communities and for Canadians and also a commitment to a long term partnership”. The mayor of Toronto said, “Groundbreaking: the federal government has delivered respect”. The mayor of London, Ontario said, “Fantastic for municipalities”.

[Translation]

    The mayor of Saguenay considers it a real godsend.

[English]

    However, perhaps the denial of stable, long-term funding, and certainly intellectual focus, should not be too surprising coming from our Conservative colleagues. After all, that is the party that ran in the last election on a platform that was almost the opposite of what municipal leaders and Canadians in every province and territory were crying out for.

    Their commitments were as follows: shut down Infrastructure Canada, the focal point for thinking on municipal issues in government and the open door municipalities need for getting their voices heard in Ottawa; cancel all infrastructure programs but one, programs designed to meet the specific needs of both large and small municipalities; and flow less gas tax without any thought given to the longer term partnerships needed between all three levels of government for making it truly work.

    Perhaps the Conservatives could be forgiven for not having really thought through at that time, what with the focus of the election going in other places. However, the fact that at the inaugural Conservative convention members of that party decided to vote against sharing any gas tax with municipalities is surely not a good sign. They voted against it in their policy convention.

    In fact, who knows where they could come out next, whether it is a further commitment to reducing the fiscal tools and productive relationships our municipalities need or a flip-flop, but the reality is that a lot of mayors are counting on the gas tax and infrastructure programs that are crucial for enhancing the places Canadians live, and the government has been resolute in its commitment to get the job done.

[Translation]

    Finally, by adopting Bill C-43, we will be saying yes, not only to a complete and integrated strategy by which to implement this new deal, but also to achieving our social, economic and international objectives.

    I encourage all forward-thinking MPs in the House to support this bill and to support the mayors, councillors and places where Canadians live.

  +-(1555)  

[English]

+-

    Ms. Bev Oda (Durham, CPC): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Canadians and particularly those in my riding of Durham, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the budget implementation act, Bill C-43. I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Centre-North.

    It is imperative that all Canadians have a clear picture of the budget and how the government plans to implement its promises or not. A government's budget requires legislation to enable it to implement the promises made in the budget, promises made to the people of Canada on how their tax dollars will be collected, how they will be spent and, most important, when those promises will be acted upon.

    To address the when, most of the budget promises will not be realized until later in this decade, if that. Only 7% of the total budget announced will be expended in the budget year 2005-06. Of the $42 billion announced, only $3 billion will go into programs and initiatives to serve Canadians this year. This is in spite of the fact that over $10 billion was collected in surpluses last year and some $6.1 billion is being forecasted as this year's surplus. These forecasts are almost double those forecasted by the government only six weeks ago in the budget.

    What is the need to back end load so many budget promises with these kinds of surpluses? This type of deception or lack of clarity is the government's way of governing and it has Canadians losing their faith in government. The residents in my riding of Durham are tired of struggling to make ends meet when they see continuous waste and mismanagement of their hard earned dollars.

    In part 1 of Bill C-43, income tax cut benefits are actually delayed for four years. The real benefit for this year is only $16 per average taxpayer. With the rising costs of hydro, gas, provincial and municipal taxes, government fees, for example passports, taxpayers ask, “Where is the benefit?” My constituents want a deeper cut this year, not in the year 2009.

    Over the past 15 years the government's income has soared by 40%, while the real take home pay of Canadians has increased by only 3.6%. On top of that, we have seen a 77% increase in the cost of government bureaucracy since 1996-97.

    In the last election, the Liberal Party criticized our party of committing to $58 billion in new spending and tax reductions over five years. This budget has made $55 billion of commitments in new programs with very little tax cuts.

    Canadians are no longer satisfied with the government's idea of sound fiscal management. Sound fiscal management is more than sound bytes or quotes for the media. Canadians deserve better.

    The government announced its budget in February. Today we are debating the budget implementation act, but Bill C-43 reveals that not everything announced is exactly as it was portrayed in February.

    Two examples of this kind of shenanigans are, first, the budget stated that the amount of the share of the gas tax would rise to $2 billion annually until 2009-10. Bill C-43 authorizes payments for one year only. That really shows this government's commitment to long-term funding for municipalities that the hon. member was just speaking about.

    Second, for seniors in subsidized nursing homes, the total amount of the increase in one's guaranteed income supplement, GIS, will not be paid to the seniors, but to the nursing home operator or to the province. In Ontario any increase in the GIS will be clawed back to a half. The largest increase in GIS that a senior in my riding will be eligible for is less than $18 per month. For many of these seniors, their fixed income is a decreasing income.

  +-(1600)  

    These seniors, as do all taxpayers in my riding, expect their government to be working on their behalf to assure them of a quality of life and a standard of living for which they are willing to work hard. They are not satisfied with so much arrogance and such deception that they can no longer trust anything being put forward to them by the government.

    When they see how the government has manipulated the budget process by introducing other controversial elements into Bill C-43, they are appalled, controversial elements the government does not have the confidence to introduce under separate legislation to be debated and voted upon in the House on their own. This reflects the continuous manipulation by the government of the Canadian people, the lack of integrity in its dealings with the people in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and its real inability to bring forth bills that it is confident will serve Canadians well.

    By including parts 13, 14 and 15 in Bill C-43 to deal with environmental issues and parts 12 and 24 to deal with the commitments to the two Atlantic provinces, demonstrates the games the Liberals are playing and have played on the people of Canada for over a decade. By linking Atlantic accord provisions into the implementation act, is the government again telling the people of Atlantic Canada that the Prime Minister's word cannot be trusted?

    The budget does not reflect serious concern for the overall economy of Canada. Compared with the Americans, Canadian productivity accounts for an income gap of $6,078 per person. Compared with the Americans, that means a family of four living in my riding of Durham has some $24,000 a year less income to spend than the same family in the U.S.A. Canada must increase its productivity with measures that will be effective and redress this productivity gap.

    I am compelled to point out that to promise only $130 million in the February budget for the entire agricultural community and the crisis that it faces is inexcusable, only to see the government once again play its games and make a $1 billion announcement shortly after the budget speech. Is this bad planning, disregard for the needs of the agricultural community or an “Oops, we forgot to put it into the budget?” The people of Canada will not and cannot continually be manipulated in this way.

    The budget should go forward on its own for debate and follow the necessary procedural process to ensure that the programs announced can move forward. As part of the official opposition in the House, along with my colleagues I will continue to work in committee to strengthen the bill so that those in Durham and across Canada can once again regain their faith in government. In committee we will be ensuring that the dollars to be spent are spent responsibly with transparency and accountability.

    The people of Durham are all proud to be Canadians. They recognize that we live in a great country and a province which has some of the best that Canada has to offer. They are willing to do their share. However, they are increasingly challenged to meet their own daily responsibilities financially. They will contribute to Canada's well-being, but are not willing to stand by and watch their tax dollars being wasted and mismanaged. Most of all, they want a government that does not play games and that can be held to the highest level of accountability and integrity. They want to be able to once again trust those elected to represent them and their interests and believe they are doing so, not only in the interests of one segment or one party.

    On their behalf, I want to conclude by saying that the official opposition will continue to work in the best interests of all Canadians.

  +-(1605)  

+-

    Mr. Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre-North, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I speak today on behalf of the citizens of Calgary Centre-North, my constituents.

    In addressing this budget implementation act, I wish to address the House with respect to the necessity of personal income relief and personal income tax cuts in particular.

    My constituents believe that the personal income tax measures contained in the budget are insufficient, They are back-end loaded, certainly, but moreover, they are insufficient and they are inadequate. Frankly, I would say that they are disrespectful to the many everyday Canadians who essentially carry the Government of Canada on their backs in a financial sense.

    What we need to do in this country is fashion a Canadian fiscal vision. Part of that needs to be a vision that speaks to everyday Canadians in terms of tax relief.

    A Conservative government would be very clear. We would provide immediate and long term broad based income tax relief. We would reduce personal income taxes. We would substantially raise both the basic personal exemption and the spousal exemption.

    We would reduce personal income taxes and increase the take home pay and raise the standard of everyday Canadians and do it in a way which earns the trust and respect of everyday Canadians in terms of the handling of the public finances of Canada. We would treat their money with respect, something we do not see from this Liberal administration.

    Within eight years Canada will have achieved some progress in the gradual reduction of its debt, perhaps not the progress that we wish, but we hope that within eight years Canada would be somewhere near a 25% debt to gross domestic product ratio. Yet at the same time that productivity is stalled, tax cuts are stalled and Canadian real disposable income has slipped, overall tax levels are increasing.

    We need lower personal income taxes in this country. One measure of how we have slipped as a nation is the measurement which I believe the Fraser Institute calls tax freedom day in Canada. Tax freedom day in Canada has actually worsened under this Liberal administration, from a date of June 10 to a date of approximately July 1.

    Each year, tax freedom day in Canada under this Liberal government now occurs on July 1. How do we compare to other industrial democracies? By comparison, in the United States of America, tax freedom day is on April 11, this week, a significant departure from Canada. In the United Kingdom, tax freedom day is May 30, again significantly better than the situation in our country.

    In contrast, the Liberals have put forward a budget which proposes no meaningful tax reduction whatsoever. There is an immediate consequence of the budget, and I refer to it often as the pizza budget or the burger budget, because the consequence for a regular Canadian family is $16 for the next year, which is just about the same amount of money that one would need to take one's children out to a burger place or to a local pizza joint.

    Sixteen dollars is an insult and an affront to Canadians. It is an affront to the constituents of Calgary Centre-North. On their behalf, I call the government on this today and say it is unacceptable.

    Even the full implementation of this budget through to 2009 contemplates income tax relief of $192 for regular Canadians. That is paltry and unacceptable.

    What we require in this country of ours is smart fiscal policy. This is our key to prosperity and our key to our future together.

    My comments today are offered within a framework of that objective. Our objective as Canadians should be to achieve a high, sustainable rate of economic growth, economic growth for this reason: so as to finance a high quality of life in terms of both private income and public goods.

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    The public goods of which I speak are things like public health care, public education and the quality of our environment, which is indeed also a public good. Stated simply, that takes money. It takes a prosperous economy to generate a high quality of life.

    I would observe in passing that this government has lost its way on the key characteristics of other successful economies. The so-called tiger economies provide a useful example. They come to mind. These are economies that share some of the characteristics of Canada: small population, proximity and access to affluent export markets, a skilled and educated labour force, good infrastructure for communications and transportation, and finally and most important, smart fiscal policy.

    Canada has the potential to be a leader in these respects. Canada has the potential to meet all of the requirements to have a burgeoning economy based on this approach.

    The key to smart fiscal policy is lower taxes. Taxes must be kept determinedly low to encourage expansion. Regrettably that is not the case in this tax and spend Liberal budget, which does not share that objective.

    In regard to our country, there is still a discrepancy between personal income tax rates Canadians pay and the personal income tax rates taxpayers in the United States pay. In contrast, marginal tax rates in our country remain high. For example, in Alberta they are at their lowest at 39%. Ontario's are at 46.4% and Quebec's at a whopping 48.2%. The Canadian average is 44%.

    A number of economic circumstances in Canada are positive. We have low inflation. Our economy is growing. There is positive economic growth. Employment is rising.

    Yet the take home pay of middle class everyday Canadians in ridings like Calgary Centre-North is not increasing. Take home pay has stagnated under the Liberal government and has been stagnating for the past 15 years.

    Economic output in our country has increased 25% in the time between 1990 and 2004, yet the after tax income of everyday Canadians has increased by only 9.3%. This is the consequence of shameless tax and spend Liberalism.

    I would like to draw to the attention of the House the consequences of the last election and the Liberals' election promises. In that election, the Liberals promised that if they were elected they would spend $28.3 billion over five years: $8 billion on health care, $5 billion on child care, $4 billion on gas taxes to the provinces and $3 billion on peace and nation building initiatives. That is a total of $28.3 billion. Yet in this budget, less than a year after the government was elected on those very promises, it has put forward a budget which totals $75.7 billion in expenditures over five years, compared to the $28 billion the Liberals promised Canadian taxpayers.

    I would remind the House that in the context of that election the Conservative campaign commitments were only $57.8 billion. Subsequent events have proven that those commitments were affordable and were well within the budget targets and the economic performance of the government.

    Liberalism is out of control with this budget. The 2003 expenditures, for example, mark the largest expenditures in modern times. Frankly, since 2003 the rate of increase in government expenditures has been mammoth. There has been a marked increase of expenditures in the budget. If we had simply constrained government spending in this country since 2000 by a rate of inflation adjustment, let us say 3%, we could justify or substantiate enormously significant tax cuts in the country. If we had done that, the expenditures of the government would be some $30 billion less than they are today. This would more than permit us to have very significant tax relief for everyday Canadians.

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    That is what I hear from my constituents. That is what I hear in Calgary Centre-North. People want tax relief. They want the level of their taxes reduced through exactly the sorts of measures which a Conservative government would propose.

*   *   *

+-Business of the House

+-

    Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I apologize to my colleagues for briefly interrupting the debate.

    Discussions have taken place among all parties, Mr. Speaker, and I think if you were to ask for unanimous consent for the following motion you would receive it. I move:

    That during today's debate on Government Business No. 10, pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Chair.

+-

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

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

*   *   *

+-Budget Implementation Act, 2005

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, while I profoundly disagree with some of the conclusions in the member's speech, I do appreciate his focus on economic issues as they relate to the budget, because this is, after all, a budget debate.

    I had trouble following the hon. member's logic. We are in a low interest environment. Interest rates are at historic lows and, I would argue, as a direct consequence of appropriate fiscal management by this government over the last number of years.

    We are at historically low inflation rates. We have a band of 1% to 3% and we stay within that band.

    The government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. We have paid down well over $60 billion in national debt.

    The member makes the comparison that personal income tax rates in the United States are lower than they are in Canada, but I will put this to him. Does he want the triple-whammy deficits that the United States has?

    Our government has run eight surplus budgets in a row. The last time there was a surplus budget in the United States was some three or four years ago under the previous administration. It is looking at $500 billion plus in terms of its budgetary deficit.

    The United States continues to run a current account deficit which is just enormous. It is to the point where all finance ministers anywhere are seriously concerned about the ability of the United States to remain a viable economy.

    The United States has a pension system that is no longer viable, whereas our pension system is viable and fiscally sound through to the year 2075.

    We have a debt to GDP that has gone from somewhere in the order of 62% down to 38% and is on its way to 25%. Our expenditures are within a band of a little less than 12% of GDP. Our revenues have come down from 17% to a little under 15% of GDP.

    I put it to the hon. member that this is a very well run fiscal economy.

+-

    Mr. Jim Prentice: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to debate the American budget with the hon. member on some other occasion, but I am here today to debate this Liberal budget, which I call a tax and spend Liberal budget.

    I do not disagree that a 25% debt to GDP ratio is something that we should work toward in this country. Where I disagree with my friend is the fact that credit for the progress we have made in this nation toward reducing debt and to having some fiscal flexibility cannot go to the government. Credit for that goes to the everyday Canadians, the middle class Canadians who have been paying their income tax and living by the rules.

    Those people have earned Canada's fiscal flexibility. It is not the Liberal government that has achieved this. It is everyday Canadians who pay their taxes who have achieved it. What I find reprehensible about this budget is the fact that if it goes through we as a nation will be turning our backs on those citizens.

    It is time for tax relief. They have been paying their taxes. Over the past 20 years this generation of Canadians has been the most heavily taxed and least serviced generation of Canadians. We have the flexibility for meaningful tax relief. It is something we should be pursuing right now and this budget does not do it.

    I will give the House the example of seniors. I have many seniors in my riding of Calgary Centre-North. This budget offers no meaningful tax relief for senior citizens. There is a small benefit in the budget, again equivalent to the cost of a pizza, in terms of the supplement if one qualifies for the supplement, but for regular senior citizens the budget does nothing in terms of their quality of life or accessing health care or letting them live in their homes longer. There is no meaningful tax relief for seniors. I think that is reprehensible. It is something that a Conservative government would address.

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+-

    Hon. Larry Bagnell (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity during the budget debate to put in context the most productive year of a Prime Minister in Canadian history.

    I went through this to some degree earlier when the budget first came out many weeks ago. I want to reiterate the tremendous accomplishments of this Prime Minister and this government in its first year. It is unparalleled in history. I put a challenge out previously to the national press and the opposition to come up with a comparable record.

    I want to start out with the largest problem facing Canadians at the time when this Prime Minister came into government. Seldom does a Prime Minister in his first year have the confidence of Parliament and the provinces, which is always a great negotiating discussion and feat, to deal with the largest problem on the minds of people in the provinces and that was health care. The Prime Minister came up with a record $41.3 billion to deal with health care over 10 years.

    This is particularly appropriate for my area and the north. The budget has a tremendous number of programs and assistance dollars for the north, particularly in relation to health care. Over and above the largest increase in health care in history, the other increase for the people of the north, understanding the special circumstances under which they work, is the additional money for aboriginal people who have their own challenges.

    After this tremendous achievement, which in itself would put the Prime Minister and the government as a leading government in its first year, there was a second great accomplishment shortly thereafter related to what is the essence of Canada as a nation separate from other nations, and that is related to equalization.

    Our country, being a generous federal state, helps other regions on the understanding and the compassion for regions of the country that are experiencing a time of being less fortunate. The whole equalization regime needed repair and updating. The Prime Minister convened the 13 jurisdictions in the country and, remarkably, through difficult negotiations and the balancing of funds he came up with an historic deal of $33 billion and a whole new way of looking at modernizing equalization so that it would work to preserve the intrinsic values that make us Canadian.

    After the budget deliberations and in the budget implementation act are special provisions for a part of the country and that is the need to boost the revenues for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador with special extra revenues.

    I think the genius of this whole approach and these successes, which prime ministers in the past could only have dreamed of, was the fact that individual provinces, as they were when they came into Confederation, were treated individually according to their needs. I believe this is the essence in the federalism of a caring state.

    The present Prime Minister and our caucus also wanted to re-engage and reinforce the great Canadian vision and our place in the world. Canadians believe ourselves to be fortunate and that we can play a major role in helping those in the world who are less fortunate. We have done that in a number of ways over the year. Over Christmas, Canada was lauded around the world for the $42 million in emergency relief and in our efforts with the United Nations to eradicate polio in the world.

    We have created the Canada Corps which will help extend Canada's values around the world. Canadians are very proud of the values and the visions that they have of their nation and they like to use that to help other nations. What is better than doing that with our youth and the Canada Corps?

    Another urgent situation was in Darfur where many Canadians, myself included, and many Canadians in my riding, Bill Klassen being one, were very upset about the situation there. Canada has played a leading role. We started with an initial contribution of, I think, $20 million, with military advisers and support. I think just recently there was an announcement for another $90 million.

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    We also contributed $100 million toward purchasing the drugs necessary for the treatment of AIDS. There is an increase of $70 million to the global fund to deal with diseases in the poorest parts of the world, such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

    I am sure everyone is aware of our efforts in Haiti and of the efforts of the wonderful people in our armed forces who are in Haiti; of our efforts in Afghanistan where I visited our troops who are doing a tremendous job; of our efforts in Africa; of our leading support for the tsunami victims; and of the funds we are providing to Iraq.

    The Prime Minister has come up with something unique again in international world contributions and that is the whole concept of having the responsibility to protect. This idea protects nations that are unstable or not completely in control of situations and are unable or unwilling to risk their citizens' lives. It will be the responsibility of those in the world who can protect them. This is a whole new concept. For a Prime Minister in his first year to be able to get support for such a concept on the world stage is remarkable.

    Of course, even before he was Prime Minister he made great progress in the essence of the G-20 and other international groups based on function, not on process. Any international group, whether it is the United Nations, NATO or the G-20, that can get a job done in today's modern, complex world, the Prime Minister has made great strides in leadership in the world on that.

    Let us now look to students. Originally we will remember that the government chose not to put bricks and mortar as our millennium contribution. We decided to invest in people, particularly young people and students. We put into place the largest scholarship program in Canadian history, the Canadian millennium fund. Many students in my riding, which I am sure is the same for all members of Parliament, are very thankful for that help with their post-secondary education. Things have constantly been added to improve the financing, such as the new learning bond for low income students and ceilings have been increased for student loans.

    What I found particularly gratifying, which I lobbied for but did not have to, was that the vision the Prime Minister enunciated when he first came to the leadership was carried through into the election platform, which was then carried through with credibility and integrity into the throne speech. A throne speech is nice but if it is not funded it does not go anywhere. It would take the highest integrity to carry that from the throne speech into the budget and that is exactly what has been done for all the major items that were in the election platform.

    One of the huge initiatives that was talked about and has been building over recent years through the desire of Canadians is a national child care and early learning system. That was in the throne speech and the budget of $5 billion was carried through. As Parliament knows, there have been remarkable meetings with the provinces and the minister. They have come together on the quad principles that the whole system will operate under.

    There are of course a number of programs and initiatives for seniors. Throughout my life I have taken a special interest in seniors because there are times in our lives, that being one, where we have less ability to help ourselves.

  +-(1630)  

    I was delighted to see that the government brought back the new horizons program funding. It was very popular in my area. It has been increased in this budget for coming years.

    Increasing the old age income supplement is a very important concept in our nation. It speaks to what we are as a nation: one that is defined not by the tax treatment we give to those of us who can afford it and the things we give to those who can care for themselves, but to those of us who are most in need. Those seniors who are most in need are the ones who require the old age income supplement. I am delighted they are the first people we have helped and the first we have paid attention to. I hope we will continue to do that in the future.

    We are talking about huge areas in the first year of the mandate, huge accomplishments in the whole spectrum of areas that are of concern to Canadians, one being the environment. One of the big items in the throne speech and carried on into the budget was the quadrupling of our efforts toward wind energy per riding, which is renewable energy that will reduce the greenhouse gases in Canada that have had such a dramatic effect on my riding of Yukon. We are always seeing dramatic effects on the economy when the roads, which people need to get places, become icy and then melt. There is also a tremendous negative impact on biology and on various species.

    That is not the only environmental money that is being put in. We continue to support ethanol. We continue to support natural gas over other hydrocarbons that would produce higher levels of greenhouse gases. We continue our support for the modernization of solar energy and for increasing the technology so it will become competitive. We are continuing our long history in supporting atomic energy and the huge reductions in greenhouse gases that it provides, especially in China, where we have a CANDU reactor, which is using coal that is producing many greenhouse gases that affects us so much in North America.

    Another list is the many major accomplishments in the first year that were achieved by the fiscal constraints put in place by the Prime Minister when he was finance minister to get rid of the deficit so we could invest in all these areas: health care, seniors, renewable energy and the environment.

    The next area of great accomplishment, and an area in which people wanted to invest but could not until the dividends of this careful, fiscal management came through, was to increase the funds for the military. The House will remember that the previous budget increased funds for equipment and a number of new equipment purchases are under way. Under this budget, National Defence will see an increase of 5,000 more troops and 3,000 more reserves.

    It is hard to imagine all these things and it is still the first year of a new Prime Minister and a new government mandate, but it redefines the whole relationship in a nation between orders of government. As people know, there are four orders of government in Canada. To redefine the relationship between the federal government and two of those other four orders is a tremendous accomplishment in the operations of this country.

    The two orders of government are the first nations, the aboriginal peoples, and the municipalities.

    The first one I will talk about are the municipalities. This is a whole new relationship in an evolving country where people are migrating in large numbers to the urban areas. Municipal governments have been maturing in their capabilities and in their needs in Confederation. Since 1994 the federal government has put the amazing amount of $12 billion into infrastructure.

  +-(1635)  

    In my area that money has gone into every single community. It has also gone to the smallest areas and right across the nation, and has had a major effect on the quality of life in Canada.

    There was the $7 billion in GST rebates to municipalities. I am sure all members of Parliament have received the thanks for that rebate to the communities in their ridings.

    Over and above all the old infrastructure funds that were so successful, the new rural municipal infrastructure fund was exceedingly exciting for me because all my communities are rural. In this particular budget not only was the new rural fund there but the paying out of the money was accelerated. It was original announced over a 10 year period and now we have accelerated it over five years, so that our communities can spend that money twice as quickly for sustainable projects, clean water, clean sewage, reducing greenhouse gases, and the infrastructure that is needed for the high quality of life.

    The huge announcement in the budget was the gas tax rebate to the municipal governments for renewable projects to improve the quality of life in cities, towns, villages and aboriginal communities.

    Over and above these huge amounts of funds to build the quality of life, which was provided because of the earlier fiscal restraints and getting the finances of the nation in order, is the new relationship with that order of government. When we have orders of government working together, it is the type of recipe we need to make the nation work as the best nation in the world to live in.

    I have already talked about the major investment in the environment. It came after the previous budget that had the largest environmental program in the history of any government in Canada of $3.5 billion for the cleanup of federal environmental sites. The good thing for me was that 60% of those funds would go to the north.

    Over and above that the 2005 budget had a number of items for reducing greenhouse gases and climate change which is so front and centre on the minds of Canadians, especially in the north where it is already having such dramatic changes that we have to adapt to. There has been $3.7 billion since 1997. There is $100 million to increase emission efficiencies in the auto industry. As the House knows there has recently been a history making voluntary agreement with the auto companies to reduce emissions and there is $1 billion for new technologies to reduce greenhouse gases. There is a renewable energy program to support other types of renewable energy.

    I am obviously not going to get through everything that I wanted to say, so I will briefly list the points I would have talked about if I had time: the relationship with aboriginal people, the new land claim self-government agreements, the national historic aboriginal round table, and over $1 billion for agriculture, including what we have just announced.

    The whole democratic reform, with this side of the House having more free votes than ever in history, has transformed the House. There is the whole northern strategy and northern sovereignty for my area. There are the largest tax cuts in history of $100 billion. There is $10 billion a year for children in poverty.

    There are a number of initiatives I would have talked about that we have put forward for people with disabilities. This economy of hope and these unparalleled accomplishments of the Prime Minister are some of the things of which I am very proud. They affect all aspects of Canadian life: health care, the economy, social programs to help the disabled, the poor and those most in need. For that I am very proud, and I will be happy to stand and fight for that any day.

  +-(1640)  

+-

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, clearly it is not a budget of hope; it is a budget of despair and it creates an economy of despair. When we look across the country, we see homelessness numbers growing day by day. We see increasing child poverty which is shameful after 12 years of Liberal government. There are 1.1 million children in the country who live in poverty. That is 40% of aboriginal children and 30% who are children with disabilities.

    We are seeing across the country increasing despair, poverty, homelessness, and longer and longer food bank lines. Rather than addressing any of the issues such as housing and the increasing despair on the main streets across the country, the budget injects nearly $5 billion in corporate tax gifts to Bay Street.

    We have so much poverty, homelessness and despair across the country. There is a fall in real wages, fewer full time jobs, and more families having to make do with part time or temporary work. Why does the member feel it is appropriate to give billions of dollars to Bay Street when our main streets are suffering?

+-

    Hon. Larry Bagnell: Mr. Speaker, as the member confirmed, the items he was talking about are items that are very important to the government as evidenced by the programs that it has put forward. I am delighted with the chance to talk about some of the progress.

    There is no one in the House who would not like to eliminate child poverty. As long as there is one child in poverty we are all going to work toward removing that and we have different solutions. There has been some progress. It was at 16.7% in 1996. It was reduced to 11.4% in 2001.

    How did some of the improvements and reduction in child poverty occur? It was the national child benefit, which was the most important social program in history since medicare. Based on its successes so far in reducing child poverty, the government added another $965 million so that by 2007 it will be a $10 billion program. It keeps over 50,000 children a year out of poverty.

    Since 1999 there has been $753 million put toward homelessness and in 2003 another $405 million was put in over three years. There was $1 billion in total for affordable housing. It started out at $680 million and in 2003 there was another $320 million added. We are moving on some exciting projects in my riding on that.

    We also put money into renovations, a program for low income people and seniors. That is very popular in my riding and very helpful for those most in need for housing. It will be between $1 billion to $1.5 billion over the next five years. Once again, it is another program that helps the poorest of the poor, especially in the housing area. Child care will help single mothers go to work and help reduce child poverty.

    In total, there is $11 billion a year that goes toward children. We must continue to increase that as our resources become available through our prudent fiscal management and move in the direction that I am sure that everyone in the House would like us to move.

  +-(1645)  

+-

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor West and I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill.

    I would like to start by flagging what is obvious to all of us. The games that were being played around this budget implementation bill have certainly changed in the few weeks since it was introduced. A few weeks ago we were being told that this bill had to be voted on and adopted by Parliament. If not, Liberals threatened to bring us into an election campaign.

    We have seen with Gomery that things have changed quite markedly and that threat from Liberal members to bring down the House or to call an election has changed quite a bit now that we have seen the revelations of the continued misuse of public funds by the Liberal Party. As a result of that, it is very clear that the Liberals are approaching this whole question of the budget implementation bill a lot differently now than they were a few weeks ago.

    I would like to talk a bit about the situation in Canada. The budget and budget implementation bill do not address the major issues that are out there on main streets across this country.

    I would like to talk about 12 years of Liberal government and what that has meant to poverty and homelessness in this country. We have seen in the lower mainland of British Columbia, the area I am from, that homelessness has tripled over the past three years under policies of the federal Liberal Party and also policies of the B.C. Liberal party.

    In my constituency of Burnaby—New Westminster we have seen more than 1,000 people a week having to rely on food banks. Food bank lineups are growing across the country as the crisis of poverty and homelessness increases.

    We also know that 40% of aboriginal children live in poverty, 30% of children with disabilities now live in poverty, and that there are over 1.1 million poor children in this country. Fifteen years ago the member for Ottawa Centre actually brought forward a motion that was adopted by the House to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Here we are in 2005 and over 1.1 million poor children attest to the fact that this government has done absolutely nothing to address child poverty.

    We also have a crisis in credit card health care. We have seen, with the increasing privatization of health care, Canadians increasingly pay out of pocket for health care. That should be a right that the CCF and the NDP pushed forward as fundamental to building Canadian society. We have seen that nothing has been done about that as well.

    In terms of post-secondary education, we know that average young adults going into post-secondary education receive a $20,000 debt, a mortgage on their future, when they come out of post-secondary studies. That does not count the thousands of young Canadians who decide that they will not go into post-secondary studies because they simply cannot afford the cost. From the campaign last June, having knocked on over 6,000 doors in Burnaby and New Westminster, there were literally dozens of young people who told me that they could not afford to go to school. Their family could not afford it; they could not afford it. Their dreams and their future were cut off because of a lack of action by the government in the post-secondary sector.

    There is also the environment. We had a plan 12 years ago to cut greenhouse gas emissions. We now find, even though the plan called for a cut of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions, in 2005 that we have actually seen an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The budget does very little to address that.

    We have seen the number of people with disabilities living in poverty growing. Many people with disabilities have no access to employment programs in order to further enrich their lives.

    We talked this week about the situation in Canada and also talked about our fiscal projections. The IMF mentioned just a few weeks ago in its study that we were the least accurate of any of the major countries in the western world. The IMF study showed that Canadian fiscal projections were so far off under the Liberal government that they were the least accurate of any of the western countries studied.

  +-(1650)  

    We also have this week a crisis in rural Canada. We have communities struggling across the country due to the lack of support by the government to the agricultural sector and the lack of action by the government in reducing or trying to address some of the crises we face in getting our cattle or our softwood lumber across the border.

    Rather than taking a strong line with the Americans to try to address, in tough negotiations, those issues, we have taken a very soft line that has led absolutely nowhere and has led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs as a result of the lack of access of our cattle industry. In British Columbia where I come from, 20,000 jobs in the softwood lumber industry have been lost because of this inaction.

    We also see a crisis in our cities. We have seen more boil water alerts. We have seen the underfunding of cities that has led to the lack of renewal of our infrastructure that is so important to the future of our country. We see increasing difficulties for our senior citizens.

    We have seen cutbacks to home care in many provinces. For example, in British Columbia home care has been severely slashed and many senior citizens who would love to live independent lives with some support are forced to go into nursing homes, which costs more for the taxpayer and leaves them with a lower quality of life. If we had a home care program and that were effective, those seniors could continue to live independent, quality lives at home.

    We also have seen increasing concerns about big box child care. We have had repeated promises over 12 years for a national child care system. What we have seen so far from the government is absolutely no response to the concern and fear about big box companies. Rather than have the money go to quality child care in our neighbourhoods, it will go to profits for big box foreign operators coming into the country.

    With jobs, we have also seen a 60¢ loss in real wages per hour for the average Canadian worker over the last 10 years and fewer jobs with benefits and pensions. It used to be most jobs had pensions. The Statistics Canada study that came out in January showed less than 40%.

    The government has encouraged more and more outsourcing. I recall getting off the plane in Washington to lobby members of Congress to support quality Canadian products. I was given a T-shirt by the government made in Mexico and a Canadian flag pin made in the People's Republic of China. I was supposed to take these to the members of Congress to say that we did good quality work. Outsourcing has been encouraged by the government and nothing in the budget addresses that.

    What we have is a lower and lower quality of life for 90% of Canadians. That is the reality this week, when we look at the budget.

    What did we get? The Leader of the Opposition certainly got what he wanted. He said that the major priorities in the budget implementation bill were Conservative priorities. We know the Leader of the Opposition got what he wanted in the budget, despite the fact that the Liberals campaigned saying that NDP values were close to Liberal values. The Liberal budget is a Conservative budget. What that means is the fat cats in the corporate sector got almost $5 billion in corporate tax gifts, a corporate sector that is at its most profitable level in its history.

    We see that the wealthy got additional tax cuts of half a billion dollars.

    There is nothing in the budget that addresses poverty, homelessness, post-secondary education and the crisis for seniors except for a buck a day that is given to address eroding pensions. There is nothing in it to deal substantially with the environment. The budget does nothing to address the substantive issues that people are having to deal with across the country.

    This budget is billions for Bay Street and pennies for Main Streets across the country. For that reason and for so many others, we will vote against it.

*   *   *

  +-(1655)  

+-Business of the House

+-

    Hon. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all chief whips and there is an agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), that the recorded divisions scheduled for Wednesday, April 13 on Bill C-236, Bill C-263 and Bill S-3 take place at 3 p.m. rather than at the beginning of private members' business.

+-

    The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

*   *   *

+-Budget Implementation Act, 2005

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    Hon. Peter Adams (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I was a bit shocked to hear my colleague proudly say that he would vote against the budget bill.

    I understand that in some sort of an ideal world we would be able to do everything for everybody every year, but that simply is not the case. If ever there were a budget that did its best to reach out to people, this budget is it. Some of the media have said that this is the greenest budget there has ever been, yet he will vote against the environment.

    The child care measure alone is a first step. It is a huge amount of money. We are moving forward and that is the sort of thing a federal government should be doing.

    The member also mentioned seniors. I know seniors deserve more, but improvements have been included in the budget for the seniors' secretariat and seniors programs like New Horizons, et cetera.

    The Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador accord are also in the budget. The member will be voting against that.

    The budget also includes a new deal for cities and small communities like mine, Asphodel-Norwood and the village of Lakefield. They will benefit from the gas tax rate.

    The northern strategy, which my neighbour from Yukon mentioned earlier, is also included in the budget.

    The NDP will be voting against all these things.

    I would like to ask my colleague some questions with respect to his remarks about post-secondary education. We know this is a provincial jurisdiction. The province with the lowest tuition in the country, all to its credit, is the province of Quebec. In recent years the province of Quebec has moved to not only having the lowest university tuition in Canada, but to providing two free years of college. That is an extraordinary thing. That is something which is within the provincial mandate.

    My colleague mentioned high tuition costs in the rest of the country, and they are truly shocking. However, this is not a result of the actions of the federal government. This federal government, and I say this unequivocally, has put more into post-secondary education than any federal government since Confederation. If the federal contributions to higher education were to be added up, we would find them approaching the sum of all provincial contributions.

    I am really pleased with the budget. We are starting to move away from the emphasis on the student loan program toward grants. The student loan program is very good, but it does have its limitations. Grants are available in every year of undergraduate studies for disabled students. Grants are available for first year studies for low income students. The millennium scholarships were grants. This surely is a step forward.

    The Canada learning bond is deliberately meant for low income children and for families to build up equity in the education of their children. They receive $500 at birth and $100 every year until the child is 15 years old. All the accumulated interest on that money is put into an RESP account. If the family were to put in, for example, $100, the federal government would match that by $40. This also is a grant.

    Does my colleague have any suggestions for controlling what the provinces do with the money that the federal government transfers to them for post-secondary education instead of them just taking the money and raising tuition?

  +-(1700)  

+-

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about an ideal world. It is very clear that the ideal world is an ivory tower right now within the Liberal caucus.

    We are talking about $5 billion that was given out to the corporate sector to reduce even further the corporation tax rates, and they are already much lower than in the United States. That was the priority, to shovel money out the door to the corporate sector rather than address these key issues.

    There is no plan on child care. There is no plan on Kyoto. We are still waiting. Every week or so we hear, “Yes, tomorrow”, “it was yesterday”, “it was last week”. We keep hearing that eventually there will be some plan brought forward. We know that the last time the Liberal government brought forward a plan, the plan called for a reduction of 20%. It missed the mark by increasing greenhouse emissions by 20%.

    The problem is the contradiction in the Liberal world between the rhetoric and the reality. It is certainly not by saying that eventually there will be a plan put forward, that eventually there will be some investment, while it shovels money out to the corporate sector, that we will address these problems. These are serious issues.

    Longer food bank lineups is a serious issue. More and more homelessness is a serious issue. More and more child poverty is a serious issue. The serious issues are not being addressed by the budget nor by the government.

    I would like to come back to post-secondary education because the hon. member mentioned that as well. The two provinces that are working the hardest at addressing issues of making post-secondary education affordable are Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Very clearly, NDP provinces have a very clear addressing of the issue of post-secondary education and the lack of accessibility.

    The government has to show some leadership. The government has to step forward. Rather than spending billions of dollars for Bay Street, the government has to invest in communities across the country. This is not happening and it is a shame.

+-

    Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act, 2005.

    If I may start with the previous discussion on post-secondary education, I will be pleased to forward today's Hansard to my provincial member of Parliament who has said that the federal government has shirked its responsibility and needs to do more for the province of Ontario. We have some of the most crippling student debt and costs related to post-secondary education.

    The federal government's Liberal cousins seem to feel it is the federal Liberals who have shortchanged them. It is the federal Liberals, their cousins, who have created a funding gap. The responsibility has been shirked onto them unfairly by the federal government.

    I will make sure that the debate is forwarded to them. That provincial member was at a meeting that we had locally at St. Clair College and said that Premier Dalton McGuinty actually supported post-secondary education, but the federal government which has a surplus is where the real problem is. The federal government is the one that has the recipe to solve the problems.

    I am going to focus my comments regarding Bill C-43 on a couple of topics. This is a very wide-ranging bill. Bill C-43 disappoints me because it does not lead to the prosperity that is needed for the long term in economic policy.

    We in the New Democratic Party will not be supporting the budge because it is a betrayal of Canadian voters who wanted progressive change. The country has to move past the malaise that has dominated this decade of Liberal rule. The NDP is fighting for a responsible rebuilding of the nation that made a difference in the world as a leader, not a follower, and offered a strong social identity to develop and foster economic prosperity that will raise the standard of living for all Canadians, not just a select few.

    Although this Liberal minority budget is an improvement over the past majority budgets, it fails the test of breaking the troubling pattern of Liberal budgets that leave mainstream Canadians behind for the benefit of a few. The most glaring example of this injustice is the fanatical drive to continue to empty the public purse through corporate tax cuts which do nothing to ensure employment wages and standards, or job security.

    Indeed, the Prime Minister's election ploy to vote Liberal to keep the Conservatives at bay because the Liberals have values similar to the NDP is fraudulent and insulting at best.

    At a time when ordinary Canadians are struggling more than ever to feed their families, to send their children to college or university, and to pay off their debts, the Liberals are prepared to hand over more of the taxpayers' money to Bay Street. Canadian corporations earned record operating profits last year of $204.5 billion, which is up nearly 19%. At a time when corporations have reached record operating profits and after a decade of billions of dollars in tax cuts, at a time when we have massive infrastructure deficits, when Canadians are struggling the most and corporations are benefiting the most, the government has decided to shovel more money to the corporations, nearly $5 billion.

    While mainstream Canadians are being asked to put personal goals and financial security aside, the government is emptying the coffers, at a time when we need to seize the industrial opportunities that will protect the environment, raise living standards and position our labour market in the world.

    This glaring example demonstrates the gap of rhetoric of Liberal promises and final capitulation to Conservative policy goals. At the end of the day, they do not represent Canadian values and thus the budget fails to deserve the support of the NDP.

    Despite all the rhetoric, it fails to address a national auto strategy, an aerospace strategy, shipbuilding or agricultural realities. Indeed, the budget does very little for those who build Canadian cars, airplanes or feed our country and the world.

    Ask those Canadians if their insurance companies which realized record profits from increased premiums and reduced coverage deserve another tax break. They are getting it. In 2002 the insurance industry brought in $350 million in profits. In 2003 it brought in $2.6 billion in profits. In 2004 it has now brought in $4.2 billion in profits, yet the Liberals are giving them another break.

    It is not right. I know that in my constituency young people struggle to pay premiums on their cars. In fact, some pay more for auto insurance than they do for leasing the vehicles.

  +-(1705)  

    It is not acceptable. It hinders our economy. It hinders the success of our young people. Those companies certainly do not deserve a reward.

    Ask Canadians who watch the banks rake in record profits, close branch locations, raise fees, play fast and loose with our personal privacy and charge predatory interest rates on credit cards if the banks deserve a break.

    Do Canadian values reside in this budgetary accomplishment? Apparently Liberals think so. If they cannot give the public money to their friends or back to the Liberal Party as the Gomery testimony indicates, they will reward the corporate sector at the expense of ordinary Canadians. They did not even have the decency to at least isolate areas where we might stop that from happening, areas that do not deserve money back and do not deserve the public trust with their dollars. They should be paying their responsible share.

    The argument that policies of free trade, deregulation, privatization and tax cuts would trickle down to create investment has not borne fruit. Recent economic data demonstrates that this strategy has not resulted in new quality jobs. Rather, this failed government policy has required an ad hoc intervention policy in sectors like auto, air, textiles and agriculture to protect the status quo.

    Overall Canadian productivity has stalled since 2002, coupled with a significant decline in capital investment as a percentage of the GDP. Why would we continue to reinforce this economic model that will not generate more investment, prosperity and quality jobs for Canadians? In fact, many corporations and businesses no longer profess the tax cut as a tonic for their survival or growth.

    Take the auto industry, for example. It would rather see infrastructure items like the Windsor-Detroit corridor as budgetary priorities to ship and receive their goods and services along the U.S.-Canada border. This tax cut will not provide the infrastructure required, nor the staffing and security measures being demanded by the U.S. The duplicity of promise and action is best represented in this particular example.

    In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance said:

    Part of the productivity solution is also investing in public infrastructure, including in our cities and at crucial border crossings such as Windsor-Detroit--probably the most valuable transborder shipping point in the world--

    Yet there is no funding for this infrastructure, despite the Prime Minister's call that he would provide cold hard cash.

    In fact, industry, chambers of commerce, citizens and the labour movement have all called for the government to provide the proper infrastructure in the Windsor-Detroit corridor, the right costing for staffing and resources, the right oversight, the investment necessary to move the goods and services through an area that has approximately $1 billion a day in trade. The government has yet to act on unanimous support of a city council and county council report to improve the conditions of that corridor.

    More important, a signal was sent to the United States that we are going to address our most damaging infrastructure deficiency which is stagnating and has created lost opportunities of investment in Ontario and other areas. We have lost that opportunity. The signal that was sent in this budget was that we have no plan, that we have no commitment.

    We have a Liberal promise that the government might renew a project for border infrastructure funds later on, but we know what the public thinks about Liberal promises. We know what the record is on Liberal promises. At the end of the day the promises do not provide the confidence nor the commitment that will subsequently come from those who want to invest and have to move goods and services through that corridor. As opposed to Liberal promises, what is needed is a commitment of resources and the application of those resources to make sure the investment, prosperity and jobs that will result will be managed as a priority.

  +-(1710)  

+-

    Mr. Randy White (Abbotsford, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is no surprise to anyone in Canada that budget promises are seldom met by governments, and particularly this one since 1993.

    This would be about the 12th budget that I have gone through. There is virtual disappointment from the region which I represent which is Abbotsford in British Columbia.

    I was just wondering how my colleague would reconcile how a government would set priorities. He talked about the Detroit-Windsor corridor upgrading which I do not doubt for a minute needs it, but I will talk for a moment about Highway 1 on the lower mainland of British Columbia which is nothing short of a cow path in comparison to most highways these days. We have a gridlock in the lower mainland of British Columbia. We are trying to get funds as well.

    I wonder how my colleague would reconcile who would get the money first, who would make the decisions, how it would be prioritized. Is the Windsor corridor more of a cow path than the one that I drive on from Abbotsford to Vancouver? How do we get those people to rationalize and make better choices than the choices they make?

+-

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of the volume of traffic in Abbotsford, but I know in the Windsor-Detroit corridor there are 14,000 trucks per day. It is the single most busiest border in North America and probably the world, and it is very deficient.

    I do not think we should have to make choices. The member brings forward a valid point in terms of the congestion that Abbotsford might be facing right now.

    We have watched the government delay and dither, despite the warning signs and resolutions from local councils. I was on city council and I have been here since 2002. It is not just about people in the local area who are impacted by the pollution, degradation and unsafe conditions that they have to face, because trucks are backed up basically in people's yards and in front of their businesses. It is also about the economic barrier we face as goods and services for other communities cannot get across the border in a timely fashion. Decisions on expansion of plants and services are not being followed through on because of the backups are a problem.

    I would argue quite frankly that the corporate tax cut is an obscene element of the budget. That money should be going into infrastructure. I am a strong proponent of infrastructure. It creates jobs. It creates lasting facilities which create economic prosperity for all of us. It is also what the private sector is clamouring for, not only in Ontario but right across the country.

  +-(1715)  

+-

    Mr. Randy White: Might I suggest, Mr. Speaker, there is another way to make priorities. If we could convince the government to take the revenues it has and spend them in the right places and not feed political parties for a change, that might be a good way to do it. I would like to ask my colleague whether he thinks maybe the government's priorities are just a little bit wrong.

+-

    Mr. Brian Masse: Mr. Speaker, that is probably the easiest question I have received since being here.

    It creates a heightened awareness of why the public is upset right now with what is going on with the sponsorship inquiry. Quite frankly what we have right now is taxpayers are funding Liberal lawyers to ask other people who contributed to Liberals or were part of the Liberal system about what happened to their money. They are insulted about that because they see the lack of resources at the federal level in their community.

    The budget has been trumpeted as an environmental budget. When people this summer are choking on smog again, they are going to realize that just putting money in foundations away from the view of Parliament is not the way to run a government. The absolute waste and lack of accountability is what is irking people today.

+-

    Hon. Roy Cullen (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for this debate. I will be supporting the 2005 budget implementation act because it implements another great and fine budget by our finance minister and this government. I am very pleased to support this bill.

    First, I think we need to highlight the fact that with this budget the government has delivered seven consecutive budget surpluses. There has been much moaning and whining on the other side of the House about the fact that we are having these surpluses and they should have been predicted.

    The reality is that a 1% change in revenues or a 1% change in expenditures can change the surplus situation very significantly. I would certainly rather be on a surplus side than a deficit side. This government continues to produce surpluses. In fact, budget 2005 commits the government to another three or four years of budgetary surpluses.

    The economy continues to grow at around 3% a year, a solid 3% year in and year out. In 2004 the economy in this country generated 255,000 new full time jobs. Our unemployment right now is below 7%, which is almost the lowest it has been for many years. There has been some commentary that the recent job numbers are indicating more part time jobs than full time jobs, but we have to look at this over a full cycle. This government's record in terms of creating the right economic circumstances to create sound economic growth and job creation is second to none in the industrialized world.

    We also have been paying down our debt. With the payments on the debt and the growth in the economy, we are now at about 38.8% debt to GDP. In other words, the size of the national debt in comparison to the size of the economy is 38.8%. In 1995-96, that figure was 68.4%. We certainly have come a long way. Our government is committed to moving that number down to 25% in a very short period of time.

    What does that mean for the average Canadian? It means a number of things. It means that if we have a sound economic policy, if we have sound economic performance and we have low interest rates, which we have in this country and have had for some time, and if we have a very good monetary policy to go with our very sound fiscal policy, that means jobs are being created. It means that people are able to buy a home for the first time.

    We see that all the time when we are talking to our constituents. People who were renting are now saying that interest rates are so low they should really buy a home. We are seeing a lot of new home construction. What does that mean? That means more economic activity and more strength in our economy. It just leads to a combination of factors that is beneficial to all Canadians and to the creation of jobs.

    This budget will follow up on our commitment to invest in health care. In fact, the budget continues the process of our commitment to $75 billion over 10 years, but we have also said that we cannot just keep throwing money at health care.

    We must have more accountability. We must have benchmarks. We need to be able to compare how the health care system is operating in the Yukon versus how it is operating in Prince Edward Island or in Ontario. Citizens have the right to know. Are their tax dollars in health care going as far as they should go? How are we doing in terms of waiting times? How are we doing in terms of maximizing the health care infrastructure?

    Do we have a lot of seniors occupying acute care beds, seniors who have no place to go because there is no home care and there is no intermediate care? That does not make any sense. Unfortunately, if we go to hospitals today in Canada, and in my riding as well, we are going to find that there are a lot of seniors in acute care beds in acute care hospitals, which is costing us as taxpayers much more than it should because an acute care hospital is the most expensive form of care.

  +-(1720)  

    The reason they are there is that there is no home care, no intermediate care and no long term care. The provinces need to build that capacity. In terms of patient care it is a much more desirable outcome as well. Many seniors do not want to be in an acute care hospital. They want to be at home or they want to be in an intermediate care facility. That is why we are saying we have to invest in health care but we must have performance standards. We must have accountability. We must have transparency on how these funds are being expended.

    This budget also has a very large component of investments in our environment. It delivers on our commitment to implement the Kyoto accord. I think the issue that arose with respect to the definition of toxic items and greenhouse gases has been cleared up and I think it is a good debate that we should have under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. This budget delivers on our Kyoto commitments and it provides the kinds of signals and tax incentives that are going to be required if we are serious about meeting these targets.

    One of the big components that I am very pleased to see is a $1 billion clean air fund. This will allow the market to in some sense distill and sort out what the biggest paybacks are in terms of projects that could be launched to reduce our greenhouse gases. Those that have the highest benefit costs will be supported by this fund. There will be some competition of ideas on how we can best launch a number of initiatives.

    As members of Parliament, we often have competing ideas presented to us. We should create a level playing field for transit passes as that relates to parking for employees. We were presented with another proposal about investing in our infrastructure and public transit. Which is the better investment? This clean fund will provide some competition of ideas on the soundest investments to make to meet our Kyoto commitments and accelerate that process.

    There is also a retrofit incentive program of $225 million, which will allow homeowners and other stakeholders to make very important investments in housing and in buildings to get maximum energy efficiency. In my riding I have a couple of companies that make sunroofs. They have asked me what is going to be in the budget to deal with energy efficiency. They believe their product is more energy efficient than standard heating. If we can take the benefit of sunlight, convert it into energy and put it into homes that are more energy efficient, then all of us then would have an opportunity to contribute to our fight to make sure that we clean up greenhouses gases.

    We can see the effect of greenhouse gases. We can see the effect of climate change. Those who still do not believe that we need to deal with this have not been paying attention, I think, because we are seeing it. We are seeing it in the north. We had a meeting the other day with our Nordic partners, the ambassadors from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and we compared notes. We have seen the effect of climate change in the north. We have to start dealing with that.

    We have seen the effect of climate change in terms of weather patterns. Is it just a coincidence that we have all these hurricanes, floods and earthquakes? I think that a lot of this is tied to the fact that we have changed our environment significantly. We need to start dealing with that.

  +-(1725)  

    This budget commits $5 billion over five years for children in terms of their learning and their care. This is a very important initiative and I know the minister responsible is working with the various provinces and territories to come up with a national program. A lot of women in my riding say we really need better day care in Ontario. That is one component of it. This investment of $5 billion will allow that to come to fruition.

    The budget also implements the new deal for communities. In 2005-06, $600 million will be funnelled to municipalities through a portion of the gas tax so municipalities can better deal with the many challenges they are facing. That figure will rise to $2 billion annually by 2009-10.

    In my province we have seen the Ontario government, under the previous regime especially, devolving a lot of responsibilities but not moving the cash. The provincial government is saying that municipalities have to take on these responsibilities, but it has not been quite so good at flowing the resources to go with that. This allows us to transfer a significant amount of funding directly to municipalities so they can deal better with crime, with public transit and with the many issues facing municipalities.

    We started that process a year ago when we gave municipalities relief from the GST. That alone is saving taxpayers in the city of Toronto some $55 million each and every year as well. That will go to good use in the city of Toronto and to investments in public transit.

    I have been following the debate in the newspapers about the Ontario government. Premier Dalton McGuinty and his finance minister, Greg Sorbara, are saying that Ontario has a fiscal imbalance. First of all, “fiscal imbalance” is a phrase conjured up by the separatists. It really does not mean much. I am absolutely shocked that the premier of Ontario would use that kind of language.

    Notwithstanding that, I am not very happy with the process. The Ontario government historically has a reputation for having some of the elder statesmen in Canada. As for the premier of Ontario politicizing this the way he has done instead of coming to Ottawa to discuss some of the challenges Ontario has, we know what some of the challenges are in Ontario. We know that Mike Harris and Ernie Eves gutted the revenue stream of the province of Ontario. They cut taxes because it sounded good and because it made some sense, but they went way too far. The result is that the revenue base in Ontario has been significantly eroded.

    We understand that this is a problem for Premier McGuinty and finance Minister Sorbara, but I would like to see the province of Ontario deal with the problems before it and have some resolve. When we came into power we inherited a $42 billion budgetary deficit. This bill will make sure that we implement all the measures that are needed to assist the provinces and territories in ways that are important.

*   *   *

  +-(1730)  

+-Civil Marriage Act

    The House resumed from April 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, an act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

+-

    The Deputy Speaker: It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition to the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-38.

    Call in the members.

*   *   *

  +-(1805)  

[Translation]

    (The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

+

(Division No. 56)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands)
Asselin
Batters
Benoit
Bezan
Bonin
Boshcoff
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Byrne
Cannis
Cardin
Carr
Carrie
Casey
Casson
Chamberlain
Chatters
Chong
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cummins
Cuzner
Day
Devolin
Doyle
Duncan
Epp
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Forseth
Gallant
Gallaway
Gaudet
Goldring
Goodyear
Gouk
Grewal (Newton—North Delta)
Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells)
Guergis
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harrison
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Hubbard
Jaffer
Jean
Johnston
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karygiannis
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Kilgour
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lastewka
Lauzon
Lee
Longfield
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Malhi
Maloney
Mark
Matthews
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McTeague
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
O'Brien
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Pacetti
Pallister
Penson
Poilievre
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Reynolds
Richardson
Ritz
Savoy
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Simard (Saint Boniface)
Simms
Skelton
Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul)
Solberg
Sorenson
Steckle
Stinson
Strahl
Szabo
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Trost
Tweed
Ur
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wappel
Warawa
Watson
White
Wilfert
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 132

NAYS

Members

Adams
Alcock
Anderson (Victoria)
André
Angus
Augustine
Bachand
Bagnell
Bains
Bakopanos
Barnes
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bell
Bellavance
Bennett
Bergeron
Bevilacqua
Bigras
Blaikie
Blais
Blondin-Andrew
Boire
Boivin
Bonsant
Boudria
Boulianne
Bourgeois
Bradshaw
Brison
Broadbent
Brown (Oakville)
Brunelle
Bulte
Carrier
Carroll
Catterall
Chan
Christopherson
Clavet
Cleary
Coderre
Comartin
Comuzzi
Côté
Cotler
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
D'Amours
Davies
Demers
Deschamps
DeVillers
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Drouin
Dryden
Duceppe
Easter
Efford
Emerson
Eyking
Faille
Fontana
Frulla
Fry
Gagnon (Québec)
Gagnon (Saint-Maurice—Champlain)
Gagnon (Jonquière—Alma)
Gauthier
Godbout
Godfrey
Godin
Goodale
Graham
Guarnieri
Guay
Guimond
Holland
Ianno
Jennings
Julian
Kadis
Karetak-Lindell
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kotto
Laframboise
Lapierre (Outremont)
Lapierre (Lévis—Bellechasse)
Lavallée
Layton
LeBlanc
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Macklin
Marceau
Marleau
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (LaSalle—Émard)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
McCallum
McDonough
McGuinty
McGuire
McLellan
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Minna
Mitchell
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Murphy
Myers
Neville
Owen
Paquette
Paradis
Patry
Peterson
Pettigrew
Phinney
Picard (Drummond)
Pickard (Chatham-Kent—Essex)
Plamondon
Poirier-Rivard
Powers
Prentice
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Roy
Saada
Sauvageau
Savage
Scott
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simard (Beauport—Limoilou)
Smith (Pontiac)
St-Hilaire
St. Amand
St. Denis
Stoffer
Stronach
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thibault (West Nova)
Torsney
Valeri
Valley
Vincent
Volpe
Wasylycia-Leis
Wrzesnewskyj

Total: -- 164

PAIRED

Members

Lalonde
Zed

Total: -- 2

+-

    The Speaker: I declare the amendment lost.

*   *   *

[English]

+-Parliament of Canada Act

     The House resumed from April 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

+-

    The Speaker: The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-30.

*   *   *

  +-(1820)  

[Translation]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

+-

(Division No. 57)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Adams
Alcock
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson (Victoria)
Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands)
Angus
Augustine
Bagnell
Bains
Bakopanos
Barnes
Batters
Beaumier
Bélanger
Bell
Bennett
Benoit
Bevilacqua
Bezan
Blaikie
Blondin-Andrew
Boivin
Boshcoff
Boudria
Bradshaw
Breitkreuz
Brison
Broadbent
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Bulte
Byrne
Carr
Carrie
Carroll
Casey
Casson
Catterall
Chamberlain
Chan
Chatters
Chong
Christopherson
Coderre
Comartin
Comuzzi
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cummins
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davies
Day
Desjarlais
DeVillers
Devolin
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Doyle
Drouin
Dryden
Duncan
Easter
Efford
Emerson
Epp
Eyking
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Fontana
Forseth
Frulla
Fry
Gallant
Godbout
Godfrey
Godin
Goldring
Goodale
Goodyear
Gouk
Graham
Grewal (Newton—North Delta)
Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells)
Guarnieri
Guergis
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harrison
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Holland
Ianno
Jaffer
Jean
Johnston
Julian
Kadis
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Karygiannis
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Khan
Kilgour
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lapierre (Outremont)
Lastewka
Lauzon
Layton
LeBlanc
Lee
Longfield
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacAulay
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Macklin
Malhi
Maloney
Mark
Marleau
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (LaSalle—Émard)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Matthews
McCallum
McDonough
McGuinty
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLellan
McTeague
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Minna
Mitchell
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Murphy
Myers
Neville
Nicholson
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Owen
Pacetti
Pallister
Paradis
Patry
Penson
Peterson
Pettigrew
Poilievre
Powers
Prentice
Preston
Proulx
Rajotte
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Reid
Reynolds
Richardson
Ritz
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Saada
Savage
Scarpaleggia
Scheer
Schellenberger
Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Scott
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simard (Saint Boniface)
Simms
Skelton
Smith (Pontiac)
Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul)
Solberg
Sorenson
St. Amand
St. Denis
Stinson
Stoffer
Stronach
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Tonks
Torsney
Trost
Tweed
Valeri
Valley
Van Loan
Vellacott
Volpe
Warawa
Wasylycia-Leis
Watson
White
Wilfert
Williams
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich

Total: -- 231

NAYS

Members

André
Asselin
Bachand
Bellavance
Bergeron
Bigras
Blais
Boire
Bonin
Bonsant
Boulianne
Bourgeois
Brown (Oakville)
Brunelle
Cannis
Cardin
Carrier
Clavet
Cleary
Côté
Crête
Demers
Deschamps
Duceppe
Faille
Gagnon (Québec)
Gagnon (Saint-Maurice—Champlain)
Gagnon (Jonquière—Alma)
Gaudet
Gauthier
Guay
Guimond
Hubbard
Jennings
Karetak-Lindell
Kotto
Laframboise
Lapierre (Lévis—Bellechasse)
Lavallée
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Marceau
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
O'Brien
Paquette
Perron
Phinney
Picard (Drummond)
Pickard (Chatham-Kent—Essex)
Plamondon
Poirier-Rivard
Roy
Sauvageau
Simard (Beauport—Limoilou)
St-Hilaire
Steckle
Szabo
Telegdi
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Ur
Vincent
Wappel

Total: -- 65

PAIRED

Members

Lalonde
Zed

Total: -- 2

+-

    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    (Bill read the third time and passed)

*   *   *

[English]

+-Supply

+-Opposition Motion--Air-India

[Supply]

    The House resumed from April 7 consideration of the motion.

+-

    The Speaker: Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, April 6 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded on the motion of the member for Newton—North Delta, regarding the business of supply.

*   *   *

  +-(1830)  

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

+-

(Division No. 58)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands)
André
Angus
Asselin
Bachand
Batters
Bell
Bellavance
Benoit
Bergeron
Bezan
Bigras
Blaikie
Blais
Boire
Bonsant
Boulianne
Bourgeois
Breitkreuz
Broadbent
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brunelle
Cardin
Carrie
Carrier
Casey
Casson
Chatters
Chong
Christopherson
Clavet
Cleary
Comartin
Côté
Crête
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cummins
Davies
Day
Demers
Deschamps
Desjarlais
Devolin
Doyle
Duceppe
Duncan
Epp
Faille
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Forseth
Gagnon (Québec)
Gagnon (Saint-Maurice—Champlain)
Gagnon (Jonquière—Alma)
Gallant
Gaudet
Gauthier
Godin
Goldring
Goodyear
Gouk
Grewal (Newton—North Delta)
Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells)
Guay
Guergis
Guimond
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harrison
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Jaffer
Jean
Johnston
Julian
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kilgour
Komarnicki
Kotto
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laframboise
Lapierre (Lévis—Bellechasse)
Lauzon
Lavallée
Layton
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Marceau
Mark
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
McDonough
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Pallister
Paquette
Penson
Perron
Picard (Drummond)
Plamondon
Poilievre
Poirier-Rivard
Prentice
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Reynolds
Richardson
Ritz
Roy
Sauvageau
Scheer
Schellenberger
Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Siksay
Simard (Beauport—Limoilou)
Skelton
Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul)
Solberg
Sorenson
St-Hilaire
Stinson
Stoffer
Stronach
Telegdi
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Vincent
Warawa
Wasylycia-Leis
Watson
White
Williams
Wrzesnewskyj
Yelich

Total: -- 172

NAYS

Members

Adams
Alcock
Anderson (Victoria)
Augustine
Bagnell
Bains
Bakopanos
Barnes
Bélanger
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Blondin-Andrew
Boivin
Bonin
Boshcoff
Boudria
Bradshaw
Brison
Brown (Oakville)
Bulte
Byrne
Cannis
Carr
Carroll
Catterall
Chamberlain
Chan
Coderre
Comuzzi
Cotler
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
DeVillers
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Drouin
Dryden
Easter
Efford
Emerson
Eyking
Fontana
Frulla
Fry
Gallaway
Godbout
Godfrey
Goodale
Graham
Guarnieri
Holland
Hubbard
Ianno
Jennings
Kadis
Karygiannis
Khan
Lapierre (Outremont)
Lastewka
LeBlanc
Lee
Longfield
MacAulay
Macklin
Malhi
Maloney
Marleau
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (LaSalle—Émard)
Matthews
McCallum
McGuinty
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLellan
McTeague
Minna
Mitchell
Murphy
Myers
Neville
O'Brien
Owen
Pacetti
Paradis
Patry
Peterson
Pettigrew
Phinney
Pickard (Chatham-Kent—Essex)
Powers
Proulx
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Saada
Savage
Savoy
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sgro
Silva
Simard (Saint Boniface)
Simms
Smith (Pontiac)
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Szabo
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Tonks
Torsney
Ur
Valeri
Valley
Volpe
Wappel
Wilfert

Total: -- 124

PAIRED

Members

Lalonde
Zed

Total: -- 2

+-

    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.


+-Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

*   *   *

[English]

+-Committees of the House

-Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

    The House resumed from April 11 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

+-

    The Speaker: The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell to the motion for concurrence in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the name of the hon. member for Calgary Centre-North.

    The question is on the amendment.

+-

    Hon. Karen Redman: Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to have the whips voting for their parties. I would ask that you register all Liberals in attendance as voting in support of this motion.

+-

    The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

+-

    Hon. Rob Nicholson: Mr. Speaker, members of the Conservative Party will be voting no on this amendment.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois will vote against the motion.

+-

    Mr. Yvon Godin: Mr. Speaker, the members of the NDP will vote for the motion.

*   *   *

  +-(1835)  

    (The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

+-

(Division No. 59)

YEAS

Members

Adams
Alcock
Anderson (Victoria)
Angus
Augustine
Bagnell
Bains
Bakopanos
Barnes
Bélanger
Bell
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Blaikie
Blondin-Andrew
Boivin
Bonin
Boshcoff
Boudria
Bradshaw
Brison
Broadbent
Brown (Oakville)
Bulte
Byrne
Cannis
Carr
Carroll
Catterall
Chamberlain
Chan
Christopherson
Coderre
Comartin
Comuzzi
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davies
Desjarlais
DeVillers
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Drouin
Dryden
Easter
Efford
Emerson
Eyking
Fontana
Frulla
Fry
Gallaway
Godbout
Godfrey
Godin
Goodale
Graham
Guarnieri
Holland
Hubbard
Ianno
Jennings
Julian
Kadis
Karygiannis
Khan
Kilgour
Lapierre (Outremont)
Lastewka
Layton
LeBlanc
Lee
Longfield
MacAulay
Macklin
Malhi
Maloney
Marleau
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (LaSalle—Émard)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Matthews
McCallum
McDonough
McGuinty
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLellan
McTeague
Minna
Mitchell
Murphy
Myers
Neville
O'Brien
Owen
Pacetti
Paradis
Patry
Peterson
Pettigrew
Phinney
Pickard (Chatham-Kent—Essex)
Powers
Proulx
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Saada
Savage
Savoy
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simard (Saint Boniface)
Simms
Smith (Pontiac)
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Stoffer
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Tonks
Torsney
Ur
Valeri
Valley
Volpe
Wappel
Wasylycia-Leis
Wilfert
Wrzesnewskyj

Total: -- 147

NAYS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands)
André
Asselin
Bachand
Batters
Bellavance
Benoit
Bergeron
Bezan
Bigras
Blais
Boire
Bonsant
Boulianne
Bourgeois
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brunelle
Cardin
Carrie
Carrier
Casey
Casson
Chatters
Chong
Clavet
Cleary
Côté
Crête
Cummins
Day
Demers
Deschamps
Devolin
Doyle
Duceppe
Duncan
Epp
Faille
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Forseth
Gagnon (Québec)
Gagnon (Saint-Maurice—Champlain)
Gagnon (Jonquière—Alma)
Gallant
Gaudet
Gauthier
Goldring
Goodyear
Gouk
Grewal (Newton—North Delta)
Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells)
Guay
Guergis
Guimond
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harrison
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Jaffer
Jean
Johnston
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Komarnicki
Kotto
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laframboise
Lapierre (Lévis—Bellechasse)
Lauzon
Lavallée
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Marceau
Mark
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Pallister
Paquette
Penson
Perron
Picard (Drummond)
Plamondon
Poilievre
Poirier-Rivard
Prentice
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Reynolds
Richardson
Ritz
Roy
Sauvageau
Scheer
Schellenberger
Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Simard (Beauport—Limoilou)
Skelton
Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul)
Solberg
Sorenson
St-Hilaire
Stinson
Stronach
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Vincent
Warawa
Watson
White
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 149

PAIRED

Members

Lalonde
Zed

Total: -- 2

+-

    The Speaker: I declare the amendment lost.

[English]

    The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: No.

    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

    Some hon. members: Yea.

    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.

    Some hon. members: Nay.

    The Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.

+-

    Hon. Karen Redman: Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent to apply the vote just taken with Liberal members voting no.

+-

    The Speaker: Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

+-

    Hon. Rob Nicholson: Mr. Speaker, members of the Conservative Party are proud to vote yes.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond: Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois members will support this motion.

[English]

+-

    Mr. Yvon Godin: Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP are voting no to this motion.

*   *   *

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

-

(Division No. 60)

YEAS

Members

Abbott
Ablonczy
Allison
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands)
André
Asselin
Bachand
Batters
Bellavance
Benoit
Bergeron
Bezan
Bigras
Blais
Boire
Bonsant
Boulianne
Bourgeois
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brunelle
Cardin
Carrie
Carrier
Casey
Casson
Chatters
Chong
Clavet
Cleary
Côté
Crête
Cummins
Day
Demers
Deschamps
Devolin
Doyle
Duceppe
Duncan
Epp
Faille
Finley
Fitzpatrick
Fletcher
Forseth
Gagnon (Québec)
Gagnon (Saint-Maurice—Champlain)
Gagnon (Jonquière—Alma)
Gallant
Gaudet
Gauthier
Goldring
Goodyear
Gouk
Grewal (Newton—North Delta)
Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells)
Guay
Guergis
Guimond
Hanger
Harper
Harris
Harrison
Hearn
Hiebert
Hill
Hinton
Jaffer
Jean
Johnston
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Komarnicki
Kotto
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Laframboise
Lapierre (Lévis—Bellechasse)
Lauzon
Lavallée
Lemay
Lessard
Lévesque
Loubier
Lukiwski
Lunn
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Marceau
Mark
Ménard (Hochelaga)
Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin)
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Mills
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
O'Connor
Obhrai
Oda
Pallister
Paquette
Penson
Perron
Picard (Drummond)
Plamondon
Poilievre
Poirier-Rivard
Prentice
Preston
Rajotte
Reid
Reynolds
Richardson
Ritz
Roy
Sauvageau
Scheer
Schellenberger
Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country)
Simard (Beauport—Limoilou)
Skelton
Smith (Kildonan—St. Paul)
Solberg
Sorenson
St-Hilaire
Stinson
Stronach
Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques)
Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest)
Thompson (Wild Rose)
Tilson
Toews
Trost
Tweed
Van Loan
Vellacott
Vincent
Warawa
Watson
White
Williams
Yelich

Total: -- 149

NAYS

Members

Adams
Alcock
Anderson (Victoria)
Angus
Augustine
Bagnell
Bains
Bakopanos
Barnes
Bélanger
Bell
Bennett
Bevilacqua
Blaikie
Blondin-Andrew
Boivin
Bonin
Boshcoff
Boudria
Bradshaw
Brison
Broadbent
Brown (Oakville)
Bulte
Byrne
Cannis
Carr
Carroll
Catterall
Chamberlain
Chan
Christopherson
Coderre
Comartin
Comuzzi
Cotler
Crowder
Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley)
Cullen (Etobicoke North)
Cuzner
D'Amours
Davies
Desjarlais
DeVillers
Dhalla
Dion
Dosanjh
Drouin
Dryden
Easter
Efford
Emerson
Eyking
Fontana
Frulla
Fry
Gallaway
Godbout
Godfrey
Godin
Goodale
Graham
Guarnieri
Holland
Hubbard
Ianno
Jennings
Julian
Kadis
Karygiannis
Khan
Kilgour
Lapierre (Outremont)
Lastewka
Layton
LeBlanc
Lee
Longfield
MacAulay
Macklin
Malhi
Maloney
Marleau
Martin (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca)
Martin (Winnipeg Centre)
Martin (LaSalle—Émard)
Martin (Sault Ste. Marie)
Masse
Matthews
McCallum
McDonough
McGuinty
McGuire
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
McLellan
McTeague
Minna
Mitchell
Murphy
Myers
Neville
O'Brien
Owen
Pacetti
Paradis
Patry
Peterson
Pettigrew
Phinney
Pickard (Chatham-Kent—Essex)
Powers
Proulx
Ratansi
Redman
Regan
Robillard
Rodriguez
Rota
Saada
Savage
Savoy
Scarpaleggia
Scott
Sgro
Siksay
Silva
Simard (Saint Boniface)
Simms
Smith (Pontiac)
St. Amand
St. Denis
Steckle
Stoffer
Szabo
Telegdi
Temelkovski
Thibault (West Nova)
Tonks
Torsney
Ur
Valeri
Valley
Volpe
Wappel
Wasylycia-Leis
Wilfert
Wrzesnewskyj

Total: -- 147

PAIRED

Members

Lalonde
Zed

Total: -- 2

+-

    The Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

    It being 6:38 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.


+-PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

*   *   *

[English]

+-Employment Insurance Act

    The House resumed from February 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    Mr. Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-280. The purpose of the bill is to address the EI surplus that has been accumulating over the last six years since the Liberals set aside the rate setting process.

    Bill C-280 contains two key elements: first, to establish a separate account to ensure that access to funds raised through premiums do not go to general revenue; and second, to ensure that the government cannot set aside the rate setting process without House approval.

    The bill also proposes to increase the size of the Employment Insurance Commission to 17 members from the present 4. The proposal to increase the size of the commission is, I believe, an unreasonable request. It is both unwieldy and costly. I will not be able to support that part of the bill but I would strongly support it if an amendment were made not to increase the size of the commission.

    The Conservative Party believes that the government needs to be held accountable for a cumulative balance in the EI insurance account, which continues to grow year after year despite repeated objections from the Auditor General that it violates the Employment Insurance Act.

    Through the continued suspension of a fair and transparent rate setting process, the government continues to allow the surplus to accumulate. The Conservative Party believes that this surplus is the property of those who contributed to employment insurance, that being the workers and employers.

    The $46 billion accumulated national surplus from the employment insurance system reflects a deliberate program of overtaxing workers and their employers to divert those moneys to fund other government priorities. This practice is misleading, dishonest and violates the law. It has attracted the criticism of the Auditor General and is an unfair and regressive tax. Yes, it is an actual tax.

    Instead of funding government spending increases out of a more progressive income tax, the use of the EI surplus for that purpose takes proportionately more from the working poor and small businesses. As such, it taxes those who can least afford it and shifts the burden from those with the means to do so.

    The EI program has a problem and that problem is the fact that it has a $46 billion surplus.

    Another part of the EI program, which is called compassionate care, is another example of sloppy government legislation and mismanagement. The compassionate care program, which was announced two years ago in the budget speech and became effective on January 1, 2004, was established to ensure that dying Canadians could receive compassionate care in the last days of their lives. The unfortunate part of the program is that the sloppy legislation did not appropriately define who could take care of that dying person. The people who qualify as caregivers are the children and the spouses or the common law spouses. Sisters and brothers do not qualify.

    The compassionate care program was funded last year for $190 million but only $11 million of that was actually used. A large number of people who applied for compassionate care were denied it.

  +-(1840)  

    I have a story involving a constituent named Sue who came to my office and told me her story about applying for compassionate care. Sue, who is 43 years old, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sue was taking care of her 73 year old mother. Her sister came down from the Okanagan to take care of Sue. She got released from her employer and went down to Human Resources Canada to apply for compassionate care. However she was told by human resources that although they felt sorry for what was happening to her sister, she did not qualify for compassionate care because a sister was not considered part of the family.

    That sounded absurd, so we checked it out. We found out absolutely that human resources does not consider a sister to be part of the family.

    I immediately brought this to the attention the Minister of Human Resources and was told that the program was under review. I asked the minister to use discretion and to keep Sue and her sister together. I was informed that there was a category called “other”. What is “other”? I found out that the EI program never defined “other”. It was announced, as I said, two years ago and started in 2004. One can apply online right now for compassionate care and, sure enough, the word “other” is one of the categories. However If one clicks on the “other” button the application goes through but pretty soon the answer comes back that since there is no definition for “other” the application is denied. It became very frustrating.

    I started receiving emails from other Canadians. I received an email from Olga in Ontario. Olga, who had a sister in a similar situation, went out to Richmond, British Columbia to take care of her sister. She also applied for compassionate but was denied because the minister defines a sister as not part of the family under this program.

    Olga appealed the decision and went before the Board of Referees, which is the appeal board for the compassionate care under the EI program. The appeal board did the right thing and said that a sister was absolutely a part of the family. It told Olga that she should be able to take care of her sister in her dying days.

    However the unimaginable happened. The government appealed the appeal board decision. It is saying that Olga cannot take care of her sister because, why? Because it has a program where it has not defined “other”?

    It is wrong, it is confusing and it leaves Canadians who are in the last days of their life not being taken care of. The government is keeping families apart.

    It was very frustrating to find out that $190 million was budgeted for this program last year and the review process that is going on with this EI compassionate care, and the government is denying families to stay together. Sisters cannot take care of sisters and brothers cannot take care of brothers. Do members know what the government has done? The government has reduced the $190 million down to $11 million. This is how it reviews this program. This is how it is dealing with families who are pleading for compassionate care.

    We must remember that the EI fund has a $46 billion surplus and the government is not accountable. It allows $190 million for a compassionate care EI program and the way it is reviewing this is by saying that instead of the program having $190 million, it will only be $11 million this year.

    When I asked to be part of that review process I was told that I could not because the minister's staff was dealing with it. I want to be part of that. Canadians need to be part of that.

    The solution to this is to keep it simple. People who are dying should be able to decide who takes care of them in the last days of their life. This may be a sister or it be may a mother or father, but I believe people who are dying have the right under the Constitution of Canada and under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to say who they want taking care of them.

    The review we can look at is whether six weeks long enough. The compassionate and easy thing to do, which I believe the minister has the discretion to permit, is to allow the people who are dying to decide who they want taking care of them. Of course the care provider has to qualify for EI benefits, which is reasonable, but not permitting family to take care of family because that has not been defined is beyond comprehension

  +-(1845)  

    This program is just another example of a government creating sloppy legislation. It knows the right things to do but it does not carry them out. It is broken promises. It promised to take care of Canadians but it does not follow through. We hear a lot of rhetoric and excuses while Canadians are dying.

    I support the accountability that the bill presents.

  +-(1850)  

+-

    Ms. Beth Phinney (Hamilton Mountain, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-280, which seeks to make changes in Canada's Employment Insurance Act and the Department of Human Resources Development Act.

    The bill raises two key issues with respect to our employment insurance system. One is the proposed creation of an independent 17 member tripartite commission that would replace the current 4 member commission. The proposed commission is designed to be at arm's length from the government.

    The other change is the treatment of the employment insurance account within the general accounts of the Government of Canada. The bill proposes to keep the account separate and under the control of the new commission.

    These are important points. In fact, they are similar to issues that have already been raised by the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development which has made its own recommendations on these matters.

    The government welcomes and takes seriously the standing committee's unanimous recommendations and is considering them very carefully. We pledge to report back to Parliament within the prescribed 150 days.

    It is important to note that the government has already moved to address issues raised in the bill. In December 2004, the Government of Canada decreased EI premium rates for 2005. As a result, employee premiums are now down to $1.95 per $100 of earnings and the employer rates are down to $2.73 per $100 of insurable earnings.

    This latest decrease represents the 11th consecutive reduction in EI premiums since 1993. This means employers and employees will pay some $10.5 billion less in premiums this year than they would have paid under the 1994 rates and, at the individual level, it means employees who make maximum contributions are paying $485 less this year in annual premiums than if the 1994 rates were still in place. This is good news.

    The government has also committed to put in place a new rate setting mechanism for EI premiums. Our recent federal budget has done exactly that. Following public consultations, the government pledged to develop a new permanent rate setting mechanism based on five key principles: first, premium rates should be set transparently; second, changes should be based on independent expert advice; third, expected revenues from premiums should correspond to expected program costs; fourth, rate setting should mitigate the impact on the business cycle; and fifth, premium rates should be relatively stable over time.

    The proposed new rate setting mechanism is built on the experience that has already led to steady reductions in EI premium rates and it takes into account the views of stakeholders and the standing committee of the House of Commons.

    Under the proposed new mechanism, the EI chief actuary would estimate the break-even rate for the coming year. He would then provide a report of this calculation to the EI Commission. The commission would then make this report public as soon as possible. Stakeholders would be consulted, after which a rate would be set by the commission for the coming year. Fifteen cents would be the extent to which an employee premium rate could change from year to year. Our goal would be to ensure premium rate stability and limit any negative impact on the business cycle. The last thing we would want is to see a spike in premium rates during an economic downturn.

    In addition, the legislation sets out that the rates for 2006-07 will not exceed $1.95. This is intended to provide additional premium rate stability through the transition to a new rate setting mechanism.

    Finally, the Government of Canada would have the authority to override the rates set by the commission, if it were in the public interest to do so, through an order in council.

    Let us look now at the proposal in Bill C-280 to separate the employment insurance account from the general accounts of Canada.

  +-(1855)  

    In the 1980s the government of the day, a government of a different political stripe than today, acting on the advice of the then auditor general, moved to consolidate the EI account with the government's general account. This was more than a bookkeeping move. It was based on sound public policy principles.

    Consolidating the accounts, means the government bears the full responsibility for the obligations of the program.

    It is important to remember that some years ago serious concerns were being raised that the old unemployment insurance account was not sustainable because it was operating at deficit. At that time, Canadians were concerned that the program's obligations were greater than its revenues, but were comforted by knowing that the payments were supported by the Government of Canada.

    Today the EI account is on a much more sustainable footing and the principle of the government responsibility for paying benefits under the program remains.

    Moving the EI account out of the government's general account and to an independent agency requires careful analysis of its effects on the accountability and the government's obligation to pay benefits.

    I would also remind the House that from an accounting perspective, today's Auditor General, like her predecessors, also believes the EI account should be consolidated with the government's general account.

    In testimony to the public accounts committee on November 2004, for example, the Auditor General said:

--this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards for government as promulgated by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

    She also said:

--I have trouble imagining that the employment insurance program could be excluded from the government's summary financial statements, which include all government activities.

    Separating the EI account from the government's overall accounts, as Bill C-280 proposes, may not be consistent with the opinions of the Auditor General.

    Finally, there is the issue of structure of the EI commission that Bill C-280 proposes. The bill would replace the current four person commission that administers the EI account by creating a new 17 member commission. I am not sure how the number 17 was arrived at, but I wonder about the implications of this proposal. For example, would a commission more than four times as big cost more than four times as much to operate? If it did, would these funds not be better used to provide benefits to Canadians?

    There would also be the issue of achieving consensus on decisions among such a large number of individuals. The current commission is composed of two senior public officials, along with one person representing employers and one representing employees. It is important to note that only one of the two senior public officials gets a vote, which reinforces the parity issue among the three partners. Having a much larger group requires careful examination in terms of cost and effectiveness.

    The government is committed to monitoring and assessing the EI program to ensure that it remains responsive to the Canadian people. The Speech from the Throne reiterated this commitment and the February budget as well as the EI program enhancements announced following the budget acted on it.

    Clearly, the government has demonstrated its willingness, indeed its desire, to assist workers to adapt to today's labour market, while keeping EI flexible and responsive to the needs of Canadians.

    It is for the reasons I have outlined that I am unable to support the legislation changes proposed in Bill C-280.

*   *   *

+-Business of the House

+-

    Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting the proceedings. I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent, following consultations among all the parties, that during tonight's debate on Government Business No. 10, the take note debate on the RCMP, any member who wishes to split his or her time may do so.

+-

    The Speaker: Is that agreed?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

*   *   *

[Translation]

+-Employment Insurance Act

    The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-280, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

+-

    Mr. Yves Lessard (Chambly—Borduas, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to be able to speak on this bill. First, I would like to congratulate and thank my hon. colleague from Manicouagan for introducing this bill and defending it both vigorously and rigorously, as he always does when it comes to standing up for the people of his riding. He does so aptly, as he does here, in the House of Commons.

    This bill is necessary under the circumstances. It has every reason to be passed, except with respect to what my colleague opposite just mentioned.

    I find rather tragic, however, that anyone would argue today that it is mainly about premiums, when those contributing never asked that the premiums be lowered.

    It is not about how much money there is in the fund either, since surpluses have been and continue to be accumulated. My Conservative colleague alluded to that earlier: as of March 31, 2004, there was an accumulated surplus in excess of $46 billion, which was used for purposes other than what the fund was designed for, namely employment insurance.

    These surpluses were built on the backs of workers who had the misfortune of losing their jobs and for whom this Liberal government has restricted accessibility and eligibility.

    Why are things that way? Because the Liberal government can draw as it likes on this fund and do what it wants with it. This fund is administered by a small group chosen by the government, as my colleague opposite pointed out. She was wondering whether having 17 administrators instead of four was not something that could compromise the fund. If I have ever heard anything nonsensical in this House, that is it.

    How can one claim that 17 people are going to administer a $17 billion a year fund and represent some 17 or 18 million working people who contribute to the fund at one time or another and for whom rules must be established to enable them to access employment insurance? It was just claimed today that it is unthinkable to have 17 people administering this fund. Actually, the opposite is true because having four people to administer this fund eliminates a lot of transparency from its administration and excludes the two groups that contribute, namely employers and employees, from its administration. This is nonsense and gives rise to the abuses that we see in other government sectors. We have seen the abuses when there is a lack of transparency. It is the same for the employment insurance fund.

    It is entirely appropriate that this fund should be independent again. Does this mean that the government would not have supervisory powers? The Auditor General has told us how this should work: by being accountable, of course, with a government presence in the persons of its deputy ministers and a representative, the chair, appointed by the governor in council. This means that of the 17 people involved in the administration of this fund, there would be seven employee representatives and seven employer representatives. Why this number? A number had to be chosen at a given time in comparison with the administration of a similar fund, to name just one, that of injured workers in Quebec. There is a roughly similar number and the fund is very well managed.

    Workers and employers are not irresponsible people but actually take primary responsibility for the money they administer on behalf of the people they represent. Before it is insinuated that such a fund would be better administered by four people appointed by the government, even if employer and employee representatives are present, recent experience shows that this is not the case. It is used for other purposes.

  +-(1900)  

    The bill introduced by my colleague from Manicouagan remedies that situation so that the rate set for contributions will be determined yearly in keeping with a recommendation by the commission itself and with a view to improving or maintaining the program depending on the needs of contributors. The EI account would also be established on the basis of each year's requirements. It would be part of the funds on Canada's books, but would not be part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, so that it could not be used for other purposes. One thing is totally unacceptable: the money being treated as a supplementary tax on workers and employers and used for other purposes.

    The commission would be administered as I have already said, that is, by a majority representing employers and employees, who would report to Parliament. As is the case everywhere else, there would be arbitration if there were any problem in deciding what level the fund should be kept at. Representatives selected by both groups concerned and appointed by the governor in council would be capable of administering the fund because they would be chosen in keeping with the criteria of each group.

    The Bloc Québécois has always disagreed with the way the government has handled the EI fund. I will remind you that during the 36th Parliament in 1999, seven of the 137 bills tabled in the House were introduced by the Bloc and concerned employment insurance.

    The EI situation leads us to reflect on the duties of government. A government's first duty is to respect the laws it has itself enacted. The second is not to appropriate things that do not belong to it. In the matter of concern here, the government of the current Prime Minister has violated those two fundamental rules by helping itself to the surplus in the EI fund.

    This program was designed as a type of insurance. When people need to make use of that insurance, after paying into it all their working lives, they find that their contributions have been used for something else. Two things would happen to any insurance company in a situation like this. First, it would be seen as crooked. and second, of course, it would soon be out of business.

    This is what we should be considering and what we must decide as a group, with respect to the bill we have before us.

    Earlier, my colleague opposite also cited the report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. On December 13, 2004, this committee prepared a unanimous report recommending precisely what we are putting on the table, that is, an independent fund administered by a majority of people who contribute to it—equal representation of employers and employees—with its own management.

    The time has come for the government to implement this recommendation. I am pleased to see that our Conservative colleagues agree that the situation needs to be remedied.

  +-(1905)  

    Unfortunately, the examples they are giving are not suitable in this case. The bill addressed the issue of compassionate leave, and the Conservatives voted against it. In this case, I invite them, and all my other colleagues in this House, to vote in favour of Bill C-280, in order finally to correct this injustice toward workers, so that they can administer their own fund in their best interest.

  +-(1910)  

[English]

+-

    Mr. David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate. Let me also congratulate my Bloc colleague, the member for Manicouagan, who sponsored Bill C-280.

    What we are dealing with in terms of what the government has done is one of the most disgraceful acts of abuse of power that one could imagine. Let us understand the scenario.

    The government, by virtue of changing the regulations and the qualifying factors for EI, has pushed virtually every worker out of the lineup for EI, whether the worker is deserving or not, because he or she no longer technically qualifies. Roughly one in four workers will qualify for EI.

    At the same time, the government has taken all this extra money it has now acquired because it is not paying it out to as many workers because it has denied them access, and has used it to build up a surplus. That is a complete abuse of the consolidated revenue fund, the general accounts of the Government of Canada.

    Personally I am not opposed to the notion of a consolidated revenue fund for the simple reason that government needs an opportunity to put money where it is needed. I suspect a lot of my NDP colleagues feel the same way. Crises do come up and priorities change. There are a whole host of reasons that a government would need to move money from a fund with a little extra to an area that needs help. SARS comes to mind. Money has to be found from somewhere, so it is moved around. I have no problem with that.

    I give the government its due, although it breaks my heart to do it. The Conservatives in this country, regardless of whether they go by P.C. or Conservative, or in the case of British Columbia they are all wrapped up in Liberals and it is the same in Quebec, the fact of the matter is that the right-wing Tories think that tax cuts are the answer to everything. They think that cutting taxes is the answer and eventually we will not need to worry about things like the EI fund because lo and behold all these magical jobs will be created by virtue of corporate tax cuts.

    We know from Ontario's experience that works great as long as the overall North American economy is booming, but as soon as it cuts back, what did the Ernie Eaves government do? It put its corporate tax cuts on hold for a year because it could not afford them. If the argument that cutting taxes generates jobs and that in turn generates new tax revenue is true and therefore they pay for themselves, then it seems to me that the worse off the economy is and the less money there is, the more we should be advocating for tax cuts because they will turn things around.

    That is not the case. As soon as the North American economy went in the ditch, Ontario followed right behind. The Conservatives in Ontario were forced to put their tax cuts on hold thereby, in my opinion, putting the lie to their whole theory.

    As I said, I do not have a problem with the notion of a consolidated revenue fund. However, because this tax cut mantra has reached fever proportions, at least until recently it was difficult for anyone to argue for any kind of increase in revenue to the Government of Ontario because it was a politically impossible thing to do on the doorstep.

    The government and other right-wing governments across Canada have made it virtually politically impossible to run on a platform of new revenues. We need to find a way where the public will appreciate the transparency and see where the money is going. Dedicated taxes, I have already explained why I have a problem with that, but in this context it seems to be the only way that one can make a case.

  +-(1915)  

    The Liberals in Canada have so badly mismanaged and tainted the whole fund that it is necessary now to provide almost an artificial transparency for the public as it relates to this. Who can blame them? A surplus of $46 billion is not a bit of an overrun. Who is not in favour of running surpluses? It provides the means to reinvest the money in places in Canada that will do us the most good going into the future and will help the most people. That is no problem, but be up front about it.

    What is obscene about this is that it is all being put forward as some kind of magical economic elixir that the Liberals have managed to do and that is how this happened. That is hogwash.

    By the way, it bugs me that it is called the employment insurance fund. I have never understood why it is not called the unemployment insurance fund. One does not have insurance for a job; one has insurance for when one does not have a job, but that is just a personal thing.

    The Liberals allow the money in the fund to accumulate, the same money over the years, but they start cutting back on who gets the benefits. They know there is going to be a huge surplus. They apply that to everything else they are doing and say, “Are we not wonderful?” No, they are not.

    In the first place, the most obscene thing is that all the workers who have lost their jobs then find out the government is not even going to be there to help them out with a fund that the workers paid for. That is the maddening thing. All the workers have to pay into the fund and a quarter of them get to benefit. It was not that way when the Liberals took power. Here we are with a $46 billion accumulated surplus that the government wants to write off as being due to the Liberals being wonderful economic managers.

    The only argument I have heard that to me has any substance at all is the issue of going from a four member commission to a 17 member commission. Let us understand that the commission is made up of a chair who is appointed by the House, two vice-chairs who could be the deputy ministers of two departments involved in managing the fund, and seven representatives on the employer and employee side. Why so many? The argument from my colleague who is sponsoring this bill is that one wants to ensure there is as much neutrality, impartiality and independence as possible and making sure there are appointees from outside government bureaucracy is a good way to do it.

    I have heard some Conservatives mention it, but the Liberals--and I looked at the parliamentary secretary's remarks before I stood up--went on at great length to talk about how this is an abusive waste. I do not know whether it should be 14 members or 10 members, but I certainly do not think that quibbling over that number is important enough not to support the bill. It is such a small amount of money relative to the $46 billion that we are talking about that to me it is a red herring. The Liberals are looking for reasons to justify why they are opposed when in reality they just do not want their special little piggy bank to be taken away from them.

    I thought my colleague, the NDP critic for EI, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, said it well the other night when he made his remarks. This is his opening comment straight from Hansard:

    Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that I will not be saying this evening that the government has stolen the workers' money. It has only taken it without asking.

    That is the essence of this.

    At the end of the day, the details over how big the commission should be is not enough, in my opinion, to stop anybody from supporting this bill. It is obscene that there are so few workers covered by the fund. It is obscene that the government continues to accumulate massive surpluses. It is obscene that the government says there is an overall government surplus because of good fiscal management when in reality it is because it shafted the unemployed workers of this country. This bill attempts to correct that. That is why I and my colleagues in the NDP caucus will be supporting this bill, because it helps unemployed workers, as opposed to the Liberals who have been hurting them.

  +-(1920)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-280 introduced by my colleague from Manicouagan, especially since he is from the riding next to mine and once represented part of the riding that I currently have the honour of representing. I am talking about the great traditional region of Charlevoix and the Haute-Côte-Nord regional municipality.

    Introducing this bill to create an independent employment insurance fund makes sense considering the work the Bloc Québécois has been doing since 1993. Some work was even done between 1990 and 1993, before we formed the official opposition. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that the Bloc Québécois has defended the interests of Quebeckers and also the interests of the regions in Quebec, which, like my region, are greatly affected by the problem of seasonal employment and work involving various interruptions.

    What do we mean when we talk about seasonal employment? Among other things, we mean the entire fishing industry. Even if they wanted to take their boats out in mid-January, when the ice is four feet thick, workers could not work in those conditions.

    Tourism is another seasonal industry. I must say that the people in the regions are doing an amazing job at trying to develop the concept of year-round tourism.

    We could also talk about work in forestry. To meet the needs of our sawmills and pulp mills, small black or grey spruce that help regenerate the forest need to be planted and planted again. However, they cannot be planted when the snow is four feet deep.

    When I went to the opening of a new peat bog in Sainte-Thérèse-de-Colombier, I had the opportunity to visit many others. I am sorry, but you cannot harvest peat when the snow is four feet deep.

    The job market in these regions consists in large part of seasonal work and that is the reality. Through the years the EI system has generated surpluses estimated by the Auditor General at $46.8 billion in 2003. This Liberal government, by the way, no longer deserves our confidence to govern. That is why a number of our fellow citizens are asking us to get rid of this government. It is not only corrupt, but also insensitive to the needs of the unemployed.

    Representatives of this government have come to meet the residents of the North Shore and Charlevoix only just before an election. They propose transitional measures and geographic programs that fail to consider the reality of unemployment in these regions. And so, they came to see us in 1997, again in 2000, yet again in June 2004, during the election campaigns to tell us that the government was going to address the issue of seasonal workers and have faith. However, once elected, the Liberals remain indifferent to the issue and absolutely refuse to address it.

    I want to take this opportunity to mention the efforts of the Mouvement Action-Chômage, which started in Charlevoix. I salute this initiative created by a slip of a woman, named Dany Harvey, who is the movement's coordinator, along with other people who contribute enormously to it. This movement in Charlevoix has led to more; there are now 14 such movements throughout Quebec.

    The North Shore has a group, too, whose president, Lyne Sirois of Portneuf-sur-Mer, is doing a fantastic job. These people are making do with limited means.

    Even the Sans-Chemise movement in Abitibi was visited by Canada Revenue Agency inspectors, who said it was not complying with its mission regarding charitable receipts. They threatened to pull the organization's subsidies and benefits in this regard.

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    It is indecent. This government is insensitive. Unfortunately, this is the reason workers become exasperated, take to the streets, and even block the main roads. No one condones that, but exasperation and disgust sometimes make us realize that something just has to be done.

    Last April, a year ago, we went to Forestville. It was literally shut down by the community, not only by the workers. Elected officials from all levels were present. Retailers closed up shop. A huge meeting was held at the Forestville church. The people marched, and their solidarity was apparent as they called on the government to wake up and do something because things could not stay the way they were.

    This is why the bill must be passed. I challenge the Liberal members from Quebec and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, who keeps saying she is aware of the situation of seasonal workers and the unemployed. Let her prove it, and let the Liberals vote with us.

    I put the challenge as well to Conservative members, who would not stop saying during the debates in the latest election that we did not have a monopoly on defending the unemployed, that they too were concerned. We will see what the Conservative members do. I hope there will not be a repeat of what happened to the motion of my colleague from Trois-Rivières last week, which was defeated with the support of the Liberals and the Conservatives.

    The Liberals and the Conservatives are two sides of the same coin. They make fine promises during the election campaign, but only the Bloc Québécois can defend the interests of Quebeckers. We have proven it.

    The aim of this bill is to keep the government from dipping into the employment insurance fund surplus, because that is theft. The surpluses do not belong to it. The Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Finance, was a champion at dipping into the EI fund. He bragged about his government's eliminating the deficit, which had been $42 billion under the Conservatives. He has the gall to brag about the $12 billion surpluses annually. It is indecent.

    He has robbed the provinces with the fiscal imbalance and dipped into the EI fund to finance his deficit. This means that the unemployed should be the ones boasting about reducing Canada's deficit.

    This bill is designed to prevent the government from dipping into the surpluses. After all, this money does not belong to the government; it belongs to the workers as well as the employers and the entrepreneurs who pay premiums.

    When we visit an industrial park, people there tell us they hope we are going to resolve the unemployment situation. We also tell business people that they too are being robbed, because part of what is in the EI fund came from them.

    If the fund were managed by an independent committee and the surpluses remained in the fund, by the end of any given fiscal year, we could say that, next year, we are going to pull up our socks and take a serious look at the situation of seasonal workers. Another year, or later that year, we could look into the situation of young people, women and older workers. These are all groups which are penalized under the current employment insurance plan.

    The fact of the matter is that this is not an employment insurance plan, but an unemployment insurance plan. Those who are covered by this plan are not sure of getting a job, but one thing is certain: they are unemployed. To add insult to injury, only 40% of those who contribute qualify for benefits.

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    So, on top of being robbed because of the system, when the time comes to claim benefits, we are told that the system will not pay.

    What would we call an insurance company that refuses to pay after you lost all your belongings in a fire, saying it will only pay after a second fire? We would call it a blasted thief. That is how the government is behaving.

    Let us pass this bill, pull up our socks and look into the situation of seasonal workers, young people, women and older workers. That is what we are calling for, and I challenge the two other parties to vote for this bill.

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    Mr. Gérard Asselin (Manicouagan, BQ): Mr. Speaker, as the member for Manicouagan, it was a pleasure for me to be able to defend the interests of the unemployed by introducing Bill C-280. During the election campaign, the Bloc Québécois made a commitment to defend the interests of Quebec. To do that, however, one must first focus on defending the interests of the regions, the seasonal workers, the casual workers and those who work on call.

    The Bloc Québécois made that commitment during its campaign, which was specifically that its members, once elected to the House of Commons, would introduce a bill on an independent EI fund. They also promised to speak on behalf of the workers.

    This is diametrically opposite to the objective of the Liberal Party, which is to get $6 billion yearly out of the employment insurance fund in order to reduce its deficit. This has been the situation since 1993, first with Jean Chrétien and now with the former Minister of Finance, as well as at the time of the Axworthy reform in 1994.

    As my colleague for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord pointed out, four people in ten who pay premiums think they are insured against the loss or termination of work, but they are not. New arrivals on the labour market are told they need 910 hours to qualify for EI. In the Bloc, we know that, with $4.8 billion annually and an accumulated surplus of $46.8 billion, the EI fund can be improved.

    The Bloc Québécois proposes eliminating the two week waiting period, lowering the eligibility requirement to 360 hours for all contributors, and abolishing the gap, in other words, increasing the number of insurable weeks. The government has the money it needs to do so.

    At this time of year, when people do their tax returns, seasonal workers on the north shore, in Charlevoix and throughout Quebec have to return money to the federal Liberal government coffers, even if they work only five or six months a year.

    With the sponsorship scandal and the waste of public money, it is shameful to think that the Liberals will find a candidate in the next election campaign to defend the Liberal government's positions on the management of public funds and the EI fund.

    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that a person from that party would dare run in your riding or mine. It is a corrupt party without soul or conscience, capable of appropriating money from seasonal and casual and those who work on call to manage what I call a disguised tax.

    As I was saying, four in ten who contribute to employment insurance benefit from it. That is 40%. All of them contribute, and only four people draw benefits. According to the statistics, the six who do not qualify for benefits are primarily young people and women. It is a disguised tax. Workers pay for insurance in the event of a loss or termination of employment.

    A unanimous report by a House committee, composed of Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois members, proposes eight recommendations with regard to the creation of an independent fund.

    We shall see their true nature during the vote. We really hope that the Liberal members, if they do not intend to continue to “govern” using the contributions of seasonal workers and at the