House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was armenians.

Topics

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all, the tax will not be disguised, it will show on the bill. Second, in the negotiations with the Atlantic provinces, agreement was reached on a mechanism for changing the tax, if a change in the tax was wanted. This means that it will be even harder to raise it. It will require a consensus among the provinces.

I have one other point to make. The hon. member believes that, instead of an integrated federal-provincial tax, instead of implementing in the Maritimes a tax system similar to what there is in Quebec, he is saying there should be a totally different tax, that Quebec should be pushed aside.

I can tell you that, at the meeting of finance ministers, Quebec asked us to really respect their desire to have a tax that can be harmonized with the Quebec sales tax in order to have a uniform tax, for that will be to Quebec's benefit. The hon. member ought to ask his head office if that is what is wanted.

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, on page 92 of the Liberal red book the Liberals promised "more free votes will be allowed in the House of Commons".

This promise is made in a paragraph which also promises MPs a greater role in drafting legislation through House of Commons' committees. It is obviously talking about a free vote on government legislation, not private members' bills.

There have been some free votes on private members' bills in this Parliament and previous Parliaments, but this Prime Minister has steadfastly refused to allow even one free vote on any government legislation.

When will the Prime Minister live up to his red book promise and allow free votes on government legislation?

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know how many free votes the members of the Reform Party have had lately.

When some members of the Reform Party expressed disagreement about some of that party's policies which were completely unacceptable, they were humiliated in their caucus by the rest of the caucus because they were more moderate and made more sense.

We have had more free votes in this House than ever before. However, when it is a question of confidence in the government, when one has no confidence in the government, then just like the Reform Party, one is in the opposition.

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a disgusting pattern emerging in this type of answer.

First we have campaign promises: scrap the GST, free votes in the House of Commons. Then we have the red book interpretation, modification, qualification. Then we have the government's action which is something else again. We end up having a simple, clear promise broken and public trust in the government broken. There is no integrity here.

Is it now the government's position not to allow free votes on government legislation?

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about the member keeping his word. The leader of the third party said in 1990 that he called for the election of Reform Party candidates who would rip out the GST. That was in 1990.

In 1991, the leader said that the GST could not be repealed immediately because it would increase the deficit. I am only in 1991. Now I have to move to 1992.

The Reform changed its position yet again, saying that it would reduce the GST in stages after, only after, the budget was balanced.

I compliment him for his great statement: "We commend the government on its attempt to harmonize the tax with the provinces".

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question is on free votes. No amount of going around the mulberry bush, no amount of false bravado from the members, will avoid the fact that the question is on free votes in this Parliament.

The Prime Minister is showing the same contempt for question period that he has shown for democratic representation in disciplining the member for York South-Weston.

Liberal spin doctors said that the member for York South-Weston had to be disciplined because he voted against the government, not because he voted against the GST. They implied that if the member had simply voted against the new GST legislation the punishment would not have been necessary.

Let me put this theory to a little test. Will the Prime Minister allow his MPs a free vote on the GST legislation that the finance minister introduced this morning?

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have many bills in this House-

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes or no, yes or no, yes or no.

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The right hon. Prime Minister.

Liberal Party
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Saint-Maurice, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the Reform day care program.

We had many votes in this House where sometimes members did not vote with the government. There were many votes. I did not ask them to move to the other side.

I had some discipline. It happened to the former Reform whip who is sitting there, or he was yesterday, who has been changed because he disagreed. We have discipline in the party.

When there is a vote in the House of Commons and the question is: "Do you have confidence in this government?" and if you have no confidence in the government, that means that you are no longer a member of that party.

It has been a British tradition for 400 years. I have to tell the member of the third party that a vote of non-confidence in the government leads to what happened.

I have no lessons in democracy to learn from the Reform Party. Yesterday the leader of a party was recognized by the Speaker to ask one question and the Reform Party wanted him to shut up. That is the type of democracy they are preaching.

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

April 23rd, 1996 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

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

On Saturday, more than 5,000 people from Quebec and New Brunswick, including Acadia, rallied in Rivière-du-Loup as 117 churches in eastern Quebec rang their bells to protest the proposed unemployment insurance reform. The archbishop of the Rimouski diocese himself recently took a stand against the plans concerning

seasonal workers, which he described as a serious threat to the very survival of the regions.

In light of the massive opposition to the unemployment insurance reform and, particularly in the regions, to those rules that severely penalize seasonal workers, does the minister not agree that the best thing to do would be to withdraw this bill and draft a new one in partnership with those concerned, providing for a true reform of the unemployment insurance system?

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, for two years now, we have been trying to overhaul the unemployment insurance program, or employment insurance program, as it is now called. During these two years, hundreds of groups, organizations, companies and individual citizens were consulted and, since December, when the bill was introduced in this House, presentations have been made and briefs submitted by all kinds of people from every region.

Some people were worried and they expressed their concerns to us. Over the course of a few weeks, the committee to which this bill had been referred heard a number of witnesses, who, again, expressed their views, concerns and worries.

Meanwhile, government members were diligently looking at ways to resolve grievances and claims that were recognized as legitimate. Out of this committee study came amendments that will cost the employment insurance program some $365 million.

These amendments will address the issue of benefits paid on the basis of the number of weeks worked and, in part at least, the problem with the intensity rule, by excluding households making less than $26,000 a year, as well as, to some extent, the issue of the dividing factor used in calculating the benefits to be paid to recipients.

That said, I must admit that we did not achieve perfection. And whatever was achieved, we achieved without any help from the opposition.

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition was consistently shoved aside, and this point will be made over the next few days. What is important to remember is that, regarding the number of hours worked, the researchers who advised the minister-if only he had followed their advice-said: It is a leap in the dark. There are huge problems and, in what he just said, the minister only addressed a reduction in cuts.

My question to the minister is the following: Does he not realize that because he has not heard what all sides had to say and consolidated all the information, hundreds of thousands of families, in fact millions of people, will be hit very hard by his reform in years to come? Does he realize that this reform could even have serious social impacts?

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we have done our very best to listen to everyone who had anything substantial to say. The problem in this whole process, as those who attended committee meetings and followed our hearings soon realized, is how widely divergent the views held by the various witnesses were.

As far as those responsible for creating jobs in this country are concerned, namely small and medium size businesses, the original act, let alone the amendments, went much too far and was way too flexible. For the Canadian Labour Congress on the other hand, we were much too strict and demanding.

In a situation like this one, the role of government is to try to strike the happy medium and find solutions which, as far as possible, meet the chief requirement, which is, in this case, to help those in need.

I would like to stress the fact that, if there were problems in committee, if some suggestions were overlooked, it is because we did not manage to address every representation that was made. But for the most part-