House of Commons Hansard #254 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cmhc.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from my constituents concerning the methods our government might use in the area of furniture moving.

The petitioners indicate a concern that the proposed method, if adopted, could indicate that one company would have the entire system of moving furniture for all governmental departments. They petition that the former system, the one that has been in place for some years, be continued and that all companies across Canada be given some portion of that movement.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present another 1,239 names to the tens of thousands of signatures already submitted.

These 1,239 signatures represent people from across the country who are asking that Parliament enact legislation against serious personal injury crimes being committed by high risk offenders by permitting the use of post-sentence detention orders and specifically by passing Bill C-240.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Tom Wappel Scarborough West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition this afternoon signed by a number of people from all across Canada.

The petitioners pray that Parliament act immediately to extend protection to the unborn child by amending the Criminal Code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

November 3rd, 1995 / 12:05 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: Question No. 209.

Question No. 209-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

With respect of the Department of National Defence's white paper promise to purchase new search and rescue and shipborne helicopters, ( a ) does the government intend to purchase one helicopter for both roles or two, ( b ) what is the total amount of money the government is allotting to the purchase of new search and rescue and shipborne helicopters, ( c ) over how many years will the new search and rescue and shipborne helicopters be purchased, ( d ) how much money will be allotted annually to a program to purchase new search and rescue and shipborne helicopters ( e ) is the government considering purchasing a scaled down version of the EH-101 and if so will companies awarded penalties due to the cancellation of the former government's EH-101 Program be getting new contracts?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

With respect to the purchase of new search and rescue and shipborne helicopters, the Minister of National Defence has not yet brought recommendations to his colleagues. Therefore it is premature to state what the government's intentions will be with respect to these projects.

Question Passed As Order For Return
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 208 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Question No. 208-

Question Passed As Order For Return
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

With respect to the decision by the government to cancel the EH-101 Program, ( a ) what is the total cancellation cost the government must assume including (i) penalties paid to contracted companies, (ii) research and development costs incurred by the government, ( b ) what was the total cost the former government had allotted to spend on the EH-101 acquisition program including spare parts and pilot training and ( c ) how much was to be spent annually on the EH-101 Program during the lifetime of the program?

Return tabled.

Question Passed As Order For Return
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question Passed As Order For Return
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is that agreed?

Question Passed As Order For Return
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act. I am speaking on behalf of the member for Comox-Alberni, the Reform critic for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

This is actually a very brief bill and its intent is quite simply explained. Bill C-108 proposes to increase the aggregate amount of outstanding CMHC loan insurance from $100 billion to $150 billion, plus any additional amounts that may be authorized by Parliament. That means that CMHC's liability limit will be increased by $50 billion. That is billions, not millions-fifty thousand million dollars, a huge increase over the present liabilities.

I am not surprised that the Bloc would support such an increase in liabilities. It really thinks it is getting something for nothing. It thinks money grows on trees. The fact is it is a much more complex situation than that.

There are many areas of concern that are raised by this bill, concerns that are being voiced by Canadians right now. It surprises me that given the nature of this bill the government is not listening to those concerns. On second thought, maybe it is not such a surprise, given the history of the government so far.

Canadians are already very concerned about the current debt load. They are carrying that debt load and it is creating an inability for them to move forward financially or personally because of high taxes. Every way they turn they are being taxed over and over. There is no room to move. Pretty soon there will not be much left to tax.

The bill does nothing to halt the trend to ever bigger government and increasing public liabilities. It appears that the government is willing to gamble taxpayers' dollars at a time when the present debt is already more than $564 billion and climbing by $100 million every day.

Increasing the liability limit for insuring mortgages is nothing more than government speculation without any money. It is a trend that has been going on in other departments and it really must come to an end. The Liberal government has borrowed more than $80 billion in the first two years of its mandate, and it is continuing to spend beyond its means. This year alone the government had to borrow another $32 billion.

CMHC finances are actuarially accounted for every 20 years, so the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation does not know what its ultimate liability will be or what it really has outstanding right now. Bill C-108 should be of great concern to all Canadians, who can clearly see that the government is continuing to spend well beyond its means and incurring liabilities that on a standard accounting balance sheet would show that we are actually in very deep trouble.

By increasing Canada's liabilities we are increasing our risks. Although Bill C-108 does not ask for actual cash per se, it is increasing the liability, which will in the end cost taxpayers a tremendous amount of money if there is a major default. Loans and mortgages are not guaranteed; they can fall back on the government and lead to a further lowering of Canada's international standing and raise the overall debt.

Canadians are already staggering under an oppressive tax burden. They do not need government to dig them a deeper hole. They want to get out of the hole, as proven by the types of provincial governments they have been electing of late.

The government will not disclose its ongoing liability. I would like to see it publish a standard accounting style balance sheet once a year, as was done in New Zealand. Members know that I am originally from New Zealand. There is a law there that requires the government to actually print once a year all of its liabilities in standard accounting form. The first year the country did that, it discovered there was a negative worth in the country and it had to cancel a lot of the liabilities.

If standard accounting practices were used here in Canada to show the liabilities, we would probably find a network of debt and liabilities all strung together in a way that would be completely unacceptable and illegal probably in the private sector.

It certainly appears the government does not know how large the liabilities will be 10 or 15 years from now. Yet it is continuing to increase that liability load on us. This trend of increasing government liabilities across the board will only lead to the government overextending itself, to the detriment of taxpayers who bear the burden of the national debt.

Last week on television the Prime Minister spoke from Montreal with desperate pleas to Canada and promises to Quebec that the Liberal government would make changes if Quebec would stay in Canada. Yet it is ironic that on the eve of the Quebec referendum the government had the gall to table this bill. While the Prime Minister was in Montreal making overtures of a new and decentralized federal government, at the very same time his representatives in Ottawa were tabling a bill that takes us in exactly the opposite direction. So it should not be a surprise if Canadians find that the Prime Minister is trying to back down on his promise. Looking at this bill, it is obvious the government has no intention of decentralizing and that it really wants to cling to every piece of power it has.

When asked about promises of decentralization, all the Prime Minister could say is: "That is going to require a lot more thought and discussion, but I am sure there is going to be some of that". Some of that-what does that mean? Has the government not learned anything from the Quebec result? Did it not do any forward planning? Demands for decentralization are being heard across the country. They did not start with the Quebec referendum; they were there long before that. It takes a major crisis of unity in the country before the government will even begin to address the problems.

When asked about what degree of decentralization the government was considering, the Prime Minister responded that he did not know at this point in time. He did not know. More waffling as usual. Canadians are getting pretty tired of all the waffling from the Liberal Party.

The answer is right here in this bill. The government does not want to decentralize. It is looking to strengthen its federal control. Canadians are not going to tolerate the double talk for too long. Misrepresentation of intent from the government can be seen in the changes that are now sweeping the country at the political level.

The Liberal government's response to Canadians' desire for change has been totally inadequate to say the least. The status quo has got to go if we are going to move forward as a nation.

There was an example today in question period when we asked yet again about the Young Offenders Act. We have been asking week after week after week for two years and the government has done nothing to address the concerns of people. We still have these young punks out there who do not have their names or their pictures published. We have to get this government doing something for Canadians for a change.

Lingering uncertainty in Quebec continues to plague Canada's economic security. Only a few days ago it was reported in the newspapers that the bond raters are still uncertain about Canada's economic future because the Quebec situation remains unresolved. If the government cannot take steps to address the problems at hand, we are simply headed for more chaos.

The future financial stability of this country depends on how well this government addresses its fiscal problems. So far, the picture does not look very rosy. Canadians want a smaller federal government.

The minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation claims that his departments and responsibilities, including CMHC, are headed in that direction. However, this bill shows the federal government is actually moving in the opposite direction.

Instead of downsizing and moving away from the housing market, the government wants to put another $50 billion of mortgage liabilities on the backs of Canadian taxpayers. This will increase the federal role, not downsize it as the government claims. If the government is as committed to decentralization as it would want us to believe, then why is the minister responsible for the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation grabbing for more money?

The federal government must realign its responsibilities with other governments in this country and the time to start doing it is now. It is absolutely necessary that the government take steps in the right direction, not backward as it is doing with bills like this one. In the light of the disastrous campaign the government led during the referendum debate, it is a pity it has not learned any lessons.

Canadians are taxed to the hilt with all the levels of government they are financing. Not only are they paying for services whose needs are often questionable, but they are paying for the same services again and again through user fees, not just at the federal level but at the provincial and municipal levels as well.

The Reform Party proposed in its recent 20-point plan for decentralization to totally transfer over to the provinces a number of areas of operation at the federal level that are duplicated at the provincial level. Those areas illustrate mostly a federal level of meddling in affairs that are actually set under the Constitution to be provincial. The federal government is long overdue in getting out of those areas of provincial responsibility.

This is not the time for the government to put up its feet and relax because it thinks it won the Quebec debate. It is time for the government to start coming up with a plan that truly decentralizes. One of the things it could be doing is moving total responsibility for housing to the provincial level. If the government would come up with such a plan, it would begin to save the taxpayers some money.

Perhaps it would not be such a bad idea if the government tried adopting the suggestions the Reform Party has made. We have offered the government the entire plan. We have dropped the plain brown envelope on the floor outside the office door of the Deputy Prime Minister. All she has to do is look inside the envelope to see what good ideas are shown there.

Yesterday in his speech at the Canadian Club in Toronto, the leader of the Reform Party received a standing ovation for the suggestions in that 20-point plan. It was very well received as could be seen by the live telecast of that speech on the "National" yesterday.

The Reform Party has been listening to Canadians. If government members need some help heading in the right direction, we are more than happy to assist. They just have to pick up the plain brown envelope off the floor outside the Deputy Prime Minister's office.

As I said, one of our proposals is for the federal government to get out of the housing business. If crown corporations like CMHC are truly self-supporting let us turn them over to the private sector. Areas which are perhaps socially oriented should be turned over to the provincial level.

Not only do Canadians want an end to federal interference in areas of provincial responsibility, they also want clearer distinctions of responsibility between the provinces. They do not want this muddled thing we have right now where municipal, federal and provincial governments get all mixed up together giving one another grants. It is like government incest in a way.

Canadians also want an end to federal interference in the private sector. They are sick and tired of the federal government interfering unnecessarily in their affairs.

Bill C-108 allows the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to significantly increase its presence in the mortgage market.

It represents a further intrusion into a private market and will lead to further distortions of that market.

The federal government is artificially inflating mortgages in urban areas in order to subsidize rural areas. The government's policy of cross-subsidization of mortgages means that houses in urban areas cost more to Canadians than they would if the federal government stepped out of the housing business in the first place. It is all very well to offer a lower price to rural residents, but why should urban areas bear the brunt of that cost? Federal meddling in the housing industry also means that private companies like GE are offering mortgages at a higher rate as well.

It is time for the government to stop artificially jacking up mortgage rates and to stop subsidizing one kind of mortgage by gouging rates on another. Let private industry do what it does best, provide consumers with competitive mortgage rates.

In terms of the 5 per cent down program, there is a very real danger that any economic downturn which continues the trend we have seen lately where property prices have been falling could create a situation where homeowners are left holding mortgages worth more than the property. It is a simplification for the government to say that the liabilities we are incurring have no cost. If the property market turns down and homeowners walk away from some of those commitments, the taxpayers are left holding the can.

I was in the U.K. in August over the summer break. Incidentally, my trip was paid for with my own funds and not those of taxpayers. I met with some bankers while I was in London. To my astonishment, I was told that because of the property downturn in the U.K. some banks are now holding a lot of mortgages in their portfolios which are currently valued at 120 per cent of the properties on which the mortgages were originally taken out.

The banks are also holding in their portfolios huge numbers of vacant properties because people have walked away from those commitments. That is a sign of the sort of disaster which can happen if the government does not take into account where these liabilities could lead.

It is pretty frightening that we are building up a liability account in this area of something of the order of $150 billion. It is wonderful to offer this opportunity for new homeowners to get into home ownership, but to do it on the backs of the taxpayers is not a good idea.

For that reason among others, the Reform Party does not support an increased federal role in the mortgage market. We do not support increasing federal liabilities. We do not support federal meddling in the private sector and therefore, we do not support this bill.

In conclusion, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

this House declines to give second reading to Bill C-108, an act to amend the National Housing Act, because the principle of the bill does not address the issue of transferring the responsibility of housing from the federal government to the provinces.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The motion the hon. member just moved was a substantive motion and not an amendment to the motion now before the House. I do not believe it is in order.

National Housing Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

We certainly take every consideration necessary before making the proper ruling. Having reviewed the full contents of the motion and its form as it is written here, the motion is in order.