House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labrador.

Topics

Immigration Enforcement Improvement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair is satisfied that the bill is in the same form as Bill C-316 at the time of the prorogation of the first session of the 35th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to order made Monday, March 4, 1996, the bill is deemed to have been read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

March 15th, 1996 / 12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent I move, seconded by the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present two petitions on behalf of the constituents of Simcoe Centre today.

The first groups of petitioners request that the Government of Canada not amend the Human Rights Act to include the undefined phrase sexual orientation. Refusing to define the statement leaves interpretation open to the courts, a very dangerous precedent to set. Parliament has a responsibility to Canadians to ensure that legislation cannot be misinterpreted.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition concerns the age of consent laws. The petitioners ask that Parliament set the age of consent at 18 years to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I request that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Matapédia-Matane has concluded his remarks. We will now go on to the period for questions and comments.

Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the contract we are discussing concerns two Canadian provinces. I understand that if Quebec separates from the rest of Canada, the Churchill Falls contract will be nul and void. It will have to be renegotiated. It seems to me that that would be good for Labrador and Newfoundland.

I would like to ask the member for Matapédia-Matane to tell us his thoughts on this matter, which is of some interest to all Canadians.

Supply
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague. This contract, which runs until the year 2041, was signed after a great deal of reflection. If we become sovereign, this contract and others will be maintained. In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that this contract was valid. When we went back in 1988, the original ruling was upheld. In such a case, I think an agreement should be honoured. It would be really easy for us to establish the legitimacy of these contracts.

Agreements with other countries would be maintained. In the case of NAFTA or the GATT agreement, the international courts would recognize our new country's sovereignty and tell us that we are right and that the agreements are valid.

There is no problem with that and the people of Quebec understand that, if over 49 per cent of them voted in favour of sovereignty, it is because these laws are and always will be respected. We are going to make that demand.

There should be no attempt to frighten people by saying that this or that contract would be cancelled the day after sovereignty is achieved. This is not what happened in other countries that have become sovereign and this is not what will happen in our case.

Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. I would like to expand on it a little bit.

It occurred to me as I listened very carefully to the minister's brief history lesson that when the contract was being agreed on and signed, there was a Liberal government in Newfoundland, a Liberal government in Quebec and a Liberal government in Ottawa. I wonder if the Newfoundland voters consider this as they think about who is representing their interests.

It also occurs to me while we listen to members of the Bloc Quebecois talk about honouring contracts, there is another contract that many of us hold quite dear, originally known as the British North America Act, the Canadian Constitution.

Bloc members seem to feel there is some injustice in their province. Some members of Parliament and Canadians would very much like to accommodate the legitimate concerns of Quebec so that every province, including Quebec, would have a legitimate and

meaningful place in the country. While this is being done, there are other members of a rump group, who are saying: "No, we will tear up that contract. We will go our own way. We will forget about that".

I would like to add that question to the previous question. It seems to me that if the province of Quebec no longer exists and becomes a country, whatever name they choose to call it, then it is necessary to re-establish contracts and certainly this contract with Newfoundland and Labrador.

How does the member consider breaking the contract of confederation and his insistence that the previous contract with Newfoundland and Labrador cannot be touched?

[Translation]

Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is getting it all mixed up. I do not understand. When we become a country, we do it democratically. We have people vote. We all presented the referendum honestly. If there were another, we would present it to everyone too. And if people chose to do so at that point, we would become a country.

A contract is another matter altogether. A contract is signed between two companies. At that point the contract is signed. When I look back to 1867, when Canada became a country, the provinces were very powerful. Over the years, all their powers have essentially been picked off. We are left with basically nothing.

It is true that over the past 60 years, we have had Maurice Duplessis, who spoke of provincial autonomy and went and got income tax; Jean Lesage, who spoke of "maîtres chez nous" and wanted almost sovereignty; and Daniel Johnson senior, who wanted equality or independence.

It is just crazy to compare two contracts duly signed by two companies, Hydro-Churchill and Hydro-Quebec, with the desire of a people to become sovereign through a democratic vote of all citizens duly recognized in Quebec, regardless of their colour or language. We are very open to these people. We have told all ethnic groups that they are very welcome in Quebec, that they have the right to vote against or for sovereignty. This is no contract, this is the process of setting up a country, because, at the outset-I am providing a little historical background for my colleague, because his knowledge seems to be a bit lacking-at the outset in Canada, there were two peoples, two equal peoples.

At one point, we lost much of our powers, and not only the sovereignists now want them back.

A few minutes ago, I mentioned Jean Lesage. He sat in this House and had a high regard for Canada's Parliament; he spoke of "Maîtres chez nous", saying that to assume our powers, we had to get them back. While he did not manage it, he did make significant progress. I readily admit that. I congratulate the Liberals of that period. René Lévesque was a member of cabinet and it was he who was responsible for setting up Hydro-Quebec. The Liberals did a huge job.

I will conclude by saying that apples and oranges should not be mixed and that the Reformers, unfortunately, have been doing so for the past while. They have a talent for getting everything all mixed up.

Supply
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, the poet Robert Frost penned the very eloquent words: "Something there is; that doesn't love a wall; that wants it down".

This is a sentiment with which Quebec's new premier is starting to agree. He wants to mend and remove broken fences, to heal old wounds, to show that Quebec is a good neighbour and that it would be a good trading partner, as a sovereign country of course. However, one fence which Quebec and Labrador have between them which needs major repair is the Churchill Falls contract.

Twenty-seven years ago a 65-year contract was signed between the Churchill Falls Corporation of Labrador and Hydro Quebec. The contract requires that Newfoundland sell cheap power to Quebec from the gigantic hydroelectric project on the Churchill River until the year 2041 at pre-1973 oil prices.

It is an extremely unfair contract. Newfoundland earns $20 million each year from Churchill Falls' electricity sales. Hydro Quebec, on the other hand, makes a staggering profit of $800 million from the resale of Newfoundland power to New England. That is a difference of $780 million.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are extremely upset and even embittered over the contract. This is a matter which dates back long before the days when the Reform Party was in politics. It was a matter of great concern and sadness before I ever thought about politics.

It is an unjust contract. It is an unfair contract. It is an oppressive contract. Newfoundlanders know they erred in signing it. They realize that Quebec has wilfully and knowingly taken advantage of them. Quebec knows that too.

When Newfoundlanders suffer, Canada suffers. The $780 million that Newfoundland and Labrador lose to Quebec every year is nearly equal to the amount that Newfoundland gets in equalization payments from Ottawa. The Churchill Falls contract is extremely unfair to the Canadian taxpayer as well.

If Quebec wants to be a good neighbour, if it wants to build good fences rather than poor ones, if it wants to show the world that it can be trusted, it will come back to the table and renegotiate the

contract with Newfoundland and Labrador. We challenge the premier of Quebec to make this commitment.

Newfoundland is a have not province. It suffers from the highest unemployment rate in the country. Over 20 per cent of the population is unemployed. The cod fishing industry is practically non-existent and its economy is in a complete shambles.

If a fair contract had been signed, or if the federal Liberal government had intervened to ensure that Newfoundland received an equitable share of the profits from this megaproject, the economic situation in Newfoundland would be quite different today. There would be jobs. There would be growth. There would be prosperity in Newfoundland today.

Newfoundland has been unable to finance a power line to siphon off some of Churchill's power to the island. It has also been unable to finance the construction of a second Labrador power plant on the lower Churchill River, estimated to cost $11 billion. This project would create 24,000 construction jobs. Newfoundland also cannot afford to develop a smelter in the Voisey Bay, a project that would create hundreds, if not thousands of jobs.

The federal government promised to create jobs, jobs, jobs. There is no place in Canada that needs jobs more than Newfoundland. However, for the last 27 years the federal government has failed to act on behalf of Newfoundlanders concerning this matter. It has failed to intervene and to guarantee one of the poorest provinces in the country its fair share of profits from the direct sale of power to the New England states.

If Quebec does not want to be a good neighbour, if it does not want to build good fences and voluntarily agree to renegotiate the Churchill Falls contract, then we challenge the federal government to stand up for the people of Newfoundland. We challenge the federal government to lower internal trade barriers in Canada and to push Quebec to the negotiating table.

Quebec has refused to allow Newfoundland to build its own power lines on Quebec soil. Consequently, Labrador cannot develop the lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric plant. Quebec also has refused to allow Newfoundland to use its transmission lines to transmit electricity to markets in other parts of Canada or the United States, to join in the North American power grid.

Clearly Quebec has backed Newfoundland and Labrador into a very tight catch-22 position. It cannot develop the untapped resources of the lower Churchill Falls unless it gets an energy contract. It cannot get a contract without a way to transmit the electricity to the buyer.

Quebec has established a barrier to the free movement of electricity from Newfoundland to places outside Quebec. If Quebec does not want to be a good neighbour, if it does not want to mend walls with Newfoundland and Labrador and voluntarily agree to break down this trade barrier, then the federal government must move to have the trade impediment removed. This would lead to prosperity, not only for Newfoundland and Labrador, but increased prosperity for Quebec as well.

In western Canada natural gas, electricity and oil freely cross provincial boundaries. This neighbourly approach to trade creates a harmonious relationship among western provinces and produces greater wealth for all the provinces involved as these provinces have free access to each other's markets.

If Quebec would be this kind of good neighbour, Labrador and Quebec would both prosper, shoulder to shoulder into the 21st century.

By this August there is supposed to be a second draft of the internal trade agreement to be signed. Unfortunately it is not in Quebec's economic interest to sign the internal trade agreement. Quebec would have to give up some of the benefits it receives from Churchill Falls contracts. It is unwilling to do this so it will not come to the table.

It is important for Ottawa to finally take a stand for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It needs to take a strong stand and say that enough is enough. Quebec must come back to the negotiating table. It must help build good fences between good neighbours. It must work to allow Newfoundlanders to benefit from their own resources.

The federal government can urge Quebec to be more neighbourly by first of all following a recommendation by a federal government mandated group that tabled a report in 1988 called: "Energy and Canadians: Into the 21st Century". That report recommends:

The federal government should articulate the conditions under which one province has a right to access, on a business basis, another province's electricity corridor or electrical grid for the purposes of transmitting electricity to a market not adjacent to the first province.

This is the first step for the federal government: state the right of the provinces to interprovincial trade, then articulate the conditions under which that trade might exist. Taking this stand would not require legislation. It is a direct statement of policy.

The government must assert its authority under section 121 of the Constitution to bring down internal trade barriers. Section 121 reads: "All articles of the growth, produce or manufacture of any one of the provinces shall from and after the union be admitted free into each of the other provinces". If the federal government is willing to use this section of the Constitution, it might be enough to encourage Quebec to come back to the negotiating table on this subject.

If Quebec still refuses to be a good neighbour, the federal government could act further. It could give the National Energy Board the power to open up Quebec's transmission lines to allow export of electricity from another province. This would allow Newfoundland to channel electricity through Quebec lines to markets in the United States.

Quebec would still have the original Churchill Falls contract. Its earning power would remain in place but Quebec would also be helping out a neighbour. It would be helping all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to get back on their feet financially so they could get off government assistance and back to work. This would help build a prosperous future for their families right into the 21st century. It would be a neighbourly act indeed.

If Quebec refuses to be a good neighbour and remains unwilling to mend fences between itself and Labrador, the federal government might consider a second position suggested by the National Energy Board. That option is to use section 58(4) of the National Energy Board Act to designate a corridor through Quebec on which hydro lines could be built by Newfoundland for the transmission of its own power. This could be done through an order in council.

What I have just discussed are only options. They are options available to the parties and to the federal government. They are options that would encourage Quebec to become more neighbourly in its attitude and more giving in its actions.

The fences between Quebec and Labrador are in need of much repair. Newfoundland and Labrador have suffered financially for years due to the Churchill Falls contract and Quebec's trade barriers. They are extremely embittered. The people of Newfoundland and Labrador want a change and they have wanted it for years.

The new premier of Quebec wants to mend broken fences, to heal old wounds, to show that Quebec is a good neighbour and that it would be a good trading partner as a sovereign country. This is a prime opportunity for Quebec to come back to the table voluntarily to renegotiate this contract with Labrador to break down internal trade barriers. If Quebec does this, then and only then will Quebec together with Newfoundland and Labrador be able to say that well mended fences make good neighbours. However, if this is not possible, the Government of Canada representing the interests of all provinces must intervene.

Supply
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could understand what Reformers have in mind with such a proposal. I have been trying all morning to figure out their real motives. Are they defending the interests of a private firm or their own interests on the eve of a byelection? This is what we must ask ourselves. After all, the basis of their argument is that the federal government should get involved in a dispute between two private firms that signed a contract a few years ago and concerning which one of them is not happy.

This is like asking the federal government to step in between two hockey clubs because, two years after trading Lindros, one of them is not happy and feels it got shortchanged. This is almost the same thing.

Are we going to ask the federal government to get involved every time a private contract is signed by two major companies but one of them suddenly decides that it suffered a prejudice because it feels it could have made greater profits by acting differently or by agreeing to different conditions?

When one signs a contract, one must behave like an adult. Those who represented Churchill Falls when the contract was signed behaved like adults, as did those who represented Hydro-Quebec. There is a duly signed contract between two private firms. I do not see why we would want to set a precedent and ask the federal government to get involved, except to make voters believe that the Reform Party is the one that understands them best, the one with the solution to their economic woes of the last few years.

The best thing that voters can do is to wonder if they should put their trust in the Reform Party, given that, in the eyes of that party, an agreement is no assurance for the future.