House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Government Spending
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

June 13th, 2000 / 2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, about ten days ago, the Prime Minister jumped up in the House to reject a parental insurance program proposed by Quebec. Clearly, he wants all the visibility for this project.

We have now learned of the existence of a legal opinion dated March 2 advising that he should negotiate with Quebec.

Will the Prime Minister tell us whether or not he was aware of the existence of this legal opinion when he rose in the House to reject negotiations with Quebec?

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, three years ago, we held negotiations on this topic which produced nothing. The government decided, and it announced very clearly in the throne speech and in the February budget, that it would extend benefits from six months to twelve in order to help people on parental leave.

That was very clearly established. What I wonder today is why the Government of Quebec is speaking up after the decisions have been made. If it thinks it can help people who need more than we are offering, if it has the money to do that, it is welcome to do so. That will be just fine with us.

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there was a legal opinion; that was the question. There are also other legal opinions.

Will the Prime Minister respect his own legislation, including section 69? Will he negotiate with Quebec, or is the law no longer of interest in this place? What the Prime Minister is telling us is that he is the law.

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there were negotiations that produced nothing. They withdrew.

From that point on, the government, which had complied with the legislation, was forced to assume its responsibilities. In the interests of good social policy, we decided that it was very important to extend the period during which parental leave benefits are paid. Everyone was pleased with this measure at the time of the throne speech and the budget speech.

Only as the program is about to begin does Quebec suddenly wake up.

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the national assembly unanimously passed a motion supporting the parental insurance proposal by the Government of Quebec.

Does the Prime Minister not realize that, if he persists in remaining as stubborn as he has since the beginning of this affair, he will once again be acting contrary to the unanimous will of the Quebec national assembly as well as a broad consensus of Quebecers?

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we established our position on this matter very clearly, a year ago already.

If the benefit we are paying is insufficient, as Quebec claims, if 55% of earnings is not enough, it is fine with us if they want to bring it up to 75%. We shall praise them for it, if they have the money to do so.

What we want is to treat everyone equally, and the money we will be using is already in place for it. If they want to use their own resources to raise the benefits, that is fine.

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Prime Minister again: Is he capable of grasping that the motion passed unanimously by the national assembly is not in support of improved employment insurance benefits, but of a parental insurance program focussing on the future and aimed at all of the young families of Quebec?

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, if the provincial government wants to have that program, it is free to do so.

We have a responsibility under the Employment Insurance Act. For years now, we have been providing those covered by employment insurance with maternity benefits. Now, we are improving those benefits.

If there are other social programs the Government of Quebec wishes to improve, all the better for them. We have our responsibility under the Employment Insurance Act and we are continuing to improve what we have been doing since—

Parental Leave
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. leader of the New Democratic Party.

Poverty
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, recent income statistics show a growing gap, a disturbing gap, between Canadians with high incomes and those with lower and middle incomes. StatsCan documents that government policies are aggravating this problem. While European countries are relatively successful in fighting poverty, the U.S. record is abysmal. Why? Because economic growth alone will not defeat poverty. Better income support and child care programs are needed.

Why does the government insist on mimicking the American approach?

Poverty
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in fact we have worked very hard on that. Some of the statistics do not take into account the fact that we have instituted in Canada a national child benefit program. We are developing with the provinces a national children's agenda. We plan to lengthen employment insurance benefits for parents to 12 months. We have many, many other programs that are in place at this moment that were in the Speech from the Throne and in the last budget. We are making a lot of progress.

At the same time Canadians now have more revenue than they had before. There were a lot of changes in the last budget to help the lower—

Poverty
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. leader of the New Democratic Party.

Poverty
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, if this government were serious about defeating poverty, it would be willing to learn the lessons in the recent income report. If we adopt U.S. style tax policy, then we are going to get U.S. style social policy and the growing income gaps that come with it. Sadly, that is the goal the government is pursuing. As UNICEF reports, countries that make up their minds to tackle poverty succeed, but in Canada, the odds are that a child of a lone parent is poor.

How can the government be so complacent about its record on poverty?