House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions)
Adjournment Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, Hyundai has been in the news a great deal in our area since this firm closed its plant in Bromont.

The former Bloc member for Brome-Missisquoi, Gaston Péloquin, had predicted during the last election campaign that the Hyundai plant in Bromont would close. Of course, everybody then believed that he was not telling the truth.

After getting a $23 million loan from Ottawa and the same amount from Quebec, Hyundai set up its plant in Bromont with the objective of producing 100,000 cars a year. We know that this objective was never reached.

When the closing of the plant was announced, Mr. Péloquin and I got together to try to find out more about the future of the Hyundai plant and the 800 jobs that would be lost. We are talking about 800 direct jobs, 800 quality jobs, 800 well-paid jobs. These 800 direct jobs and the contracts that were awarded generated significant economic benefits throughout the Granby-Bromont region.

These jobs were held by people between 25 and 30 on average. We know how difficult it is today for young people to find quality jobs. Our young people were hit hard.

At that time, I urged the government, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to act as quickly as possible to save these jobs and, more importantly, to ensure that this situation does not reoccur.

The Prime Minister does not miss an opportunity to brag about job creation. In this case, the federal government failed miserably. I also attended a few meetings held by employees of the Federal Office of Regional Development for Quebec, in Montreal. Nothing could be done. The Liberal government across the way did nothing to save this plant other than take part in unsuccessful meetings.

What we know now is that all the equipment was taken out of the plant and that the executive is challenging the City of Bromont's assessment roll to have their municipal taxes reduced.

Yet, the solution for the future is obvious. We must find another destination for this plant. We should find buyers, a company willing to acquire this infrastructure, a modern plant. We have to recognize that Hyundai will not change its decision. A responsible government claiming that it is stimulating employment should do its utmost to revive the plant.

On April 16, I asked the Minister of Industry whether discussions had been initiated with his Quebec counterpart or any potential buyer who could take over this idle plant and get it running again. I was told that the question would be taken under advisement. Can you imagine that. Not a very impressive answer.

They claim they can run a country, and their stated objective was job creation. Remember: "Jobs, jobs, jobs"? What did they do? Just about nothing. Of course, my Ottawa office has not had an answer yet, even though the parliamentary secretary undertook to give me one. We did not get anything, but it is not the first time, we are used to it. Liberals talk a lot and make lots of promises but, unfortunately, they do not deliver much.

Therefore, I put my question again to the Minister of Industry or his department. Do they have solutions to propose to the people of my riding and the neighbouring riding of Brome-Missisquoi, which is not appear anywhere, on this issue. Are there talks between the government in Ottawa and the one in Quebec City to look for potential buyers who could get this idle plant running again?

People in my riding have the right to know what the federal government is doing for them and I expect an answer on their behalf.

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions)
Adjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I am pleased the hon. member for Shefford has given me the opportunity to speak to the development of the Hyundai plant in Bromont, Quebec.

As the Minister of Industry noted in the House previously, Hyundai informed the government of its intention to remove its equipment from the Bromont plant since its efforts to reopen the plant with partners or to attract investors had been fruitless.

Having reimbursed all sums owed to both governments, Hyundai has no other formal obligations. The arrangement agreed to by Industry Canada, the Quebec industry department and Hyundai was that Hyundai would pay back the entire amount of the contributions it received, $46.4 million, under the Canada-Quebec industrial development agreement if it ceased production and was unable to introduce a new product or find an interested buyer for its Bromont plant.

As neither of these conditions could be met, Hyundai has now returned the entire amount which will be used jointly by the federal and provincial governments under the entente to fund other worthwhile projects that will contribute to economic development in Quebec.

The federal government continues to search for opportunities to create jobs and growth. Industry Canada now has a dedicated investment unit, which is a joint initiative with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, working on an international marketing campaign to increase international awareness of Canada's advantages as a location for investment.

Investment Partnerships Canada builds new federal, provincial, municipal and government-private sector partnerships to attract investment.

I am confident of the work of Industry Canada. It will respond to any investor interest in the Bromont plant.

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions)
Adjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Glen McKinnon Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am here tonight to address once again what continues to be a worsening condition in my home province. The flood waters of the Red River are still on the rise. Yesterday Premier Filmon declared a provincial state of emergency.

Our minister responsible for Emergency Planning Canada, the Minister of National Defence, was in southern Manitoba recently and attempted to meet with Mr. Filmon and to inspect the situation.

During yesterday's question period I had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the hon. minister. Given the time constraints, the minister was unable to address the specific measures the Government of Canada has taken and is willing to undertake in the future. Tonight I greatly appreciate the opportunity to further discuss the matter.

I will put the present situation into a historical context. This is certainly not the first national disaster although it may be the worst flood the province has seen in 100 years. The memories of past floods are etched into the minds of those who suffered through them. We refer specifically to 1950, 1966, 1979 and 1996. In each of those years neighbours and communities pulled together to help each other.

The province of Manitoba did its share to co-ordinate emergency efforts. Along with the Government of Canada it was there to provide strategic support and in the end financial assistance to help recover some costs associated with the disaster.

When the incident is over the financial aspect bears some scrutiny and discussion. Financial assistance has been given according to a disaster assistance formula put in place back in the seventies. Since 1970 the federal government has paid over $53 billion to the province, a substantially higher amount in proportion to other provinces of similar size. This is due through no small part to the severe and devastating floods that have occurred on a fairly regular and repetitive basis.

Under the DFAA arrangements the federal government is permitted to assist provinces when the cost of responding to major emergencies such as the one we are facing now puts undue strain on the provincial economy. When this happens financial assistance is requested by the province of the federal government. The amount of federal assistance is in accordance with a cost sharing formula based on the provincial population and eligible provincial expenses as spelled out under DFAA guidelines.

The province receives invoices from the municipality, catalogues them and forwards them to the federal government for its scrutiny. The province may however provide more generous assistance than what the guidelines designed between the province and the federal government actually state. As a senior minister from Manitoba stated earlier today in a media interview, it is up to the province to develop and deliver its own program of assistance to victims of a disaster according to the nature of the disaster and the needs of the people deeply affected.

Recently the Government of Canada committed to compensate the amount of $1.25 million for funds for Manitoba in 1993 and 1995 regardless of what the disaster assistance guidelines clearly state. It is a one-time payment which does not set a precedent. It is a generous way of showing that the Government of Canada is committed to compensating equally and fairly all Canadians who have endured a natural disaster. It displays the level of generosity the federal government needs to express to those areas hit.

We would ask the minister's representative to kindly clarify what measures the Liberal government is taking to ensure that in the middle of such confusion Manitobans can be assured of equal and good treatment in the future.

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions)
Adjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Winnipeg—St. James
Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Brandon-Souris for his question. I understand his concern for our fellow Manitobans.

By all measures the flood waters that now threaten Manitobans are cause for great concern. While we cannot fully overcome the full force of Mother Nature, the local municipalities, the Government of Manitoba and the Government of Canada will endeavour to do everything within their powers to minimize the personal, social and economic dislocation that so often follow natural disasters of this magnitude.

Already the federal government, working with Manitoba's emergency measures organization, has in place a number of initiatives aimed at helping Manitobans prepare for the impending floods. As of today more than 300 Canadian forces members are actively participating in sandbagging operations in southern Manitoba. An additional 1,400 CF members have been committed and are moving into the area. Many more CF members are on standby and ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

A number of reservists from the Manitoba area are among those on standby, a wonderful example of how local support for the militia is often returned in kind to the community.

By Friday April 25, air command will have 10 helicopters in Winnipeg. Zodiac boats, heavy equipment and more personnel are being moved to the area as we speak. Resources such as these will prove to be vital in flood support operations such as evacuations and emergency situations.

At the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Manitoba's Liberal MPs, yesterday afternoon the Minister of National Defence toured by helicopter the area south of Winnipeg affected by flooding. The minister wanted to review the situation personally and ensure that all that can be done is being done to assist the Manitoba government and those people affected by this natural disaster.

The Canadian forces however represent but one dimension of the federal government's response to this potential disaster.

Human Resources Development Canada is arranging for expedited movement of pension and other such cheques.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is in close communication with First Nations communities, including Dauphin River, that could be isolated by flood waters.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has compiled an inventory of emergency housing if evacuees need to be relocated.

Revenue Canada Customs has arranged to provide 24-hour service at other entry sites to expedite commercial truck traffic detoured from its usual port of entry.

The Canadian Wheat Board has been moving grain out of threatened areas with the assistance of the railways.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans-Canadian Coast Guard in Manitoba has its fleet of small boats and equipment ready for use by municipalities if required. The coast guard has mobilized several large barges ready to transport livestock and other property if evacuation is necessary. Some cattle already have been evacuated in the St. Pierre-Joly area.

The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration has five fields ready for use as an emergency feedlot. Preparations are also being made to deal with an influx of animal carcasses in areas where evacuation of livestock may not have been completed.

No one can fully mitigate the devastating effects caused by flooding. If our worst fears are met, challenging times surely will come in the wake of rising flood waters.

While it is the human spirit which will ultimately ensure that the vitality of communities facing flood waters will remain intact, I can assure the citizens of Manitoba that the Government of Canada will do its part. Everyone from the Prime Minister on down is on alert and everything possible will be done to help my fellow Manitobans.

Finally, Manitoba is not facing its first nor likely its last natural disaster. The treatment of Manitobans by the Government of Canada however will be second to none.

Quebec Contingency Act (Referendum Conditions)
Adjournment Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow, pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 5.48 p.m.)