House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was program.

Topics

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Red Deer on November 15, 1994 concerning media disclosure of portions of the content of the report of the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canada's Foreign Policy prior to the report's presentation to the House.

I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands for his intervention.

I wish to state at the outset that I view such matters very seriously, and I expect all members to do the same. The work of committees is very important and can only be successful if members can function knowing that their deliberations in the preparation of their reports can be kept confidential until presented in the House. All those involved in committee activity must know that they, along with the members of the committee, bear the responsibility to ensure that such committee matters are kept confidential.

If our parliamentary system is to work efficiently and effectively committee members must be able to function without the fear that the fruits of their investigations will be disseminated to the public before they have been finalized and before the House has had an opportunity to see the product of their labours. This is why committee reports are confidential until tabled and why to break this confidentiality is a breach of privilege. This is not a new problem and as the hon. member for Red Deer noted I have commented on it in this session.

The hon. member quite rightly pointed out referring to citation 877(1) of Beauchesne's sixth edition that the premature disclosure of a committee report constitutes a breach of privilege.

This unauthorized release of committee information is indeed a contempt of Parliament. I must therefore commend the hon. member for having respected our traditions by refraining from commenting on the report before it was presented to the House. However now that the report has been tabled the member will have opportunities both inside and outside the House to explain his party's views on the contents of the report and to correct any misconceptions which may have been formed by the member's silence.

The member has also cited section (2) of Beauchesne citation 877 which notes that for a question of privilege to be prima facie in these circumstances, it must be more specific that a blanket accusation against the publication of a confidential document by the press. This citation is based on an extensive ruling given by Speaker Jerome on June 23, 1977 at pages 1203 to 1210 of the Journals .

I appreciate the hon. member's attempt to tie his argument to this portion of the citation. However, in carefully reading Speaker Jerome's ruling, it is clear that the point he was trying to make, and this is important for us today, was that it is necessary to look at our conduct in this matter. This, I feel, can only be done if specific allegations are raised about the conduct of a specific individual or group of individuals, as the Speaker ruled in 1977. Indeed, when similar matters have come before the House in recent years, most notably in 1987 and 1988, the practice has been to pursue the issue only when a specific individual can be cited.

In 1987 it was alleged that a member revealed information about in camera committee proceedings. The committee in question reviewed the matter and upon its reporting to the House the Speaker found the incident to be a prima facie question of privilege. The matter was referred to the then Standing Committee on Elections, Privileges and Procedure for examination.

The 1988 case involved the leaking of information to the media concerning a draft report of the Standing Committee on Finance. An unnamed employee of the member was found to have released the information but the issue was resolved by members of the committee who brought the matter to the attention of the House by way of a question of privilege. At that

time Speaker Fraser ruled that the issue had been dealt with by the committee and there was therefore not a prima facie question of privilege.

This said, as the hon. member for Red Deer has not made allegations against any particular individual I must state that at this time I am unable to accept this matter as a prima facie question of privilege. We are nonetheless faced with a very serious matter, for leaks of committee reports are not to be treated lightly.

As all members are aware the Speaker is loath to intervene in committee matters. Difficulties arising in committee are traditionally brought to the attention of the House by way of a report from the committee. In circumstances similar to those currently before us a standing committee might decide to examine the matter of a breach of confidentiality and make a report to the House.

The matter before us however is quite different for here we are dealing with a special joint committee which has tabled its final report. It has traditionally been interpreted that once a special committee tables its final report the committee ceases to exist.

As I stated earlier, while I do not find that there is a prima facie question of privilege, the seriousness of a leak of confidential committee information should not go unchallenged. Should the House consent to have the question of premature disclosure of the committee report examined, there is nothing to prevent the House from doing so by way of a special order of reference to a committee.

The matter of confidentiality is one of great importance to the House and I remind all members of their responsibility to ensure that confidential proceedings and reports of committees remain so.

The House resumed from November 17 consideration of the motion.

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10:10 a.m.

Vancouver South
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to be speaking on social security review and particularly on the unemployment program.

Before I do that I would like to say that the social security review is very timely for Canadians. It is very important for government and for all members of Parliament to look at it. Too often governments bring in programs or legislation which become obsolete and do not reflect the realities as some of our social security programs do, but do not get examined with the promptness they should.

I am glad we are looking at the whole social security program for a variety of reasons. One is that some programs were brought in some 40 years ago. The economic realities have changed. The family structure has changed. The social circumstances have changed and our fiscal situation has changed. The global economy in terms of the types of jobs out there has changed. The demands on our business communities have changed. All of those changes result in the type of social security program we need that will take us into the next century and which will take into consideration the new realities we face.

The social security review is very timely. It is important that Canadians are participating in ensuring the type of programs we come up with will be sustainable, affordable and effective. With the input of Canadians and other members of Parliament we will be able to put together that type of program.

For now I am pleased to have the opportunity to explain the government's idea for renewal of our unemployment insurance program presented in the recent supplementary paper on UI. I am sure hon. members appreciate it is a key component in the reform of our social security system. The UI program has served us well, but because of the structural changes to the economy there are now numerous situations in which the program no longer does what it was originally intended to do.

The UI program was created to provide workers with temporary income support between jobs, but the program no longer adequately addresses the changing nature of employment. Today many workers use it to supplement their income. That was not and is not its purpose. Workers and employers finance UI through their contributions.

It is simply costing too much. For example in 1980 the program cost $4.4 billion. Last year it cost $19.7 billion. We cannot allow this escalation in UI costs to continue. The government is proposing that we spend more wisely. Often some people think that sometimes the more money thrown at a program, the better the program gets. We realize that what we have to do is spend more smartly and wisely. Our emphasis is to shift UI funds from income support to investing in helping people obtain jobs and become self-reliant.

Some hon. members will ask about the seasonal workers. Seasonal workers make up about 40 per cent of UI clients and as much as 60 per cent of frequent claimants. Government recognizes it must address their specific circumstances and we are doing that.

The Minister of Human Resources Development has established a working group on seasonal workers and UI. It is consulting with other stakeholders to come up with innovative ways to address the needs of seasonal industries. That includes reducing their frequent dependency on the UI program.

We know people need experience in the workplace. Therefore, to help people gain the experience and training required to keep a job, the government is testing new approaches such as community projects that offer work experience or earning supplements or assistance to entrepreneurs who wish to start their own businesses. The reason for that is quite straightforward. The government's top priority is to ensure a climate for continuing job creation.

In the past year there have been 275,000 new jobs created. We want to keep the momentum going. One way of doing that will be through the reduced premium rates that will result from UI reform.

As hon. members know, in 1995 we have already announced a premium reduction from 3.07 to 3.00. Estimates indicate that this reduction will help create or preserve jobs. We are proposing to keep moving in that direction.

Another idea presented in the discussion paper regarding UI eligibility is the possibility of income testing, but this would apply only to people who use UI frequently.

We need to use our limited resources to help those most in need. I wonder if hon. members realize that in 1991, 18 per cent of frequent claimants had incomes of over $50,000. An additional 28 per cent had family incomes ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. The benefits received by frequent claimants go beyond insurance. They are more like supplementary income. The system can no longer support this misuse of funds.

Some hon. members have expressed understandable concern about the effects of UI reform in Atlantic Canada. Atlantic Canadians are a proud people and we have to take measures to help them generate economic and social renewal. That is not just the government's opinion. Last year an Environics poll indicated that 60 per cent of all Atlantic residents acknowledged that the current UI program acts as a disincentive to finding work. Not only that but the Atlantic premiers stated that easy access to unemployment insurance benefits has created an economic malaise in the region.

The strategy the government is recommending for Atlantic Canada is consistent with our general approach for the rest of the country and that is to invest in people through employment development services. This is the positive approach that will help Atlantic Canadians to get and keep satisfying jobs.

Because of the changing nature of employment that I spoke of earlier, we no longer have any choice but to respond to the growth of non-standard work. I am referring to part timers, the self-employed, temporary workers and people with multiple jobs. Last year more than 60 per cent of all new jobs were part time. Many of those workers were not fully covered or not covered at all. We must address their needs.

We are currently experimenting with initiatives such as earning supplements and consolidation of hours for UI insurability. The government is determined to find effective solutions to help all Canadians move toward long lasting self-sufficiency.

As well, concerns have been expressed that employment development services will be too costly to offer to everyone who might want to use them. However, everything is not going to happen at once. We can meet the needs of some people through less expensive programs. I am thinking of such measures as wage subsidies, earning supplementation and assistance in searching for a job. Training capacity will be expanded gradually and eventually everyone interested will have access to employment development services.

UI reform is not going to happen overnight. First we have to gather input from all Canadians on this process. The Standing Committee on Human Resources Development is currently travelling across Canada listening to the views of a wide variety of Canadians. The committee will be reporting its findings and we will have to evaluate the various ideas to determine what is feasible and what is the best way to structure a new program.

Having done all that, major changes to the UI system would be phased in over a number of years. Everyone affected would have adequate time to adjust. The exact timing might use the three and five rule. That means if changes are implemented in 1995 the new program would not be fully operational until 1998. The timeframe will depend on the complexities of the changes.

The key to successful reform of our unemployment insurance program will be to strike an appropriate balance between UIC's role as a temporary income support and its broader social role, to redistribute income and address narrowing regional disparities.

The government will take an approach that is mindful of just how significant UI is in many provinces and in the lives of many people. We will not pull support from under anyone and leave him or her high and dry. But we will devise and implement a more flexible system, one that encourages adjustment and generates a climate for job creation and growth, a system that helps people to help themselves become self-supporting and contributing members of Canadian society.

I invite all hon. colleagues to join the government in this crucial undertaking.

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10:20 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of the hon. member about the future of the UI system and the review of social policy. I thank him for his comments.

I have a couple of questions for him. He mentioned near the end of his presentation that the role of UI is to redistribute wealth and be a tool of regional development. Could he clarify if that should be the role of UI or whether it should really be an insurance type program for the temporary loss of employment? I personally do not see it as a tool to redistribute wealth, nor is it a particularly effective tool for regional development.

I would bring to his attention the figures which came out last week. They pointed out that the dollars contributed to the UI program and the ones paid out of the program in British Columbia are almost a one to one ratio. In Alberta they get short changed considerably. I think they get 76 cents paid back for every dollar they contribute. In the Atlantic provinces it is as high as five to one. Right now UI is being used as a tool to redistribute wealth. I wonder if the member wants that to continue? Does he think that is a valid role?

Could he also tell me if he thinks the qualification period for UI should be standardized across the country? Should it be the same in the member's riding as it in Chicoutimi or Gander? Should there be a standardized qualification period?

If he could answer those few questions for me for clarification, I would appreciate it.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Fraser Valley East for taking an interest in this. I have often visited his riding, which has many farming communities, and I know many people in his riding. I know his area has a particular interest in this review, because there are many seasonal workers in his riding.

Let me try to address his two questions, first of all in terms of the broader goals of redistribution involved.

We want standards right across the nation. We do not want tremendous poverty in one province and tremendous wealth in another province. We want to be able to deal with the regional disparity. We want to make sure that where help is needed to create employment, to develop better employment programs, that we respond as a nation, that we respond to areas that are having greater economic difficulty than those with economic prosperity.

That is what makes this country so great, that we want to deal with those issues. We want to deal with the regional disparities that exist across the country. We do not want to say that if a certain part of the country has a much lower standard of living than other parts that we do not really care. That is not what this is all about. As a country we must care for Canadians no matter where they live and ensure that we have basic standards right across the country, including employment opportunities.

In terms of the requirements for stamps to collect UIC, this must be looked at once again. Different areas of the country have different needs and those regional needs reflect the UI reform program. Just as in the hon. member's riding there are different needs, we have to look at the needs of seasonal workers and respond to them as well. One of the ways we can respond, as stated in our discussion paper, is to have a two tier program, a basic insurance program and an adjustment insurance program. Those people who use UI more frequently perhaps should be treated differently in terms of the premiums or of the benefits they receive, as opposed to those who have the basic insurance program.

I hope that deals somewhat with the questions of the hon. member.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Vancouver South for his informative remarks.

I also want to take this moment to thank the member for York North who in his capacity as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Human Resources Development is criss-crossing this great country visiting in ridings at the invitation of members of Parliament and listening to the people, hearing from groups and organizations on the subject of this important social security review.

When in Hamilton just a couple of weeks ago to hear from Hamiltonians on this social security review, the member for York North and I heard from a dozen organizations, groups and individuals at the beautiful Hamilton Art Gallery. We repeatedly asked the question at the end of their representations: Is the status quo acceptable? In each and every case the answer we got back was no, it was not, no matter what organization, no matter what individual spoke.

There does need to be change. Our current programs, while necessary, are not effective. They are outdated and simply not working, not doing the job they were intended to do.

I want to ask the member for Vancouver South if this has been his experience when he has heard from the people, groups and organizations in his riding and across the country?

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Vancouver South, BC

I want to thank the hon. member for his question. Canadians I have talked to across the country recognize the need for change. They recognize there has to be a change made in the social security programs because they see that 450,000 parents are on single parent social assistance, and 90 per cent of them are women. That is a problem we have to deal with.

What does that say for the children? We have to deal with the situation. One child of every five children grows up in poverty. That is a problem we have to deal with. Mahatma Gandhi once said that poverty is the worst type of violence against an individual.

We have to deal with those issues under the social security programs. We know they are not working well because some of these problems would not exist if they were working. Our expenses on social assistance have continued to go up.

We have to look at why. We cannot just spend money. We have to get at the root of the problem and ensure that people have the training and the skills. We must take away the disincentives that stop them from getting gainful employment, that stop them from getting into the workforce. For example, we need more day care facilities so that we give people a path, a way to get out of the cycle of dependency, making them independent and self-reliant.

That is what social security reform is all about. It is giving those people an opportunity to be gainfully employed. We must tear down the barriers that stop them from seeking gainful employment and take away the disincentives so that they do have an opportunity. They want to work. They are not interested in staying on social assistance. The system does not let them come back.

Those are the things that Canadians are looking for. Canadians are telling us yes, we need to change the system and we need to look at the way we do things because there is a better way. That is what we are searching for.

I thank the hon. member for a very good question.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

André Caron Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with a colleague from the Bloc Quebecois; after that, all the speakers for the Bloc will do the same.

For several days now, I have been hearing the arguments put forward by the proponents of the social security reform presented by the Minister of Human Resources Development. We are told that, in Canada, we need to reform social security. It is obvious that no matter what the field, the status quo is usually not acceptable. Society changes, ideas evolve. We must always look at the results of a given situation and see if it can be improved.

You can be sure that a Bloc Quebecois member who, with a sovereignist agenda, is proposing a radical reform of the geopolitical situation in Canada, is not going to oppose change. Obviously not.

Therefore, by definition, Bloc members do not object to a review or a reform of Canadian social programs. However, what we particularly question is the underlying ideology as well as the motives for the reform.

A reform aimed at improving the system? Perfect! We could not agree more. But a reform to impose a new way of life, a reform aimed at cutting government expenditures in a roundabout way at the expense of the poorest members of society, we say no to that.

Let us look at the ideological nature of the reform presented to us. As you know, for the past 10 to 15 years, in the Western World, we have witnessed the revival of the old neo-liberalism, that is to say, the rule of the market, the law of the jungle, so to speak. We were told that individuals must take care of themselves and be responsible for themselves. If they get rich, it is to their credit; if they are poor, well, it is their own fault. This ideology was dominant during the 19th century.

Throughout the 20th century, people who pondered the fate of the poorest members of society as well as workers who organized, took issue over this type of society. They fought to obtain rights. These rights were hard won, they were not vested rights. People fought for better wages and living conditions, and for adequate social security against illness, accidents, old age and unemployment.

In my view, the bill before us today calls into question these hard won social rights, the social model that has existed in Western Europe and Canada for fifty years now.

The first attack on the social framework created in recent decades took place in Britain fifteen years ago. That country dismantled its social security system.

Those in favour of the move told us that the British economy would only benefit. Fifteen years later, this is not immediately apparent. What we see is more poverty and people with less social security. What we do not see are newspaper articles telling us that economists, businessmen and politicians from around the world are flocking to Britain to study the extraordinary success of the British model.

Fifteen years later, there is some doubt about the results. What is certain, however, is that the very people who needed social security are less well off than they were fifteen years ago.

What I personally see behind this reform is the trend in Western society, driven by the new neo-liberal ideology, to question social security systems. When I look at the documents published in support of the reform, I see detailed analyses, statistical and economic arguments, and a highly developed theoretical framework. This is not the kind of thing that can be done within six, four or two months. I suggest that this is the

kind of reform Ms. Campbell would have proposed if she had won the last election. The same philosophy underpins the whole reform effort.

Another reason why I do not find the government's intentions very credible, although some members seem sincere in defending the system, is that this reform is based on the premise that government expenditures must be cut.

We are told that Canada's debt is enormous. Everyone agrees, but when we look at the debt, we must think in terms of assets and liabilities. On the liabilities side, we are told that our debt is getting larger every second, every minute, every day. True, but what about our national wealth? We are told that the debt now amounts to 100 per cent of GDP. According to some economists, our national wealth adds up to 900 per cent of GDP. This means that Canada's economy as a whole is comprised of both debts and assets. We have different kinds of debts.

Our debt includes not only the Prime Minister's limo and cook but also infrastructure, educational, health and investment expenditures. Any businessman will tell you that a loan taken out for investment purposes generates wealth down the line; it is not the same as money borrowed to pay for groceries.

Those who invoke the national debt to justify all the cutbacks, to justify all kinds of measures that will ultimately hurt the less fortunate in our society, should at some point be honest enough to show us the whole picture.

If they had told us that they would undertake a reform and if, after consultations with Parliament and with Canadians, they realized that the same amount should be spent on social security in Canada, I think that it would have been easier for me to agree that something must be done, that we would have been more willing to review the situation in Canada. But that is not what happened.

The Minister of Finance told us that $7, $8 or $9 billion had to be cut from all social programs. I have started consulting Canadians in my riding. I sent the paper on the reform to 200 people who are interested in social issues and I scheduled meetings where we can discuss exactly what is going on with this reform. If you tell people at the beginning, "We are consulting you but you should know at the start that we must make deep cuts in social security spending", people will then ask if they are really being consulted and whether the decision has not already been made.

To conclude, I will say something about unemployment insurance. I read the document on unemployment insurance which says that we should move from unemployment insurance to employment insurance. But I have the feeling that a qualitative analysis of the system was done. I do not have much time, but I will try to talk about my two concerns at the end of my speech. The first thing is that I feel we accept the high unemployment rate. The unemployed and unemployment are seen as a problem, but we do not realize that the problem is not unemployment and the unemployed; it is employment.

I wish that the documents which the Liberal government presented to us showed this concern for employment in Canada. I would like to see commissions of inquiry travelling around to talk about jobs with Canadians and not just about cuts, difficulties and debts. We must take a positive attitude to this whole question of social security and realize that if people work, they pay taxes, and the country can distribute this tax revenue throughout society, especially to the most disadvantaged people.

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10:40 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his speech.

That is as much as I will try this morning. I'm working on it and it will come along, I'm sure.

I would like to comment on two or three points that the member raised. I have not heard in the House for some time if ever phrases such as the neo-conservative outlook and so on. I thought a lot of those comments had gone with the demise of the NDP. I had hoped that a lot of those phrases had gone into the past.

There are two or three things I would like him to comment on. One is that we should not worry so much about the debt, that the debt and deficit are not a serious concern. He feels it is like a businessman who is investing in the future. I would point out to him first of all that no businessman is afraid of borrowing but a businessman is frequently afraid of borrowing year after year because of the inevitability of what that means. It means he will go broke.

I would ask the hon. member to comment on how long he thinks it is good to borrow, if he thinks we should continue to go in debt indefinitely or whether there should be an end in sight.

Second, as an example of what will happen if we do not control this debt and deficit, I ask him to look at today's Globe and Mail . There is an article about the fact that Ontario is now being forced to search out niche markets to sell its bonds. This year it has gone to a 40-year bond option because no one will buy the 30-year bond. It is looking for tiny markets, tiny being $800 million this year, niche markets where it can sell more bonds. It is having trouble selling its bonds which means it is having trouble financing its debt.

Every year that goes by that we continually go in debt makes it difficult to the point at which our wealthiest or at least our biggest province is now having to search out niche markets to sell bonds. I find that incredible.

I would like the hon. member to comment on how long he thinks a country, province, or any organization should continue to go in debt and why he thinks that Canada, Quebec or any region is immune from market forces, in other words the forces which say it is going to be increasingly hard to finance that debt.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

André Caron Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and his question. Obviously, everyone is affected by market forces. However, when you are in debt, you usually try to figure out why. The last thing you cut is the money required for children and needy members of the family.

Instead, you start by not going out as much and by cutting into the least useful expenditures. I do not think that the federal government has done that. When we first came to the House of Commons we asked for a review of all public spending, but this was not done. We were told that the standing committees could conduct such an exercise. A year later, it has become obvious that these committees will not do that.

The federal government must first tighten its belt, before telling Canadians to do so. If the Prime Minister starts taking a taxi or a bus to get to work, then I might say that efforts are being made at every level of the government administration to reduce spending. However, as long as the Prime Minister has a cook costing taxpayers $50,000 a year, as well as a limousine, bodyguards, a residence and a very nice office, the federal government should take a close look at the situation before trying to make cuts and deprive Canadians of the basics.

If the government does conduct a review of its spending, then it will have the necessary credibility to make cuts and suggest new ways of doing things. Until then, the government and those who propose reforms have very little credibility.

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10:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I see the member for Nepean rising. Just as a matter of explanation, Bloc members have indicated that they were splitting their time so there will be two speakers from the official opposition.

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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, upon opening the Green Paper, entitled Improving Social Security in Canada , I read the following, and I quote: ``Canada's social security programs are envied throughout the world. They have helped make life better for generations of Canadians. But they have not kept pace with a changing world, and now many Canadians are falling through the cracks. Too many people find themselves having to use Unemployment Insurance time and time again. And they stay unemployed too long. Too many people are stuck on social assistance. Too many of our children live in poverty''.

The Green Paper goes on to say that last year, 13 per cent of all unemployed Canadians had been out of work for a year or more. Furthermore, and I quote: "Our employment programs do not do enough to help the unemployed adjust to change and find new jobs. One in five Canadian children is growing up poor". The Green Paper is full of such statements that point to the failure of federal social security programs.

When the federal government tabled its reform package, which was supposed to be a Liberal masterpiece, one would have expected, first of all, that it would take a responsible approach by identifying real problems that create poverty, so as to provide the appropriate solutions. Second, that the federal government would protect the most vulnerable members of our society and concentrate on job creation. Third, that the federal Liberals would take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate that federalism works, by reacting favourably and positively to the broad consensus in Quebec on manpower training.

Unfortunately, they did not. As usual, the Liberal federal government introduced a centralist Green Paper that blithely encroaches on areas of provincial jurisdiction and, on top of that, aims to reduce the deficit at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society. Since my time is limited, I will touch briefly on three aspects of particular concern to me: unemployment insurance, post-secondary education and child tax benefits.

The Green Paper on social security reform admits that job programs have failed to deliver. These programs are often poorly adapted and easily abused, according to the Green Paper.

The federal government is therefore proposing various options for unemployment insurance reform. A proposal to reduce the amount of unemployment insurance benefits for low-income individuals would, according to the Quebec Minister responsible for Income Security, put an additional 40,000 Quebec households on welfare.

The federal government's proposal to raise the number of weeks required to establish eligibility for the Unemployment Insurance Program from 12 to 14 would cost the Quebec Treasury close to $28 million and cause an additional 3,275 households to join the ranks of those already dependent on Quebec's income security program.

A second proposal concerning unemployment insurance would create two classes of unemployed: frequent claimants and occasional claimants. Frequent claimants are people who claim unemployment insurance benefits three times within five years. The minister's Green Paper even considers them on a par with people who abuse the system.

This is what the document says, and I quote: "The program is easily abused. Some workers and employers plan their work schedules around the UI program-alternating employment with UI benefits as a way of life. As a result, workers and employers in some industries subsidize those in other industries who use UI regularly".

Some new terms have been added, such as adjustment insurance, which is intended for frequent UI claimants. It states that while these benefits might be lower than basic coverage, more support would be provided to recipients to find work.

What a novel idea, Mr. Speaker! The Quebec minister responsible for income security described this measure as despicable. To reduce benefits paid to workers, using as an excuse the fact that, in return, they will be trained for jobs that do not exist anyway, that is beyond all understanding. We all know that, in regions where the economy depends on seasonal activity, we do not need training programs that lead to non-employment, but a radical restructuring of the economy.

What makes these proposals even less acceptable is the very fact that the very job development program, or JDP, put in place by the federal government has undergone major cuts over the past two years. In Rimouski for example, the JDP budget was reduced by 30 per cent in two years, from $1,275,000 to $790,000, in spite of the fact that the rate of unemployment remained high and relatively the same in the Lower St. Lawrence region.

In sum, the federal government is penalizing seasonal workers and has once again failed to seize a golden opportunity to demonstrate that federalism could be profitable.

For the sake of the 800,000 Quebecers who are out of work, with respect to unemployment and manpower, the government could have acted on the motion that was carried unanimously at the Quebec National Assembly on April 14, requesting that Mr. Jean Chrétien and the federal Liberal government respect the unanimous consensus on the need for Quebec to have exclusive jurisdiction over manpower training.

It would be too easy to make Canada work. In its Machiavellian plan, the government decided instead to lead the people to believe that the big bad separatists are to blame for all our problems. It does not show, but the government is actually increasing overlap and duplication, which is unacceptable in times of fiscal restraint, especially as the major part of the proposed reform represents federal encroachment on a provincial jurisdiction. Unemployment benefits are being cut while the public service grows and the number of disputes between the two levels of government increases.

There are approximately 150 manpower training programs run by about 10 Quebec and federal government departments. Some of these programs often have several components. So how can we expect unemployed people from Montreal, Rimouski or Hull to sort out this mess?

The government is not doing much better for our post-secondary institutions, since it proposes replacing cash transfer payments with a new student loan program.

This decision by the federal government would leave the Quebec government with a $300-million shortfall, which would have to be made up elsewhere.

The main consequence of this proposal would be a major hike in tuition fees. The rector of McGill University did not hesitate to say that his institution's tuition fees could reach up to $8,000 a year. It goes without saying that this measure would restrict access to higher education, especially among the poor.

As far as child benefits are concerned, the government admitted its failure by reminding us that one child in five, in Canada, lives in poverty. To address this problem, the green paper suggests among other things redirecting middle-class family benefits to less fortunate families. This measure-it must be reiterated-encroaches on an area of provincial jurisdiction. It also thrusts into poverty middle-class families forced to shoulder an excessive part of the deficit burden.

All that the government has put on the table so far to reduce the deficit spares the rich and is designed to impoverish the Canadian middle class and to bring misery to those of us already living in poverty. This, in due time, will be remembered by everyone.

What the Minister of Human Resources Development proposes is not a matter of reform but of shovelling part of the federal deficit into the provinces' back yards.

So I leave the last word to Pierre Graveline, who in Le Devoir on October 20 summarized the goals pursued by the Minister of Human Resources Development in his reform of social programs thus: ``The Axworthy reform pursues two contradictory objectives at the same time: maintain and strengthen Ottawa's presence everywhere without giving an inch to Quebec, while significantly reducing social spending in order to slow the alarming growth in the federal debt''.

Therefore, you will understand that, like my colleagues, I oppose the minister's motion, which reads:

-take note of the progress made to date on the government's forthcoming reform of social security programs and of the views expressed by Canadians with regard to this reform.

Social Security Program
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata will have five minutes for questions and comments after Question Period.

It being 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5) the House will now proceed to Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Tripartite Air Study
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Transport has embarked on a tripartite air study which will focus on the government's new national airports policy, the status of bilateral air negotiations with the United States, and the proposed commercialization of the air navigation system.

The future management and ownership of Canadian airports and their ability to compete depend upon the successful implementation of the national airports policy. Furthermore the successful conclusion of a new, more open bilateral air agreement with the United States and the modernization of the air navigation system are crucial to the future viability and competitiveness of our airport system.

As chairperson of the Standing Committee on Transport, I encourage all my colleagues in the House to inform the individuals and organizations involved in airport operations in various ridings across the country of our public committee hearings on the tripartite air study.

Eastern Quebec Development Plan
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I denounce the inertia of the present government, which is not keeping its commitments and its election promises. It promised to maintain and extend the Eastern Quebec Development Plan until 1998.

For months, things have been dragging out. This government's lack of leadership is creating an untenable and discouraging situation for the 5,800 forestry workers in eastern Quebec and the Gaspé. They want to work. This government, which clamored "jobs, jobs" during the election campaign, now refuses to give real support to those who want to work.

This government does not give a damn about rural communities and it is taking the forestry workers hostage. When will it give an answer? It should be as soon as possible.