House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was research.

Topics

The House resumed from October 23, 1996 consideration of the motion that Bill C-47, an act respecting human reproductive technologies and commercial transactions relating to human reproduction, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

October 31st, 1996 / 1 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the subject of Bill C-47 is of very great importance for citizens.

Human reproduction is a topic that affects everyone, without exception, and as parliamentarians it is our duty to debate this bill in a mature and thoughtful manner.

For the very reason that the topic is both private and universal in scope, many of the issues are emotionally charged. As proof, we need look no further than the debates on abortion, assisted reproduction, protection of the foetus, contraceptive methods and genetic engineering.

These topics speak to something in all of us, because they concern our origins, our lives right now and the lives of our descendants. Think, for example, of the recent strong reactions to the case of the British woman who received fertility treatments. Against the advice of her doctors, this woman conceived eight foetuses and lost them all. The reason this story captured the world's attention is that each and every one of us reacts instinctively to the new reality of reproduction and the questions it raises. When human life is involved, all human beings react, and this is completely understandable.

In order to deal with this reality, the responsibility of elected representatives in this House is to determine the best approach to adopt in light of the scientific developments that now make it possible to influence considerably the reproduction of Canadians and of Quebecers.

In this bill, the government is proposing an approach based on the recommendations contained in the Baird Commission report. The commission thoroughly examined all related issues and even went beyond its original mandate, because the range of problems was so immense.

The bill on new reproductive technologies was placed on our legislative agenda because the voluntary interim moratorium imposed last year did not work. However, before attempting an analysis of the bill, I would like to make a few general comments which, as I see it, should precede any discussion of a bill that deals specifically with new human reproductive technologies.

All the authors, all the experts who have examined the issue of new reproductive technologies are unanimous in saying that this is first and foremost a matter of ethics, of moral and social values.

Although on the whole I do not agree with the recommendations of the Baird commission-I will get back to this during subsequent debates-I agree it has a wealth of expertise, based on the amount of testimony it heard and the number of experts that were consulted.

These experts claim they are aware of the problems raised by new reproductive techniques, problems that are not only legal, ethical or health problems. Research and development and the use of new reproductive techniques have raised national concerns that may be social, ethical, legal, medical, economic or otherwise and that are of interest to more than one level of authority.

Unfortunately, the commission concluded that the federal government should take all aspects of the issue in hand and regulate and manage them without taking into consideration the jurisdictions of the parties concerned and the reality of Quebec society. The Bloc Quebecois deplores this fact.

It is the same old story we all know. In fact, I will get back to this a little later in my speech.

So these are moral concerns above all, which I feel raises the initial question whether legislation is necessary.

The experience of France, which two years ago passed legislation that is roughly comparable to the bill before the House today, is very revealing.

France passed legislation on in vitro fertilization, prenatal diagnosis, pre-implant diagnosis and other aspects of reproductive technology.

However, it was decided to refrain for the time being from passing legislation on such sensitive issues as surplus embryos and embryo reduction.

In an article published in the magazine l' Express in February 1994, the author, Luc Ferry, discussed several problems. He noted first of all that technically assisted productive techniques are so controversial that one wonders whether it was really necessary to pass legislation to deal with such a sensitive area.

The question arises because of the complexity of the biological phenomena and the minute percentage of the population that is actually concerned.

In fact, several observers felt that since the number of cases was so small, it would have been preferable to let the courts decide on the merits of each case.

The author mentioned several problems that were difficult to regulate because of practical considerations and the issue of ethics and individual freedom. For instance, how could one actually prevent the use of prenatal diagnosis for sex selection when parents do not tell their physician the real reasons for having this done.

Another difficult situation is the one where a woman uses donor insemination to ensure that her offspring is entirely different from herself, for instance, a woman of colour, because she has experienced racism, will select a donor who is white, so that her child will not have to face certain problems.

Similarly, a woman could give birth after menopause. This possibility has caused a controversy, the reason being that nature was prevented from taking its course. But what about freedom of choice?

One might also consider the phenomena I mentioned earlier such as embryo reduction, when in order to allow some embryos to survive, the others are destroyed, and surplus embryos, when more than the requisite number is produced and then preserved for use in case the initial procedure fails.

Clearly, all these situations have a number of aspects that are not medical at all and can hardly be regulated with rigid and specific legislation. Nevertheless, they are all connected with human reproductive technologies.

So initially, we must ensure that we properly identify the scope of these problems and their complexity, before we can pass appropriate legislation.

I would now like to consider the general scope of the bill introduced by the Minister of Health. I will wait until third reading to give a detailed analysis of the bill. Today, I will broach only one subject which has even broader consequences, and I am referring to the fact that this is one more intrusion by the federal government in an area under provincial jurisdiction.

First of all, I would like to remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois has asked time and time again that the government take action in an area falling under its own jurisdiction: criminal law.

Indeed, the Bloc Quebecois believes that certain practices should be prohibited under the Criminal Code, as they are not socially acceptable to the vast majority of citizens. We had asked that practices such as the trade in ova, embryos and foetal tissue be criminalized.

In fact, the report states, on page 447, and I quote: "Commissioners are strongly opposed to commercializing human reproduction, as are Canadians generally. We heard clearly from Canadians that they are uncomfortable with any situation involving the development of reproductive technologies or services on the basis of their profit potential, particularly where only those with the means to pay can have access to them".

This is a social consensus the Bloc Quebecois agrees with.

However, we totally disagree with the situation where, in the name of federal government's power to ensure peace, order and good government, the commissioners suggest that the government have sole jurisdiction over anything having to do with human reproduction. That spoils it for us, and we strongly disagree.

To understand this conclusion, we must analyze the commissioners' reasoning. First, they state that because of the concepts and practices involved new reproductive technologies are unique. Also, the primary purpose of these techniques is to ensure procreation, with all the distinct historical, social and ethical implications that it may have.

Such logic is hard to accept. Based on the same logic, the federal government should have jurisdiction over anything occuring during the perinatal period, since birth is the final outcome of the procreation process.

The federal government would also have full jurisdiction over education, the environment, health and what not, all on the basis of uniqueness.

The fact that something is important to human beings is not a valid reason to give a level of government control over an area that does not fall under its jurisdiction. You are probably familiar with Quebec's position on the matter, which is: anything coming under provincial jurisdiction should be left to the provinces to deal with.

The reported stated further: "New reproductive technologies are, in many ways, unique in Canada's health care system, in that they are administered under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories, but, because of their profound social, ethical and legal implications, raise issues that require national attention. Few individuals or families in this country are not touched in some way by new reproductive technologies".

The commissioners themselves agree that this is a societal issue relating to health.

On the one hand, as far as we know, health comes under the jurisdiction of the provinces because they are in a better position to make appropriate decisions for their people.

On the other hand, precisely because we are dealing with social values, it is obvious that this should be a provincial jurisdiction. To

act any differently would deny, once again, the existence of Quebec as a society, with all its elements and its differences.

We will not accept any such thing, it is out of the question.

There is also no question of the Bloc Quebecois supporting a bill containing provisions to establish a Canadian reproductive technologies control and monitoring agency. In our opinion, if the provinces are capable of enforcing the Criminal Code, they are also perfectly capable of making and enforcing regulations relating to health.

In fact, they already do, and the thought has not crossed the mind of anyone at the federal level to question their jurisdiction in that area. So why do it in another area?

The Bloc Quebecois squarely rejects the government's approach, whereby it will pass a statutory act instead of criminalizing unacceptable practices.

We repeatedly asked the government to amend the Criminal Code. Instead, it proposes a federal act, whose implementation will be monitored by a federal body, while applicable penalties will be imposed under the sole authority of the federal government. This is what is unacceptable.

So, instead of letting the provinces implement the act through their courts and legal staff, as is the case with the Criminal Code, the federal government totally excludes them and takes over everything that relates to new reproductive technologies.

Again, the Bloc Quebecois will say no to this new intrusion.

One year after the Quebec referendum, it is appropriate to remind the Prime Minister and his cabinet of the commitment they made to Quebecers in the heat of the federalist fervour that prevailed at the time. Quebecers were solemnly promised, and unfortunately too many of them believed it again, that federalism would be renewed, that powers would be decentralized, and that provinces would be given back the fields of jurisdiction, which are already theirs on paper.

How can we reconcile these fine promises with the bill before us today? It is impossible. Far from decentralizing, the federal government wants to get more involved in the health sector and, worse still, it wants to appropriate all future rights in this sector. This is unacceptable.

Once again, the fine rhetoric was just that, and I hope Quebecers will remember. This is yet another good example.

This bill is unacceptable because it infringes on the jurisdiction of the provinces.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech and for all of the information she has provided to us concerning the new reproductive technologies and Bill C-47.

I would now like to make some comments and ask her a question.

First of all,I would like to give a quick review of what has led up to Bill C-47. As you know, in 1977 a group of feminists put pressure on the government for the creation of a royal commission. Twelve years later, in a throne speech, the promise of this famous commission was made, and the Baird Commission was born.

In 1993, the Baird Commission tabled its final report. There were 40,000 witnesses heard, and 300 researchers provided us with their research data. This cost $30 million dollars in total, and lasted two years longer than planned. In other words, they took four years to deliberate and to come up with 293 recommendations.

I would like to make one clarification. The entire inquiry went on without consulting those in the best position to respond to the needs of the public, that is the provinces, the provincial ministers of health. Not one province was consulted by the Baird Commission about these new technologies, they were left on the sidelines, not asked if they had any recommendations to make to us, totally ignored.

The result is a report rather similar to the main thrust of Great Britain's Warnock report. As you know, Great Britain's federation is not in the least like ours. Its provinces do not have the same powers as ours do at this time. This report, therefore, bears no relevance to the needs and demands of our provinces.

While this report urging the government to introduce a bill was tabled in 1993, a decision was made to impose a voluntary moratorium in July 1995 because some of the latest developments in reproductive technologies were totally unethical.

Can you tell me what a voluntary moratorium means when researchers and scientists are now involved in cloning and producing human-animal hybrids? There is a voluntary moratorium in effect. It should be pointed out that experts and researchers reacted to this voluntary moratorium with complete indifference. It was a failure, it did not make any sense.

In June 1996, the minister tabled a bill. Although measures in this area have been demanded for 20 years, the bill that was tabled is not only incomplete and impossible to understand, but it also ignores provincial needs under the Constitution, because the provinces are responsible for providing health care services.

This bill criminalizes certain activities without amending the Criminal Code. This makes it a parallel law allowing the federal government to impose national standards. And this is what the

government does by implementing the bill in three stages. First, it prohibits certain procedures, which we agree should be criminalized although we feel the government should not interfere in areas like health care. According to the Constitution, the provinces have jurisdiction over health care.

The government is quietly putting forward a minor parallel bill in order to centralize even further. I will give a concrete example: the proposed national agency, which will impose national standards and be in charge of controlling and monitoring activities.

The bill also provides that the minister reserves the right to make appointments to a supposedly distinct, independent agency, but all the administrators in this agency will be appointed by the minister. You may not see things the way I do, but if this is not the ultimate in centralization, I do not know what it is.

Furthermore, some of the clauses in this bill are rather vague. Even the title contains an inconsistency between the French and the English text: the phrase "manipulation génétique" in the French version is more restrictive than the words used in English.

In closing, I would ask my colleague from Québec to elaborate on clause 5, just to show you how vague and confusing the clauses can be.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comments. She explained very well how, with this statutory act, the federal government will interfere in a field of provincial jurisdiction.

I wish to reply to my colleague regarding clause 5, which deals with surrogate mothers and which prohibits anyone from giving or offering consideration to obtain the services of a surrogate mother. This prohibition seeks to prevent the payment of money and the use of intermediaries.

Consequently, a woman could act as a surrogate mother, if she did so as a free service. The clause is not very clear, particularly in subclause 3, which reads as follows:

(3) No person, other than the surrogate mother, shall arrange or offer to arrange-the services of a surrogate mother.

On the one hand, the bill makes it impossible for someone to give or to offer consideration, while on the other hand it allows a surrogate mother to make arrangements for her services. Let us be clear. It should be either one or the other.

The purpose of this provision is to prevent the negotiating of amounts of money for bearing children, through intermediaries between a couple and a surrogate mother. However, the situation becomes totally different if the service is provided free of charge, or if it is negotiated by the surrogate mother herself.

This is where we have reservations. The stated objective will not be met, because the bill does not reflect a clear and well defined will. One can easily imagine that this provision will be circumvented. Moreover, the provisions of the Quebec Civil Code confirm that contracts entered into by surrogate mothers are absolutely null and void.

I mentioned clause 5, but there is also clause 7, which prohibits the use, without the consent of the donor, of sperm, ova or embryos, for human reproductive technologies or for medical research. Again, several terms used in the provisions of the bill create problems because of their lack of clarity.

For example, clause 4 prohibits the use of any diagnostic procedure for the purpose of ascertaining the sex, except for reasons related to health. What are these health related reasons? Is the mental health of the woman one of them? Are we talking about the health of the foetus or of the parents? Again, the wording of the bill is not clear.

Here is another example of lack of clarity that can lead us to believe that these prohibitions are not for real. Clause 7 prohibits the use of sperm, ova, embryos or zygotes for the purpose of research, donation, maturation or fertilization without the consent of the donors involved. Again, it can be presumed that such activities will be allowed if donors give their consent.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support Bill C-47, the Human Reproductive and Genetic Technologies Act, which seeks to preserve the dignity and the sanctity of human reproduction, and the dignity and safety of all.

The bill seeks three objectives. Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is one of them.

I want to comment on the remarks of the hon. member for Quebec. The member spoke clearly to the fact that the whole idea of the royal commission's report was not appropriate.

The point to remember is that the commission on reproductive technologies was a federal royal commission. When it was finished and the report was made public, over 50 stakeholder groups were consulted over a long period of time to decide on some of these issues, how the public saw them and what the public's interests were in them.

I first have to address some of those issues because there is a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of them. I also want to address some of the aspects of the issue raised earlier by the member for Drummond and to correct some of the misinterpretation of facts.

The member for Drummond claimed that in 1977 a coalition of feminist groups called for a royal commission on new reproductive technologies. The coalition was formed in 1987 and the first IVF baby was not born until 1978. The member for Drummond seems to have overlooked her party's record on the whole issue of the bill.

The member continually asked for the report to be tabled and for decisions to be made concerning the royal commission report. On May 4, 1994 she complained in the House that the government was too slow to act on the report. She said that such an action would have a major impact on ethics and research.

On October 7, 1994 her colleague from Laval Centre called for the government to table a bill to regulate practices connected with new reproductive technology.

On December 9, 1994 the member for Laval Centre said in the House that it was increasingly clear that the commercialization of human genetic material, embryos and fetal tissue was growing in Canada. She called for regulation in this area as soon as possible.

When the government placed a voluntary moratorium on some of these techniques in July 1995 there was criticism from the hon. members that the government was not going far enough, that there were no real sanctions against those who would continue with these practices.

What is more, the member for Laval Centre held a press conference on February 19, 1996 to complain that the government was not acting quickly enough on the issue. She demanded immediate action to have the more egregious of these practices inscribed in the Criminal Code.

On June 5, 1996 the member for Drummond repeated that this area was in urgent need of legislation. Now we have before us the long awaited legislation. Based on the record of the members opposite I fully anticipate their support.

The bill is about ethical considerations. All technology needs to be regulated. The good that is done by a new technology must be checked against the harm or the potential for harm that can be done by that technology. The number one ethic of physicians is to consider first the well-being of the patient and to do no harm.

The bill specifically set out to control unethical and unsafe uses of new reproductive technologies and to regulate practices that are unacceptable to ensure that they are offered to Canadians in an effective and safe way.

Many Canadians will be affected by these technologies but more especially women and children. Some prohibitions clearly address serious ethical issues the technology is forcing us as a society to consider: cloning and creating animal human hybrids, to name only two. However we cannot forget that it is women who are most deeply affected by these technologies, that they are practised almost exclusively on women's bodies.

Commercial surrogacy, for instance, the practice of bearing a child for another party in return for payment, brings forward shades of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Commercial surrogacy violates the dignity of women by reducing procreation to a market phenomenon and parenthood to a transaction. Women's reproductive functions become commodities to be bought or sold. Women are not commodities.

Women who are surrogates tend to be younger, less educated and have lower incomes than the couples who commissioned them to bear a child. The imbalance of resources and power means that the surrogate mother is vulnerable to infringement of her autonomy. No matter how willing she is to participate she cannot negotiate on an equal footing with the other parties involved.

With regard to the commercial sale of eggs and sperm, a woman who agrees to sell her eggs takes risks with her health and her well-being. Generally this woman is perfectly healthy and she is certainly not infertile. Yet this healthy fertile woman will be prescribed fertility drugs to stimulate multiple egg production. She will undergo painful medical interventions to retrieve those eggs and in exchange she will earn $2,000 or less. The government will not permit a payment based system of egg donations to develop in Canada.

As a physician I have often seen the joy and the wonder of the birth process. In fact I have delivered over 800 babies myself. I find the idea of seeing reproduction transformed into a commercial act to be completely unacceptable. Women are deeply affected by these reproductive technologies. In many instances some are no more than experimentation on women's bodies.

What of the children born of these technologies? The greatest threat to children's emotional well-being arises out of the use of donated eggs and sperm. The elements that have characterized the sperm donation system as it developed in Canada are secrecy and anonymity.

Closely related to secrecy is the principle of anonymity where the identity of the sperm donor is kept from both the recipient and the child. The pressure of maintaining the secret of donor insemination can place tremendous strains on a family. Adult children born through donor insemination have testified to the harm that maintaining secrecy has caused them, particularly if the truth emerges in the middle of a family crisis.

Anonymity too causes great strain for children finally aware of their birth through the use of donated eggs and sperm who want information about their genetic parents, only to find that it is not available.

We know that the health status of people is dependent on their genetic and familial history. Research in adoption has revealed the importance of information about birth parents to a child's physical and emotional well-being.

As part of its commitment to comprehensive management for new reproductive and genetic technologies, the government is examining the implications of a more open system of information both in gamete and embryo donation. It is appropriate to insist as a government that children born of these technologies be given a full disclosure of his or her history because the health and well-being of children have to be of paramount importance in the decisions we make about new reproductive and genetic technology.

The value of children in our society is self-evident but it is important to state firmly and unequivocally that children are not a means to an end. They are of value not only because of any great gifts that they possess, not because of the way in which they fulfil their parents dreams and not even because of the joy they bring to their parents. Children are of value merely because they exist, because they are.

The government values children. It believes that the hallmark by which our society can be judged is the priority placed on the interests and well-being of its children. The government has established a transparent and explicit framework for its policy on new reproductive and genetic policies.

Concern for children's interests is a vital aspect of that framework. We have approached the issue of children and new reproductive technologies from the perspective of the need to protect those who are vulnerable to adverse consequences of the technologies. Who indeed is more vulnerable than a child?

These technologies affect children in different ways apart from their emotional and physical well-being. Some practices and procedures have consequences so adverse and so easily apparent that prohibition is the only possible response. The consequences of other uses of technologies, adverse or otherwise, are less obvious or are controllable through regulation as we are trying to do.

The government is saying some practices must be regulated and some practices must be absolutely prohibited. These include the implication for the child's health and for the child's long term well-being. Serious issues about the legal status of children must be raised.

By putting forward this legislation we have said that some procedures are so abhorrent that there is no alternative but to prohibit them and to set criminal penalties for their use because they all are practices that have turned children into commodities to bought or to be sold. This is why the legislation makes it criminal to buy or sell human sperm or eggs. Sperm and eggs are the building blocks of human life. To make them into commodities subject to the conditions of the market is to commodify them, to turn them into products. This in turn is dehumanizing. It will affect in the long run the way we as a society value children and how we value human life.

Permitting payment for sperm and eggs also increases the possibilities of health problems for the children who might be born as a result. Studies have shown that when a donation is made for payment, donors have less reason to be honest about the state of their health and about their family history.

The prohibition on cloning is obvious to everyone in terms of its impact on the health of children. We simply do not know the health implications of creating large numbers of genetically identical people, either for individual children or for the population as a whole. We only have to read Boys from Brazil to know what we are talking about.

The use of fetal eggs to create a human embryo could be harmful if they are from a miscarried fetus since genetic disorders in the fetus usually are one of the major causes of miscarriage.

Children's physical health can be seriously damaged from using many of these technologies. It can be affected in the short term and in the long term. We do not know enough about the long term effects of some of these technologies on children. These children have not lived long enough in their life span for us to see some of the effects on their lives. We are taking risks in experimenting with children in Canada.

Canadian and American studies have shown that 20 per cent to 25 per cent of low birth weight babies suffer some form of serious disability and will continue to need attention and care in varying degrees for much of their lives.

Other health effects of new reproductive technologies are simply not known right now. That is why the advent of technologies such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, has to be treated with a great deal of caution.

ICSI helps to overcome male infertility by selecting just one sperm, often an immature or inferior sperm, and injecting it into the centre of the eggs. The use of ICSI is spreading rapidly throughout the world, including in Canada.

We do not know until the children born through this technique reach adulthood if that sperm was a healthy sperm. If it turns out that the sperm would have been much better through natural selection not to have been fertilized at all, it is not the physicians who will suffer and not even the parents. It is the children who will bear the greatest burden of the use of this technology in the long run.

We do not know what effects fertility drugs may have on children. Yet we use these drugs now almost routinely. We do not know if there is some damage involved in being fertilized in vitro instead of in a woman's body. Gathering information about the long term outcomes of assisted reproduction for children is one of the functions the government would assign to a regulatory structure as outlined in the position paper that was released when Bill C-47 was first introduced into the House.

Physical harm is just one aspects of genetic technology. Let us talk a bit about sex selection which is prohibited in the legislation because it contravenes the government commitment to safeguarding the emotional well-being of children. A child who knows that he or she was born only because of being the right sex may not feel valued. The sibling of such a child may feel forever unworthy of their parent's love and care because of having been the wrong sex.

It is only one small step when we undertake some of these prohibitive technologies to genetic, ethnic and gender manipulation of our society as a whole.

It is clear to me, as it should be clear to members of the House, that Bill C-47 is a balanced response to the dangers posed by the unhampered proliferation of reproductive technology. It does not say that reproductive technology is inherently bad. It says that we do not know enough about some of them, and it says that some of them do not fit into our society's attitudes to human rights and to people.

It makes clear that human life and human dignity are not for sale at any price. It is the only possible way to reassure Canadians that our societal values are being respected, that we place a value on the rights of all of our people regardless of their gender or their age, and that we will allow neither to be so crassly exploited.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this topic today, a topic that gives me the shivers. As you know, when we talk about reproductive technologies, we are talking about research, genetic engineering, all sorts of things. It is a debate that could not have taken place 30 years ago. As research advances, we must ask ourselves serious questions, and I am glad that we are discussing them. This is a field of medicine that was once in the realm of fiction, but has now become reality. We can see what the consequences will be in the longer term.

I was listening to the speech by my colleague across the way, on the government side, and there are certainly a number of points on which we do not agree. What bothers me the most, as I have just said, in such an extremely delicate matter-

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I have received notice of a point of privilege. I am in receipt of a letter advising me that the hon. member will be raising a point of privilege. I received it well over an hour ago and so this point of privilege is in order. The hon. minister for youth.

Privilege
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Western Arctic
Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Secretary of State (Training and Youth)

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today on a point of personal privilege to address the issue of my use of government credit cards and to clarify outstanding questions and concerns.

When I was appointed Secretary of State for Training and Youth by the Prime Minister in November 1993 I was provided with both En Route and American Express credit cards by the Department of Human Resources Development.

At that time I was fully advised of the departmental guidelines governing the use of these credit cards. It was clear to me then, as it is today, that I would be responsible to the department for the full reimbursement of all personal expenses incurred.

Since being issued these credit cards I have both incurred business and personal expenses. I have never hidden or denied this. As a matter of routine procedure I have fully reimbursed the Receiver General for any personal purchases. This has been my practice since day one.

I have always known that my record of credit card use was subject to public review under access to information and I have never acted to hide records or to mislead the public. For the record, I would like to note the following three points.

I never asked for the use of a government credit card and I certainly never asked for special treatment or exemption from applicable guidelines.

The administrative procedure in place for repayment of monthly credit card statements was of departmental design. I had no say or input into this procedure.

Yesterday in the House the member for Elk Island referred to a memo dated January 22, 1996. He did not mention that attached to this memo was a personal cheque to cover all non-departmental expenses. He did not mention that also attached to this memo was an itemized breakdown of those expenses with complete notation of personal expenses. He did not mention that five days prior to this expense claim on January 17 my office sent a memo to the

department outlining what my personal expenses were and pointing out that I would be submitting a cheque for them.

I admit this administrative procedure is very convoluted. The covering memo referred to by the member for Elk Island is a form document prepared by departmental officials and as a stand alone record is misleading. In fact, my staff raised this concern with HRD officials and requested a revised covering memo that more accurately reflected business and personal expenses. A copy of that revised memo forms part of the subsequent record and certainly predates any access to information request.

During the three years that I have used these cards I have not once been advised that I was in breach of departmental guidelines.

To the Canadian public, my constituents, my family of course and my loyal friends, Mr. Speaker, I want to assure you that at no time did I use these credit cards in bad faith or for personal financial benefit.

The suggestion in the media that I have used government credit cards for the purchase of vacation airline tickets to Hawaii and Mexico is simply false. I did vacation in Hawaii. I like to think that I have worked hard for my money and deserved the vacation. I paid for my airline tickets with cash. I have the receipts which I can make available to the media.

I have also travelled to Mexico and I have a cancelled personal cheque to confirm my payment of those airline tickets.

On the charge of purchasing a fur coat with a government credit card, I can only say that a deposit of $554.53 was required and that a credit card imprint was needed. That expense was promptly reimbursed. Like many Canadians I now have an outstanding balance and I am on a monthly repayment plan with the retailer.

Finally, I am in full agreement with the Prime Minister and his observation that while conforming to departmental guidelines, my use of government credit cards for personal purchases was a mistake and in poor judgment. As a northerner with much of my time spent in remote communities with no access to financial services, I have not had any previous need for a personal credit card.

With the benefit of hindsight I see that reliance on government issued credit cards was a mistake. Following discussions with the ethics commissioner, I have applied for and received a personal credit card for all non-departmental purchases.

At this time, I am prepared to table documentation in the House to support my statement on this issue. I ask for unanimous consent to table this documentation.

Privilege
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Privilege
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Privilege
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I am not sure if this is a question of privilege. Surely it is a statement by the minister. I am going to permit the hon. member for Elk Island to make an intervention because his name was directly mentioned in the statement.

Privilege
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. I also appreciate the member rising in the House today. My purpose has been and will be to bring accountability for the taxpayers of this country.

I have something to say about some of the allegations she has made with respect to the fact that I did not mention the cheque that was attached, that I did not mention the itemization. Try as we might, we could not get that data. We received information that had more white-outs, in fact, over half of the items were whited out. We did not have that data. That is exactly what we were driving at.

We want that information to be available so there is open accountability, as the Prime Minister promised in the red book and in other places. That is the intent.

We are now going to examine what the minister tabled. I hope we can put this to rest. If not, our pressure will continue.

Privilege
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Speaker

We have a statement made by an hon. member of Parliament. We have an intervention by the other hon. member who was mentioned. I would rule that this is not a point of privilege. However, I am prepared to accept the documentation, as you have indicated that I should by unanimous consent.

Therefore, I now consider this matter to be closed. It is not a point of privilege. It is a point of information. And the information, now being part of the proceedings of this day, are available to all members of Parliament and any other interested groups.

My dear colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean was in the middle of his question. I wonder if we could perhaps set aside the question and you could put it again after question period, at which time the hon. minister will be able to reply.

It being almost 2 o'clock and since we always need a little more time to get in all of our statements, with your permission I am going to go to Statements by Members if the hon. members are, indeed, ready to make them.

One Room School
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the S.S. No. 14 restoration committee and the many volunteers and donors of building materials who were instrumental in the renovation and relocation of the one room school, S.S. No. 14, from Enniskillen township on to the Petrolia Discovery in the riding of Lambton-Middlesex.

I was fortunate enough to attend the official opening of S.S. No. 14 on September 15 and I can attest to the historical significance of this landmark.

This one room school, which has been in existence for over 100 years, has served generations of my constituents until it was finally closed by the Ontario Board of Education in 1969. When members of the Petrolia Discovery learned that it was scheduled for demolition, they asked the township of Enniskillen to consider donating the building to them to relocate on the Discovery site.

The rest, as they say, is history. I salute those in my riding who have been instrumental in keeping the proud heritage of Lambton county alive.

Webbco West Industries Inc.
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Werner Schmidt Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon I would like to pay a special tribute to Webbco West Industries Inc., winner of entrepreneur of the year award at Kelowna's Business Excellence Awards this past week.

Four and one half year ago in my constituency of Okanagan Centre, Greg Webb told his family, "it is our turn" and formed a steel manufacturing company. From a one-man operation, the firm today employs 65 people manufacturing parts for Western Star trucks and Newness Sawmill manufacturers. They also build hydraulic pumps for the oil industry in Alberta and supply the stainless steel skirting for an upscale motor home manufacturer in the United States.

Mr. Webb has developed a widely diversified company that is not dependent on a single market sector. He attributes his success to good networking skills and treating people as they should be treated.

Please join me in congratulating Kelowna's entrepreneur of the year, Greg Webb of Webbco Industries Inc.