House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, I was reading from a text. That is why I departed from the rule. “Nonetheless, the Minister of Finance sponsored this bill and certain members have expressed the view that this constitutes an apparent conflict of interest”.

The hon. member opposite is not reading the same documents we read on February 17, 1998. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is so certain that the minister is not in conflict of interest, why, when we asked the Standing Committee on Finance to hear witnesses on this state of affairs, was our request to hear from the ethics counsellor, Howard Wilson, the only one granted, but all our other requests turned down?

This is why we in the Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties are once again raising the issue, because we feel that the word has gone out across the way not to shed light on this matter. A finance minister in a situation such as this must tell the truth.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, the hon. member mentioned in his remarks the fact that the federal cutbacks to provinces lead to social injustices. I would like to underscore that comment. I agree 100% that is the case.

As we talk about taxes, we cannot help but be drawn to the serious problems of the health care system, unemployment and the economic opportunities within our small communities.

I think in particular of some small communities in Nova Scotia where small businesses are finding it very difficult to operate because of a business occupancy tax that is being levied upon them by the municipality. It is so serious that many of these small businesses are reaching the point of closing out due to this unfair tax system.

I would like to underscore that it is very important as we deal with taxation, whether it be income tax or other types of taxes, we always keep in mind the citizens who are going to be affected by the changes we make.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, the problems mentioned by the NDP member from Nova Scotia are quite similar to the ones we have in Quebec. My riding is also very regional; we have small and medium size businesses and we also have social problems. The government is not making any effort to reduce the tax burden of individuals and of small and medium size businesses, with the result that these people and businesses have a hard time being competitive.

In the context of globalization and free trade, the federal government should be more receptive to ordinary people, but I doubt it will be.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, before the last referendum the Parti Quebecois commissioned a study on the economic impact of separation on the people of Quebec. It was done by somebody in the Parti Quebecois and was tossed under the carpet.

I would like ask my hon. friend from the Bloc Quebecois two questions. First, why was the report, which was a damning report on the economic impact on Quebec if Quebec were to separate, tossed under the carpet? Second, in the event of separation, would the manufacturers of Quebec be doing their business with the Americans in French or in English?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard about this document but, unfortunately, I did not have time to find out what happened to it.

However, I want to reassure the Reform Party member that, regardless of the language we speak, we are in a global market. We are in the process of signing all sorts of agreements with various countries, and I cannot see why Canada would refuse a business partnership with a sovereign Quebec.

All this is academic, but one thing is sure: when we have all the necessary levers, we will be able to negotiate on behalf of a sovereign Quebec, and the rest of Canada will also benefit from this new Quebec-Canada structure.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to express in very clear terms the opposition of the New Democratic Party to Bill C-28. The reasons for our opposition are many, but there is one overriding concern that must be dealt with very clearly in this debate.

In the process of expressing our opposition to the bill, let me say how concerned we are to find once again the government of the day wielding the heavy hand of time allocation and bringing in closure on a very important debate before us and the Canadian people.

The most critical, the most controversial aspect of Bill C-28 is the section that applies to health care financing and specifically amends the financing arrangements for health care under the Canada health and social transfer. We are dealing with, as we have done on many occasions, a government that is prepared to delve into illusory politics, to act like the great pretender and to imply that it is doing some great service for health care when all along it is a misrepresentation.

We have heard time and time again from the government that it is investing new money in health care. That is a galling statement when we consider the fact that we are not dealing with any new moneys for health care. We are dealing simply with a cancelled cut and the legislation before us verifies the fact that is all the government is prepared to do at a time when health care is in crisis.

This is also an opportunity to talk about our visions for health care. We are all asking what is the vision of the Liberal government when it comes to medicare. We have not heard any plan from the government. We are still waiting to see when the millennium health care budget will happen. We are still waiting to get details from the government on how it will deal with the health care crisis.

At the same time we are dealing with a very serious situation, pronouncements from the Reform Party about the kind of health care system it would like to see. That in itself should speak to the Liberal government and remind it of the urgency. I certainly hope the Liberal government is vehemently opposed to the kind of proposal being advanced by the Reform Party.

I remind members of the vision of the Reform Party on health care. Within the past two weeks the member for North Vancouver suggested to the House that we needed more competition in our health care system. He said that he received better health care in Florida than he has received under socialized medicine in Canada. We have not heard such regressive, reactionary comments in the last 30 years. All of a sudden they are appearing at a time when we need leadership and not reactionary statements like that one.

The member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca told us over the past few days about his vision and Reform's vision for health care. On behalf of the Reform Party he advanced a parallel system of health care: one for the rich and one for the poor. That is the antithesis of everything that has shaped the country including the medicare we have today. It is absolute Americanization and privatization of our health care system, the absolute opposite of what Canadians want to see from this place and from their government. That is why this debate is so critical.

With one voice we need to tell the government to preserve medicare. Canadians want medicare preserved. That means a genuine reinvestment to make up for the tremendous amount of money that has been chopped out of this system over the last number of years, in particular during the time the federal Liberal government has been in power.

I will put the chronology of events on record to point out the seriousness of the situation. We need not forget that the whole erosion of medicare began under the Mulroney Conservative government with several pieces of legislation that changed a funding formula that made sense and that ensured federal cash transfers to the provinces would grow as the economy and the population grew. The Mulroney government changed that formula over several years to ensure that growth in health care transfer payments would end. We realized at that point that under that formula cash transfer payments to the provinces would dwindle to zero in short order if that were allowed to continue.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Who stopped it? We did.

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

The question is who stopped it. The Liberals would like to pretend they stopped it. I will put the facts on the record. The Liberals came into office in 1993 with the promise to address this critical situation, to restore funds for health care and to restore confidence in medicare.

What did they do in 1995? They introduced the Canada health and social transfer, the most regressive social policy in the country. In one fell swoop they took $6.8 billion out of programs for health, education and social assistance. They eliminated the requirement that provinces live up to expenditures in those specific areas. They completely abdicated responsibility in terms of ensuring a viable health care system, quality public education and any semblance of a Canada assistance plan.

In taking that huge chunk out of transfer payments to the provinces, the Liberal government put medicare on very weak ground. As a result of the failure to maintain its commitment, to keep its promise to Canadians, we are dealing with the health care crisis we have today.

We have gone from the days when funding for health care was done on a 50:50 basis to where today the federal government at the very best is responsible for 20%. We have gone from 50:50 to 80:20. That is even stretching it. If we look only at the cash portion of the transfer payment the federal contribution is down to 10% or 13%. With that kind of loss in federal support, with that kind of abdication of responsibility, with a total lack of federal leadership, we have a very serious situation.

We now have a government that is prepared to pretend its cancelled cut will save the day, but it fails to tell Canadians that it is still a $6.8 billion cut. We have a government that does not have the wherewithal to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.

We have a government that has basically thrown up its hands and said “Let whatever happens happen. We are not responsible”. That is contrary to the traditions of the country. It is contrary to the vision of the pioneers of medicare. It is contrary to the intentions of the Canadian people.

Let me remind the Liberal government and the Reform members that Canadians have a very clear idea of what they want in terms of health care. They want a single payer, universally accessible, publicly administered health care system. They do not want the two tier health system being proposed by the Reform. They do not want the federal government to abdicate from its responsibility. They want a partnership, which is all we are talking about in our opposition to the bill.

We presented an amendment to the bill that would have allowed the government at least to show some good faith and report back to parliament about the adequacy of cash transfers to the health care system to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act.

Did the government accept that amendment? Did the Reform Party accept that amendment? No. They would not even agree to a simple official process for accounting back to parliament and to the Canadian people. Where is their support for medicare? Where is their vision for the country? It was a small gesture to be made and they could not even go that far.

We know there are difficulties surrounding this issue on the Liberal benches. We know that there is clearly a battle going on between the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health. We know there is a battle going on between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Industry.

Why else would we end up with the most unusual situation of the Minister of Health going on national radio and saying what he said? He said:

But on that point, let me say that, you know, in Ottawa now, as you mentioned at the top, we just balanced the budget. We're entering sort of a new and unprecedented area where we're going to have a debate like we haven't had in memory about what to do with the surplus. And people are going to be arguing, for example, that the surplus should be used for tax cuts; others will argue that it should be for other programming. Health is going to be contending with other priorities for the available dollars. So if, as you said, Canadians support increased investment in health care, then I think that we should make it clear that those who want to see surpluses go to health should let their voices be heard.

I have not seen anything this unusual in the whole time that I have been in politics. It is absolutely incredible to have a minister of health stand publicly, dissociate himself with the government policies of the day and ask for Canadians to support him in his efforts to advocate for health care. I think that says it all and why we need—

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1997
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is almost two o'clock. The member still has 10 minutes left in her time and will be the first speaker when we resume debate.

Asia Pacific Hall
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, British Columbia is Canada's gateway to the Asia Pacific, home to about half of the world's total population, production and total consumption.

In the words of the Prime Minister “Canada knows that Asia Pacific is the future”. Hence Canada launched the Year of Asia Pacific on January 8, 1997 in Vancouver.

The year succeeded in firmly establishing Canada's credentials as a Pacific nation, forging stronger and more numerous human and economic links between Canada and its partners in the region.

To sustain this legacy, the Prime Minister announced last November Canada's contribution of $4 million toward the establishment of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. This state of the art conference facility, the first of its kind in North America, shall be named Asia Pacific Hall.

Indeed British Columbia can take pride in providing the home for this enduring legacy of Canada's Year of Asia Pacific.

The Senate
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, There is a place where members are appointed You'd think that they had been annoited As citizens toil, these members sleep They rake in the benefits while taxpayers weep

It does not have to be that way They should work hard to receive pay We could choose them by election Not by the Prime Minister's selection

Account to the people on promises kept Duties and responsibilities met Vacations more like normal folk Then that place would not be a joke

Is this a dream, could it be real? Ottawa in touch with what citizens feel? The only way that we will know Give the Senate election a go!

Let the people decide for in the end They don't want the Prime Minister's friends Then the senator's guiding path Will not be the public's wrath!

Technological Development
Statements By Members

March 26th, 1998 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with this House an excellent government initiative to promote the growth of the small business sector in eastern Quebec and on the North Shore.

Indeed, on March 3, the hon. secretary of state responsible for Canada Economic Development announced a $529,500 contribution to the corporation providing support for technological development. This assistance is designed mainly to support small businesses in eastern Quebec and on the North Shore, which hire science and engineering students from Université du Québec in Rimouski.

This is phase II of a project to promote the development of innovation and technology in the small business sector by facilitating the integration of future graduates into small and medium size businesses in these two regions.

Our government is especially proud of having been associated with this initiative from the start. This is a promising project, which is focused on youth and will have a positive effect on the growth of small and medium size businesses in eastern Quebec and the North Shore for the benefit of all of Canada.

Agricultural Sector
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development is persecuting Quebec farmers, particularly those in eastern Quebec.

Each time family farm operators hire a son, daughter, spouse or relative, they are harassed by Revenue or Employment Canada officials.

They are practically treated like criminals. Officials almost automatically suspect them of trying to defraud the system. If a farming operation is recognized by Revenue Canada, why do HRDC officials hound its owner?

I find this attitude unacceptable and ask that the minister give the necessary instructions to put an immediate stop to this demoralizing practice.

Reform Party Of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, it must be tough to be a B.C. Reform member these days. It has been a long cold winter in Ottawa and I have heard that being shut in behind the walls of Stornoway without bingo makes one a little crazy.

While British Columbians expect their MPs to debate the budget, Reformers take flag waving joy rides around Parliament Hill. While this government works for lower taxes, a reduced debt and improved health care, Reformers devote their time in question period to mud slinging at the Prime Minister. While this government is acting on recommendations put forward by the national forum on health, Reformers dance to a mariachi band outside the other place.

It is clear that Reform has lost touch with the people of B.C. and that is why constituents of B.C. are turning to Liberals like Lou Sekora in Port Moody—Coquitlam for leadership. Lou knows that tax relief, debt reduction, more and better jobs and preserving key social programs are what people are really concerned about. Reform is out of touch with British Columbians—

Reform Party Of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey.