House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Independent

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me, for the first time since I regained my freedom, to speak in this House as an independent. Not being bound by party discipline, I naturally intend to speak my mind about the budget allocations, the way the federal government is managing them and also the response of my friends, both in the Bloc Quebecois and the Canadian Alliance.

If Canada is what it is today, it is because Quebec, having been asked in 1867 to be part of this great Canadian federation, insisted on keeping its French language tradition, its customary rights or its Civil Code, created in the early 19th century from the Napoleonic Code, and also its right to freedom of religion. Otherwise, Canada would not be what it is today.

For all the other anglophone provinces in Canada, one all-powerful government sufficed. At the time, there was not much west of Ontario. The other provinces joined later. If the current system exists, it is because the province of Quebec insisted on keeping those rights that I have just named.

The constitutional jurisdictions were divided up under sections 91 and 92. Section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 concerns federal jurisdictions, in which the federal government has the right to legislate, namely, defence, the postal service, divorce and aboriginals, to name but a few.

Quebec and the provinces, under section 92, have constitutional authority over such areas as education and health; I will not name all of them.

Unfortunately, I listened to the hon. member of the Bloc Quebecois for Trois-Rivières, who is a friend, at least he was until I rose to speak; I do not know if he will be afterwards. I have trouble understanding this hon. member's attitude. In his speech, he mentioned, at least five times, referendums, nation building and the fact that Canada is about to become a new country coast to coast, A mari usque ad mare ; he told us that Canadians were not consulted, that they were not asked what they wanted for the future of their country.

The truth is subject to a double standard in this country. I would like to ask a few questions of my hon. friend from Trois-Rivières. In Quebec, did we have a referendum on municipal amalgamation? Did we have a referendum, or is anyone promising one, on the latest hot topic in Quebec, the negotiations with the Innu? Did we have a referendum when we, in this House, agreed to change the name of Newfoundland to Newfoundland and Labrador?

Did we have a referendum when we, in this place, adopted the Firearms Act? This issue is entirely relevant to the budget now before us. This slippage will have cost Canadians $1.25 billion. Moreover, it is an encroachment—and one of unprecedented scope—on areas of provincial jurisdiction, particularly freedom, civil law, property, and hunting and fishing. The issue of firearms control touches on many jurisdictions.

What did the Bloc Quebecois say against this? It was politically profitable, it seems. At the time, women's groups insisted that the act be passed, with no consideration of the areas of provincial jurisdiction that had been given to us under section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Just recently, this party voted an additional $60 million or so to implement the program. The only province that has not yet challenged it before the courts is Quebec.

Yet, is the message being sent—and this is my question to the hon. member for Trois-Rivières—that the federal government can meddle in our constitutional jurisdictions, as long as we gain from it financially? If we get funds, if the federal government gives us some money, it is no big deal. Are we prepared to take cash for these constitutional jurisdictions, which were granted to us very sparingly in 1867 only because we threatened not to become part of the Canadian federation? Now, if it is politically expedient, if there is some money to be gained, it is acceptable.

Take, for example, the negotiations with the Innu. An amount of $377 million will be paid to the Innu, who had claims before the courts that totalled a similar or slightly higher amount. The federal government will pay $300 million out of the $377 million. All of a sudden, the respective constitutional jurisdictions become less important, because the federal government will provide $300 million.

So, there may be a tendency to be more flexible in such cases and let things go. However, if we have principles, theys should always apply, even if they work against us. This is what a principle is all about. Sometimes, it may hurt to follow it, but the important thing is what results from it.

I have always found my Bloc Quebecois friends to be rather flexible on this issue, provided there were some economic spinoffs for the provinces. It is their choice and I respect it.

However, I say that when we have principles and when we jealously guard a constitution that we did not quite want but that governs us, we should at least try to have it complied with. Right now, we make sure it is complied with when there is nothing much to be gained, but when there is something to be gained, it is a different story.

Take the example of the municipalities. When the federal government arrives with its millions for municipalities, it will be interesting to see what happens. The mayors will ask for help from the province, and the province will look at its interests and say, “Let us go ahead with this”.

There is no doubt that the constitutional system in which we find ourselves is very bad for the provinces, and particularly for Quebec, since it stands apart from the others in confederation.

Our friends from the other parties, the anglophones in the rest of Canada wanted a single national government. They wanted a federal government. This is why we said that there were two nations in this country.

The fact remains that, speaking of referendums, I believe in the merits of referendums that the hon. member for Trois-Rivières seems to be promoting. All the better, except that this must apply at all times to our political reasoning, and not only when it suits us.

I also want to address our hon. colleagues in the Canadian Alliance, who say that friends like the Americans should not be treated as they have. Forgive me if I do not totally agree with them.

First, I would say that parliamentarians here are in no danger of getting killed in Iraq. It is easy to send other people's children, so long as we do not have to go ourselves or send our kids. Speaking of friends, I would say that when it came to defending their own interests, the Americans stomped all over the interests of Canada, their friend.

Take, for example, softwood lumber. When it came to defending their softwood lumber interests, our American friends did not show much respect for us. They did what they had to defend their interests.

Why is the government avoiding doing something in Canada's interests and the public's interests? If softwood lumber is important to the Americans, the lives of our children are as important to us, at least as much as wood is. If we cannot admit that, I think that there is something really wrong.

What I mean is that I support fully respecting our Constitution. The fact that there is too much money in federal coffers as the result of a tax authority benefiting the federal government and penalizing the provinces where the needs are, is why the current sovereignist movement in Quebec started. I am still a sovereignist, and I will probably die one.

However, we must apply our political theory or political principles right down the line; otherwise we end up contradicting ourselves. This can be dangerous for a cause's credibility. I mentioned, as an example, the Firearms Control Act. There are other examples.

I urge parliamentarians, when they are defending the interests of others, to defend them to the end, independently of their own interests.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the budget implementation act debate. Not having had a chance to participate in the budget debate itself, it is good to have an opportunity to participate in this.

I have listened to the debate over the last number of weeks on this issue and have watched the chest pounding from the government side of the House about what a tremendous budget this is and how it is a major step toward, in their words, building the kind of Canada we want. It always shocks me when members of the Liberal government use that kind of rhetoric. The kind of Canada they appear to be building is not really the kind of Canada I want. I do not know how they feel they speak for Canada when they make those kind of statements.

If the government were a corporation and the cost of servicing the debt of that corporation was the single largest expenditure, it would probably make Air Canada's financial situation right now look pretty attractive. Essentially the government in the last number of years seems to have abandoned the whole focus on the debt and debt servicing and has turned to increased spending.

As some of my colleagues said earlier, I do not how the government could possibly justify, given the economic times we face today, bringing in a budget with a 20% increase in government spending. To me that seems to be absolutely irresponsible combined with the fact that the debt is still hanging over our heads like a black cloud. If inflation were to increase or we were to move into a recessionary period, that debt could once again threaten the very viability of the country.

I really have concerns about the whole direction of the budget and the return to the old style Liberal spending with no regard for future generations or for the consequences of that spending.

Specifically to deal with the budget issue, I would like to focus a little on the areas for which I as the critic for natural resources for the Canadian Alliance am responsible. There are a number of areas of the budget that are very relevant to my critic area.

The issue that seems to prevail in this debate, and the debate in the last couple of weeks in the House, is our relationship to the United States and the harm to that relationship. It is not so much the decision not to send troops in support of the coalition to Iraq but rather the anti-Americanism and the remarks flying around in and outside the House about the Americans, and the Liberal attitude toward the Americans.

On the issue of natural resources and energy, our economy depends on our relationship with the United States and must continue to depend on it. I can understand why there is not much regard for that issue by the Liberal government. Energy exports to the United States are primarily from western Canada, although there are electrical energy exports in central Canada. Primarily fossil fuel energy in western Canada would not really be of a concern to the Liberal government, and I think that is a given.

Considering how important the auto industry in Ontario is to its economy, I am amazed the Ontario members of Parliament are jeopardizing that industry and the survival and viability of it by those kind of comments. That is certainly relevant to this debate and needs repeating over and over again. Hopefully the government will see the light on that issue.

There were a couple of other areas that were relevant. One of them, which was addressed in the budget, was the issue of how the resource industries were treated on corporate taxation and the bringing in line of the rate of that taxation with other industries in Canada. For whatever reason, and I have never quite been able to understand why, the government decided to reduce the corporate tax rate from 28% to 21% for all industries in Canada, exempting the natural resource industries.

There was some reference to other programs and treatments of the resource industries that compensated for the tax reduction other industries got. I do not think it is a valid argument at all. The resource industries have long had what they refer to as the resource depletion allowance, which is simply a compensation program for the costs of provincial resource royalties that resource industries pay to the provinces. That is not a giveaway or a subsidy. It is simply a recognition of the impact on a resource company's bottom line of paying provincial royalties. The cost of provincial royalties comes right off the bottom line of any company and therefore hardly can be considered a subsidy or a giveaway to that industry. I do not accept that argument as being valid.

We have heard much criticism, particularly from the greener members across the way, about accelerated depreciation allowance and some of those other programs that apply in the resource industries. While those programs are designed to encourage growth in those industries, for example in the tar sands or in the mining industry, programs like flow-through shares and those kinds of treatments are specifically designed as tax incentives to encourage that growth. They hardly can be considered to replace the resource industries receiving that tax reduction program to 21%. We have to look at each industry that receives those benefits and judge whether that industry continues to need the incentive, or if the industry has matured to the point where that incentive is no longer valid and should be reviewed. However it has nothing to do with the overall tax rate.

I was very disappointed in this budget to see that the government decided to allow the resource industries the corporate tax reduction to 21%, but at the same time it took away the resource depletion allowance and proposed to somehow replace it with some another form of taxation.

I was very disappointed with the government's failure in any way to address the issue of the sale of federal government shares in Petro-Canada and Hibernia. The government, as any government, has no business of being in the business of business and retaining that. We could have garnered some substantial benefit to help some of these other issues like the climate change initiative and all the rest of it.

The other area, which continues to be a thorn in our side, is the issue of Kyoto and another $1.5 billion on top of the almost $2 billion already announced for the Kyoto protocol. We still have no substantive plan in place to deal with it, other than millions of dollars of national television advertising to convince Canadians it is the right thing to do.

Overall this is a pretty sad effort and a pretty pathetic budget in terms of benefits to Canadians. The government could have done much better.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the budget implementation act, 2003.

I will start by indicating my total agreement with my colleague from Trois-Rivières' statement that this is a budget of continuity for the central government. That government's vision is of centralization and of trampling on areas of provincial jurisdiction.

The budget brought down a few weeks ago by the Minister of Finance is a real example of that continuity. As well, it is a very striking example of the extent of the fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provincial governments.

Since the Liberals came to power, Ottawa's revenues have risen from $123 billion in 1993-94 to $185 billion in 2003-2004, a 50% jump. This additional 50% is what enables Ottawa to encroach on areas of jurisdiction that do not belong to it. As well, it enables it to create structures that have no connection whatsoever with the federal government, be it health, education, or other areas under provincial jurisdiction.

Today, given the extent of this fiscal imbalance, I am not surprised that the people of my region have taken the trouble to write the Minister of Finance. Every year I write to him, and to the Prime Minister, in my capacity as Bloc Quebecois critic for regional development, in order to indicate what the provinces and regions need. The feds need to be told that we must at least be given back the interest on what we pay in taxes to Ottawa.

It must be pointed out that this 2003 budget does not make any reference whatsoever to the fact that we need to move on to phase 2 of the softwood lumber crisis. The government had told us that we would move on from phase 1 to phase 2.

The same thing has been said by the Association des centres locaux de développement for the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, through its spokesperson, Mayor Lawrence Potvin of Métabetchouan-Lac-à-la-Croix. The day after the budget was brought down, he met with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Justice in order to share with them what the people of my region wanted from this first budget by the new Minister of Finance.

Mr. Potvin took the time to write the Prime Minister, saying, “It is sad to say but, true to form, your government has always ignored the needs identified by the community, whether in connection with the softwood lumber issue or the EI account”. In tabling the last budget, the Minister of Finance said that balance had been restored to the EI fund.

I wonder what he thinks is balanced about it. This year again, the Minister of Finance grabbed $3 billion from the EI fund. If that is what he calls balance, I think he should go back to school or step aside. He just told us and the provinces, “We have not done anything, we have simply balanced the fund”. In fact, he has grabbed $3 billion from the fund.

With this $3 billion, he could have taken action on the softwood lumber issue. My region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean was the hardest hit by job losses and sawmills closing down. What lies ahead with a budget announcing huge budget surpluses? Absolutely nothing.

As we know, we had a regional summit in Quebec. Following this summit, the people in my region decided to set up a regional fund so that our region could make investments based on priorities set by the people in our region.

They then turned to the federal government. This would be a fund of approximately $400 million, with the federal government, the provincial government and the region each contributing one third. The Quebec government is on board, but there was no response from the finance minister in his budget.

While I questioned the Minister of Finance a few times on this, the answer came from the minister responsible for the regions, who said, “We will not be investing in that”. But these are needs inherent to my region.

Once again, the federal government would have us believe that it is listening to the regions, but ignored the regions in this budget. This has been going on for years, and each year, I would write the former finance minister. In its request, the CLD stated that the government ought to listen. My region, the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, has been designated “Aluminum Valley”.

Based on this, the Government of Quebec provided tax breaks to encourage businesses to come and invest in our region. We asked the federal government to do the same so that our region, which is losing so many of our young people, would be able to create jobs to allow them to come home. Once again, the government has turned a deaf ear and has done nothing for the needs being felt in my region.

Another request was made of the government. Everyone was talking about it this winter. Indeed, the most disadvantaged families were severely hit by the incredible rise in prices for gas and heating oil. We asked that the government do at least what it had done in a previous budget: provide relief, or money for these families.

I met with seniors. Some women told me that they had set some money aside to buy themselves a little treat for Easter, and that the money was now gone. They will not be able to buy themselves a treat because they have had to use all that money to pay for their heating oil.

The government has even turned a deaf ear to these people. We thought the federal government was also going to talk about the income supplement. For eight years, it has been depriving several hundred thousand senior citizens of the guaranteed income supplement for which they are eligible. We thought that there would be something in this budget to compensate these people who, in the past, were penalized because of the carelessness and negligence of Human Resources Development Canada. Once again, there was nothing.

I think this is very sad. The Liberals are building up surpluses, encroaching on provincial jurisdictions, and telling the regions and provinces, “We have the right to do it”.

Also, there is the issue of infrastructure. The Mayor of Laval, Mr. Vaillancourt, who is the chairman of the Coalition pour le renouvellement des infrastructures du Québec, said that this government would have had to invest a billion dollars a year for the next 15 years in order to upgrade our infrastructure in Quebec, that is, sewers, waterworks, and so on. What have they announced? A mere $3 billion over the next ten years, and that is for all of Canada, along with $1 billion for municipal infrastructure. Between you and me, that adds up to $25 million per year; we will not get far with that.

Allow me to repeat once more that this government is deceiving the taxpayers and making believe that it is responsive to people's needs. The Minister of Immigration said to the people from our region who met with him, “We are listening. We will make sure your demands are heard”. Once again, this government is not listening to the regions and the provinces, and it is listening even less to the people.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-28, the budget implementation act of 2003. This is another budget brought forward by the Liberals that has failed Canadians. In fact, in my address in the reply to the budget on February 26, I enumerated several reasons why the budget has failed Canadians.

I spoke of the government's complete refusal to address GST fraud, which we all know is quite a large issue. I looked at the government's failure to address security concerns at our airports as well as the steps it has taken to punish those saving for their retirement through RRSPs. Payroll taxes such as EI and exorbitant income tax rates continue to kill the Canadian economy.

Still, the government claims that the budget is a success. It is not. The government should be ashamed of itself.

We are debating a bill that if passed will implement this failed budget. Needless to say, I, along with my colleagues from the Canadian Alliance, will be voting against this.

Why will I be voting against it? As I have already expanded in my previous speech on the macro reasons why this budget is a failure, let me instead focus today on one specific department within the government and on why the budget has failed that department and hence failed to protect the security of Canadians.

Specifically I would like to talk about the members of the Customs Excise Union, who do a great job at Canada's borders as front line customs officers and inspectors. Customs inspectors are part of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency but do much more than the average CCRA employee. The fact is that our customs officers do a tremendous job, especially when we look at the number of statutes they are charged with enforcing, their limited resources and their inability to protect themselves from the potential dangers inherent in border protection.

We believe that Canadians and our customs officers would be better served by moving Canada Customs out of the tax collection agency it now falls under into a new law enforcement department or under the Solicitor General of Canada. Just as Canada Customs now enforces the statutes of several departments, it will continue to enact National Revenue's policies of trade liberalization.

The revenue minister has announced more money and the hiring of customs officers. She has fallen very short in addressing the deficit that existed prior to September 11, never mind today. The customs union is calling for 1,200 new officers. It is getting 130, but these new officers still will be unable to adequately protect our border because they will lack the tools to do their job.

It is evident that CCRA is a department focused on streamlining accounting systems and collecting revenues. It is not focused on security. The logical question is why the government continues to treat our border guards, Canada's first line of defence, as bean-counters.

Mr. Speaker, you are a logical person. If you witnessed a crime in progress would you call the police or your accountant? Clearly you would call the police. Why? Because they have the training, the knowledge and the tools to protect society and enforce the laws.

What do our customs officers need to do the job? They need full authority as peace officers to enforce the statutes they are charged with. That includes a need for side arms for their protection. The first step is to move customs away from revenue and create a police force at our border. Canada Customs enforces over 70 federal statutes from numerous government departments, including the justice, health, agriculture, immigration and finance departments, and the Solicitor General's department. The recent focus on Canada's porous border is not necessarily a reflection of Canada Customs as much as it is a deficit of legislation, mandate and resources focused on security and protection.

Bill C-7, passed in the 35th Parliament, moved the Canada Customs Agency under the jurisdiction of Revenue Canada, thus creating the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. We were opposed to this move to facilitate trade and tourism while expediting the remittance of revenues to the Crown because of the lack of focus on security and protection.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security believes that its primary function is law enforcement, whereas unfortunately Canada Customs claims to have a dual mandate: processing revenues and border security.

A greater focus on security is required to harmonize customs standards with those of the United States, which cannot be achieved under the current CCRA. The Canadian Police Association proposal of a national border protection service should be considered seriously as legislation. The association is calling for a border protection service to provide strategic and coordinated protection and enforcement across Canada's borders and points of entry, separate from the Department of National Revenue. Such a service must be endowed with full peace officer status and equipped with the required technological aids, including CPIC and FOSS computer systems as well as NCIC and Interpol and access to vital statistics.

Right now, and the House will be shocked, 45% of our borders do not have access to these law enforcement tools. Customs officers have no way of knowing if the person in front of them has a criminal record or is on the terrorist watchlist. There should be an immediate network hookup of all computers and all customs software at all ports of entry across Canada. It is unacceptable for some customs officers in ports across Canada to have limited or no access to electronic customs systems that provide intelligence and support to customs officers who must undertake interdiction and detention decisions and actions.

Indeed, the current attempt to share information with our government departments has been a complete failure. There should be an agreement among immigration, RCMP and CSIS to share information daily. Information should then be further shared with our American neighbours regarding exit and entrance data and criminal background checks.

The government must provide customs officers with the authority, support and equipment necessary to do their jobs. One piece of equipment that is necessary is side arms so that customs officers can protect themselves and Canadians. This should be done regardless of whether Canada Customs becomes its own separate agency or stays a part of CCRA. This is an issue of safety for these customs officers. I have already outlined how these officers are basically police without the formal title. They are police without the protection of the law.

The Canadian Alliance takes this issue seriously, but unfortunately the Minister of National Revenue does not. In the past she has called these agents nothing more than glorified bank tellers. As recently as March 26 she said to the House, “...giving guns to customs officers would be like giving 3,000 accidents an opportunity to happen”.

On March 28 I asked her to clarify her remarks in the House, and her response was to call me “Charlton Heston”. I do not mind being compared to Moses nor do I mind living here in what seems like the Planet of the Apes , especially with the government across the way, but to have the minister making light of the issue was an insult to customs agents. In fact, my office has received numerous e-mails and letters from irate customs agents asking me how the minister can make so much fun of them. My answer, unlike that of the Liberals, is that the Canadian Alliance has always believed and will continue to believe in respect for these people.

This issue of firearms is not one that the Canadian Alliance has invented on its own. It actually comes from a report by ModuSpec, which was commissioned by the government to examine this very question. The interim report called for an armed presence at our border and especially at some higher traffic border crossings where our customs agents are at higher risk.

What does this all boil down to? I will use four points to conclude.

First, there are not enough people, as I have outlined. There are one-person ports when there always should be two people working together. Currently there are ports that close at 10 p.m. and we argue that they should be open for 24 hours, especially some of the more remote ports where proper barriers are not even put in place once they close down in the evening. There are chronic staff shortages and not enough staff to accommodate shortages if training needs to be done.

Second, we often do not have the right people. Students do not belong at the front line without proper supervision and/or proper training.

Third, there is not the right equipment. There is no CPIC at the front line and there are no computers at 45% of our border crossings. As well, some facilities need rebuilding. For example, in Victoria they are working out of a 30 year old trailer at the ferry terminal, where almost a million people travel yearly.

Finally, they do not have enough pay. CCRA admits that its job classification system is archaic and fails to fully assess the value of jobs. CCRA is moving to a new classification standard. What about the fact that customs officers have been underpaid for years, up to and including today?

All these issues still have failed to be addressed by the minister. Quite frankly I think the minister has been an embarrassment because she has not represented the interests of security and protection for Canadians at our border.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, again we are engaged in the debate on the budget implementation act. There has been lots of food for discussion here this morning.

The budget represents a $17.4 billion announcement in new spending. That is the single largest increase in government spending in 40 years. I want to suggest why this is not prudent at this time.

There is nothing in the budget for debt reduction. I want to emphasize that these are uncertain times.

I see the member opposite taking exception to my remarks already. May I remind her that these are uncertain times. The member opposite is one who has made it a point of going to the Middle East to engage with the people involved in the conflict, with Iraq, with Mr. Aziz, a person whom she found engaging.

I want to emphasize to the member opposite and others that these are uncertain times. We are at war in the world and it does not look like it is going to be easily resolved. The world economy is already showing signs of failure right across the world.

Also, in our own country we are faced with a new challenge, the SARS epidemic. Canadians are concerned. We are not used to seeing people walking in our streets or entering our hospitals and airports with masks over their faces. Now because of a virus, or a combination of agents as the exact agent is yet to be identified, alarm is spreading throughout our society and internationally. There are unknown economic costs associated with this illness. There is the potential to harm the airline industry which is already in decline because of the instability in the world.

These are uncertain economic times. It is not the time to go on a spending spree to the extent which the government is making great promises to Canadians, promises on which it may not be able to deliver.

There is about $2 billion scattered on unspecified Kyoto measures. There is a mere pittance for our armed forces. These are reasons to be concerned.

At the same time the government is increasing the civil service by 29,000. What employer would throw open the doors to 29,000 people? Is it possible to suddenly have a need for so many people all at once, or is it a sense that the government wants to swallow a good chunk of the budget surplus in extra employees who will be loyal to its particular brand of partisan politics?

On the defence issue the Auditor General called for a $2 billion increase for our armed forces. It is shameful the way the government has had a consistent pattern of neglect for our military. The Liberal government has been undermining the military since it came to power.

There was a need for new helicopters when the Liberal government came to power. It cancelled the helicopter contract that the defence department was counting on at that time to replace the aging Sea Kings. That was over 10 years ago. The Prime Minister said at the time that there would be zero helicopters for the armed forces. He made a gesture with his hand, zero helicopters. That is exactly what we have today, 10 years later, zero helicopters.

Canadians faced the embarrassment of a helicopter dropping out of the sky and damaging our ship which limped back to harbour because. It cannot even function in a non-war environment let alone in a combat situation. This undermines Canada's credibility and impairs our ability to fulfill our defence commitments with NATO and our other strategic alliances.

Then the government will not spend money on submarines. I wish the government had had the foresight to consult British Columbians before it bought the prototype submarines the British navy was so anxious to get rid of. British Columbians had an experience also with a government that was venturing into job creation through a fast ferry program which created some behemoths that probably would work somewhere in the world. British Columbia spent nearly $400 million of the taxpayers' money on three vessels that should have cost about $80 million according to original estimates and then $200 million. They sold recently for about $37 million.

The federal government invested in used submarines. It paid $750 million for four leaky subs that have yet to be put into service. This is shameful. Our armed forces deserve better.

The Auditor General recommended a $2 billion increase and the government provided $282 million immediately, which, considering the war effort and our troops being deployed, is only a pittance of what they need. A commitment of $800 million per year falls far short of what is necessary to rebuild the equipment and provide the personnel that our armed forces require.

Canada has the second lowest defence commitment of our NATO allies. We commit only 1.2% of our gross domestic product compared to an average of 2.1% for NATO countries. It is the second lowest of all NATO countries. It is an embarrassment for Canada. It undermines our international credibility to play a significant role in the world or even for our own domestic needs.

We have no heavy lift capacity to move our troops and equipment. We have to hitch a ride from our neighbours to the south if they have equipment available, which certainly would not be true right now.

Even if we faced a domestic crisis, we may not be able to move our forces to help with it at this time because our friends, who we used to call our allies, to the south are occupied with the situation in Iraq. They may not be able to give us the lift we so often require even to move forces within our country. This is shameful and needs to be addressed. The government is spending money hand over fist, but not for the military and not for security.

There is a lack of funding for security for border agents. We heard my hon. colleague from Edmonton refer to the remarks of the Minister of National Revenue about customs agents. The government refuses to take security matters seriously. It will not arm our border guards. It considers our border agents to be tax collectors. I think the minister's remarks were reprehensible when she suggested that to give arms to our border agents would be like setting the stage for 3,000 accidents. I feel this is an insult that was certainly unnecessary and uncalled for but reflects the government's attitude toward security.

Perhaps it is appropriate to remember the remarks of the American ambassador who was deeply offended, and I think appropriately so, by the shameful remarks of condemnation against Americans which came from members opposite. The American ambassador recently remarked on this and made the comment that Canada seems to think the issue for the U.S. is trade. We are worried about our border tax collectors and we will not arm them. He remarked that for Americans, security trumps trade.

Frankly, the careless remarks made by members opposite offend our neighbours to the south, especially at a time when their sons and daughters are on the front lines. The remarks were certainly undiplomatic and rude. Especially at a time of such crisis those remarks were hardly appropriate and may well damage our trade relations and personal relations with our neighbours to the south for some time to come.

Security trumps trade. I fear, frankly, for the safety of our own country because the government refuses to take security seriously. I fear that Canadians may have to pay a price for our lack of due diligence in security issues.

Moving on to issues of domestic significance, the government is willing to put money into child care, but for a government brand of child care. Canadians need help with child care. These are stressful times on families, incomes being what they are, but we believe that child care options should be given to the parents. Canadians should be free to choose how they receive their benefits. We would like to see a $3,000 per child deduction for families, allowing them to choose.

There is a smoke and mirrors aspect to the budget. The government uses inflated numbers to make promises in funding, such as $3 billion for infrastructure spending over 10 years. What kind of a budget comment is that? How can it make promises for 10 years?

I am sure members opposite would like to think they will be here to deliver in 10 years but that is a huge assumption given the political realities of the day. To make promises that they will not be here to deliver is disingenuous. Canadians deserve better.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to specifically address the budget as it impacts or does not impact, as the case may be, on bettering our environment.

We have heard from the Minister of the Environment and other government members that this is the greenest budget that has ever been passed. Historically one could take some issue with that but if it is, it is sorely lacking.

There was an opportunity for the government to address some of the issues that confront this country with regard to bettering our environment, cleaning up the environment, providing for a cleaner environmental future for subsequent generations.

The background work I did in preparing for this debate was interesting. Some of the environmental groups have prepared a government scorecard. They listed a half a dozen to a dozen issues that need to be addressed, longstanding concerns. They assessed the situation, determined what was necessary in government policy to deal with the issues and whether the budget addressed those issues to a satisfactory degree.

Not surprisingly, the results are not very favourable as far as the government is concerned. Let us look at some of the issues.

Do we have a meaningful energy efficiency building retrofit strategy? That one had a partial check mark as opposed to a total no. The only reason is that there is some money in the infrastructure dollars which may provide for a retrofit program but we do not know about that. It was not detailed in the budget at all. Part of that is because it is part of the whole Kyoto plan which the government has been so slow at getting off the ground.

The next point was whether there was a renewable energy strategy. Again, they could not really quantify this or give it a score other than to say that it is addressed but there are no particulars. They do not really know what the government is doing. That of course comes to the same point. There is supposed to be a Kyoto implementation plan, but in fact it does not exist. It was interesting to see how little material there was in the budget as far as implementing the Kyoto protocol in Canada is concerned.

Another issue which follows along the same lines of energy efficiency but also begins to address the issue of clean air is whether we are going to phase out the massive subsidies provided to the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries in Canada. There were no changes in this regard at all from past practices. Those subsidies which run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars each year will continue to be accorded to those industries and will continue to allow them to pollute the environment.

With regard to a sustainable transportation strategy and fund, there is some money so the government received a partial plus on that one. Again it comes back to what the Kyoto implementation plan is going to look like. It was impossible to tell how meaningful the approach would be.

One of the issues the budget could have addressed has been raised by environmental groups and by our party for quite some time, I would say going back three to five years. That has been to address a taxing figure for toxic waste and toxic substances so that there would be incentives to clean up the use of toxic substances and to clean up toxic waste sites. A very small amount of money was put into the budget to encourage that.

There was nothing done with regard to the ongoing use of toxic substances. There was no tax to discourage their use at all.

Of particular resonance for my community is the use of coal as an energy source. Rather than doing anything to discourage the use of coal, this budget would provide a new tax incentive for the mining industry. The coal industry would get part of this subsidy and Canadians will be encouraged to continue to use coal as an energy source.

Housing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that April is New Homes Month, an annual event sponsored by the Canadian Home Builder's Association to profile building industry professionals, and their products and services. It is also an occasion to provide consumers with home buying information.

As Canada's national housing agency, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is the most reliable and objective source of housing information in Canada. CMHC continues to provide a wealth of information to Canadians to help them sort through the many choices and decisions involved in buying, renovating and maintaining their homes. CMHC plays a key role in helping many Canadians make informed housing choices.

In this, and in many other ways, CMHC is committed to helping improve the quality of life for Canadians and communities across the country.

Aboriginal Affairs
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians value the various mechanisms for seeking redress available to them when they feel they have been treated unfairly.

Tragically, first nations individuals have not had the same kind of mechanisms available to them. Both the Indian Act and the federal government have failed to provide grassroots natives with an impartial trusted process designed to resolve grievances with band leadership and with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

The first nations governance act which revises the Indian Act, provides a window of opportunity. Written properly, Bill C-7 could provide first nations individuals with a truly independent ombudsman who would be genuinely trusted by grassroots natives. The ombudsman would be empowered to obtain the information needed to complete timely investigations and to provide that redress.

This would be an important step toward holding band governments and the federal government to account and would contribute to bringing justice and hope to Canada's aboriginal peoples.

Social Sciences and Humanities
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is the Canadian Alliance's view of the social sciences and humanities as expressed by an Alliance member during the budget debate. He said:

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council spends money on all sorts of queer and strange projects... It does not produce any wealth for this country at all. Most of what it hands out... appears to go for vacation time for academics to travel... and take photographs. It is certainly not contributing to the running of the country.

It is in difficult times, nation building times, that we most need the humanities and social sciences. Education and research in these areas help us understand, appreciate and run our society. Without self-knowledge as individuals and as a nation, we are nothing.

It is disgraceful that the Alliance can condone such shortsighted, thoughtless, and damaging views such as these. The announcement by the Minister of Finance that funding to the social sciences will be increased received a standing ovation on this side.

Thank goodness the Alliance will never form the government.

Entraide jeunesse Québec
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, Entraide jeunesse Québec is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. I would like to recognize the commitment and energy of those who began such a wonderful initiative.

An organization founded by young people for young people, Entraide jeunesse Québec has been there every step of the way for thousands of girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 25 and their families. The topics discussed and the projects set up have enabled them to acquire and develop a number of essential personal skills.

Through its remarkable work, this organization has become a major community resource in the Quebec City area.

At the age of 15, you have the energy to take up challenges and meet them with success. My wish is that the team at Entraide jeunesse Québec will continue to do just that.

World Fencing Cup
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the finals of the Montreal World Fencing Cup were held in my riding, Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, at the Leonardo da Vinci community centre, with the cooperation of Sport Canada, the Canadian Fencing Federation, and the sponsors, including Saputo and Divco.

This competition was enormously successful. I would like to congratulate the approximately 200 fencers from 30 different countries who participated all week in this tournament's 14th edition.

On Saturday, March 22, 2003, the finalists, including gold medal winner Fabrice Jeannet, from France, demonstrated their true championship skills, in the finest sporting and humanitarian spirit.

Young Offenders
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the federal government's Youth Criminal Justice Act comes into force.

So what is the big change? It used to be called the Young Offenders Act, but now it is called the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It must be a good thing that the government changed the act today because yesterday I listened as probation officers told me the significant problems they are having with young offenders: stealing from businesses, using drugs, beating up senior citizens in home invasions, leaving school early and leaving their homes for the streets.

Yes, after 10 long years of pushing the government to help improve life within the family unit, and to help put common sense and discipline back in the courtrooms, we get legislation that is costly, complex and offers no substantial improvements to the old act. This country needs a change all right, but it is a change in government that is needed.

The best the government could do is change the name of the act from the Young Offenders Act to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. What a disgrace. What a pathetic excuse for a government.

Canadian Cancer Society
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, April is Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Month. The daffodil is the Canadian Cancer Society's symbol of hope in the fight against cancer. Every April thousands of volunteers across Canada raise funds in their communities to support the work of the Canadian Cancer Society.

Daffodil month is about more than raising funds, however, it is also about raising awareness of cancer issues, and the work that the society does in support of its mission, which is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer.

In 2002, an estimated 136,900 new cases of cancer and 66,200 deaths from cancer occurred in Canada. Health Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society and other major cancer stakeholders, manages the Canadian strategy for cancer control.

I would like to ask all members to join with me in wishing the Canadian Cancer Society and its volunteers across the nation wonderful success in their activities during the month of April.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

April 1st, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the race to see which Liberal will be the poster child for April Fool's Day has begun, and they're off.

First one out of the gate is the member for LaSalle—Émard, bobbing, weaving, ducking and hiding while hoping no one notices that he is always out of position.

Close on his heels is the current Minister of Finance, doing his best on the heavy track, but being tripped up by the constant anti-American mud flinging that this race is famous for.

On the outside but already starting to fade is the heritage minister, still running hard while eating Tim Hortons donuts and hoping that someone will actually notice her next public pronouncement.

Now, the member for Mississauga Centre has pushed into the lead, flailing Americans left and right, and thrashing exporters indiscriminately about the head and ears.

And look at this, the Prime Minister has entered the race riding backwards on a camel and refusing to fight anyone while wondering which race is which.

But now, out of nowhere, comes the Solicitor General and the Minister of Justice, teaming up on a horse called “Gun Registry”, throwing potfuls of money in all directions, transferring control of the horse first to one then to the other, then finally giving up and dropping the reins altogether.

It looks like the winner is the dynamic duo, “Gun Registry”, for betting the whole farm on an additional $59 million in funding and then announcing today that they cannot even transfer control of the gun registry on time and budget. They may be winners in this race, but the payout is nothing because the Canadian taxpayer is nobody's fool.

Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency we are committed to providing fairness to our clients and to protecting their rights through a fairness policy.

The CCRA successfully manages one of the largest dispute resolution services in the federal government. The dispute resolution service deals mainly with issues relating to income tax, GST, customs and CPP/EI.

If clients were to disagree with an assessment, the CCRA would undertake a full professional and impartial review of their case. The voluntary disclosures program promotes voluntary compliance and gives the CCRA the discretion to help clients who cannot meet their tax obligations. It is a fairness program aimed at providing clients with an opportunity to correct past omissions and provides a greater level of fairness to all clients and stakeholders.

The CCRA's declaration and guide called Your Rights pledges the CCRA's commitment to client rights and fair treatment.