House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

Employment
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, since the government has taken office the deficit has gone from 6 per cent of GDP, which it was, to 5 per cent. This year it will be at 4 per cent. We will hit our target next year at 3 per cent and the year after we have set the new target of 2 per cent, which we will hit.

That is one of the best records of any of the industrialized countries, certainly one of the best records of any of the G-7 countries, and it ought to be recognized.

The hon. member wants to talk about commitments. Before Christmas the hon. member said that his party would present a budget before the government brought down its budget. It has five

days. When is the Reform Party going to present its budget? When is it going to stop blowing smoke?

Old Age Security
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. In the speech from the throne delivered on February 27, we read the following, and I quote: "The government will propose to Parliament measures to sustain Canada's elderly benefits system for the future". Yesterday, no less than 18 Quebec associations for seniors opposed the federal government's intention to determine old age pensions based on family income.

Will the Minister of Finance reassure the elderly by confirming that their pension will not be determined by using the family income criterion?

Old Age Security
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet these associations a week ago. I told them that it was my intention to meet with them again after the budget to discuss the need to ensure the long term viability of old age pensions, that is old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

I also took this opportunity to assure them, as did the Prime Minister in the House yesterday, that, as regards old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, those who are already retired will not be affected. Our goal is to make sure that the plan still exists for younger generations.

Old Age Security
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister leaves an element of doubt as to whether pensions will indeed be based on family income. Can the minister at least tell Canadians that retirement age will not be raised from 65 to 67 years?

Old Age Security
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, during the meeting of provincial finance ministers, we agreed with our Quebec counterpart to hold public hearings on the Quebec pension plan and the Canada pension plan.

One option is to push retirement age to 67 years. I said that this was definitely not my preferred choice, but it is an option that was put forward by some provinces and we have to look at it. But again, I want to make it clear that it is certainly not this government's first choice.

Trade
Oral Question Period

February 29th, 1996 / 2:35 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade, but first I would like to congratulate the minister on his new appointment.

It seems that President Clinton has agreed to pass a bill on Cuba that could seriously harm Canadian companies with investment and trade interests in Cuba. I would like to ask the minister what avenues he is pursuing to make sure we are protecting Canadian interests.

Trade
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his congratulatory comments.

While the government joins the United States in condemning the Cuban action in shooting down two civilian planes, we are disappointed by what is resulting in the Helms-Burton bill. We are disappointed by the effect it will have on Canadians and business people from other countries in terms of access to the United States for these business people as well as the potential of lawsuits against them.

We have yet to get the details of the legal text of the bill. We hope to get that later in the day. When we do, we will be looking at it in terms of the options for action the government can take. In terms of NAFTA, in terms of the trade obligations the United States has with respect to that, we want to make sure they uphold their part of that agreement. We want to make sure Canadians continue to have access in the United States and are able within Canadian law to continue to deal in a business fashion with Cuba and other countries.

We will take action on that after we have looked at the options before us.

Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I address my supplementary to the Prime Minister.

The leaders of Canada and the United States have always had a good relationship. Indeed, the Prime Minister has often spoken about the warm relationship he has with President Clinton.

Given that warm relationship and given that this is such a hot issue which is before us right now, can the Prime Minister tell this House if he has called President Clinton on this issue in order to protect Canadian interests and if so, what were the discussions regarding this issue?

Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to answer the question.

The hon. member is quite right. We have a number of different relationships with the United States. Fortunately for us many of them are done in a very co-operative fashion. We want to maintain the opportunity to continue a very good and fruitful dialogue with the government and the people of the United States.

On the specific issue dealing with the Helms-Burton bills, the Minister for International Trade has said it is one item on which we have strong disagreements with the approach being taken. I can assure the hon. member that a number of representations have been

made at a variety of levels to ensure that the United States government knows of our objections.

Department Of Justice
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Somalia inquiry is currently going on in Ottawa. Several of those responsible for it have raised the possibility of a conflict of interest concerning the legal counsels of the Department of Justice.

Does the Minister of Justice acknowledge that having legal advisers from his department representing both the crown and the defence in the investigation of senior officers places the department in a conflict of interest situation, a point that has been raised by chief commissioner Judge Létourneau?

Department Of Justice
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, from the outset in this as in any other commission of inquiry, the possibility of conflict has been acknowledged. Whenever government lawyers act for government institutions as well as individuals, that possibility can arise.

Equally from the outset, we have made provisions for such conflicts. To date 13 individuals have been invited to retain their own separate counsel at the expense of the government and that has been done. In addition to that, additional safeguards have been put in place to ensure that any person who is interviewed as a witness or who is brought before the commission is given the opportunity to have separate representation if their interest is different from that of the government.

I can inform the hon. member and the House that earlier this week my deputy minister met with one of the commissioners, Commissioner Létourneau, and discussed this matter in detail. We are now preparing a written response to the letter we received last week on this subject. I am confident that procedures can be devised to address this difficulty while maintaining the responsibility that this department has to represent the government in the inquiry.

Department Of Justice
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Justice acknowledge that the sole purpose of using lawyers from his department to defend senior officers was to protect those officers at the expense of the lower ranks who were represented by their own lawyers, and continue to be so represented?

Department Of Justice
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

No, Mr. Speaker, and I say that there is no foundation on the facts for that allegation. It is simply unfair.

Our interest from the outset has been to ensure that the facts come out before the commission. The Minister of National Defence created the commission for that purpose. I repeat that the Department of Justice throughout has made it possible for anyone who is in a different position from ours to have separate representation. We will continue in that regard. If the hon. member is aware of any instance in which that principle is not honoured, I would ask her to let me know so that we can deal with it immediately.

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Financial Institutions.

Bell Canada's supplemental pension plan was placed with Confederation Life Insurance. At least one Bell director was also a director of Confederation Life. When Confederation Life collapsed, the same director did not notify Bell of the difficulties.

Are the director's fiduciary obligations under such circumstances to protect the employees' pension funds or to remain silent?

Financial Institutions
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the heart of the matter the hon. member brings up is an issue of corporate governance. The issue of corporate governance is one that the Minister of Industry is looking at in his department. They have released a series of papers. The Senate banking committee is looking at the issue of corporate governance. The studies will form part of my own white paper on the financial institution legislation.

To refer to the actual incident the hon. member brings up, I will not give him a legal opinion as I am certainly not a lawyer and as a matter of fact, he is a lawyer. However, I can say generally speaking that the fiduciary responsibilities of financial institution executives are taken very seriously. Where a conflict occurs, they can of course abstain from voting on those matters.