Debates of Sept. 30th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was british.
- Canadian Bill Of Rights
- The Laval Cosmodôme
- The Economy
- Child Labour
- Library Of Parliament
- Canada Games
- The Member For Bonaventure-Îles-De-La-Madeleine
- Bill C-68
- International Translation Day
- The Leader Of The Bloc Quebecois
- Alison Korn
- The Death Of Claire Bonenfant
- Police Officers
- The Leader Of The Bloc Quebecois
- The Bloc Quebecois
- The Referendum Question
- The Somalia Inquiry
- The Middle East
- Parliament Hill
- Canadian Coast Guard
- The Tokamak Project
- National Defence
- The Fight Against Aids
- Churchill Falls Hydro Project
- Presence In Gallery
- The Late Bert Hargrave
- Order In Council Appointments
- Government Response To Petitions
- Committees Of The House
- An Act To Establish National Standards Across Canada For Education Provided By The Provinces
- An Act To Establish National Literacy Standards Across Canada
- Income Tax Act
- Committees Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
Questions On The Order Paper
Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
Questions On The Order Paper
The Deputy Speaker
Is that agreed?
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
The House resumed consideration of the motion.
September 30th, 1996 / 3:25 p.m.
Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened to what my colleague in the Reform Party said. He went out of his way to make the point that he is very unhappy that the government is making cuts in certain areas, such as in the defence sector and in some other sectors in his province.
I want to go on the record as saying that the area which I represent, the national capital region, has seen its share of cuts. Many of my colleagues have experienced cuts in their ridings. The government has been downsized by approximately 45,000 public servants. Agencies and crown corporations have been shrinking on a regular basis.
I share my colleague's concerns, however, it is a fact of life. The government takes no pleasure in making the cuts. It does not want to see people on the street. The cuts were part of an overall strategy
to stimulate the economy, to streamline services across the country and to eliminate duplication of services.
I am sure my colleague will agree with me that the government has done a bang on job of ensuring that inflation is at an all time low. It is the lowest it has been in 20 years. Canadian interest rates are lower than those in the United States. Also, in a matter of three years the deficit has decreased by approximately $12 billion. That is something of which my colleague should be taking note. He should be congratulating the government on a job well done.
With respect to job creation, the government should not be satisfied until the last person who is seeking a job finds a job. However, I am sure he would agree with me that the record on that front is excellent.
We cannot have the syndrome of "not in my backyard". Last week Reform members were on their feet attacking the government on the Newfoundland issue. They were trying to pit one government against another. This week they are trying to pit the government of British Columbia against the federal government.
Reform members are here day in and day out calling on the government to introduce cuts. When the government takes action they turn around and say: "Yes, but not in my backyard". I want to tell my colleagues that they cannot sneeze and breathe at the same time.
Why would the hon. member not tell the government that it is doing a great job in handling the economy and in dealing with complicated, cumbersome issues?
The hon. member is condemning the government for some of its actions, one of which has to do with the movement of grain to Prince Rupert, B.C. When the vote was taken in the House of Commons my colleagues in the Reform Party were not out in full force trying to defend the interests of the farmers. In fact, only 11 Reform members showed up for that vote.
Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, the reason I am not about to congratulate the government on its fine job is that I tell the truth and I do not believe that to be the truth.
With regard to the government's having to pare the defence department to some degree, what I am talking about are sensible reductions that reflect the reality of the situation.
What the minister of defence has shown is a lack of knowledge and understanding of military requirements. He closed the base at Chilliwack against the recommendations of the military itself.
I happen to have some personal knowledge of the base at Chilliwack. I was stationed there for three years. Chilliwack has unique qualifications. It has a good climate that allows year round training; it has real estate available that is irreplaceable anywhere else in the country; and it has plant that will provide the training facilities that are badly needed.
Over the last five years $40 million has been spent upgrading the plant at Chilliwack. The minister is about to walk away from that. Even at this moment there are engineers who have been moved to Edmonton who are back training in Chilliwack because they cannot do their training in Edmonton.
It does not seem logical to me that we would deliberately close a base that is required for the support of Canada's third largest province with a known danger from earthquakes. It is not if an earthquake is going to come, it is when. I understand from reading some recent scientific articles that the earthquake is likely to measure nine on the Richter scale, far stronger than any other earthquake that has occurred until now. They are talking about the west coast of Vancouver Island dropping one metre and moving three metres westward when the plates slide under one another. This will create cataclysmic damage to the plant and property there.
The minister said: "Oh, we will look after you from Edmonton. We will fly people and equipment in". I have got news for the minister. If the weather is at all inclement, every control tower in B.C. will be out of action. The minister will simply not be able to meet his promise and he does not appear to care.
There are three million people on the lower mainland and the Vancouver Island area. The minister is letting them hang out to dry because he has taken away the support that was readily available in Chilliwack and has moved it 1,000 miles to the east.
The same thing applies to the unhappy prospect of a civil disturbance of major proportions in the province. This means that there is no regular force left within the province of British Columbia to respond. We can expect or anticipate that such might arise in the near future. The equipment and the regular force personnel should be available to respond. Not doing so in my estimation is irresponsible on the part of the minister.
Lastly, the closure of base Chilliwack does not meet the fairness principle between the federal government and the provinces. The defence department has reported that B.C. is under-represented financially by $700 million by virtue of our population.
The minister seems to have no interest whatsoever in achieving a fair distribution of resources, financial and otherwise, between Canada and British Columbia.
Raymond Chan Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)
Mr. Speaker, I am very sad that the Reform Party has again decided to pit Canadian regions against regions. Last week it was Newfoundland against Quebec with Churchill Falls and this week it is B.C. against everybody else in Canada.
Does the hon. member think that our government has ignored B.C? Does he recognize the government's effort in the Asia-Pacific region? The government agenda has been beneficial to the province of British Columbia. B.C. alone gained the most from this agenda.
Can the hon. member tell us if he understands the impact of our Asia-Pacific agenda on economic development in B.C.?
Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, there is no question that B.C. figures very strongly in the Asia-Pacific region for trade. The fact is that B.C. has succeeded in increasing the Asia-Pacific trade in spite of the federal government, not because of it. It is because there are good people there.
British Columbia is under-represented in the House of Commons by the Liberal members from B.C. They do not carry B.C.'s message to Ottawa; rather they carry Ottawa's message to B.C. They do not accurately represent the needs and requirements of the people of British Columbia.
Jon Gerrard Secretary of State (Science
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the motion of the member for North Island-Powell River.
One thing which is very important is that the government has set the stage for a major thrust to increase trade in the Asia-Pacific. My colleague the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific has been at the forefront of this effort. The Prime Minister has been at the forefront leading trade missions to various countries in the Asia-Pacific. When we look at the trade statistics, clearly we are making major progress in Canadian trade with the Asia-Pacific region. Right up front is the presence of British Columbia as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific.
Next year is the year of the Asia-Pacific. I would like to point out to the hon. member that this January, Canada assumes the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation. I would also like to point out that the government is well under way at this point in planning events throughout the year and that these activities will culminate in our hosting the APEC economic leaders meeting in Vancouver in November next year.
As all members of the House know, British Columbia is indeed Canada's gateway to the Pacific. This is becoming more and more important, not just for British Columbia but for the whole of Canada.
To mark this meeting of Asian and Pacific leaders, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada also inaugurated the year of the Asia-Pacific. Cultural, academic and trade activities, as well as other related events, will take place throughout Canada in order to showcase the solid relations that exist between Canada and its Asian and Pacific partners, and to raise their profile.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, working in close co-operation with other federal departments and the province of British Columbia, has already opened an office in Vancouver to support the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation activities which will highlight British Columbia as the gateway to the Pacific rim.
The government recognizes that British Columbia has a strong and growing economy. We know well that this economy relies on small business and trade and on exports, and that the growth in the Asia-Pacific is very important to the growth of the economy and the well-being of people in British Columbia.
Our government is making sure that businesses throughout Canada have the information they need to grow, to expand and to participate in these new markets in the Asia-Pacific. As an example, in British Columbia the Canada-British Columbia Business Service Centre responds to thousands of queries every month from people all over the province who are starting or expanding their businesses or expanding their markets. The centre, which has been developed under the tenure of our government, is an excellent example of how the federal government can work in partnership with provincial governments. It shows how we make use of innovative technology to meet the needs of those businesses that create the jobs in the current economy.
I should point out that just two weeks ago the Internet web site run by the Canada-British Columbia Business Service Centre won the Distinction 96 Gold Award for renewing services and program delivery. Each month this web site helps more than 50,000 visitors find the practical information they need to start and expand their small businesses. This is very important for British Columbia and it is very important for small business in British Columbia.
Our government has also worked in new ways to develop a program called Strategis which we have put onto the worldwide web so that businesses can find the information they need, the information they want when they want it. On Strategis there are thousands of new technologies which are available. On Strategis there is the ability to connect up very easily with business partners across Canada. Indeed for foreigners interested in doing business with Canada, Strategis is a virtual marketplace for Canadian goods and services. It is but one component of what we are doing as a government.
Let me point out another effort which is helping British Columbia to participate as the gateway to the Asia-Pacific. This is the international trade personnel program. My department, western economic diversification, is delivering this program. It is helping
companies in British Columbia and across western Canada to hire recent graduates to help them develop their export market.
The program has been very successful and its reports already show significant market penetration as a result of the activities of these eager young graduates. Many of the markets that are being penetrated are in the Asia-Pacific region, and this means jobs for young people, for recent graduates in British Columbia.
Growth in British Columbia and in the Asia-Pacific relies on these small businesses, the emerging industries. This is where we are putting a considerable effort.
My department, western economic diversification, has also recently created investment loan funds in co-operation with banks and other financial institutions. These loan funds provide access to capital on fully commercial terms for small businesses in new growth sectors like biotechnology, health, environmental technology, information technology, telecommunications, tourism and other knowledge based industries. This is a further example of what we are doing in partnership with financial institutions to provide loans in areas where the risks are higher and where the needs are great.
Not only do small businesses need access to financing but they need help in knowing how to expand and grow their businesses. Western diversification officials in British Columbia are working with firms in the emerging economy to help with their business planning as well as responding to calls from entrepreneurs who are seeking advice. Members of the third party from time to time have found western diversification so useful to small businesses that their offices are now regularly referring clients to the western diversification office for help and advice.
Throughout British Columbia, WD supports a network of 32 community futures development corporations. These CFDCs are run by volunteers who work hard to create jobs and to help with the growth of small businesses in their communities. Let me give a few examples.
In Powell River the CFDC has helped to develop the waterfront. The Strathcona CFDC in Campbell River on northern Vancouver Island has helped to solve a pollution problem caused by fish waste and at the same time helped develop a local industry, turning organic waste into marketable compost. It was able to do this with financial help provided through western diversification to make sure that we have a strong on the ground organization.
In the Campbell River area of northern Vancouver Island nine loans totalling $316,000 using the working opportunity fund have been made to local small businesses. This is another example of the CFDCs working and helping locally in economic development.
In the Terrace area of northwestern B.C. we recognize the importance of aboriginal businesses to the development of a strong economy. Here the CFDC is making loans to businesses run by aboriginal people to foster the creation of badly needed businesses and services in the First Nations communities.
The government believes that in the future it is the young people in particular who are important to growth and it is opportunities for young people of which we need to be most aware. In April of this year western diversification provided $200,000 in new loan capital to each CFDC to provide financial assistance to British Columbia's young people to create their own businesses.
I have visited with several of these CFDCs and talked to many of the young people who have benefited. The experience has been excellent with this program and the response from young people and from the CFDCs to this program and this funding have been very rewarding.
Western economic diversification has also established the women's enterprise initiative, recognizing that more and more of small businesses are being operated by women. In British Columbia the Women's Enterprise Society is working hard to bring more and more women into the economy as entrepreneurs, sharing and participating with other entrepreneurs.
The hon. member says he is concerned about the closure of DND bases in British Columbia. Let me remind him of the government's commitment to assist communities during these times of economic adjustment. In areas where the downsizing of a facility will have a major effect on the local economy the government has stepped in to help. In the communities around CFB Masset, responsibility for solutions to economic adjustment has been delegated by the government to the community. The community is charting its own future with financial support from the Government of Canada.
Similarly, through the infrastructure works program local communities have identified needs. Over 400 projects have now been approved in British Columbia with the federal share exceeding $220 million or one-third of the total cost. These projects are expected to create or maintain more than 9,000 short term and 400 long term jobs. Eighty-five per cent of the program funding is allocated to water, sewer and local transportation projects. These will not only enhance the local infrastructure but they will also improve health and the environment.
We are looking to the future to build a strong base of science, research and technology in British Columbia. The federal government is contributing $167 million over five years to the Tri-University Meson Facility at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. TRIUMF is one of the world's leading facilities for subatomic particle research. The applied research conducted at TRIUMF has already resulted in the creation of new commercial
products in biomedical, radiopharmaceutical and medical isotope research, products like PET scanners and pion therapy beams.
TRIUMF generates economic activity for western Canada through its purchase of products and services, and through technology transfer and commercialization. In addition, some 700 scientists from around the world come to British Columbia to conduct research and attend scientific conferences organized by TRIUMF.
The hon. member should also know that the federal government has supported many networks of centres of excellence headquartered in British Columbia. British Columbia is home to the networks for research on telelearning, on bacterial diseases and on genetic diseases. In addition to that, the federal government has invested some $600 million in the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing and $3 million in the Biopharmaceutical Innovation Resource Centre Fund.
The good news is that these investments in critical research and development, coupled to their commercialization, are likely to have very substantial benefits for the British Columbia economy for many years to come.
In partnership with the provincial government, the federal government has provided $5 million over the last two years under the agreement on communications and cultural industries. This money has been invested in over 45 projects to promote culture and technology development in British Columbia.
To make sure that people in communities throughout British Columbia have access to the information highway, the government created a community access program and to date 34 rural and remote communities in British Columbia have been hooked up to the Internet and even more will be connected over the coming two years.
The government has been active in making sure that there is information available for small business, that communities have support for economic development, that science, research and technology in British Columbia have solid support. It has also negotiated open skies agreements with the United States to increase tourism in British Columbia. It has successfully managed the infrastructure works program in partnership with the provincial government and local levels of government.
The government has done a substantial amount for and with the people of British Columbia as part of the partnership which is this country of Canada, people working together to make things happen.
British Columbia is a major contributor to Canada, not only from an economic point of view but, more important, through the contribution of all its citizens. It contributes to the strength of our country culturally economically, scientifically and to the unity of our great country.
The hon. member should also know that in the time I have been here the Liberal members from British Columbia have spoken strongly, loudly and forcefully for the province of British Columbia and that is one of the reasons why British Columbia and British Columbians are doing very well at the moment.
I ask that my time be shared with my colleague, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.
The Deputy Speaker
The hon. secretary of state will appreciate that to do that he cannot speak for 18 minutes and then ask to share two minutes with his colleague. It has to be indicated at the outset of an intervention.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. parliamentary secretary the following question. I listened quite attentively to his 18-minute dialogue about how great a job the federal government has done with the economy in British Columbia and about the tremendous involvement of western diversification, and I wonder if he could answer a question in connection with the department for which he is responsible. It has to do with the initiative called community futures which WED is now looking after.
I have asked this question before. Why do we have these community futures enterprise centres throughout British Columbia, and indeed across the country but I am speaking specifically about B.C. today, and there is now a duplication in having women's centres? There are a couple in the province that specifically deal with aboriginal issues.
I support the idea that there is a role to be played to assist small entrepreneurs who cannot get assistance, especially in the area of training and helping them to put together a business plan, but I would think that the criteria for something like that would cross all boundaries. If people is going to a resource centre or a community futures centre and looking for assistance, it should not matter if they are male or female or whether they are aboriginal or non-aboriginal. I wonder what justification there is for having these separate centres based on either gender or race. I cannot see that.
I have heard the argument before that the difficulty is that some women have felt intimidated when they go to a community futures and have to deal with a male loans officer. I would assume that the natural chain of events would be to ensure that there are women working at these centres. I know the one in my home town has all women working in it now and I certainly do not have a problem with that. Why have separate programs set up just for women or just for aboriginals?
Jon Gerrard Portage—Interlake, MB
Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to explain what is happening with the situation in British Columbia.
The Community Futures Development Corporation, where it is responsible for a region, deals with men, women and anybody who lives in that region, on an equal basis. However, it was discovered that the needs of women historically have not been sufficiently met. Therefore, the Women's Enterprise Societies have been set up in the four western provinces.
In order to make sure, in British Columbia in particular, the Women's Enterprise Society and centre have an agreement with the Community Futures Development Corporation so that there is a partnership. They work together to make sure that men and women are both very well served.
Certainly the experience in all four western provinces has shown that the Women's Enterprise Centres targeting women are badly needed. The example we have in British Columbia of a very strong partnership between the Community Futures Development Corporation and the Women's Enterprise Society is an example of how we can deliver services to all effectively and without having duplication.
Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fraser Valley East.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss a topic that seldom gets mentioned in the House by the Liberal government, British Columbia. Perhaps it is the time difference, perhaps it is the mountain barriers, but in any event B.C. is not a big deal here in Ottawa. That is usually okay with British Columbians; we feel that is just fine.
I have listened with a lot of amusement but some distress at the Liberal members taking full credit for the economic well-being of the province of British Columbia. It is making a mockery and undermining the sacrifices, the investments, the time and effort of the business community in the lower mainland, which is responsible for the economic development. If anything, it is in spite of the government that these business entrepreneurs have been able to withstand the high taxes, the rules, the regulations and the red tape. The only thing I have seen Liberal government members do is travel overseas and wine, dine and schmooze. I have not seen anything more concrete than that. It is the business community which takes the responsibility for the economic well-being.
We are glad that years ago the federal government quietly transferred the ownership of Vancouver's international airport to a local non-profit authority. Without the interference of Ottawa politicians and bureaucrats, Vancouver international airport has transformed itself into an elite international airport. It has successfully been able to handle the phenomenal growth in the travelling public and is now able to look ahead to even more expansion.
I was at a Vancouver morning club the other day where they were toasting and roasting David Emerson, the CEO of the Vancouver airport authority. I did not see the Minister of Transport, the minister responsible for B.C., at that function honouring the individual who has led the airport authority into tremendous success.
Contrast Vancouver's quiet airport success with the Pearson airport disaster that this government has led us through. Since the day this Liberal government got elected it has been consumed with the Pearson airport deal. The best thing the government is hoping for now is that this deal will cost Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars instead of hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile in Vancouver the amount of money that the federal government has received from the airport authority has more than doubled.
That is the way we do things out west. Ignored by the federal government, we keep adding great amounts of money to the federal treasury while in the rest of Canada the Liberal government keeps sticking its nose into issues that it should not and keeps costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.
For the most part, British Columbians do not look to Ottawa for the big government projects or government handouts. The attitude in the west is that we can be successful on our own and we only hope that Ottawa does not screw it up for us.
In the last 1970s representatives from the British Columbia provincial government were hard at work trying to get one of the big Japanese auto manufacturers to set up an assembly plant in B.C. Toyota showed a fair amount of interest and formal negotiations began. Then in the early 1980s the federal government entered into its own negotiations with Toyota at the exclusion of the British Columbian representatives.
Soon the big announcement came that Toyota would be building a new North American assembly plant in Ontario. As a thought to B.C. Toyota did announcement that it would build a wheel assembly plant in Richmond, B.C. This plant has proven to be very successful for Toyota and we welcome the jobs. However, it probably would have been more appropriate if Toyota had set up a drive train plant in B.C. Then the Liberal government of the day could have announced that Toyota would open up a major assembly plant in Ontario and at the same time British Columbia would get the shaft.
We have heard about the big projects that the previous government threw our way to try to get our votes. And we are still waiting for the Polar-8 icebreaker to rejuvenate our shipbuilding industry. We are still waiting for Kaon linear accelerator to make B.C. a leader in atomic research.
In reality we are not really waiting. British Columbians know that these projects were just cheap political promises by the previous Tory government. Now that the Tories have disappeared
from B.C.'s political map things must have changed with the Liberal government, right?
The Liberal government is not making any outrageous promises or creating any megaprojects to get the voters' attention. Not yet anyway. It is still working on its election platform. Instead, the Liberal government has taken an entirely new approach. Rather than promise us projects which it has no intention of delivering, it is simply removing any vestige of the federal government out of the province. Lighthouse keepers, coast guard officials and the only military base on the mainland of British Columbia are on their way out.
Let us look at the lighthouse keepers. On Saturday an American pilot was flying from Alaska to his home in Washington state when his plane went down near Bella Bella. However, due to the diligence of the lighthouse keeper on McInnes Island, a fishing boat was dispatched precisely to the crash site and was able to rescue the pilot. Of course this lighthouse is scheduled for automation.
What would have happened without a human lighthouse keeper? Perhaps the Minister of Transport would like to tell the House what would have happened to him that day when he needed a person to rescue him when he got into distress in his boat. On second thought, maybe we do not care.
The cutbacks to lighthouses and the Canadian Coast Guard are going to cost lives. The problem is the government's priorities. The priorities of the Liberal government are all mixed up. It is cutting the coast guard at a time when those services are desperately needed.
There was a case in my riding where there was a crab boat in the bay that was on fire. If not for the United States coast guard coming to the rescue, the crew of the crab boat would have perished.
The powers that be at the coast guard headquarters here in Ottawa think they can save money by closing down a few coast guard stations in B.C. and by having the main stations manned only during certain hours. The message to B.C. boaters is do not get into trouble in B.C. waters unless you are around a major city during working hours.
This type of policy would appear to have been dreamed up by some bureaucrat whose idea of high sea adventure is taking a ferry across the Ottawa River.
All of this is in an attempt to save money. Why does the government not cut some of the bureaucrats in the offices instead of those on the front lines who deliver the services?
How will the coast guard spend the rest of its money? While the coast guard is going to close down stations in B.C. and put lives at risk, it will use some of the money it saves to send 170 senior bureaucrats to Cornwall next month to "meet and have fun". That is how the government memo reads. It will be a great relief to B.C. boaters to know that while the coast guard is cutting back on rescue services, senior bureaucrats will still have the opportunity to meet and have fun.
It is not just the coast guard which is cutting back. Our military is doing it as well. By closing CFB Chilliwack the government is closing the only military base on the mainland of British Columbia against the recommendations of senior military officers still capable of independent thought.
This move by the Liberal government is costing hundreds of millions of dollars in building facilities in Edmonton to receive the base from Chilliwack. This is after having just spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new facilities in Chilliwack. It just does not make any sense.
It made sense to have Canada's military engineers stationed in the province with the most difficult terrain in the country as well as near a major urban centre which has the highest probability of a major earthquake. However, because it did make sense, the government is closing the base and shipping the engineers across the country.
Who will British Columbians have to rely on in the event of a major earthquake? Certainly not Ottawa. If the greater Vancouver area suffers a major earthquake and needs military assistance, the only people in a position to help will be our friends south of the border.
That is why most British Columbians think north-south more than they think east-west. That is why most British Columbians are quite familiar with the concept of Cascadia. When I mentioned Cascadia in the House a couple of years ago nobody knew what it was. The library had to phone my office to find out how it is even spelled. British Columbians are strong supporters of the Canadian ideals of fairness and equality. They are still waiting for this government to understand the concept.
Last month the federal government quickly came up with an extra $6 million for Quebec after that province complained it was taking on over half of Canada's refugees.
Never mind that Quebec already receives $90 million a year or over 35 per cent of all the federal moneys spent on settlement of immigrants despite the fact that Quebec only takes 13 per cent of these immigrants and despite the fact that 77 per cent of economic immigrants to Quebec leave that province.
Contrast this reaction to how this Liberal government treated B.C. when it cut of welfare payments to people who had not lived in the province for three months because of a dramatic increase in
numbers when other provinces started giving their welfare recipients bus tickets to B.C.
The Liberals responded by withholding $45 million in federal funds to British Columbia. Fairness and equality are what British Columbians are looking for. That is what we have learned not to expect from this Liberal government.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech we just listened to in the House. I am wondering whether I should change the emphasis of my speech from how disappointed we are about the lack of attention we are getting from the feds and maybe take the hon. member's advice. Maybe we are better off without them.
Be that as it may, we raise this issue today not because we think B.C. issues alone are important in Canada. The Reform Party has been a national opposition party. We had supply day motions on Churchill Falls and on the Canadian Wheat Board. Today we are talking about issues that affect British Columbia specifically.
I would like to spend a little time talking specifically about CFB Chilliwack. It has been mentioned by previous speakers. The announced closure of CFB Chilliwack, the move to Gagetown and to Edmonton, Alberta of the men and equipment previously at CFB Chilliwack is something that has added another log on the fire of the feeling of western alienation.
Today during question period I mentioned the hon. member for Simcoe North, the Liberal government member who toured B.C. on behalf of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. There was a document leaked to Barbara Yaffe of the Vancouver Sun . Much to his surprise, he found out that there was a profound sense of alienation in British Columbia from our masters here in Ottawa. There is a profound sense of distrust toward what goes on here in Ottawa. They ignore this at their peril.
There is no separatism movement in British Columbia per se. However, what is smouldering right under the surface is a growing discontent, alienation and feeling that we are not going to put up with this much longer.
We have the move of CFB Chilliwack, taking the last land forces base in all of British Columbia and sprinkling it across the country. Imagine what would have happened if this had been in another province, perhaps Quebec.
Imagine the reaction that would have occurred if someone said "there are no more armed forces bases in Quebec, we are pulling them out". Many people would argue we should not be building infrastructure in Quebec at a time when things there are so uncertain politically.
Be that as it may, the Liberal government thought nothing of it. It pulled it out. It was a lousy decision. It was a poor decision then and it is a poor one now.
The reasons it should have been retained are obvious, to protect Canada's infrastructure in British Columbia. The value of that property and buildings was $470 million. That will be lost. They will recoup a small portion of that when they sell. That is what the value of the property and infrastructure was.
They should have maintained a military forces presence in British Columbia. I tried to explain to the ministers. Imagine what this is doing when people in the military are told that their tour of duty will go from Gagetown, through Edmonton, forget B.C, back to Gagetown and around we will go. British Columbia has been cut out of that. If the government thinks that is a good way to increase our feeling of being part of Canada and part of the decision making process it is sadly mistaken. There is ample evidence that we should have had CFB Chilliwack in place in case of the need for aid to the civil power.
CFB Chilliwack was formed in 1946 because it is Canada's only year round ice free training facility. It was put in place because the engineers said they needed a place like that to train. As a matter of fact, they have been transferred to Edmonton and they are in Chilliwack right now to practise their bridge building as we speak. It cost $100,000 worth of damage to the bridge when they moved their equipment in, which is the only bridge over the Chilliwack River, because they should have been there all along. They are back because they know this is the kind of facility they need.
Major General Clive Addy, now retired, on July 29 spoke to the Pan-Pacific Hazards Conference in Vancouver: "We suffered quite a compromise from the closing of Chilliwack. Chilliwack is closing and I have lost the regular force presence in British Columbia, which I find a military risk. It is a civilian risk as well because our presence there was in my view necessary".
What about the claims from the defence minister that the base was closed on the advice of his officials? He got all the advice from land forces command and it was the thing to do. Here is what we got from our access to information request some time ago. From a memo dated October 14, written by Colonel Daigle who at that time was in land forces command: "It is estimated that only about 60 per cent of the savings that the minister is projecting would be actually materialize. CFB Chilliwack should be retained. Some of the dollar savings anticipated by the program review could easily be eaten up by the up front costs of relocation and reconstruction needed for reinstallation elsewhere, and potentially significant costs at the new location must also be taken into account".
It is no wonder that British Columbians feel a sense of alienation from the federal government. National policies seem to be con-
ceived somewhere in the halls of power here in Ottawa. They are dictated down to the furthest provinces and they are carried out in this case without consequences to what it might mean to British Columbia.
What about the costs of CFB Chilliwack? I said time and again to the minister: "Come up with the dollar figures that show how you are going to save money. I am with the Reform Party and I have made a lot of noise about saving money, about doing the right thing fiscally. You show me on a piece of paper where you are going to save the money and maybe I will have to support you".
Here is what is actually going to happen. According to DND in 1995, the cost of closing CFB Chilliwack would be $230 million. That included everything. That included new construction, severance for staff who were going to be let go, environmental clean-up, moving costs, miscellaneous. The total was $230 million. Total savings were supposed to be $66 million a year by moving our facilities out of Chilliwack.
Last October we released access to information documents that showed that the government could only realize 60 per cent of these savings, and that nearly doubles the payback period that the minister has been bragging about that he will get a return on his investment.
Since then we have received other documents and it is now estimated that for construction alone the cost would be $93 million in Edmonton, $17 million in Gagetown and the cost of moving CFB Calgary, which is part of this reorganization, would be another $27 million. That is $137 million just for the costs there.
Our access to information documents show that construction contracts already awarded to reconstruct CFB Edmonton and CFB Gagetown total $204 million. The total cost of the whole package was going to be $230 million, and just the construction now is $204 million. It is impossible to say exactly how much was actually spent on each of these places because of the way the government gives us the information. There appears to be a $67 million discrepancy so far.
On September 11, the Calgary Sun announced that DND would spend yet another $42 million on CFB Edmonton for a new rifle range and all the other facilities that already exist at CFB Chilliwack. In total, the Calgary Sun article points out that changes to the Edmonton base alone could approach half a billion dollars. Two hundred and thirty million to a half a billion dollars is the inflation in one year.
The closure of CFB Chilliwack was the wrong decision from a military point of view. We have heard that. It was wrong from an emergency planning point of view and now we see that it was also wrong from an economic point of view.
There is obviously something wrong with the federal government. It is not listening. If the minister does not want to listen to me, I accept that. The minister does not listen to anybody from British Columbia so why should he listen to me? But he should be listening to the needs of British Columbia. He has closed his ears to any arguments and has said that it will be done, do not confuse me with the facts.
It begs the question why is the government really moving CFB Chilliwack. Is it politics? Is it partisan politics? This could be military politics, pure and simple. It could be that somebody in the general staff decided they did not like to come out to British Columbia so just get rid of them. It could have been, but it is increasingly becoming obvious that partisan politics has played a role in closing the last armed forces base in British Columbia.
General Boyle was in our town not too long ago. He told officers at CFB Chilliwack I have since talked to that whoever is going to close this place down must be nuts. He was not in command at the time the decision was made. It does not matter whether your from Gagetown or the chief of defence staff; it is a wrong decision to close the base, and anybody who goes out there will see it at a glance.
It has been asked if it was nasty partisan politics, military politics or just a bad decision. It has been said never to attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I am not sure to what we can attribute the closure of CFB Chilliwack but on wither count, whether malice or stupidity, I believe the Liberal government is guilty of a gross mismanagement of public funds.
The people of British Columbia will hold it to account for it years from now and even in the next general election. People are already starting to line up and say that if CFB Chilliwack was closed for partisan politics-and the proof is starting to roll in-then they will never again be able to support a Liberal government.
The last five base commanders in my riding, now living in Chilliwack, have all given me the same story, that CFB Chilliwack should have been retained. CFB Chilliwack is an integral part of the Canadian Armed Forces and certainly plays a key role in any engineering efforts by our armed forces.
The decision to close it is another decision that I think years from now this federal government or successive federal governments will live to regret.
John Harvard Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member attentively. I find his remarks about partisan politics in the decision with respect to Chilliwack to be offensive, and I really mean offensive. This is not partisan politics.
The announcement to close air command was made well over a year ago. I think it was in the 1995 budget. Where is air command?
It is in the riding of Winnipeg St. James, which I have the honour of representing. It has nothing to do with partisan politics whatsoever.
Sometimes we have to make tough decisions. Sometimes they come down hard and these decisions are difficult for members of Parliament, be they Liberal, Reform, Bloc or whatever.
In addition to air command being closed, naval command was closed. And where is naval command located? It is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As far as I know there are not too many Reform MPs from the province of Nova Scotia. In fact, I do not think there are very many Conservative or Bloc MPs. They are all Liberal.
The fact is this government has a responsibility to run the armed forces and sometimes that means there has to be reorganization. Sometimes it means closing air command, sometimes it means closing naval or army command in the province of Quebec. This has nothing to do with partisan politics.
I suggest the viewers watching this program, having listened to the hon. member from British Columbia make that kind of charge, will be very upset hearing those kinds of allegations because they are totally without foundation.