House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debt.

Topics

Committees Of The House
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the federal representative of the constituents of Kitchener Centre and as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, it is a pleasure to take part in the prebudget debate.

On November 13 I held a town hall meeting in Kitchener to gather input from my constituents. Throughout the months of October and November the finance committee held 42 meetings totalling 101 hours. It heard 514 witnesses and received 463 briefs on this subject.

In response to the chair's challenge to all 301 members of Parliament to hold public consultations, 35 town hall meetings were held as well as the one which I held in Kitchener Centre. In addition, we received personal comments over the website for the finance minister, as well as several phone calls and many letters.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work of my colleagues on both sides of the House, the fair hearing we heard from witnesses and the sincere and thoughtful participation by all members of the finance committee.

The message was heard loud and clear both at my town hall meeting and during the committee meetings we held across the country. We heard many things from Vancouver to St. John's. Some strong themes came through. We heard from a diverse range of individuals with different concerns. We heard from economists who told us that we needed to look at debt reduction. In Alberta we heard from a disabled woman who was forced to choose between food and medicine.

“Keeping the Balance” is a reflection of what we heard. This government is committed to maintaining a balance between the collective good and freedom while providing for those in need. This government has shown leadership in consulting with Canadians. There has been widespread support for the prudent estimates put forth by the Minister of Finance. Canadians would rather err on the side of prudence than find themselves in a situation similar to the one in which we found ourselves in 1993.

However we are now in a position, after having reduced our economic deficit, to address the outstanding human deficit.

As the Minister of Finance said during his presentation to the committee, this is not simply a question of budgets and their size. It is a question also of what government does and how it does it.

The debate should be about national priorities, about how best to build a strong economy and a strong society, one of both opportunity and security. Some see the discussion as a financial debate only, but it is not. It is also a debate about values.

Many recommendations were made to the committee which are reflected in “Keeping the Balance”.

There was an intriguing correlation that emerged from the remarks the minister made in Vancouver and the comments and concerns that were echoed to our committee as we travelled across Canada and also ones very similar to those that I heard from my constituents in Kitchener Centre. I would like to review a few of these issues. Time and time again, some of these themes rose throughout our process.

Canada is known worldwide for our health system and the integrity we have placed in maintaining the five principles of the Canada Health Act. Our treasured health care system was created because there was a need. Canadians are telling us these needs have grown due to our aging population among other factors. To address this need, the government should establish in co-operation with the provinces, health care providers and local communities new approaches to health care such as a national home care system.

This government has done much to address the needs of the disabled in the community. However, much remains to be done. I believe we must continue working with groups representing persons with disabilities to ensure that measures recently announced are effective and to find further ways of helping Canadians with disabilities.

We have been hearing cries for action to curb child poverty, to ensure Canadian children are not going hungry. This government has put in place a number of safeguards. However, we still have hungry children.

In partnership with communities, parents, provincial governments, private corporations, the agri-food industry and volunteer organizations such as the Canadian Living Foundation, we can create a national school nutrition program. This type of partnership approach could apply to other organizations and initiatives as well.

In communities across Canada, people are concerned about our youth. The ministerial task force on youth in 1996 made a number of recommendations which Canadians would like to see endorsed. The committee heard about them. We are pleased to recommend that additional funding be made available for the Youth Service Canada and student summer job creation programs, both of which provide opportunities for youth to enter the workforce and offer valuable work experience.

In keeping with improving the future of our youth, we have recommended a deferred credit formula for registered education savings plans which would offer student beneficiaries a federal grant calculated on a percentage of the total RESP contributions. This grant would be distributed in equal amounts in each year of the post-secondary program. This would create an incentive for parents to plan for their children's education.

The incredible debt burden weighing on the shoulders of many recent graduates from post-secondary institutions can take many years to pay, sometimes impeding their ability to enter the job market. That is why I support the recommendation that the federal and provincial governments offer students a debt repayment schedule that is based on income with features that would include interest relief, deferred grants and debt forgiveness. This would go a long way in reducing the burden on youth entering the workforce.

Very few individuals we heard from during our consultations called for income tax cuts at this time. Their priority lay in stabilizing our economy. However it was suggested that we increase the basic personal non-refundable tax credits amount, the spousal amount and the equivalent to spousal amount for the 1998 taxation year. I support this recommendation. In future when the fiscal situation improves and permits, I strongly support reintroducing indexation.

From coast to coast we heard Canadians asking for a reduction in employment insurance premiums to balance the upcoming increase in CPP payments to ease the load on small business owners. This is one recommendation on which the finance minister has already acted.

On October 21, in co-operation with the Minister of Human Resources Development, the Minister of Finance announced the second largest drop in EI payments in 20 years, to $2.70 per $100 of insurable earnings for 1998, 20¢ below the 1997 rate. This is a savings of $1.4 billion for employers and employees. With a promise of lower rates when the economic climate permits and to take measures to ensure EI premiums are not raised during an economic downturn, this will offer Canadians greater stability.

An additional request from small business owners is to review the small business deduction and the appropriateness of the $200,000 threshold level. This is in keeping with the government's intention to offer targeted tax relief. It is important that we recognize this need to enable small businesses to grow and prosper in the future.

The last but certainly not the least of the recommendations I would like to cover today is the investment in the future of our research and development sector. In my mind this includes medical research, technological advancement, academic and cultural development. There are so many facets to our social make-up that require the support of continuing development.

Through the support and partnership of the federal government, I look forward to seeing our commitment to research and development grow. It is through these commitments that we will keep our knowledge based industries in Canada. The result will mean that our society will gain both economically and socially.

In conclusion, I have only grazed the surface of the results of the consultations. However, one thing is clear. Canadians are proud of the leadership of this government and the hard decisions that it has made. There is a widespread sense of relief that the deficit has been wrestled down. Canadians have told us that they are prepared to see strategic and responsible investments in areas where it will be demonstrated there is value for the dollars spent. This government aims to do that through our 50:50 plan of investment and debt reduction.

Many of the recommendations call for increased co-operation and partnership between levels of government and the private and voluntary sectors. I feel strongly about partnerships. This government has placed great value and energy in building and maintaining healthy partnerships which will enable these visions to become a reality.

The government is committed to working on restoring and keeping the balance. This document is one step forward in that process.

Committees Of The House
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When debate resumes there will be five minutes of questions and comments following the hon. member's speech.

We will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Holiday Greetings
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to wish holiday greetings to my colleagues on both sides of the floor.

My riding of Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington is a rural riding. Holidays are important to each of us because they bring people together in celebration. In the countryside where people live in greater isolation, holidays often become community events.

In my small village of Camden East, we constructed a crèche near the river. At this time of year farmers bring livestock and the scene of the first Christmas is re-enacted and carols are sung by neighbours, friends and visitors.

I want to acknowledge the countless volunteers in communities right across HFL and A and indeed across the country who provide inspiration, leadership and organizational skills to make these events happen.

Westaim
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, Westaim is a successful corporation with a major plant in my riding. For 30 years it has been supplying Canada and many other countries around the world with high quality materials from which coins are stamped.

The company has had an exceptionally good working relationship with the Canadian Mint providing blanks for most of Canada's coins, including the $1 and $2 coins. But the Canadian Mint has now been authorized to spend $30 million to build a plant in Winnipeg to compete with Westaim.

The government's claims of savings are greatly exaggerated. Furthermore, when we were told that this will create 100 to 130 jobs in Winnipeg, no mention was made of potential job losses in my riding.

It is a mystery. Why would the government risk $30 million to get into a business which is in a worldwide state of oversupply and which could result in the loss of up to 100 jobs in my riding?

Tribute To Father Gérald Mauzeroll
Statements By Members

December 11th, 1997 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to Father Gérald Mauzeroll, a resident of Masson-Angers in the riding of Gatineau, who has been serving as a missionary in Brazil for a number of years and who is to receive tomorrow the award of the human rights defence council from the government in Sao Paulo.

His devotion to the disenfranchised of Brazil and his pastoral duties among prisoners promote the cause of human dignity.

Father Mauzeroll has also done special work in the parish of Vila Fatima, where he helped create the human rights centre. His work in Brazil is supported by a team of priests in the dioceses of Ottawa, Mont-Laurier and Gatineau—Hull.

Our congratulations and best wishes to Gérald Mauzeroll.

Patriots Of Saint-Eustache
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Saint-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse, QC

Mr. Speaker, carved out of the lands of the seigneurie des Mille Isles, the riding of Sainte-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse occupies an important place in our national history.

On December 14, 1837, 2,000 English soldiers commanded by Colborne waged battle with some one hundred of our young men. In response to Queen Victoria's troops, Dr. Jean-Olivier Chénier and his companions offered heroic resistance. With only the meanest of weapons, this clutch of men, barricaded in the church, fought a courageous battle over several hours with 70 of them losing their lives.

The people of Quebec remember you, Jean-Olivier Chénier, Jean-Baptiste Lauzé, François Dubé, Nazaire Fillion, Joseph Guitard, Séraphin Doré, Joseph Bouvret, Jean-Baptiste Toupin, Alexis Lachance, Pierre Dubeau, Joseph Paquet, and all the others.

War Crimes
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe everything I read in the newspaper. However, I hope what was reported on Monday in the Toronto Star is correct. It was reported that tomorrow, December 12, the Minister of Justice will announce that Neal Sher will be hired as a special adviser to the war crimes unit in the Department of Justice.

My constituents in the riding of Thornhill will be delighted if this report is true. Mr. Sher will be of great assistance to the Canadian government, bringing war criminals to trial in Canada. While acting as the head of the U.S. justice department's office of special investigations, he had a most impressive record of deporting war crime suspects from the United States.

Canada must not be, nor be seen as, a haven for war criminals and I am proud to say that the government of which I am a member is taking action to correct a problem that has gone on for too long. I would like to welcome Mr. Sher to Canada and I wish him success in his attempts to rid our country of people who have committed unspeakable crimes against humanity.

Rail Transportation
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Quebec premier, Lucien Bouchard, and the PQ members of the Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean and Abitibi—Témiscamingue regions are imposing new changes on the load requirements for heavy vehicles, by allowing 25 meter long road trains, and a load increase of several thousands kilos.

It is estimated that, every day, 400 additional trucks may travel on the secondary roads of the Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean region. People are afraid of trucks. The Quebec transport minister is the first one to admit that certain roads in the Saguenay—Lac Saint-Jean region arre dangerous.

Through their silence, Lucien bouchard, who is from Lac Saint-Jean, and the PQ members are signing the death warrant of the railway network in these rural areas, that is the short line railway for northern Quebec. A public debate must take place. Quebeckers are the only ones who should make this decision.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker,

'Twas the night before Christmas and all of Sundre was sleeping, Safe in the knowledge Reform's watch I was keeping. Me and my stetson and Art in the night, Prepared our Sea King for a long winter's flight.

We tightened the rotors and filled it with gas, Praying we will make it to see Preston at last. The copter it shook and landed with a splatter, On 24 Sussex, hey Art, grab the ladder.

We ran from the copter to the back of the house, Past the guards and the sensors, quiet as a mouse. The PM appeared, mad as a hatter, Sculptures in hand, poised like a batter.

Myron and Art, he cried with delight, Come in, come in, come in from the night. Of course you know Herb and Sheila and Paul, We're writing a new red book, it's due out next fall.

Our ideas are vague, disjointed and few, Will you call Preston, he'll know what to do. Do you think this is Christmas, Art said with a smile, While off in the corner, I started to dial.

Preston, it's Myron, I'm with the PM, He's turning Reform, Herb, lend me a pen. Just as he signed Paul started to shout, How much will this cost, our books are in doubt.

Our country's at stake, Reform is the answer If you don't like our beef, try eating Prancer.

Young Offenders Act
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is this relatively new phenomenon of teenage group criminality that manifests itself in the commission of serious assaults and the swarming, looting and vandalism of shopping malls?

What is this deviant activity that only two weeks ago resulted in the brutal murder of a teenage girl? And what is the anti-social impulse that compelled dozens of young people to stand by idly while this innocent girl was beaten to death?

This type of behaviour is occurring with alarming frequency and violence and is no longer confined to the asphalt jungles of North America's mega cities. This type of behaviour defies comprehension and suggests an underlying desensitization and total disregard for the consequences of a criminal act.

This form of group criminality goes beyond the scope of the Young Offenders Act. It needs to be examined right now and addressed independently of the act to ensure the future well-being and safety of Canadians.

Violence Against Aboriginal Women
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, violence in Canada's aboriginal communities is omnipresent. It is a constant threat to the safety and the development of the full potential of aboriginal children and women.

During the hearings of the royal commission, First nations, Inuit and Metis women said they would like to see better support services, and also alcohol and drug abuse programs that are more effective and better suited to their environment.

I urge the Liberal government to follow up on the commission's recommendation by implementing community projects and a health care system for aboriginals, in which women will have a decision making role.

These women are aware of the consequences of violence in their communities and they want to be part of the new reality, so that their physical and psychological well-being, and that of their children, will finally be protected. The federal government must take immediate action in this area.

Tribute To Soeur Lorette Gallant
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Moncton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to Soeur Lorette Gallant.

For the past 40 years, Soeur Lorette has been directing Les Jeunes Chanteurs de l'Acadie, a choir of young people from the Greater Moncton area. Soeur Lorette started this choir in 1957 at Beauséjour school.

Over the years, the choir became more community based. Les Jeunes Chanteurs de l'Acadie have won several provincial, national and international awards. The choir has provided many young people the opportunity to travel across Canada as well as abroad.

In 1996, Soeur Lorette was made a member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her dedication to young people and to her community.

Soeur Lorette is a remarkable person who dedicated herself to children in her community. She has helped many children over the years build a sense of respect and commitment. We are all very grateful to her for this. She is our idol.

'Twas The Night After Kyoto
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker,

'Twas the night after Kyoto, and all through the land Not a person could tell where the Liberals stand While the stockings are hung by the chimney with care The Liberals claim that chimneys shouldn't be there

They say we should trust them, don't worry or fret But Canadians feel they've been shafted, you bet They think back to Pearson, the airport that's gone Or the sad cancellation of the EH-101

The Somalia thing, and the Krever thing too It's no wonder Canadians don't know what to do The Quebec referendum, Mulroney's Airbus And the pepper spray story they said was no fuss

The fund-raising scandal where money brought grants Was a Liberal plan till the cops said you can't A victims first policy is replaced in the night With a new Liberal promise—more animal rights

The postal strike problem, it was clear as a bell It was proof, said the Libs, that the system works well Then out in the land there arose such a clatter The spin doctors asked themselves, what is the matter?

Our patronage system is working just fine Every Liberal job we give is one of a kind Could it be they detect that our Grit arrogance Has now reached such proportion it causes offence?

The Liberals are famous for taking, not giving They're year round examples that Scrooge is still living

Economic And Social Programs
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the Canadian first ministers conference just hours away, the PQ government went all out by asking the federal government to freeze its spending in various economic and social programs.

The PQ's political goals are clear: to derail any plans for federal-provincial co-operation regarding the future of Canada.

The Parti Quebecois is carrying on its irresponsible referendum battle, inviting the Canadian government to abandon its responsibilities to the people of Canada, something our government is obviously not prepared to do.

We made a vital commitment to the people of Canada in the last election campaign to improve their quality of life. Giving in to threats by a sovereignist provincial government, whose sole purpose is to break up the country, is out of the question.

If the Parti Quebecois is serious about taking Quebec out of Canada and will not agree to full and frank discussion, it should call an election in Quebec and let the people know what their future will be after separation.

Cape Tormentine
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Angela Vautour Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has abandoned the once prosperous community of Cape Tormentine.

Upon completion of the fixed link, the ferry service from the village of Cape Tormentine to Prince Edward Island ceased. The village lost not only the ferry but its prosperity as well.

Hope was to be restored with the announcement of new money under the Cape Tormentine redevelopment program. The federal government pledged $1.8 million to help offset the closure of Maritime Atlantic's terminal.

The program turned out to be nothing but a series of empty promises. Why is it? Perhaps because the provincial government had already exhausted half the funds allocated to the program.

This government is subsidizing the New Brunswick provincial Liberal's byelection campaign by pick-pocketing ACOA funds in order to finance projects for the department of agriculture and the department of economic development and tourism.

I demand that the minister ensure that the money supposed to go to the Cape Tormentine area gets to the people who need it. They have suffered long enough.