House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Ecole Polytechnique
Statements By Members

December 5th, 1996 / 2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, December 6 always reminds us of the 14 young women who were robbed of their future and brutally killed at the Ecole Polytechnique on this day seven years ago.

This tragic incident will serve as a constant reminder of the violence that is inflicted on women. In order to ensure safe homes and safe streets for all Canadians, and in particular women, the government has passed important legislation on issues like gun control, high risk offenders and other amendments to the Criminal Code.

But we need to do more if we are to honour their memory and eradicate violence against women.

May their deaths not have been in vain. Let us get to the roots of the problem of violence against women, first by increasing our social education efforts and by constantly promoting fundamental values, like respect and tolerance.

I encourage all my colleagues in this House to light a candle tomorrow in memory of the young victims of the massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique.

Violence Against Women
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to those 14 young women who died tragically seven years ago at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

This day reminds us that we must continue to take action to eliminate violence against women in all its forms in all of society.

Statistics show that 51 per cent of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. We must remember that all violence is an assault on the sanctity of human life. Violence against women not only violates the body, it robs women of their dignity and scars their souls.

That is why the government has worked extremely hard in the past three years to introduce measures that address not only violence against women but violence against all persons.

Still, there is more work to do and we must all work together, in government, in communities and in homes across this country to ensure that women, men and children are truly free from the threat and fear of violence in Canadian society.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we realized that the Minister of Human Resources Development excelled in French composition, seemed to revel in discussing the philosophy of social reforms but had trouble answering specific questions. He seemed to have a poor grasp of his subject. Today, since people are interested in philosophy but also in their immediate future, I want to ask him a very simple question.

There are people who had weeks of insurable employment in 1996. I would like to ask him how these weeks of insurable employment, which made them eligible for benefits, will be converted into hours so they can qualify for benefits as of January 5? On what basis will these weeks be converted? This is a very simple question. I expect an answer, and easy on the philosophy.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public is also interested in the quality of a reform, in the spirit behind it, in modernizing a system that has become obsolete. I am always very grateful to the Bloc for giving me a chance to talk about this excellent employment insurance system.

To answer the hon. member's question, this was in the legislation from the very beginning. In the case of any person who worked a certain number of weeks during the last 26 weeks of 1996, each week will be deemed to have been a 35-hour week.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

That took some doing. Mr. Speaker, I imagine the minister consulted one of his officials who has a good head on his shoulders, and there are always a few. However, I have a problem for him, since he is in an answering mood today.

A person who, for instance, worked eighteen 40-hour weeks qualifies for benefits, not only under the former legislation, but also under the legislation that will come into effect. So if a week is supposed to be worth 35 hours, does this mean that under the new standards, this person will not be able to receive benefits? I would appreciate an answer.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the reform will encourage this person to go on working a little longer in order to have the number of hours required. In the case of a new entry, provided the number of hours totals 420, that person will be covered or, in the case of re-entry, eighteen 35-hour weeks will bring him to the 420-hour threshold.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Things are getting better all the time, Mr. Speaker. I think we have got the minister into the habit of consulting his officials. Obviously he had not done so yesterday. Maybe on our third try, we will get a third answer.

Yesterday the minister referred to a father in East Montreal who had three jobs, in each of which he worked a 14-hour week, and who will now be covered under the new standards.

However, I have the following question. Since according to one of the standards under the new system, someone who quits his job loses all his privileges, will this father from East Montreal, if he quits one of his jobs, meaning he would no longer work 42 hours but 28, qualify for unemployment insurance, and I will let the minister consult his parliamentary secretary who seems to have all the answers.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this employment insurance reform makes it far more attractive to go back to work, compared with the old system which the opposition is so keen on preserving, an opposition that voted against coverage for part time workers, an opposition that voted against modernizing a system to adjust it to the modern labour market. I think that is entirely unacceptable.

Under the new system, the same presumptions will apply, that is, someone who quits his job for no valid reason is not insured, but if someone quits his job for a valid reason, a decision is made on a case by case basis. We can then determine whether he qualifies for benefits.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

I would start off by saying that our laughter is not because there is anything funny. For more than three weeks now we have been asking questions of the minister and he has been responding like someone who was not familiar with the issues-and, indeed, he is not. We are delighted to have played a part, on behalf of all Canadians and Quebecers, in getting him to consult others.

Can we be sure, then, that the minister will be in agreement with the recommendations of the employment insurance commission,

which, contrary to what he says, have not been adopted, and are on the agenda of the employment insurance commission?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this opposition provides me with one surprise after another. These things are part of the reform as soon as they are in the act, so I cannot understand why suddenly, three weeks later, they wake up and notice a subject that has been very widely covered, as they well know.

On this matter, I can assure you that the minister is totally in agreement with this interpretation, and we shall be on the workers' side. Each of the weeks worked in the last 26 weeks of the year 1996 will be deemed to have been 35 hours in length. We are giving them the benefit of the doubt, taking the workers' side.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, here we are with one surprise after another for, in reality, everyone in the employment centres is waiting for the decision to be made. What was set out in the act was for there to be transitional arrangements, and we have been calling for these for weeks, so there is no reason to make fun of us.

My question to the minister is this: In these transitional measures, will someone who has worked more than 35 hours, say 40 hours, in 1996 be credited for 40 hours weekly, or for a maximum of 35?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the weeks worked in 1996 will be deemed to have been 35-hour weeks. Starting January 5, 1997, we start with the new system, which is in the workers' best interests. It will cover a potential 500,000 additional workers not covered at present. The hours-based system starts on January 5, 1997, and this is a system the opposition voted against.

Krever Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claimed yesterday in question period that the laws of the land prevent him from releasing documents to Justice Krever. That is simply not the case. The office of the information commissioner says that the Canada Evidence Act does not stand in the Prime Minister's way.

Michael Pitfield, a former clerk of the privy council, says that the cabinet can release whatever it wants to release.

Perhaps I will ask the Minister of Health. Why is the Prime Minister choosing not to release these 30 documents that Justice Krever is asking for?

Krever Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there is a constitutional convention that a current government does not have access to nor does it release the cabinet confidences of a previous government. This is a well established practice and therefore a convention in the Canadian system of parliamentary government. It is also well established in other countries with similar systems of parliamentary government.

In that sense what the Prime Minister is talking about is part of our law. This convention is specifically backed up by section 39 of the Canada Evidence Act. Therefore what the Prime Minister said is quite consistent with our system of parliamentary government.

Krever Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is fine for the minister to hide behind that, but I think the evidence shows frankly that this is discretionary in that the Prime Minister can do that if he chooses to do.

This looks weak. This looks like flimsy excuses. It looks like nothing more than a cover-up. There are people dying because of this and we need to get to the bottom of it. The only thing that stands in the way of Krever's quest for truth is the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister alone. He has the power to release the documents. He has the power to explain why legislation was shelved under the leadership of Mr. Turner and Mr. Mulroney in 1984.

Again, what is this Prime Minister trying to hide? Why will he not simply do the right thing and the honourable thing and let these documents be released to Justice Krever so he can do his work and get to the bottom of this?