House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

The House resumed from October 2 consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me in my capacity as Minister of Health to address the House in the course of the debate on the Speech from the Throne.

Before doing anything else, Mr. Speaker, may I extend my warmest congratulations to you on your appointment. Your appointment as Deputy Speaker reflects the respect in which you are held on all sides of the House. Members are confident that you will preside in a way that is both fair and appropriate.

May I also say, as this is the first opportunity I have had to speak in the House since the election, how grateful I am to the voters of Etobicoke Centre for, on a second occasion, affording me the privilege to represent their interests in the Parliament of Canada. May I reaffirm to the voters of my riding of Etobicoke Centre my solemn commitment to devote all of my energies to their service in the coming years.

The Speech from the Throne made clear that one of the three main priorities of the government in the current mandate is going to be health and health policy. I welcome the opportunity this morning to elaborate on our plans and on our objectives.

All members know that medicare represents an extraordinary Canadian achievement. It is an asset, both social and economic, of singular value. It not only provides equality of access to Canadians across the country to health care, it also embodies and reflects shared Canadian values of compassion, of sharing and of equality. It is an institution in which Canadians take great pride.

It must also be said that in recent years medicare has become a source of increasing anxiety among Canadians. Canadians worry about whether it is going to be there to provide access to the highest possible quality of health care as and when that care is needed.

The source of this anxiety, among other things, are the cuts in spending by all levels of government, and the necessary restructuring that the delivery of health care services has gone through in recent years.

The fact remains that the growing concern among Canadians about the future of health care and about medicare must be addressed because we cannot take the overwhelming support for the public health care system for granted. Canadians overwhelmingly support the single payer publicly financed system of providing health services across Canada.

That support comes at a price. It is part of a bargain between the Canadian people and their government. Our part of the bargain, if we are to retain that support, is that we along with the professionals who are the health care providers and in partnership with the provinces who deliver the services, must ensure that Canadians will have access to the highest quality possible in health care as and when it is needed. If we let down our part of that bargain we shall lose the support of Canadians for the publicly financed single payer medicare system.

Most of the levers that influence the quality and access of medicare are in the hands of the provinces because they actually deliver the services. But there are important ways in which the federal government can assist as well. It is to those federal contributions that we will direct our attention and on which we will focus our efforts.

The first obvious way we can help is by ensuring that the principles set out in the Canada Health Act are respected. Those principles do not just reflect the priorities of the minister or his department, they express the choices of Canadians.

As well, they reflect the position of this government and its party, the same party which inaugurated health insurance some years ago. Those same principles are still the object of strong Canadian consensus today.

We will continue to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act, not out of devotion to stale ideology or some dated catechism but because the Canada Health Act and the public system of health insurance which it provides remains the best approach to health care for Canadians.

I want to make clear that I see the federal role in health care as something more than just the enforcer of the principles in the statute. We have a very positive role to play as well.

This morning let me touch briefly on three ways in which I believe the federal government can contribute positively and constructively toward restoring the confidence of Canadians in the quality of and access to health care.

The first thing we can do is to stabilize federal transfer levels at appropriate amounts. That we have undertaken to do. Commencing next year and for five years the cash portion of the transfer to the provinces will be stabilized at $12.5 billion annually, exactly the amount recommended by the National Forum on Health, a blue ribbon panel that spent two years closely examining medicare, its financing and its needs.

The prime minister has already committed the government as surpluses become available to investing one-half of any future surplus in social programs where need can be shown, and health will be among the first priorities for that spending.

The second way the federal government can help in restoring the confidence of Canadians in the quality of and access to health care is by encouraging innovation. This we have started to do with the creation of the health transition fund. In partnership with the provinces we will invest $150 million over the next three years. That effort, which we undertake in common, will underwrite our efforts to develop more knowledge about four aspects of innovation in particular.

First of all, by reorganizing primary care. Second, by improving the integration of medical services so that family physicians, specialists and other health professionals may work together more effectively.

Third, by finding out how the delivery, organization and funding of home care can be improved and, finally, by exploring various formulas for financial support and a potential drug plan.

The federal and provincial governments will be able to access a wealth of information through investments in the Health Transition Fund, particularly where innovations to improve the quality and accessibility of health care are concerned. >

The third way that the federal government can contribute directly toward assuring continued quality and access to health care is by leading and co-ordinating efforts to establish a national integrated system of medical information, cutting through the walls that now separate the separate information systems maintained from place to place around the country. Only with such an integrated, comprehensive system will we enable health care providers, administrators and governments to make evidence based decisions about the management and the delivery of health care.

In all of this let me assure the House that our objective as a government will be not only to maintain medicare but to preserve it. Our objective will be to achieve in the provision of its services a standard of excellence. Canadians deserve nothing less.

Apart from medicare there are other subjects of importance that will preoccupy the government during the current mandate. We will continue in a wide variety of ways to promote and protect the health and safety of Canadians.

I can report to the House that over the summer considerable progress was made, for example, in partnership with provincial ministers and with the advice of consumer groups toward the creation of a new national blood agency, an agency that will be put in place in keeping with principles of accountability and safety, learning from the tragic lessons of the past and based on a format designed for the future.

I can say as well that we are committed to excellence in medical research. Through the Foundation for Innovation we are providing ways in which research infrastructure can be made available. Through the Medical Research Council we are seeing to it that peer review awards are made available for those who have inquiring minds and who are looking for the treatments, the cures and the technologies of tomorrow. Through the National Network of Centres for Excellence, now with permanent status and stabilized funding we are encouraging research at our universities so that we can truly say that Canada is at the leading edge of new ideas.

May I also say that we intend to be vigilant in our surveillance and in our regulations to protect Canadians from threats to their food and to the environment. The health protection branch will continue to fulfil its responsibilities in this regard. Last week I announced that we are undertaking a broad and very public re-evaluation of the way in which the health protection branch does its job. We will soon publish a consultation document that will sketch out alternative approaches to the fulfilment of its mandate. Our effort at every stage will be to ensure that it is there to protect the safety of Canadians.

During the period of consultation, funding to the Health Protection Branch will be maintained, until the outcome of the analysis is known. Shortly, I will be announcing the creation of a scientific advisory committee comprised of Canadians well known and respected in their fields, whose wise advice and comments will assist the Health Protection Branch in fulfilling its responsibilities better.

Finally, we will focus as always on the determinants of health because the best way to ensure that we have sufficient supply of health care is to reduce demand. By focusing on the determinants of health, whether through diet or proper amount of exercise or lifestyle choices, we are ensuring that Canadians of all ages will preserve their health and will not need the health care system.

Before closing let me touch on a separate but related issue, Canada's children. By reason of my office I serve as chair as the national children's agenda. The plight of Canada's children is a shared responsibility of all levels of government. It has now been identified as a priority both by the federal government and by the premiers who, in a recent annual meeting, reaffirmed that doing something about the level of poverty among Canada's children is a priority for provincial governments.

It is often said that children are our most precious asset. We must remember that they are our foremost responsibility. Child poverty is now at such levels in this country, and of such duration, that it threatens to create two tiered citizenship. We all know the appalling numbers. One in five Canadian children lives in poverty. Forty percent of today's welfare recipients are children. We all know as well that a childhood spent in poverty makes it far more likely that child will have difficulty in school, will have problems with physical and mental health and is more likely to become involved in the criminal justice and correction system. Nowhere is the challenge greater than in the aboriginal communities of this country.

Canadians and this government cannot tolerate this problem in its present state. It not only makes good economic and social sense to do something about it but it is also a moral imperative.

My colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, in the last year of the last mandate made a significant contribution to this effort by negotiating with his provincial counterparts the Canada child tax benefit, an investment of some $850 million by the Government of Canada toward those who need it most.

We have undertaken to at least double that investment as soon as resources permit. Apart from the family income side of the equation there is more that the government can and will do. The national children's agenda itself will provide us with an opportunity to integrate the efforts being made now sometimes on a fragmented basis by the federal and the provincial governments to ensure that we are getting the most out of each dollar spent toward helping children, to target those who are most in need and to avoid duplication and overlap and, as said in the throne speech, to measure the results of our efforts by looking at outcomes such as a child's readiness to learn when they reach school age.

The focus of our work will be on investing more, more wisely and in a more integrated way, for example in the Canada prenatal nutrition program, focusing on early intervention, attention to children at the preschool age, learning from the research of Dr. Fraser Mustard, Dr. Dan Offord and others who have spoken so wisely in identifying the early years of life as the most important as a precursor of an individual's success in the future.

We will reinvest in the community action program for children, a remarkable Canadian success story, a success that cuts across lines of government, that combines the efforts of the Government of Canada with the governments of provinces and indeed with people in communities to serve the needs of children.

Every day of every week in 700 projects in over 500 communities across the country, 7,500 volunteer hours per week are devoted to these projects that are intended to ensure that children have a hot meal in the morning before they go to school, that they are protected from abuse, prepared to learn and that they get the kind of guidance they need in their earliest years.

We shall also establish a network of centres of excellence for children to encourage and to bring together research about children's needs so that we might know better how to help. We shall invest in the creation of the head start program on reserves so that aboriginal children on reserves might have benefits that have been extended to others in the urban environment.

Let me close by saying that all of these are but examples of things that must be done in the health portfolio in the coming years. Progress can be made and must be made toward the objectives that I have described if we are to sustain and to strengthen the high quality of health care of which we have all become proud in this country.

It will not be easy, but it seems to me that this House, this government is up to the challenge. Indeed, Canadians are up to the challenge.

It is fitting that a Liberal government will lead the way. The Liberals tamed the deficit that so constrained government action just four years ago. The Liberal Party put medicare in place three decades ago and it will be we as Liberals who will reinvest in the priorities of the Canadian people. When Liberals are faced with challenges they do not simply throw up their hands. They roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

Liberals do not seek to avoid tough choices, we face them head on. If we meet this challenge, if we restore the confidence of Canadians in the public system of health care, if we ensure that our part of the public bargain is kept then we will have achieved what I believe is within our grasp, the achievement of a generation.

Together we must get on with this job because quite simply we have an inheritance to honour and a legacy to leave.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the minister on his re-election and wish him the best of luck in his new job.

I am very tempted to remind him that the last time he rolled up his sleeves and got down to work, it was to make cuts in transfers to the provinces, but that is not the point I want to discuss with him today.

I know the minister shares my concern about the national AIDS strategy. Some $40 million is to be spent in the next few years to fight AIDS. Of course all diseases are important. All degenerative diseases, all diseases that cause suffering are important, except that AIDS is a viral disease. We know the ways in which it can be transmitted, and we know we could get this epidemic under control.

I also know that the Minister of Health has proceeded with an evaluation of the strategy, and I may recall it consists of five main components. It makes it possible for community groups to provide services locally. There is also a research component funded by the community strategy. There is also a treatment component. There is a component for co-ordination, and there is, of course, the laboratory centre for disease control which is more concerned with epidemiology.

I have two questions for the minister. Could he let us know what he intends to do about component three of the strategy, considering that his department is proceeding with an evaluation? I also want to remind the minister that when I was vice-chairman of the committee, I had the privilege of presenting a motion that was accepted by the government, as a result of which we spent three years examining the whole issue of AIDS.

I may recall that we spent some time discussing drug licensing. We found that the health protection branch had far fewer human resources than its U.S. counterpart. Furthermore, a number of witnesses suggested we might consider a joint licensing process for the United States and Canada. Has the minister had time to consider this?

Those are my two questions. What direction does the minister intend to give the national AIDS strategy and is he considering the possibility of resorting to joint licensing by the United States and Canada to accelerate the process?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve that we reiterated in the Speech from the Throne the commitment we made during the election campaign to invest $40 million annually over five years in the fight against AIDS.

I am very much aware that we have to consult those involved in preparing an integrated strategy for the money we intend to spend. I can tell him that officials in my department and in my office are currently talking to those involved across Canada in the preparation of this strategy.

I agree with the hon. member that there are various elements to this strategy, such as research, treatment, co-ordination between laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and so on. We intend to include all these elements in the strategy we are preparing.

In fact, in the coming weeks I myself will have the opportunity to meet with the experts and those active in the community. I will be in Montreal shortly to meet these people.

Last week, in Toronto, I took part in the march against AIDS and I met a number of those leading the fight in Toronto. I hope later this fall to be able to announce the details of our strategy. But I would stress that we intend to fully honour our commitment to invest in this strategy to ensure that every possible effort is made in the fight against AIDS in Canada.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I have had the opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment. We certainly look forward to your impartial judgments on all of our proceedings. That was not a tongue in cheek comment.

I believe Canadians all across this country are very concerned and have some very grave reservations not only about the health of our country in terms of our national unity but also about the health and well-being of the many important matters that fall under this minister's purview.

We have had in the past few years some very strong confidence shaking concerns in matters of health in this country. We have seen the whole blood transfusion system in this country put in grave jeopardy. Perhaps the results of the Krever report and the recent supreme court judgment will finally give Canadians some real answers about where blame should be laid in that very important area.

Those of us, including myself, who take natural health products, 25 percent of all Canadians and 34 percent of all Americans, cannot understand why this government continues in many cases to deny each one of us freedom of choice in the purchase and use of natural products which many of us have been consuming all of our lives and which people around the world have in some instances been consuming for 2000 years.

The owners of health food stores in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan have told me about the arbitrary removal of hundreds of products from their shelves by the health protection branch. The ministry is cutting not only into their profits but more important also into Canadians' right of access to natural health products and their freedom of choice.

This problem has to be resolved by the minister and the government. As the deputy health critic for the Reform Party, I and the rest of the members of the Reform Party will hold the government and the minister accountable for actions in this matter.

Recently we heard from a senior official who at one time was the assistant head of the health protection branch of the Department of Health, Dr. Michèle Brill-Edwards. She continued to express some very grave concerns about inadequate testing of drugs which Canadians use daily. Standards often are not as high as we find in neighbouring jurisdictions such as the United States.

Recently in an interview she talked about the drug Imitrex which is used to combat the debilitating effects of migraine headaches. My wife is a user of this drug. As her husband I want to be assured that it is safe. When I hear a former official of the health protection branch expressing grave concerns, I worry about the competence of the minister and his ministry.

I want to assure the minister that we will do all we can to co-operate in his agenda but we are going to be keeping his feet to the fire on these issues.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Allan Rock Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful to the hon. member from Nanaimo—Cowichan for touching on these important subjects.

First in relation to the blood system, we all await the delivery of the Krever report. Mr. Justice Krever is bound to make an important contribution toward our knowledge of the best way to ensure the safety of the blood system. When his report is received it will be made public and Canadians will see our reaction to his recommendations.

On the subject of herbal remedies, there is somewhat of an inconsistency in the hon. member's position. With respect to herbal remedies, he decries the regulation by the Department of Health that it interferes with the unrestricted access by Canadians to certain products. On the other hand when it comes to medication, in this case for migraine headaches, he says that there is not sufficient regulation, or the health protection branch is not interfering sufficiently.

Let me assure the hon. member that our focus is on getting it right. With respect to herbal remedies, we do recognize the importance of choice by Canadians. We recognize the importance of allowing Canadians access to appropriate natural products which they believe will enhance their health.

At the same time we have to worry that there is the appropriate amount of regulation to ensure that Canadians are not victimized by those who would swindle them or make unfounded demands or put improperly labelled products on the shelf. Striking the right balance between regulation for safety and choice is something we will work toward. I will have an announcement in Toronto tomorrow that will deal with this very matter.

On the subject of the health protection branch, Canadians should not have to choose between a former employee who is critical and a minister who responds about what the health protection branch is doing. Instead they should have confidence in the health protection branch and that confidence should be engendered by an open appraisal of its work.

That is why I announced last week that we are publishing a consultation document about the way the health protection branch is organized. We are appointing an arm's length independent science advisory board to offer its views about whether we have it right and let Canadians know whether we are doing the job properly. And we are suspending all further cuts in the branch until that process is finished.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to respond to the government's Speech from the Throne. I would like to inform the Speaker that I will be splitting my time this morning with the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River.

I would like to start by congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, for your appointment to the Chair and also the hon. Minister of Natural Resources for his appointment, the minister that I will be critiquing in this Parliament.

I would also like to thank the constituents of the constituency of Athabasca for re-electing me to represent them for a second term in a riding that certainly without any question is key to the energy future and the energy self-sufficiency of Canada. I am honoured to be able to do that.

At present the natural resources industry is confronted by many impediments to its continued contribution to Canadian employment and wealth creation. It is my hope that the newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources will heed the many voices from within the industry and use the expertise of the Canadian population when deciding what his legislative priorities will be and which policies he will be advocating.

At this time I would like to express my regret over the lack of attention to the natural resources industry in the Speech from the Throne. No more than four lines made reference to natural resources and not a single mention was made of either forestry or mining. This is perhaps understandable but nonetheless astounding considering the significance of the contribution the resource sector makes to Canadian wealth and employment.

In 1995 mining, energy and forestry contributed a combined total of $91.6 billion to Canada's GDP which constituted over 13.5 percent of Canada's total GDP. These three industries directly employ 750,000 Canadians and create countless spin-off jobs in the industry and in the service sectors. The products of these three industries alone account for approximately 38 percent of Canada's domestic exports.

The government's total lack of attention to these significant contributions is indicative of the low priority that this government and past Liberal governments place on the needs of the resource sector. I hope the limited mention of natural resources in the Speech from the Throne was simply an oversight and not a continuation of the Liberals' traditional lack of attention to the important role of natural resources in the Canadian economy.

I am particularly concerned about the future of the mining industry in Canada, an industry that accounts for approximately 16 percent of Canada's exports and generates employment for over 400,000 Canadians both directly and indirectly. Approximately 150 communities which are home to over one million Canadians are supported almost exclusively by the mining industry.

At present the future of the mining sector is in some doubt because mineral reserves are being depleted at a faster pace than they are being replenished. Mineral exploration is absolutely critical to the replenishment of the reserves.

Significant changes need to be made in mining regulations, and environmental regulations need to be streamlined if mineral exploration is to flourish. A single environmental assessment process based on nationally agreed upon standards is crucial.

These were the conclusions of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in which I participated, in reports tabled in 1994 and 1996. In the federal government's response to the report tabled in 1996 the government expressed agreement with many of the recommendations and solidly committed to make environmental regulations affecting mining more efficient. Yet the government has been slow to streamline mining regulations, placing projects like Voisey's Bay nickel in serious jeopardy.

The Newfoundland court of appeal's decision to halt construction of a road or airstrip at Voisey's Bay without a full scale environmental review may cost 3,000 construction and 2,000 permanent jobs in a part of Canada that most desperately needs employment. It is impossible for a company to know whether it wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a complete environmental assessment until they know the size and extent of the ore body. Without a road or an airstrip, site exploration is impossible.

If Voisey's Bay is to set the precedent for other mining projects, making a full scale environmental assessment necessary before exploration is completed, we can be fairly sure that mining companies will be more reluctant to undertake new exploration projects.

The formation of a joint federal-provincial review panel to hear concerns regarding the Cheviot mine project in Alberta was an important first step toward establishing a national environmental assessment process based on nationally agreed upon standards. Government endorsement of the joint panel's recommendations was equally important.

The outcome of this first attempt at streamlining is commendable but the process is far from complete. The panel hearings were far from efficient, drawn out over a period of three years. In the mining industry this is unacceptable as time is of the essence because of the volatility of the markets. However I am encouraged by this small step in the right direction.

I was certainly less than encouraged by the brevity of the mention of greenhouse gas emissions in the Speech from the Throne. So brief was this mention that it failed to even hint at the prime minister's intentions regarding a legally binding greenhouse emissions cap.

The secrecy surrounding the prime minister's intentions is alarming given the serious impacts that such a cap would have on the Canadian economy. The oil and gas industry will suffer tremendous financial losses as will the electrical industry in Alberta and now in Ontario which will return to coal burning after serious problems at Ontario Hydro nuclear plants. If a cap is introduced, Canadians can expect dramatic increases not only in gasoline and home heating fuel but also in electrical energy rates. At this time it is imperative that the prime minister proceed with caution.

While some scientists and environmentalists have developed models that imply a link between rising greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, not all scientists subscribe to this theory. I am not trying to imply that this lack of consensus means that the government should not act. However, given the lack of solid scientific evidence in support of the theory of global warming, it seems a legislated emissions cap is premature especially in light of the fact that many companies have thus far shown compliance with voluntary programs aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If as anticipated the prime minister announces a legally binding emissions cap in Kyoto, Japan in December of this year, the announcement will effectively kill the goodwill built between government and industry and will result in a loss of jobs as well as government wealth generated through taxation and royalty revenues. Precautionary measures like voluntary programs are much more economically viable and are in fact making progress.

Suncor Energy for example, a company with oil sands operations in my riding, has released its third annual progress report on Canada's climate change voluntary challenge and registry program in which it states that in compliance with commitments made in the Rio accord, it is on track to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Other large corporations in the oil and gas industry are also making tremendous progress in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A legislated cap will only serve to jeopardize the viability of other operations that are unable to reduce emissions as quickly as the cap might require.

To force compliance by imposing harsh penalties is an extreme and unco-operative approach. Regardless this seems to be the approach the government is taking with greenhouse gas emissions legislation as well as with Bill C-65, the Canadian Endangered Species Protection Act.

If the Liberal government resurrects Bill C-65 in its flawed and accusatory form, it will be a slap in the face to all of those farmers, ranchers and resource industry workers who are already participating in programs and initiatives designed to protect endangered species and who have already set aside sections of their land as wildlife habitat.

If resurrected, Bill C-65 may result in the expropriation of private land and the prevention of industrial expansion in areas housing endangered species. There is no question that these species need to be protected but private landowners must be compensated for their loss.

The recent tendency of government officials to too quickly side with environmentalists is especially frightening to those in the forestry sector. Over 800,000 Canadians are directly and indirectly employed in the forestry sector, yet the same government that claims to be so concerned with job creation strategies seems to give more credence to environmental lobby groups than it does to experts from within the industry.

Public consultation is also necessary before this government agrees to import over 100 tonnes of plutonium from Russian and American nuclear warheads to burn as fuel in Candu reactors. The recent problems with the premature failure of the Candu reactor and disclosure of the problems within Ontario Hydro by its employees and the people who run the reactors should certainly give government pause for concern over that program.

In this 36th Parliament of Canada I call on the government to stop advocating policies and legislation which are damaging to the resource industries and instead effect change that will promote the growth of the industries. The continued success of natural resource industries is in the best interests of all Canadians who benefit from the wealth and employment these industries create.

I would suggest that the government discard the same tired ideas that have been used over the past 20 years and put some faith in the judgment and ideas of the industry and individuals they were elected to represent.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the hon. member's discussion on the issue of resource development.

North America has matured in the last few years. Resource development is taking place.

He talked about replenished resources in the mining industry and offering them to the lowest bidder, at any environmental cost, for the sake of creating jobs and profits. Usually the interested parties are away from the mine or forestry sites.

Being a neighbour of his constituency, a lot of the emissions that are being released in Swan Hills from the many industries from which his province profits end up in northern Saskatchewan.

A lot of these resources have an end. The coal mine in Cheviot will be developed because the resources were depleted in Luscar. They are going to a very pristine valley and digging up an area that will be 23 kilometres long by three kilometres wide. This is a huge undertaking, but at what price? That is what the consciousness environmentalists are telling the government. That is why the aboriginal people are reminding you of the whole global climate change which is taking place.

He talks on the one hand of the emissions that are creating ozone depletion. On the other hand he applauds the coal miners for digging up more coal which will create more emissions. These things have to be looked at in a global perspective.

We can think of the forest industry and the people of Voisey's Bay. A lot of people live in the forest regions and in the areas rich in resources, which are usually found in north. As his hon. leader said, it is the final frontier. The north is not a place where the rich come to exploit the lands of the people and take back the profits. We want development the involves local people.

The people of Voisey's Bay are saying that. They do not want roads built through their traditional areas without considering the environmental and the long term impact it will have on their communities. Any development needs a second look, and should involve the local people. They should be involved in the ownership and profit sharing of the development of our resources.

Without Canada we would not have resources. Without resources this Parliament would not be here. We would still be in Europe.

Let us respect this continent. Let us respect who we are and where we are going. Let the member consider his conscience and let us work together. It is not a one-way street with one guy holding the money.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, that certainly was a classic NDP speech. I am surprised that the member is not speaking to us wearing hemp sackcloth clothing and living on bean sprouts. That is what he would have us all do if we were to follow his advice.

We have just as much concern as anyone else does for the environment.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My hon. colleague from Churchill River would not stand up, because it is unparliamentary, to ask the member to take back the remark he just made. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that he take back that remark, which borders on racism toward this man's heritage. I ask that he—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I think the remarks the Chair heard were not of the kind described and as the hon. member is suggesting. I suggest that we continue with the answer of the hon. member for Athabasca.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would only suggest that the member should visit some of the modern day mines in Canada and look at the work that is being done for environmental reclamation.

Why would he not visit the Syncrude and Suncor sites in my riding where the mined out areas are now rolling hills retrieved with pine, spruce and poplar. The grass is growing and buffalo are grazing where they have not grazed for 300 years. Why would he not visit the TransAlta Utilities mine site west of Edmonton, Alberta where tremendous work has been done and the coal mine has been reclaimed to a state that is far more productive and just as aesthetically acceptable as the ground and the country ever was before.

I get so tired of the rhetoric that we hear on the issue. We all enjoy our standard of living and the wonderful wealth of this country. More than any other reason it is because of the development of our resources.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech of the 36th Parliament I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. I am sure you will do a fine job in overseeing the sometimes rowdy debates which take place here.

I would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate the Speaker, the hon. member for Niagara Centre, on for his election to that post, as well as the assistant Speakers from Edmonton Southwest and Saint—Lambert. I am sure they will all do a wonderful job and do honour to this place.

I would also like to congratulate the other 300 MPs who were elected to Parliament on June 2 which will bring a wide divergence of opinion in this place and across the land. However, that does not detract from the fact that we have one common goal, which is to represent our constituents as best we can. Congratulations to all members of Parliament.

I noted with some sadness that yesterday we heard of our first vacancy of the 36th Parliament created by the resignation of my colleague, Sharon Hayes, the past member for Port Moody—Coquitlam. She will be sorely missed.

As is customary in making the first speech of a Parliament, I want to begin by paying tribute to my riding and my constituents.

I have been honoured three times in 1997. It has been a pretty good year for me. On January 18, knowing that an election was in the air the Reform Party in the riding of Prince George—Peace River held a nomination meeting to choose a candidate and I was chosen by acclamation. Some would say, surprise, surprise. What is the big surprise in that? Those people would be somewhat ignorant of the procedure in the Reform Party of Canada. Two of my colleagues from the 35th Parliament learned that in the Reform Party every nomination is an open process. As a result of that process, we now have two rookie MPs sitting in the Chamber.

I thank the Reformers of Prince George—Peace River for allowing me to carry our banner through a third election campaign.

Second was the huge honour bestowed on me by the electorate in Prince George—Peace River. Fully two-thirds of the men and women who chose to cast a ballot on June 2 voted for me and the Reform Party. It is my pledge to them today to continue to build on the experience that I gained during the last Parliament, to continue to work as hard as they do and continue to work toward my goal of becoming the best MP possible in representing my constituents here in Ottawa.

I would like to digress for a moment and speculate on the increase in support that was given to me because even though I was very pleased and honoured to be supported by about 56 percent of the electorate in the 1993 election, that grew to somewhere close to 67 percent on June 2.

Maybe not a lot of people in the House know that 13 Reform MPs out of a caucus of 60 had 60 percent support or over at the polls on June 2. Almost half of our caucus received 50 percent or more. I am sure members know how hard, in Canada's multiparty system, it is to get a majority win.

I would ask members who were present last time to reflect back on the 35th Parliament. Reform was constantly accused by the government and the two other old parties of being a one election anomaly. We were, supposedly, a protest vote. “You won't be back” echoed in these chambers. No more. We are back, bigger and stronger than ever. A third of our caucus are fresh recruits eager to join the veterans in the verbal battle in this place.

The third honour I had was when the Reform leader asked me to be the chief agricultural critic in the official opposition shadow cabinet. In addition, my colleague from Fraser Valley, the official opposition whip, asked me to serve as his deputy.

Despite the fact that some of my colleagues started calling me the half-whip, I consider it to be an honour to serve in those two capacities. In the weeks and months ahead, I will endeavour to live up to the expectations and trust that these people have shown in me.

In the three minutes that I see are remaining in this, my maiden speech, I want members present to be assured they can look forward to many more great speeches by me in this place over the next four years.

Now I turn my attention to the throne speech. Never in the history of throne speeches has so much been said about so little to so few. If members recall the throne speech—it is quite a while ago—it seemed that even the Prime Minister appeared to be having trouble staying awake.

From an agricultural perspective I will be blunt. I think the throne speech was absolutely pathetic. It very clearly showed that the government is picking up where it left off in April, ignoring the needs of farmers.

While the term aboriginal was heard 17 times during the 51-minute speech, agriculture was mentioned once. I commend the government for its apparent commitment to our country's natives, but other Canadians require attention as well. I say apparent because like most of the rhetoric coming from the government, all is illusion. If money could solve the problems facing native Canadians, it would have done so long, long ago. Where is the vision?

All we find is continued support of the Indian industry, the chiefs, councils, government bodies, the lawyers, the accountants, the consultants but mostly the bureaucrats. It is my contention that DIAND should be renamed the department of Indian and northern dependency.

What about the people? There is no vision for the people. Other people too require some vision, require some leadership from the government. Where is the vision for agriculture to carry this vital industry into the new millennium? It is not there.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am very reluctant to interrupt the hon. member in what he is calling his second maiden speech but I think it is time to move on to statements by members. He will have two and a half minutes remaining in his speech after question period.

Paul Henderson
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Steckle Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Paul Henderson who grew up in my riding of Huron—Bruce.

Most Canadians born prior to September 28, 1972 recall when Henderson scored what has come to be known as hockey's most famous goal. Team Canada was playing against the sport's top ranked team. Both the series and the game were tied. However, that changed as Henderson snapped in a rebound and scored the winning goal in the final 34 seconds.

For a nation with an identity crisis the goal did more than reaffirm our hockey supremacy. That spine tingling victory somehow became a symbol of Canadianism. Canada rallied behind a team that refused to give up even when defeat seemed inevitable. The resulting emotional rush bolstered our national confidence and the sport's overall image.

The 25th anniversary of the Summit Series sparked a flood of reminiscence. The effects of Henderson's goal are as profound today as they were when the puck first slammed against the meshing of the Soviet net. As a result of that single unifying event we were given a tangible reminder of what it feels like to be Canadian.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Saskatchewan farmers are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Farmers say the devil in this case is the minister responsible for the wheat board who seems incapable of getting the grain moving from prairie elevators to port.

A private supermarket can get thousands of products to thousands of consumers on the very day they need any one of them, but the wheat board cannot get one product to one port in the month the customer wants it let alone the right day. The government blames the railways, the railways blame the wheat board and the farmers pay. Bureaucratic inefficiency has cost farmers between $65 million and $115 million.

Some farmers in the Yorkton—Melville area have been denied this year's initial payment from the wheat board because they have not been able to pay back last year's initial payment. And why is that? They have not been able to sell their grain because all the elevators are plugged, again thanks to government intervention in the marketplace.

Farmers are telling me it is time for an exorcism to get the devil out of the grain transportation system in the prairies.

Speech From The Throne
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Vaughan—King—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday residents of Vaughan—King—Aurora gathered at St. Joan of Arc High School in Maple to discuss the Speech from the Throne and the government agenda for the next few years.

Residents were united in their desire for the government to stay the course on deficit reduction. They agreed that a balanced budget is essential to our nation's economic health. They approved of the government's plan to invest in key areas of the economy such as trade and technology, but they urged caution, calling for wise investments that produce results.

The residents also applauded the government's continued resolve in the area of youth unemployment and took the opportunity to call on local businesses, community organizations and all levels of government to continue to work together to create opportunities for youth. Residents also discussed the importance of preserving and improving our health care system and expressed their support for an efficient, affordable and effective pharmacare and home care programs. They want the federal government to continue to exercise leadership to ensure Canada remains a strong and united country.

Jewish Community
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec is an open and tolerant nation made up from people of every ethnic background and various religious faiths, who came from every corner of the world to find in our province a sense of freedom.

Today is the first day of an intense and important time of year for thousands of our fellow citizens. On behalf of the sovereignists in Quebec, I would like to wish a happy new year to the Jewish community in Quebec and in Canada. Rosh Hashanah , the Jewish new year, marks the beginning of a Holy week culminating with Yom Kippur , the Day of Atonement. What better occasion to gather with one's family and friends to reflect on the old year and the new.

We take this opportunity to wish them peace, happiness and health in the new year. Shana Tova .

The Family
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, October 6 will mark the beginning of national family week. Each year thousands of communities across Canada celebrate this special occasion. Family Service Canada in partnership with Health Canada is working to improve the well-being of the family. Throughout the years it has worked to lay the foundation for positive family relationships and communication in family friendly communities.

We are celebrating world teachers day on October 5. It is a day to reflect on the importance of education and the contributions of teachers to education.

I see a correlation between education, teaching and the family. Let us celebrate what we have done but keep in mind that we have more to do.

The Senate
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, Senator Andrew Thompson is one of the reasons why Canadians have such a low opinion of our upper House.

Senator Thompson's attendance record is the worst in the Senate. He shows up about once every two years and yet he continues to collect his pay cheque of around $85,000 per year.

This not only brings into question the internal workings of the Senate, but obviously senators cannot or refuse to police themselves. It also begs the question that if the prime minister has the power to appoint senators should he not have the power to dismiss senators.

As Mr. Thompson is a former Ontario Liberal leader, it is doubtful our prime minister would toss him out despite Senator Thompson's being the most rotten apple in an ancient—

The Senate
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I would encourage all hon. members to be very judicious. I did not know exactly where the member was going in his statement, but as a general rule we do not criticize specifically members of the other House.

Breast Cancer
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, October 5 Canadians from across the country will run for the cure. They will be running, walking and jogging in support of breast cancer research.

The CIBC, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and an expected 50,000 participants in 18 cities across this country are hoping to raise $3 million for breast cancer research, education, diagnosis and treatment. I am proud to be part of that effort.

I am reminded of those who came before us in this fight, Ms. Pat Kelly and the Breast Cancer Action Group who fought hard to overcome systemic barriers to raising money for breast cancer research but, more important, fought to gain a voice for women in determining how breast cancer research dollars would be spent.

The run is the main fundraising event of this year for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. One of the many accomplishments of the foundation has been the establishment of the first Canadian chair on breast cancer research located at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.

I am heartened by the enormous effort and contributions of the—

Breast Cancer
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

Conseil Québécois Du Patrimoine Vivant
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, from October 3 to 5, Jonquière will be, for the first time, host to the rally of the Conseil québécois du patrimoine vivant, the fifth in its history.

Jonquière, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, is a great place to hold this momentous event. Under the theme “La grande criée d'automne au Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean”, this event will showcase, through conferences, workshops and performances, the various aspects of our region's heritage, including folk tales, traditions, legends and heritage sites.

I join with my hon. colleague from Jonquière and take this opportunity to extend our welcome to everyone visiting our beautiful region and to thank the Corporation de sauvegarde du patrimoine de Jonquière and the William Price interpretation centre for their contribution to these activities.

Fire Prevention
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, none of us expect when we start out each day that our homes or offices might be destroyed by fire. Yet it was on a busy day much like this 81 years ago that our predecessors in the House of Commons found themselves in the heart of an inferno.

On February 4, 1916 Canada lost its original Parliament Buildings to a horrific destructive fire. That tragic event serves as a reminder that fire can strike any time, anywhere and no one is immune to it.

From October 5 to October 11 Canada will observe fire prevention week to remind Canadians of the danger of fire, to promote fire prevention and to honour the dedicated firefighters across this country who risk their lives for the safety of others.

Each year in Canada fire claims hundreds of lives and incurs hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The latest statistics for 1995 show that 62,346 fires resulted in 389 deaths, 3,792 injuries and a direct property loss of over $1 billion—

Fire Prevention
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Gatineau.

Bank Of Canada
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, given that the government's policy is to create jobs, and that this can only be achieved in a strong and growing economy, I find it hard to understand the Bank of Canada's decision to increase its rate, when there is no indication of a rise in inflation.

The chartered banks immediately doubled the rate increase set by the Bank of Canada. This could generate some concern among Canadians who, in the past, have been hard hit because of high interest rates, with a large number of businesses having to fold and many families nearly went going bankrupt because of high mortgage rates.

The government's policy of attempting to control our economy by manipulating interest rates must be questioned. It continues to cause our economy to lurch from boom to bust and by this every move turning the stock markets and serves only to make increased profits for financial—

Bank Of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton East.

Conservative Party
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday a Tory member questioned the government and its ministers on allegation of influence peddling and improper fundraising. These allegations are being raised ironically by a member of the Tory Party. We will long remember names like Cogger, LaSalle and Moores who faced criminal charges while members of the Tory administration.

Presently the Tory leader is raising money in Saskatchewan and perhaps stopping in on the trial of Senator Bernston who is facing charges of criminal fraud. Maybe he will visit the group of convicted Tory felons who now call the Regina correctional institute their home away from home.

It is this type of Liberal-Tory hypocrisy which breeds voter cynicism. Reform is here to bring integrity back to the House of Commons.

Francophones Outside Quebec
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis deemed it necessary to explain, in the House, her disparaging remarks concerning French Canadians.

She denied calling us second class citizens. Yet, the official report of the Debates reads, and I quote: “As a French Canadian, I am a second class citizen”. The member went on to say that francophones outside Quebec could count on her support.

I say to the Bloc Quebecois member that we French Canadians outside Quebec have no use for the kind of support Bloc members have been giving us from time to time since they arrived in this place, by using our problems to promote their separatist goal. Such negative support is harmful to our cause and we can easily do without it.

Reform Party
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, for years we watched as the national Reform Party seduced the national Liberal Party into acting in a bizarre right wing Tory way. But its B.C. cousins are taking these new political liaisons to astonishing new levels.

The B.C. Liberals and B.C. Reformers have developed a close political relationship over the past few years and have recently decided to jump into political bed with each other. The Liberals are even debating whether they should change their name in an effort to reflect this new political love affair.

Canadians have always known about the Liberal-Tory, same old story, but now it is Liberal-Reform, same old form as Liberals jump into bed with Reformers and Tories are there whining at the door to be let in on this new political orgy.

Montfort Hospital
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to shed some light on certain comments made regarding the role of the federal government in the case of the Montfort hospital.

If and when the federal government decides, through the heritage department, to provide financial support to the establishment of a network of health care services in French, this network will be managed by the Montfort hospital to fulfill the mandate given to it by the Ontario health care restructuring committee.

There is no reason to accuse the federal government of interfering in an area of provincial jurisdiction. Rather, it is important to remind the public, and ourselves, of the federal government's mandate and role regarding official languages minorities across the country, that is to say in all the provinces except Quebec for the French speaking minority, and in Quebec for the

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Today, Mr. Speaker, the minister of agriculture has recognized October as agricultural awareness month in Atlantic Canada. Is this simply lip service as in last week's Speech from the Throne? Agriculture was conspicuous in its absence.

In this government's rush to embrace technology as the wave of the future it has disregarded agricultural sustainability. Since producers are the backbone of this industry it is they who have been disregarded by this government.

The federal agriculture minister recently, talking about the government's fiscal dividend, said that when agriculture producers came forward with ideas he would go to bat for them. Is the minister of agriculture prepared to go to bat for the agriculture producers?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is incredible to watch the Liberal damage control machine kick into high gear. These guys are starting to make Brian Mulroney look like an amateur.

The facts do not lie. We have a senior Quebec fundraiser in the Liberal Party who is now under criminal investigation for trying to shake down companies that are applying for government grants. This fundraiser tried to blackmail those companies by demanding they give thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party or risk losing their grants.

My question is for the prime minister. Who in the government leaked the names of the companies applying for grants to the Liberal Party?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should have begun his question by congratulating and praising the Minister of Human Resources Development.

He should have praised him because the minister acted quickly, responsibly, and with integrity by immediately bringing the allegations to the attention of the RCMP.

The hon. member, in his supplementary question, may want to explain this very serious lack in the content of his question.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will get to that, actually. The RCMP learned about these illegal Liberal fundraising tactics in March from a boy scout in the Ministry of Human Resources Development.

The big boys in the prime minister's office refused to listen to him. They did not fire this bagmen until June, after the election, several months later.

During the four months the prime minister and his Liberal campaign managers knew that their fundraiser was under criminal investigation, which ministers continued to associate with the fundraiser under investigation?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not have that information. It does not pertain to the administrative responsibilities of the government. More important, there is a criminal investigation under way and I am sure the issues the hon. member has raised will be gone into thoroughly in the course of the investigation.

It is important to let the investigation proceed in the normal and effective fashion the RCMP will be undertaking. We will see what comes out as a result of the investigation.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, let us just talk about that for a moment. We know the RCMP is investigating the Liberal Party for its corrupt fundraising practices. I do not care as much about the corruption in the Liberal Party as I care about corruption in the government.

We know the RCMP is investigating the Liberal Party, but will the prime minister launch an independent inquiry into potential corruption in the government itself?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think one has to reject the premise of the hon. member's question. It has not been confirmed exactly who the targets of the investigation might be. The solicitor general said yesterday they could be on one side of the House or his side of the House, or it could involve any Canadian.

Therefore it would be improper, if not unfair, to speculate and create innuendo about something that is under investigation, unless the hon. member wants to take steps to prevent the investigation from reaching a successful conclusion. I hope that is not his objective because that would be wrong.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 1995, 70 percent of the top contractors with CIDA made significant donations to the Liberal Party of Canada. That compares with less than onepercent of Canadian companies overall that give to the Liberals. This sends a clear message to business: “Give money to the Liberals or you won't get government business”.

How can ordinary Canadians have faith in the government's tendering process when being a Liberal is obviously the first qualification checked?

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, we have always been especially careful when we have had to deal with the contracting process in whatever portfolio I have been responsible for.

If you have any proof, would you please bring it forward instead of making these unfounded allegations.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I remind hon. members to address both the questions and the answers to the Chair.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are on the take and they just keep on taking. Business people—

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Say that outside.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I ask all hon. members to be very judicious in their choice of words. That is the first point.

Second, I remind hon. members that in putting questions they have to go to the administrative responsibility of the government as opposed to the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party or the New Democratic Party.

I ask members to be very judicious in their choice of words.

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, given the fact that 70 percent of CIDA contractors were big Liberals and given the latest RCMP investigation into corrupt Liberal fundraising it is crucial that the government clear the air and clean up its act.

In order to restore faith in the integrity of government, will the prime minister convene an independent inquiry into how the government doles out contracts?

Liberal Party Of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has a system called the open bidding system. That is how contracts are allocated.

People tender for them and win them based on how good their tender is. CIDA puts its contract on the OBS as well.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Human Resources Development admitted that at least five funding proposals being processed by his department were the subject of blackmail and influence peddling to raise funds for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us what concrete measures his government has taken to ensure that in future no one will have access to Department of Human Resources Development funding lists?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as the minister pointed out yesterday, immediately upon receiving the information regarding these allegations, he brought it to the attention of the RCMP.

At this point, all we have are allegations. But it is obviously up to the Minister of Human Resources Development to review the procedures in his department and I think that, with his integrity and good judgement, he has the matter under review. But, for the time being, the situation is—

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the hon. member for Verchères now has the floor.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, we now know that a close collaborator of the Liberal Party of Canada with responsibility for the Mauricie region in the last election may have had access to Department of Human Resources Development funding lists.

In this specific case, what has the government done to ensure that this collaborator will no longer use confidential government information for the purpose of influence peddling?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, for the time being, allegations are all we have. No formal complaint has been filed.

At the same time, I am certain that the Minister of Human Resources Development will be reviewing procedures in his department.

Transition Job Fund
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

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

In his letter of March 5, 1997, the Minister of Human Resources Development informs us that at least six projects were in the analysis phase with a view to ministerial approval under the transition job fund.

Can the minister inform us as to whether these projects have been approved since then?

Transition Job Fund
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I do not have that information. I will do my best to obtain it for my hon. colleague. For the moment, I can only quote the letter from the minister. He says, in his letter to the RCMP:

“Allegations have come to my attention that at least five different proposers”, et cetera, et cetera.

We must make sure that we refer only to allegations at this time, but the entire situation is under RCMP investigation.

Transition Job Fund
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about the current investigation. We just want to find out about the projects.

Can the minister clarify the situation and make things more transparent by tabling a list of these projects?

Transition Job Fund
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to bring the hon. member's question to the attention of my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development.

But I am again asking why the hon. member has not commended the minister for his promptness, integrity and good judgment in immediately bringing these allegations to the attention of the RCMP.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

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

Four years ago his leader stood in the House and asked the Conservative government why it always sided with the multinationals instead of with the people who need drugs.

In the last election the government promised national pharmacare based on its own forum recommendations for a universal single payer drug plan. This is in question with the government once again cosying up to the big brand name drug companies, and I might add with a little pressure from the Reform Party.

Today I put the same question that his leader asked on April 1, 1993. Will the government commit today to a universal national drug—

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Health, if he likes, could answer the preamble.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member is profoundly misinformed. We are complying with the commitment we made during the election campaign.

I know the hon. member would want us, before embarking on a national pharmacare program, to look into its design, its funding and its delivery. That is exactly what we are doing.

In the months ahead I will be meeting in a national conference with my provincial counterparts, with interested and knowledgeable people, to talk about how Canadians can be best served by a pharmacare program that will work.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was an awfully vague answer about a specific question. Let me ask about a very specific concern.

We know that lobbyists for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Canada, which is fighting to scrap a national drug plan, are coming from former employees of the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.

Given the revolving door between industry and government and real concerns about conflict of interest, we want to know if Canadians can be assured that the federal government and not the brand name industry is setting drug prices.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the member can be assured that when the government puts together its policy toward the creation of a pharmacare plan we will do what is in the best interests of Canadians.

We will look at ideas that come from all quarters. We will look at models in other countries. We will look at what Canada can afford and what will deliver the services best to Canadians. That is exactly what the government will do.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the government.

Yesterday, we heard that the Minister of Human Resources Development, the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister of Public Works and even the Prime Minister knew on March 6, 1997 that the RCMP was aware of dubious fundraising practices.

Would the government confirm information to the effect that ministers of the Crown, despite the RCMP investigation, continued to accompany the person or persons being investigated, in the course of fundraising activities and visits to businesses in Quebec?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I can neither confirm nor deny the allegations in the hon. member's question.

For the time being, we are talking about an investigation, not about charges made before the courts. If an investigation is underway, which was confirmed yesterday by the RCMP, we must do everything we can to avoid obstructing the investigation in any way.

I hope that was the purpose of the hon. member's questions.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the Deputy Prime Minister that the role of the Conservative opposition members is to help provide Canadians with good government.

I am pleased to hear from the Deputy Prime Minister that the Minister of Human Resources Development has changed the procedures in his department with respect to documents.

That being said, I would like to ask the government how it intends to give Canadian businesses the assurance that their requests for assistance from the government will nevertheless be confidential, considering what we heard this week.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. Minister for International Cooperation said, the government's bidding is an open bidding system. There are public tenders. The results are published. I think this is in part an answer to my hon. friend's question. In any event I am sure the hon. Minister for Human Resources Development would want to review the procedures in his department and take any necessary action.

I might add, if the Speaker says I have a couple of seconds, that in the last sentence—

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Reform

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Three hundred modern-day war criminals are reported to have gained entry and are living in Canada. The government has already proven that we cannot get rid of Nazi war criminals in this country.

How will the minister rid Canada of the 300 modern-day war criminals and the 38,000 illegal refugees harboured in this country?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to correct the facts and figures provided by the opposition critic. First, when we are talking about 38,000 individuals, these are not illegal immigrants but people who are seeking refugee status.

Second, the 300 people who are suspected of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity are only suspects; they have not been convicted by the system.

When reports are made by my department, this proves there is a strong interest in these questions and that in the department—

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the minister, but the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast has the floor.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Reform

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 1994 there were 50 to 100 war criminals in Canada and 17,000 illegal refugees. Now there are 300 war criminals in this country and 38,000 refugees who came to our borders and entered this country illegally. In the government's own report it has predicted it is going to double very shortly.

Can the minister advise the House what the government is going to do to stop this flow into Canada and to protect Canadians?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party critic should not perpetuate myths in this country. We are not talking about illegal immigrants, but about refugee claimants.

That being said, we take very seriously all cases of persons suspected of contemporary war crimes who try to enter this country. I can say that Canada is one of the leaders on the international scene for its success in preventing these people from getting access to the system that confers refugee status, and in deporting them.

When we compare our system with those in the United States, France or Great Britain—

Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry but the hon. member for Charlesbourg has the floor.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Still on the subject of influence peddling, we have the impression that all the federal Liberal ministers from Quebec were aware of what was happening. The Prime Minister knew, the Minister of Public Works knew, the Minister of Human Resources Development knew and the President of the Treasury Board knew.

Which other ministers of this government were aware of the events?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have no information to indicate that other ministers were informed, not of the investigation, but of the very general allegations.

If I do receive other information, I will advise my hon. colleague as soon as possible.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, the misappropriation of funds the government and the Liberal Party are allegedly involved in occurred in the regions, and in particular that of the Prime Minister of Canada.

My question is for the minister responsible for regional development in Quebec. Was he aware of these allegations, and if so, what measures did he take to stop influence peddling in the Federal Office of Regional Development in Quebec?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Secretary of State (Federal Office of Regional Development—Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, the answer is no, I was not aware.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, in question period yesterday it was obvious the government has no grasp of the situation involving the use of Canadian passports by attempted assassins. First it told us they were forged, then maybe they were stolen. The department has not seen them yet. This government has not told this House anything concrete about this issue.

We have a real name and a real passport. Will the government tell us what it is doing about this or should we just call the media?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to discern what the member's question is. I can only deduce that he is responding to the allegations about the fact that a Canadian passport was used.

We have said they are forgeries. Signatures were forged, false photographs were used. We are now having this individual work and co-operate with us to determine exactly how it happened.

I can guarantee to this House that Canada was not in complicity with any act of assassination or criminal attempt.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have a Canadian, Mr. Ron Reddy who has called us. He has called the embassy over there. He has been told to stay in his hotel room. We talked to him last night in Amman. He says that the situation is very tense over there. This government has shown little regard for the safety of Canadians.

This morning we have received over two dozen phone calls in our office alone from concerned Canadians about the safety and integrity of this travel document. Can the minister tell these Canadians and any Canadians travelling internationally what he is doing to prevent this—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I should report to the House is that we contacted the hon. member's office for information about all these calls and we have yet to receive any of that information.

I am quite happy to respond to any specific request when I receive it and I would ask the hon. member to give it to me.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works.

The issues raised by the ongoing investigation into allegations of influence peddling throws the whole federal government contract award process into question.

Can the public works minister give us the assurance, beyond all doubt, that he has taken every measure possible to prevent all influence peddling in the award of government contracts?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I can assure this house and my hon. colleague that all government contracts are awarded by public tendering, open to all. The hon. member and all Canadians can put in a bid, they can even use the Internet to do so, and I can assure you that there is no influence peddling and that it is all done by the book and in accordance with the law.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a supplementary.

Given that 37 percent of all federal contracts, totalling $3.2 billion in 1995, were untendered, does the minister not recognize that this approach opens the door to all sorts of abuse, including strong possibilities of influence peddling?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, yes, it does happen, in an emergency or for security reasons, that we award what is called sole source contracts.

However, I should point out to the hon. member and to the House that, when we took office in 1993, 50 percent of government contracts were awarded that way, compared to only 35 percent today. And we will keep reducing this number.

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I tabled an affidavit by Mr. Dennis Coffey, a 25-year customs investigator, in which he confirmed allegations of fraud, nepotism and abuse in the Department of National Revenue. The minister has repeatedly denied these allegations. He must have some pretty compelling evidence to offhandedly dismiss Mr. Coffey's claims.

Has the government conducted an investigation into these troubling allegations, what evidence does it have if any, and will it table such evidence in the House today?

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. The member opposite should very well know that any matter before the Public Service Commission Appeal Board will not be disclosed in this House because it is inappropriate to comment on it at this time.

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, these are publicly made allegations, publicly reported in the newspapers about fraud, corruption, nepotism and abuse in the department. Surely the government takes that seriously enough to investigate those independent of the appeal happening.

Does the parliamentary secretary deny we have learned that Mr. Coffey has alleged that Marvin Goodman, a senior customs manager, authorized the use of a government office at 1 Front Street in Toronto for his sister to run a dress shop rent free.

What does the government think of this? Does it think it is appropriate for government officials to be using government office space for the personal financial benefit of members of their families?

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, allegations that Revenue Canada gives preferential treatment to any courier company in this country are false and unfounded. Right now there is a risk management system that has been in place and is supported by all courier companies.

If any member of this House has any evidence that we should be investigating, let them place it before us and we will investigate.

War Criminals
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Today, the media are reporting that a committee appointed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has stated that Canada makes it too easy for war criminals to enter the country.

Can the minister tell the House how many war criminals her department has currently identified in Canada?

War Criminals
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, let me to correct the facts. The statement was not made by a committee appointed by the minister. It is found in a report written by an officer to his director. The officer is a member of the department's war crimes section.

This shows that we do have a departmental war crimes section, where an inventory of about 300 suspected people was made, and I emphasize the word “suspected”.

Dairy Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

The United States have announced that they will challenge our dairy production system before the World Trade Organization, on the grounds that we subsidize our dairy product exports.

What measures will the minister take to protect Canada's dairy industry?

Dairy Industry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate the member for her election to the House. I look forward to working with her which she has already shown enthusiasm to do.

The government and the dairy industry are already putting a strategy together to deal with the section 301 challenge that the United States has put on a track toward the WTO. If that challenge does go through the whole process and to a final panel, we will use those strategies to defend the dairy industry as we did in the NAFTA panel. I remind everyone Canada received a unanimous decision in our favour. We will again defend the Canadian dairy industry vigorously.

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, customs staff were pulled away from inspecting planes for drugs and contraband so that Federal Express shipments could be fast tracked. The Minister of National Revenue says that they want more facts. We have a statement on legal stationery confirming that Dennis Coffey will provide sworn evidence exactly to this effect.

How many kilos of cocaine and pounds of pot were smuggled into Canada because planes from Jamaica went uninspected?

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, Revenue Canada is responsible at the customs border points. Between the border points we have RCMP co-operation. A lot of our information is intelligence based. We work co-operatively on our anti-smuggling initiatives. There are money and resources behind this and Revenue Canada works on assessing high and low risk and will not be letting smugglers know how we do this in this House.

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, speaking about higher risks, how about high priorities in terms of sisters of employees and whatnot making money on the taxpayer in that department?

We have learned that one of the top officials of the Minister of National Revenue is trying to gag Mr. Coffey, threatening him with disciplinary action and making these allegations public before the appeal board. In fact the government has the letter. We tabled it yesterday.

If Mr. Coffey's evidence is not true then why is the minister and his staff trying to shut out and shut up Mr. Coffey? Why are they doing that?

National Revenue
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate and hopefully it will be clearer this time. The employee in question has filed an appeal with the Public Service Commission Appeal Board that he was inappropriately denied an acting appointment.

While this appeal is ongoing we will not be commenting on the particulars of this case no matter how many times members of the opposition ask.

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In what the front page of the New York Times calls “a child labour victory”, the U.S. Congress is set to ban the importation of goods made by bondaged child labourers.

In light of the fact that there is an estimated 15 million children working in Southeast Asia and in light of the fact that the APEC conference seeks to increase our trade with these countries, will the minister use the weight of his office to pass comparable legislation that would outlaw the importation and sale of goods manufactured by child labour?

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, while I compliment the member on question, I would like to remind him that last year we set up a special fund to encourage Canadian enterprises and organizations to come forward with a series of initiatives to deal with the importation of products made by child labour.

Second, we are now working with the ILO to come up with a new draft convention dealing with children working in hazardous industries.

Third, as he probably knows, Canada is one of the few countries which has passed legislation that gives us the right to prosecute Canadian citizens who go abroad to exploit children.

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the White House has also initiated a process that has led to a workplace code of practice for monitoring the garment industry in that country. In our country some garment contractors use sweatshops and homeworkers on piece work often in violation of wage and labour standards.

Will the minister and his cabinet colleagues commit to develop a similar code of conduct to end the exploitation of sweatshop workers and to help the many fair Canadian manufacturers who suffer from this unfair competition?

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give the hon. member three pieces of information. First, we are working actively to have an international standard through the Oslo convention. Canada is sponsoring one of the founding meetings that is leading toward that international code.

Second, we have worked to develop a code of conduct for private businesses. They announced it about a month ago and our department was very much involved in pulling it together.

Third, we are attempting to develop specific projects overseas through the work of CIDA to help remove children from hazardous child labour and provide alternative working opportunities for them in company with local NGOs in those areas.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister would have us believe that the Minister of Human Resources Development is to be congratulated for taking the initiative of calling the RCMP.

My suggestion is that this is simply not enough. Just to bring it to the attention of the RCMP is not enough.

What we would like to know is who knew, when did they know and what have they done in the meantime to ensure that this practice has stopped?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question was answered in part yesterday and I answered the rest of it in my earlier responses to other members of the House.

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question surrounds the contradictions that seem to exist. There is information that suggests that the Prime Minister did not know and then there are other suggestions that he did.

What we want to know is who in the government was aware of this illegal practice? The investigation was under way. Why did a person in the employment of the parties continue to work for the party?

Rcmp Investigations
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Deputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question does not pertain to the administrative responsibilities of the government. I think it was confirmed yesterday by the Prime Minister's office that he was generally informed of the allegations but not of the investigation as such. If I am wrong, I will correct myself.

In any event, the government acted through the Minister of Human Resources Development quickly, responsibly and with integrity by immediately bringing the allegations in question to the RCMP when they reached his attention.

I wonder why my hon. friend does not recognize that and stop raising innuendoes and insinuations that could harm the success of the process.

Immunization Program
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for CIDA.

Ten years ago Canada began an international immunization program and immunized hundreds of thousands of children in 25 countries against six fatal diseases. It appears that the program is ending. Could the minister please explain why we have ended that program?

Immunization Program
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, after 10 years and many successes this particular program has ended as planned. However, Canada remains committed to global immunization.

As a matter of fact, CIDA has recently adopted a strategy for health which stresses Canada's commitment to improving the health of children worldwide. A key aim of this strategy is the immunization of every child and the eradication of polio and measles worldwide.

At the moment we are actively involved in efforts to eradicate polio in West Africa and we are examining a variety of possible next steps to see how we can best use our resources to help immunize the world's children.

Broadcasting
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the CRTC violated its own rules by awarding a wireless cable broadcasting licence to a telephone monopoly.

The CRTC stated that the earliest it would accept an application was June, but it made a special exception and accepted an application in February from long distance carrier Teleglobe's Look TV.

Why does the Liberal government condone the CRTC violating its guidelines? Does it want less choice for consumers, or more power for monopolies?

Broadcasting
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Hamilton East
Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, first I must advise the hon. member that I cannot comment on the particulars of the case in relation to the decision of the cabinet about upholding or sending back a CRTC's decision.

Given that a court has already made a ruling on the particulars of the allegation he is making, I think he may unfortunately find himself in contempt of court.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Following what appears to be the fraudulent use of Canadian passports by the Israeli secret services, we have learned that this has apparently been a common practice among the secret services of many countries for quite some time now.

What does the minister intend to do to tighten up protection of Canadian passports so that such situations do not recur?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

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

The international body that looks after all travel documents is the ICAO organization which is situated in Montreal. We will be working with ICAO and making representations to it about the need to provide a stronger international covenant or convention to ensure that all countries live up to their obligations.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. post office handles 40 percent of the world's mail and its Postmaster General, Marvin Runyon, makes $205,000 Canadian per year.

Canada Post, which handles 3 percent of the world's mail, just renewed President Georges Clermont's obscene salary and benefits package to $380,000 Canadian per year, which by the way is not for public information.

My question is for the minister responsible for Canada Post. If the government is so willing to quickly settle a contract for Georges Clermont why will he and Canada Post management not apply the same attitude toward the current concerns of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, first, if we compare the salaries of the presidents of about 15 companies in Canada which do the same volume of business as Canada Post, Mr. Clermont's salary is the lowest.

Second, we are doing our best. I encourage my hon. colleague to speak to his friends in the postal union and get them back to the table. I will do my part by speaking to management to make sure that we have a labour agreement as soon as possible and deliver the mail.

Rcmp Investigation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, as much as the government would like this matter to go away we have one simple point we would like to establish today.

Which ministers were travelling with which fund raisers? Who was under investigation at that time?

Rcmp Investigation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

At this point at least, the member has not gone to the administrative responsibility that I can see of any one minister. The question, as it is phrased, is not receivable.

Canada Pension Plan
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Hec Clouthier Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

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

In recent years the number of applications for CPP disability benefits have increased dramatically, thereby necessitating that these payments be paid in a timely fashion.

My question is simply this. Mr. Parliamentary Secretary, can you share with the House—

Canada Pension Plan
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

I ask all hon. members to please direct your comments to the Chair. I will permit the parliamentary secretary to respond.

Canada Pension Plan
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that very important question.

Obviously people who are on the Canada disability pension would want to find out why it has been taking so long. Part of the problem is that applications for the CPP have doubled.

Because of that and because of the changes we are bringing forward in the House, and the definition of the people who are eligible to make this application, have caused us some problems.

In order to deal with that—

Canada Pension Plan
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, over 25 percent of the population use or rely on natural health care products. These people have galvanized support for the right of Canadians to freely choose these products, and they want an answer.

Will the government change its current policy to permit the unrestricted use and access to safe alternative health products instead of making criminals of ordinary Canadians?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the challenge facing any government is to strike the right balance between regulation to protect consumers from fraud or abuse and, on the other hand, allowing Canadians freedom of choice for health related products. The government is determined to find that right balance.

Tomorrow in Toronto, I am going to be making an announcement that will make clear the intention of the government with respect to the approach toward herbal remedies and natural products in general. I commend it to the hon. member in response to his question.

Pay Equity
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board.

With respect to pay equity in the federal public service, the President of the Treasury Board said this week in the House, and I quote “We stand ready to apply the various judgments once they are made final”.

Is the President of the Treasury Board saying that he will not send a representative to the bargaining table and that he intends to use all the legal stalling tactics at his disposal to delay a settlement?

Pay Equity
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, once again, we have made over $1 billion in equity payments in recent years.

We have made an offer of $1,3 billion and we intend to leave this offer on the table, and when the unions are ready to negotiate, they have only to come back.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

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

There is a public health emergency in Vancouver's downtown east side. It is an epidemic of HIV infection, particularly among injection drug users, and Vancouver has now had the highest incident rate in the developed world. Death from drug overdoses is the number one killer for men and women aged 30 to 44.

Will the minister commit here and now to show the leadership that is called for in the national action plan?

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I have personal knowledge of the awful tragedy to which the hon. member refers. I have walked with the police of Vancouver through the back alleys of downtown Vancouver. I have visited the areas to which she has referred and I have seen people who have died as a result of abusing drugs and using dirty needles.

There is no one simple answer to this issue. The municipal government—and I have spoken with the mayor of Vancouver about it—the provincial government and the federal government must, as we are, work in co-ordination to provide social services, proper policing and treatment to those very much in need.

The hon. member has my assurance that we will continue in that effort.

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I believe there is a question of privilege. Does this matter arise from question period?

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, during question period today the foreign affairs minister suggested that he had called my office any number of times to get the list of people we are talking about.

We have been in our offices from 7.30 a.m. until about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. every night and he has—

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I believe that is a point of debate, not a point of privilege.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, a report from the Canadian Branch Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 36th Canadian regional conference which took place July 12 to 18 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have several petitions to present, so I ask for your indulgence as I go through them.

I am pleased to present two petitions with the signatures of 80 Canadians from my constituency who are concerned that their freedom of choice in health care is becoming increasingly curtailed and threatened by government regulation.

The petitioners request a number of specific amendments to the Food and Drug Act which would ensure that health foods and dietary supplements are not defined and regulated as drugs.

They request also that the only foods the Government of Canada may restrict from the market are those which are proven unsafe or fraudulently promoted and that in all cases the burden of proof shall be on the government.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the next group of petitions are signed by 58 of my constituents who are asking Parliament to make several changes to the way crimes of violence are treated in the law and by the courts.

They ask for the following changes. First, the law should require all bail hearings in crimes of violence to be presided over by a judge.

Second, the law should require money or security to be posted before the release of a person accused of a violent crime. Third, the law should hold agents of the crown directly accountable for the actions or omissions in permitting the release of offenders.

Fourth, the law should ensure that sentences reflect society's abhorrence for the criminal act in order to act as a true deterrent and to protect the public.

Finally, they ask that public safety be given a higher priority than the rights of the violent offender for early release. My hope is that the government listens to these petitioners.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from hundreds of citizens of the Peterborough region who are concerned about the impact of the Food and Drug Act and its use in a range of products, including vitamins, herbs and various minerals.

These citizens ask that section (3) of schedule A of the present Food and Drug Act be deleted so that true claims for any product that prevents, treats or cures any of the 46 specific conditions can be allowed.

I have another petition on a similar topic also from hundreds of constituents of the Peterborough riding who are concerned about freedom of choice in health care.

They are concerned that this choice is increasingly threatened by legislation and statutory regulations of the government. They ask that the Food and Drug Act be revised in various ways, including that the definition of food include dietary supplements and foods for special health uses and that the definition of drug be amended to read “drug includes any substance other than food”.

Finally, they request that the expression dietary supplement include any substance that is intended to improve or augment the nutritional quality of one's diet and may include tablets, capsules, powders or liquids containing one or more of the following ingredients: a vitamin, a mineral, an amino acid, an herb or other botanical or concentrate metabolite constituent, extract or combination of these ingredients.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to christen this new bench in the House of Commons, close to the bar.

I have a petition from Canadians in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario who call on Parliament and the government to declare that Canada is indivisible and that Canada's boundaries should not be altered without a free vote of Canadian citizens or using the amending formula contained in the Canadian Constitution.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams 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
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion for an address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, before the important business of question period, and it is too bad there is not a little answer period as well, I was on a bit of a roll and it is really hard when interrupted to get back up to speed.

During my brief remarks I was congratulating you, the other speakers and all members of Parliament on their election or re-election to this august Chamber. I was remiss in not congratulating the new minister of agriculture on his appointment. He has a very difficult job ahead to convince his cabinet and his caucus colleagues to develop a new vision for the industry that will keep pace with the vision that is being developed out in the real world by the farmers.

Our party has been quite critical of the so-called 50:50 arrangement in the throne speech that has been put into place with a commitment by the government once we move beyond a balanced budget.

Two days ago an open line show was conducted in my riding of Dawson Creek. There were about 69 calls from Canadians. About eight and a half were in favour of increased spending for social programs, and about nine and a half favoured tax relief. Interestingly enough, 51 calls favoured debt reduction. That says to me this government is on the wrong track, that the majority of Canadians recognize the huge threat to the Canadian economy, indeed to the security of all Canadians, that $600 billion of debt represents.

They recognize it out in the real world and I suggest this government wake up and recognize it not only in the throne speech but in the way it governs this country.

Farmers in Canada will not survive because of government action but because of their own ambition, innovation and initiative. That is the way it has always been, that is the way it will always be. But this government can take some leadership, show some vision and help the farmers not only in my riding but across the nation to achieve their goals, and it is not doing it.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from British Columbia on a wonderful speech. He made a number of commitments.

I was interested about the role of a member of Parliament. He talked a little about that, about the aspirations he had in representing his people here. I would like him to give us a little comment on the record of the Liberals versus the record of Reformers on listening to the people, responding to them and representing them in this House. That would be an interesting part to his speech which he really did not get into that much.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, every member of the Reform Party could go on and on at great length about the lack of real representation that has come from the opposite side of the House over the life that we have been here which is only one Parliament for most of us with the exception of our deputy leader.

This Liberal government is not representing the wishes of its constituents by and large. Something interesting was pointed out in the 35th Parliament which I am sure we are going to see repeated in the 36th Parliament. Time and time again when a member who sits on the government side truly tries to represent the best interests and the wishes of his or her constituents, if those interests run contrary to the position of the government or that of the cabinet and the prime minister, what happens?

What happens with the old parties? We saw it under the Mulroney Tories before the Liberals. Members of Parliament were disciplined, at times even thrown out of their parties for trying to represent the interests of their constituents. That is also what happens with the Liberal Party. We saw that in the last Parliament with the hon. member for York South—Weston when he tried to represent his constituents.

He ran his campaign on the issue of abolishing the GST, as did a lot of members in this House who sit opposite on the government benches. He had the integrity to vote against a budget measure because he said it did not fulfil that campaign promise. He was bitterly disappointed in the government for not taking decisive action, for not living up to its campaign promise. Therefore he voted against it and what happened? He was thrown out of his party and sits now in this House as an independent. It is a credit to him and to the Canadian electorate in his riding that it re-elected him as an independent. It is a tough job to get elected as an independent.

The question dealt specifically with the representation provided by Reformers versus the representation of Liberals and Tories and the other parties in this place. I suggest that we really need some reform of this place. We need to see many more free votes in this place, real free votes, where individuals regardless of partisan political stripe can really represent the interests of their constituents.

Backbench Liberal MPs I believe if they were not so muzzled by the party discipline in the Liberal Party would be crying out along with us for those types of reforms so that they can really represent the interests of their constituents and not worry that the big broad axe is going to fall on their necks and they are going to be publicly disciplined and chastised by their leadership and perhaps even ultimately thrown out of their party.

I spoke earlier in my remarks before question period about the fact that Reform is in this House despite the fact that in the last Parliament they said we would not be back. But we are back and we are going to continue to come back until this place is reformed and we have real democracy in this House of Commons.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Longueuil.

I would like, if I may, to begin by speaking to my constituents in the riding of Rosemont. I would like to thank the people of Rosemont and Petite-Patrie, as well as all of my riding volunteers, for the trust they have given me in the last federal election.

I thank them in particular for the confidence they have shown in my generation and in the future of Quebec, a Quebec which we wish to be modern and sovereign, a Quebec that reflects my generation, open to the world and master of its destiny.

I would also like to offer thanks on their behalf to the man who defended them with vigour throughout the previous two mandates, Benoît Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay always had an attentive ear to the needs of his fellow citizens of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

The throne speech again shows that the voters of Rosemont—Petite-Patrie were right in their choice. By electing a representative of the Bloc Quebecois, they have made sure that any threat to the democratic interests of the Quebec people will be condemned. With their support solidly behind me, I rise today in the House of Commons to react strongly to the thinly veiled desire of the government across the way to put Quebecers back in their place.

My fellow citizens who still had any doubt could see in this speech that the Liberals have dropped the commitment they made in the 1995 referendum to recognize Quebec as a distinct society. They dropped this description of Quebec because Canadians felt it gave too much to Quebec. Rather, they adopted the notion of unique character proposed in Calgary. So they want to force Quebeckers to choose between being like Pacific salmon or facing the threats of plan B.

Never has a government in a Speech from the Throne so openly questioned Quebec's right to decide its future alone. Naturally, after the action taken in the supreme court, it would be surprising if the government were to change its tune and try to accommodate Quebec.

The Prime Minister said during his address on the Speech from the Throne that elections were fascinating, that they provided him with the opportunity to meet Canadians of all walks. He said that the dreams and aspirations of young Canadians were a source of inspiration for him.

Today I would like to say to him that young Quebecers dream of freedom and aspire to sovereignty. Nothing in the government's legislative agenda meets the political expectations of the young people of Quebec.

This throne speech is an outstanding example of a strategy for centralization. After slashing budgets for health care, education and social services in Quebec and the provinces, this government now claims to be concerned about the well-being of our citizens. In fact, this is just the logical continuation of a long federal offensive to interfere in areas of provincial jurisdiction.

My colleagues previously condemned many examples of this interference in the throne speech. I would rather use the time I am allowed today to discuss a matter of the utmost importance to members of my generation.

Protecting our environment is important to all of us and it is a matter of concern for Quebeckers. I was astonished to see this government allowed this important question, the environment, only two short paragraphs. And since this government is extremely vague about its intentions and would rather not discuss its far from outstanding record in this area, I would like to recall some of the main points.

The Liberals have often claimed that their strategy for the environment was a perfect example of enlightened, open and decentralized federalism. However, during the previous mandate, they had no compunction about tabling bills that were a direct intrusion in the jurisdiction of Quebec. There are plenty of examples.

First of all, the Environmental Assessment Act, which came into effect during the previous mandate, impinges directly on provincial responsibilities and in many ways duplicates Quebec's legislation in this area.

Then this government tabled a bill to replace the existing Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The proposed legislation would once again have given the federal government greater power to interfere in order to protect the marine environment and reduce atmospheric pollution, to name just two sectors.

Finally, this government tabled a bill for the protection of endangered species. Enforcement of this legislation could have been extended to provincially held land, and all provincial environmental ministers opposed it. This government rejected the amendments suggested by the Bloc Quebecois to uphold the provinces' jurisdiction.

Returning to the throne speech, I read and reread it, but did not find a single line telling us what this government intends to do with these two bills, which died on the Order Paper in the last Parliament. I am, however, pleased to note that the throne speech raised the problem of the emission of greenhouse gases. I am still, however, trying to find out exactly where the government stands on this issue.

I do not need to remind anybody that, in under two months, this same government will be representing Canada and Quebec at the international conference on greenhouse gases in Kyoto. With only two months to go, there is still no news on where Canada stands on this issue. Worse yet, it looks like the Liberals want to develop the entire Canadian policy on greenhouse gases behind closed doors. This would perhaps be less disturbing if the government's track record in this area were not so disastrous.

In 1992, in Rio, the Canadian government made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the 1990 level by the year 2000. In addition, in 1995, the Liberal government repeated this commitment at the Berlin conference on climate change. On that occasion, it introduced a framework of voluntary measures in its national action plan regarding climate change in Canada.

What must be pointed out is that the most recent data, including those from Environment Canada, show that Canada has not respected its commitments. In fact, the Royal Society of Canada estimates that, in the year 2000, greenhouse gas emissions will exceed the 1990 reference level by 9.5 percent.

It is not surprising therefore that the former environment minister tacitly admitted before the UN Commission on Sustainable Development last April that Canada was falling short in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, Canada is still lagging behind OECD countries as a whole.

This government must now stiffen its resolve and meet its responsibilities. The consequences of global warming are too serious to be taken lightly. Also, we must bear in mind the economic implications of the commitments that will be made in Kyoto. In that sense, it seems unacceptable to me that the position that will be put forward as Canada's position be taken by a mere handful of Liberals and senior civil servants.

We are dealing with an environmental, political and technological problem that leaves no room for improvisation. In that context, I am puzzled by the priorities of a government which, in its Speech from the Throne, seemed to give as much importance to celebrating the coming of the next millennium as to the challenge of global warming that faces humanity.

The young people in Quebec want to build a fair and responsible society, while at the same time taking an active part in the great international currents of the third millennium, and they want to do so with all the tools available to a normal country or society. That is why we are convinced that sovereignty is the only option for the future of Quebec.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Hélène Alarie Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I endorse, with great pride, what my hon. colleague just said.

He spoke of his generation and we, who are of an older generation shall I say, share the same concerns and feel more acutely the urgency of finding a solution to these problems. He discussed at length the greenhouse gas issue, but that is not the only issue.

It is very important that all that is done be done under the national urisdiction, without affecting all that comes under provincial jurisdiction. I must say that one of the Quebec government's priorities is indeed to protect the environment. I consider that we have gone far enough in that direction to know something about agriculture, for instance. We have exceeded by far every national standard and do not wish to lag behind, but at the same time we expect a great deal of transparency in that area.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it was clearly shown in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development that we in the Bloc want to improve our environment. We think that Quebec, like Canada, is an ecosystem and that the provinces and Quebec are capable of establishing their own standards and environmental policies.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member speaks of commitment to democracy. He is committed to the democratic process or he states so. The hon. member seems very focused on protecting democracy. If he is telling the truth, I ask will he break ranks with his party and respect the majority of Quebeckers as they demonstrated in the last referendum? Democracy has spoken, sir, will you listen?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I remind hon. members that it is necessary to address the Chair. And of course it is assumed that all members in the House are always telling the truth.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think perhaps it would be appropriate to recall some of Quebec's recent history.

I would point out that, in 1980, a referendum was held in Quebec on that question and, as far as I know, the Government of Quebec honoured the choice of the majority of Quebeckers.

I would also point out that, in 1995, another referendum was held. Even if the sovereignists lost the battle by 50,000 votes, we are a democracy, and the Government of Quebec is democratic. It honoured the democratic choice of Quebeckers. In this respect, I hope the Government of Canada will honour the results of the next referendum, because Quebec has always been a democratic nation.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Rosemont. He is a quality replacement for Benoît Tremblay, a member of Parliament who represented Quebec in the past. I am particularly proud to see that young people are providing reinforcements to the sovereignist ranks.

We have been trying to find a solution for twenty years. We have tried every way to get Canada to budge. In the end, the only way will be for Quebeckers to accord a political mandate.

I would ask the member for Rosemont what he would like most to be achieved at the end of this mandate so that, when he leaves Parliament, he can say “mission accomplished” to all Quebeckers.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think young Quebeckers are joining the legitimate march of the people of Quebec in the course of their history. Young people in Quebec have always believed in the political action of the people of Quebec in its history.

The best indicator of the future, as all the polls show, are the results of the 1995 referendum, which were clear. What young Quebeckers want is to be part of the changes that are happening now in Quebec, but the only way we can fully achieve our collective destiny is by becoming sovereign.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first words I speak in this House are directed to those who supported me from the very beginning and believed in me. In Longueuil, we proved that when people want something, when they put all their energy into a plan in which they believe and a dream they cherish, the combined strength of these individuals can move mountains.

I want to thank those who give me their encouragement, support and advice during the last election campaign, so that I could come here to represent them. I want to thank all the volunteers who worked so hard to ensure that the riding of Longueuil is once again represented in the House of Commons by the only party that looks after their interests and has done so since 1993, the Bloc Quebecois.

To all those men and women who put their trust in me, especially my family and my husband, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also thank the people of Longueuil who voted for the youngest woman in this Parliament. Today I want to reiterate my commitment to serving and representing them to the best of my ability and with the utmost dedication.

I also want to thank my friends among the hearing impaired whom it is always a pleasure to meet. Today I want to confirm my commitment to working for the deaf. It is an honour and a privilege to salute them.

I was curious to read the throne speech, and I was disappointed when I read it a second time. The only conclusion I could draw is the message sent to Quebec: Be satisfied with a centralist Canada as it is now. Otherwise, it will be plan B.

After repeating this message for months and after it was almost unanimously criticized by Quebec, the Prime Minister has come back again, with the same centralist message, this time in writing, saying he thinks he knows what is best for Quebec.

Is the Prime Minister again trying to scare Quebeckers? Is he trying to make Quebecers accept the “lesser of two evils”? Never before did a throne speech contain such direct threats to Quebec's right to determine its own future.

Quebeckers will never agree to be satisfied with the “lesser of two evils”, much less with the alternative, which we all realize consists in making Quebec go along with the centralist vision of the Liberals and give up its historical expectations.

Yet I would not be honest if I did not admit that I agree with one point which passed virtually unnoticed in the torrent of words in the throne speech. I interpret it as a surprise overture coming from our friends across the way.

As everyone is well aware, what we representatives of the Bloc Quebecois want is a country for the year 2000. That we have never hidden. Now, in reading the throne speech to keep myself awake between coffees, I see in black and white that the federal government is prepared to form a partnership with the Quebec government to celebrate the new millennium.

Of course we will have suggestions of activities to submit to the government, and we may even perhaps send an invitation to the head of state of the next country to come celebrate the new millennium with us in Quebec. That is the least partners can do, celebrate with pomp and circumstance the occasion of an event as important as the arrival of a new country among the nations.

I am pleased to accept the idea of the Canadian Prime Minister and I invite him to Quebec three years from now. We will drink a toast to the new economic partnership between Quebec and Canada.

With the exception of this small overture, what can be seen clearly in this speech is the federal government's stubborn determination not to recognize the legitimate right of Quebec to decide its own future. The federal government even seems to want to reserve the right to draft and impose its referendum question during the next referendum. One wonders whether the referendum ballot will have a red maple leaf printed at the top.

What I find most upsetting in this speech is that the sovereignist movement's proposal is misrepresented by the excessive repetition of the word “partnership” when what is meant is interference, overlap and costly duplication. You will agree that this is not the same thing as the real economic partnership we are proposing to Canada. We are used to seeing this government glibly twist any proposal coming from Quebec. They have outdone themselves in the bad faith department.

At this point in my speech, I would like to turn to a subject of great interest to me and one that my party has entrusted me with defending: the status of women.

First of all, I would like to express my surprise and disappointment at the throne speech's complete silence on women's concerns. Nothing in this speech has women in mind. Worse yet, no one is speaking about them or for them. The government has not even taken the trouble to “feminize” the text. My search for some reference to women netted only one occurrence, in the very first line of the speech, where the Governor General tells us how happy he and his wife were to welcome Her Majesty the Queen last June. Need I say more?

If this is the best our political system can do for women, I can tell you that we have our work cut out for us.

In case he is listening, I would like to remind the Prime Minister some facts about the most beautiful country in the world and the best country in the world to live in, as he likes to say. In Canada, women hold 75 percent of the ten lowest paying jobs; 36 percent of women work part time, because they are unable to find full time jobs. In 1996, Canadian women earned 73 percent of what their male colleagues made. Moreover, 57.3 percent of single mothers with children under 18 years of age live in poverty.

Need I go on about the tragic plight of women in the most beautiful country in the world and the best country in the world to live in? The government must realize that it is women who are paying the price for the cuts made in recent years.

The cost-cutting measures taken by this government were felt more deeply by women than by any other group in our society. The government does not seem to be too upset, since nothing is provided for women in the throne speech.

Today, the government has a duty to do something to help women because, in addition to the numerous cuts, the government also reduced by some 26 percent funding for women's programs, which were already operating on a shoestring budget. The government has got its priorities wrong. Ideally, women should get a little more to make up for what they lost.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the women who preceded us and who worked so that, today, the situation has improved somewhat, thanks to the many battles they fought. We have come a long way, but the road ahead is still a long one.

Thanks to these women, some progress was made regarding equity, including the “equal pay for equal work” principle. I thought the government had understood the meaning of this principle when it passed its pay equity legislation, in 1977. Unfortunately, it was just wishful thinking.

Given all this, you will agree with Canadian women in saying that, if the Liberals really want a just society, as they claim to in their speech, they forgot to show that they are concerned with economic equality for women, otherwise they would have acted differently.

I have always felt that my environment, my way of being, my education, my language, which make up my culture, make me a Quebecker. Therefore, you can understand my disarray when the Liberal government arrogantly claims there is no Quebec culture. I always thought culture was the nourishing element of a people. My people is being insulted whenever such remarks are made.

Worse still, the federal government is now holding accountable the major Canadian cultural institutions which funded sovereignist Quebec artists. We recently learned that Telefilm Canada refused, for political reasons, to provide financing for Pierre Falardeau's film on the Patriotes. This is a tragic decision for all Quebeckers, but the government does not care, because the Quebec culture obviously does not exist.

As you know, I am a young person. But do you know that the plight of young people is a source of concern, particularly the high rate of unemployment and poverty? In 1997, just barely one young person out of two has a full or part time job.

At this point, allow me to make a short digression and to offer my most sincere condolences to the families and friends of the four teenagers who recently committed suicide in my riding. I want to assure them that I will support any initiative to prevent young people from committing suicide. To all those affected by this ultimate act of despair, my thoughts are with you.

To conclude on a happier note, I would like to repeat the line which the late Doris Lussier, an artist who made Longueuil his home, often quoted from the great writer Félix-Antoine Savard “I have much more to do than to worry about the future: I must work toward it”.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Reform

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments. I understand the emotional aspect of her speech, particularly at the end. I think all of us in Canada can identify with these kinds of circumstances and we realize they are something we all have in common. However, I would like to ask the hon. member a question.

In her speech, which was very fine, she said the best country in the world in which to live and then went on to talk about Canada. I would certainly agree with her.

However, why does the member and her party, in light of that kind of statement which I believe we both find to be true, continue to attempt to break up the best country in the world? The words of the old proverb are true, united we stand, divided we fall.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, we, in Quebec, are misunderstood. I quoted the Prime Minister who said that Canada was “the best country in the world in which to live”. We, however, believe that Quebec is, not Canada. Sorry.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express to my hon. colleague from Longueuil that when it comes to issues such as the environment, suicide and pay equity she can be assured that I and my colleagues will assist her in any way we can in order to get the necessary funding and the help required in order to meet those needs.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague.

It is indeed comforting to know that we can count on our colleagues. The fact is that, to further any human cause, people have to work together.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by the compassionate and passionate speech by the member for Longueuil.

I appreciate her comments about women. I think she would know that all of us in this House welcome members who are women. We made much in the last Parliament about there being more women representatives than in any previous Parliament. I am not sure whether that is true of the 36th, but I believe it is. I believe that the hon. member's party has been instrumental in improving that ratio.

I have no difficulty in acknowledging that Quebec has a culture. The member said that Quebec was its culture and it is what made a people but that somebody did not seem to recognize that. I would suggest that many of us recognize that. I certainly recognize it and I applaud it.

I wonder whether the member is not being a little hard on everyone else in that the premiers in Calgary indicated that the other provinces in this country believe there is a distinct culture and a unique character to Quebec.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague across the way.

I think he should have a word with his own colleagues. As far as pay equity is concerned at leat, if he really has the cause of women at heart, I think he should sit down with the minister—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today speaking on the Speech from the Throne that this government gave to the country outlining the government's policies and the government's priorities leading into the next millennium.

The Speech from the Throne is a product of work done not only by the bureaucrats but also by members of Parliament, backbenchers and by members of the Liberal Party who have worked in little policy groups across this country bringing forward ideas and bringing forward priorities with which they feel the government should set its policies.

All governments that bring forward their priorities and policies in speeches from the throne do so within the fiscal framework that the country faces at any given time. When we first started as a government in 1993 our priorities were set by the fact that at that time we faced a $42 billion deficit. Anything we did, any ideas we could bring forward always had to be tempered by the fact that the government was spending $42 billion more than it was taking in.

That was one of the first priorities that our government in 1993 went after. I feel we succeeded. We succeeded in bringing that deficit down to a point where in 1998-99 there will no longer be any deficit.

Had I promised in 1993 that we would be able to do that, I do not think I would have believed it myself, but we have done it. Now we can move forward. We have a dividend and I believe our party and our policies over the next five years will be to help Canadians, the Canadians who have had to pay the price so that we could get that high deficit under control.

Indeed it is our responsibility now to move forward and to recognize that young Canadians, old Canadians, seniors, children, Canadians who have had to pay the price get some of the benefits from this dividend. That is what this Speech from the Throne tries to do.

As members know, unemployment has been one of the problems facing not only this government but governments around the world. Youth unemployment is certainly far too high. If we look at the numbers over the last three years, the economists say that we have created over a million jobs in our last mandate. I see that as a priority this time and it is a priority in the Speech from the Throne to do that.

I want to take not only my constituents who are listening but all Canadians through the Speech from the Throne. I encourage them all to pick up a copy—they can call their member of Parliament's office—and read the speech from the throne because it is what their government is going to be doing over the next five years. I think it is important that they read it for themselves rather than listen to our colleagues across the way who somewhat filter it.

I find it surprising that my colleagues on the other side of the House would be scared that Canadians would actually pick up the Speech from the Throne and read it. They should be proud of it because it sets out an agenda for the next millennium.

As I said, speeches from the throne are always set up by any government due to the fiscal situation. Certainly all Canadians recognize that the economy has turned around. The economy is starting to grow.

One of the problems in this country, and it has been a problem for some time and has been mentioned in this House over the last few hours, is the whole question of national unity. There are different approaches to the question of national unity and how the government should respond to the problem.

We listen to what our colleague from British Columbia in the other House has been saying about this country. One wonders, given her long history with the former Conservative government, why she would try to grab headlines at the expense of a nation. I find it very shameful.

I might as well at the same time remind our colleagues at the other end, the NDP, I also find it shameful that somebody would stand in this House and try to one up the Conservative Party, try to grab the stage on national unity in British Columbia at the expense of a country. It is not the way to do it. It is not the way to build a strong country.

I believe we set out in the Speech from the Throne the way to do it. We should co-operate. We should work with the premiers and the territorial leaders in bringing together those areas that can be worked on. We have seen the work done in Calgary by the premiers and the territorial leaders. We have seen this government go from province to province to province consulting on the best way to do it. That is right.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Boring.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

I get calls across the way that it may be boring. Well I do not think so. I do not think a long concerted effort to try to save this country is boring. I do not agree with the approach of the last government which was to build some national consensus through the media on a constitutional decision, roll the dice and that is the way to solve the problem.

I think this approach that we have taken in the Speech from the Throne is a serious approach. From what we have seen in recent polls taken in Quebec and in the co-operation shown across this country in areas such as child care and health care, this country can work. I do not think we need to make constitutional changes to make that work.

I support and continue to call on all members of this House to take this issue seriously and to work with their respective premiers or territorial leaders in making sure that the proposals put forward are understood and are a reflection of what Canadians want in a country.

One of the problems outlined in the Speech from the Throne, which is a serious problem, is the whole question of children and children living in poverty. We certainly need to put more effort into that.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Cut taxes.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Yes, we have balanced the budget. The hon. member says to cut taxes. I totally agree that is one of the best approaches we should have to this problem. But there are serious problems in this country that need to be addressed, that cannot be addressed by saying we can solve them just by reducing taxes. There are investments in our future, in our children that this government needs to make. It is important that the Reform Party recognizes that.

There are many children living in poverty. There is a role not only for private business but there is a role specifically for government to be involved in solving these problems. That is why we have decided in the Speech from the Throne to establish centres of excellence, why we have expanded the aboriginal head start program.

I know the hon. member across the way mentioned the fact that we mentioned aboriginals in the Speech from the Throne eight or ten times. They are an important aspect of this country I remind the hon. member. If his party would recognize that, we might have a better way of working together in this country.

The present minister of aboriginal affairs has done an exemplary job of working together with aboriginal communities in trying to solve some of the problems. There are enormous problems on reserves in this country and the Reform Party should recognize that rather than just trying to bring aboriginal communities and aboriginal peoples down.

On quality health care, the Speech from the Throne talks about the importance of health care in our society. We have indicated that now we have brought the economy under control and we are now going to have a dividend that a lot of this dividend will be put toward health care.

Because my allotted time is ending, I will wrap up, Mr. Speaker. I believe all Canadians should take a look at the Speech from the Throne. It is important for all Canadians to call their members of Parliament to get a copy to understand where the government is going and how we plan to take this country into the next millennium.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to ask the hon. member a question or two, or three, or four.

One thing I am really getting tired of is hearing all the warm fuzzy talk. Yes it is true the deficit has come down. That is really good. But the member nor anyone else on that side of the House ever mentions for a moment that they have just added over $100 billion to the national debt. Servicing that debt is now the hugest chunk of the pie that it takes to operate the business of this land. They brag about those kinds of things. They boast and boast, yet they never mention anything about that huge black cloud called the national debt.

The member talked about the aboriginal people. He made some comments about what the throne speech said about that. In 1993 in my riding the Stony reserve had programs in place that were doing good work for a lot of the aboriginal people. In 1997 those programs are gone. There is no help at all. They have just disappeared.

The hon. member is not talking about all the things that are disappearing. He is talking about all the warm fuzzy stuff that the government is doing.

I would suggest to the hon. member that if he is going to send out the throne speech to every Canadian throughout the land it might be a good idea. It could be the magic cure for insomnia.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the electoral system never ceases to amaze me.

The hon. member talks about the deficit. I can understand the hon. member's real concern because that was their policy. Their policy was to bring it under control and these spendthrift Liberals as they call us could never do it. Well we did it. We brought it under control. We made a commitment in the red book to make sure of that and because we now have a dividend we can turn some of that toward the national debt.

At the same time I cannot see how the hon. member cannot recognize that Canadians helped to pay so that we could get this deficit under control. They should be able to reap some of the benefits now that it is under control.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

If the hon. member would listen he would know that I specifically said it was in the red book. If the member would like a copy, I would be glad to send him over one.

We plan to take half that dividend and put it toward the debt. It makes common sense to do it that way, and not the whole lot.

I think Canadians deserve to get a little back for all their hard work in helping us to get the deficit under control.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech made by the hon. member opposite, and remember previous speeches of his. I know that, in his riding, there are tobacco producers, whose interests he tried to defend in the past.

I was critic on tobacco in the last Parliament. A promise was made just before the election campaign regarding the anti-tobacco legislation that did not find its way into the throne speech. We were told that the legislation would be amended as soon as possible with regard to international car races. The Prime Minister said so, but I have read nothing to that effect on the throne speech and, so far, the Minister of Health has not said a word about this commitment.

This is of serious concern to me, not so much for producers as for sport and cultural events. A recent study conducted in the Quebec City area shod that every dollar invested in the Quebec summer festival, for instance, generated $8 in tax revenues and so on for the federal government.

I would like to hear him on that. Will he made representations to the Minister of Health to have the legislation changed?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the hon. member was just making a point. He might want to address that in a question during question period to the Minister of Health.

He is right that in my area I represent about 90 percent of the tobacco growers in the country. I always make sure they are represented.

I know the Reform Party has never supported tobacco growers. I know it has a hard time recognizing that tobacco growers are legitimate formers with a legitimate right to farm.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today in support of the government's Speech from the Throne.

Let me begin by saying that it is a pleasure to be back in the House on behalf of the people of Cambridge, Kitchener, Ayr and North Dumfries.

Before I go any further I would like to thank my family, my staff, Betty, Stan, Elizabete, Debbie and Stevie in the riding office, as well as all my supporters, all the people who were involved in the election campaign on June 2, 1997.

As I have said on many occasions, in my riding I am the servant of the people. My constituents are my priority and I promise never to lose sight of that.

On June 2 the people of Canada put their faith in the hands of the Liberal government for the second time in four years. The results on election night were a strong indication that Canadians have faith in the direction the government was taking them. They were pleased that we had won the war against the deficit, that the unemployment rate had dropped by over 2 percent and that 974,000 jobs were created by September 1997.

Canadians also expressed confidence in the government's commitment to the protection of social programs on June 2. The Speech from the Throne reaffirmed the commitment of the Liberal government to issues that matter to all Canadians: jobs, health care, safe streets and national unity.

As we enter the 21st century the government will begin to reinvest the fiscal dividends that will come from the elimination of the deficit. We will do so in a responsible manner by applying one half of any budgetary surplus to the social and economic needs of Canadians and the other half to tax reduction and the national debt.

We will not act in the wasteful manner that the opposition parties would have everyone believe. After all, why would we plunge the nation back into bankruptcy after we have worked so hard to free it from the deficit burden? It makes absolutely no sense.

Among the most important initiatives announced in the Speech from the Throne were those that focused on the youth of our nation. Our youth are the future of Canada, which is why the government is committed to the national child benefit system announced this past spring.

There are centres for excellence to advance our understanding of the needs of children, the millennium scholarship endowment fund to help students secure a post-secondary education, an extension of the internship program to give youth needed work experience, enhanced funding for student summer placement, and a Canada-wide mentorship program.

Social programs have always been a priority of the government. That is why in the area of health care the Minister of Health reconfirmed in his speech of this morning that the government was committed to health care.

In other efforts to protect our social programs the government has introduced an amendment to the Canada pension plan and the new seniors benefit to ensure the sustainability of Canada's pension plan system. I applaud this initiative.

Some members may remember that in 1994 I introduced a private member's bill that proposed numerous changes to the current pension system. More needs to be done. I am pleased to see that some of my recommendations have been incorporated in amendments introduced by the Minister of Finance, in particular the establishment of an agency that would operate at arm's length from the government to manage the pension fund.

This initiative will give Canadians greater confidence in their pension system. Based on the research I have conducted in preparing my bill, it became apparent that CPP premiums would have to be increased if the pension system were to survive. That is one of the reasons the amendments before the House are calling for an increase in premiums. This is being done to ensure that our children will receive a pension under the CPP. I am confident we will be successful.

The throne speech also outlined the government's commitment to public safety. This area is a priority for me. I will continue to press the government to adopt stricter measures for the deportation of serious criminals who are not citizens of the country. I will do so by reintroducing the immigration enforcement improvement act, my private member's bill that died at committee when the House was dissolved in the spring.

Before I conclude I will touch on the issue of national unity. The government commitment to keeping the country united was quite clear in the throne speech. We must work to strengthen and unite the country by joining in the common purpose of keeping Canada one of the best places in the world in which to live.

I travelled recently to Asia and through most of Europe, and I can say this is absolutely the best country in the world. We have an excellent standard of living, a beautiful nation, warm and compassionate citizens, and a booming economy. We must do all we can to preserve that in the future.

Just recently ComDev, a company in my Cambridge riding, announced that it would be participating in a joint venture with an Ottawa company to establish a high tech research and development centre in Hull, Quebec. This new company, Spacebridge, will hire approximately 200 employees over the next four years.

In a recent CBC interview ComDev CEO, Val O'Donovan, indicated that he decided to venture into Hull when many others were leaving because “people who have good, exciting jobs are less likely to get involved with marching up and down whether it is labour, political or whatever kind of cause”.

We must not be afraid to reach out to our Quebec neighbours, and that is exactly what ComDev is doing. There is also another company from my riding that opened a plant in Quebec, Arriscraft.

I recently returned from Bosnia-Hercegovina where tensions still run deep. Its economy is in shambles. The one time beauty of the country has been destroyed. Coming home to Canada I realized yet again how truly lucky we are to live in such a wonderful nation.

I urge all Canadians to join me in doing whatever we can to preserve the best country and the best nation in the world.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to see you again.

I want to congratulate the member on his re-election. I am aware of his commitment to international causes. I was very aware of the congratulations he directed to the company in his riding, when it decided to do business in Hull. It gives me an opportunity to enlighten him from a slightly different perspective on his understanding of the Quebec problem.

Is the member aware and would he acknowledge that for at least 40 years there has been a succession of governments in Quebec, each more legitimate than the last, which has given rise to the process of constitutional review. Should the member take the trouble—if he ever has the time, the desire or the interest—he could no doubt come up with a list of the demands made by the various governments on language, fisheries or immigration. There are some thirty of them.

Would the hon. member be prepared to admit that, since Quebec is the only francophone province in this part of North America, for his government to consider all provinces equal would be absolutely suicidal, deadly and incompatible with the survival of Quebec?

Would he be prepared to rise in his place and say that, because Quebeckers are French speakers in North America, his government can no longer talk of homogeneity, because such talk would essentially put an end to any future for Quebec.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and questions.

I am aware there are Quebeckers and Ontarians. I am aware there are anglophones and francophones in the province of Quebec. I know there are francophones in Ontario as well as in New Brunswick, and I treat them and respect them as Canadians.

I respect the French culture and language. I know that it is different from other cultures, but many other cultures make this country the best.

My cultural background is different from my colleagues, by my choice. I am contributing my culture to make this country better and stronger. I believe we can work together. We have challenges before us. We do not have problems, we have challenges. If we work together we can overcome those challenges.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think it was probably wise to let the Bloc member go first because I was a little animated. Now I am all cooled down and I can give a nice calm response to the speech.

I am getting so sick and tired of hearing the Liberals talk about their financial success. I thought of an analogy. I happen to be a motorcyclist. I am driving along and there is a big truck stopped in the middle of the lane in front of me. I am going at 100 kilometres and hour and I am still accelerating. Instead of going at 100 kilometres an hour as I approach this truck, I begin to speed up at a slower rate. In other words, I was going 50, 60, 70, 80 and now, instead of going 90 and 100 as I come to the truck, I only go up to 85, and then 90 and 95. That is what is happening with our debt.

These Liberals do not like to talk about the debt. They only talk about the deficit because they are speeding up at a slower rate. It is annoying that they will not come clean with Canadians and say what they are really doing. I do not know how we can get them to smarten up and tell the truth to Canadians.

I want to say one more thing and then I will let the member respond.

They keep talking about spending, spending, spending. I wonder if any of them know how much surplus they need. They are bragging about bringing the deficit down from $40 billion to $20 billion, $17 billion, $15 billion, $10 billion or whatever it is. We need a surplus of $51 billion a year for 25 years to pay off the debt. That is how big the surplus has to be and these goons are talking about—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Cambridge, a brief response, please.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will use an analogy also.

The difference between the Liberal philosophy and the commitment we made during the last election campaign and the Reform and other parties is this. They want to cut, cut, cut so fast that they would bleed the country to death.

The left side wants to spend, but we do not have it.

We made a commitment in the election campaign and we will keep that commitment. It has been approved by Canadians.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

It is a great honour and privilege for me to be here speaking to members today about the people of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia whom I am here to represent.

As I am sure is the case with everyone present, there were burning issues which compelled me to run for office and to take my place here. I will try to spell out some of those issues.

Before becoming a member of Parliament I made my living as an Atlantic playwright and film writer. I will become a cultural worker again when the time comes for me to leave here. Until that time I will use whatever communication skills I have to fight for the interests of the people of Dartmouth as their member of Parliament.

Dartmouth is a community of 70,000-plus souls on the Atlantic coast, which is now part of a larger amalgamated region including Halifax, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding regions. It is a community proud of its maritime traditions, its military contributions, its rich culture, its deep harbour and its 21 lakes.

The M'kmaq were the first people to come to its shores. My riding is also home to some of the oldest African-Canadian communities in Canada.

It is a community filled with hard working, straight ahead people who are proud of their contributions to Canadian society.

In the last four years the people of Dartmouth have been beaten up by the heavy handed cuts to the civil service in this country. Massive increases in unemployment, and they have been massive in Atlantic Canada, have left thousands of families affected.

No less an authority than the former premier of Nova Scotia in his speech to the Empire Club last winter said that 16 percent of all federal spending cuts had fallen on Nova Scotia, a province with about 3 percent of the country's population.

Marine biologists, scientists, librarians, teachers, health care workers, radio and film producers, thousands and thousands of important community strengthening jobs have disappeared in the interests of balancing the budget.

Every home I visited during the federal campaign has somehow been hurt by the cuts to the public sector. Is this progress? The workers of Dartmouth, and they are hard workers, have been rocked by another grim reality.

Thousands of civilians military workers have been affected by the government's policies to shove anything that moves into the private sector. Somehow the private sector is by definition more effective and more efficient.

Through a process called ASD, alternate service delivery, every function which now exists in the civilian military workforce is earmarked for privatization. Thousands of good paying, important community strengthening jobs again are being put on the chopping block and then put out to tender to the lowest bidder.

Presto, the jobs are reincarnated only with lower wages, no security and twice the workload. Since my election, dozens of civilian workers have approached me and asked that I fight for their rights for a decent salary, for job security in the face of privatization.

I am not sure whether Canadians are aware that the military of this country has made a decision to privatize all its functions. I do not know whether they know the same thing is happening in the national parks, their hospitals, their health care system.

Is this what Canadians want? Have we really thought about these things carefully? I do not believe so. Everywhere I look in my community I see people much poorer and more insecure than they were five years ago.

I see struggling families dealing with unemployment or waiting for the axe to fall. Is it not time that we started to talk about the sad state of work in this country?

In the Speech from the Throne we talked about the surplus which now exists in the treasury but we did not hear about how it was brought about. It was brought about by cutting the legs out from under the workers who were doing important jobs in their communities.

It was brought about by decimating longstanding meaningful community infrastructures which have given us pride and a sense of ourselves and where we come from.

I was at an event in my riding not long ago, the Dartmouth North community centre activity day. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. There were hundreds of children running around with face paint and hotdogs screaming with glee as they knocked someone off the chair into the dunk tank. It was a perfect picture.

There are a lot of children in North Dartmouth and I think 99 percent of them were there that day, but the lives of many of the Dartmouth children and families are far from perfect. In fact, 25 percent of child protection cases in Nova Scotia are in Dartmouth.

Why is that? Why are so many of our young people at risk? Instead of trusting wholly in the vision put forward by the business section of the Globe and Mail I sometimes seek out other sources such as the National Anti-Poverty Organization.

This is what it says about what is happening in this country. From the latest statistics I learned that an estimated 4.941 million, almost one Canadian in six, were living below the poverty line. About 40 percent of the people being served by Canada's food banks are children under the age of 18.

More than 25 percent of Canada's homeless are children and, despite cheerful words to the contrary in the Speech from the Throne, it is not getting any better.

The impact of the Canada health and social transfer is just starting to take effect like a slow release time bomb. The poor, the disabled, the children, the aged and the ill are all bearing the brunt of less money, less commitment to such things as public health, public education and the whole concept of community.

Where I come from there is an angry and demoralized group of crossing guards working for $5.50 an hour because the amalgamated city, which was supposed to be a money saver, has no money to pay them a decent wage. Imagine, the crossing guards, the people who are entrusted to protect our most precious loved ones, our children, are not being paid a living wage. Is that progress?

There are fewer police on the streets, fewer teachers in the classrooms and fewer nurses in the hospitals but there are a whole lot more people being pensioned off who still want to be working and contributing to their communities.

It is moribund and shameful to see the latest statistics on arts funding and realize that the only area of growth this year was in public broadcasting due to an increase in the area of severance pay. Is this progress? I would say not.

We are having a crisis of work in this country. We now have thousands of people in my community who are unemployed or underemployed and undervalued. We now have thousands of Nova Scotia university graduates carrying debtloads of up to $20,000 without any hope of getting work or if they do they are cobbling together a living on a string of minimum wage jobs. We have a crisis of work in this country.

There are desperate young people coming into my office who are being hounded by collection agencies to pay off their student loans. One young woman was fired from a good job and a job that she loved because she was being harassed by a loan agency that did not think she was coming up with the goods fast enough. Her employer let her go because he did not want to have to field phone calls from thugs any longer.

If I had the time and the genius of a playwright like Arthur Miller I would write a play about this incredible scenario. The theme of it would be right up there with “Death of a Salesman” in terms of human tragedy. Yet we are being told that the good times are back.

In the Speech from the Throne we hear that we have a surplus and the next big debate for us to concern ourselves with is how to spend it. Should we cut taxes here or there or should we drop a little into our programs? There is no talk whatsoever about the horrible human and social deficits which have been created in communities like mine by the policies of the government.

Perhaps that is not surprising. In the Speech from the Throne, as we all stood in the Senate Chamber listening to the governor general present the flowery words of the government, I was struck by the different realities within these walls and without.

There in the Senate Chamber there was no sense of need or desperation, no sense that so many people out there are stretched to the limit. This was a warm, rich and prosperous place, a place of plenty. At meetings we are supplied with tables filled with fruits and croissants, melons, grapes and strawberries. Raise your hand in the House of Commons and a page immediately brings you a glass of water.

My esteemed Metis colleague and seatmate from Saskatchewan said something with regard to the incredible discord that we see in the House of Commons on a daily basis. He suggested the whole structure of the place is wrong, that maybe we should be moving across to the Library of Parliament which is round. Perhaps we should all sit in a circle and try to move this group of warring factions into some unity. Perhaps we should use the methods of the First Nations people to try to fix the disunity of this country and this Parliament.

I would like to work with all members of the House of Commons to fix the deep and widening gaps in our society. I make that pledge. I offer this challenge to all of you. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you today.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on her maiden speech. It was very good. Congratulations and welcome to this place.

There are a couple of quick things I would like to ask the member. I toured her riding around the Dartmouth area and that is one of the prettiest places in Canada. She is very fortunate to be in such a place.

During my tour there I had conversations with a lot of people. I would like to know if the hon. member could disclose to me what the people in her riding are saying regarding the merging of the GST and the PST. Could she tell me what they are saying to her in regard to crime and the justice system? I talked to a number of people and I know what they told me. I would like to see how our stories match up.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, the people of Dartmouth and of Nova Scotia are very concerned with the blended sales tax which is the son of the GST. We would like to see it removed. We think it is a very unfair tax that hits consumers and low income earners. It hits people when they are paying for diapers and heating oil, although it does not hit people when they are paying for $400 suits. We think it is an unfair tax and we will be fighting to have it eliminated.

I am not exactly sure what the member's question is regarding the justice system so I am afraid I will have to ask for clarification, if the hon. member wants to do so.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member wants to do so, but I am not sure the Chair will allow him to. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Dartmouth on her inaugural speech in the House of Commons. She mentioned something that is of concern to a lot of people right across the country wherever there are Canadian Armed Forces bases. For instance, I know there are people in Shiloh, Manitoba who have made similar representations to me about the alternative service delivery.

I am sure many other members have had similar representations about the way in which we see being replicated now by the national defence department an ideological drive over the last 10 or 15 years whereby people who had good paying jobs in the public sector are losing those jobs by virtue of privatization, contracting out or alternative service delivery, to use fancier words.

The upshot is that these jobs are not disappearing. The work still has to be done. These people either come back to do the work themselves or other people are doing the work for a lot less. We see a trend toward a lower and lower wage economy. It is robbing from many Canadians the ability to have the kind of standard of living that they legitimately expect. Could the member elaborate on that?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have been struck by exactly what my hon. colleague from Winnipeg has been talking about. People who have been working for 20 or 25 years in the civilian military are now being made redundant or are being put on affected status. They are finding that they can no longer depend on even their pensions being honoured. It is causing incredible stress for their families. It is not a situation I would ever want to find my family in and yet there are thousands of families across the country that are being affected that way.

That is all part of the deficit cutting picture presented by the government. I question its morality and effectiveness.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne. This is my first speech in the House of Commons. I am honoured to be here to share my views and to speak on behalf of the people of Winnipeg Centre.

Winnipeg Centre has a great history and tradition of sending social democrats to Ottawa. The seat I am taking in the House of Commons has been held by two of the greatest champions for social justice in our nation's history.

Seventy-six years ago the voters of Winnipeg Centre ignored the fact that the Canadian government wanted to send J.S. Woodsworth to prison for his role in the Winnipeg general strike. Instead they sent him to Parliament. Here he became the leader of what he called the labour group, and the voters of Winnipeg Centre kept re-electing him year after year and that labour group kept getting bigger.

On his death after 20 years in Parliament he was replaced by Stanley Knowles who held this seat until he suffered his stroke in 1981. Cyril Keeper then held this seat until 1988. This past June was cause for national mourning when Stanley Knowles passed away.

J.S. Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles won the admiration of all Canadians for their honesty, their dignity and for their courage. I am pleased that the leaders of all political parties paid tribute to brother Knowles in the House of Commons this past Thursday. Both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition were full of praise. However, there is a danger to this sort of praise.

It is the sort of praise that is used when one wants to bury the cause for which these men fought. We must not only remember these men for their admirable personal qualities, we must remember the ideals that sustained them. I ask the House to listen to these words from J.S. Woodsworth's first speech to the House 75 years ago. He said:

I claim that we have come to a period in the history of our country when we decide once and for all which shall prevail, profits or human welfare. I feel confident that there is a group of men here, new Members of the House, if you will, who have clearly made up their minds that insofar as they decide it, human welfare is to be given the precedence.

There are new members here today, 76 years later, the men and women who make up the NDP caucus who still see this as the key question facing us. It is a question of justice, a question of social justice and it means far more than just the social safety net.

For the past two decades Canadian governments have been tearing apart the social programs that men like Woodsworth, Knowles and Cyril Keeper fought to put in place. Our caucus is going to be fighting to protect what is left of that tattered social safety net.

These words were taken from Stanley Knowles first speech to this Chamber. He said:

Social justice involves a system in which those who toil, being part of the community, own the productive machinery of the nation and therefore receive every day and every month their full and just share of the wealth that they produce.

I regret that last week's Speech from the Throne does not move us any closer to that noble vision.

Like J.S. Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles, I believe that the day will come when nations will be judged not by their military and economic strength, nor by the splendour of their capital cities and public buildings, but by the well-being of their people, by their level of health, nutrition and education, by their opportunities to earn a fair reward for their labour and by the protection that is afforded to the growing minds and bodies of their children. That must and will be the yardstick by which we measure progress and by which we are judged. Society does not move forward unless we all move forward together.

The Speech from the Throne does not address the growing gap in this country between the rich and the poor, between the haves and the have nots. It does nothing to address the need for a more equitable redistribution of wealth in the country. Instead, it relies on an outdated, neo-conservative approach that the free market will provide for all if it is simply left alone. History has shown us otherwise. History has shown us that capital has no conscience.

As a socialist and as a trade unionist I reject the prevailing wisdom that we can no longer afford Canadian social programs. We have endured endless years of cutbacks that have severely affected the lives of the many poor and unemployed Canadians who live in the inner city of Winnipeg.

I do not believe that our deficit problem is a result of overspending on social programs. We spend less on social programs than most developed nations. Our debt and deficit problems are due to a deliberate economic policy of fighting inflation with high interest rates. The predictable and unfortunate consequences of this tight money economic policy have been chronic levels of long term unemployment and spiralling compounding interest on our national debt. I for one am tired of the flat earth society version of our economic problems that we keep hearing from the government and from the official opposition. Their analysis is both false and ultimately dangerous.

Manitoba just went through what has been called the flood of the century. As hard as it was, it could have been very much worse if successive governments had not spent millions of dollars on the Red River floodway diversion system. They knew that money spent on prevention was not money thrown away.

I want to present the government with another flood warning. This time it is not the Red River that is rising, it is the rising tide of desperation in our inner cities. It is the rising tide of poverty and all the consequences of crime, violence, substance abuse, the breakdown of the family.

Just as the blizzard of the century led to the flood of the century, a decade of budget cutting has led to a social crisis and what could amount to a permanent underclass in our society. Rather than investing in the future, the government has opened the floodgates to social disaster.

Common sense dictates that it is time to start investing in flood protection to stem the tide of despair that threatens to sweep away our inner cities and social justice demands it.

I take my seat today, the latest in a long line of people who have been sent to this House by the people of Winnipeg Centre to fight for social justice. As I take my place I am conscious of the honour that is mine. I wish to renew Stanley Knowles' pledge of loyalty to the cause of social justice that J.S. Woodsworth served so well.

I may never fill their shoes but likewise I promise the people of Winnipeg Centre that I will never abandon their cause.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his maiden speech.

While many of us on this side of the House respect the passion with which he speaks, I would state that his thinking is really a factor of the flat earth society of social democratic thinking that we keep hearing over and over again. It is that business is bad and anything that business does is bad and instead of thinking of how we can increase the pie we have to think about how we can divide up the pie.

Businesses in Canada are beginning to increasingly recognize that they have multi-stakeholder responsibilities. Only recently Mr. Courtney Pratt, president of Noranda, talked about the need for corporations to take an inclusive approach, to invest in people, to be conscious about the environment and to take responsibilities with respect to the community.

We are seeing this kind of thinking coming back into the social responsibilities of business. If we keep saying that business is bad and everyone else is good—

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

He did not say that. Open your ears and listen to him.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

That was the essence of what he said. Then we are wrong footed. We have to increase the size of the pie before we can decide how to divide it up.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I did talk about the redistribution of wealth in my speech. I suppose we are arguing that there is sufficient wealth in this nation to provide for the basics of a family to survive.

I was once fortunate to hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak when he tried to explain the difference between the social democratic view of the world and the other side, the corporate community, the neo-conservatives, the neo-liberals. The analogy he used is “If you have five children and only three pork chops the solution is not to kill two of the children. Neither is it a solution to divide those three pork chops into five equal pieces. Then none of the kids have enough to eat and they all go to bed hungry”.

The social democratic position would be to challenge the whole assumption that there are only three pork chops. The challenge is to ask why, in the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world, there is not enough wealth to provide for the basic needs of a family to survive.

I do not think that is flat earth society and I resent the implication.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech by my colleague in the New Democratic Party, and I want to ask him a question that I have had for a very long time and that I think is relevant.

He is surely very aware that there is a very strong social democratic tradition in Quebec. It has had very progressive legislation for many years, such as the anti-scab legislation, and the new equity legislation passed by the Quebec National Assembly, which will apply to all private sector enterprises, a first in North America and perhaps in the world.

We also have a tradition in terms of the anti-scab legislation I was mentioning, as well as a number of other similar examples. I have always wondered why the New Democratic Party has never managed to see eye to eye with us on these social values, and, at the same time, why it has not been possible to get the social democrats to recognize the Quebec people.

I would like to hear what he has to say about this, whether there is not a way to get the New Democrats to change their position so that they can lead the way in Canada for what could become a good partnership between Quebec and Canada, between two sovereign states.

They could develop a model. Right now, the social and environmental side of things is often neglected in international trade agreements. There is much to be done in this regard, and perhaps an interesting model could be developed. If you were to speak for Canadians who want a reasonable approach, who do not oppose Quebeckers' wish for full autonomy, that would perhaps be a productive route for the next century, both for Quebec and for Canada.

I would like to hear what he thinks about this and about the possibility of the New Democratic Party spearheading this original idea, that could be of much-needed benefit to Canada.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as a working carpenter and a tradesman I have long envied the labour relations climate in the province of Quebec, the recognition of workers rights and the health and safety legislation. The hon. member is right that many aspects of its labour relations climate are far ahead of the rest of the country. As such, I have often looked at Quebec very favourably.

As far as the NDP working closely on social democratic positions, it is our policy to move forward the rights of workers and the rights of the citizens of Canada.

There is a large community of interest between the members I have spoken to in the Bloc Quebecois and our own caucus. We would welcome the opportunity to work with members of the Bloc Quebecois as we advance social issues.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Normally we would not conduct negotiations among the parties on the floor of the House.

I am aware that the question would be put at 2.15 this afternoon. I understand four members are still on the roster to speak. There are two Liberals, one of whom is a new member, and I believe the Progressive Conservative Party also has two new members who would like to make their maiden speeches in the 36th Parliament.

If each of those four members could have 10 minutes we would waive the five minutes for questions and comments for each one of them respectively, which would have the net effect of extending the business of the House by approximately 10 to 15 minutes. We then would ask the Chair to put the question at 2.30 p.m. rather than at 2.15 p.m.

I wonder if that is agreeable to the House.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, seeing as we are negotiating on the floor of the House, I wonder whether the government whip would agree to add the name of the hon. member for Halifax West who was also anxious to speak but was not going to have the opportunity for a 10 minute speech.

I wonder if we could extend the hour accordingly so that he might have a chance to make his speech as well. Then there would be agreement.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps you Speaker could intervene. I am not trying to stop the discussion, but I can see that we might get into protracted negotiation.

Perhaps we could start with the next speech, which will go ahead in any event and in the 10 minutes during that speech, if a resolution can be reached, we will decide whether to have questions or comments at the conclusion of the speech after a report from one of the whips.

Would that be agreeable to the House?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time this afternoon with my colleague, the hon. member for Perth—Middlesex. I begin by congratulating you on your appointment to the Chair. I know you will execute your duties fairly and in the best interest of the House. I assure you that you have my confidence as you carry out your duties.

It is with great humility that I rise today to give my first speech in the House of Commons. The people of Whitby—Ajax have bestowed upon me an unequalled honour in selecting me to be their voice in parliament as Canada moves from this millennium into the next. They have elected me to be part of an honest, responsible government and they demand that the future of the nation, the greatest place in the world in which to live, is assured.

I thank the voters of Whitby—Ajax for the trust they have shown in me and assure them that I will do my utmost to dignify their choice with tireless work, constant communication and faithful representation. I will not let them down.

Whitby—Ajax is a new riding carved from the eastern end of the proud former riding of Ontario. It is made up of all the town of Whitby including the heritage village of Brookland and the southern portion of the town of Ajax.

Ajax is a vibrant community located east of Pickering on the north shore of Lake Ontario. Named for the World War II warship HMS Ajax , the town is a living monument to the allied efforts during that time.

Streets are named for crew members. The town fountain is formed from part of the original ship's anchor. Each town council meeting is called to order by the original ship's bell. Anyone with an interest in modern history will find a rich and rewarding experience in Ajax and the surrounding area.

Moving east from Ajax along the shore of Lake Ontario is Whitby, Durham's business centre and the heart of the region. Like Ajax, Whitby has a waterfront trail that is the envy of the GTA.

Geographically Whitby is able to supply a large and affluent consumer market within a day's trucking of all of Ontario, two-thirds of the Canadian market and half the American market readily available.

Diversification has been a key ingredient in Whitby's strong industrial base. Over 275 businesses are located in the industrial zoned areas. Companies specializing in plastics, packaging, pharmaceuticals, steel, telecommunications and automotive components are part of the broad sector.

Family Kartways, North America's largest go-kart facility, and the renowned Cullen Gardens are just two of the many tourist draws. A growing dynamic community, I have been proud to make Whitby my home for the past 25 years.

While the residents of Whitby—Ajax elected me on June 2, they also gave a substantial vote of confidence to the government and its unequalled record of sound fiscal management. They acknowledge that there have been many challenges, but they appreciate that for the first time in 30 years the Government of Canada will not have to face a crushing deficit, a deficit that was systematically and rapidly destroying our ability to care for those who need help the most.

We understand that deficit reduction is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. The efforts of the Liberal government have given us the ability to address the priorities of compassionate and responsible Canadians while living within our means.

I take a great deal of pride in knowing that it was my party that built the framework for this financial turnaround. I recognize that without the support and co-operation of individual Canadians we would not have been successful.

Having made these sacrifices, my constituents have told me that they want the government to stay the course. They warn that we must be mindful of the still excessive debt. They ask that we make strategic investments in key areas while maintaining prudent controls over spending to guarantee continued steady economic growth.

Just two weeks ago, the Governor of the Bank of Canada said “Canada is in better shape now than it has been for many years to face the economic challenges of the future”. He went on to say “Canada's recovery has the potential for a long period of sustained growth in output and employment with rising productivity and improving living standards”.

The Minister of Finance in his last budget reminded us that a government relieved of its deficit burden is not a government relieved of its obligations. It is a government able to exercise its obligations.

The throne speech speaks to those obligations. We have an obligation to build a stronger Canada. To this end, the government has committed to taking a very broad and consultative approach to promoting and strengthening our national unity. It is committed to forging a strong, progressive partnership for all stakeholders.

We see the most common yet most successful types of partnerships in our families. A family is made up of individuals with different hopes, different dreams, diverging opinions and conflicting ideas, but they remain united. They face challenges together and they help one another in times of need. The individuals grow from sharing the experiences of their brothers and sisters and the family grows and becomes stronger as a result. Never is the departure of a family member beneficial to the family or to the individual. Everyone loses.

It is in that context that I appeal to my hon. members across the way to stop their campaigns to destroy what has been and continues to be the most beautiful and most successful partnership in the world.

Canada may have had its rough spots and tough times, but I am willing to give everything I have to addressing the concerns of Canadians, whether they live in Quebec or British Columbia, and to preserving the country I love.

The next obligation of the government is the investment in our youth. Our children are our most precious resource. Quite literally they are the future of our country.

I am truly heartened by the government's announcement that it is increasing its contribution to the Canada child tax benefit by $850 million a year, with higher payments to families beginning July 1, 1998.

The throne speech states:

A country that has decided to invest in its children is a country confident of its future. A country that invests in children successfully will have a better future—. We must equip our children with the capacities they need to be ready to learn and to participate fully in society.

The throne speech also speaks to the need to create opportunities for youth. Youth unemployment continues to be a serious problem. All Canadians have a stake in meeting this challenge successfully.

The government continues to move forward on the issue. With the recently announced millennium scholarship fund we have demonstrated that the issue is a priority for the government. The fund will reward academic excellence and provide thousands of scholarships each year. It is my sincere hope students of knowledge based technologies will be the primary benefactors.

Any successful business operator or economic adviser will say that in order to succeed one should identify that which one does best and then do it better than anyone else. We have the opportunity to do this with our knowledge based industries. Canada can no longer compete in the unskilled manufacturing sector with the emerging economies around the world which offer low wages, relaxed labour standards and fewer environmental controls.

As Canadians we must focus our attention and resources on nurturing and developing industries in which we can compete and in fact do lead the world. I am specifically referring to the information and communication technology sectors, but the same holds true for any high tech areas that require a highly trained and highly paid workforce.

Our health care system is often considered as one of the key identifying characteristics of what it means to be Canadian. As I campaigned this spring one pressing concern was the preservation and acceptability of health care.

The federal Liberal government is firmly committed to a publicly administered comprehensive health care system that provides universal access to high quality care to Canadians everywhere. Access as contemplated by the Canada Health Act is important to all Canadians, especially women with children and seniors who are the majority users of our health services.

I am pleased the government's objectives are in the national pharmacare program, the maintenance of our HIV-AIDS strategy and the commitment to deal with the unique needs of our aboriginal communities.

I spent six years as a municipal councillor prior to my election to the House. I had the opportunity to work in a collaborative atmosphere with my council colleagues. Issues were addressed quickly and effectively with meaningful consultation among stakeholders. We faced obstacles together and we succeeded. Working together in the spirit of co-operation was the key to successfully finding solutions to the various challenges we encountered on a daily basis.

One example of partnership is the federal government's infrastructure program. As a result of the program the municipalities in my riding were able to complete infrastructure programs that would not have been possible without the assistance of federal and provincial governments.

Only last week I attended the official opening of the Garden Street grade separation in Whitby. This separation was required not only to ensure the safety of residents but to provide the arterial road upgrade needed to attract new industrial and commercial investment to the area, investment that will lead to the creation of long term meaningful jobs.

Working together in partnership with all levels of government is the only effective way to ensure the delivery of services to people within a sound economic framework. Partnerships work. The throne speech is about partnerships, partnerships with Canadian people.

I urge all members of the House to work together to fulfil their obligations as parliamentarians. Our obligation is to ensure the country we leave to our children is safe, prosperous, free and united.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We readily accepted your advice and had some discussions during my colleague's speech.

I thank my colleagues opposite. We have all agreed that without questions and comments to the member who just spoke, and the one with whom she will be sharing her time slot, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, two members from the Progressive Conservative Party and one from the New Democratic Party will make their speeches without the questions or comments period, and that the day will end at approximately 2.40 p.m.

I do want to thank those representatives of the parties not adding additional speakers, in particular the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois in this instance. I do salute the co-operation of the House in facilitating new members from the other parties who are able to get on with this additional time today. There will be no dilatory motions subsequently.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

A point of clarification for the Chair. Will they all be 10 minute speeches?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Yes.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the proposal of the chief government whip. Is it agreed?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that the agreement is valid, but that the motion must have an indication that it carried on division. Since there will be no vote called for on it, it must be recorded as passed on division.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there agreement on all of the points mentioned by each of the hon. members?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Perth—Middlesex
Ontario

Liberal

John Richardson Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on this important occasion to relate my thoughts on the Speech from the Throne. However, before I do that I want to thank the people of Perth—Middlesex who have given me the great honour to serve in this place for another term.

I would also like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment.

I would like to speak today about how the Liberal government has set forth a bold plan to lead the country into the next millennium, a plan that will benefit Canadians and the people of Perth—Middlesex. The Speech from the Throne has demonstrated our government's vision and leadership and the people from Perth—Middlesex will be pleased about our initiatives in four key areas that impact on them.

Our government's continued commitment to young Canadians, to innovation, to trade and rural development are the cornerstones to ensure a strong and prosperous future for the riding of Perth—Middlesex.

This government's primary focus since taking office was to restore the hope to those who lost it during the early part of this decade, especially young Canadians. Our government will continue to give young people the hope for the future through programs targeted at youth.

Our plan for an improved student loans program will make it easier for young Canadians to gain the skills and knowledge essential to succeed. In 1994 we announced that we would put in an additional $2.5 billion over five years into Canadian student loans. More than $1 billion in Canada student loans helped about 300,000 Canadian students go to college or university this year. That level of commitment is continuing. This is welcome news for students in my riding.

Last week the prime minister announced the additional $1 billion for a millennium scholarship fund to help young Canadians prepare to take their place in continuing to shape the greatness of this land. We also increased loan limits by more than 50 percent and brought about more flexible repayment rules.

We have brought in new measures to ease access to higher education. We have doubled the education credit and extended the tuition credit. The federal-provincial tax assistance to a typical student will rise from $900 a year to $1,200 a year in 1998. That is progress for young Canadians.

We have also doubled the annual limit of contributions to the RESPs to $4,000 so that young families can put more money aside for their children's future.

When fully implemented we will increase federal assistance to post-secondary education by $275 million a year alone. This will be welcomed by families in my riding. In the past three months we saw gains of 52,000 jobs for young Canadians, but it is not enough. Finding work these days remains a challenge for young Canadians.

Our government introduced Youth Service Canada and the youth internship program in 1994 to help, and it will continue with these programs. Earlier this year we announced the new youth employment strategy that builds on more than $2 billion in new and existing funding for these programs. These programs provide opportunities for youth and people who need to find work and build careers in the new economy.

This month we went further by committing $90 million to create a public service youth internship program to complement the other internship programs in science, trade, First Nations, non-profit and private sectors. We will remain committed to those needed programs.

We have continued funding for summer jobs up to $120 million this year which meant an additional 30,000 jobs for students.

The student connections program brings together young people and new technologies. Student connections is employing 2,000 students from places like Fanshawe College for over three years to help small business get connected on the Internet.

In a similar way, hundreds of young people are getting experience in working with the new technologies through employment with community access programs and SchoolNet. These two programs are working to connect 5,000 rural communities like the ones in Perth—Middlesex plus all of Canada's schools and libraries to the Internet by 1998. Affordable Internet access is particularly important to a rural community where improved communications links will open up new opportunities for job creation, trade and economic growth.

In 1994 the Liberal government saw the SchoolNet's potential. We raised SchoolNet's funding to $13 million a year as part of our strategy for building an innovative economy. The SchoolNet is turning out to be an ideal learning tool. Recently scientists and engineers from around the world were brought together with teachers and students through an on line discussion news group. That is the 21st century in action.

We have also raised the funding for SchoolNet's companion program. Community access was originally meant to connect 1,000 rural communities on the Internet. Our increased funding will mean that 5,000 rural and remote communities across Canada can benefit from the economic and learning potential of the information highway. That is the 21st century infrastructure.

Our government's visionary science and technology strategy has created partnerships with the private sector to develop and bring advanced technology to the market. Technology partnerships Canada has a $250 million investment fund where the federal government and the private sector finance leading edge technologies that fuel job creation and economic growth.

Another key science and technology initiative is the Canada foundation for innovation. Announced in the 1997 budget with funding of over $800 million for the next five years, the foundation will invest $180 million a year in labs and equipment in Canadian universities and research hospitals. Canada's young scientists need this equipment to do innovative research, the source of future job growth.

Investments in science and technology increase Canada's productivity and competitiveness which fuel export growth and promote job creation at home. The progressive strategy of combining youth, government and the private sector is working.

In Perth—Middlesex we will see this partnership produce three transmission towers that will lay the infrastructure for our rural communities to gain access to the Internet, and our students will be employed to help our farmers get on the net. That is the 21st century partnership.

Canada and Perth—Middlesex rely on trade for their prosperity. The value of Canadian exports accounts for nearly 40 percent of our gross domestic product.

Canadian exports have soared under the Liberal government and in 1996 the value of Canadian exports exceeded the imports by $34 billion, a record high. As many as 11,000 jobs in Canada are supported by every billion dollars in existing exports. Between 5,000 and 8,000 jobs are created by every additional billion dollars that Canadians export in goods and services. That is why the prime minister will lead Team Canada on trade missions, including one to Latin America in January 1998. The four missions to date have resulted in more than $20 billion for Canadian businesses and thousands of new jobs for Canadians.

I am hard at work recruiting many of the local businesses in Perth—Middlesex to participate because what is good for Canadian trade is better for Perth—Middlesex trade because that is the 21st century commerce.

In a similar way, our government has led important initiatives in agriculture. Canadians may not know that 9 percent of our country's economic input and 50 percent of all employment is involved in that sector, but the people of Perth—Middlesex do.

Canadians may not know that the domestic market is $95 billion and exports over $20 billion, but the people of Perth—Middlesex do. That is why we have not forgotten the farmers. That is why we have set forth initiatives like the family farm loan program introduced in the fall of 1994. This program makes it easier for retiring farmers to hand the family farm down to the next generation without jeopardizing their own security and retirement.

We have established a $140 million Canadian adaptation and rural development strategy to assist farmers and farm organizations by funding research to develop farming and crop technology. The agriculture adaptation council has committed $3.96 million for 108 research components plus a trace cost sector commitment of $660,000. For example, the Ontario soya bean growers marketing board received $387,000 for 17 projects for the corn producers too. It goes on and on.

Our opponents have not offered anything more than cuts to the programs for farmers. It is clear that our government is heading into the next century with vision and action, not words of derision. The Leader of the Opposition in his speech often quoted one of my political heroes, Wilfrid Laurier, but by doing so was able to betray this great statesman by carefully selecting words to bolster his weak arguments. The Leader of the Opposition is fueling fear and hate through his espousing an extreme Canada that is anti-bilingual, anti-multicultural, anti-rural, anti-immigrant, disunited, weak and Americanized.

I remind him of the following words spoken by Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1903: “Canada has been the inspiration of my life. I have had before me a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, the policy of true Canadianism, of moderation and conciliation. In all the difficulties, all the pains and all the vicissitudes of our situation, let us remember that love is better than hatred and faith better than doubt. Let hope in our future destinies be the pillar of fire to guide us in our future”.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, as I rise in the House today I would like to acknowledge and thank the constituents of Fundy—Royal. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to represent them in the House of Commons. They have placed a trust in me and it is one that I do not take lightly. I assure them I will work hard for each and every one of them each and every day that I represent them in this House.

The people of Fundy—Royal, like all Canadians across the country, have made fiscal sacrifices in the name of deficit elimination. When we are in sight of the goal of balancing the budget, this government is willing to throw away all the sacrifices Canadians have made. Why? The tax and cut government of the Liberal's first term has been replaced by the tax and spend government of the second.

Canadian taxpayers have been on the frontlines in the war against the deficit. It has been a tough battle. I would argue they deserve nothing less than a legal guarantee enshrined in law against future deficits. We must make it law that politicians balance the budget. In order to provide taxpayer protection we must pass legislation to cut the pay of the prime minister and cabinet ministers if they break this deficit band.

Now the government is very proud of the fact that it is headed toward a fiscal surplus. This is very good news. The bad news is that Canadians will not see a penny of it. In addition to protecting Canadians with balanced budget legislation clear priorities must be set for the fiscal dividends paid for by Canadians. These priorities must come in the form of specific annual targets to which we can hold the government accountable.

The legislation must contain specific goals for debt reduction expressed as a fixed debt to GDP ratio and what portion of fiscal dividend will be in cut taxes and what portion is to be reinvested in national priorities such as health care and education. Clearly all parties could have done better in eliminating the deficit and reducing the debt. With this in mind it is imperative that we no longer live in the past, that we move forward into the future.

As I outlined, the best way to ensure we never repeat the mistakes of the past is to provide Canadians with guarantees, guarantees in the forms of balanced budget legislation and targets and benchmarks for the fiscal dividend and debt reduction.

During the election the Progressive Conservative Party put forward a visionary and sound plan to bring Canada into the next century. This government is not moving forward and is pushing Canadians back to a period of tax and spend liberalism. We are the only party that wants to give Canadians tax relief now. The budget surplus we are approaching has been achieved through sacrifices made by all Canadians and we believe Canadians deserve to have a little more in their pockets.

While the impending zero deficit or balanced budget is indeed good news, I would strongly caution the government that its struggle by no means is over. We have on our hands a very expensive problem, a $600 billion debt. It is a problem which mortgages the future, especially the future of younger generations.

For the past 30 years this country has been fiscally abusing the future of our children. It must come to an end. I believe it is fiscally immoral to continue to ask the younger generation to pay for a higher proportion of the debt which they were not responsible for accumulating.

We need benchmarks to ensure debt reduction. A balanced budget is not enough. That is why a Progressive Conservative government would apply one-third of all surpluses after the year 2000 to debt reduction.

Health care and education are top priorities for Canadians yet the current government's plans to cut cash transfers for these vital programs by 40 percent while barely touching its own program spending is unacceptable. It did not have the courage to restructure government. To make matters worse, the Speech from the Throne contains no commitment to national health care standards, no guarantees and no mechanisms to ensure co-operation with the provinces.

The Progressive Conservative Party has put forward a co-operative approach to fixing the health care system through a Canadian covenant. Together the federal and provincial governments would set priorities and standards for the management and delivery of health care services.

Canadians must know that they can count on their health care system. Not a two tier system. Our plan for a partnership with the provinces would allow for stable funding and delivery and would mean that the federal government could never unilaterally cut health care spending again.

Just as our health care system has suffered under this government, so has the future of young Canadians. One of the challenges we face as a nation is youth unemployment. There are currently 410,000 unemployed young Canadians in the country. The youth unemployment rate in August was 16.7 percent, almost double the national rate of 9 percent.

The prime minister's announcement of only 3,000 internships over three years is a perfect example of the government's inability to recognize the scope of the problem. We need a more concentrated and focused youth strategy, one that will resonate with all Canadians. We believe that this strategy would not require dipping into taxpayers' pockets, but rather the funds could come from the myriad of training programs already in existence at the many levels of government.

The premiers' decision to present the federal government with a proposal to combat youth unemployment was encouraging. However it was disheartening to hear his outright refusal to consider their proposals. I am however relieved to hear that he has reconsidered as a result of the premiers' initiative at the Calgary conference.

Bringing a renewed focus to youth unemployment crosses all party lines and all levels of government. No one party has a monopoly on ideas. We must put our collective energies together to develop a national vision to solve this crisis. If we set national goals and establish clear targets, we can indeed make a difference.

We must develop better solutions in assisting students with the critical transition from school to work. Education, information age training and skill development are vital. Internships, apprenticeships and co-op programs are components of any solution.

If we are truly serious about helping our nation's youth move beyond this crisis, we must all foster a co-operative approach with the private sector. With private sector involvement, education and training programs would be better directed and would thus better equip young Canadians with the skill sets that employers need.

We must find ways, perhaps through the tax system, to motivate businesses to fulfil this role. Yet the government is content to smother small business, which is the real engine of job creation, with excessive tax rates. This impossible tax burden on small businesses has an extremely detrimental effect on job creation. High taxes kill jobs. I wish the hon. members across the floor could understand this.

Within Canada our high payroll and corporate taxes form a barrier to jobs and growth by taxing businesses for every job which they create. The current government has steadfastly refused to take action. We must eliminate the excessive surplus in the EI fund. Why does this government refuse to reduce job killing payroll taxes such as the surplus that we have in the EI fund?

I would like to take this moment to touch upon the environment. It is important given its absence from the national agenda in the past years. Canada has always been regarded as a world leader and a driving force on the critical issues that threaten the preservation of our environment.

This government was left with an excellent environmental legacy in 1993. Yet this government has let the environment disappear from the national agenda. It is not hard to see why when we look at the regional interests of the opposition parties that environment is no longer a national issue. Environment is a national issue, one best addressed by national parties.

The Progressive Conservative Party plans to put environment back on the political agenda so that Canada can assume its role as an environmental world leader.

As I said earlier we can never afford to mortgage the future of our country. As we move forward into the next millennium, changes will continue to take place in our economy. We must be prepared to move forward and meet the challenges we face as a nation.

Unfortunately for Canadians I do not think the government is prepared to move forward. The throne speech was evidence of that. I believe the government has missed an opportunity to offer Canadians real leadership. We should not fear the future but we should look forward to it.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of the constituency of South Shore in Nova Scotia to speak in reply to the throne speech which opened the 36th Parliament.

As is customary I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your appointment to the Chair. I would also like to extend congratulations to those who assist you in your job. They have an important job.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague on his remarks. I listened to his words carefully. I think everyone in this Chamber should also listen to those words and take note of them.

I offer hearty congratulations to the mover of the throne speech and to its seconder. They did their duty well. Personally I would have been a little embarrassed to have moved such a piece of literature. I suppose that is because I am a Progressive Conservative and I am not much for the type of empty rhetoric that this particular throne speech represents.

It is Parliament's responsibility to scrutinize, question, explain, criticize and improve. In other words, Parliament talks. I am here to talk plainly to you, Mr. Speaker, and through you to the members present. I have a few things to say.

First the people of South Shore deserve better than what this government is putting forward as its plan for the future. I am honoured to be their representative. I am charged with a solemn duty. My riding has been represented by good people in the past. I want to learn from their example.

One of my most distinguished predecessors from South Shore came to this Parliament in 1957. I hope to do the legacy of Mr. Lloyd Crouse justice. He represented for many years the people of South Shore and I owe him a debt of gratitude. South Shore is a beautiful place and he was a very fine caretaker.

I have much to learn about Mr. Crouse's record of persistence and fighting for his constituents. I have not had the opportunity to do that yet, but I have started my education by studying some of his replies to throne speeches over the years. Almost 35 years ago in a reply to the throne speech Mr. Crouse talked about trade and its importance. He is no doubt as perplexed as I am with the Liberals' about-face on this matter.

In any case, he talked about our riding's many exporting activities. In the South Shore of Nova Scotia, we export fish, Christmas trees, paper as well as other forest products, and manufactured goods. However as Canada's closest land access departure point to Europe, our potential is sadly underutilized.

Education. It is ironic that Mr. Crouse did not put much faith in the Liberals' sincerity on this matter of making education accessible, affordable and excellent. It is ironic because of the recently announced plan of this government to endow excellence. This after having gutted the federal funding transfers to the provinces for education. Does anyone on that side of the House remember the ill-conceived Canada health and social transfer?

Mr. Crouse emphasized in his reply the close economic connection the riding has with the New England states. In this era of free trade, Canadians would be foolish to allow their government to impose decisions upon them that would lessen the potential benefits of trade with the U.S.

Nova Scotia has a great competitive advantage in this regard and would be hurt by this government if it superimposes partisan politics on Nova Scotia trade matters. It would be foolish to deny the right to get us our innovations, our products, our resources and our gas to the appropriate markets.

In his reply Mr. Crouse talked about the people back home in the riding. He spoke of their independence, their indomitable will, their belief in earning their own keep. South Shore families have many farmers, lumbermen and fishers connected with them.

We of the South Shore make much of our living from primary industries. We work hard and we work long hours. We do this to provide for our families and for our future. Let no person in this House cast aspersions on the work ethic of the people of the South Shore.

Taxation. Mr. Crouse talked about taxation. He stated “In the opinion of my constituents, taxation, especially direct taxation, has the effect of choking off business recovery and stifling expansion”. No truer words need to be spoken. It is a simple proposition.

EI premiums. As well, the small business person needs a break but by the looks of things we should not expect too much in the way of growth and prosperity from this government.

I was completely exasperated by what I read in the debates of that other place in this Parliament, the red chamber. The leader of the government in the other place is a fellow Nova Scotian. I was intrigued to see his reply to a question about getting the government—I do not think I can say this—to rethink their insistence on burdening small business owners with unreasonably high EI premiums.

The leader in the other place, a fine but lonely federal Liberal Nova Scotian, was informed that according to the estimates of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the surplus in the EI fund will be at $16 billion this year.

He was asked to explain to members why the Minister of Finance is continuing to insist on burdening those who create jobs with unreasonably high EI premiums. He replied that this Liberal government was not reducing the surplus intake because they want “to ensure that there will be enough revenue over a business cycle to pay the amounts authorized to be charged to the employment insurance account”. Pardon me, but does this government expect a great influx of EI claimants? Is this government expecting a recession?

Spending. This government is being careful perhaps. I am not sure many would agree that this is totally out of character for them.

For instance in the last Parliament they allowed the former deputy prime minister to go on periodic spending sprees whenever she got the desire to be patriotic. As well there was the matter of cancelling the EH-101 helicopter contract and paying the enormous penalties, not to mention the flagrant disregard for human lives.

There was the cancellation of the Pearson airport privatization and the cost of putting that political quagmire to bed or at least partially tucking it in. And of course there was the prime minister's insistence on looking like a Chevy kind of guy while he still kept the Caddy.

The government is definitely a wolf in sheep's clothing when it comes to spending.

Natural resources. To be entirely honest, I did not think I read the throne speech correctly. I thought I had made a mistake because I did not see an iota of real substance about natural resources. I did not see anything that speaks to Canadians working hard to harvest, maintain and make a living by their wits and by their sweat the bounty of Canada's natural resources.

I heard nothing about sustainability. All I read was, and I quote “Canada's rich and diverse natural heritage is also a source of national pride and international acclaim. Canadians are both the beneficiary and the stewards of the land that holds 9 percent of the earth's fresh water, 10 percent of its forests and 25 percent of its wetlands”. I thought it was a postcard. I really did. I could not wrap my head around it.

Perhaps someone on the government side can pinpoint the inconsistency. The government has not assured Nova Scotia that the fishery in Nova Scotia will survive. What about the fishery off my shore? What about the woodlands and our forests? What did Nova Scotians get from their oil and gas? What assurance do we have that it will be our oil and gas? Will it be used to benefit our economy and our standard of living?

I will wrap up. I would like to finish on Indian affairs. I am the critic for the Progressive Conservative Party on Indian affairs and northern development and nature resources. I will bring it down to one quote which I think is very important. It was made by a famous Canadian and certainly a famous Nova Scotian. The government and all the members in the House would do well to remember the words of the Right Hon. Robert Stanfield, a fellow Nova Scotian. He said this while visiting Calgary 30 years ago:

The leadership within the Indian community has, for the most part, been responsible and moderate. Their methods have generally been the peaceful demonstration and the reasoned brief. But if we do not respond to the moderate spokesmen of Indian Canada, there is a danger they will be displaced by the less patient and more militant leaders.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured, as I rise today in humility, to present a few remarks on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I dedicate my remarks to my parents, Katherine Earle and the late Maurice Earle, both of whom taught me the importance of a belief in God our creator, a belief in oneself and a belief in and respect for one's fellow human beings.

I also pay homage to my wife and children for the immeasurable love and support that they have given me over the years and particularly during this venture into what for me is a new, exciting and challenging world of politics.

As well, I extend my heartfelt thanks to the constituents of Halifax West who expressed their faith and confidence in me that I will work for and represent them in the House of Commons during this 36th Parliament.

During my election campaign I made it very clear to the voters that I would not make any promises that I could not keep and that in fact the only promise I would make was that to the best of my abilities I would work hard both with and on behalf of my constituents to ensure that their voice is heard in Ottawa in this great Chamber, the hallmark of our democratic system of government.

I also campaigned on the personal commitment to bring a new face to politics. As I went from door to door, from community to community, from urban areas to rural areas I found, as I am sure many other candidates did, an immense degree of apathy and cynicism among both young and old alike, so much so that many had moved to the point of deciding that they were not going to vote at all.

It disturbed me greatly then, as it does now, that so many of our citizens have become so discouraged with our politicians and our political system that they have chosen not to exercise the basic rights for which our forefathers fought and died.

Why are so many moved to such a state of apathy and cynicism? If one wishes to open one's eyes the answer is clear. We have a high degree of unemployment in one of the most developed countries in the world. We have a high cost of post-secondary education in a country where wealth abounds. We have an ever increasing number of homeless people that we can see as we walk down the streets of Ottawa in a highly industrial and technological society.

We have health care concerns and epidemics developing in a land where we have access to the latest scientific and medical knowledge. We have seniors concerned about their future socioeconomic well-being, despite their many years of solid contributions to our society. We have immigrant groups struggling for fair and equitable treatment under the immigration laws of our country. We have the disabled suffering unconscionable bureaucratic delays as they attempt to obtain disability pensions under the Canada pension plan.

We have women, minority groups, individuals of differing sexual orientation all struggling to be accorded their basic human rights. We have our francophone brothers and sisters fighting an uphill battle to have their language, culture and heritage recognized as a distinctive element of our Canadian society. And we have the plight of our aboriginal brothers and sisters being ignored as they attempt to heal and rebuild their communities through self-determination and self-government.

I could go on and on citing the ills of our society as the reasons why so many people have become apathetic and cynical. However, the real question is where does the politician fit into all of this? The plain truth of the matter is that citizens look to their political leaders for a cure to these ills of our society. We look to those whom we have elected to represent and govern us to provide a measure of leadership to help us to meet the challenges of the day.

But the sad reality is, and it came across loudly and clearly to me during the election campaign, that many citizens have lost faith in their politicians. Politicians were described to me as not really caring, being in it only for themselves or for the money, being dishonest or full of empty promises. Perhaps the most hurtful statement of all was “you politicians are all the same”.

You know and I know that politicians are not all the same. There are good and there are bad politicians, the same as there are good and bad in all professions, and history will attest to this. However, the fact remains that for a good portion of the public, the perception is that politicians are all the same: dishonest, self-serving and without compassion.

I feel it is time to put a new face on politics. It is time to show that politicians can bring truth, integrity, compassion and indeed honour to the profession. It is time to show that we are truly interested in providing jobs for the unemployed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick, educating our youth, embracing our fellow human beings and allowing for growth, development and self-determination.

I personally believe that a good starting point in putting a new face on politics and showing the world that we mean business is by maintaining proper decorum and respect not just outside the walls of the House of Commons but, more importantly, inside the walls of this place where we conduct the nation's business.

As politicians we are always under the public scrutiny. It is even more so today with the modern means of communications available. We should ever be mindful of the fact that our actions in this House are transmitted by television into the homes of the nation where the impressionable young minds of children witness our respect or our lack of respect for each other as we debate the issues of the day.

It is all well and good to excuse rudeness and lack of common courtesy as part of the political game or as part of parliamentary tradition, but when young children watching parliamentary debates ask their parents why those men and women are so angry at each other, why they are being so rude to each other, why they are fighting with each other, then I ask if this is a tradition that is worth keeping?

Is this the face we want to put on politics? Is this the example we want to set for our young children?

In July this year I had the honour of attending the First Nations convention in Vancouver, where the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations was elected. What struck me as really significant was the high degree of respect and decorum that was present during that convention. Unlike non-aboriginal political conventions where there is a lot of cheering and booing of candidates, at that convention there was a certain solemnity and respect shown to all candidates regardless of whom individuals may have been personally supporting. I believe there is a lesson to be learned here.

One must listen to hear. What I have often observed in watching parliamentary debates is that often individuals are so wrapped up in their own view and in shouting down and heckling others that one does not hear what is being said. One loses the sense of true dialogue and communication, respect and putting a new face on politics.

As I stand here today I pledge that I will do my best to put a new face on politics. While you may get the odd desk thump or applause from me, I pray that I will never sink to the point of being discourteous when others are speaking. If that should ever happen I ask you remind me of this moment so that I may correct myself and offer to others the kind of respect that I would expect to receive from them.

I commend the government for the positive statements in the throne speech, particularly the initiatives regarding aboriginal people. The government's commitment to develop relationships with aboriginal people based on principles of partnership, transparency, predictability and accountability is very important and very significant. I firmly believe Canada will never solve its national unity problem until we have dealt fairly with our aboriginal population.

I urge that the commitments made in the throne speech not become empty words but that the government give real meaning to phrase “moving forward into the 21st century” by tackling in a very substantial way the problems which the people of Canada have identified as being crucial to them, namely jobs, education, health care, fairer taxation, opportunities for youth and so forth.

In conclusion, I extend my congratulations and best wishes to all who have been elected to the House. Although we are of different political stripes and although we hold different viewpoints on various issues, I believe that the one thing we all hold in common is that we deeply believe in the principles for which we are fighting. While our principles may vary somewhat, I am optimistic enough to believe that deep down within most of us, we have one common desire and that is to build a better society for this generation and for the generations to come. May we live up to that expectation, to the expectation of those who elected us, so that together we may work to make Canada a truly great nation.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Perhaps before I put the question I may be permitted to say a few words of thanks to all the hon. members who in the course of the last two weeks have made remarks supporting me in my work in the chair and supporting the prime minister's choice of me as Deputy Speaker. I consider it an honour to have been appointed as your Deputy Speaker and I thank you very much.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The one drawback is that I do not get to make speeches in the House so that is my maiden speech for this Parliament. I thank hon. members for the opportunity.

It being 2.45 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General

moved:

That the Address be engrossed and presented to His Excellency the Governor General by the Speaker.

(Motion agreed to)

Speech From The Throne
Government Orders

2:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.45 p.m.)