House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member that the case is urgent. I would therefore ask him why one of his own members walked away from the committee saying there was nothing important to do there.

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, for the past two weeks the opposition finance critic has been calling for the committee to sit, and the government is interested in having it sit only for minor matters.

I do not know if the minister of revenue is aware, but we are talking about dollars leaving the country untaxed, billions of dollars leaving the country untaxed. When ordinary people are involved, there is a great rush to nab them, but when billions of dollars are involved, there is no cause for alarm.

Given the urgency of acting and as a show of good faith, will the minister of revenue, the Minister of Finance or a responsible minister in this government undertake to put a stop to these flights of capital in order to stop billions of dollars going to the United States?

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand why the hon. member would deny that the best place for these questions to be reviewed would be in a very public forum where members who are elected by Canadians

across the country have a chance to look at the law and make recommendations to the Minister of Finance.

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance, who, I hope, is much more familiar with this issue.

On March 16, Revenue Canada made public its advance ruling allowing rich families to move their assets to the U.S. without paying Canadian taxes. This morning, the auditor general reiterated that the government needed to act quickly to avoid losing hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes once again.

Does the minister confirm that, since the decision was announced, it has been possible to move large pools of capital out of the country every day and that this situation will prevail until the minister finally decides to act?

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, indeed this is not the case.

Let me repeat the tax law is very arcane and complex. It needs time to be reviewed, understood and the implications determined not only for Canadians who have $2 billion in assets but for those who may have only $2.

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the government and its ministers are skating around the issue, rich families are consulting with their lawyers, their accountants, their tax experts, and preparing to tax-shelter their assets by moving them out of Canada.

My question is for the Minister of Finance or the Minister of National Revenue. Would one or the other agree to suspend Revenue Canada's advance ruling, which could be used as a excuse to move major assets out of Canada? Would he or she agree to suspend this decision, yes or no?

Capital Gains
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, there are too few Canadians who have $2 billion in assets. I suggest that if Canadians continue their confidence in us, there will be more money in the country.

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Constitution, secession and the rule of law require precise interpretation. But the Prime Minister continues to muddy the constitutional waters with his off the cuff comments about possible guidelines for future referendums on secession without saying what those guidelines are.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said: "If ever we have a referendum by any province, I hope there will be a discussion beforehand to make sure the rules are known by both sides".

I am wondering if the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs can explain what the Prime Minister was trying to say. In particular, what discussions or negotiations was he talking about, who would take part, and precisely what would be discussed?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister of Canada during the 1970s delivered a speech that is reported in his book in 1985. I have the quotation in French:

"We'll put our faith in democracy. We'll convince the people that they should stay in Canada and we'll win. If we don't win, I'll respect the wishes of Quebeckers and let them separate".

I am very proud of my Prime Minister and proud to show what a great democrat he is. A unilateral declaration of independence would not be acceptable in any way, shape or form in a democratic system. Democracy implies a mutual agreement to respect rules of law. And we will work with all Canadians to ensure that these rules are established in a context of calm co-operation between all concerned.

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said there will be negotiations on ground rules for the next referendum but provides no details at all.

He says 50 per cent plus one is not enough to separate, but he does not know what percentage would be acceptable. He says the federal government would never acknowledge a unilateral declaration of separation but cannot seem to outline the grounds for a democratic and legal secession.

Either the Prime Minister is making this up as he goes along or the federal government does have ground rules governing the next referendum on secession and is not disclosing them.

Which is it? Does the government have firm ground rules for governing a future referendum on secession? If it does, will it table them in the House?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

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

The point is for now the debate is, yes or no, whether a unilateral declaration of independence is supported by international law and accepted by Canadian law? The conviction of the government is that the answer is no.

When this is clear that will be the time to look at the specific issues which the hon. member is speaking about. However, for now the priority of the government is to work with all Canadians in order to reconcile Quebecers with Canadians to ensure they will improve the federation, that they will celebrate Quebec's specificity within Canada and that they will stay together for the next century.

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I understand the minister correctly, if that is the only guideline the government is firm about, will the minister then introduce a motion in the House declaring the House will not recognize a unilateral declaration of secession by any province in Canada?

National Unity
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is the conviction of the government that a unilateral declaration of independence would not be supported by international law and would be against Canadian law.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of defence.

They are at it again. In an internal memo, Lieutenant-General Armand Roy urged 140 or so senior officers to get cracking to help the chief of defence staff, General Boyle. The memo also states that a political decision had been made to muzzle the general and that only the minister of defence would be allowed to make public statements about the Somalia affair.

Does the minister realize that silencing General Boyle-a fact confirmed by his spokesman, Steve Wills-is not only an act of political interference but, worse yet, in direct contravention of the military rules and procedures behind which he hid on Tuesday and which state that the chief of defence Staff is the only official spokesperson of the armed forces?

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 stated in the House some time ago-I think it was back in the fall of 1994 when this issue came up-that all members of the armed forces are not, as a condition of service, entitled to make public comments about their duties.

With respect to the incidents in Somalia, I advised the House that anybody who had anything to add to the situation, any evidence to give, should do so before the commission. That is consistent. That applies to everybody in the armed forces. It applies to the chief of defence staff.

However, the chief of defence staff has the unfettered right to communicate with his troops at any time. General Boyle exercised that right a few weeks ago but has since taken the position, the correct position and the one I directed in the House of Commons, that any commentary on Somalia should not be made in an external forum such as Parliament or in the news media but to the commission of inquiry.