House of Commons Hansard #147 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact, if someone wanted to convince me to vote in favour of the bill by saying it is an insurance policy, they would achieve the opposite effect. I do not believe in it.

Indeed, this is the first time that a government has done something like this concerning equalization. The insurance policy is for one man only. It is an insurance policy for a government and a man that do not want to be here to face questions. It is certainly not an insurance policy for the provinces.

However, the best insurance policy for everyone is balance. The best justice for everyone is that we continue to sit in the House, that the new prime minister, whom we will know shortly, finds a way to sit in the House, that the government does its job, since it was elected for five years and is only in its third year. We have to do our job. This is the insurance policy that we will be able to provide everyone.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to what my colleague is saying, this government is very good at alienating a lot of people and a lot of provincial representatives, economically and otherwise. With the three bills it introduced, Bill C-6, Bill C-7 and Bill C-19, the government is above all alienating the first nations.

Some fifty members from these communities are gathered here to express their opposition to these bills, which do not respect the inherent right to self-government, which do not respect ancestral treaties, and which do not respect them as full-fledged members of nations so recognized by the United Nations.

I have a question for my colleague regarding equalization. Does he not believe that it would be a good idea to settle the fiscal imbalance issue, a move which would really give provincial governments and the Quebec government the resources they need to assume their own responsibilities? If this was done, we could slowly proceed to do away with this equalization program, which has been nothing but trouble since its inception because it is too complex to administer and too complex to improve.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Champlain has two minutes left to answer the question.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. He is one of only a few who are familiar with this program. As Mr. Séguin, the Quebec finance minister has said, very few are. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. is one of them.

The only place people do not believe there is fiscal imbalance is here in the federal government. All of the provinces agree that there is one. One need only look at the money wasted here at the federal level while the provinces, which have the responsibilities, lack the resources. The money is here, yet they are inventing all manner of systems when all that is needed is one fair one, which would redress the fiscal imbalance so the equalization payment program would no longer be needed.

Here things are more complicated. The harder it is to administer, the more it costs, yet there is still money left for the friends of the government in power. All of the provinces admit the existence of a fiscal imbalance, but it needs to be admitted here, and then it can be fixed.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to also have this opportunity to take part in such an important debate, one I would also qualify as surprising. No one would have believed that a government would dare for the first time to go against the traditions, habits and principles that have always been part of the House of Commons and the parties that have been in power here, that is respect for commitments to the provinces on the renewal, every five years, of the equalization contracts.

Today, they have told us they are going to tack on a year, that it can be discussed later. But they are thereby blatantly neglecting the needs of the provinces, particularly in the areas of health, social services and education.

With this new invisible leader, as my colleague for Champlain has just described him, behind the curtain pulling the strings, we find ourselves with a two-headed government.

First, he comes here and proposes things, then the next day, someone else says, no we will not do that. This will drag on until February. We have an irresponsible government, one that does not take its responsibilities, puts off its problems, does not listen to the provinces, the opposition, or various stakeholders in Quebec or in Canada, and does what it wants for one reason: to advance the personal agenda of the new leader, who will see to helping out his friends who contributed $11 million to his leadership campaign and to returning the favour to friends of the party. The good old Liberal tradition will be reincarnated in a new leader. Leaders will come and go, but the party will always be corrupt.

The equalization that we are talking about is so complex. As my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot said, it could disappear one day if we took the time to sit down and properly discuss the provinces' needs and the distribution of wealth in Canada. It would be very easy.

Currently, the average fiscal capacity is based on five provinces: Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Provinces with a fiscal capacity below the average receive the difference from Ottawa, not the rich provinces, but Ottawa itself. What is more, equalization legislation is reviewed every five years.

Look at what the Séguin commission report said, for instance. This commission was formed by the Parti Quebecois government and was chaired by Mr. Séguin, who is currently the minister of finance in the new Liberal government in Quebec. He has not changed his mind in the meantime.

He talked about restoring fiscal balance. Look at what Mr. Séguin said and then look at what the provinces said during the finance ministers meeting. They said that the financial means of the provinces had to be increased by at least $8 billion annually. That is what the Séguin report said.

In Quebec, he said that $2 billion in the medium term, and $3 billion in the long term, was needed to restore fiscal balance. The CHST needed to be abolished and the GST or personal income tax transferred.

This new sharing of the tax base must be gradual. What the Séguin report suggested was quite orderly. Also, it wanted to improve the equalization system by taking into account the fiscal capacity of all ten provinces instead of only five; this would, among other things, require elimination of the existing ceiling and threshold provisions. Why should there be a limit? “You can be poor up to a point; you can be rich up to a point”, that is what the formula is saying at the present time. The report said that Ottawa should not unilaterally change the equalization formula.

However, this bill is just that: a first unilateral step. It says, “We are setting the date at which we will negotiate and, for the time being, it will be delayed by at least one year”. That is quite unilateral. How will the federal government behave when it sits down at the table? The same way, as the Séguin report feared.

The Séguin report also said that there should be checks and balances on the federal spending power. Fiscal rebalancing would limit the spending power of the federal government.

This government's capacity to spend is limitless. While retaining the same tax rates, it has cut transfer payments.

If it had been honest, it would have said, “I do not want to be involved in health and education any more. As a result, I will not keep the tax points I was using. The provinces can have them to offer those services”. Instead, the government kept the money and left it to the provinces to provide those services. It is now bragging about its balanced budget while continuing to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction by spending wildly.

The spending power of the federal government must be rebalanced and limited. Quebec must reaffirm vigorously, as it has done traditionally, that there is no constitutional basis for the federal spending power. This is no small matter. That behaviour by the government, especially the current government, which will not change even if its leader changes, flies in the face of the Canadian Constitution. As a matter of fact, the federal government unduly interferes in areas of provincial jurisdiction and spends recklessly even though the Constitution puts limits on how it can spend.

Quebec must maintain its demand for the unconditional right to opt out with full financial compensation. It is funny because, yesterday, my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières, moved a motion asking that the House acknowledge that Quebec constitutes a nation and has the right to opt out of any federal initiative it considers unsuitable. The same principle would apply to any other province requesting the right to opt out. That is part of the very principle of federation.

In his report, the present Quebec Liberal minister of finance, Mr. Séguin, said that the right to opt out was necessary. Yesterday, the federal Liberal members from Quebec refused to vote in favour of that principle. They refused to vote in favour of the motion by the member for Trois-Rivières, which asked that Quebec be recognized as a nation and be given the right to opt out of any federal program not in line with its own interests.

That was mentioned in the Séguin report. I repeat that Mr. Séguin is now a Quebec Liberal minister. In Quebec, there is unanimity; all three parties agree with that motion. The federal Liberal members from Quebec remained silent. They still claim that they serve the interests of Quebec. However, there is only one party here defending Quebec's interests, and that is the courageous Bloc Quebecois. The others just knuckle under. Each time they have the opportunity to rise or speak for Quebec, they stay put. They belong to the party of the silent. That is what we call them in Quebec.

That is why, come the next election, Quebeckers will not trust again.

National Poppy Campaign
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, every year, during the National Poppy Campaign, more than 15 million scarlet poppies blossom on the lapels of Canadians from coast to coast.

Yesterday afternoon, at Rideau Hall, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada and Patron of the Royal Canadian Legion, received the first poppy of the 2003 campaign from Lieutenant-General Charles Belzile, Dominion Grand President.

The poppy is the national symbol of remembrance. It honours those who served our country in two world wars, the Korean conflict and peacekeeping missions. Its colour is reminiscent of the blood-red flowers that still grow on the fields of honour in France and Belgium.

I urge all Canadians to proudly wear their poppies and to pay tribute to the Canadian soldiers who died in action.

Hockey
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a principle of law that everyone is entitled to equal treatment before the law without discrimination.

Federal tax collectors have been busy auditing and assessing Saskatchewan Jr. A hockey teams. These actions threaten the very existence of that league. Now it is discovered that the federal tax collectors have not been auditing and assessing more than 120 Jr. A teams in the other provinces.

The people of Saskatchewan are again wondering, why is the Liberal government attacking rural Saskatchewan? This discrimination violates all notions of fairness.

The actions of the Liberal government are a direct attack on Saskatchewan amateur sports. It is a direct attack against the dreams of the players, their parents, their fans and the communities.

It is an attack on Canadian unity. The Liberal government should be very much ashamed of itself.

SHARE Agricultural Foundation
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Murray Calder Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge 25 successful years of operation of the SHARE Agricultural Foundation.

SHARE stands for Sending Help and Assistance Everywhere. The motivation to form SHARE was the result of a trip to Kenya by David Armstrong of Caledon, Peel County, where he witnessed extreme hunger and poverty.

When David returned home, he and his late brother, Neil, solicited the involvement of a number of dairy farmers in Peel and Halton counties to donate high quality cattle to send to poor countries where infant mortality was particularly high due to the lack of milk for infants and pregnant women.

Since that time, the foundation has grown steadily, and the efforts and donations of the many people who support SHARE have helped to alleviate poverty, hunger and death for thousands of people in a number of developing countries.

SHARE is more than a vision. It is a program that proves that individual Canadians can make a difference where the need is greatest. I ask all members to join me in congratulating the SHARE members on 25 years of caring and dedication.

Toronto Humane Society
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for over 100 years the Toronto Humane Society has provided a desperately needed haven for injured and abandoned animals in the City of Toronto.

In any given year, over 8,000 animals pass through the shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The injured receive veterinary care. Abandoned animals are given a safe haven, and wildlife is cared for and released to its natural habitat.

While October is adopt a dog month, the shelter also has hundreds of cats in need of homes. Adoption fees have been cut and a new family member is waiting to be picked up.

For directions to the Toronto Humane Society website persons can go to www.torontohumanesociety.com.

Autism
Statements By Members

October 30th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Walt Lastewka St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and the people of Canada that October is Autism Month. Autism brings many challenges to children and their families.

The Government of Canada is committed to improving the health and well-being of Canadians and will continue to support the efforts by the provinces and territories to provide services to those who are affected by this disorder.

The Government of Canada collaborates with other levels of government, non-governmental organizations and the voluntary sector to support a range of programs and initiatives to assist all children, including those with disabilities, to reach their full potential.

These include the federal disabilities strategy, the Centres of Excellence for Children's Well-Being, the Community Action Program for Children and the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Early Childhood Development Agreement.

The government undertakes its responsibility to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child by including the rights of children with disabilities to have access to the highest attainable standard of health and respecting children's rights without discrimination.

We must continue to support families and children of all ages by partnering at all levels to ensure that those with disabilities, such as autism, can fully participate in Canadian society.

National Defence
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, all Sea King helicopter training flights have been grounded because of technical problems. This is unprecedented.

Who is responsible for this dangerous situation? The king of obstinance, that is who.

There is absolutely no excuse for the Prime Minister's unreasonable behaviour in delaying the acquisition of new helicopters for the last 10 years. The high flyer from Shawinigan is the one who should be grounded for good. Thankfully, sooner maybe rather than later, he will be.

He has been playing Russian roulette with the lives of our troops. They know it. We know it. He knows it and every Canadian knows it. He is just hoping he can sneak out of office before there is a major Sea King accident that he will have to take responsibility for.

There is no one more cowardly than a leader who will put other lives at risk because of pride and arrogance. A 10 year reign of error, promise maker to deal breaker. It has been a decade of delay, denial and deception. His D day is coming soon.

The Prime Minister will be judged as a leader of unparalleled stubbornness. I say shame.

Federal-Municipal Relations
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, in January 2004, the Regional Municipality of Niagara will host the third annual Smarter Niagara Summit.

This year's conference will focus on municipal-federal-provincial relationships to promote common policies on brownfield redevelopment and smart growth incentives.

Niagara's approach to the concept of smart growth has been successful because of an inclusive process. By engaging the Niagara community in discussion forms, by enlisting business and community leaders in the decision making process, and by providing thoughtful insights from dynamic speakers, it has developed a robust approach to addressing many big picture items affecting the region.

I wish to congratulate the region of Niagara for again hosting this valuable summit and for the focus on federal-municipal relations.

With Niagara's proximity to the United States, the locally driven bi-national forum, the fact that it is surrounded by international waters, its prominence as a trade route, the presence of the Welland canal system, border security issues and more, the need for strong federal-municipal relations in Niagara is very pronounced.

Middle East
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently Oren Medick, an Israeli citizen and peace activist with Gush Shalom, visited Quebec to share his concerns about the erection of the security fence, a fortified wall, in the West Bank.

Mr. Medick talked about the terrible consequences for the Israeli and Palestinian people if Prime Minister Sharon's government sticks to its plan.

Allow me to remind members of an important conclusion reached at the European Summit held in Brussels on October 16 and 17, and I quote:

The European Council is particularly concerned by the route marked out for the so-calledsecurity fence in the Occupied West Bank.

This wall is in no way a solution to the deplorable suicide bombings and will certainly not bring peace to this part of the world already hard hit by violence. All of us have a responsibility with respect to what is happening in the Middle East.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

David Price Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, HMCS Calgary will return home soon after three months of patrol duty in the Arabian gulf region participating in Operation Apollo, Canada's contribution to the international campaign against terrorism.

More than 7,000 Canadian Forces personnel from the navy, army and air force served on Operation Apollo, which began in October 2001 and will end with the return of HMCS Calgary .

Yesterday, the captain, Commander Dan MacKeigan, expressed his pride for the excellence of his Canadian crew and his gratitude for the constant support received from home. I know we all echo that pride.

I believe Commander MacKeigan's own words are best to describe the accomplishments of our brave men and women in uniform under Operation Apollo, “We were here on your behalf, making a real difference every single day”.

On behalf of my colleagues, and all Canadians, I wish to thank all Canadian Forces personnel.

Edmonton Public Library
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Edmonton Public Library is celebrating its 90th year of serving.

For 90 years it has been a repository of worldly knowledge; 90 years of wonderful, uninhibited time travel through volumes of fictional adventure, historical truths and fantastic accomplishment; and 90 years of enriching the lives of Edmontonians.

This past year has been yet another milestone in the ever-developing library. The Lois Hole Library Legacy Program initiated by Lois Hole, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, is planting the seeds to grow the Edmonton Public Library by buying books and materials to enhance the library's collection.

I wish to encourage others to invest, as I have, in the Library Legacy Program. Through knowledge, dreams can evolve. Edmonton's libraries have brought much knowledge and stirred many dreams to become a reality.

I wish to congratulate Edmonton public libraries. May they continue for all time to connect the people of Edmonton to the knowledge and cultures of the world.