House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was world.

Topics

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Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speeches by the member for Laval West and by the minister. I think anyone who defends themself for 20 minutes when no criticism has been leveled at them must have something to hide. We have not accused them of anything, but they defended themselves for 20 minutes. Something is not quite clear.

The minister said the Bloc Quebecois motion was all over the place and all muddled. I will help her out with a reminder. We want to create a special committee to examine the disparity between the rich and the poor. That is not so very complicated.

I have two very simple questions for the minister. First, has the number of poor children increased or decreased since the Liberals have been in government? Second, why is she opposed to creating an all party special committee to consider the problem of the gap between the rich and the poor?

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Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am not a person who is usually against very much. What I am in favour of is what the government has consistently been doing. That is, throughout all the successive budgets since 1993 when we became government, there are two areas where we have not reduced funding, where we have built programs consistently. We have enforced and expanded programs dealing with children and youth.

I must say that I did not state that that was confusing. I said that it was broad sweeping, that it pulled in such issues as the multilateral agreement on investment and the globalization of markets affecting the government's ability to develop the country's economies in accordance with its priorities. These are all broad assumptions and are broad sweeping issues that do not directly relate to my mandate. My mandate deals with les enfants et la jeunesse. In that mode I wanted to talk about something that is relevant to my mandate, the elimination of child poverty.

We look at the throne speech and the budget, the programs instituted, the prenatal nutrition program, the community action plan for children. I do not know whether the member opposite has bothered but I have gone to the grassroots level, to the various communities not just in Liberal held ridings but to various places. I have seen the programs. They are excellent programs. I advise the member to visit them as well.

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the hon. member.

I would like to know how the member would respond to the government's failure to set goals for decreasing unemployment. How would she respond to health and education transfers that directly affect poverty? No one would argue that increased education is one of the greatest weapons against poverty.

How would the minister respond to the cuts to EI that greatly affected aboriginal seasonal workers who no longer meet the requirement and are forced to go on welfare at a time when they are fighting to increase their self-worth?

We cannot look at child poverty in isolation as her other colleagues have been mentioning today. I think everyone realizes this. How does the minister respond to only isolating child poverty from the poverty of all?

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her questions.

We are not in the practice of setting quotas or targets that we cannot meet. We put all our efforts into eliminating and trying to reduce unemployment. We have done that. We have gone from double digit to a single digit unemployment figure. That says something.

We have also created an opportunity for people by way of reducing and eliminating the deficit on top of trying to do what we can for poor people. We are not continually putting pressure back on the taxpayers of Canada. I think that speaks for itself.

We can talk about numbers but we cannot achieve anything if we do not put a concerted effort into something, which we have done consistently.

I encourage the hon. member to read the budget. It was an education budget. I do not know if she recalls but the media were calling the Minister of Finance the minister of education because of the budget he put before parliament. I encourage the member to look at all the granting systems and the millennium scholarship fund. Much debated they were, but they were necessary.

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1:45 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motion today. I was somewhat amused when I looked at the television broadcast of this debate and saw the line underneath the picture indicating “elimination of poverty”. I thought some might say we have reached a point of arrogance to assume we in the House will eliminate all poverty.

I have some comments regarding the motion which I would like to share. The particular motion proposes to eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor and to eliminate child poverty through government intervention.

For some individuals these are noble sounding goals, but Reform would take issue with how the Bloc and others in the House propose to achieve these goals. Often the method and the determination of the outcome are more critical than just lofty sounding goals.

Some feel the answer to these problems is more megagovernment programs, more government make work projects, more protectionism, more bureaucracy, more taxes, more debt and a more unfocused federal government, more of the old vision of how a government should work.

It is because this has not worked that Reform takes a different view of how these issues should be addressed. Reform would point out that we have been through the age of megagovernment programs and it has not worked. It certainly has not eliminated the problems. The Bloc obstensibly says that this is an attempt to address the issue. Instead of eliminating poverty or the gap between the rich and the poor, what has been the result of megagovernment that the Bloc seems to wish to promote today?

A short list would include a $600 billion debt, the highest taxes in the industrialized world, one-third of every tax dollar going to interest on the national debt, job insecurity for many Canadians, almost one in five of our trained young people not finding work, and a brain drain of our brightest to better opportunities in other countries.

We could do better but more of the same and bigger government are not the answer. This megagovernment vision which the Bloc and others in the House seem to support has resulted in low and single income individuals and families paying higher levels of taxation with the hope of getting some back through some government program.

Even after the latest budget an individual starts paying taxes at approximately $7,000. Surely such individuals cannot be classified as rich, but the government still forces them to hand over their income to their megagovernment so that perhaps their megagovernment can think of some sort of bureaucracy growing program for them.

An individual earning $29,000 will pay about 20% of his income to the federal government in personal income tax, employment insurance and CPP premiums. This total does not include the Liberals' beloved GST or any provincial taxes.

A megagovernment comes up with megaproposals and megaprograms which are not easily tailorable to the needs of individuals. Given the diversity of the needs of the regions in Canada, the big brother approach does not meet people where they are at.

An example might be the child tax benefit. One can agree there is value in recognizing the increased costs of raising a child, but we can take issue with how it is recognized by the government. It is important to recognize the responsibility of raising children. In the words of supreme court Justice La Forest:

Marriage has from time immemorial been firmly grounded in our legal tradition, one that is itself a reflection of longstanding philosophical and religious traditions. But ultimately its raison d'etre transcends all these and is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that couples have the unique ability to procreate, that children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship.

The family is an important relationship. The child tax benefit essentially takes money from families with children through taxes today. Then one year later they are sent a cheque. This is a year after they filed and paid their taxes. Would it not be easier to simplify the process and simply reduce their tax bill at source in the first place and eliminate much of the bureaucracy involved in processing the program? Let the family have the money in the month it is earned and not a year later.

There is a family in my riding, the Lucas family, that shared with me a story of how there was an error in the child tax benefit the family received. Revenue Canada sent a cheque for $1,000 and said “We underpaid you on the child tax benefit”. This is a poor family that is just starting out with one young child and another one on the way. This was a windfall, $1,000 out of the blue. The family enjoyed the $1,000 by spending it on some immediate needs.

Three months later the family got a letter from Revenue Canada saying it was an overpayment on the child tax benefit and now the $1,000 had to be paid back. The stress it put on that family I cannot begin to fully articulate today. However after many calls and many appeals to the taxman the family was allowed to pay so much off a month. It put tremendous stress on the family. In researching the whole situation it was not the only family that had been ground up in this bureaucratic nightmare. In fact there were many families across Canada. It is the height of administrative bureaucracy when it loses touch with the impacts it is having on everyday people.

This kind of complexity adds to the burden of taxation and administration that families have to carry. Not only have taxes become the greatest expense in the family budget, but it has become a family expense just to file an income tax return because it is so complex. There are 600 pages in the act and 700 pages of special interpretations. The Income Tax Act and the special interpretations that go with it are thicker than most phone books and it started out as a 36 page document to fund the war effort. Bureaucracy has gone crazy and it is impacting on families. The bottom line is that more government intervention in recent years has worked against the family and their children.

What is Reform's vision? Reform has pointed out that the old vision of megagovernment just is not working. This is the vision which has us working half the year just to pay the tax bill. The old vision of the current government promised job creation and social justice. That is what it promised but it delivers chronic unemployment, chronic poverty and youth crime. It is a vision which promises national unity through national programs and national standards but delivers friction, disunity, non-accountability, duplication and waste.

Current government vision trivializes the individual, family and community contributions by implying that only through government programs, government spending and government propaganda can the country be held together.

Reform's vision is that of a country defined and built by its citizens rather than by its government. It is a vision of smaller government and lower taxes. It is a vision that reaches out to the initiative, drive and diversity of Canadians and calls upon individuals, families and communities to lead the way to growth, progress and unity. It allows families and communities to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

The best way to address child poverty is to address the needs of the family. This may be attained through jobs for parents or youth. This can be achieved through lower taxes and less bureaucracy. Children are members of families in the care of their parents. They are not disconnected free agents.

Reform believes that we can best help families by simplifying and reducing the burden of government on them and by showing that they make an important contribution to the health of our country. More than that, Reform would point out that we need to better respect the autonomy of families and not undermine these relationships by driving a wedge between parents and their children or between husbands and wives with greater government intervention in family relationships. That is not the answer.

These are not just my comments. These positions are written into the policies, statements and documents of the Reform Party. We affirm in our statements the duty of parents to raise their children responsibly, according to their own conscience and beliefs. We further affirm that no person, government or agency has any right to interfere in the exercise of that duty as long as the actions of parents do not constitute abuse or neglect.

Rather than saying we need bigger government and the higher taxes that go along with it, Reform is saying that we need smaller government. The money earned by families is best left in their pockets, the pockets of those who know how best to spend it to address their needs and those of their children. Children can be best served by those closest to them, that is parents and not governments. Parents know best how to address the needs of their families.

I refer to the publicity stunt we saw performed by the Bloc Quebecois member who carried his chair out of the House in protest. It is interesting that he did this to demonstrate the government's ineffectiveness in addressing child poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor—

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The member still has well over nine minutes in his time, but seeing that it is almost two o'clock and I want to lay a report upon the table, I wonder if he would cede the floor and of course be immediately recognized when we take up the debate again.

Supplementary Report Of The Auditor General Of Canada
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the supplementary report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons, volume I, for April 1998.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e) this document is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Workplace Safety
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, today, April 28, is the national day of mourning for workers who are killed or injured as a result of their jobs. In honour of this solemn occasion the Canadian flag flies at half mast on Parliament Hill and in cities and towns across the country.

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, nearly 1,000 workers die each year because of their workplaces. A million more are injured or contract some form of occupational sickness. Federal and provincial labour laws have gone a long way to protect Canadian workers, but as the numbers indicate workplace injuries and fatalities continue to occur with tragic frequency.

On this solemn occasion I wish to offer my sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones in workplace accidents and my best wishes to those who have been injured on the job. The number of Canadians killed and injured at work must be reduced. I call on hon. members to keep this in mind today and throughout the year.

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

April 28th, 1998 / 2 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is tonight's vote all about? It is about people who contacted hepatitis C through no fault of their own, people who are hurting like Mark Bulbrook of Hamilton, Ontario; James Lodge of Victoria, B.C.; Karen Neilson of Oyen, Alberta; Leona Martens of Alamed, Saskatchewan; Pat Lyons of Port Coquitlam, B.C.; Dale Strohmaier of Edmonton, Alberta; David Smith of Victoria, B.C.; Ronald Thiel of Saanich, B.C.; Louise Schmidt of Maple Ridge; Geraldine Clements of Naramata, B.C.; Rita Wegscheidler of Penticton, B.C.; Brad Baldwin of Dalmany, Saskatchewan.

These are all people left out of the hepatitis C compensation package. They deserve equal compensation with all other victims of tainted blood because they are people who are suffering just as much as those who are to be included.

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Laval-Ouest.

Work Related Accidents
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, each year, the lives of thousands of Canadian families are shattered overnight because of a work related accident. Too many families have to live through these tragedies that involve huge social and economic costs for our society.

We will never overstate the need for governments to make sure that occupational health and safety legislation and regulations are strictly enforced. In a society such as ours, this great number of work related accidents is downright unacceptable.

Our challenge is to ensure healthy and safe work conditions for all Canadian workers.

Why do we not establish as a goal in our society a rule of zero tolerance for work related accidents in order to show greater respect for the dignity of millions of Canadian workers?

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ben Serré Timiskaming—Cochrane, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight the House will be asked to vote on a Reform motion condemning the government's $1.1 billion compensation package to the victims of hepatitis C.

This agreement was signed by all 10 provinces and 2 territories and by governments of all political parties.

Today I challenge all four opposition parties to come clean with Canadians. If they wish to condemn the federal government they must also publicly condemn their provincial counterparts.

I challenge the leader of the Reform Party and the leader of the Conservative Party to publicly today condemn their friends Mike Harris and Ralph Klein. I challenge the leader of the New Democratic Party today to publicly condemn Roy Romanow and Glen Clark.

I challenge the leader of the Bloc Quebecois to publicly condemn right now his leader, Lucien Bouchard.

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg South.

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of the decision taken by the Minister of Health and his provincial and territorial partners concerning compensation for hepatitis C victims.

In particular I want to acknowledge the strong principled leadership of the Minister of Health in the face of clearly partisan and opportunistic criticism levelled against him by the opposition members of this House.

The easy path would be for the minister to simply pay those who are making a claim upon the government. But as the minister has noted, he and his provincial and territorial colleagues are the custodians of Canada's health care system. Because of this they have a larger responsibility, a responsibility to deal with the tough questions that confront them and make the right decisions.

The opposition members seem to think the moral high ground belongs to those who advocate the easiest and most expedient course of action, to offer blanket compensation today without thinking about the consequences for tomorrow.

It is clear, however, that the true moral high ground—

Hepatitis C
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar.