House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Why did you disappear, Martin?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

-by extending the deadline until 1998. Sponsors realize they now have two summers to make the adjustment. I must also point out that this bill does not ban sponsorships; it regulates them. Obviously, the opposition has been going around saying all kinds of things.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Godin Châteauguay, QC

Tell the truth.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

Strictly speaking, it will have no impact on economic development. When we talk about the economic development of Montreal, the one government that has been present, that had a vision, was the Canadian government.

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4:20 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman

I split question period between the parties. I did not see the other colleague. The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River.

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4:25 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the attention of the junior minister responsible for regional development in Quebec, FORD-Q, a contradiction that appears to be in the funding for regional development.

In the 1995 budget speech, to great fanfare, the finance minister announced a refocusing of regional development programs and agencies in Canada. He bragged about how streamlining would save taxpayers millions of dollars. The 1995 budget estimated the expenditures would be cut by about half over a period of time and would save taxpayers over $500 million.

In the 1997 budget we noticed that regional development was conspicuously absent from the budget speech.

I wonder if the hon. junior minister would explain the contradiction. It now appears that the funds being spent on regional development, including FORD-Q, will actually increase.

The latest numbers that we were able to discern is that FORD-Q's budget is going to increase by about 11 per cent to over $400 million in fiscal year 1997-98. How can that contradiction exist with the cuts that were announced in the 1995 budget?

I know he is going to try to say it is because of the extension of the infrastructure program. However, clearly the 1995 budget was supposed to allocate funds for the extension of the infrastructure program. It was supposed to be factored in.

I wonder if the junior minister could explain how the taxpayers are supposed to be experiencing cuts and savings in dollars being expended on regional development, not only in Quebec but across Canada, when now we are seeing an actual increase in funding? I wonder if he could tell us what the actual numbers are that the government intends to spend over the next fiscal year on regional development.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting. Through that question we can see the philosophy of Reformers. They talk on that side of the House about spending. They see regional development as an expenditure. On the government side we see regional development as an investment. It is a very important investment.

The Reform Party would like to see a free market without any government intervention. Reformers would like us to be in a society where there are only rich people. But it appears that in our society there are some regions which have to be helped out by the Canadian government.

A major role is played by regional agencies across Canada. We are playing a major role not only with the offices of FORD-Q but with Industry Canada and the community futures program.

When they talk about the contradiction in the budget, it appears they may be quite weak on the other side of the House. It seems that the budget has been affected a bit because we will manage, as we have in the past, the infrastructure program. It was included in this year's budget and last year's budget. If they need any further details they can go to public accounts and they will see that the budget is a public matter.

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4:30 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the Bloc motion.

While I agree with the opening of the motion, I cannot agree with much else. Unfortunately I cannot support the motion. The motion states:

That this House condemn the federal government which, because of its policies, is in large measure responsible for increasing poverty in the regions-

The motion goes on to talk about Quebec. As a matter of fact the motion mentions Quebec four times. As the Bloc is the official opposition I would have hoped, as all Canadians would hope, that its members would have taken a Canada-wide view of the government's incompetence and what it has done to address poverty in the country.

Before I get into my remarks I have to make reference to the secretary of state's reference to low interest rates. I have heard more about low interest rates in the House as if they are the answer to job creation and to our future. Low interest rates cut two ways. Not everybody benefits. There are retired Canadians who count on decent interest rates. To say that low interest rates are the solution to Canada's problems is not true. It is certainly not going to get the economy moving or create the jobs I keep hearing about from the other side.

A survey was done by the Chamber of Commerce in my community on what the federal government needs to do to encourage, expand and create jobs. Ten items are listed in the survey: the elimination of the deficit; elimination of the debt; reducing business regulatory burden; making tax levels competitive; fixing workmen's compensation; fixing labour relations; reforming education; abolishing interprovincial trade barriers; improving the infrastructure program, and promotion of environmental sustainability.

Of the 10 items listed I do not see any mention of lower interest rates. Lower interest rates appeal to those who know about borrowing. We should not be encouraging borrowing, we should be encouraging businesses and, indeed Canadians, to pay their way. The cart is before the horse. Businesses are not looking to borrow more so they can put off their bankruptcy. To suggest that lower interest rates is the answer in a period of record bankruptcies is not going to work. Members can continue to talk about low interest rates but the unemployment figures continue to show that low interest rates are not creating employment.

The Bloc member for Laurentides talked about the mess the Liberal government has made of Mirabel. It brought to mind the mess the Liberal government has made of Pearson airport. Mixing Liberals and aviation is like mixing alcohol and gasoline, it is a bad combination for the taxpayers of Canada. Mirabel has cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and Pearson airport will cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

When the government talks about regional development, how concerned it is and how important it is, just think about Pearson airport. That airport means jobs and regional development all across Canada and the government decided to cancel it on the basis of a quickie 30 day report. Pearson airport continues to deteriorate, costing jobs not just in rebuilding that airport but in development all across Canada.

The motion before us is a little like a garage sale. Everything is in there except the kitchen sink. I am not too sure, it might be in there too, and of course it would be sink from Quebec.

The problem is that all of Canada is hurting. It is not just poverty in Quebec. Poverty certainly is there, unemployment is there but it applies from coast to coast. It is the result of the failed policies and the lack of vision of this Liberal government.

Speaking about vision, I saw in the media last week the Prime Minister has now realized that vision is important. He was talking about the fact that going from day to day or week to week is not the answer, that governments have to have a vision for the future. It is encouraging to hear after three and a half years that the government has discovered the need to have a vision, to have a plan that is longer than two years if the country is to be successful.

The Liberal government's failure to address the most serious problem of the country is the reason for such high levels of unemployment, the reason for the poverty, the reason for the crushing tax burden that we are all under and the reason for the deteriorating social programs. The government has failed to deal with the deficit and the debt. It has failed to deal with it quickly and decisively.

The government has the deficit turned around and it is coming down, but it is coming down far too slowly. It is not fast enough to stimulate the economy and it is slow enough that it is increasing the debt and the payments that are made on that debt.

The government has been in power for three and half years and the unemployment numbers are almost the same today as they were when it was elected. There are 1.4 million Canadians unemployed, two million to three million Canadians under employed and one in four Canadians worried about their jobs. They have no confidence.

The debt is $600 billion, or will be shortly, and $50 billion in interest payments on that debt. One-third of every tax dollar goes to pay the interest costs on that debt. It does not create one job. It does not do anything for poverty. It does not do anything for our social programs but it certainly is the reason our taxes are so high.

The answer to the motion that the Bloc has put forward today is to reduce the size of government and be able to offer tax relief, put more dollars in the hands of consumers and get off the backs and out of the pockets of industries, the entrepreneurs who really create the jobs.

Unfortunately the Bloc motion suggests that more government spending is the answer. Reformers disagree with that. You cannot buy your way to prosperity. That just cannot be done. It cannot be done in our home, it cannot be done in business.

Reformers are saying we have to reduce and rescue. We have to reduce spending and rescue those programs, rescue our social programs, rescue the initiative and the drive that our entrepreneurs have. Or we have to pare and preserve: cut back so that we can save those jobs and save our social programs, versus what we have been doing for the last 25 years which is tax and terminate. We have been going down that same road now for 25 to 30 years, ever increasing taxes, never doing anything about unemployment and the threatened social programs.

It never ceases to amaze me that someone does not stop and say: "What we have been doing is not working. There has to be a better way. We have got to look at an alternative". Even Mr. Bouchard, now that he is the leader in Quebec, realizes the importance of tackling the deficit. He wants to get the finances of Quebec in order because he knows that is important to the economic strength and job creation in the province of Quebec.

Look at what two cost cutting premiers have done. I am thinking of Premiers Klein and Harris. Premier Klein has eliminated the deficit and is creating jobs. He has just been rewarded for the job he has done with a resounding endorsement by the people of the province of Alberta. He has been true to his word. He has eliminated the deficit and Alberta is creating jobs. The debate that they are going to have in Alberta now is about what to do about the surplus. Should they be spending it on social programs, health and education. What a pleasant debate that would be to have.

Premier Harris is doing the same thing in the province of Ontario. He is doing what he said he would do and he is going to create jobs. He is going to get the economy moving again. The best social program people can have is a job.

I will quickly review the Bloc motion which includes Canada Post, regional ports and airports, the coast guard, fishing quotas and the EI changes. I will comment first on the 10,000 jobs lost at Canada Post. It was part time employees whose jobs were lost because of the elimination of unaddressed ad mail being delivered by Canada Post. The private sector will probably pick up those jobs. A lot of people objected to the fact that Canada Post delivered some of that unaddressed ad mail, to which some of them took exception.

The federal government had to do something about ports and airports because they were not viable. They have been losing money for years and have only been able to carry on because of huge subsidies from the federal government. The federal government cannot continue that. The reality is if they cannot be profitable then they should not be subsidized and supported by the taxpayer.

Coast guard fees are now set for each region. There are different costs in different parts of the country so the government has taken the position that those costs should be reflected. Where there is ice-breaking in one port but not in another, the fees should reflect that additional cost. One region should not be supporting another.

Concerning the fishing quotas, fish are like tax dollars. There is not an unlimited supply. Former governments overspent which has put us into the problem we are in today with the $600 billion debt. Fishermen were doing the same thing. They were overfishing with the belief that there was no bottom, that they could keep doing it. Unfortunately the reality is that there was a bottom, they could not continue to fish.

Reformers believe politics should be removed from the determination of quotas, that quotas must be established if this valuable resource is to be rebuilt. The government should remove the politics from the setting of quotas and hopefully that will see the fishing industry survive and grow again.

As a party we have always been very clear on what to do with employment insurance. We would like to see it returned to what it was originally intended to be, an insurance program to help those who through no fault of their own find themselves unemployed. It

should be a temporary bridge until people are able to find work again.

We do not believe that regional eligibility is the way to go. We believe that eligibility should be determined on a national basis rather than on a regional basis in order to be fair to all Canadians.

I have touched briefly on some of the things that are mentioned in the motion. We agree with the Bloc that the government is the problem but we disagree with the Bloc on the solution to the problem. We can fix the problem.

I would like to look at the record of the government that has put us in the position we are in today. It is a record that has disappointed all Canadians, particularly the 1.4 million who are currently unemployed.

We have had 77 months of unemployment at a rate above the9 per cent level. This is on the record of the government and former governments. Two to three million Canadians are underemployed and one in four Canadians are worried about holding their jobs. The federal debt is increasing to over $600 billion with interest payments approaching $50 billion which is more than is spent on old age security or the seniors' benefit, employment insurance and health care combined.

Because of the government's go slow approach to reducing the deficit, which should have been addressed far more quickly, it has added to the debt and it has added about $10 billion to the servicing the cost of the debt.

In Quebec and right across Canada the income of the average Canadian family has been reduced by some $3,000. There is less income because of fixed wages over those years. At the same time the government has brought in some 36 indirect tax increases. Therefore Canadians have seen their disposable income eliminated. The last tax increase will be the increase in CPP premiums which will represent about a $10 billion tax grab.

That is a killer of jobs. Earlier the finance minister acknowledged that payroll taxes were a killer of jobs. At a time when we need jobs the government introduces a plan that will hurt job creation.

The finance minister said the CPP premium increase was not a payroll tax, that it was an investment. I would like him to convince hard working Canadians who are deeper in debt than they have ever been and are having difficult times making ends meet that this is an investment. Canadians are not looking for investments. They are looking for tax relief so they can start meeting the bills that come due weekly.

We have record debt and record bankruptcies, and the Liberals are talking about lower interest rates. The savings of Canadians have been diminished. A report from an economist stated that the real problem in Canada today, aside from the fact that 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed, is that 13 million Canadians have lost their purchasing power. They have no ability to buy and get our internal economy moving. They are struggling under a tax load. They are not looking for investment. They are looking for tax relief, which is the answer to job creation.

The Prime Minister said he would run in the upcoming election on his job creation performance. We as a party look forward to that because in the 3.5 years he has been in power those jobs have not been created. The reliance on low interest rates will not create the jobs Canadians are looking for.

The latest numbers on unemployment are still 9.6 per cent and 9.7 per cent. The finance minister admitted his frustration but he certainly did not think there was any real problem. He continues to hope that somewhere down the road it will turn around.

He did not blame business, but the problem is that the finance minister and the government are not listening to business. This is not the route businesses have been asking the government to take. The Chamber of Commerce and the CFIB have been saying that the best thing the government could do to create jobs is to reduce the deficit and get the books in balance as quickly as possible. The business community is saying that is the way to create jobs in Canada. A letter from the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said very clearly that eliminating the deficit quickly was critical to job creation.

Unbelievably in the budget the government talked about another infrastructure program. The government's $6 billion infrastructure program created about 10,000 jobs. That is a pretty expensive job creation program. It was one that was criticized by the auditor general. If that $6 billion had been given to Canadians in the form of tax cuts, by the year 2000 it would have resulted in the creation of the 162,000 jobs. The auditor general indicated that many infrastructure programs would have gone ahead without that $6 billion of borrowed money. It was not money the government had.

Unbelievably the Liberals have another infrastructure program, although they are being a little cautious this time. I do not think they are talking about canoe museums, boccie courts or hockey arenas. This time they will stick to what they said in the red book about sewers and roads, which can really be described as infrastructure.

The finance minister spoke about how great the infrastructure program was and how it was supported. The infrastructure program is a shell game. It is a two for one deal with our own dollars. There

is one taxpayer in the country and that infrastructure program was buying their votes with their own tax dollars. The answer is to pay our way, not to go deeper and deeper into debt.

I talked about Pearson airport because it was mentioned by the Bloc member for Laurentides. What greater piece of infrastructure did we have in Canada than Pearson airport, and it continues to decline.

The government has failed to deal with interprovincial trade barriers which affect jobs across Canada. Those barriers are costing hundreds of thousands of job. The Canadian Manufacturers Association said they were costing Canadian taxpayers $6 billion. Yet government members travel all around the world talking about exports but not doing anything about enhancing trade in Canada, which would do something about creating jobs in Canada.

I appreciate the opportuntiy to speak to the motion today. I suggest to members of the Bloc who introduced the motion that the best thing they could do for poverty and job creation in Canada is to get off their separatist agenda and go after the government to do something about its out of control spending.

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4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to make a few comments to my colleague from the Reform Party on the general plan he outlined earlier. I would tend to agree with the Liberal Party on this. We are still talking about federalism.

And speaking of federalism, I have to make a few comments to the member across the way, the member for Outremont, who spoke earlier. He said: "We contributed; we did this, and we did that". I would like to remind my colleague across the way that when he talks about this money, we pay for that, it is our money. So, when Quebec becomes sovereign, we will have the same power to do these things, except that we will be far more competent.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Gagnon Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

With less money.

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4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member across the way is saying that we will have less money. I regret, but we pay our taxes and we will be able to do directly what we want with that money.

I find always it fascinating to see that federalists want to hang on to their jurisdiction. When I hear them say that they have the expertise, I wonder what kind of expertise they are talking about. This reminds me a national conference that was held last fall and at which young people and older people came from all over Canada to talk about problems facing young people. Whether it is about young people or something else, we are always told, to my astonishment, that Quebec is always asking for something. Let me remind you that Quebec is not the only province demanding some kind of decentralization. Everybody wants it.

We were told from coast to coast that the problems are at the regional level, and problems vary from region to region. Why, then, should we keep a whole bunch of public servants in Ottawa to develop programs to solve regional problems, when those problems are so utterly different.

What I am saying, really, is that regions are in a much better position to come up with programs that will solve regional problems. That is the real answer. When Quebec is sovereign, we will know our problems better, and federalism will not stand in our way.

I have to admit I am discouraged, but I will roll up my sleeves. My region of the Saguenay and Lac Saint-Jean has a very high unemployment rate. Now that I am a member of Parliament, I might be tempted to expect something from the federal system. I have given up on federalism, and that is why I will roll up my sleeves.

In the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, people are starting to undertake regional initiatives. Mention has been made of the networking operation under way in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, and when I say networking, I am referring to a regional initiative that meets a regional need.

I think the Bloc Quebecois agrees that most jobs being created today are certainly not being created by the federal government but by small businesses. We know that to start up a small business often takes people who have business sense, a bright idea, a person with the entrepreneurial potential to develop that idea and in fact there are not many people in the community who have that potential. Of course it also takes money.

Often people are looking for partners to start a business, and that is what led me to set up the networking operation in my riding, which serves to seek out people with different skills that might be combined for the purpose of setting up the joint project.

Let me explain. If a person has an idea but not necessarily the entrepreneurial potential to put it into practice, there might be someone else who feels like starting a project but does not really have either an idea or the money. If money is the problem, then we look for someone else who has money.

This local initiative has yet to produce results, but it is well on its way, I can assure you. Local initiatives like these will help us deal with employment problems. This example is one of many.

Canadian federalism is certainly not the answer to our problems. When I hear my Reform Party colleague or the hon. member opposite say that federalism is there to save us and create jobs, I am very sceptical indeed.

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4:55 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel I was left out of that exchange but I am pleased to have an opportunity to respond.

The member touched on the plight of young people when we talk about the unemployed. The rate for young people is much higher than the 9.7 per cent. It is probably closer to 15 per cent and 16 per cent. Unfortunately in times like these employers will sometimes go for experience rather than enthusiasm, and young people are hurting.

The member also alluded to the fact that small businesses are creating jobs. He is absolutely right, but we need to help those small businesses create the jobs.

When I spoke earlier I referred to the results of a survey of small business in my riding. The member might be interested in doing a survey of the small businesses in his riding. The results showed that businesses were looking for tax relief. They are looking for the government to act in a fiscally responsible way. They are looking for the government to get its books in balance. They are looking for the government to get out of their pockets and off their backs and then they will create jobs.

Nowhere in my survey were they talking about low interest rates being the answer to job creation, which is what the government keeps talking about. The government is not listening to business. It is not listening to the real creators of jobs in Quebec, Ontario or right across Canada.

The government has to put the fiscal house in order, get the books in balance and then offer tax relief. That will create the jobs Canadians are looking for and will certainly go a long way to saving the social programs the people of Quebec are as concerned about as all other Canadians.

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March 12th, 1997 / 4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Patrick Gagnon Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, we have been following this debate with great interest and I can see that the Reform Party is almost as much in the dark as the Bloc Quebecois is about what regional economic development is all about.

It is even surprising to hear them say that and dare put federalism on trial. I listened to the hon. member for Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean denigrate the benefits of federalism, when we know that the federal government has spent $800 million to help his own region get back on its feet.

I remember that, last summer, when even members of the opposition, people from the West were welcomed with open arms by the people in Lac-Saint-Jean; when families from other provinces sent food to the people of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, when the Canadian government sent its experts, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard, the people in that region could not thank me enough.

We can easily see that the 80 per cent paid by the federal government, by all Canadians, is a source of embarrassment for the opposition because this is a benefit of federalism. In a way, this is the true spirit of federalism, because we are well aware that we can count on all Canadians to invest in the regions, not when times are easy, but especially when times are tough.

We could also put the Bloc on trial, because the members of the Bloc Quebecois do nothing in the area of regional economic development.

Have the Bloc members ever come up with an economic development program for Quebec's regions? Never. I had to come up with an additional $5 million to help out the Gaspé fishers. I had to act on behalf of those who are not properly represented.

The next campaign will not be on a motion by the Bloc, it will be the trial of the Bloc. We will explain to Quebecers that federalism works for Quebecers, particularly those in the regions.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hon. member for Simcoe Centre has 20 seconds.

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5 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, in 20 seconds I just want to say that the government is on trial and its day is coming. It is just weeks away. I look forward to the trial and I look forward to the government's standing up and defending its record on jobs, jobs, jobs, the elimination of the GST, the crushing taxes that we are under and deteriorating social programs.