House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pay.

Topics

2 p.m.

The Speaker

As is our practice on Wednesdays, we will now sing O Canada, which will be led by the hon. member for Vancouver East.

[Editor's Note: Whereupon members sang the national anthem.]

National Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anna Terrana Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is National Volunteer Week, an opportunity for us to thank those Canadians who devote their time and energy to helping individuals and causes and to improving the quality of life in our communities.

As a volunteer for many years, I know the dedication necessary to get involved in important causes to improve our society.

In my riding of Vancouver East life would be much worse without the help of our volunteers.

Volunteerism is a tradition as old as Canada itself and is quite unique to Canadians. Active, caring citizens have always played a critical role in our society. In celebrating National Volunteer Week we are recognizing the vital contribution of today's volunteers. At the same time, in highlighting their example, we are helping to nurture volunteers for the future.

I urge my colleagues and all Canadians to join me in thanking all the volunteers in Canada. They are undoubtedly our greatest asset.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, voters need accurate information to make wise decisions at election time. With one vote they are asked to choose their member of Parliament, select the government for the term, indirectly choose the Prime Minister and give their approval to a complete all or nothing list of agenda items.

During an election campaign it is not acceptable to say that the GST will be axed with pledges to resign if it is not, to write in small print that it will be harmonized, but to keep it and hide it once the election has been won. It is not acceptable to promise more free votes if all this means is that the status quo of free votes on private members' bills will be maintained. It is not acceptable to say that MPs will be given more authority to represent their constituents if it means nothing and that MPs will still be whipped into submission by threats and actions of expulsion.

I cannot understand why the Liberal Party, running on words of rebuilding the trust of Canadians, would so blatantly ignore its campaign commitments now that it has gained power.

Farm Credit Corporation
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the federal Liberals are planning to turn the future of farm financing back to the banks. Liberals in the Senate, particularly those on the banking committee, have released a report calling for the shutdown of the Farm Credit Corporation.

While there has been warranted criticism of the FCC, which has yet to be properly addressed, there is no question about the need for an understanding and supportive farm lender. The banks have demonstrated that they would rather make outrageous levels of profit than provide service. They cannot be trusted to be the sole lender in the farm community, especially with respect to the needs of the primary producer.

The Liberals are using the back door, through the Senate, to get this issue into public debate and to continue their undermining of our agricultural support institutions. In response, the Liberals should be told that there is a role for a public sector lender with a

farm background and that there should be no support for the shutdown of the Farm Credit Corporation.

Bert Cosman
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, as this is National Volunteer Week, I rise today to thank all the volunteers in my riding of Saint John, which has been ranked third nationally for volunteerism.

In particular, I want to congratulate an outstanding volunteer, Mr. Bert Cosman, who resides in the greater Saint John area. Mr. Cosman recently returned from working overseas for CESO, the Canadian volunteer advisers to business. CESO volunteer advisers are retired, professionally skilled men and women who share their experience with businesses and organizations in developing nations.

Bert went to Romania to assist a government owned company which manufactures high voltage equipment such as power transformers as well as electric and diesel locomotives. He interviewed all management and trade union representatives. He then prepared a report which recommended the centralization of market planning and sales and improvements in areas such as customer service.

I congratulate Mr. Cosman for his dedication and commitment to making this world a better place in which to live.

St. James Breakfast Program
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the St. James Church men's club is one of the volunteer organizations in the Peterborough riding which is providing an early morning breakfast program for students. They feed between 50 and 75 students every morning of the school year. They do this at minimal cost.

They believe, and I agree with them, that their program goes way beyond simply providing a good breakfast for the children who attend. The children find themselves in a happy, welcoming environment. They get a good meal to start the day but they also get to start their day in an upbeat, friendly atmosphere.

I thank all the volunteers across Canada who, like the St. James group, are giving our children a head start.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the federal election campaign kicked off on April 25, 1896, Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal member for Québec-Est, was Leader of the Opposition. He said at the time that Canada could accommodate more than one race; he was referring to French and English Canadians. Today, he would probably say more than one people.

However, Laurier also added: "But there must be only one nation".

From Saint-Lin-des-Laurentides to Arthabasca, from Cap-aux-Meules and Halifax to Vancouver and Victoria, let us follow, in the coming weeks, Wilfrid Laurier's election campaign.

The people of Brome-Missisquoi would now say to the then member of Québec-Est: "Good luck, Wilfrid Laurier".

Drummond's Economic Performance
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, a recent report by the Société de développement économique de Drummondville shows that, in 1995, our region broke industrial investment records, with the creation of 43 businesses for a total of 13,000 jobs.

These figures clearly highlight the entrepreneurial spirit of the industrial community in Drummond and result from the various local stakeholders' successful partnership to promote economic development.

I wish to point out that our region boasts the highest rate of entrepreneurship in Quebec, with 51 manufacturing businesses per 10,000 people, compared to 17 for all of Quebec. With a rate that is three times the provincial average, our region is more than ever Quebec's industrial heartland.

Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week in Quebec, we are celebrating volunteer week under the theme "Volunteer work; it concerns you".

Tens of thousands of volunteers regularly dispense to those around them the friendship, care, understanding, respect and human touch we all need so much. In today's world, can you think of a better way to express love than through the daily actions of these volunteers?

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedication of our great many volunteers in the riding of Saint-Denis, who, like those of PEYO, la Maisonnette des enfants, la Maison des grands-parents and Moisson Montréal, through their patience and generosity, reflect the common values which are at the heart of Canada's identity.

The greatest gift one can give is oneself. Through volunteerism these people do that everyday. They deserve our gratitude and our continued support.

Clifford Olson
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Early release, Mr. Speaker, early release. Go out and kill 11 children, admit to it, and apply for early release under section 745 of the Criminal Code. No problem.

If the self-proclaimed beast of British Columbia or any others of his ilk ever get early release under section 745, then all Canadians will lay the blame at the feet of the Prime Minister, the justice minister and this Liberal government.

The member for Saskatoon-Dundurn who was the chairman of the justice committee and the member for Prince Albert-Churchill, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister and who has Clifford Olson living in his riding, had better be prepared to answer to their constituents if Olson is released and goes on to commit another violent crime.

A final note. If Clifford Olson is released early, he will have served 1.36 years for each murder.

National Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Volunteer Week, which celebrates the work of millions of Canadians and Quebecers who volunteer their time, energy and talents to help others. These volunteers, 55 per cent of whom are women, express their love and generosity through a wide range of actions.

I want to praise the thousands of volunteers in my riding of Bourassa who generously help enhance their fellow citizens' quality of life. I am proud to represent a riding where dozens of community organizations are active. I would like to draw special attention to the work the Centre d'action bénévole de Montréal-Nord has been doing for several years now.

I encourage all Canadians and Quebecers to keep acting with solidarity, generosity and dedication toward the most disadvantaged members of our society.

Christine Ichim
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

John English Kitchener, ON

Mr. Speaker, courage is expressed in many ways. Sometimes it is the heroic effort of a Canadian peacekeeper or the selfless act of a firefighter who saves a child from a burning building. However it is expressed perseverance and strength always shine through in the drive to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.

Today I wish to acknowledge the courage of one individual, a young woman, Christine Ichim, who is from my riding of Kitchener, has taken upon herself the challenge of roller blading across Canada in an effort to raise awareness and research funding for the deadly disease of leukemia.

Her case is not unique in that thousands of Canadians and their families suffer as a result of this terrible cancer. With her mother falling ill with leukemia, Christine has made it her personal mission to find a cure to this disease, first by establishing a centre devoted to its study and more recently by organizing her personal challenge to skate across the country to raise funds for continued research.

It is for this reason I feel it is appropriate we acknowledge her courage to fight rather than despair. I salute Christine Ichim and ask that my colleagues share with me in wishing her all the success deserving of such a worthy cause.

Gasoline Prices
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my dismay at the recent increase in the price of gasoline.

I do not remember reading about a crisis in any of the countries belonging to OPEC. I have not heard about a shortage in oil or petroleum and we all know there was no gas excise tax increase in the last budget. Therefore I am at a loss as to how to explain to my Scarborough Centre constituents why the price of gasoline keeps going up and up. They are fed up as I am with the greed of the large oil companies.

Could it be that the only reason the prices are increasing is that these oil giants are in collusion with each other? We have been told to reduce the deficit, to reduce our spending, not to raise taxes, to stabilize our monetary policies and we have done so and have acted in good faith. We are now asking these large oil and gas companies also to act as good corporate citizens and stop their gouging.

Canadians should not have to put up with gas price hikes every time the weather gets warm or every time a long weekend comes around. The time has come to let these oil giants know that enough

is enough. Canadians want to know what justifies these gas price increases.

West Bank And Gaza
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, no one in Canada tolerates the random acts of terrorism committed by Hamas in Israel. The violence in Lebanon has also shocked and saddened all of us. However the prolonged state of siege that the Palestinians are enduring in the West Bank and Gaza is causing unbelievable hardship to the residents, particularly the women and children who are desperate for food and medical supplies.

With their border crossings closed, an already fragile economy is enduring 90 per cent unemployment. The movement of goods has shut down. While people are hungry, tonnes of fruit and vegetables are rotting in the fields. Schools have closed down, turning thousands of children loose in the streets. Universities have also been shut down. Many cases of maternal and infant deaths have been recorded as access to hospitals is restricted. All Palestinians are being punished for the insane acts of a few.

Is it not time for Israelis who have known hunger, torture and fear to lift the regulations to keep hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in the worst conditions imaginable? How can peace be achieved when such suffering is allowed to continue?

Manitoba Flood
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, again this spring we are watching anxiously as Manitoba residents battle flood waters. Certain parts of the province have been declared disaster areas as people try to salvage what they can of their personal belongings and livelihood.

We have all seen the images of flood waters rising to the roofs of houses and barns. Our hearts go out to these people who have bravely faced these disastrous conditions. We cannot help but admire those who are reluctant to leave their homes and are determined to get back as soon as possible to start rebuilding.

I hope that all three levels of government will be able to work co-operatively to give all possible assistance to these besieged families. I know all members of the House would like to join in offering our support for all those affected by the Manitoba floods.

Harmonization Of Sales Tax
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's important announcement made by the Minister of Finance regarding the harmonization of the GST was well received in Quebec.

The Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance of the PQ government said: "This is very good. It sets a VAT all around us. Ours has the advantage of being the lowest one, thus putting us in a competitive position. This is good for trade and it harmonizes the economic space".

With this reaction, the PQ government proved wrong the gloomsters who keep saying that no agreement is possible between the governments of Quebec and Canada. Now that these people have been proven wrong, let us hope that the Bloc Quebecois will take note and will stop obstructing any attempt to bring the two governments closer to each other.

Armenian Genocide
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the Armenian genocide of 1915.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of Parliament who participated in yesterday's debate in the House and to congratulate them on passing the historic motion which reads:

That this House recognize on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the Armenian tragedy which claimed some 1.5 million lives that took place on April 24, 1915, and in recognition of other crimes against humanity, the week of April 20 to 27 of each year as the week of remembrance of the inhumanity of people towards one another.

Canadians thank their MPs for this motion. It is a giant step forward toward recognition that the use of genocide and violence as instruments of national policy by any nation or any group at any time is a crime against humanity and must be condemned.

Government Grants
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an interview for a grant, I mean a loan. No, I mean a contribution or whatever it is called.

Knock, knock. Come on in. Yes I'd like some money. Well first you have to qualify. What do I have to do? Do you know a Liberal? Yes. Have you paid your share to a Liberal's campaign? Yes.

Do you live in the region? No, do I have to? Has your business been successful? No. Will you employ more people? Not necessarily. Will you pay the money back? No. It's a grant isn't it? Are there similar businesses in your area? Yes, but they won't get a regional development grant. Well sir, it looks as though you qualify. As soon as we borrow the money from Japan, Germany or the U.S.A., we'll write you a cheque. And don't worry about any pay back-our children will look after it.

Tribute To General Jean Victor Allard
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to pay special tribute to the first francophone to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general in the Canadian Armed Forces, Jean Victor Allard.

Mr. Allard had a brilliant career. In 1964, he was promoted to the highest rank in the Canadian military forces. It was the first time that a French speaking person was appointed to that strategic position.

In 1965, he was appointed commander of the new mobile force, in Saint-Hubert. In 1966, he was promoted to the rank of general and appointed chief of the defence staff. It is under his supervision that the Canadian forces were integrated. In the late sixties, Jean Victor Allard left the military and proudly represented the Government of Quebec in New York City.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I offer my sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Allard, and I salute the great soldier that he was.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government was elected on the strength of a solemn commitment to abolish the GST. The Prime Minister said during the electoral campaign, "We are going to scrap the GST". The Deputy Prime Minister said, "If the GST is not abolished, I will resign". On May 2, 1994, the Prime Minister again said, "We hate this tax and we will get rid of it".

The Liberals made a number of solemn promises to eliminate the GST. Yesterday, however, not only did the Minister of Finance announce that the GST was being kept, he went on to say that we were going to pay $1 billion to extend it to the Maritimes.

How does the Prime Minister justify such a spectacular about-face?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, first, we can see what is going on in the Government of Quebec, where the mother house is making major changes to the Parti Quebecois program as it stood at election time. I just make this comment in passing.

I would simply like to read what is in the red book, the document our election campaign was based on. Here is what appears on page 22 of the English and on page 20 of the French:

A Liberal government will replace the GST with a system that generates the equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small business, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal provincial fiscal co-operation and harmonization.

This is exactly what we have begun to do. We have succeeded in doing it with three Atlantic provinces and are negotiating with the others. Quebec was even ahead of the others. It understood the advantage of harmonization. We will finish the job with Quebec and we hope the other provinces will understand that a unified sales tax system in Canada is much simpler for everyone and much more effective.

We made it clear in the red book that we could not abolish a tax without equivalent revenues, because the priority of all governments at the moment, in Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto or elsewhere, is to eliminate deficits, which have been a source of economic problems throughout Canada, in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada is becoming a specialist in post-election program changes. The changes should have been made before.

As the Minister of Finance acknowledged yesterday, it was a mistake to promise to eliminate the GST and not do so. Is the government not making a second and very serious political mistake by developing another harmonization model, different from the one already in place with Quebec, which had the advantage of not costing Canadian taxpayers a thing.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, now the Bloc Quebecois is asking us to be inflexible, to give the exact same thing to everyone. Because it is complex, we are looking with the provinces for a solution that is acceptable and fair to everyone.

I hear the leader of the Bloc Quebecois saying we are changing our program; we are not changing our program. I just read our program. But we will see on Monday whether the leader of the Parti Quebecois in Quebec City has changed the Parti's program on Bill 101.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, is the Prime Minister in such a tight spot in this House that he has to try to draw attention away from commitments he made and did not keep? It was right there on the TV screen yesterday: the Prime Minister in shirt sleeves before Liberal supporters making commitments to scrap the GST. What about the Deputy Prime

Minister who was going to resign if the GST were not eliminated. Where is she now?

How can the Prime Minister explain to Quebecers that, really, they have not been taken in again by the federal government, when, despite their good faith and their being the first to harmonize their sales tax with the federal tax, they did not get the compensation the Maritimers got.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will not read what I read earlier again; it is in the red book. It was very clear, and we are keeping the promise we made in the red book.

The Bloc Quebecois told Quebecers to vote for the real power. They are in opposition and they will be there for a long time to come. Their cousins in Quebec City are today changing, for political gain, the political program Mr. Parizeau used to get himself elected.

They are the last people to talk to me about not keeping my word. I have it in writing, and I-

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I would remind hon. members please to not use any props in the House of Commons.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, documents submitted this morning to the commission of inquiry indicate that the chief of defence staff, Jean Boyle, had indeed received a memo addressed directly to him suggesting that the information to be handed over on Somalia be modified, contrary to what he told the military police last December, when the current minister was in office.

Since this memo was directly addressed to Mr. Boyle, how can the minister justify that it was not handed over to the commission of inquiry at the very beginning and that, in order to obtain it, it was necessary to mobilize the entire army in an unprecedented search? How does the minister explain that?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I share the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Shefford on the death of former General Jean Victor Allard. He was a man of great distinction who served Canada well. He was the first French-Canadian chief of defence in our history. He was a great man.

Concerning the question of the hon. member for Charlesbourg, he knows I have been giving the same answer to that question for two weeks. I have answered the question for two weeks because that is what Canadians expect to hear.

They expect to hear that the commission that was established by this government, an impartial setting, will look at all of the allegations which have come forward.

The hon. member should have paid attention to the comments made by the counsel for the commission this morning who at the hearings warned Canadians not to be misled by partial evidence, not to jump to conclusions, but to allow the commission to come to its deliberations and answers in the fullness of time.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions the minister has replied that we must wait, but now we have the proof that the chief of defence staff did not carry out his duties.

With this new cover-up, which severely undermines the chief of defence staff's credibility and by extension that of the entire armed forces, what more is the minister waiting for to suspend him temporarily from his duties, so that we can get to the bottom of this business once and for all?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am waiting for the process of justice to take its course. The process of justice established by the creation of the commission will allow all of the allegations and all of the questions to be answered over the next few weeks. It will allow those people who have been accused in a public forum, in the House of Commons, to have an opportunity to state their case. That is the way we do justice in Canada and I believe all Canadians support that.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Liberal MPs across the country promised Canadians that they would scrap, kill and abolish the GST, just as they said.

They have delivered, a billion dollar bribe to hide the GST and hide their broken promises. The Prime Minister has gone back on his solemn word to Canadians and the finance minister simply said yesterday: "We made a mistake in the last election campaign".

The Prime Minister can wave the red book all he wants, but the question to be answered is this. Will he apologize to Canadians for breaking his number one promise of the 1993 election?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in 1990 during the byelection in the riding of the hon. member, in order to get her elected, her leader of the day who is in the House today, called for the election of a Reform Party candidate who would rip the GST right out if it was imposed against the will of the people.

In 1991 it was not the same. If Reformers were to form the government they could not repeal it. They would have to wait until they had a balanced budget. In 1992 he said something else and in 1994 in a report tabled in the House of Commons the members of the Reform Party complimented the Minister of Finance for the harmonization of the tax with the provincial governments.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was elected four months after the Tory government in the spring of 1989 and the GST had not even been talked about then. Nice try.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Get the facts right and get the time right.

This government has shown its contempt for the Canadian people. It has shown complete disregard for the promises it made in the last election. It has destroyed whatever credibility the red book might have left. It just goes to show that the Liberals will say anything, do anything and believe anything to get elected.

The Prime Minister supported the GST when he ran for the Liberal leadership. He opposed it in the last election and then he supported it again now that he got Canadians' votes.

They can wave the red book all they like but can Canadians trust anything in the red book?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The red book is being used on both sides as a prop. I would ask please, do not use props in the House of Commons.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, 75 per cent of the red book commitments have been passed by this government. The member even has a copy of the red book in her hand. We are still waiting for the alternative budget that they were supposed to prepare for the last budget.

I remember the leader of the third party telling Canadians: "Ladies and gentlemen, we will have a budget to tell the Minister of Finance what to do". We are still waiting. The budget has been voted on and we are waiting. Where are the people who made these commitments? They do not have to deliver. They just gave us a plan that they would never have to implement. There is no danger if they do not even have the guts to table a plan they will never have a chance to implement.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, nobody in western Canada can do a two step that fancy. This red book means nothing, absolutely nothing. It is a prop. It is a sham.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Sit down.

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development referred to a problem in letting the UI fund surplus continue to accumulate. There is, in fact, a surplus of $5 billion this year, with another $5.3 billion predicted for next year, while at the same time the minister is making a gift of some $500 million to big business.

At a time when the Minister of Human Resources Development is in the process of cutting back unemployment insurance benefits by billions of dollars, thus creating poverty in the regions, why does he not withdraw this bill and use the available funds to help the needy unemployed in Quebec, in Acadia, in New Brunswick, and everywhere in Canada?

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague is aware, he could not have asked the same question last year, for the UI fund had no surplus at that time. In fact, there was a deficit.

Obviously, changes in situations such as what has happened with the unemployment insurance fund must be taken into account. At the moment, however, what needs to be kept in mind is that the amendments made to the bill before the House at this time will result in improvements to situations that have been recognized as a result of presentations made by those interested in making fair changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act. The opposition's assistance in this would have been appreciated.

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could have asked the question last year because indeed there was a surplus, and I am sure I would have got the same reply. We have finally got the minister's message. He is cutting $45 million from manpower training courses in Quebec, while the UI fund accumulates billions in surplus funds.

When the minister says he is pulling out of manpower training and leaving it to the provinces, that means he is no longer putting any funds into it, but he will continue to impose his centralizing views on us, and to duplicate programs already in place in Quebec.

Is that what federal withdrawal is all about: continuing involvement in manpower, but cutting off funding to the provinces?

Unemployment Insurance Reform
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we have been asked many times to withdraw from manpower training in a number of provinces, including Quebec. We have made the commitment, reiterated by the Prime Minister and confirmed in the throne speech, to withdraw from manpower training, not only in Quebec but throughout the country. Thanks to this decision, the Government of Canada is, in fact, pulling out of training. We have promised to do so within three years, and I hope to be able to do so earlier than that.

[English]

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the House is embarrassed by the wrong thing. It is upset about a book on the floor but not by the deception that it represents.

The Liberals promised that they would kill, scrap and abolish the GST. What they have delivered, however, is a billion dollar bribe and a blended sales tax. Actually the BS tax is a good name for it because that is exactly what Liberal candidates were spreading on the campaign trail during the last election.

Since the government readily admits that it broke its promise on the GST, will the Prime Minister keep at least one election promise and ask the Deputy Prime Minister to resign?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I read earlier in French what is written on page 22. Hon. members are not setting a very good example by throwing books on the floor when there are kids in the House of Commons. They are trying to look at their Parliament and they see that behaviour from members.

I can start to read this but it would take a long time. On page 111 of the red book we called for the cancellation of the helicopter program. Done. We called for cuts to national defence. Done. We called for cuts in the professional service budget. Done. We called for cuts in grants to business. Done. I can read more. The youth service corps. Done. Literacy, done.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The House is rather spirited today. The wording of the questions and preambles is getting very close to being unparliamentary.

Members know the rules of the House. They can quote from a document but the document should not be flailed about in any way. I would appeal to members, both in the questions and the answers, to put them succinctly so that we can get on with question period.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign the Prime Minister boasted about his decades of experience in the House of Commons. Now he is telling Canadians that he did not know what he was doing.

The Prime Minister is saying he did not know what he was doing when he said that he would kill, scrap and abolish the GST. For crying out loud, the man was the finance minister. That is nothing but garbage, just like the red book.

Since it is clear that he played Canadians for fools in the last election, since it is clear that the Liberals knew they could not keep their commitments, and since it is clear that the Deputy Prime Minister pledged to resign if that commitment was not met and yet she still sits here, why should Canadians believe anything this Prime Minister and this government says?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on an odious reference from the member's preamble to his other question, the use of the word "bribe" in reference to one section of the country.

Yesterday the premier of Alberta said he felt Alberta is entitled to a reduction in the federal sales tax rate as it applies to his province. That is a point of view that may well be expressed in honest debate. No one in that government has referred to bribes or other odious terms used.

I quote the Minister of Finance for Alberta: "We are Canadians from one end of the country to the other. The fact is that Canadians living in Alberta will probably pay more to Confederation during this time and certainly during the 1970s than Canadians living in say Saskatchewan or in Newfoundland. I do not believe this government", the Conservative Government of Alberta,"is a believer in cheque book federalism. Canada is much more than that".

I certainly hope there is never a merger between the Reform Party and the Tories. If that were the case, there would be a fundamental lack of decency in the Reform Party that would disappear from the right wing of the spectrum.

Manpower Training
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

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

Yesterday Louise Harel, Quebec's minister of employment and solidarity, was quoted as saying the following: "While Quebec is

focussing considerable efforts on getting employment back on its feet, in partnership with all those involved within the province, Ottawa is headed in the opposite direction, without any co-operation with the Quebec authorities".

While everyone in Quebec is pooling forces in an attempt to solve the unemployment problem, how can the Minister of Human Resources Development justify the federal government's unilateral action, which creates divisions?

Manpower Training
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to holding discussions with our Quebec colleagues, in order to find ways of meeting our commitments concerning withdrawal from manpower training.

As for all of the other issues relating to active measures and what is reflected in part II of the employment insurance bill now before Parliament, we have every intention of entering into negotiations with the province of Quebec, and all of the provinces in this country, for it is the intention of the Government of Canada to show good faith in this entire matter, once again demonstrating that, with flexibility and good intentions, we can prove the federation is working very well.

Manpower Training
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, where manpower is concerned, the time for talking is over. We have been hearing for five years now that the governments are going to talk together about it, yet every time there is a meeting, you do not attend. Do something.

Does the minister confirm that what Louise Harel, the minister, says is true: by his involvement in manpower training, he is perpetuating overlap, creating five new programs which duplicate provincial programs already in place, in Quebec in particular?

Manpower Training
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

No, Mr. Speaker, we do not believe that what we are doing at this time is adding to duplication and overlap.

What we believe is that there is a desire country-wide to find new ways of getting federation to work. This includes anything related to job creation, trade training, active measures in the private sector. We hope to be able to find solutions to these knotty problems, for they have been discussed long enough, as the hon. member has said.

I do, however, find it somewhat surprising that, when we are attempting to withdraw from manpower training, the hon. member appears to think we are heading in the wrong direction. I thought that was the direction the consensus in Quebec wanted us to take.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we have seen here today in the House is the Prime Minister of Canada who made a cold, calculated promise to Canadian taxpayers, Canadian citizens, to kill the GST with absolutely no intention of keeping that promise.

He then turned around and blamed his advisors for it. He booted out anyone who got in his way and then he forced his own finance minister to accept the blame for his broken promises.

Why does the Prime Minister, not the finance minister or his advisors, not have the courage and the honesty to stand up in the House-

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure the House will agree that neither the courage nor the honesty of any of our hon. members is in question in the House.

I ask the hon. member to please rephrase his question and go directly to the question now.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, why in order to win the 1993 election did the Prime Minister mislead Canadians from coast to coast?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am not too offended because I had the prudence to put all that in writing. From page 22:

In the first session of a new Parliament, a Liberal government will give the all-party finance committee of the House of Commons a 12-month mandate to consult fully with Canadians and provincial governments and to report on ways to achieve tax fairness, simplicity and harmonization. In particular, the committee will be mandated to report on all options for alternatives to the current GST. A Liberal government will replace the GST with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and to small businesses, minimizes disruption to small business, and promotes federal-provincial fiscal co-operation and harmonization.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Prime Minister, instead of referring to the red book, should look at the fourth edition of the blue book, Reform's way of running the country.

The Prime Minister knew before the election that the GST was not going to go, yet he pawned it off on regular Canadians who were thinking there was going to be a break in this country, and it was a bold faced lie.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I ask the hon. member for Fraser Valley West to please withdraw the last statement.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot do that in all good conscience.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

The Speaker

We will take a couple of minutes to quiet down. I will return to this at the end of question period. The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

An event dubbed "Extreme Fighting" is scheduled to be held on the Kahnawake reserve this Friday. I think the atmosphere at these events is not unlike that now prevailing in this House.

In the last few days, promoters have been advertising this event, which is due to be broadcast on Pay-TV throughout the U.S. At first sight, this type of combat violates provisions in the Criminal Code.

Since the setting up of equipment to allow satellite broadcasting of "Extreme Fighting" in the U.S. must be authorized by Industry Canada, can the Minister of Industry tell us if he has received an application in this case? If not, can he assure us that any potential broadcaster will not use a general authorization from his department to transmit an illegal event?

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the setting up of equipment per se is not illegal. If there is an illegal act it will be dealt with by the authorities in Quebec.

There have been meetings between Grand Chief Norton and the Quebec government. They set out rules of combat: no biting, no scratching and no time outs, which I found was a preference by the Mohawks in the province of Quebec for the next referendum rules.

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to notify the Minister of Industry that, this morning, the Quebec government advised one of his departmental officials, the one in charge of telecommunications, that this event was illegal.

My question is very simple. Since this event is illegal, can the minister promise not to authorize the setting up of technical equipment so that the event scheduled to be held on Friday in Quebec can be broadcast all over the U.S.?

Telecommunications
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie
Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding from the meetings that there has been no definitive finding of illegality. If there is, it is up to the authorities in Quebec to stop the illegal action. It is clearly within their jurisdiction. If they do not want to exercise it that is their problem. It is their decision whether the event is illegal or legal.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the end of World War II a grateful British government sent certificates of appreciation to 6,000 Canadian volunteers whose service as radar technicians had been vital to the air defence of England. Unfortunately those certificates were never distributed and all but one were destroyed.

Will the minister of defence now, finally after 50 years, authorize the production of replica certificates so these Canadian radar technician veterans can finally be thanked?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is a misunderstanding that has gone on for 50 years and has continued until recent days. I think all Canadians recognize the great contribution made by the radar technicians in the second world war when attached to the Royal Air Force.

Certainly if the British government is willing to recognize replicas of the original certificates, we will have a Government of Canada representative present those certificates to the survivors or to their families.

I hope this action will meet with the approval of the survivors and their families.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we have witnessed the outrage many members of the House feel about the government's attempt to reinterpret and hide its broken promise on the GST. It is the same outrage felt by millions of Canadians who took that promise at face value.

What the government has done reinforces the public perception that promises made in election campaigns are utterly worthless and that politicians, even prime ministers, cannot be trusted.

In reinforcing that perception, the government has undermined the integrity of every member of the House, regardless of their party.

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge the damage the GST shell game has done to the integrity of politics in Canada, and what, if anything, does he propose to do to repair the damage he has done?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will set the record straight. For many days we have read the

commitment on page 22. It is very clear. If we were only to defend it, that would be something people might say is a bit political.

There was a committee of the House, all members were there and for a year they looked into the problem. The Reform Party tabled a minority report and talked about a solution: "It is simply unacceptable that Canada remains the only country in the world with ten different sales tax regimes. We commend the government on its attempt to harmonize the tax with the provinces".

These are the words of the leader of the Reform Party. If he wants to show integrity, he should repeat that in the House and compliment the Minister of Finance.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister evades the issue of integrity. If he wants me to repeat something in the House, I will repeat something he said in 1991 when he was in opposition.

He was asked by a fellow Liberal what assurance he could give the people of Canada that the Liberal Party will have a value system that people can trust. The Prime Minister said: "Trust will come when we say we will get rid of the GST. We will have an alternative, but we will not try to buy votes. People want an honest government. They do not want a repetition of what this government", the Mulroney government, "has done to this nation, making promises and breaking them all the time".

How does the Prime Minister reconcile what he said in 1991 with what he has done this week with the GST? Will he admit the integrity of his government is in danger of sinking to the level of the Mulroney administration?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am not afraid of that at all. We have it in writing on page 22. If we were not to implement page 22, he would be complaining to the House. However, he found our solution was so good that he commended us and said we were on the right track. He is in agreement with us that page 22 was the right approach and he confirmed that when members of his own party in committee said we were doing the right thing.

The position of the Reform Party and the position of the Liberal Party, on page 22 in writing, is exactly the same. That is why people have confidence in the government today.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we heard how businesses and consumers in three Atlantic provinces will benefit from harmonizing the provincial and federal sales taxes. Businesses and consumer groups have endorsed this plan. My province, Ontario, did not sign an agreement with the federal government.

Can the minister tell the House why Ontario should join the process and harmonize its provincial sales tax with the federal sales tax?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to answer this question, especially coming from the chairperson of the economic policy committee of our caucus.

There is no doubt that Ontario as a major exporter and as a major manufacturer would benefit enormously from sales tax harmonization. It means increased competitiveness. It means lower costs. It means less administration for both business and for government.

For the people of Ontario it would mean lower prices, as the embedded retail sales taxes within prices under the Ontario system at the present time would disappear. The fact is that sales tax harmonization would benefit Canada, and Ontario, the heartland of Confederation, would benefit enormously.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister said yesterday that the harmonization of the sales tax programs would be good for business. The provinces have already said that the harmonization plans will cost them revenues because today's corporations pay provincial sales tax but under the new harmonized system they will not.

I assume the Minister of Finance has reviewed this carefully. Can he tell the House and the people of Canada how much of the tax burden is being transferred from the corporations to the ordinary taxpaying consumer?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that over a four year period, and indeed that is the basis of the transition agreement with Atlantic Canada, the increased economic activity that would be generated, the number of jobs that would be generated as a result of getting away from the tremendous burden that retail sales tax places upon the provinces, would benefit consumers.

Also, the fact is that the rate will be lower in Atlantic Canada. It would be lower in other parts of Canada. Consumer prices will be lower. This is a win-win situation for business, for employers and for consumers.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw the attention of members to the presence in our gallery of His Excellency Dioncounda Traore, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mali.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, during the course of question period today, we had very strong exchanges on both sides which for the most part is to be expected in a question period. However there are circumstances where the wording of questions, the words that were used, are not acceptable to the House.

It is not so much any more a question of what was said or what was not said. In this sense at least, the fact is your Speaker has found some of the language which was used in question period to be unparliamentary.

I address myself of course directly to the member for Fraser Valley West. My dear colleague, I well understand in the course of heated debate and exchanges that sometimes words are used which upon reflection, if we had a chance, we would probably withdraw.

I asked you, my colleague, directly during the question period and I put off until now hoping that we could clarify this. The words you used in my view, and I speak with the full authority this House has given me, were the words "bold faced lie". I believe those are the words that were precisely used. I asked the hon. member for Fraser Valley West if he would withdraw. At the time the hon. member declined from withdrawing and I said that I would put the matter over until after question period.

I hope the member has reflected a bit on the words that were used. I would once again ask the hon. member for Fraser Valley West to withdraw those words. I put it to you squarely my dear colleague. Will you withdraw the words you used during question period?

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, I mean no disrespect to the Chair. May I supplant them with the words "deliberately misled"?

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member puts a question to the Chair and it deserves an answer. The answer is quite simple my dear colleague. I have asked you not to rephrase the question. I have asked you to please withdraw those words. That is what I would ask you to do now.

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I decline to do so.

Naming Of Member
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, as your Speaker, I want you to know that I take no pleasure, none whatsoever, in naming anyone in our midst.

My dear colleague from Fraser Valley West, Mr. White, I have to name you for disregarding the authority of the Chair. Pursuant to the order granted to me by Standing Order 11, I order you to withdraw from the House for the remainder of this day's sitting. I would ask that you do so now.

[Editor's Note: And Mr. White (Fraser Valley West) having withdrawn:]

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity to rise on a question of privilege regarding a grave matter which was brought to my attention on Tuesday, April 23, 1996.

Events have led me to believe there has been a deliberate attempt by the office of the government House leader to deny me an answer to my questions on the Order Paper. I refer to questions Nos. 25 and 26. Comments made by an official from the office of the government House leader were quoted in the Ottawa Sun on April 22: ``He is outrageously seeking information and a lot of it. The government is not going to divert personnel to answer the questions''.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this constitutes a contempt of Parliament. I refer you to Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 97:

While it is correct to say that the government is not required by our rules to answer written or oral questions, it would be bold to suggest that no circumstances could ever exist for a prima facie question of privilege to be made where there was a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member-

Questions Nos. 25 and 26 on the Order Paper to which I refer were first submitted as a single question on December 1, 1994 and have been on the Order Paper ever since. While the government failed to answer within the prescribed 45 day period, I was patient.

On June 21, 1995 I raised a point of order asking that the question be answered. The parliamentary secretary to the House leader replied that he was sorry it had taken so long and that the government had been assiduous in attending to its duties. He alluded to the fact that I could expect a response soon thereafter.

I waited until October 26, 1995, four months later, to raise a second point of order and again ask the parliamentary secretary when I could expect an answer. The parliamentary secretary replied that he would get me an answer and that it was nearing completion, but that I should be patient.

When Parliament resumed, I resubmitted the question as it is part of my parliamentary duties. However it would now seem that the government has no intention, and never had any intention, of answering the question. This obstruction of my parliamentary duties was confirmed in a Toronto Sun article published Sunday, April 21, 1996.

Erskine May's 21st edition clearly describes contempt as follows: "Any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence".

I requested the information in accordance with Standing Order 39(1) which states:

Questions may be placed on the Order Paper seeking information from ministers of the crown relating to public affairs; and from other members, relating to any bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House, in which such members may be concerned;

This request of mine was submitted under the rules of the House and is considered a proceeding of Parliament for the purpose of privilege.

Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 70, defines a proceeding of Parliament as follows: ``Since two of Parliament's constituent elements, the House of Commons and the Senate, were established for the enactment of laws, those events necessarily incidental to the enactment of laws are part of the proceedings in Parliament. However Parliament has also always been a forum to receive petitions, and the crown's satisfying the grievances of members before granting supply eventually led to straightforward requests for information''.

Therefore the events necessarily incidental to petitions, questions and notices of motions in Parliament in the 17th century and today are all events which are part of the proceedings in Parliament.

Moreover, a report of the Select Committee on the Official Secrets Act in 1939 stated that a proceeding in Parliament covers both the asking of a question and the giving written notice of such a question.

As an opposition member it is my duty to scrutinize the government and to ensure that it is spending the taxpayers' money wisely. The Order Paper is one method of seeking information from the government. The Order Paper questions are allowed under the rules of this House and as I have pointed out are a part of the proceedings of Parliament.

I am an elected member of this House performing my duties in accordance with the rules established by this House, and an official in the office of the government House leader is attempting to impede directly or indirectly in a proceeding in Parliament.

There was a case in 1973 when the member for Northumberland-Durham received a letter from the solicitor general stating that the RCMP did not make it a practice of opening mail. Subsequent questions in the House by that same member on November 9, 1977 to the then solicitor general regarding mail openings by the RCMP provided a sufficient and direct relationship with the proceedings in Parliament for the purpose of privilege. Later, remarks before a royal commission were made by the former commissioner of the RCMP stating that the practice was very often that ministers' letters were not exactly drafted on precise statements of fact. The sum of this evidence permitted the Speaker in 1978 to find a prima facie case of contempt where the RCMP were alleged to have deliberately misled a minister of the crown and the member for Northumberland-Durham, resulting in an attempt to obstruct the House by offering misleading information.

Whereas the case of the member for Northumberland-Durham dealt with a matter of an official deliberately misleading a member, what I bring to your attention is a case where an official in the minister's office is deliberately trying to interfere with me as a member of Parliament by deliberately not being forthright with resources, causing information to be withheld.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, in the case of the citation from Beauchesne, the Speaker once ruled that there could be a question of privilege where there is a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member.

I take issue with the comments of the official in the media in regard to my request. That official is quoted as saying that a request for information from a parliamentarian is outrageous. Such arrogance and insolence by an official in the face of Parliament is contemptuous. Is this how ministers' staff view requests for information from opposition members? Here we have a staff person making judgments on a request from Parliament, virtually thumbing his nose at this House.

Mr. Speaker, I refer you to citation 59 of Beauchesne's sixth edition, which reads:

Traditionally, articles in the press reflecting badly on the character of the House have been treated as contempts. Two members of the staff of the House have been dismissed for writing such articles, and in 1873 the House judged an article written by a Member to be a "scandalous, false and malicious libel upon the honour, integrity and character of this House, and of certain Members thereof, and a high contempt of the privileges and constitutional authority of this House."

Surely an official referring to a request from Parliament as "outrageous" reflects on the dignity of Parliament and of parliamentarians.

In conclusion, I want to address the issue of ministerial responsibility, which you may be tempted to factor into your decision. I draw to your attention once again the Speaker's ruling of November 9, 1978, which appears at page 966 of Hansard , where the Speaker said:

I do not think that there is procedural significance to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, it appears that we are now embarking on a different course in having the

House, through a question of privilege, reach around the minister and examine directly the conduct of an official-it seems to me [it] is not [a] procedural matter.

The Speaker did not consider that there was a prima facie question of privilege in 1979. There is no procedural significance in this case either, Mr. Speaker, and I ask that you consider my points accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you review this matter. Should you find that there is a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the government has been trying very hard to answer the questions on the Order Paper of the member. The questions are on the record but I would like to remind the member of the nature of those questions.

In question No. 25, the member is asking:

For each department, agency and Crown Corporation, how many employees, including parliamentary agents, Governor-in-Council appointees, armed forces personnel and RCMP personnel receive a living allowance for a second residence and/or a transportation allowance from their residence to their place of work where the distance exceeds 40km?

Question No. 26 asks:

What is the rank, position or title of each recipient of second residence allowance and/or transportation allowance from residence to place of work and, what is the cost for individual recipients and method of taxation of these benefits?

Ever since the hon. member asked those two questions, the government has tried to answer in the best way it can. However, those two questions require much work and personnel have to be taken away from their regular duties in order to answer them. We have tried. As a matter of fact, the hon. member mentioned it himself when asked about the questions in October and the then parliamentary secretary to the House leader said that the government was working on them, to be patient and he would get the answers.

The House prorogued. Now the hon. member has asked the questions again. I repeat that, yes, if he is patient he will get his answers. They are very complex answers.

However, there is no question of privilege. The government wants to answer every question.

However, I understand that the nature of the questions requires a lot of work. If the member wants a good answer he should allow the government to provide it in due course.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add briefly to the points raised by the deputy House leader for the government.

First, the hon. member in his speech to the House reflected on the parallel which he drew between his case and that of the hon. member for Northumberland-Durham some time ago. He also alleged that the wilfully giving of false information, which was the issue at the time, is synonymous with what is occurring today and that there is a deliberate attempt to deny information to him. He also stated that the request had been cited as "outrageous". He drew on citation 59 of Beauchesne.

First, written questions are similar in the standing orders to oral questions in the House of Commons. They are under the same section of the standing orders. Standing Order 39 refers to questions as questions from members. In other words, Mr. Speaker, these are private members' questions and they are to be treated as such. A request by a private member does not constitute an order of the House.

Second, I do not know if the evaluation made by someone that the question was so vast in scope that it was outrageous, is fair or not. The fact that the work required to answer the question may be very large may be one thing but that in no way suggests that the question should not be put. However, it does suggest that a lot of work may be required in order to put the answer together.

The deputy House leader has indicated the size of this project. When we are talking about a couple of hundred thousand civil servants, measuring all of the things that the member has asked for is indeed a very significant task and perhaps the word outrageous was the appropriate word.

However, there is not a deliberate attempt to deny or wilfully give false information. The case brought by the hon. member in relation to citation 59 of Beauchesne reflects those things that have to do with "reflecting badly on the character of the House".

If I understand it correctly, no one said that such a request made by the House itself would have been outrageous nor was any comment made disparaging it. In the case of the issue in question, I believe there was a parallel some years ago, known as the Doyle case, which was judged as being a contempt and insult to the House as an institution.

Nothing is parallel in the discussion today. We have a private member's request which is perhaps a legitimate request. Nevertheless, it is one that is so wide in scope that it will cost not only tens of thousands of dollars to accumulate the answer. However, I am sure that when the information is available it will be responded to. It is not a wilful attempt to deceive the House in any way but a request that is so vast in scope that it will be difficult for anyone to achieve the desired result, notwithstanding the best efforts of everyone in government.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, with regard to the question of privilege, it would seem to me, at least at first glance, that neither privilege nor contempt are in question here.

However, after having listened to the dissertation of the hon. member for St. Albert and after hearing the contributions made by the secretary of state and the government whip, I would like to review all of the papers. If it is necessary I will return to the House with a decision on this matter.

I am sure that all hon. members will appreciate that sometimes the scope of a question is such that it could take a little bit longer to answer. On the other hand, an attempt should be made by the government to answer these questions as quickly as possible.

I will take hon. members' advice and I will study it. If necessary, I will get back to the House and give a definitive answer on the question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jesse Flis Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. Through a Page I sent you a notice that I wished to raise a question of privilege arising from today's question period. I also gave notice to the hon. member who was involved in the question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

That is correct. I confirm that I did receive a note from the hon. member for Parkdale-High Park on a question of privilege which arose out of the question period. I am prepared to listen to the question of privilege of the hon. member.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jesse Flis Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 48(1). I am using the authority of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms , sixth edition, citations 114 following. My question of privilege refers to the book throwing incident during question period by the hon. member for Beaver River.

Why do I raise this? Because this is a deliberate contempt of Parliament. Viewers were watching this on television.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jesse Flis Parkdale—High Park, ON

Members of the Reform Party are laughing. This is the party that promised to bring decorum into the House of Commons. This is how they are doing it. They are ridiculing the orders of this House. They are ridiculing the authority of Beauchesne.

Hundreds of students were sitting in the gallery today watching question period. Hopefully, some of them will be sitting in these seats. We cannot allow the kind of behaviour displayed by the hon. member for Beaver River.

As members of Parliament we have to control our tempers. I know that debates get heated. But the next book could be thrown at you, Mr. Speaker. The next book could be thrown at someone on this side of the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh. Oh.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jesse Flis Parkdale—High Park, ON

The Reform Party which promised to bring decorum to this place should listen to my motion: I give notice that whereas the hon. member for Beaver River did show contempt of Parliament with her misbehaviour during question period April 24, 1996, by throwing a book onto the floor of the House of Commons, I move:

That the hon. member for Beaver River appear at the Bar to purge the contempt and promise better conduct in the future.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I guess he is throwing the book at me.

The member talked about the fact that members need to control ourselves. Yes we do. This is a very emotional debate. The member talked about purging contempt of Parliament. I hardly think that throwing me, one single member of Parliament, out of the House is going to do anything to purge contempt in this place.

I think this is a point of debate. In terms of decorum I have just celebrated my seventh anniversary in this place. I have talked about decorum in the House of Commons. No, I do not think it is cute or theatrical to do stunts.

The Prime Minister waves the red book around constantly. When I bring it forward or even show it, all of a sudden I am using a prop. But he can wave it and flail it around and it is acceptable because he is the Prime Minister. I do not think that is acceptable.

My frustration today about the red book was watching the Prime Minister wave it around. Then I got into trouble when I even lifted it up to read from it or make reference to it. My frustration stems from the fact that I sat in opposition with these people when this debate was raging and saw the emotion attached to it from their side when the rat pack went hysterical over it. I am now sitting on this side of the House watching these people defending it amazingly.

I appreciate the member's bringing this to the concern of Parliament. I certainly do not want to challenge the Chair or any member in the House, but I firmly believe because of what we have seen happen over the GST yesterday and today that the red book truly belongs on the floor.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

With regard to the point raised by the hon. member for Parkdale-High Park, the Chair agrees there was disorder caused in the House. The Chair agrees there was a breach of decorum.

I hate to use the word punish, but in order to rectify the situation, members will remember your Speaker passed on from the questioner and hopefully that would have rectified the situation.

I have pointed on numerous occasions to the use of props. It is true the red book has been quoted extensively by members on both sides. In the rules of the House if a member is quoting from a book, I permit them to read. Whenever it is being used as a prop by flailing it around or throwing it, God forbid, I step in.

In the heat of debate, because emotions are running high, we should get our emotions under control. As such, I urge members on both sides that when quoting from a book, quote from the book, but you need not hold it aloft, whether it be the red book or the blue book, it does not matter.

There was a breach of decorum. As your Speaker I did intervene. I would like to let the matter rest there, encouraging you always to keep your emotions under control because we are being watched by 30 million of our fellow citizens and we would hope to set a very good example.

Canada Labour Relations Board
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) and to section 121 of the Canada Labour Code, Part I, which deals with annual reports, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 22nd annual report of the Canada Labour Relations Board.

Pursuant to Standing Order 32(5), this report is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 16 petitions.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-272, an act to amend the Criminal Code (no parole when imprisoned for life).

Mr. Speaker, this bill amends certain provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada relating to prison sentences of life imprisonment. In effect this bill would eliminate any provision for early release or parole eligibility of any criminal serving a life sentence.

This private member's reflects the view that justice will be served when murderers sentenced to life imprisonment serve their full court ordered life sentence. For families of victims a true life sentence is an issue of closure. It is also a matter of fairness.

My bill sends a clear message to child killers like Clifford Olson. If an individual takes the life of another, that offender will spend the rest of his natural life locked away: no parole; life means life.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code (violent crimes).

Mr. Speaker, this bill can properly be characterized as two violent strikes legislation. For anyone who is convicted for the second time of a violent offence, that criminal shall be sentenced to life imprisonment.

For those who wish to rape, maim, conspire, corrupt and commit all manner of violent acts, this private member's initiative is bad news to them.

For victims and their families this bill represents a return to the principles of fundamental justice. It means those who repeatedly hurt and prey on the young, innocent the law-abiding will spend the rest of their natural lives in prison.

Let there be no mistake about the intent of this bill: two violent strikes and the criminal is out for life.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I must inform the House that we have been unable to reach an agreement under Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) regarding consideration at committee stage of Bill C-12, an act respecting employment insurance in Canada.

Therefore, I give notice that, pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), I will be moving at the next sitting of the House a motion on time allocation to allot a specified number of days or hours to the consideration of this stage and to the decisions required to dispose of it.

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It was my understanding that when the minister made the motion for closure of debate on Bill C-12-

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

It was a notice of motion.

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The Minister of Human Resources Development, under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), gave notice of his intention to propose at the next sitting of the House a motion.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I present two petitions duly certified by the clerk of petitions.

The first one is unfortunately redundant. It deals with budgetary matters, but I will table it anyway and count on it for next year.

The petitioners beg Parliament that there be no further increases in the tax on gasoline. These are signatures primarily from the community of Frontier in my riding.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with the Canadian Wheat Board.

The petitioners respectfully call on Parliament to maintain the single desk selling monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board and request that steps be taken to expand the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board so that more grains and oilseeds will be placed under the monopoly control of the wheat board.

This is also signed by residents of my constituency.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of constituents of Wild Rose, from the communities of Hussar, Standard, Rockyford, Gleichen and Cluny, I am pleased to present this petition today. The petitioners are asking Parliament not to increase the federal excise tax on gasoline at any time, as they recognize it can be done any day.

I am pleased to offer that on their behalf.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise pursuant to Standing Order 36 to present a petition signed by people from Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

The undersigned residents of Canada draw to attention of the House that whereas this nation is in danger of being torn apart by regional factions, they pray that the Prime Minister and the Parliament of Canada declare and confirm immediately that Canada is indivisible, and that the boundaries of Canada, its provinces, territories and territorial waters may be modified only by a free vote of all Canadian citizens, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and through the amending formula as stipulated in the Canadian Constitution.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a similar petition from constituents of Nanaimo-Cowichan and from constituents from all parts of Canada asking that Parliament declare and confirm immediately that Canada is indivisible and that the boundaries of Canada, its provinces and territories may be modified only by a free vote of all Canadian citizens and/or the amending formula as stipulated in the Canadian Constitution.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Philippe Paré Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition concerning the sad fate of a constituent of mine, Tran Trieu Quan, who has been imprisoned in Vietnam for over two years now.

Mr. Tran's fate generates a great deal of sympathy in the Quebec City region, and also throughout the province. The 5,200 petitioners are asking Parliament to ensure the safety and release of Mr. Tran at the earliest opportunity.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roseanne Skoke Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, the petitioners call on Parliament to refrain from implementing a tax on health and dental benefits and to put on hold any future consideration of such a tax until a

complete review of the tax system and how it impacts on the health of Canadians has been undertaken.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Murphy Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting a petition that has been signed by 2,000 constituents of Annapolis Valley-Hants.

The petitioners call on Parliament to amend the Criminal Code of Canada to ensure that the sentence given to anyone convicted of driving while impaired or causing death or injury while impaired reflects the severity of that crime.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 15 will be answered today.

Question No. 15-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

How does the Minister of Human Resources Development explain the increases in the value of fraudulent claims between 1993/94 and 1994/95 for old age security, from $256,140 to $1,076,882, and CPP, from $244,571 to $554,947, as reported in the Public Accounts of Canada, Volume ll, Part ll for these two years?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

The figures quoted from public accounts represent the value of overpayments established during the reporting year related to suspected offenses. The reported increases from 1993/94 to 1994/95 for both old age security and the Canada pension plan are due to the following factors:

Increased awareness of the potential for fraud and its subsequent detection by regional and headquarters program integrity officers-there were 11 more cases of suspected fraud found in each program in 1994/95 than had been found in 1993/94, a total of 22 more cases than were found the previous year; detection of some older cases, which tend to have higher values because benefits have been in pay for an extended period; detailed review of benefit files in preparation for the conversion to income security program, ISP, redesign system, which revealed eight cases of suspected fraud with an associated value of $154,000; enhanced reassessment activities related to CPP disability which resulted in an increase in the number of cases detected in which fraud was suspected.

To maintain the integrity of the OAS and CPP programs, many methods are used for the detection of abuse: quarterly fraud profiles, random and directed samples, disability reassessment, third party complaints, computer matching with Revenue Canada and with the unemployment insurance program, and the vigilance of income security programs staff. Increases in the value of overpayments related to suspected offenses reflect enhanced detection, not necessarily an increase in the overall incidence of fraud.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The question as enumerated by the parliamentary secretary has been answered.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is that agreed?

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Message From The Senate
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill S-2, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (sexual orientation), to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé for the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-31, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 6, 1996, be read the second time and referred to committee.

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance, stated when he delivered the 1996 budget, Canadians do not want rhetoric from their government. They want action. They want progress. And that is what this government intends to deliver in introducing the budget implementation bill.

The 1996 budget is the third milepost on this Liberal government's journey to securing fiscal stability, and a vibrant, dynamic and competitive economy. The legislation we are proposing today is in the spirit and tradition of any Liberal government. It is in keeping with our ongoing commitment to ensure that the most

vulnerable and those in the greatest need will continue to benefit from fair, sustainable and secure social programs in the next century.

Our programs which were built by previous Liberal governments have established us as one of the most envied nations in the world. Clearly, one of our highest priorities must be to preserve Canada's network of social programs.

Over the last two and a half years, Canadians have turned to governments to provide and economic and social environment that encourages the economic growth needed to create new jobs. The legislation we are introducing points to this government's commitment to meet this demand.

Through this bill, we will double our youth programs, expand our international trade and boost Canada's innovative capacity by in investing in new technologies.

We are determined to restore fiscal health to this country to balance the books. This year's budget consolidates and extends the actions resulting from the 1994 and 1995 budgets. Once this legislation is passed, these budgets will work together to help Canadians secure their future in a number of key areas.

To secure our financial future, we will meet or exceed our fiscal goals year by year by sustaining reductions in program spending. The 1996 budget reaffirms the government's fiscal responsibility to Canadians. To get government right, we are taking further action to define a more appropriate and effective role for the federal government.

To secure social programs for the next century, we are acting to restore confidence in providing a secure, stable and growing system for medicare, post-secondary education and social assistance. To invest in the future, we are reallocating money to new investments in priority initiatives to support youth, technology and international trade, areas critical to future jobs and growth.

I do not intend to speak today about all the amendments we are proposing. Rather I would like to give the House a general sense of what we are setting out to accomplish in the budget legislation.

I will begin by outlining how our plans will secure a solid financial future for all Canadians.

Our two previous budgets set in motion actions to ensure that the deficit targets for 1995-96 and 1996-97-down to three per cent of the GDP-will be achieved. The 1996 budget secures the government's deficit target of two per cent of the GDP in 1997-98. This means the deficit will have fallen from $42 billion, or 5,9 per cent of the GDP, in 1993-94 to $17 billion in 1997-98.

To achieve this, the government is continuing to place priority on expenditure reductions. There are no tax rate increases in this budget, not personal, not corporate, not excise. In fact, there have been no personal tax rate increases in any of our three budgets.

Through the continuing program review, the 1996 budget contains $1.9 billion in additional spending cuts for 1998-99. This will help sustain the reduction in program spending-that is, all budgetary spending except interest on the public debt. Program spending will decline, from $120 billion in 1993-94 to $105.5 billion in 1998-99.

With this proposed legislation, we are also encouraging young Canadians to continue their education and develop their skills by reallocating from within the tax system an additional $165 million over three years. We will create new employment opportunities for youth by reallocating $315 million of budget savings over three years. We are doubling funds for the 1996-97 student summer employment placements to $120 million.

The budget also increases the investment in technology and innovation through a number of actions over the next three years funded by reallocations of $270 million from budget savings. For example, the SchoolNet program will expand, connecting every school and library in the country to the information highway by 1998. With the help of 2,000 computer students, 50,000 small businesses will be connected to the Internet and their owners trained for full access to the information highway.

Finally, a technical committee will carry out a comprehensive business taxation review with three goals: promoting jobs and growth; simplifying the system; and enhancing fairness.

That brings me to the tax system and our proposals to ensure that it is not only as fair and effective as possible, but also supports jobs and growth. We are reallocating revenues to priority economic and social intiatives such as improved tax assistance for students, charitable donations and care of the handicapped.

To encourage renewable energy investments, we will change the tax rules to create a level playing field. Proposed changes will improve tax rules to finance some renewable energy and conservation projects, including extending flow-through share provisions.

The budget also includes more measures to get government right, to help shape a focused more affordable government that effectively advances the key priorities of a productive job creating economy in a modern Canadian federation.

Under program review, departments were asked to examine their programs and services to determine how best to provide Canadians with smaller, more effective and affordable government. Canadians have sent us a clear message. We must meet the challenges of globalization, financial pressures, new information technologies and demographic shifts. Canadians seek affordable services and programs delivered in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

We are also acting to ensure that social programs are affordable and will be there for Canadians in the future. We will restore stability and subsequent growth to transfers to the provinces with a sustainable system of long term funding under the Canada health and social transfer.

The federal government will legislate a new five year Canada health and social transfer funding arrangement beginning in 1998-99. For the first two years federal support, that is tax transfers plus cash, will be maintained at $25.1 billion. Over the following three years transfers of both cash and tax points will grow at an increasing pace related to the economy to approximately $27.4 billion. Also, to increase protection to provinces, a new legislated cash floor will guarantee that the cash portion of the transfer will not fall below $11 billion in all years.

When I tabled the main estimates on March 7, I announced measures we would take to "get government right." These are rooted in four objectives; to redefine the government's roles and responsibilities; to redirect its resources to the highest national priorities; to provide Canadians with more modern, accessible and responsive service delivery; and finally to achieve affordable government.

To support these objectives, we carried out a fundamental review of all our programs and services. I might add that, not since the second world war has a government engaged in such a far-reaching review.

During this program review, we have examined all major federal programs and activities to reassess what we do, how we do it and, how we can to it better. Our aims is to deliver services that are relevant, responsive, accessible and affordable. We are now putting into place the results of this review.

Based on these results, most departments will have their budgets cut by at least an additional 3.5 per cent in 1998-99; some will be cut much more. Changes are occuring not just in direct service delivery areas but also in our internal processes and systems.

Together, these and other measures will reshape and redirect the structure of government to bring quality services to Canadians in a fiscally responsible manner.

As we continue on this path of reform and change we must pay equal attention to the federal public service which, as the administrative arm of government, delivers in large measure our programs and services to Canadians. The public service supports us and helps us deliver our commitments to the people of Canada. We recognize that changes are also required to transform the public service into a modern and dynamic institution. The changes we are proposing in this bill will put in place some of the building blocks to do just this.

The legislative measures we are proposing to get government right are based on three key themes: alternative service delivery; compensation and collective bargaining; and pension reform.

I will begin with the alternate delivery of services and programs. By this I mean creating service entities, special operating agencies and other organizational mechanisms to deliver services. One example is NavCan which delivers the air traffic control system.

In the budget the Minister of Finance announced our intention to move in similar directions by creating a single food inspection service, a parks agency and a national revenue commission. We will undertake other such arrangements case by case as we continue to examine the best ways to deliver services to Canadians.

When we create these organizations, public service employees working in these areas will of course be affected. We must ensure that these employees are treated fairly and reasonably. That is why we met with the public service unions earlier this year to discuss the subject. I am pleased to say that we reached an agreement with most of the unions on the transfer arrangements for employees who move to alternative service delivery organizations.

The amendments we are introducing today will allow us to put in place fair arrangements for all employees affected by such transfers. They will also allow us to implement enhanced arrangements that some unions successfully negotiated on behalf of their members. This government is committed to working with public service unions and believes that the negotiated agreement is always the preferred option.

We are also proposing other legislative amendments to various statutes that will allow us to put in place these arrangements. For example, we are proposing changes to both the Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act to introduce successor rights. These rights continue to cover union representa-

tion and the collective agreement until the term of the agreement expires, when employees move from public service employment to other federal employers.

Also we are introducing changes that will ease the transition to and the operation of alternative service delivery organizations. We want to make sure that these organizations have the tools they need to operate effectively from the outset.

An example is our proposal to amend the Financial Administration Act to allow us to use multiyear appropriations. If approved, we could use this authority with the three new agencies where flexibility is warranted and appropriate. Implementing this flexibility would need parliamentary approval through either an appropriation act or specific legislation.

I should add that this is an enabling clause only and Parliament will retain the right to determine when and if multiyear appropriations are suitable to these or any other future organizations.

Let us now turn to compensation and collective bargaining in the public service. The Public Sector Compensation Act , which was first introduced in 1991, restrained collective bargaining. Public service wages have been frozen for five of the six years that this legislation has been in effect.

I was pleased to announce that the Public Sector Compensation Act will expire as planned in February 1997. Public service employees have contributed significantly to fiscal restraint, and now, we can return to collective bargaining for public service employees.

Salaries for MPs and senators will remain frozen at the 1992 levels until at least January 1998 when the law will be ressessed as prescribed by Parliament.

However, we are also proposing to suspend the binding arbitration process to resolve collective bargaining disputes for three years. We cannot run the risk of allowing independent arbitrators-who are not accountable to Parliament-to award compensation increases that the fiscal framework could not accommodate.

Binding arbitration will continue for employees of the House of Commons, the Senate, Library of Parliament and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This is because their respective legislation prohibits strikes and requires the use of binding arbitration. In these case, however, arbitrators will be required to take into account wage settlements that have been reached for comparable occupational groups within the public service, where Treasury Board is the employer.

We are also seeking authority to amend the Public Sector Compensation Act to reinstate increments and performance pay which were suspended when the government introduced the wage freeze.

This bill would also provide authority for a 2.2 per cent wage increase for non-commissioned members of the Canadians Forces. This measure will correct the disparity in wages, that existed before the wage freeze between members of the armed forces and public service employees.

Our final theme centres on pension reforms. These reforms are intended to provide individuals and groups of employees with greater pension portability that meet the standards of the Pension Benefits Standards Act. Specifically we propose to revise the Public Service Superannuation Act to protect employee pension accruals and make them portable. This portability will be enhanced by the two year vesting and lock-in provisions.

I indicated that I would not discuss every legislative proposal but for the most part they are all related to one of the three themes I have described. I would just like to draw the attention of the House to other measures.

We intend to modify the Financial Administration Act to make changes to public service group insurance plans, for example, the health care plan. Another proposal will deal with the needs of our student employment programs by amending the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

Together these changes, particularly in the areas of alternative service delivery, compensation and collective bargaining and pension reforms, will let the government do its business using a modernized legislative and policy framework.

In conclusion, we believe that the measures we are introducing today are fair and reasonable to Canadians. They will help us secure the financial future, get government right, secure social programs for the next century and promote jobs and growth for Canadians.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board told us a few minutes ago that Canadians are not interested in flowery rhetoric. And yet, that was what I seemed to be hearing last March 6 when I listened carefully to the finance minister's budget speech.

It was a lovely speech, but now we must go over it all again today, because today is when the real budget measures are being tabled in this House, in the course of the debate on Bill C-31, while most of the members of this House are in committee. And I have the feeling that that is exactly what the government wanted.

It seems to me that this Bill C-31, tabled yesterday at first reading and submitted to the House today at second reading, is a tactic by the President of the Treasury Board, who is doing the dirty work for the Minister of Finance, whose erratic management has not really succeeded in reducing the deficit to date.

The bill is an example of this government's inability to control the deficit and the debt through concrete measures and a fiscal policy that is consistent and fair for all groups in our society.

To put it another way, when we see the measures contemplated in this bill, the number of acts amended, the number of federal ministers and federal agencies affected, the staff upheavals, the planned cuts, this bill starts to look like a fire sale by a government that has lost control and that is trying with varying degrees of success to stop the leaks in the fast-sinking Liberal boat.

This Budget Implementation Act, 1996, will enable the Treasury Board to ensure the transition of human resources in the context of what is described as the diversification of ways of providing services. The Financial Administration Act is amended; it will allow tens of thousands of employees to be laid off, public services to be transferred in some cases, and measures designed to facilitate these transfers to be taken.

The Canada Labour Code and the Public Service Staff Relations Act are amended so that collective agreements and labour representation can be maintained when personnel is transferred to other employers as part of the public service restructuring described by the President of the Treasury Board.

Public servants who are transferred will lose certain rights. The changes made to the Public Service Employment Act will allow the Public Service Commission to delegate powers to non-public servants, thus eliminating de facto the right to appeal an appointment.

Transfers to the private sector must of course be made attractive, which means that benefits enjoyed by public servants must be reduced.

This is all that is being done here. The freeze on the salaries of non-commissioned members of the Canadian Armed Forces is ended. Instead of conducting an objective inquiry into the blunders of the army, particularly in Somalia, the government rewards first the military responsible, whose salaries will be the first to be unfrozen.

An amendment to the Public Sector Compensation Act will make these changes possible. A right for which workers fought hard is withdrawn for a period of three years. Indeed, an amendment to the Public Service Staff Relations Act will suspend compulsory arbitration.

We are told that the Public Service Superannuation Act is also being amended to facilitate the transfer of individual and collective pensions, and provide the flexibility required to maintain or suspend the application of the act to an entity and to its employees.

Transfer and flexibility: these are the key words. The government is cutting in the rights and pensions of its employees to better transfer them to the private sector. These transfers will affect thousands of public servants. According to the bill, collective transferability will be made possible thanks to amendments aimed at facilitating the conclusion of agreements between the government and eligible employers.

The government could not make it more clear that it intends to transfer a number of its responsibilities to the private sector. We are told about transitional protection, but what are the guarantees for the employees affected? The bill is silent on this and no transfer procedure is specified.

This bill also confers upon the Minister of Transport the power to dispose of railway cars belonging to CN which are used to move grain.

To show you the extent of the sales that will be coming, the bill states: "It would also provide for an increase in the maximum rates for movement of grain after at least 10,000 of the railway cars or rights with respect to at least 10,000 of the railway cars are disposed of".

All of this goes to show, without a doubt, that the government is selling out our heritage, the train-which was the first link between the various regions of our country-our assets and the government employees' expertise built up over the past decades. These massive sell-outs will only pay the grocery bill. The government's fire sale will not, in the end, reduce the deficit by any significant amount.

Another blow, this time not against its employees but against all workers. After having laid its hands on the $5 billion surplus in the UI fund, the government is changing the Unemployment Insurance Act by setting maximum insurable earnings for 1996 at $750. It also sets maximum weekly benefits at $413 for recipients who start receiving benefits in 1996, i.e. new recipients.

Bill C-31 also implements a number of measures with budget impact. The government is taking advantage of this bill to push a number of extremely controversial measures through. It is trying to use a back door approach, to rush through unpopular measures including some that penalize the unemployed.

The historically maintained tax pact between Ottawa and the provinces is being shoved aside. The Federal-provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act is amended. The Canada social transfer for 1997-98 through 2002-03, as well as the method for calculating the amounts to be transferred to the provinces, is defined.

All that this fine business reveals is that federal transfers to the provinces are in free-fall. In the end, all this complex accounting will simply produce smaller envelopes: $26.9 billion in 1996-97, $25.1 billion in 1997-98 and each year thereafter until 1999-2000. For each of fiscal 2000-01 to 2002-03, the calculations used will merely reduce the Canada social transfer even further.

The transfer to a given province is related to the calculation of a weighting value that decreases from 1.0 in 1997-98 to .5 in 2002-03. In other words, the amount will be reduced progressively by 50 per cent over five years.

The Government of Canada is changing the rules for distributing the Canada social transfer among the provinces. The new rule is based on the size of the population and no longer on need, as should be the case for social programs. Quebec, once again, is hardest hit by the cuts. The Canada social transfer now benefits the wealthiest provinces: Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, whose populations are growing the fastest.

By cutting its transfers to reduce the deficit, the federal government is passing the bill on to the provinces, dumping the deficit in their lap. There is less and less redistributing in the federal transfers. The cuts and the new rules for distribution mean in fact the end of fiscal federalism.

The only measure that is fair for taxpayers in Bill C-31 is the amendment to the Old Age Security Act, which will change the pension paid to people with fewer than ten years' residence in Canada after their 18th birthday. This pension will now be calculated according to the number of years they have actually lived in Canada after this birthday. This is only fair to all taxpayers.

The Canada assistance plan, the Radiocommunication Act and the Student Loans Act are amended, with the last one being changed to provide stricter terms for the repayment of student loans.

This all-purpose bill amends various acts and has a single purpose: to reduce the amounts spent by the federal government to pay its employees; to cut the number of federal public servants; to undermine the rights of those who will survive the cuts; to chop transfer payments to the provinces. National standards remain, but related funds are falling.

UI benefits are also being cut in order to augment future surpluses in the UI fund, where the Minister of Finance will take the amounts needed to hide his mismanagement and his real deficit. The deficit will also be reduced by selling crown assets, like the thousands of railroad cars used to transport grain across the country.

Collective agreements are being tampered with and the rights of public servants undermined. The right to appeal on appointments

of priorities is being eliminated and, more importantly, binding arbitration is being suspended for three years to make federal organizations more attractive to private sector buyers.

All this shows a blatant lack of respect for public servants, something the President of the Treasury Board did not brag about a few minutes ago. This bill mixes the sale of railroad cars with the doctoring of collective agreements so that entire components of the public service laboriously developed by the country since the 1940s can be sold off.

Above all, this shows the finance minister's inability to carry out his mandate to balance the federal budget. In fact, clause 64 in this bill provides for the payment of $961 million to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as adjustment assistance for the purpose of facilitating their participation in an integrated national sales tax system.

The Liberals never keep their election promises, to say the least. After condemning the Tories so strongly, they are doing the exact opposite of what they promised.

As members may recall, in 1979-80, after vigorously condemning the 18 cent increase in the price of a litre of gasoline called for by the Tories, the Liberals were quick to raise the tax on a litre of gasoline even higher after returning to power in 1980.

History repeats itself. After slamming the GST during the 1993 fall election campaign, the Liberals are again trying in 1996 to harmonize the various provincial taxes with billions in hidden subsidies to the provinces.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

To win votes.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle La Prairie, QC

Exactly.

The Liberal government has negotiated with three of the Atlantic provinces an agreement combining the provincial sales tax and the GST into a single national sales tax. The new tax will amount to 15 per cent. Current tax rates in the Atlantic provinces are quite high: 12 per cent in Newfoundland and 11 per cent in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

So, the federal government has forced these provinces to bring their tax rates down to 8 per cent, and to this end, their service tax base was broadened. The cost of this whole operation, or $961 billion, will be borne by the federal treasury.

The federal government will also look after collecting the tax. For this purpose, a national revenue commission will be created to take over the administration of the unified tax from the Atlantic provinces by January 1998. This is an attack in due form, aimed at eventually taking over all tax collection in Canada. The actual amount of the tax will be hidden in the sales price but will show on the bill. The government is creating a hidden tax, which will make

it easier to raise it later on. The minister also introduced a stringof technical changes to the GST that only an expert could make sense of.

Regardless of the actual words used in the Liberal's red book, the fact remains that a promise was broken. Two Liberal members, namely the hon. member for York South-Weston and the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood have left the Liberal caucus, and this does them credit. They were strongly supported by their constituents in making this decision. There are at least a few members who stand on their own two feet. The same cannot be said about the Deputy Prime Minister, but at least some still do.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Bloc members do.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle La Prairie, QC

Yes, exactly. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot is right.

This goes to show the Liberals have reneged on their promises and the public knows it.

Just one week before the 1993 election, the Deputy Prime Minister stated on the CBC, and I quote:

"I have already said personally and very directly that if the GST is not abolished I will resign".

The Prime Minister himself said, and I quote:

"We will scrap the GST".

In May 1994, he added: "We hate this tax and we will make it disappear".

It is quite something when a Prime Minister says that he hates a tax. Did the Prime Minister suddenly fall in love with the GST? Or is he the victim of a love-hate affair? I personally think that the Prime Minister is a great comedian who uses all means available to him.

There is no harmonization. The provincial sales tax will disappear. It will become part of the GST. The GST will literally absorb the provincial tax and its management will be the exclusive responsibility of the federal government, which will thus increase its control over indirect taxation in this country.

By including the tax in the price of goods, the government shows it could not care less about consumers and is making it easier to increase the tax later on. Several associations, including the Consumers' Association of Canada and the Association des manufacturiers du Québec, opposed including the tax in the price of goods.

The federal government is making all Quebecers and Canadians pay for the harmonization of sale taxes in the maritime provinces. Given the amount of money to be paid by the federal government to these provinces, Quebec will have to contribute close to $250 million but will get nothing in return. The government's goal is still to integrate the GST to sale taxes everywhere in Canada. If it must compensate every time an agreement is reached, how much will it cost in the end?

The government itself says that compensation will also be necessary in the case of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. Quebec has already harmonized its sales tax and no adjustment is anticipated in the future. This means that there is no possibility for compensation in the case of Quebec. Such is the price that Quebecers must pay when their province co-operates with the federal government.

Provinces joining the national tax system will lose their autonomy, because they will no longer have full control over their taxation rate and their tax base. "The federal government will assume responsibility for all aspects of administering the provincial value added tax". This is what it says in the memorandum of agreement on the harmonization of sales taxes, an indication of the extent to which the provinces that sign will give up their fiscal autonomy to the federal government.

The Bloc Quebecois is offering the government an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The first step would be to abolish the GST, to turn the whole field of indirect taxation over to the provinces and to offset federal losses resulting from the abolition of the GST with an equivalent reduction in cash transfers to the provinces. In this manner, the federal government hangs on to its financial equilibrium, the Government of Quebec controls all indirect taxation within its borders, and the result is less federal interference in the health, education and social assistance sectors.

This approach, the one the government is suggesting, is completely out of date. The savings generated by all the sales and cuts resulting from bill C-31 will be spent on paying the provinces to accept a national sales tax.

Financial management under the Liberals is a bottomless pit. They do not realize the efforts they are asking of everyone: public servants, taxpayers, the unemployed, seniors, the provinces. They are asking all these groups to make significant spending cuts, and then, at the end of the bill, in clause 64, they wipe out, in one fell swoop, close to a billion dollars in efforts so that they can bring three provinces on side with their national sales tax.

Why pass this Bill C-31 if, once again, they go back on election promises and eliminate with one hand all the efforts made by the other hand. The Bloc Quebecois cannot in all decency support this bill. This bill the government is rushing through contains major amendments to at least ten statutes that have a very large impact on government management. I will summarize them here to show you the importance of all these legislative amendments that will flow from Bill C-31.

The following statutes are amended: the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act, the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Old Age Security Act, the Canada assistance plan, the Radiocommunication Act, and the Canada Student Loans Act.

The common denominator in all these amendments is the withdrawal of the federal government from its responsibilities as an employer and from its historic commitments to the unemployed, seniors and the provinces.

The Liberal government is abdicating its responsibilities. Bill C-31 is admission that it is abdicating before the voters send it packing for good. This morning's La Presse described the plan proposed yesterday by Ottawa as "somewhat frantic".

In closing, I would like to draw the hon. members' attention to the fact that the Liberals have a worse record than the Conservatives as far as the Constitution and taxation are concerned. In the first instance, by reducing Quebec to the "principal homeland of French language in North America", and in the second, far from eliminating the GST as it had shouted from the rooftops that it was going to do in 1993, by reinforcing it, trying to bury it in the price.

So what about the transparency this government was promising? Through this double failure, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance are once again demonstrating their incompetency, which far exceeds that of their predecessors.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before resuming debate, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake-Parks Canada.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken on the subject of the budget before and I was going to cede my place to my colleagues, but a new development has taken place which has very serious implications for the budget.

The Minister of Human Resources Development has joined a chorus of demands by labour and employers that there is a need, if not an obligation, on the part of the government to lower premiums on unemployment insurance contributions made to the unemployment insurance fund.

If these premium rates are lowered, as I think they should be and I think they will be, then the government's vaunted target of 2 per cent deficit of GDP in two years' time cannot be met. There is even doubt that this year's projections can be met. This is a very serious matter.

According to the budget document, the government will violate tradition. For reasons I will indicate in a moment, it is almost illegal. However, I do not know if I can call it illegal. On the one hand by keeping up the premiums or on the other hand it does the right thing with respect to premium rates, the government will not be able to meet its target.

This is a summary of what I would like to include in my speech. I would like to build to a conclusion and support it with some more careful analysis and numbers.

Let me first remind people that the unemployment insurance system is an independently funded account which by law has to balance over time. I took the trouble of calling the solicitor for the Department of Human Resources Development to ask what the law is. He told me that it should be balanced over time. A few years ago the auditor general required that the government adhere to this principle.

When the balance accumulates the government is, therefore, obligated to lower premiums. If the balance becomes negative, premiums have to be raised.

The government is making the argument that is really pro-cyclical, that is, it aggravates the business cycle because the funds accumulated in the UI system are likely to become negative when there is a recession. If during this recession the premium rate is raised, it will result in the further withdrawal of purchasing power. It therefore aggravates the size of the business cycle.

Therefore, I agree with the government that we should accumulate a certain reserve during good times so that the fund would be able to ride out the next recession without having to raise premium rates again. However, there ought to be a limit to the amount which the unemployment insurance system can accumulate.

Why is this system separate and is there this rule that the balances must come to zero through time? The reason is quite obvious. The unemployment insurance premiums have two very serious characteristics. First, they are regressive. The maximum contribution that individuals pay to the fund is $1,320 a year. This $1,320 a year is paid by someone making $30,000, someone making $100,000 and someone making $1 million. The percentage which this $1,320 represents of total income is much higher for lower income earners than for higher income earners. This is clearly a regressive tax.

The reason why the rule exists that this must not be used to finance general government expenditures is that general government expenditures accrue to everyone and they are part of a system income redistribution, and so on. Therefore, this is not money that should be used to finance general government pensions and various other things. Those government functions should be financed by general taxes in the form of personal income taxes, the GST and corporate income taxes because all of those benefits are accruing to all Canadians. All are paying for it and it accrues to all of them.

The UI contributions, on the other hand, are simply for providing protection against the risk of becoming unemployed.

The second damaging characteristic of unemployment insurance revenues is that over one-half of them are paid by employers. People who go out and think that they can afford someone to work in their donut shop for $10 an hour will be deterred from doing so because the government says: "That is not enough. You have to pay the 3 per cent to the government in the form of a contribution to UI". This is why it is widely known and has been given the name by the government of a job killing tax.

Any time that the government legislates increases in the cost of labour which have not been negotiated in the labour market, it raises the cost of labour and is therefore detrimental to employment.

It is quite clear that it is not in the interest of society. It is not legal for the unemployment insurance fund to be in surplus for a prolonged time or in a surplus that is used to finance general government expenditures. That is why the representatives of labour and employers have been coming in droves to the hearings of the human resources development committee and have been asking for a reduction in the premium. That is why recently the Minister of Human Resources Development noted that he too believes the premiums are to be lowered.

Just to give an idea of the magnitude of this effect, the revenue from insurance premiums in 1995-96 will be $18.5 billion. People have great difficulty envisioning what $18.5 billion is. Let me compare this with what is expected to be collected from corporations. Corporations are expected to pay $14.5 billion. The UI system is expected to contribute $18.5 billion to total revenue.

On it goes through 1997-98. It is expected that by 1997-98 the unemployment insurance contributions revenue collected by the government will be $19.5 billion. That may or may not be a lot; it all depends on what the obligations of the UI system are.

The budget again has an answer for that. In the year 1995-96, the $18.5 billion is required to provide unemployment insurance benefits worth $13.8 billion. The difference between revenue and expenditure is $4.7 billion. It is in the budget which is being debated today that over this year and the following two years the excess of revenue collected from workers and their employers minus what is being paid back to them through unemployment insurance benefits will contribute to the nation's surplus $4.7 billion, $4.6 billion and $5.0 billion in each of those years respectively.

A surplus also existed in 1994-95. At that point it was the highest it had been in a long time, $5.4 billion. It was used to reduce the accumulated deficit of the system, but by the beginning of this year the surplus, the reserve of the system, has begun to grow. It is estimated that by the end of this year it will be about $4.5 billion, the following year $9 billion and thereafter $14 billion.

Again, people have very great difficulty relating to these numbers. The $14 billion at the end of 1997-98 is equivalent to one full year's outlay in the budget for unemployment insurance benefits, one full year of reserves, the highest these reserves have ever been in the history of Canada. I have a graph which shows this.

It was $2.2 billion. The government has predicated the achievement of its deficit target on the assumption that this accumulation of surpluses will go to $14 billion. It is not reasonable. The largest cumulative deficit that ever existed was $5.8 billion.

These premiums by all standards must be lowered. They cannot go on like this. It is almost illegal. It is killing jobs and it is unfair. As some people have said, the money in the UI fund does not belong to the government for its general programs, it belongs to the workers. I have made that case and it is fair and justified.

A very great problem is developing for the country and for this government. This is what it will mean two years from now using the government's figures. If the government did the right thing and lowered the unemployment insurance premium, there would be no addition to the system's reserves. In 1997-98 the deficit is projected to be $17 billion. If the $5 billion generated as a surplus by the UI fund were not available, the deficit would be $22 billion, just a little bit less than the preceding year, which is next year. There would have been no improvement.

The Minister of Finance brags on Wall Street and everywhere else: "I have achieved our target. I have broken the back of the deficit". The entire government plan and the minister's proud achievement are predicated on keeping money that does not belong to the government but belongs to the workers. It is in the books. The auditor general said so. It makes complete economic sense. The government is coming close to the mistake it made on the GST.

I cannot believe that a man with the intelligence, background and integrity of the Minister of Finance and with the huge resources he has available in terms of this country's best economists would say in front of investors on Wall Street that he has broken the back of the deficit, without acknowledging that his prediction is based on the assumption he will have $5 billion in each of the next two years coming in as revenue he knows does not belong in that account. That revenue belongs to the workers.

That revenue should not accrue because by tradition in the way the UI fund has been set up the premium rates should be lowered. Again I have a graph. It shows that whenever the cumulative deficit was large enough the rates would be raised. If there was a surplus, the rates would be lowered. I have not had time to look at the speeches made by the Liberals when they were in opposition,

demanding I am certain the lowering of benefits because the money belonged to the workers. However, here they are using it to achieve their target.

What are the Liberals going to do? Are they going to shamefully make that fund grow to $14 billion when the highest ever in the history of Canada has been $2.2 billion? It certainly is in the budget. If we do not do it, the target is not going to be met.

Where have the media been? Have they not noticed this? Where are all the incisive analyses that should be going on about this subject? If they would like some background information, they could call me.

There is no way in which this government should resist the supremely justified demands of employers and employees, and organized labour is adding to the chorus that the Minister of Human Resources Development do the right thing and lower this regressive tax which is killing jobs. The government should be lowering the premium rates which are taxed rates. They are regressive because they fall so heavily as a percentage of income on workers in the lower echelons. They are killing jobs and they add to the cost of employing labour. This is a major scandal. It is a scandal which I predict will become very similar to that of the GST.

I know the minister in response to questions on this subject will say that the government has plenty of reserves built into the system. Let us look at that. He has built into the 1997-98 budget a $3 billion contingency reserve. Part of that will already have been eaten up by the money which he has just committed to pay as an inducement-and some people in the Government of Ontario are calling it a bribe-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Do not use that word. He will get upset.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

I only quoted a highly placed employee in the ministry of finance of the Government of Ontario who called it a bribe to the governments of the Atlantic provinces. That will already take a significant proportion of that built-in reserve.

Let us say it will still be worth $2.5 billion. What we are talking about is $5 billion that is put into the budget as a source of income which the government has no right to have in there. By definition, including the contingency reserve, the government will not meet its target. I ask myself: Why is the contingency reserve there? In case something bad happens.

We heard many witnesses in the finance committee say that almost certainly within the next two or three years the United States economy will slow down significantly. Expansions never last forever and it has already had an expansion of almost seven years.

The contingency reserve on spending was put in there because there might be another upheaval in capital markets outside Canada like there was in Mexico. The contingency reserve was put in there because we might find there may be a little disturbance in Canadian capital markets because of political developments in Quebec.

Put that on top of the dilemma in which the government finds itself of having used to achieve its targets money that is not meant for that use. There will be very serious questions raised about the budget. These are questions which I did not raise before. After all, it is one thing for special interest groups, for the representatives of employers and workers, to come before human resources development and make their case.

It is now serious because the Minister of Human Resources Development has added his very influential voice to all of those who have said that money should not be used for the purpose for which it is being used. It reveals that the government has not had the courage to do on the spending reduction side what is necessary to save the country from bankruptcy. Please do not shoot the messenger. Sooner or later the media would have discovered that anyway.

Interest rates may rise because people will find out that a minister who comes to Wall Street and says we are right on target, we will be at 2 per cent per year, will be found either not competent, that he did not know he could not keep that $5 billion, or that he may have been misleading them deliberately. I do not know what the answer is but I would not be surprised if sooner or later that question came up. How do you think the capital markets will react?

I do not want to be a doomsayer. For the sake of Canada, for the sake of the Minister of Finance, for the sake of the government, I hope everything I said can be in practice truly brushed aside as ideas and analyses produced by an obsolete academic economist who does not know what he is talking about and has ventured into the arena of politics and is out of his depth.

For the sake of Canada I hope I am right, but I have the feeling that what we have coming is a major problem for the government.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5 p.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my colleague, the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound.

Because I have such respect for him as an economist who has happened into politics for a time I am saddened he had made some of the suggestions he has with respect to the government's budgetary policy as reflected in the budget implementation act, which we are considering today, Bill C-31.

I digress from my prepared remarks for a moment to respond. It reminds me a bit of Chicken Little and the old story that the sky is falling. He is always on his feet, armed with all of his experience and knowledge, to say in somewhat typical Canadian terms things will get a whole lot worse.

It is startling that he suggests that once again he is right and everyone else is wrong. Third parties have looked at the budget and have commended the minister and the government for the achievements of it, and yet the hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound is saying: "Everyone is wrong, the analysts the wrong. They are all wrong. Michael Walker of the Fraser Institute is wrong. I wish they would call me so I could get them to correct the error of their ways".

My biggest regret is with his suggestion that somehow the government is stealing something from the workers of Canada, failing to remind the House and anyone listening to his remarks that when that UI account was in deficit it was Canadian taxpayers through the consolidated revenue fund who stood ready with funds to deal with the deficit in the account.

The president of the treasury board's remarks provided a cogent and compelling explanation of the government's fiscal policies and the framework for this legislation, the budget implementation act before us today.

He made it particularly clear why the government is introducing certain measures in this bill. These measures will help the public service help us to meet our commitment to Canadians.

I would first like to reiterate some aspects of our financial situation.

There is a timely reason for this repetition. Our record of fiscal responsibility and progress sets the context for one of the key measures of the bill, the implementation of long term funding for the Canada health and social transfer.

As the Minister of Finance pointed out in his budget speech in March, our ongoing spending reductions, real spending reductions, combined with those in previous budgets will ensure our deficit targets are secure; that is, 3 per cent of GDP for this fiscal year and 2 per cent next. For the following year, 1998-99, the measures we have introduced in the last three budgets will deliver an addition $28.9 billion in savings. Deficit reduction will continue.

The numbers speak for themselves. In 1993-94 federal program spending stood at $120 billion, almost 17 per cent of GDP. By 1998-99 the money we spend on programs will be down to $105.5 billion, 12 per cent of GDP.

It is important to note that progress on deficit reduction is not restricted to the federal government. The financial situation of provincial governments is also undergoing a significant improvement. In 1992 the combined deficits of Canada's federal and provincial governments on a national accounts basis reached 7.4 per cent of GDP. This level was double the G-7 average, behind only Italy in that group of large industrialized countries.

However, this year Canada's total government deficit is expected to fall below the G-7 average and come in as the second lowest in the group, behind only the United States. Based on each country's current plans we should have the lowest next year.

Clearly and fortunately fiscal responsibility has now become a governing facet of our national political culture. We have stopped acting like adolescents with credit cards, and this sense of financial maturity will ensure a more secure and prosperous future for us all.

The hon. member opposite and some of his colleagues may say, as they always do, it is not good enough and it is not enough. I suggest we are simply their worse nightmare because we are doing the job and getting it done, as I have said on other occasions in the House, fairly, reasonably and without tearing apart the country in the process. The proof is in the pudding, the high marks this and previous budgets have been given by all third party commentators.

Through these three budgets we are ensuring the economic sovereignty of Canada. Foreign borrowings by Canadian business and governments have been cut from $29 billion in 1993 to $13 billion last year. Our reliance on foreign borrowings will decline dramatically as governments continue to reduce their deficits.

Obviously we are making real progress, something that drives the members opposite crazy. The 1996 budget is another instalment, another significant step in that direction.

As the Minister of Finance put it, and I will repeat it because members opposite have probably forgotten, this budget is about consolidating the gains we have made. It is about managing ahead, continuing to put in place new building blocks for security and prosperity.

Some of these building blocks are contained in Bill C-31, the legislation before us. As we move ahead, one of our highest priorities, one surely shared by the vast majority of Canadians but not necessarily by all members opposite, is the preservation of the country's network of social programs. To help achieve that end the bill before us amends the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. This amendment will provide secure, stable funding for what has come to be called the CHST, the Canada health and social transfer, for an additional five years.

I remind the House, because some here have short memories, of the background of this transfer program.

In its 1995 budget, the government replaced the Canada assistance plan and established program financing with a new mechanism: the Canada health and social transfer.

This consolidated transfer represents a new, more flexible and mature approach to federal-provincial relations. It gives the provinces more manoeuvring room to design and administer their own programs while protecting social programs Canadians count on and support.

This year the budget calls for an extension of the CHST funding framework through 2002-2003 and puts in place a formula for increasing this transfer in the later years of that five year plan.

Under the bill before us total entitlements will be pegged at $25.1 billion annually for 1998-99 and 1999-2000, equal to the level already in place for next year.

We are determined to support the provinces' activities in the areas of health, education and social assistance for those in real need. Despite sustained reduction in federal program spending, the total amount paid to the provinces under the transfer will not decrease during this period.

In the three fiscal years beginning in April 2000, CHST levels are projected to rise. By 2002-2003-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Money we do not have.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened attentively to the hon. member opposite. I will try to ignore the interjections.

By 2003-2003, total CHST entitlements are expected to be $2.3 billion higher than the level set for next year, 1997-98. This funding arrangement will mark the first growth in transfers to the provinces for social programs. That is the first additional funding that can go to medicare, education and welfare since the era of restraint began in the mid-1980s.

Furthermore, as a result of this funding the cash component of the CHST will never fall below $11 billion. We expect the cash transfer to grow by the end of the period to provide additional assurance to Canadians.

However, this legislation sets a floor, an ironclad guarantee that cash transfers will be maintained above the $11 billion level. This proposed legislation also provides a new formula for allocating the CHST among provinces.

As you no doubt know, changes in the existing transfer system created increasingly greater disparities in terms of individual rights. Most often, these disparities resulted from the ceilings imposed by the previous government on money paid to certain provinces under the Canada assistance plan.

In my opinion, Canadians agree that the wealthy provinces need less assistance than those less well off. This concern for the welfare of our fellow Canadians is part of our unique social contract.

At the same time, Canadians are firm believers in the importance of action that is balanced and fair. This legislation puts those values to work. Under the new allocation formula, which will be phased in over five years, disparities in per capita funding will be cut in half.

Allow me to point out to the members of this House that progressive implementation-funding of the transfer over five years-gives the provinces time to adjust and the assurance of accuracy in their planning activities.

Let me now turn to the changes the bill proposes to make to the Unemployment Insurance Act, changes that will bring insurance coverage more in line with the average industrial wage for 1996. Effective January 1 of this year, the maximum insurable earnings are to be reduced to $750 per week in comparison with the $845 level that would have resulted under current legislation.

Similarly, the maximum weekly benefit drops from $465 a week to $413. These measures will save $200 million in the second half of this year and reduce the UI payroll tax burden on working Canadians.

Some might try to claim these measures are regressive, but this attack rings hollow, resonating more to political grandstanding than accurate criticism.Let us remember that the UI program when considered in its entirety is progressive. Lower income contributors tend to draw more in benefits than they pay in premiums, while higher income earners tend to pay much more in premiums-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I would like to have a little more order in the House so that at least the Chair can hear the member.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you. As well, let me point out that claimants who qualify for the 60 per cent dependency rate prior to the coming into force of the new employment insurance act will not see a loss of that rate for their claims. To qualify for this rate, claimants must have dependents and show average earnings of $422.50 per week or less.

Allow me to digress to mention a housekeeping detail with respect to these measures. They were announced last December and tabled in Bill C-112. A companion bill, the proposed employment insurance act, was also introduced. It sets rates for 1997 and beyond.

Since both bills died on the Order Paper we have decided to set the maximum insurable earnings and benefits for 1996 in this legislation. As members know, the employment insurance act has been retabled as Bill C-12. This bill also amends the Old Age Security Act, the present bill we are discussing, to lengthen the period of time before newcomers to Canada become entitled to the full guaranteed income supplement or spouses allowance.

This is simply common sense. Under the current system, some immigrants obtain full benefits with as a little as one year's residence in Canada. Restricting this easy access will improve the fairness of the system and lessen the burden on Canadians.

With the new rules, eligibility will be phased in over 10 years for those who qualify for benefits through social security agreements with Canada. As well, sponsored immigrants from countries that have social security agreements with Canada will not be eligible for benefits for the period of their sponsorship since most older immigrants are allowed entry only because they have been sponsored by a family member.

Those who have already come to Canada will not be penalized. Individuals now receiving benefits or who landed in Canada before budget day and become eligible for benefits before January 1, 2001, will not be affected.

In continuing to address the content of the bill, which I hope members opposite would like to discuss some time during the course of this debate, let me address a number of measures in this bill which seek to further the agenda of getting government right, something they speak about a great deal.

These measures involve redefining and redesigning government programs and activities in three areas: grain transportation, student loans and radio spectrum licences. Today, in a time of tighter resources and taxpayer fatigue, there is no question that governments cannot act or think as they did in previous times. It must be recognized that in order to do a better job of meeting key priorities we should not pursue activities when others can do the job better.

That is why Bill C-31 will enable the Minister of Transport to dispose of the publicly-owned freight pool.

The government will consider any serious proposals that those involved may wish to submit and take into account the interests of producers, shippers and rail carriers in making a decision.

We will ensure that the required capacity for grain transportation is maintained. As well, freight rates can, on average, rise no more than 75 cents per ton to cover the cost of the acquisition.

We expect that over time the privatization of the grain hopper cars will make for a more efficient grain handling system with lower costs for the railways. This in turn will lower freight rates for grain producers.

Two other clauses in this bill will remove the 10-year ceiling that was imposed on the repayment schedules of students who borrowed money under the Canada Student Loans Act. Lenders will be able to more flexibly match the repayment period to the financial circumstances of borrowers. While the borrowers must certainly benefit, I should point out that the government may actually save money with these new rules since the rate of defaults will clearly be reduced.

Another measure in this bill will amend the Radiocommunication Act allowing the Minister of Industry to auction off valuable radio spectrum licences.

I should point out that competitive bids will not be used systematically for issuing licences. This is however a very convenient mechanism that can be used whenever it becomes impossible to accommodate everyone within the spread of the spectrum.

Finally, there is a measure in this that does not flow directly from the budget but from an announcement recently made by the Minister of Finance and that is with respect to the GST. Bill C-31 provides for the paying out of approximately $960 million to the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador as adjustment assistance for initial revenue losses under the integrated value added tax regime that they have agreed to with the government, a harmonized tax I should incidentally point out which the Reform Party supported.

This money will be paid for over a four-year period. It is in keeping with the firmly established practice of providing assistance when federal initiatives entail major structural change for the provinces. Under the adjustment framework this legislation puts in place, the cost of harmonization will be shared with all provinces which experience revenue losses in excess of 5 per cent of their current retail sales tax revenue.

In addition to the three provinces previously mentioned, this would also include Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and Saskatchewan when they enter into harmonization.

However, British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario would be excluded for a very good reason: their revenues would not be cut back enough to make them eligible to compensation under the formula.

Quebec of course has already harmonized its sales tax for the main part. But in light of the remarks made yesterday by the

opposition, I must point out that Quebec would no more be admissible to adjustment assistance today than it would have been in 1990, when it signed the memorandum of agreement with Ottawa, and this, to Quebec's greatest advantage, because harmonization was profitable to this province.

Returning to Bill C-31, the government firmly believes that given the benefits that will flow from harmonization, the total cost to the federal government is responsible and reasonable.

Under the formula, the federal government and the provinces will split almost half and half the cost of adjustment assistance over the four years. That is certainly a given. At the end of these fours years, the program will end, the provinces having had the time to adjust.

As the minister stated, the government has consistently acted on the principle that people and governments need to be able to plan and adjust to structural change. Where required the government has been prepared to provide help to those who face adjustment cost. For example, as members well know, payments were made to provinces to address revenue losses they incurred under tax reform in 1972.

Adjustment assistance was provided in each and every one of our budgets. For example, last year resources were provided to facilitate the adjustment flowing from elimination of subsidies under the Western Grain Transportation Act to the western provinces. I do not recall members of the Reform Party objecting to that. We also did the same with Atlantic freight subsidies to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, and I do not recall members of the official opposition objecting to that either.

Today the same precedent is being followed. I emphasize that this adjustment assistance will not jeopardize the deficit targets. They are secure.

I have taken up a fair amount of time because I wanted members to focus on the measures in this bill, not their pet peeves, and I hope members in responding and continuing the debate will speak to the bill before us and not something else.

Through the things that I have focused on this afternoon there is a common thread: fiscal responsibility and getting government right for Canadians. The actions we are proposing are those which Canadians are looking for and insisting on from this government. As their elected representatives we would be remiss if we did not do our part. With this in mind I have no hesitation in calling on my colleagues on all sides of the House to join with me in supporting this important legislation.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, we have been unable to reach an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to proceedings at the second reading stage of Bill C-31, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 6, 1996.

Pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that, at the next sitting of the House, I will be moving a motion for the purpose of allotting a specified number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at that stage.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I was listening earlier to my Liberal colleague talk about the new GST agreement between the federal government and the maritime provinces. He forgot to mention that this agreement requires the federal government to pay close to $1 billion to the maritime provinces, a political compensation, as this billion dollars was used to pay off those provinces to accept a proposal that does not kill the GST.

On the contrary, this proposal maintains the GST but makes the Minister of Finance look good by allowing him to say he took some action in this matter. It is Canadians from the other provinces and Quebecers who will have to pay for this $1 billion in political compensation. But it is not the only cost; by reducing the combined sales taxes-the provincial sales tax plus the GST-in the maritimes from around 19 to 15 per cent, the Minister of Finance has paved the way for an increase in equalization payments to the maritimes over the next three or four years. That is what will happen.

So the price to be paid by Canadians from the other provinces and by Quebecers is not only $1 billion; it is not true, as the Minister of Finance claims, that this will end after four years. In fact, the formula for calculating equalization payments to the maritimes shows that we will be paying more and more for this bad agreement that the Minister of Finance signed on our behalf.

The new deal between the federal government and the maritimes will cost Quebecers and Canadians outside the maritimes $1 billion. It is a high price for Canadians to pay for a bad deal, a political deal which maintains the GST. However, it is not the only

price. After four years Canadians will continue to pay compensation to the maritimes through equalization payments. When the taxation base is reduced, like the Minister of Finance's proposal, equalization payments intervene automatically.

Why did the Minister of Finance and the government not do with the maritimes what they have done with Quebec since 1991, that is to say, really harmonizing both taxes without it costing a penny to any Canadian? Why did they approve such an agreement? Why did they agree to take $1 billion from the pockets of taxpayers in Quebec and Canada outside the maritimes to pay for this agreement, which is not even a harmonization agreement, which does not even keep the original Liberal promise to kill the GST? Why? My question is directed to my colleague.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

He is incorrect. I did not fail to mention the matter of the adjustment announced yesterday. It is within my comments and he can check the reference in Hansard . To suggest otherwise is incorrect.

It is not a case of buying harmonization. It is a case of providing adjustment assistance, as as has been done on a number of occasions. I mentioned similar situations in the west. I need only mention the maritime freight rates, which have also benefited Quebec.

Underlying the suggestion that the taxpayers of one region should not help another region would clearly undermine a number of things that benefit Quebec.

With respect to equalization, I look forward to the day, vis-à-vis Quebec or the maritimes, when we see reduced equalization payments. One of the things that will be accomplished through this harmonization-

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Why not give Quebec a tax cut?

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell St. Paul's, ON

-which is real harmonization, no matter what the member says it is not something else, will be a more prosperous maritimes. That I am sure is something that the member opposite would like to see, as would every one of us.

As for Quebec, it simply would not qualify under this formula, nor would Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

Budget Implementation Bill, 1996
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

moved that Bill C-219, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (severance pay), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to speak on my private member's Bill C-219.

The purpose of this bill is to remove from Part III of the Canada Labour Code that portion of section 235 which denies severance pay to employees who at the time they are terminated from employment are entitled to a pension under certain pension plans or legislation. Passage of this bill would end an injustice and would end the age discrimination which is now enshrined in the Canada Labour Code.

The Canada Labour Code governs the employment of 700,000 people in federally regulated industries, including transportation, telecommunications, grain handling and banking.

With the current wave of rationalizations, thousands of these workers are facing layoffs. Older workers are particularly vulnerable and workers entitled to a pension, even with reduced benefits based on early retirement, even reduced CPP benefits, are not eligible for any severance packages that their younger co-workers might receive.

Subsection 235.2(b), which this bill would rescind states:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension, under a pension plan contributed to by the employer-

In practice this means that if a company is laying off workers, it is not obliged to pay severance to older workers who are entitled to early withdrawal of pension benefits, even though they may be severely penalized for taking benefits before the normal pensionable age.

My interest in this subject arose from the misfortune of one of my constituents, Mr. Abe Peters of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, a 28-year employee of the now defunct trucking company, Motorways Limited. He was laid off along with hundreds of others on December 3, 1993. He was 58 years old at the time.

Employees were notified that they would receive the magnificent sum of two days' severance pay for each year of service. Someone should tell the Ontario public service workers about life in the real, cold hard world of federally regulated industries. In Mr. Peters' case, the severance package would have been $6,872.32.

Unfortunately, a second notice was delivered by way of the teamster's union to all employees aged 55 or over, advising that they would not be eligible for even that pittance because they were entitled to a pension under the Prairie Teamster's pension plan. A total of 240 employees were excluded from severance pay. The great majority had never expressed any desire to retire and few, if any of them, will ever be able to find work at their age within their field of occupation.

Mr. Peters and others vigorously protested their exclusion, first to the Great Lakes regional office of Labour Canada. The assigned inspector ruled that on the basis of subsection 235.2(b), their complaint against Motorways was unfounded because the hands of the bureaucrats were tied by the code.

An appeal was then filed on behalf of 133 of the plaintiffs and in January 1995, more than a year after the layoffs, Jack Chapman, QC, of Winnipeg was appointed referee. Mr. Chapman's 21-page judgment rendered on August 31, 1995 hinged on the premise that laid-off employees need not actively seek or apply for reduced pension benefits in order to be deemed eligible.

He did not explore, and was not asked to rule on, the issue of whether or not section 235 constitutes age discrimination under the charter. Mr. Chapman ruled:

There is absolutely no question that the primary legislation of concern to section 235(1) and (2) of division 11 of part III of the Canada Labour Code.

The scheme of this legislation is to provide for termination pay for employees who have completed 12 consecutive months of service. The legislation specifies the amount to be paid on termination.

Subsection 2(b) provides that an employer is not deemed to have terminated the employment of an employee where the employee is entitled to a pension. The purpose of the legislation appears to be to prevent an individual from receiving a double benefit, severance pay and a pension. The text of the legislation is simply whether the appellants were entitled to receive a pension. They were. Accordingly I confirm the decisions of the inspector and dismiss the appeal.

After losing his appeal Mr. Peters took a reduced pension at age 60. He lives on $487 a month and he feels cheated out of the $6,872.32 that he would have received had he been three years and some months younger. While it is too late to help him, I propose that other workers be protected in the future by passing Bill C-219.

Under the Canada Labour Code severance pay is a statutory right. Pensions on the other hand are a negotiated benefit paid for by the contributions of employers or workers or both. The two programs serve different needs and they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. They should not be traded off one for the other, nor should the two be considered a double benefit. It is a patently unfair situation.

Former Motorways employees under age 55 received severance pay and their accrued pension benefits were protected, while those 55 or over received neither their severance nor their full pension. If anyone received a double benefit, and I would vigorously argue

that nobody did, it would have been the younger workers who were able to receive severance pay and have their pensions vested. They had the option of leaving their pension funds in the plan or rolling them into RRSPs, a course of action which was not open to anyone over 55.

Older workers deserve the protection of the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-219 would replace section 235 with a simple clause that explains the circumstances deemed to be termination of employment.

It would also add a clause to section 236 which would explicitly make it clear that entitlement to a pension cannot be used as an excuse to deny an employee severance pay.

All over Canada statutes and regulations have been or are being changed to conform with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Age discrimination is no longer acceptable. Denial of a statutory right to someone purely on the basis of pension eligibility is in my opinion to deny it on the basis of age. Statutory rights are rights.

There are two issues here. The principal issue is that it is unjust and makes no sense to deprive an employee of severance pay just because he or she is entitled to a pension or some small portion of a pension bought and paid for by contributions unrelated to the severance package.

The second issue is whether people 55 years of age or older are of less value or are entitled to less legal protection than people age 54 years and 364 days. These two very important issues deserve to be fully debated in committee and in this House. I hope that such debate will ultimately lead to the passage of Bill C-219.

There are no Reform, Liberal, Bloc or NDP fingerprints on Bill C-219. It is a non-partisan, housekeeping measure to bring the Canada Labour Code up to date and to protect thousands of older workers who face layoffs as downsizing continues in the federally regulated industries.

Therefore at this time I beg the unanimous consent of the House to make Bill C-219 votable and have it sent to committee at the end of this debate.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Do we have unanimous consent?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

There is not unanimous consent.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

If the hon. member wishes to continue debate he still has time.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

I will continue very briefly, in view of the refusal of some hon. members opposite to even consider having this bill debated. I did not at this time expect it to pass. I am really quite astonished that any government calling itself Liberal would oppose the protection of workers or oppose the effectiveness of the charter of rights of freedoms.

Hon. members opposite are all fully protected by their gold plated MP pension plans which ordinary working people governed by the Canada Labour Code cannot count on. I find this reprehensible. With that, I will end my remarks.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I will attempt to assure the hon. member that I am not totally opposed to his bill. However, I have some things I want to say tonight. I congratulate him for bringing forward this bill.

So that all hon. members are clear on what this legislation proposes, I will begin by expressing my understanding of this bill. In essence, the hon. member is asking that the House of Commons amend the Canada Labour Code to provide employees, who at the time they are laid off from their job and are entitled to a pension under a duly registered pension plan, would have the right to severance pay.

This request seems reasonable enough. However, as with many other things in life, the member's proposal is not as simple as it would appear.

To begin with, passage and implementation of the bill would alter the legal notion of severance pay by introducing elements of a deferred wage. It is not advisable to undertake the changes of this nature without full consultation with those who are affected.

For clarification, the hon. member is asking that the House replace section 235(2) of the Canada Labour Code with the following:

For the purposes of this division, except where otherwise provided by regulation, an employer shall be deemed to have terminated the employment of a employee, when the employer lays off that employee.

Section 235(2)(b) of the code already contains a similar provision that considers employees who are entitled to a pension when they are laid off not to have been terminated.

As well, section 236 of the code deals with the power of the governor in council to make regulations with regard to severance pay. The hon. member is requesting that the House amend section 236. Besides replacing a portion of the section, he is asking the House to add a subsection that would read: "Notwithstanding paragraph 1(a), where an employer lays off an employee who immediately, on being laid off, or before that time is entitled to a pension under a pension plan, contributed to by the employer that is registered pursuant to" and then the section names the various plans. It concludes with: "The entitlement to such a pension shall not be prescribed under paragraph (1)(a) as circumstances in which the layoff of the employee shall not be deemed to be a termination of the employee's employment by the employee's employer".

I have explained in detail the amendment proposed by the member because I think it important that my colleagues in the House understand fully the consequences.

The problem is that including this provision in this section does not make sense. The reason is it would result in confusion as to whether or not the provision constitutes an exception per se or whether or not it provides the enabling power to adopt the regulation to make that exception.

At present under the Canada Labour Code, severance pay is considered to be compensation for long and loyal service by an employee. It becomes payable to the employee if termination is initiated by the employer and is due to reasons other than just cause.

Furthermore there is nothing in the way this concept is currently presented in the code that could be construed to mean that severance pay is tantamount to a deferred wage. In fact, the main purpose of having a provision requiring an employer to pay severance to an employee is to ensure that employers share in the social costs of labour adjustment. There are numerous circumstances where this provision is of great assistance. It can go a long way in helping the employer's former employees when it comes to financially bridging the gap between jobs.

I am not questioning in any way the hon. member's good intentions in presenting this legislation to the House. I am positive the hon. member perceives an injustice and believes that elected officials of the Parliament of Canada should address it. However, as I have attempted to explain, the matter is more complex than it might appear on the surface.

Labour standards and labour relations have many facets and must always be looked at as part of the whole picture. For anyone who thinks otherwise, I would suggest that they read "Seeking a Balance", the recently published review of part I of the Canada Labour Code. To illustrate my point I would like to quote from the report of the task force which carried out the review. Of course part I of the code is concerned with labour relations. While not specific

to the proposal in the hon. member's bill, the concerns are similar and most certainly related.

Under the heading "The Limits of Legislative Reform" the task force said: "Legislation cannot fix every problem. Neither the Canada Labour Code nor the Canada Labour Relations Board can solve every labour-management situation. The parties themselves must do that. The Canada Labour Code leaves the parties, employers and employees acting through their unions, responsible for the quality and much of the content of their day to day working relationships. They can act co-operatively to solve problems or they can be confrontational. They can ignore their position in the economy or they can work together to meet their competition and thrive. They can pay attention to social issues that are important to workers or they can suffer the long term consequences of avoiding them".

In conclusion, the hon. member's bill has merit but the issue should be looked at in consultation with the affected employer and employee organizations. It should be examined in a comprehensive fashion, taking into account the broader issues associated with the right to severance pay.

The labour program of Human Resources Development Canada is currently reviewing part III of the Canada Labour Code, the part that deals with severance pay. I assure the hon. member that the matter he raises in his bill will be examined along with other issues concerning termination and entitlement to severance pay.

I thank the hon. member for putting forth this bill, but I must ask him to be patient. In the light of the current review of the Canada Labour Code, it is inappropriate at this time to support this bill. Consequently I urge all hon. members not to support the bill.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I find it regrettable to say the least that the government did not agree to hold a vote, and I want to say that if the government so wishes, we will be pleased to oblige. Since there is already a subcommittee on labour, it would be very easy to look at the hon. member's bill and to give it the attention that it deserves.

Madam Speaker, I do not forget that I must look at you when I address the Chair, as is our rule.

I want to thank the hon. member and remind him that we have all met, in our offices, with workers who had been laid off. If we represent a riding located in a large Canadian city, particularly a city that has undergone an intense industrialization process, we are all the more likely to find ourselves in the situation described by the hon. member and to meet with workers experiencing a loss of qualification process that is often related to age.

The hon. member clearly showed the existence of a two tier system which discriminates against those who are losing their qualifications in the labour market, and also against those who must pay, since these people are entitled to a public or private pension.

We are talking here about an amendment to Part III of the Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code is made up of three parts. The first one deals with grievances and the whole issue of collective bargaining and collective agreements. The second part deals with occupational health and safety. The third part is the equivalent of a minimum employment standards act and lists, among others, the obligations relating to severance pay.

The Canada Labour Code is an important tool which concerns about 15 per cent of the labour force, including all those who work in banks, interprovincial transportation, hauling, or any of the areas that come under the jurisdiction of the Canadian government.

The third part of the Labour Code is important because it deals with employees' rights, employers' obligations, hours of work, minimum wages, equal wages, annual vacations, general holidays, maternity leave, severance pay, unjust dismissal and the recovery of unpaid salaries.

The Minister of Labour recently asked a task force chaired by the Mr. Sim, which produced the Sim report, to determine what amendments should be made to the Labour Code. It is agreed that, in its present form, the Labour Code is not adequate to meet the major challenges of the labour market.

Again, it would have been very appropriate, in my view, to support the hon. member's bill, since we have reached the point where the Labour Code must be reviewed.

I find it unfortunate that party politics prevent us from considering a bill based on its merit. There is no doubt that, beyond any partisan consideration-you know how much I have disagreed with what the Reformers have said in the past-the fact remains that the bill before us today is relevant, in that it will help workers, and older workers in particular. The government's partisan motives are unfortunate.

What are we dealing with? We are dealing with the requirement, under section 236 of the Canada Labour Code, which is quite clear and specific, to pay an employee whose employment is terminated severance pay. Provided the employee has completed twelve of employment with the same business or establishment, the employer is required to pay the employee either two days wages at the employee's regular rate of wages for his regular hours of work in respect of each completed year of employment or five days wages

at the employee's regular rate of wages for his regular hours of work.

This is an explicit provision and it is clear that, in a context of globalization, in which the labour market is changing rapidly and the use of technology is growing, with machines gradually taking the place of workers, loss of qualification and thus layoff are not unusual.

Except that, in the case of a layoff, the employer is not required by law to give severance pay even if the employees being laid off are entitled to a public or private pension. Given that this provision applies to pensions under the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985, the Old Age Security Act, including the guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance, as well as retirement pensions under the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan, what the hon. member is suggesting is that we put an end to an unfair, discriminatory and all too common practice.

It is important to understand what our colleague went through. He received a worker with 28 years of service who was laid off by an established business in his riding, a capital and labour intensive business. This is not an exceptional situation. Government members who refused their consent to their colleague should bear in mind that it could have been their own brother or father.

It could be my father. He has been working in the same textile factory for 30 years. He is 58 years old and works in a vulnerable sector. Given the changes the textile sector is experiencing, my father may well be laid off some day, despite being an honest worker and valued employee. If our parents, our friends who are a little older are employed by a company working in any sector subject to the federal code, they may be laid off and deprived of severance pay.

I think it is very important to remind the House that severance pay is earned; it is not a privilege. It is a right linked to seniority, to services rendered. It is not optional.

Not only must the Labour Code be reviewed and improved as proposed by the hon. member from the Reform Party, but we as parliamentarians must reflect on this some day. The Labour Code must be tightened. What is needed is legislation on plant closings and layoffs, as there is in Ontario and other provinces across Canada.

There are some regions in the country where it costs a business almost nothing to lay off workers. This is what is unacceptable in a system such as ours.

All this is to tell you that it would have been preferable for the government not to indulge in party politics, to recognize that we all have older workers in our ridings, that this provision in the Labour Code is outdated, that it is a provision that does not respect workers. Without wishing to offend my friend in the Reform Party, I would go even further. This is a bill that could have been tabled by the NDP. It is a bill tabled by an MP who cares about workers, who respects people who, in the environment of large and small businesses, are experiencing situations of discrimination.

Once again, I repeat, this is an ideal time to approve this sort of proposal, because we are going to be making commitments in the wake of the Sims report. And the parliamentary secretary knows very well that the labour minister is now conducting consultations, that he is going to visit five major cities across Canada, and that a subcommittee on labour has already been created. It would have been a simple matter for this subcommittee to receive the bill, to hear witnesses, and to move very, very rapidly to recognize the relevance of the bill that has been introduced.

With my time running out, and my energy with it, because it is already 6 o'clock, I ask you again if you would seek the unanimous consent of this House, in light of the information I have provided, to have this bill deemed votable and sent to a committee. I ask the parliamentary secretary, in all humility and kindness, to give his consent, because it is a bill that will serve workers.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yes.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Guy Arseneault Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Madam Speaker, with all due respect, I believe the question had been put earlier that the bill be made votable. It was refused and it has been refused again.

Looking at the subject matter, severance pay, and knowing the bill has some very positive features, maybe it would be permissible to refer the subject matter to committee. The committee would then determine if there is an injustice in this regard, which there seems to be, and could look at it in a positive way. Then the member could make his presentation to the committee.

I believe the question of making the bill votable has already been put twice and it has been turned down. I think a more positive approach might be to refer the subject matter to committee. That might receive unanimous support.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, will you rule on the request for unanimous consent to send the subject matter to committee?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

My understanding is that the parliamentary secretary made a suggestion to the hon. member. Therefore there is no formal proposal before the House.

Resuming debate.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to follow up on some of the points made by my colleague, the hon. member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

With Bill C-219 the hon. member is trying to remove a clause in the Canada Labour Code which clearly discriminates against employees under federal jurisdiction on the basis of age. What we are talking about is clearly a matter of fairness.

My colleague has already pointed out that section 235 of the labour code allows a company to deny a terminated employee the severance pay which would normally be due him or her if that employee were not entitled to early withdrawal of a pension plan.

Let me read the exact words as they appear in section 235:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension under a pension plan contributed to by the employer.

Section 235 does not say the terminated employee actually has to apply for the early withdrawal of his pension, he only has to be entitled to do so. The terminated worker may have every intention of looking for another job and may not want to take a cut in the pension which early retirement would entail.

Most pension plans in Canada, 87 per cent, entitle an employee to early withdrawal of pension benefits at age 55.

In most cases under federal jurisdiction the age 55 is when an employer is legally entitled to terminate a person while saying: "Forget the severance pay. Forget the termination pay in lieu of sufficient notice and forget the gold watch for that matter".

I have to admit I am feeling a little bit uncomfortable right now, as 55 is not that far off in my case. I am just getting started in my view. I am not ready to be put out to pasture and I do not think many other 55-year-olds are for that matter.

Just because a plan states you can retire if you want to does not mean you are actually ready to throw in the towel. You might still have an awful lot to offer. I submit that most people do, even past 65 in many instances. I would guess most members of the House would agree with me on that issue. Some of us have just figured out how to get the best seating plan to get the camera angle, and so I would not want to have an early retirement at this stage.

Any employer in Canada can terminate an employee whenever he or she feels like it. There is no legislation that guarantees anyone the right to work. What an employer is required to do is give the employee a reasonable notice of termination of employment. Failing that, the employer is required to make a payment equal to what the employee would have earned had he worked for that notice period. This is referred to as pay in lieu of notice or termination pay. The employer is also required to pay any money, such as vacation pay, owed to the employee at the time of termination.

The federal jurisdiction of the Government of Canada and the province of Ontario are the only two jurisdictions in Canada that have a statutory provision for severance pay in addition to notice of termination requirements.

Ontario requires that employer, upon termination, give an employee one regular week's wages for each year of employment to a maximum of 26 weeks. Some may argue that is pretty generous. Perhaps that was put in by an NDP government in Ontario. In theory, if an employee earns wages of $1,000 per week that employee will be entitled to 26 weeks of severance pay, $26,000.

The severance pay provisions in a federal jurisdiction are not quite as rich as that. The employer must pay two days for each year worked or five days' wages, whichever is larger. The federal severance provision is less than half of what it is in Ontario.

However, it begs the question who might be affected by this draconian legislation? There are some 700,000 people in this category who are affected by the Canada Labour Code. These people work in the banking industry, telecommunications, transportation, grain handling, ports and broadcasting. We know full well that because of our changing environment in terms of how long people are employed at different jobs this will become a major factor down the road.

Some of these sectors, like many others in the economy, will be looking for considerable downsizing over the coming periods. That is fine. That happens. Companies need the flexibility to increase or contract a number of employees according to individual situations or as technology develops.

Private member's Bill C-219, by removing section 235 from the Canada Labour Code, will ensure all terminated employees in those sectors are treated equally. Employers will not be able to terminate older employees just because it is cheaper to do so. Whether a worker is 55 years old plus a few months or 55 years old minus a few months will not make a difference.

What we want is equality. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every individual is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination. This means government rules, regulations and programs must not discriminate or cause others to discriminate on the basis of individual characteristics such as age.

Section 235 of the Canada Labour Code is an anomaly which allows, in fact enforces, companies to discriminate on the basis of age. Age should be a factor here at all. I am sure members on the other side of the House will agree that section 235 is completely unfair. I have difficulty understanding why unanimous consent would not be given to allow this to be a votable motion. However, I hope some compromise can be reached such as what has been

suggested. This is an unfair section which needs to be reviewed and removed from the Canada Labour Code.

Any terminated employee entitled to a pension should also be entitled to receive severance and termination pay just like his or her younger co-workers or the younger former co-worker, as this case would suggest.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Kent, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak in complete and full support of Bill C-219, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, severance pay, put forward by the member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

I applaud the member for bringing this matter forward. As he has already mentioned, the bill is a direct result of his responding to his constituents, the purpose of private members' business. This is a non-partisan hour.

I have presented and debated many private members' bills in the House of Commons, some successful and others not. It is an important part of our work as representatives of the people. This bill is an important step forward in amending the Canada Labour Code which, at first glance at section 235, is full of age discrimination.

The Canada Labour Code, which should be leading the way in terms of work and labour force, is the only piece of legislation in the country that denies severance or termination pay based on an employee's eligibility for a pension. This is an inequity that must be addressed, and Bill C-219 does that.

Company pension plans, RRSPs and the Canada pension plan are all part of retirement. They are becoming increasingly important in the tough times ahead. According to Statistics Canada, 65 is the normal retirement age and 55 is when most people are eligible for early retirement.

As well, a reduced pension is the norm for early retirement. Even if an employee is not a member of a company sponsored registered retirement plan, severance could be denied at age 60 because they could receive Canada pension.

Some will say section 235 is there to disallow a double benefit, but comparing severance to pension is like comparing soya beans and apples. It is not a double benefit in my opinion. Supposedly the charter of rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom from discrimination based on age.

As we all know, demographically the population is getting older. Employers aged 55 and older could be targeted for layoffs to save companies money.

Bill C-219 comes at an important time. Termination of employment is now of considerable magnitude, especially when the economy is not as buoyant as it could be. Basically, an employer can terminate an employee whenever he or she feels like it. There is nothing in Canada that guarantees anyone the right to work.

What an employer is required to do is provide the employee with a reasonable notice of termination or payment equal to what the employee would have earned had they worked for the notice period, referred to as either pay in lieu of notice or termination pay, and any other money such as vacation pay which is owed to the employee at the time of termination.

The federal jurisdiction and Ontario are the only two in Canada that make statutory provisions for severance pay in addition to notice of termination requirements. Therefore in all other jurisdictions an employer may terminate an employee's service forthwith if the employer pays the employee an amount equal to the wages the employee would have earned in regular work hours for the period required by the notice provisions.

The purpose of Bill C-219 is to remove from part III of the Canada Labour Code section 235, which denies severance pay to employees. Passage of this bill would end an injustice and would end the age discrimination which is enshrined in the Canada Labour Code.

I have had similar situations with constituents in the past who offered the examples cited by workers in the riding of Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

As the hon. member has outlined very clearly, in 1993 Motorways Limited, an interprovincial trucking firm, closed its Canada-wide operation. Employees under the age of 55 on the closing date received two days severance pay for each year of service. However employees who were 55 years of age or over did not, regardless of their years of service. This to me was a flagrant injustice to people who had worked hard. Motorways was allowed to deny its former employees age 55 or older their severance because part III of the labour code, section 235(b) states:

An employer shall be deemed not to have terminated the employment of an employee, where, either immediately on ceasing to be employed by the employer, or before that time, the employee is entitled to a pension under a pension plan contributed to by the employer-

In practice this means very clearly that if a company is laying off workers it is not obligated to pay severance to those who are 55 years of age or older because those employees are entitled to early withdrawal of pension benefits even though they could be severely penalized for taking benefits before age 65.

The employees of Motorways filed appeals under the Canada Labour Code. In September 1995 the appointed appeals referee cited section 235 and ruled in favour of the company. He stated:

The purpose of this legislation appears to be to prevent an individual from receiving a double benefit; that is, severance pay and a pension. The text of the legislation is simply whether the appellants were entitled to receive a pension. They were. Accordingly, I confirm the decisions of the inspector and dismiss the appeals.

After losing the appeal, the hon. member's constituent took his pension at age 60, which meant a 5 per cent reduction. He gets $487 a month and he feels cheated out of the $6,872.32 he would have received had he been three years younger. We must make sure that this injustice does not happen again.

During the appeal process, the decision to deny stated that a pension and severance pay are double benefits. This is a misnomer. Severance and termination pay are a statutory benefit. The details are regulated by law for all employers within a specified jurisdiction. Hon. members will be aware that a pension is a negotiated benefit. The details are part of an overall benefits package and can vary widely from industry to industry, employer to employer and even job to job.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Would the hon. member please conclude his remarks.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Kent, ON

Madam Speaker, in conclusion I fully support Bill C-219. Older workers deserve protection from the Canada Labour Code which is why I am pleased to advocate this bill. It would replace section 235 with a simple clause outlining the reasons deemed to be termination of employment. I urge all members to support it.

At this time I would like to ask the House for unanimous consent that Bill C-219 be withdrawn, the order for second reading be discharged and that the subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

George Proud Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I would certainly welcome this. As we review the Canada Labour Code we certainly will take a look at this very worthwhile subject matter.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

We have unanimous consent to have the subject matter referred to a committee.

(Bill withdrawn, and subject matter thereof referred to a committee.)

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I now ask the consent of the House to take a brief recess in order to prepare for the adjournment debate at 6:30 p.m.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, if you were to request unanimous consent, I believe that we would be prepared to go still further than you suggest and declare it to be 6:30 p.m., because those who will be speaking in the adjournment debate are, apparently, already prepared.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Labour Code
Adjournment Debate

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Madam Speaker, last week when I rose in my place to ask a question about the future of Canada's national parks and historic sites, I was very concerned about what the Liberal government seemed to be doing. I was aware that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the minister responsible for the national parks and historic sites system, was about to implement a plan developed by the bean counters in Treasury Board called the employee takeover program.

I was convinced that anyone who had had any experience in our national parks or at our national historic sites would never have agreed to proceed with this foolhardy program which called for one-half of the existing staff of Parks Canada to either quit their jobs or wait to be fired and then if they wanted, to form a business company, come back and bid on the contracts which would be let out on their old jobs.

There are of course numerous problems with this proposal, not the least of which is the threat this privatization makes to the entire parks and national historic sites system throughout Canada.

This scheme came to our attention during committee study of the government's spending estimates. There the members of the committee learned that the Department of Canadian Heritage wanted to reduce its workforce to 2,000 employees from 4,000 and remove roughly 24 per cent of its budget. The employee takeover plan was the scheme to achieve both goals.

Obviously people who worked in the parks system knew that this 24 per cent saving, or roughly $98 million over four years, was going to come at their expense. When they looked at the services they were providing to the public, they justifiably pointed out that the system would also result in lost services to the public.

Since then the dedicated people who work for Parks Canada have reviewed what little information is available to them. Almost unanimously from all parts of Canada they have reacted very negatively to the minister's proposal. In addition, neighbouring communities, their businesses and their leaders have commented negatively on the impact such activity would have on them.

I had said previously, and my words were coming back to me from these communities, that this scheme would result in increased costs, reduced service, lower wages and lost jobs for hundreds of dedicated long term employees of Parks Canada.

I had also said in a letter to the minister that similar situations were in existence in parts of British Columbia and the United States and except for the odd success story the overwhelming result of these existing experiences was failure.

I was concerned that should this scheme fail, which I was sure it would, there would be very little that could be done to correct the mistakes and that our parks and national historic sites were much too important to leave to chance. I asked the minister to postpone the plan to implement this scheme as of July 1 of this year and study much more carefully the implications of its failure.

I was pleased that the minister, who has a good understanding of the parks system thanks to her term as Minister of the Environment, said the program would be slowed down to look at other options. At the same time I remain concerned that the bottom line for the minister and the government appears to be the reduction in spending rather than the provision of services in a section of our economy that does not have much ability to generate its own revenue.

I appreciate the fact that the department will take some additional time to examine options other than the employee takeover program, which does nothing to address the circumstances in the parks.

I urge the minister to review the mandate of the parks system, establish a clearly understood plan to ensure the ongoing operational and development success of the parks and national historic sites and to put in place the type of funding that is necessary to secure the long term protection of our historic and environmental heritage.

Canada Labour Code
Adjournment Debate

6:20 p.m.

Restigouche—Chaleur
New Brunswick

Liberal

Guy Arseneault Parliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage to respond to the comments made by my hon. colleague, the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake.

The question is very timely, I am pleased to say. The Minister of Canadian Heritage today is signing with her provincial counterpart an agreement to create Wapusk National Park near Churchill, Manitoba.

Members know that these are challenging times and Parks Canada has to do its share. By 1998-99, federal funding to Parks Canada will be reduced by $98 million. This means its appropriation will go down to $259 million.

Parks Canada is offsetting these reductions somewhat through its cost recovery efforts. While revenues will reach $64 million by 1998-99, they do not offset cuts of this magnitude.

Parks Canada is committed to achieving these reductions while maintaining its core mandate to provide for the use and enjoyment of all Canadians a system of national parks, national historic sites and related protected areas and to manage these places in a manner that leaves them unimpaired for future generations. Parks Canada will continue to secure and set aside parks and sites for future generations.

Given the economic impact of parks and sites, the government intends to keep the parks and sites open for the enjoyment of all Canadians and for our international visitors.

To achieve the level of reductions we are considering a number of options. And in keeping with the direction the federal government has adopted under program review, Parks Canada is reducing its involvement in direct delivery of services.

One option that is now being pursued by Parks Canada is employee takeovers. Treasury Board released a government-wide employee takeover policy on February 22, 1996. It is an innovative policy outlining an effective option for service delivery.

The minister has already indicated to the member and he alluded to the fact that we are studying other options besides this one. The minister is determined to adopt an approach or approaches which will be best for the staff while achieving reductions and preserve the Parks Canada mandate for all Canadians.

Canada Labour Code
Adjournment Debate

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

A motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been moved. This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

(The House adjourned at 6:28 p.m.)