House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I look forward to being on that side of the House and having him lob similar softball questions across to us once we are back in government. That was indeed a softball question.

The Mulroney Progressive Conservative government was successful in reducing the deficit as a percent of GDP from 9% when it took office to 5% by the time it left office. It was kind of like that old country and western song, Give Me 40 Acres and I'll Turn This Rig Around . That previous government inherited an 18-wheeler that was going down the road at 200 miles per hour in the wrong direction. Somebody had to slow it down and somebody had to implement the types of structural economic changes that were necessary to enable this visionless government to effectively cruise through the last several years and, through no fault of its own, to have fairly decent economic results.

Those were not my words crediting the Progressive Conservative for the reduction and elimination of the deficit. Those were the words of the greatest news journal in the world, in my opinion, the Economist magazine out of the U.K., which said very clearly that credit for the deficit reduction in Canada belongs largely to structural reforms made to the Canadian economy by the previous government. I would not be so audacious as to say that myself. I was just quoting a wonderful news publication that brings a very objective view to the situation here in Canada.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to get back into the order and the flow of things. I missed my opportunity at the end of the Bloc Quebecois speech to add our contribution to this debate. I appreciate the latitude shown to let me speak to this now.

It should come as no surprise to anybody here that the NDP caucus is in opposition to Bill C-24. Members look shocked that we do not fully concur with the Liberal Party tax policy. I want to use my time to point out just how strongly we oppose Bill C-24 and other recent developments from the most recent budget that dealt with tax relief and tax reform, if one can call it that. We have been calling for true tax reform since we have been in the House but we have yet to see it. Frankly, we have seen more in the same direction and a continuation of the same economic policy and philosophy which we think does not serve ordinary Canadians and does not serve working Canadians well.

By way of beginning my remarks, it is useful to look at a direct quote from the majority report of the finance committee. It is just a few short lines so I will read it. The majority report of the finance committee states:

The Committee has chosen to use tax reform/relief as the primary vehicle for promoting increased productivity not because we know that there are very specific and definitive links between productivity and taxation, but primarily because of what we don't know.

The Liberals are almost jumping into this avenue of economic policy by virtue of what they do not know will be the predictable results and consequences. That should not give Canadians any comfort. It should worry Canadians very much if that is the sort of research that has been done.

I will read this again because a lot of Canadians will probably not understand how significant and indicative this is. It says:

The Committee has chosen to use tax reform/tax relief as the primary vehicle for promoting increased productivity not because we know that there are very specific and definitive links between productivity and taxation, but primarily because of what we don't know.

That sounds like nonsense. It is also very worrisome for ordinary Canadians who may pick that up and read it.

One thing I can say is that there is no empirical evidence anywhere in the country that proves tax relief creates jobs. That is a myth that has been perpetrated. It is something that we might like to believe, because it would give us some sense of surety that we are confident about the direction in which we are going, but there is no empirical evidence anywhere. There has been no academic study. There has been no proof that tax relief, as such, creates jobs.

There is also no proof anywhere, as the committee admits, that tax relief per se increases productivity. We do not know if the two are related, and the committee readily admits that in its paper.

These words of the majority report of the finance committee delivers its empty rationale for recommending $46 billion in tax cuts for high income earners as a priority for upcoming budgets. It can only be called blind faith in the virtue of tax cuts for the wealthy. We believe it is typical of the Liberal government's position in the debate about what to do with the predicted federal surpluses. It is the worst form of trickle-down economics, blind faith in an obsolete ideology.

Frankly, ordinary working Canadians are used to being trickled on. We have been trickled on a lot in recent history and it is not water that is trickling down from above and it certainly is not revenues and pennies from heaven. We are being trickled on in the most mean-spirited ways often and frequently. These trickle-down economics are a continuation of the same line of thinking.

When it comes to tax cuts, the debate we should be having should be about setting goals for improving the quality of life for all Canadians not just tax cuts for the wealthy. We should be taking steps that move us forward. A lot of us believe that society does not move forward unless we all move forward together. It is one of the basic tenets of the NDP philosophy that society does not move forward unless we all move forward together. We are against anything that further builds that gap, the great divide, between the rich and the poor.

Having set and met financial targets on eliminating the deficit, one would think that the prospect of large surpluses would now allow Canadians and the government to meet such emergencies as the crisis facing the homeless, for instance. That would be a laudable pursuit. We would have liked to have heard more in the budget about the crisis facing the homeless in the country. That would be worthwhile and we would stand up and applaud budget initiatives in that regard. Another crisis would the family farm crisis in the province I come from. Those are the types of missed opportunities that we believe the government is taking part in with its policy on how to deal with the generous surpluses it is looking forward to.

Another idea I have is that we could try to meet the target we set for ourselves 10 years ago to eliminate child poverty. That would be a laudable concept. Giving tax breaks to the wealthy does not do anything to eliminate child poverty in the country. I defy the government to show me the connection, unless it is relying strictly on that famous old trickle-down theory of an economic system with lots of millionaires and surely some of that money will spill over from their coffers and fall onto ordinary Canadians. It is a cruel myth and a lot of people are tired of being the brunt of that myth.

What about taking steps to ensure that all our children are given the best possible start in life? In the newspaper today there was a very interesting article about how youth crime and youth violence can be so directly connected to the problem of fetal alcohol syndrome, FAE/FAS children. This is an emergency in our schools. It is an emergency in our criminal justice system. It is an emergency in the inner city of our big cities, in small communities and on reserves right across the country. We have seen nothing to address that issue specifically in this budget or in any policy that we have debated in the House of Commons. This is a worthwhile emergency on which we could in fact be spending some of our surplus instead of on tax relief for the wealthy.

There is a growing movement and concern in Canada that we are losing our cherished not for profit public health care system. We are losing it to the spectacle of a two-tiered American style health care system which we know does not work. Instead of using this flourishing, blossoming surplus on protecting and strengthening our universal public health care system, again we are seeing the idea of tax cuts for the wealthy. I guess if the wealthy had more of their disposable income left in their pockets they could afford to buy the health care they need when they need it. That is fundamentally contradictory to the NDP philosophy and I am glad to be able to express that today.

There is another worthwhile initiative that we are completely ignoring and that is to provide Canadians access to world class post-secondary education. One would think in this high tech age, or the age of e-commerce, et cetera, that we would value more and make access to post-secondary education a number one priority for Canadians instead of burdening students with debt that is paramount to carrying a small mortgage when they finally graduate from university. That is not a priority. We have not heard it expressed here. Instead, again, we are talking about the implementation of bills that give tax cuts to the wealthy.

There are all kinds of other worthwhile spending initiatives, whether it is our infrastructure, our roads or our transit systems. We need these things to assure the continued growth of our economy and we are not hearing about it. To offer, in balance of these priorities, needed tax relief, we would not mind having that debate.

Let us list these priorities and address ways to deal with them and talk about tax relief. Frankly, there is nothing contradictory to the NDP talking about tax fairness. We have been talking about tax fairness since day one because we believe that working people pay too much tax. We believe that working people pay too much tax because others are not paying their fair share of taxes and it is an inequitable situation. One tax relief initiative that we would welcome, endorse and support is the gradual reduction toward the elimination of the GST.

We believe that if the government were serious about universal tax relief which would benefit all Canadians, that to reduce the GST by 1% this year would be a good first step in at least making some effort to keep the promise made in 1993 to eliminate the GST. We would certainly welcome that, but we are not hearing that today in the debate on Bill C-24, we did not hear it in the budget speech and we did not hear it in the majority report of the finance committee.

The finance committee preferred the message of the Business Council on National Issues, the BCNI, that the real urgency was to give more and bigger tax breaks to those who need them the least. It was completely 180 degrees backward to any conventional thinking on true equality, or to flattening the gap between the rich and the poor, or to addressing many of the urgent social issues I have outlined.

There is a quote from the report of the Business Council on National Issues to the Standing Committee on Finance which states that the greatest economic gains will be achieved when marginal tax rates, especially the highest ones, are reduced. In other words, we are allowing the BCNI to set social and economic policy for the country. It is an unelected body. I am surprised, frankly, that my colleagues from the Canadian Alliance are not up in arms about this. We are taking specific direction from unelected representatives of corporate Canada over the opinions and the economic outlines of elected officials like those of us in this Chamber.

People call Thomas d'Aquino the unofficial prime minister. Those of us who are cynical are certainly starting to think that, given the access that the BCNI has to power and the fact that the Liberal government is charting policy based on the needs of Bay Street and certainly not based on the needs of Main Street.

The NDP caucus rejects the committee's unbalanced approach. We recommend that a key priority be to make the investments necessary to help reverse the erosion of Canadian living standards, the growing divisions in Canadian society and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. That would be a laudable pursuit for the government, but that is not a key objective. It is taking steps today, even with Bill C-24, that will expand the gap between the rich and the poor. It will make that rift even wider. It is completely contrary to NDP policy and philosophy. We believe that society moves forward genuinely when we all move forward together.

We include in Canadian living standards investment in our children, investment in our communities, investment in our health care and education systems and investment in the environment. Has there ever been a more ample opportunity to finally do something about cleaning up the environment in Canada? We have a surplus budget situation. The Minister of Finance is in the enviable position of having money to spend on important priorities for Canadians. What could be more important than to act now to clean up the toxic waste sites in this country and to deal with small communities that still need basic sewage and water treatments centres?

For instance, my colleagues from Sydney—Victoria and Bras d'Or—Cape Breton live near what is arguably the worst toxic waste site in the world, the Sydney tar ponds. Is there money budgeted and allocated to clean up, finally, the Sydney tar ponds? Have they started to scrape the toxic effluent off Frederick Street so that people can live there again? Or, are we satisfied to have a Cape Breton version of the Love Canal? Is that one of the legacies the Liberal government wants to leave in Atlantic Canada, that even though it had the money to prevent it, it allowed this toxic site to poison more Nova Scotians? I do not think so. I think the Liberals will pay a political price for being that negligent to the real needs of Canadians.

It is useful to look at where the government's budget surplus actually came from. There is a lot of debate going on about how the budget surplus should be spent, but people are forgetting where this fantastic pile of money came from. One of the most significant sources, I would like to remind Canadians, is the EI surplus.

The employment insurance system is broken. It is completely defunct. The wheels have fallen off. It does not work any more. It is only a cash cow for the government. Working people have to pay into it, and yet working people have a less than 40% chance of actually receiving any income maintenance should they become unfortunate enough to find themselves unemployed. What kind of an insurance fund is that? Who in their right mind would design an insurance fund like that?

Mr. Speaker, what if it was mandatory that you had to pay insurance on your house. You had to pay it every month. Yet if your house burned down you would have a less than 40% chance of collecting any dividend. You would think you had been cheated. You would think you had been robbed. You would be outraged. Mr. Speaker, you would be standing in your place and screaming bloody murder that you had been cheated. That is exactly the situation in which working people find themselves.

In fact, the figures are worse than that. The average worker has a less than 40% chance of collecting any EI benefit. The average woman has a less than 25% chance of collecting any EI benefit. The changes to EI disproportionately affect working women because there are more part time working women. Youths under 25 have a less than 15% chance of collecting any EI benefits at all. Yet faithfully every paycheque those people have to pay the premium, and faithfully every paycheque their employers have to pay 1.4 times the amount that the employees pay.

No wonder there is a surplus. If the government takes and takes and never pays anything out, of course it will have a surplus. That surplus is $600 million per month; not per year, per month. There is $7 billion per year in EI premiums alone that the government takes in and fails to pay out in benefits. To use that money for anything other than income maintenance for unemployed workers, I suggest, at the very least, is being dishonest. At the very worst it is fraudulent. To take something from a person's paycheque for a specific purpose and to use it for something else is a breach of trust.

To take it one step further, to take money away from those most vulnerable in society, unemployed workers who paid into the fund, and hand it over as tax cuts to the wealthy is nothing short of a perverse version of Robin Hood. To rob from the poor to give to the rich is absolutely unconscionable and somehow the government is getting away with it without a huge hue and cry.

Tonight there will be a vote on this issue. The member for Acadie—Bathurst has a private member's bill on EI reform which will be voted on tonight. Liberal members of parliament will have to stand to say whether they agree with this absolute cash cow that is the EI fund, and they will be counted. The public will notice them and they will pay a political price for voting against EI reform. We know where the money came from that gave this budget its surplus. It came out of the pockets of working people. It came out of the benefits that should have been paid to unemployed people in this country.

The whole issue of tax reform is a necessary debate. As I said, it is nothing against NDP policy to talk about true tax reform. It is frustrating to some of us that some would deny the fact that the NDP is concerned about tax fairness. We are very concerned about it. We believe that the tax system is one of the great economic instruments we have to redistribute wealth.

I can give an example of what a difference fair taxation can make. I can give the House the state of the nation in terms of the way we use taxation in the country to try to make a more equitable society.

If we look at the distribution of market income in 1997, the ratio of the top fifth income earners to the bottom fifth is 24:1. That is grotesquely unfair. The ratio is 24:1 of the top fifth income earners to the bottom fifth income earners. After taxes and transfers, that ratio falls to 8:1. It is still obscene by anybody's standards, but a huge improvement.

If we factor in the value of public services, which we equally enjoy and do not have to dig into our pockets to purchase, the ratio of income in equity falls to less than 4:1. Starting out at 24:1, we now have it down to 4:1. Some would still say that is fundamentally wrong, that we should be a lot more equitable than that. We believe that changes should be made in that direction.

It points out how the tax system can be used as an instrument for economic fairness, justice and equality. Yet we have chosen to go in the opposite direction. The changes in the current budget take us further in the opposite direction; not toward tax fairness, but growing the inequality between rich and poor. We have been sold a bill of goods that has told us it is necessary to let the wealthy keep more of their money and ignore the situation of the lowest fifth of the economic scale.

It is a very cynical point of view, and the same is true in American politics, but there is no point in targeting a political message or an economic policy to people in the bottom fifth of the economic social scale because they do not vote. They are so marginalized and disenfranchised that they do not vote at election time. Why would government waste its largesse on 20% of the population which, frankly, would not vote for it anyway? They have given up on the electoral system as a vehicle or a means by which to improve themselves.

That might sound cynical, but I accuse the government of having gone through that thought process, in the same way the Americans have in their political system, that there is no sense in wasting messaging on people who really need it because they are so disenfranchised and marginalized they do not vote.

I want to voice our strong opposition to Bill C-24. It takes us further away from the idea of tax fairness. It will accentuate and augment the inequalities in our tax system and further institutionalize those inequalities for another couple of years until we can do something to convince the government to take steps otherwise.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Etobicoke North
Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on two matters raised by the member for Winnipeg Centre.

First, is the member aware that in 1985 the auditor general told the government of the day, when the EI had a deficit of about $5 billion, that it would distort the public accounts if the deficit was not included in the consolidated accounts of the government? The auditor general said that the deficit must be included in the consolidated accounts and the government of the day did that. The EI surplus of today, if he wants to call it that, is really incorporated within the consolidated revenues of the government.

Does the member also know that the EI notional account has been in a deficit for 11 years of the last 17 years? Does he understand that the Canadian taxpayers supported that deficit for 11 years? Therefore, when the account has a surplus, why should the Canadian taxpayers, generally, not be able to use that notional fund for the benefit of all Canadians?

The member talks about tax relief for rich or wealthy Canadians. Is he confusing this with the tax policy proposals of the Alliance, which talk about a flat tax, which would clearly move the tax burden from the high income earners to middle and low income earners? The government in its last three or four budgets has delivered tax relief to low income and middle income Canadians.

From where did the member pick up the notion that the government was providing massive tax relief to high income, wealthy, rich Canadians? The facts do not support that. Is he mixing it up with the flat tax proposal of the Alliance Party?

Could the member opposite clarify his understanding that the EI notional surplus has been in deficit 11 out of 17 years? How can he justify not using that surplus today to benefit middle income and low income Canadians?

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be able to answer a very good question that has its basis in actual fact. The EI fund was in deficit. The Canadian taxpayer propped it up over that period of time by a total accumulated backfill of $13 billion. The total accumulated surplus will exceed $39 billion at the end of this year. In other words, we paid back the original debt of $13 billion and another $26 billion is being hived off, again going into consolidated revenue.

The member is absolutely right again. There is no separate EI fund. All the money goes into general revenues. Our point is that any surplus above and beyond what we owe the consolidated revenue fund should be used toward income maintenance for unemployed workers, as it was intended.

If an amount is deducted from a person's paycheque for a specific purpose and then used for something completely different, at the very least it is a breach of trust. In the worst case scenario it is out and out fraudulence. We believe there has been a structured and deliberate abuse of the EI program that went far beyond paying back the $13 billion and now is being used as a cash cow.

The hon. member asked if I understood the nature of the tax cuts being proposed by the government. I do. I understand the finance committee recommended four major components: reducing the capital gains tax, dropping the middle income tax rate, eliminating the 5% upper income surtax and raising the threshold for the top two tax rates. I wonder if the hon. member realizes that these four measures would make a difference in various income brackets.

Those making $475,000 a year would get $11,650 in tax breaks with these measures. Those making $42,000 a year would get $1,140 in tax breaks with these measures. Those making $20,000 a year would get a $3 tax break. Who is this benefiting the most? Obviously the high income earner.

The hon. member from Surrey spoke to me before I gave my speech. He pointed out that his daughter made $8,000 last year. At the end of the year she received a bill for $200 for taxes owing. The kid made eight grand and still owed $200, even after paying taxes on her paycheques.

My mother makes $21,000 a year from all her sources of income such as old age pension, her husband's CPP and widow's pension. She pays $600 per quarter in taxes every year. At the end of the year she owes $1,500. Something is fundamentally wrong, I would put to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear to many Canadians, particularly young summer employees and so on, that this is not an insurance. It is a tax and it goes into the federal coffers.

I should like to inform the NDP member who just spoke that a terrible thing is happening with EI payments. There is a large oil well operation in my constituency. It is a cyclical industry. When it is up, it is hiring, and then it goes down. If a young person from the city of Weyburn or Estevan hires on in the oil industry and then gets laid off, he can draw EI insurance. However, if someone is laid off and returns to the family farm to live with his parents, he collects zippo. I am quite used to seeing farmers being abused, but when the government taxes them and they have to pay the taxes it is wrong that they cannot qualify. It should be corrected. I brought it to the government's attention but it made no difference. I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the hon. member. If one is forced to pay into something one should have a reasonable expectation of collecting what was promised.

The example I used before was of people with mandatory fire insurance on their homes. They have to pay into it. They have no choice. Yet if their houses burn down there is less than a 40% chance of being able to collect. They would think they had been cheated, that they had been robbed. That is fundamentally wrong.

The hon. member pointed out some kind of geographical discrimination in a sense. There are other inequities in the program which are just as glaring. For instance, an unemployed woman has less than a 25% chance of being able to collect employment insurance because women are more likely to be in part time work, and part time workers are disproportionately affected.

A youth under 25 years of age, and the young people listening today should be aware of this, has less than a 15% chance of collecting any benefits, even though it is mandatory to pay into the program. The hon. member is right. It ceases to become an insurance program. It is really another tax on the paycheque.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the government talk about projected GDP and since we are on fiscal matters, would my colleague be prepared to comment on the way we measure the wealth of the country in terms of taxation?

For example, we do not ever talk about the real cost of production. We do not talk about environmental degradation when we talk about growth. We do not talk about the effect on poor families when we talk about social housing. I think there are questionable ways in terms of how the government measures growth.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree that the GDP is a flawed instrument to use in trying to measure the growth of the country. If there is a hurricane or a tornado the GDP blossoms in the area. That does not mean it was good for Canadians. It just means that a bunch of economic activity had to take place. We can tie GDP to disasters, for heaven's sake.

To say that Canadians are not productive because of the ratio of workers to GDP is a complete misnomer. Productivity is not the issue. Canadian workers are some of the most productive in the world. Productivity as a ratio to GDP and employment is a flawed way of viewing our economic well-being. It is misleading and I would say intellectually dishonest.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-24 which deals with some tweaking and fiddling the Liberal government is planning to do with regard to the GST and the HST.

As is typical with the government opposite these changes were actually announced in 1997. Finally it is getting around to exempting a few items from the GST. It is interesting that in the last few months, just before it brought in the bill, it added a few other items that will now be taxed at an increasing level which were not taxed before.

Overall the particular bill points out a credibility shortfall on the other side. It was mentioned by the previous speaker. The actions on the particular bill and on the GST by the Liberal government have eroded public confidence in elected officials.

Let me refer to some comments made by the current Prime Minister regarding the GST years ago. The bill before us is a fine tuning or a tweaking of certain aspects of how the GST and the HST are applied. It is amazing so many years after these election promises by the current Prime Minister and his government that we are still doing this dance with the GST.

In 1990 the current Prime Minister said that he was opposed to the GST, had always been opposed to it and will always be opposed to it. In 1992 the thinking was, according to the Deputy Prime Minister, that they wanted to get rid of the GST. On January 23, 1992, they said that there was no doubt they would replace it. Also the Prime Minister said that we would know they have replaced the GST when we see their budget. All the way through I have many quotes from the Prime Minister who said that it would be gone in two years, just before the election in 1993.

Here we are some seven years later and we are still looking at the GST. We had an election promise in the red book. Canadians were led to assume that they would not have the GST. They voted often on that basis. Many people may have voted a different way but had promises and guarantees from the leader of that party that the GST would be gone.

When that is the platform, when that is the promise, it is not unreasonable for Canadians to have the expectation that when the government comes in with a majority it will implement one of the key pillars of its platform. We can understand that may not be in the first year or the second year. Maybe there has to be some time to consider how to phase it in. For goodness' sake, we are seven years past those promises and there has not been one real movement dealing with the GST. We expected to see some results from that election promise.

It is not surprising that Canadians feel overburdened by taxes from the government. It throws lots of optics around some small tax relief. On the other hand it is taking more and more out of our pockets.

The GST is a good example. I met with the mayor of the city of Calgary who told me that out of all the services Calgary gets from the federal government and all the money it sends to Ottawa there is a net outflow every year to Ottawa from Calgary of $4 billion.

Sales Tax And Excise Tax Amendments Act, 1999
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The member has 16 minutes remaining when the debate continues later.

Organization Of American States
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the 30th General Assembly of the Organization of American States will take place in Windsor, Ontario, from June 4 to June 6. The OAS is the premier political forum for multilateral dialogue and decision making in the Americas. Foreign ministers from 34 states will take part in the session.

Canada will be hosting the general assembly for the first time. This reflects the new pluralism in our foreign policy and our recognition of common policy interests with our Central and South American neighbours in such diverse areas as corporate social responsibility and control of the illicit drug trade.

Justice
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, marriage breakdown is often a difficult and sad occasion and even more so when children are involved. Listen to the story of a non-custodial father who lives in my riding.

A few years ago his former wife took their two children and moved to the east coast. Subsequently he was laid off from his job and it took three full years for the courts to acknowledge the change in his employment status. In this case the court system pushed this father to the edge of financial ruin and dropped him into the abyss of deep emotional anguish, often aggravated by the fact that his wife repeatedly denied any access to his children.

For many, the emotional trauma brought on by inefficient, expensive and sometimes unfair court orders proves too much to bear. Darrin White from Prince George, B.C., committed suicide in March after a court gave him limited access to his children and ordered him to pay his estranged wife twice his take home pay in child support and alimony each month.

All legislators at all levels of government, all family law practitioners and all family court systems realize their decisions have human consequences. Too often, however, the court system fails to deal adequately and quickly with changing home situations.

Women Of Distinction
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to honour the eight recipients of this year's Women of Distinction awards in Guelph—Wellington.

Manusha Janakiram, Barb Topolsek, Krista Adlington, Gwen Revington, Martha Jakowlew, Sue Richards, Dr. Ruth Tatham and Kim Iezzi are some of the exceptional women who call Guelph—Wellington home. As students, educators, businesswomen, artists and community workers, these women have all contributed to their community in a distinct and lasting manner.

I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to these eight women for their hard work and dedication ensuring that Guelph—Wellington remains the greatest community in the world.

Team Canada Atlantic
Statements By Members

May 9th, 2000 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of the House the recent Atlantic Canadian trade mission to New England. Our Prime Minister has joined the Atlantic premiers and more than 50 Atlantic companies, all part of Team Canada Atlantic as they give New England a chance to catch the rising Atlantic Canadian wave.

The Atlantic Liberal caucus recently produced “Catching Tomorrow's Wave” which called on the federal government to take the lead in economic development in our region. Our Prime Minister boasts of the extraordinary work that the Atlantic region has done to make itself a great place to invest.

The people of Atlantic Canada expect their government to provide leadership. That is exactly what our Prime Minister is doing. He is helping foster a dynamic relationship between Atlantic Canada and New England for the 21st century.

Adventure In Citizenship
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year Rotary Clubs throughout Canada sponsor over 200 young Canadians to take part in the Adventure in Citizenship program.

Since 1951 over 10,000 students have come to Ottawa to explore the governmental process and institutions at the federal level. Designed to develop potential leaders, the program explores our nation's identity, shared values, freedoms and history of tolerance and compromise.

This year Chelsea Zylstra from my riding of Cambridge is taking part in this important learning experience.

I join all members in welcoming these future leaders from all ten provinces and the three territories. I wish them success as they learn about the common bonds that unite all Canadians.