House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Jonquière for her intervention because of course I feel very strongly about this and I think I was probably being too impassioned, but it is so worrisome because these cheap attacks against the Liberals do not pay attention to the collateral damage they must be doing.

I live in a riding that is close to the United States and I have people crossing the border. Ordinary people listen to this because it gets picked up by the talk shows on the Canadian side and it is beamed over to New York State or to North Dakota or wherever else in the country, and ordinary Americans think that these attacks really do represent the position of the governing Liberals and it is simply not true. It is so unfair to base all of this kind of rhetoric about anti-Americanism on one remark, one sole remark by one Liberal caught at a press conference.

The other remarks were criticisms of the president, perhaps, but I suggest that distinguished Americans can pass far more severe criticism of their President than has certainly been uttered by anyone here, and so it is. I would wish Canadians who are following this debate and the debate about Iraq to take note that if there is damage to trade, then the guilt and the fault are mainly with those politicians in this room, in this chamber, who take cheap political advantage of a principled position by this government and this country on the situation in Iraq in order to drive a wedge between two great peoples, between the Americans and the Canadians. I think it is deplorable.

I could say much more, Madam Speaker, but I really feel this is a place where we should try to be very calm and respectful of one another. But I have been extremely disappointed by the behaviour of the Canadian Alliance in this debate on Iraq. It has not served the national interest.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, I have never heard a speech like the member on the other side has made, trying to defend what his government has been doing since the war started. When we talk about spinning, this is the best spinning that I have ever heard in my life. The member is trying to put what his colleagues have said on to this side of the House. That is typical Liberal, speaking from both sides of the mouth.

It was the hon. member's colleagues who were speaking anti-Americanism, not the members on this side. It started with the press secretary of the Prime Minister and went right down to the PMO people, who were putting down a legitimate voice on Canada: that of the Premier of Alberta, Ralph Klein. They said nothing about the Minister of Natural Resources. Yet they talk about the Premier of Alberta and put him down.

Let us tell the people on the other side that if they think they have freedom of speech, so do the Premier of Alberta and other Canadians who will stand up to what these people are talking about. For Christ's sake, the hon. member should not blame members on the this side when his government is responsible for the strain on the relationship between America and Canada.

Why does he not feel that the Premier of Alberta can speak and other Canadians can speak? Why does he not keep the blame on his side of the House?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, the member opposite makes precisely my point. He makes some huge thing about something that is so small and so trivial and creates a climate of anger, hostility and anti-Americanism. Of course Mr. Klein can say what he pleases. No one is stopping him. He has his whole legislature. He has his own forum.

However to suggest that somehow the House could muzzle another legislature is absolutely silly and the member should know better. This is the kind of rhetoric that is leading to this climate of sending the wrong message to the Americans.

The member opposite should consider carefully the kind of damage he is doing by this talk, because he is not serving the interests of Canadians and he is definitely not serving the interests of Albertans.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

March 27th, 2003 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I was asked by my party whip to come to the House to debate the budget. I thought that was what we were doing.

I do want to at least allow the opportunity for the Liberal member to say that in terms of the economic argument, there is no question that this was long before September 11. The United States is one of the most protectionist societies when it comes to protecting its farmers with generous subsidies, looking after softwood lumber concerns and the PEI potato battles. The Americans started all that long before September 11. The fear for most Canadian is that by not supporting the efforts of President Bush on the war, it will exacerbate the damages.

The other day we had a vote on Bill C-206, the compassionate care leave bill, which would allow individuals who care for a dying child or a dying relative the opportunity to leave their place of employment and collect unemployment benefits and job security while they care for that individual. It is exactly the same for two people who are married and have child. They can collect maternity benefits for up to one year. We have a program at the beginning of a person's life, but we do not have a program at the end of a person's life.

We have proved again to government that for every dollar on the EI system we would save $4 to $6 on the health care system. This is why we had support from people like Gary Marr, the Alberta provincial health minister, and people throughout Atlantic Canada. Over 84 national groups across Canada supported the bill. All I asked was that it would go to committee. Unfortunately, half the Alliance, the family value party, and half the Liberals voted against that very reasonable request.

Why does the hon. members think that the majority of MPs voted against that reasonable request to help the caregiver--

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention. It gives me the opportunity to say that, certainly, there is a lot of fear among Canadian businessmen that there will be some reaction in the United States against our trade relations because we did not get on side with the Americans.

However, I would point out that we are not accusing the President of going to war for oil. I would never suggest that is what the war is about. He is going to war for higher moral reasons, even though I do not agree with the way he is going to war.

Having said that, we would not expect Canadians to go to war for economic reasons, solely to protect our jobs and our trade. We would only expect to send our soldiers to war if it was for a reason of high principle. In this case, we could not agree that the high principle was there.

I thank the member for his intervention. I am sorry I do not have time to answer the second half of his question.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I am sure I will not be able to keep up with the passion of the previous member but I want to speak a little about the budget. I see the budget process as planning for the budget, debating in advance in whatever way we can, receiving the budget and responding, the response being the first day of the planning for the next budget.

First, I want to say that I was quite pleased. The reason I say that is because of this. After the throne speech, I took quite a bit of time to try to make the links between the throne speech and what I thought might happen or should happen in February when the budget came around. I identified things in the throne speech that I wanted to see financed and identified things that were not in the throne speech with which I hoped the budget would deal. Specifically, I identified health care, a significant increase to buy change, the health council, which we are discussing now, and guaranteeing the sustainability of the health care system.

I spoke of increased funding for disabilities, in particular around the disability tax credit. I talked about the innovation agenda and increased funding for the granting agencies, more money for SSHRC, indirect costs made permanent, aboriginal issues, particularly in terms of infrastructure and opportunity, Kyoto and other environmental issues, a national infrastructure program that was more predictable, developmental funds, an increase in national defence and so on. I also spoke of my disappointment in the fact that I did not think the CBC got just treatment in the throne speech.

To take that to what we got in the budget, I am pleased with the significant increase in funding for health. I think it was the issue to which Canadians were looking to the government the most. In my case I had two forums in Fredericton on health care, once in advance of Romanow and once following Romanow but before the premiers and the Prime Minister met, and I had one in the fall on the budget itself. In all three of those forums they pretty much said the same thing. They wanted a significant increase in funding with an emphasis on primary health care and home care, catastrophic drug care, human resource issues and the need for this to be accountable.

The money is there. Certainly we could always use more money but I do not think anyone can deny that it is a significant increase in funding. It is important the way we structure the third party audit, if I could call it that, so the federal government and the provinces will not be constantly fighting over who is doing what and who is holding up their end. The Canadian public frankly is tired of that.

The second issue of which I spoke had to do with disabilities, an issue quite important to me. I was pleased to see the $80 million around the disability tax credit and the establishment of an advisory group of concerned Canadians. I also was pleased to see the $50 million child disability benefit for low and modest income families.

I was also pleased to see the employment insurance change to allow for people to attend to their disabled children and so on, but I would like to see the disability tax credit made refundable. That is critically important because the people who were shut out of the program now are the ones who can afford to be shut out the least.

I would welcome the motion from the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. The member did not hear a denial of consent from this corner.

On the innovation agenda, I was very impressed with the $1.7 billion in new money over three years. I live in an IT university, knowledge based community of Fredericton, with a wonderful municipal council that is doing a great job for the citizens of Fredericton.

There were items in the budget that were particularly important to us, such as more money for Genome Canada. We have a potato research centre in Fredericton with perhaps up to $12 million in potato based research through Halifax and in Fredericton. The $225 million a year in indirect costs are very important to the small universities throughout Atlantic Canada and across Canada because the formula that is used to determine how much money goes to the universities is based on a sliding scale, so the smaller the university, the greater percentage of indirect costs are covered. That is very welcome news to Atlantic Canada. I hear my friend from Musquodoboit cheering now.

In addition to that, 60% of graduate student scholarships would go to SSHRC, which again is a significant contribution to the well-being of social science research in Canada. The secondary benefit of the split of the CHST to a health and non-health transfer would give us the opportunity to seriously look at the possibility of a post-secondary education act, like the Canada Health Act, that would establish a national vision for post-secondary education and transfer funding to the universities appropriately.

I also called for increased spending for the Department of National Defence and welcome the $270 million set aside for Operation Apollo. I have a large military base in my constituency and I have occasion to meet with the families of military personnel all the time. I welcome the foreign policy defence review, but I believe we needed to make an immediate cash injection to recognize the kind of commitment these people have to our country as they make us proud in peacekeeping roles that have become synonymous with Canada.

The budget also deals with the reduction of child poverty; new spending in the aboriginal community in terms of infrastructure, water and opportunities; and the climate change initiative.

I want to mention the pension accrual rate for firefighters. My colleague from Ontario, and I forget his riding, has fought so hard for this. I must say how pleased I am for the firefighters of Fredericton that their pensions have been enhanced in that way.

The removal of the equalization ceiling is critically important to Atlantic Canada.

I still remain somewhat disappointed that there is some confusion around the investment in the CBC. As I said during the throne speech debate, as a nation we need those institutions to hold us together and the CBC is an important contributor in that exercise.

This country cannot claim the kind of prosperity that it should rightfully be able to claim unless that prosperity is shared. I think of the aboriginal community, the disability community, and I think of regions in Canada that do not share in that prosperity. I would hope that, for the next budget, we take a view of Canada that would recognize that as a nation it is not achieving its full potential if any part of the country is not achieving its full potential.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Fredericton, who just spoke. He spoke about the budget. It is interesting. He said that for him, the budget addressed health, the Kyoto protocol, defence and poverty.

I have a question for him, because this budget contains one incredible oversight, in my opinion. Last year, I took part in a tour of Quebec to discuss, among other things, the guaranteed income supplement. Thousands of poor and vulnerable seniors were forgotten by this government in connection with the guaranteed income supplement.

The scope of the problem was such that the tour and the work of the Bloc Quebecois and others resulted in finding more than 20,000 seniors in Quebec alone who are now receiving the guaranteed income supplement, an annual supplement to which they were entitled before, but did not receive. The minister, and I commend her, improved the situation by providing more information and making it more accessible.

However, there is one thing that needs to be mentioned. I am not saying that all seniors are poor, but the government is now acknowledging that for at least eight years, the poorest seniors have been denied what they needed. They were denied the minimum they needed, the vital minimum.

It seems to me that in terms of poverty, it would have been possible to find the money in this budget to give to these seniors, out of honesty. This is money that was taken from them, immorally, or that they were deprived of, immorally.

I would like to ask the member for Fredericton if he agrees with me that this budget should have included measures to reimburse these amounts owed to seniors.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for his question. I would certainly join with him in urging the government to enhance the income supplement for seniors. It speaks specifically to a targeted group and it is critically important.

The fact is that many people who are eligible have not claimed this supplement. In my own case, when this was brought to my attention, I began a massive outreach program in the community. I did two or three television programs and used my franking privileges to bring attention to this matter. I would commend that the government do anything it can in addition to what has already been done. If we find ourselves inadequate in terms of what we have done in the past then compensation should be made.

I would like to take this opportunity, because this place never ceases to amaze me in terms of being able to bring to my attention answers to outstanding questions, to identify the member that did so much good work in terms of firefighters. It was the member for Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, sometimes we wonder why members of Parliament keep being elected all the time. We have the fine member for Fredericton who has one of the finest Picasso's in the country hanging right in the beautiful gallery in Fredericton.

I have three questions. First, I have a large military base as well, as the member knows, and he talked about his base in Gagetown. A few years ago he fought very hard to prevent alternate service delivery from happening in his riding, which happened in Goose Bay. Does he think the funding is enough for the military, especially after the recent announcement about Afghanistan with close to a thousand troops?

There is also the Coast Guard. The member comes from Atlantic Canada and he knows the value of the Coast Guard. It did not receive as much funding as we were hoping. In fact, the estimates show there was actually a decrease in funding to the Coast Guard.

My third question, could he explain why half of his party, not him personally because he supported it, but half of his party and half of the official opposition voted against Bill C-206, one of the finest pieces of legislation ever to grace the halls of Parliament?

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Madam Speaker, on national defence, the member is correct. Obviously, circumstances now make the needs even greater. I cannot speak with a lot of authority in terms of the Coast Guard. Fredericton is a distance away from the water. I do not understand why half of my colleagues did not support the member and I also do not understand why half of his did.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on the budget bill. However, before I speak on the topic of the budget I would like to talk about something which is extremely important that happened yesterday and I would like to bring it to the attention of the House, to the Canadian public, and to the Solicitor General.

Yesterday evening I was in a grocery store shopping. As I was walking down the aisle a gentleman walked by. That is incorrect. He was not a gentleman. He walked by and said to me, “Muhammad, you bloody” something. He walked away mumbling these words. For a second I was stunned and shocked. I turned around and walked over to him and said, “Exactly what did you say. Did you abuse me? Did you use racist remarks?” He was a little stunned that I had stopped him and wanted to talk to him. I told him that this kind of behaviour was not acceptable. He then tried to say that he did not say it, but the next words that came out of his mouth were “September 11”. I asked him what he was trying to say.

In light of the fact that there is war going on in Iraq, the fact that there is tension among communities, and that there are those who are against something, this should be totally unacceptable.

I want to say to people of visible minorities and others who are targets of these kinds of racist remarks to challenge the people who make these racist remarks, ask them to repeat it, and tell them that there are hate crime laws in this country that will hold them accountable. We should not tolerate this kind of comment or insult against the dignity of Canadians. Every Canadian, irrespective of race, religion or creed, has the right to walk down the street with dignity and respect. We should tell these people who make these comments, especially now, that in Canada this is unacceptable. I hope and I am sure every member of the House will send that message out that it is unacceptable.

I will now go back to my speech on the budget. The finance minister talked about the prosperity of Canada, and how that would lead Canada down the road. If I recall correctly the Minister of Finance talked about how great the budget was and that it would put Canada on the road to prosperity.

My colleague from the other side who spoke about five or ten minutes ago talked about the strain in the relationship that is now being experienced between our country and our greatest trading partner. He was trying to blame this side of the House but because his riding is next to the U.S.A. he could feel the pressure coming on.

This strain is a cause of concern, as he rightly mentioned, although putting the blame on this side of the House is something that only somebody who has his head in the sand could think about. I do not understand why he could not make that speech to his own members of Parliament to refrain from doing that.

Business leaders and other political leaders across the country are now sounding the alarm. Fine. I buy the argument that there are those who will support the war and there are those who may be opposed to the war. That is acceptable; that is democracy. It is everybody's right to make a judgment with their conscience.

It is absolutely wrong to abuse somebody for that, to call someone names, to get down to the level of personal insults. This is not an argument. A person loses an argument when he or she makes personal insults. If someone has an argument to make against a cause, then that person should stand up and make it, but when it gets to the abuse level, the person has lost the argument.

If someone wants somebody else to respect his or her argument, then he or she should learn to respect other people's arguments. There may be dissent over it. It could be a different argument, but an individual must learn to respect other people's arguments if he or she wants people to listen to his or her arguments. As far as I am concerned, certain members of the governing party have lost their marbles.

Today two witnesses appeared before the foreign affairs committee. One gentleman was from Carleton University and the other was from IRDC. The committee is dealing with a review of foreign affairs as requested by the foreign affairs minister. Both gentlemen outlined the danger of what is happening in our relationship with our greatest trading partner, which in turn will have financial consequences for Canada.

The budget presented by the finance minister should be chucked out the window because it has no relevance. What he projected will not happen. Over 40% of our economy is tied to overseas trade, out of which over 80% is tied to one country. This decision was not made by the government but was made by Canadian business people about where they are going to trade. They made the decision to trade with the U.S.A.

With those numbers, external factors play a major role whether we like it or not. Our economy is tied to the U.S.A. Over 40% of our GDP is in exports. Naturally outside influence has a major impact on our living standards. This is something that members on that side need to understand. They need to understand that if they strain this kind of relationship it will come back to haunt us on the level of prosperity.

The have provinces of Alberta and Ontario are already raising flags. It is not an issue of being for or against the war. It is an issue of whether we are insulting them because we are not with them. Could we not give them a hand? That is the issue and the government has failed.

I do not know what those members are afraid of considering that the Prime Minister has been in politics for 40 years and considering that our trade has been tied to that country for a long period of time. He should have known because he has had so many cabinet positions. It is all right to stand up and say that we are independent. That is good because we are independent. That is what this House is for. That is why we are standing and talking here. By having a close and good relationship with our friends does not mean that we cannot be independent.

Every time we talk about an issue with our friends in the U.S.A. or other allies, we bring up the issue of our sovereignty. The United Kingdom is sovereign, as is Spain. Why does it have to be here in Canada that we lose our trade relations? Britain does not have a strong trade relationship with the U.S. and neither does Spain. We have to make a judgment of strategic interest to Canada.

The budget that was presented is now irrelevant. There are going to be strains and the budget will go out the window. It may be a good budget according to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but I can tell him that with the events taking place elsewhere, it will go out the window. It is just a good budget that will remain on paper and there is a debate about whether it is a good budget. We do not agree, but it is going to remain on the paper. There are serious flaws that do not address the issues.

Of course the Liberal member on the other side is now saying that the Americans are great people, that the Americans will understand our childish actions and they will forgive us. It is not a question of forgiving anyone. Canada has to look at its own strategic interests.

We go out and trade. We have team Canada. The Prime Minister trots around the world with the 10 premiers trying to sell Canadian goods. We know our prosperity is tied with exports at over 40% of the GDP. It is quite an impressive figure. We need that. Money was spent on social services, on health care of which we are very proud in this country and rightly so, because our defence expenditures are very low. We rely on somebody else for our defence needs.

It is important that we look at our strategic interests, act accordingly. It is important that we do not act with emotions, do not pound our chests saying that we are sovereign and that we want to make a point, and in the process create a situation for which we will pay for many, many years.

I hope the Prime Minister does not leave a legacy for which Canadians will pay for generations in higher taxes, higher unemployment and a lower standard of living. I hope that is not the legacy of the Prime Minister because of events that are taking place outside the country. I do not even know why, because of a dictator who has never given democratic rights to his own people, we are jeopardizing our own future. It is beyond my understanding.

The government announced yesterday $100 million in aid to Iraq. We need to provide aid to Iraq. It is important that we provide aid to Iraq because the people of Iraq, as we have seen on television, are paying a heavy price. The country is being bombed. Innocent people are dying. Coalition soldiers are dying and Iraqi soldiers are dying because of a dictator. A unanimous decision was passed by the Security Council that he had to be brought into compliance with the request for disarmament, which he did not.

Naturally the $100 million which the Government of Canada has contributed to Iraq is extremely welcome. Our only concern, which we have expressed, is how effective it is going to be. We do not have our own presence there so we are relying on others to provide aid. How effective is that going to be? We have given money for this but we are not there. It is like giving it at a distance.

In the budget the Prime Minister has committed for the next 10 years an 8% increase in foreign aid. This will increase the foreign aid budget to close to $4.6 billion by 2010. Again, the irony of the situation is that he is not going to be in power. I do not know how it can be said that foreign aid is going to be increased until 2010 when the Prime Minister is about to leave. By February of next year he will no longer be the Prime Minister of Canada, so how that will work is beyond understanding. In talking to some of my Liberal colleagues, they expect it to carry on through pressure. The numbers that have been given are not going to tie the government down but they are hanging out there to make Canadians feel good that they are doing something.

Let us talk about doing something. Let us talk about real effective dollars that are being spent now. Let us talk about what CIDA's budget is now. Forget about 10 years down the road.

CIDA needs to re-prioritize its expenditures. Yesterday, the human rights subcommittee listened to the ambassador from Zimbabwe and talked about the dictator living in that country who has no regard for his own citizens. An extremely bleak picture presented by our ambassador on Zimbabwe. Yet sitting on the other side were CIDA officials talking about giving aid.

I understand it is not the people of Zimbabwe who are responsible for what their leader is doing. There are NGOs over there. We need to send to send a message. I am calling for CIDA officials to get out of Zimbabwe and to not give any legitimacy to that government. It is time to leave. The NGOs will carry on with human assistance. A strong message needs to be sent.

Today we are at war with Iraq because we need to send a strong message to a dictator. That is the reason we went over there. So why are we stepping back and saying that we will not send a strong message to the dictator in Zimbabwe? I am not saying we are going to invade the country. I am not saying we have to attack him. We have to tell him that he will get no legitimacy by our presence there. We need to remove our officials.

Will that stop humanitarian assistance? No. Sometimes we need to give responsibility to the other side. We seem not to do that. What we seem to do is say that we will take their travel rights away. Who cares? If we take travel rights away from this Mugabe fellow, it is not a big deal. The next minute, we see a big picture in the Globe and Mail showing the guy in France, with the president of France giving him a red carpet welcome. Imagine that. What travel did we stop? What kind of games are we playing with the poor people over there?

In wrapping up my debate, this is a budget only on paper. Events have taken it. I hope the government will realize the damage it is doing. Pretty soon the government may have to present a new budget, but hopefully by that time the Prime Minister will be gone.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing the House that the Senate has passed certain bills.

Message from the Senate
Royal Assent

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 27, 2003

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Louise Arbour, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 27th day of March, 2003, at 5:00 p.m., for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Uteck,

Secretary to the Governor General

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-28, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 2003, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.