House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

Topics

2 p.m.

The Speaker

As is our practice on Wednesday we will now sing O Canada, and we will be led by the hon. member for Essex.

World Teachers' Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World Teachers' Day and I would like to take this opportunity to join parents and communities around the world in recognizing the pivotal role that teachers play in providing quality education to our children. Through their daily work, teachers make a tremendous contribution to sustainable development by building its human foundation, developing a child's capacity and desire to learn.

Teachers are important to the overall development of their students' character and minds. They are understanding individuals and greatly affect how the next generation views the world and its citizens.

To the teachers of Beaches—East York, indeed all teachers in Canada, I wish to say thanks. It is because of their devotion that our children know that no door is closed and that no dream is too distant to achieve.

Home Heating Prices
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday after pressure from the opposition, the government announced that it would be introducing a program to help low income Canadians and seniors with the high cost of heating their homes this winter. The minister said that the package is heavily geared toward helping the most vulnerable within society.

The last time the Liberals tried such a rebate program it was slammed by the Auditor General because some 16,000 prisoners, dead people, and Canadians living outside Canada received the cheques.

According to the minister, this time the rebate program will be tied to individuals who are eligible for child benefits and seniors who qualify for the GIS. According to a report issued this week by the National Advisory Council on Aging, we know that there are in excess of 300,000 seniors in Canada who are eligible for the GIS who do not receive it. How will they get the rebate?

In addition, there are thousands of low income Canadians who live alone and do not receive any child benefits. How will they get the rebate? The fact is that none of these rebates will reach the Canadians who need it most and they will be forced in many cases to choose this winter between eating or staying warm.

Eastern Montreal Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Eastern Montreal Chamber of Commerce and Industry is doing a wonderful job for the economic development of our region.

I have had the chance to work with several of its leaders on many issues, including soil decontamination and the creation of a niche in environmental technologies.

More recently, we have worked together on the issue of a commuter train for eastern Montreal. This initiative is a top priority for our region, which is suffering from a chronic lack of transportation infrastructure and from the absence of an adequate public transit system.

It is clear that a commuter train servicing eastern Montreal would greatly facilitate the movement of the working population while at the same time stimulating the competitiveness of businesses. This initiative would promote the use of public transportation, in direct keeping with our Kyoto objectives.

The chamber of commerce is made up of leaders, entrepreneurs, men and women who are passionately devoted to the economic development of eastern Montreal. I want to tell them that they have had and will always have my support and cooperation.

Maison des Grands-Parents de Sainte-Foy
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 11, the Maison des Grands-Parents de Sainte-Foy hosted a big gathering of past and present volunteers to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its official opening.

The Maison des Grands-Parents is an organization of seniors who, when the time came to take a well-deserved retirement, decided to get involved with elementary school children, and especially those in difficulty. They are dedicated to providing these children with presence, support and unconditional love in helping them do their homework, which has meant some retraining for many of the seniors.

I pay tribute to these 75 or so women and men of great generosity who have understood that their loving presence can make a world of difference in a child's life.

The Bloc Québécois recognizes the exceptional contribution of the volunteers at the Maison des Grands-Parents de Sainte-Foy to the life of their community, and we wish them health and energy to continue fulfilling their mission for many more years.

Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently, I was invited to speak at the Teddy Roosevelt conservation awards ceremony in Vermont. This award is given to an organization or individuals who play a key role in environmental conservation.

I am proud to announce that this prestigious award was bestowed on an organization in my riding. I congratulate Conservation Baie Missisquoi, its president, Pierre Leduc and his entire team. I had the pleasure of working with them on the Lake Champlain issue. They did an exceptional job. This is also a wonderful example of cooperation between Canada and the United States. I want to acknowledge the Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, and the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont, Brian Dubie, for being so involved in this issue.

A big thank you also to the International Joint Commission, which brought us all together on this.

May we continue to work together to protect our environment.

Search and Rescue
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, if the hurricanes in the southern United States have taught us anything, it is that being properly prepared will save lives, property and money.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government is ignoring this hard learned lesson. Heavy urban search and rescue, or HUSAR teams, are an integral part of emergency preparedness. These teams, headquartered in major cities, do the dirty work during an emergency.

These teams pull people out of collapsed buildings and out of fast flowing water. They are the only ones who keep damaged buildings standing and take care of the victims of disasters. The government has acknowledged the importance of these teams and has announced millions of dollars of funding. Sadly, the government has not put its money where its mouth is.

With the federal government squabbling with itself and unable to deliver all the promised funds, the team in Calgary had to cancel training. Halifax has not even got off the ground and Toronto has had to rely on provincial funding. This is unacceptable.

Emergency preparedness deserves better. Canadians deserve better. When the money was announced, the government stated that disasters can strike anywhere.

Mental Illness Awareness Week
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It is a public campaign to better inform Canadians about the issues surrounding mental illness. This year's theme, Face Mental Illness, is designed to help break down the stigma associated with this illness and to put a human face on mental illness by featuring the stories of people who have been diagnosed.

Approximately 20% of Canadians will be diagnosed with a disorder during their lifetime and the remaining 80% will be affected by the illness of a loved one.

I wish to congratulate the individuals who have courageously told their stories of struggles and triumphs. I wish to commend the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and the Mental Health Association, along with the Lakeshore Area Multiservice Project and the Family Association for Mental Health Everywhere.

They are organizations in my riding who are doing significant work in bettering the lives of many individuals. I have special congratulations for the hon. Ujjal Dosanjh who was honoured today as this year's champion for mental health. Congratulations minister.

Mental Illness Awareness Week
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore knows she must refer to members, not by their name but by their title. I am sure she meant the Minister of Health.

The hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

Centre d'action bénévole Les p'tits bonheurs
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, something major is happening in the riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

The former Les p'tits bonheurs volunteer action centre in Saint-Bruno was demolished on Saturday so work could begin on a new, modern and larger building. Obviously, it was a very emotional time for everyone in the community.

Next spring, Les p'tits bonheurs volunteer action centre will re-open on the same site in order to continue its mission. In the meantime, services will be provided at the community centre and the clothing bank will be relocated to the former train station.

This project would not have been possible without the $170,000 raised by the organization. Only another $30,000 is needed.

I want to highlight the work done by these men and women, under Gaby Bouvrette, who, day after day, help those in need.

Spruce Grove
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, on October 1 I had the pleasure of participating in the city of Spruce Grove's Jubilee Celebration, marking its 50th year of incorporation as a municipality.

The village was originally settled in 1891 by French and Scottish families and was named for the groves of spruce trees that surrounded the area. The community became a grain trading centre when the railroad was established in 1908 and in 1955 it was incorporated as a village.

By 1971 Spruce Grove was a town and in 1986 it became a city. Spruce Grove's population is currently estimated at 18,000 plus and is considered one of western Canada's fastest growing communities. The jubilee celebration included a fun-filled day with a free pancake breakfast, a celebration at the TransAlta Tri Leisure Centre and a children's nickel carnival.

I would like to congratulate Mayor Ken Scott, as well as Spruce Grove's council and the team of dedicated organizers for putting on such a wonderful celebration. Finally, I would like to congratulate the citizens and the city of Spruce Grove on its 50th birthday.

Human Resources and Skills Development
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to thank the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development for the thoroughness and openness in which her department responded to the 20 recommendations of the standing committee's sixth report, examining the new directives governing contribution agreements for selected programs delivered on behalf of her department.

Even before the response was tabled on September 26, several corrective actions dealing with how proposals are submitted by the voluntary sector have been instituted in a spirit of true partnership.

Our government has committed to creating a relationship of trust with all our partners who provide employment programs and other related programs and services throughout the country.

Congratulations on a job well done.

Foreign Affairs
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and this government have been very active in developing relationships between Canada and South Asia. Our visitors from the riding of Papineau will also know that Canadians of South Asian origin play a critical role in the development of our relations with South Asia.

Let me give just a few examples of our government's commitments.

Last week our foreign minister met with his Indian counterpart to commit ourselves to building a broad and enduring partnership.

Canada has reaffirmed its role in Afghanistan with the deployment of its PRT in Kandahar.

The Deputy Prime Minister has just returned from a successful visit to Pakistan, where cooperation in security matters was discussed.

Canadians can be proud of the significant assistance we are providing Sri Lanka to help bring about peace and of our substantial contributions made to the development of Bangladesh.

This is only the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with this very vital part of the world.

Breast Cancer
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to praise the tireless efforts of thousands of Canadians across this country and their work and dedication on the Run for the Cure to fight breast cancer.

This year alone, more than 21,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and tragically, more than 5,000 will succumb to this disease.

I also rise to acknowledge the courage and love of the families facing the devastating impacts of breast cancer.

Finally, I rise to bring home the message to this ineffective Liberal government that its inaction, lack of vision and misaligned priorities are putting women at risk in this country. We are the air that we breathe. We are the water that we drink. This government has created more dirty air and more polluted water than ever before.

I call upon the government to use whatever is left of its sad mandate to finally show some leadership, take seriously the impacts of environmental degradation on Canadians' health and make the tough decisions necessary to address it. Canadian women deserve action, not more empty words.

Child Pornography
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on an issue that should concern all of us: the sexual exploitation and abuse of our children relating to the production and trafficking of pornographic images and distribution over the Internet.

Recently a young girl in Calgary was filmed as she was being sexually molested. This heinous crime was broadcast over the Internet via a webcam. The perpetrator was picked up and charged, but later was released on $2,000 bail.

In her mother's words, this crime has robbed their family of so very much, and the man charged with molesting her daughter is still walking our streets.

I ask everyone in this House to consider what they have done to prevent children from being abused like this. For years, some of us have called for tougher laws and sentences for pedophiles and sexual predators, to draw a line in the sand and say that crimes against children will not be tolerated and to strive for a justice system that reflects the serious impact of violent crime.

I therefore call upon this House to support Bill C-286, Carrie's guardian angel law, which is designed to crack down on predators.

François-J. Lessard
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, François-J. Lessard, dubbed “the stubborn old tiger of Saint-Jacques Street” by the staff of Le Devoir back in 1994, passed away on September 25.

A man of commitment, he worked for 45 years in the heart of Montreal's financial sector. More than once he engaged in spectacular battles against a group of stockbrokers who fomented fear among Quebec's francophones in order to deny them access to the financial community.

He was the initiator and principal founder of the first cooperative mutual fund company in Quebec: Placements collectifs inc., and also founded his own securities brokerage firm, Lessard et Associés.

There was really only one battle he was engaged in throughout his entire life: the battle for Quebec independence. The Bloc Québécois honours his sense of duty and his successes. Our condolences to his family and friends.

François, we thank you for the wonderful legacy you have left us.

Gasoline Prices
Statements By Members

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the summer and especially over the last several weekends when I visited with constituents at local fairs, I heard how gas tax prices were affecting people in my riding.

My riding of Carleton—Mississippi Mills is a mix of suburban and rural communities where individuals are often required to travel long distances in their daily lives, whether it is to drive to work, get to class, attend doctor's appointments or plow a field. As a result, the cost of fuel has a very direct impact on their lives.

Gasoline taxes account for an average 40% of the pump price. GST is charged on the pump price, gasoline taxes included. It is a tax on tax. As the pump price increases, so does the GST.

On Monday I tabled a petition signed by over 2,000 of my constituents who are calling on the government to immediately reduce fuel taxes. Today, with the Leader of the Opposition, I repeat this call.

While the Liberals dither, my colleagues in the Conservative Party, along with Canadians from coast to coast to coast, will continue to press for a reduction of fuel tax on gasoline.

Mental Illness Awareness Week
Statements By Members

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Twenty per cent of all Canadians are likely to be affected by mental illness at some time in their lives. My family has been one of those families. It has been devastating for our family member and for us as a family.

By the year 2020, depressive illness will be the leading cause of disease burden in Canada.

People suffering from schizophrenia occupy one in twelve hospital beds in Canada, second only to cardiovascular disease, yet only 10% of research funding is allocated to mental illness compared to other major illnesses.

There is too little research and there is too little understanding. It is time to put aside these stigmas. It is time to put aside these stereotypes and get off to a good start. I urge all members to support Mental Illness Awareness Week.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government can justify hundreds of thousands of dollars for David Dingwall, but nothing for everyday Canadians who are struggling with the high cost of fuel.

Despite the so-called big announcement on rebate cheques, farmers, taxi drivers, truckers and the vast majority of consumers will not get a single cent from this government.

Why is the government so insensitive to the needs and concerns of everyday middle-class Canadians?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is because the government is so concerned with the everyday needs of Canadians that under the aegis of the Minister of Finance the government will be introducing legislation to this effect.

I want to congratulate the Minister of Finance, but I also want to congratulate the other ministers and the other departments. They have worked very hard on this very comprehensive package. I also want to congratulate our caucus, including the member for Pickering, who has also worked very hard on this. This is indeed a comprehensive plan.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, once again the government can confirm that this great announcement on fuel prices is not going to put any cheques in the mail for truckers, taxi drivers, and farmers, or for the majority of consumers.

Why is this government so insensitive to the concerns of the middle class?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this plan is readily understood. It will help workers and the least well off. It is a response to the need to conserve energy. It is not the work of a single minister. Other ministers and our caucus worked on it as well. They are the ones who are the true sponsors of this plan, of which we are very proud.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

We will wait and see, Mr. Speaker, but the CTF says we have been waiting for 10 years, and $9.5 billion later, for some help on gas taxes.

Despite the Prime Minister's silence, no one believes that taxpayers have a legal obligation to give David Dingwall a gold plated severance. Half of his own caucus does not even believe it.

Canadians know they cannot quit their jobs and then demand severance.

Will the Prime Minister table the legal opinion that proves he owes David Dingwall a severance?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I explained several times, the government has taken legal advice from the Privy Council Office. I cited--

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The minister seems to be managing with his answer. I do not think he needs all this assistance. We have to be able to hear the answer. The minister has the floor.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cited three pieces of legislation that are pertinent to this advice. In addition, there is the case law and the policy framework. Taken together, this body of law, according to our legal advisers, is such that the government does have an obligation to pay severance, but as I have said several times, we are paying the minimum that is required by law.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the--

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

It is obvious that the hon. member for Central Nova is a popular member, but we do have to be able to hear his question. The hon. member for Central Nova has the floor.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not sense the same degree of enthusiasm on the other side of the House.

The Minister of National Revenue has said that, under the common law, Mint-breaker David Dingwall was entitled to a severance package for quitting his job. That of course was not true, so now the minister says the golden handshake is required by federal laws. Even his caucus colleagues, including the Minister of Labour and some who have practised labour law, do not buy that.

The common person knows that when we quit a job we do not get a bonus when we are walking out the door. Exactly what law or regulation requires the government to pay David Dingwall one red cent for quitting his job? Just what is the minister's authority and will he table it?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, as I have explained several times, it is the combination of three pieces of legislation, case law, and a policy framework. The fact of the matter is that without a mutually agreed separation package, even if someone resigns voluntarily, there is certainly the risk--and the government has to consider risk--of a long and expensive lawsuit.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we hope the minister will table it. The Liberals' practice is very common for looking after themselves, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Canadians are outraged by the suggestion that a severance package is even being contemplated for Mr. Dingwall. He had a quarter of a million dollars a year in salary, a huge expense account and the audacity to bill for a pack of gum. Only a dingbat would now defend Dingwall.

The minister has finally revealed the real reason. He said that there may be a long protracted lawsuit. To avoid what? Will the Prime Minister now confess that the real reason he will not table the documents is that he is trying to hide the payoff that is being paid to David Dingwall?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, this speculation about hush money is in fact typical of the Conservative Party.

Let me quote from Conservative leader Preston Manning's book on page 379 where he wrote that the member for Calgary Southeast in speaking about the dismissal of a Conservative staffer, informed one of his colleagues that “$40,000 buys a lot of silence”. That was the Conservative Party. I suggest that the Conservatives step down from their high horse on this subject.

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the Bloc Québécois proposed a whole slew of measures to counter soaring gas prices. Now, the government is about to announce an assistance plan largely based on these proposals, which includes helping low income families, giving more teeth to the Competition Act and creating a petroleum monitoring agency. However, it seems there are a few measures missing in this package.

Does the Prime Minister intend to include in his plan support measures for farmers, independent truckers, taxi drivers and the whole forestry sector?

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance will be announcing the details of that plan. However, I can say that it will help the poor, while also recognizing the need to conserve energy. It is a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of Canadians.

I am very proud of the efforts made by the minister, by all ministers and by our whole caucus. I am anxiously waiting for this initiative.

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to fund the assistance plan, the Bloc Québécois had proposed that a surtax be imposed on oil companies which, as we know, are generating huge surpluses.

Does the Prime Minister intend to look to the oil companies to do their part, so that his aid package is not funded exclusively by taxpayers?

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is not the government's intention to raise taxes in an effort to deal with the issue of energy prices. In fact our focus, I would think, would need to be in the opposite direction. Tomorrow I hope we will be able to provide further and better detail. That will be the first step in an ongoing plan.

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, by playing with their refining margins, oil companies have lined their pockets. This margin went from 8¢ per litre before the crisis to more than 40¢ during the crisis. This is one of the ways oil companies were able to increase their benefits.

Does the Minister of Finance realize that taxpayers should not be the only ones funding the assistance plan that he is about to announce, and that oil companies must also do their part? Does he intend to make them contribute by imposing a minimum surtax of $500 million?

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the tax revenues of this country are contributed by all sectors of the economy and by individual Canadians. The energy sector in fact is one of the largest contributors to the tax revenues of not only the Government of Canada but all the provinces and municipalities. At the last check on that revenue it was something in the order of $16 billion per year.

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, as gas prices were soaring, the Minister of Transport continued to insist that the government had nothing to do regarding this issue and that we had to let market forces play out.

Now that the government has got the message, it seems to agree with some of the proposals made by the Bloc Québécois.

Does the minister intend to round out his plan by proposing, among other measures, incentives to encourage consumers to buy more energy efficient vehicles?

Finance
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House on many occasions, there will be at least three parts to the plan that we propose. The first will focus on greater transparency and more competitive forces in the marketplace. The second will focus on energy efficiency and energy conservation to help all of us save energy and money. The third component will be to provide income assistance and greater disposable incomes to the most vulnerable of Canadians.

Home Heating Prices
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the details emerge of the assistance program, people are concerned that some who need help are not going to get it. For example, a working couple earning $40,000 a year is not going to be able to get any help. Someone working at Tim Hortons is out of luck in terms of getting help. Someone who works at the Mint on the other hand gets $1 million and the Prime Minister stands up and says perhaps the person deserves severance pay.

Could the Prime Minister explain why David Dingwall deserves to get help when a working couple facing high oil prices does not?

Home Heating Prices
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the energy efficiency measures that we are going to propose will be broadly available to Canadians. We obviously need to focus on the most vulnerable. In addition to that, there are other ways in which we can improve energy efficiency among Canadians more generally.

We also intend to improve the disposable incomes of Canadians. What we have to offer on that subject tomorrow will be just the first step of a number yet to come.

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am still waiting for the Prime Minister to explain why David Dingwall deserves to get so much help, but a working couple will not when they will be trying to heat their homes this coming winter.

The minister references efficiency. Efficiency is incredibly important if we are going to solve the problems that face us, especially now that we have smog season running all the way from February to October in this country. That party voted against standards that would require auto manufacturers to produce fuel efficient cars. The words ring rather hollow.

When are we going to see fuel efficient standards as part of this plan?

Automobile Industry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that the automotive sector has entered into something like 14 voluntary agreements over the years. This is another one, and it is a successful one. The industry is reducing emissions by over 25%, and we have a healthy, strong industry compared to the United States.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are two sets of rules, one for Liberals and one for Canadians.

The Royal Canadian Mint Act makes no mention of severance pay whatsoever. The Privy Council rules mention no payoffs for quitters. The Financial Administration Act indicates that severance arrangements are not warranted. Dingwall's contract with the Mint says nothing about severance. To top it off, there is the ridiculous assertion that we should fear a lawsuit from David Dingwall because he quit his contract two years early in shame for spending $750,000 last year. Table the legal opinion.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, my faith in the advice of legal counsel in the Privy Council Office is greater than my faith in the legal scholarship of the member opposite.

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, the only reason he has any faith in the rules is he is making them up as he goes along.

Alfonso Gagliano did not get severance and look what happened. He sang like a canary. The Mint minister said yesterday he is afraid of a lengthy legal battle and he said it again today. It is a bit odd, don't you think, afraid of a lawsuit from somebody who quit. The government has changed its tune every day on this issue and it shows it has cut a deal with David Dingwall.

Why does the Prime Minister not finally come clean and tell working Canadians just for once why their tax dollars are being used for hush money for his party?

David Dingwall
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I have explained several times why the government's approach is on the basis of law.

As I explained in my earlier passage from Preston Manning's book, it is the Conservative Party in the words of the member for Calgary Southeast referring to the dismissal of a Conservative staffer who informed his colleagues that “$40,000 buys a lot of silence”.

Our side makes these decisions on the basis of law and risk management. The evidence of hush money comes straight out of the mouth of the Conservative Party.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, at least five companies have been found to be in breach of their Technology Partnerships Canada contracts because they used lobbyists to secure grant money. The Minister of Industry is responsible for both this program and for the Lobbyists Registration Act, but he is still not going after the lobbyists to recoup the money they owe to the taxpayer.

My question is for the Minister of Industry. Has the RCMP been called in to investigate David Dingwall or any other lobbyist who has been caught in this scandal?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member knows that we have recovered the money from the companies. That is with whom we have the legal relationship. Where there are unregistered lobbyists, they have either been referred to the RCMP or to the Registrar of Lobbyists and action is taken where we can still do so, given the two year statute of limitations in the act.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, the industry minister is excusing Dingwall by saying the government cannot go after lobbyists who have defrauded taxpayers through this program. It is taxpayers' money and the government has a responsibility to act. The fact is the lobbyists have kept the money.

Dingwall received $350,000 and does not have to pay it back. Another lobbyist received $3.7 million and does not have to pay it back.

Is it not true that the real reason the government is not forcing these lobbyists to pay this money back is that it is just fine with paying off its friends?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty disgusting when those members can talk about defrauding taxpayers when in fact we have a relationship with the company and where there has been a breach of contract we are recovering the money.

It is that kind of language that brings the House into disrepute and brings the level of debate right down to the gutter.

Social Housing
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has accumulated a $4 billion surplus, at a time when there is a major shortage of social housing. I introduced a bill, which will be voted on at second reading this evening and which calls for a significant share of CMHC's surpluses to go to Quebec and the provinces to encourage the construction of social housing.

Does the government intend to support this bill?

Social Housing
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, CMHC belongs to the Canadian people. In fact, it belongs to the people who are able to buy homes, to build co-ops, to live in social housing. That is to whom it belongs. It does not belong to the provinces. It belongs to the people of Canada and for those who want to buy homes.

Maybe the member should support Bill C-48 which is about building more housing for social income people.

Social Housing
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Simard Beauport, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister needs to stop blowing smoke. I am not talking about Monopoly money and Bill C-48. I am talking about the $4 billion in CMHC's coffers.

There are 150,000 homeless people. Does he intend to do something with real money? It is not Monopoly money.

Social Housing
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Fontana Minister of Labour and Housing

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois voted against Bill C-48 which would have helped the homeless.

In fact we have moved to have more flexibility. We have waived premiums for new home buyers. We have waived premiums for co-ops. We have waived premiums from the surpluses of CMHC. We intend to use CMHC surpluses to build housing for the people in Quebec and all across the country who need it.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has the right, under WTO rules, to impose safeguards to protect the clothing and textile industries from Chinese imports. It can also allow clothing made offshore with Canadian textiles to enter duty free.

Why is the government refusing to take action?

International Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the hon. member that we are working very closely with these two industries. We are well aware of the challenges and the future prospects of these industries.

Over the past 10 years, we have invested $1.2 billion in measures to help these industries become competitive on the global market.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, Henri Massé, the president of the FTQ, recently denounced the loss in Quebec of 25,000 jobs in the clothing and textile industries over the past year and a half. The government is not doing anything about this, yet it has the means to do so.

Can the government explain to the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs as a result of its inaction why, when it has the power to take action, it is sitting on its hands and refusing to put safeguards in place for the clothing and textile industries, as it has the right and power to do? It is a disgrace.

International Trade
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we are currently monitoring the effects of imports on the clothing and textile sectors very closely.

For the past three months we have noticed that imports have levelled off and perhaps it will stay that way. We will work very closely with both industries, as I already mentioned. That is why we gave them $1.2 billion to become more competitive.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, millions of people do not have a choice as to whether they drive their car today, but the government does have a choice. It can decide right now to quit ripping people off at the pumps with the tax on tax and the GST.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Toronto Sun today delivered a petition with 35,000 names on it to Parliament, calling on the government to quit ripping people off at the pump. This is something that has taken $4.8 billion out of the pockets of taxpayers since 1991.

How does the government justify applying the federal GST to the federal excise tax at a time when people cannot afford to fill their gas tank?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, that structure was devised in the 1980s by the Mulroney Conservative government. That is the way the GST system was originally structured.

The fact is there is no ad valorem effect that the hon. gentleman describes. There is no increased revenue from the tax on tax effect when the price actually changes.

What we have dedicated ourselves to do is to ensure that any incremental revenues that flow to the Government of Canada from the high price of energy will be returned to Canadians through the kind of initiatives we will announce tomorrow.

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal energy plan lacks energy. This is a pre-election tactic that ignores, once again, the needs of average Canadians suffering the effects of higher gas prices every day.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation today submitted a petition signed by 30,000 Canadians who are calling on the government to take action.

What is the government waiting for to help the millions of average Canadians affected by the higher gas prices?

Gasoline Prices
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the technique proposed in the question would not go very far in alleviating the burden upon Canadians.

We have chosen a multi-pronged approach that will improve competition and transparency in the marketplace, that will improve energy efficiency and energy conservation and that will provide higher disposable incomes to those most vulnerable Canadians who need the help the most.

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it appears that the finance minister has been using Challenger jets as his own personal taxi service. On four separate occasions Challengers flew the minister home to Regina and then returned to Ottawa empty. The minister has cost the government and the taxpayers over $250,000, all the while commercial flights were readily available.

I know that Liberals are not very popular in Saskatchewan. Is the minister so afraid of the voters that he will not even fly with them any more?

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government's policy is very clear. Any use of Challenger aircraft must be approved. In each case that has happened. The Challenger aircraft are there for government business and they are only there when there is no other alternative that would allow government business to be discharged reasonably.

As far as the role of the Minister of Finance, the fact is he has saved our country millions in interest costs. He has brought forth a budget that was one of the most popular in the country. I have no difficulty defending what he has done.

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Perhaps we could carry on some of the conversations outside after question period, so we could get on with the business of the House. The hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London now has the floor. He wants to ask a question. We will need a little order, please.

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope he gets a little bag of nuts with that.

After revelations of abuse of the flying limos by Liberal ministers, it was stated that the luxury jets were only for pressing government business. Unfortunately for Canadian taxpayers, the pressing business of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness occurs most often in her home town of Edmonton. As Challenger jet logs show, she has used the jet to fly home at a cost of $382,000 for five flights.

Could the minister explain the pressing emergencies requiring her to leave Ottawa and return home at taxpayer expense?

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness has taken her job very seriously. When we think of the crises that exit out there, whether it had been the bombings in London, which were incredibly well handled by the minister when it was worried about the aftershock here, when we take a look at the responsibilities she carries as Deputy Prime Minister, every use of the Challenger by the Deputy Prime Minister is justified and according to the role.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. Once again, there seem to be an inordinately large number of private conversations going on in the House. Perhaps we could cut back on the volume and number. If members wish to have these discussions, they could sit on the same side and have a chat instead of yelling across the floor.

The hon. member for Davenport has the floor for a question. The House will want to hear the question.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the murder of Zahra Kazemi while in the custody of Iranian police and the brutal execution of two young men this summer because of their sexual orientation clearly shows that Iran acts as one of the world's most flagrant violators of basic human rights.

What is the minister doing to enlist our friends and allies in taking decisive action with respect to Iran and its persistent violation of human rights?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Papineau
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Iran has not lived up to its international human rights obligations and has not conformed to the past UN resolutions. This is why I am announcing today in the House that for the third year in a row Canada will present a resolution at the United Nations regarding the deplorable human rights record of Iran. Such a resolution will send a strong message to Iranian authorities regarding the urgent need to address the human rights situation now prevailing in Iran.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. Communities throughout B.C., across northern Ontario and across Canada are suffering from the government's inaction on softwood lumber.

The Bush administration has ripped up the parts of the NAFTA that it does not like and the government has done nothing. The industry minister famously said that the government would take the Americans into the boards. The government is not even on the ice. It is hiding in the dressing room.

It has been two months since the NAFTA dispute settlement was ripped up by Bush. Where is his response? Where are the results? Where is our $5 billion?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we have been very strong on this issue. We have insisted that the NAFTA be respected. We are taking all measures necessary to ensure that it will be respected, including litigation, retaliation and advocacy.

I want to thank the members in the House, particularly the Prime Minister, who have been so very strong on this issue. We are grateful for the support we have received from President Fox, and we will continue to take all measures necessary.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has promised to clean up public wrongdoing.

There is a major loophole at the heart of the regulations pertinent to lobbyists. It works like this. It is illegal for a company to offer a profit-based payment to a lobbyist, but a lobbyist like Mr. Dingwall can accept $350,000 in such a payment without it being illegal.

Will the Prime Minister clean this up and ensure that if it is illegal to give such a payment, it ought to be illegal to receive it?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, it is against government policy to receive a contingency if one is a lobbyist. We enforce that in the contracts we have with the companies with which we deal. Those moneys are recovered from the companies, and they can take action against the lobbyist.

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government said that ministers use the Challenger jets to ensure the smooth operation of government business. Nonetheless, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs used this flying limousine to the tune of $14,000 to go from Montreal to Ottawa. A deluxe chauffeured limousine would have cost $450 for the same trip.

Can the minister tell us why the smooth operation of government business requires overcharging Canadian taxpayers by more than $13,000?

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, these jets are not used on a whim and it is incorrect to say that they are. Their use is strictly controlled. The jets are available only in case of emergency for government activities.

I suggest that the official opposition, which is using statistics prepared by a former Conservative candidate, do some research on these statistics before citing them in this House for partisan reasons. These are partisan statistics used for partisan purposes.

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a two hour drive. Talk about sticking it to taxpayers. That gives new meaning to the term “mile high club”.

The Minister of Transport said yesterday that flying rules are too tough, that Liberals deserve even more mile high limousine rides.

While ordinary Canadians struggle to fill their gas tanks, while they work hard and play by the rules, why are these Liberal ministers spending millions of dollars on the backs of those same taxpayers, jetting around the country?

Government Aircraft
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are well aware that Canadians travelling by plane or car do not have access to private jets. We also recognize that sometimes a minister needs such access, as was the case with the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She works very hard and needs to travel all over the country. In case the hon. member did not know, this country has 10 provinces and 3 territories. I can assure you that all the ministers who have used the Challenger jets have followed the rules, provided justification and gotten approval in advance.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the pizza expenses keep piling up like a mountain of cheese for the immigration minister.

On August 20, the minister visited his favourite pizza joint once again and spent a whopping $207 for pizza for himself and two guests. That is $70 per person. I do not know about other members, but I am sure Canadians are getting indigestion just thinking about all that pizza.

The minister could not explain how he spent $138 for two, but could he now explain how he spent $207 on pizza for three?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as I—

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I know talk about indigestion may cause some discomfort for hon. members, but we do not need to hear the sounds of it on the floor. The hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has the floor to give an answer. We would like some silence to hear the answer.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated already in other answers, I conduct meetings with stakeholders and other constituents over the course of hours that are beyond the normal working hours in the House. When I invite those people for the benefit of their consultation, I do so in a responsible fashion and I pick up the costs of those meetings.

We put it on proactive disclosure in the House and we do it to demonstrate that we do this—

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, that brings a whole new meaning to stakeholder.

The Minister of Immigration has eaten himself into a corner. On September 27 he said that his regional ministerial responsibilities were the reason for these meal expenses. Yesterday, he changed his tune and said that these meals were for “developing a plan for immigration”.

Obviously, the minister cannot remember which phony excuse to stick to. Which is it? Ontario issues, immigration issues or is the minister just out to lunch?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have indicated that I have several responsibilities and I try to discharge them as responsibly as possible.

I have invited members of the immigration committee to such lunches and dinners. I noticed that the member opposite decided to decline as we were discussing business that would be of some benefit to the House, as I present an immigration plan later on in the month.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue is using the pretext of efficiency and productivity to justify closing the Quebec City sorting centre.

Can the Minister of National Revenue tell us why the efficiency and productivity argument is being used with such urgency in Quebec when that rationalization could also be applied to numerous other sorting centres elsewhere in Canada? Why just Quebec?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, it is not just Quebec. I have explained to the hon. member numerous times that there will be no jobs lost in this case. That was the most critical point.

As for the other part of the question, Canada Post seeks to improve its efficiency everywhere in Canada, in all ten provinces. This is an industry in decline, so Canada Post must optimize its efficiency if it does not want to run a deficit.

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, when rationalization is undertaken, there is an overall plan. It is not done on a piecemeal basis.

If the real reason for closing the Quebec City sorting centre is rationalization, why is the minister taking so long in revealing his overall action plan to us? What is holding him back?

Canada Post
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, it is not true that Quebec is the only place we are seeking to improve efficiency. The same thing is being done elsewhere as the opportunity arises. This idea does not apply merely to Quebec. It is necessary in every province, the province of Quebec included. In fact, since the industry is on the decline, we must seek to improve efficiency in order to maintain the rural post office system and avoid falling back into a deficit situation.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board President has announced that despite one year of effort, he has absolutely no idea how much money the Government of Canada is spending on aboriginal programs and services. This is an entirely new Liberal strategy on ineptitude: get in front of the story by announcing its own incompetence.

In response to every question that has been asked in the House this year, the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has said that it is his top priority and that he is working on it.

Could the minister explain to Canadians how it is possible to spend an estimated $10 billion and have no idea where the money has been spent?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have absolutely no idea what the member is talking about. Not only have we been working very hard on this but there has been a considerable amount of work on mapping this and working with the aboriginal communities on these numbers. I have committed to fully releasing it in the Canada performance report. I have simply no understanding of what he is saying.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Prentice Calgary North Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear an answer. If the minister cannot even say how much the government is spending, I suppose it is out of the question to ask whether it is being spent wisely or whether it is being spent on aboriginal Canadians at all. Perhaps Liberals are receiving some of it.

This is a simple question. The government is spending as much as $10 billion. Canadians want to know how it can possibly spend up to $15,000 per aboriginal Canadian and have no idea how much, where or with what results.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member should have listened to the answer to the first question before he asked the second one because I said, and I will say it again, that I will be reporting that information in Canada's performance report as I committed to do and which I will be tabling before the House shortly.

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the textile industry, particularly in eastern Ontario and Quebec, has been hard hit by the increasing presence on Canadian markets of textiles from other countries. The industry is calling for a program to lower tariffs on clothing manufactured abroad with Canadian textiles.

Does the government intend to announce such a program in the near future?

Textile Industry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this proposal has important implications for both the textile and clothing industry. My office has been meeting for months now, indeed since March, with representatives of both sectors and we have encouraged them to work together on a proposal they both can jointly support.

The government is committed to looking at that proposal as expeditiously as possible and I am happy to see support for the idea in the House. Even the BQ has finally awakened to the notion of such a proposal, which Liberal members have been examining with the industry for over seven months.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, Weyerhaeuser is one of Saskatchewan's largest employers. Yesterday, Weyerhaeuser announced that it will be closing the paper mill in Prince Albert. Six hundred and ninety jobs will be lost directly and thousands will be out of work indirectly.

Prince Albert now joins a long list of communities that have been devastated by the softwood lumber dispute. The Prime Minister is failing forestry communities across the country.

Why is the Prime Minister ignoring a crisis that is destroying literally hundreds of Canadian communities and now is hitting the city of Prince Albert?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the Weyerhaeuser mill in Saskatchewan is not actually involved in the softwood lumber business. It is a pulp and paper mill. The pulp and paper business is going through dramatic transformation and change throughout North America. Weyerhaeuser has indicated that it does not fit into their plans. However I think there is still an opportunity for that mill to be acquired by another operator and for those jobs to be saved.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that answer underscores the government's inability to stand up for Canadian communities that are under stress.

I ask the finance minister, who has trouble standing up for communities once in a while too, why he is not introducing the promised tax cuts so large employers, like Weyerhaeuser, can be competitive in a globally competitive market. Is he afraid that he will lose the support of the man sitting in the far corner over there, the leader of the NDP?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada intends to pursue a broad range of policies, including sound fiscal responsibility and competitive taxation, to ensure that Canadian businesses succeed.

I can assure the hon. gentleman and the people of Prince Albert that the provincial government has been in touch with the Government of Canada, as has the company, and we will be examining every possibility by which there can be a viable solution found for Prince Albert and for this particular plant.

Health
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, Health Canada has admitted approving 10,000 applications for silicone-gel breast implants in the past two years under the special access program, which is intended only for individuals suffering from serious or life-threatening illnesses.

How can the Minister of Health justify using this program related to serious or life-threatening illnesses in order to approve such a significant number of applications for breast implants, without first conducting any major studies as to their safety?

Health
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Vancouver South
B.C.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, there is a special access program on this very issue and there are hearings currently under way. Health Canada has regulated this issue in the past. The hearings are taking place right now and, for the first time in its history, those hearings have been thrown open to the public.

Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the second edition of the Annotated Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

The first edition of this work was published 16 years ago. Over the last three years, under the guidance of Clerk Bill Corbett and Deputy Clerk Audrey O'Brien, our staff has been working to update the Annotated Standing Orders by incorporating significant developments in practice, as well as key precedents, Speaker's rulings and changes to the Standing Orders.

This guide to House procedure provides comprehensive and precise consideration of the written rules. Each standing order is accompanied by a brief explanation of its current interpretation, followed by a historical overview of any major changes made to it since the Standing Orders were adopted.

I know all hon. members will want to join me in thanking the procedural staff for this reference work which will be extremely valuable to the House of Commons.

I invite all hon. members to a reception to be held following routine proceedings today in room 216 to celebrate the launching of the second edition of the Annotated Standing Orders.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

In accordance with its order of reference of Tuesday, September 27, 2005 the committee has considered Bill C-49, an act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) and agreed on Tuesday, October 4, 2005 to report it with amendments.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning Bill C-277, an act to amend the Auditor General's Act (audit of accounts). Mr. Speaker, your committee recommends that the House of Commons not proceed further with the bill as Bill C-43 achieves goals similar to those proposed in Bill C-277.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage with respect to the certificate of nomination of Guy Fournier, to the position of chairperson of the board of directors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-426, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (growing or producing cannabis).

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague, the member for Sarnia—Lambton, who has helped me with the bill.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to introduce a bill which seeks to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, something which I believe needs to be amended.

In my community, like in many others in Canada, there is an alarming growth in the number of large scale marijuana grow operations. While law enforcement officials are putting every effort into eliminating these operations to catch the individuals involved, they have expressed a great dismay to me that the courts do not seem to be giving these criminals adequate sentencing.

The purpose of the bill is to provide real sentences and real punishment for those convicted of growing or producing cannabis. It would provide a minimum sentence of imprisonment, along with a minimum fine for first time offenders, and greater punishment for repeat offenders.

I am introducing this bill because it is past time to get tough on these large scale grow ops. I believe that this bill would do just that, and I look to all of my colleagues to support this legislation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from the good people of Mine Centre. The community is located between Fort Frances and Atikokan.

The petitioners are asking Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act to include as medically necessary therapy for children suffering from autism. In addition, they ask for academic chairs to be created at universities in each province to teach the treatment for autism.

I respectfully submit this petition to the clerk.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to present yet another petition. I have been rising ever since the House came back this fall at every opportunity to present petitions on behalf of the citizens of Canada.

These petitioners are from Port Colborne, Welland, Niagara Falls and Cambridge, Ontario. They note that on average about 2,000 children are adopted from other countries and are brought to Canada by Canadian families each year. Unlike other countries, like the United States of America and Great Britain, where these new citizens are indeed granted automatic citizenship upon the adoption finalization, these new Canadians, as it were, are not granted that same privilege here in Canada.

Therefore, these petitioners call upon Parliament to immediately enact legislation to grant automatic citizenship to those minors adopted from other countries by Canadian citizens with this citizenship being immediately granted upon the finalization of their adoption.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today with honour to introduce petitions on behalf of constituents in my riding who wish to see the government finally show some leadership in seeking a national framework that would see autism treatment covered by health insurance as part of an overall universal health care system.

The government has deliberately excluded families, who have children with autism, from health coverage, and as a result middle class families are stuck with $40,000 health bills year after year. Members across the way do nothing about it.

Today I proudly introduce a petition calling for some action and calling for some fairness.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to present three petitions signed by members of my community and Canadians across Canada.

The first petition has over 160 signatures and it calls for section 83 of the Criminal Code to be expanded to offer additional exemptions for all martial arts and all martial arts contests sanctioned by the relevant provincial athletic board or commission. A number of individuals involved in martial arts in my community have personally expressed to me the importance of such a change.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition I wish to present has over 125 signatures and is with regard to parental sponsorship applications. The petitioners call upon Parliament to ensure that current immigration application backlogs are cleared up, that immigration processing times are reduced, and that reasonable timelines for processing these applications be established.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, the third petition I am presenting today has 800 signatures. The petitioners call upon Parliament to take steps to further protect Canadian children by strengthening Canada's laws on pornography.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I proudly rise today to present two petitions from several Saskatchewan communities including Tugaske, Central Butte, Aylesbury and the fine community of Craik. Residents of these communities are extremely concerned about the potential closure of rural post offices.

These petitions have been signed by several hundred residents of those communities. They are encouraging and urging the government to retain its current moratorium on rural post office closures.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Madam Speaker, plans are underway to build a liquid natural gas terminal on the U.S. side of Passamoquoddy Bay. This site can only be accessed by tankers passing through internal Canadian waters, namely, Head Harbour Passage. The petitioners demand that the Government of Canada say no to the transport of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage as it did 30 years ago to protect our environment, our citizens and our economy.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from a group of constituents from my riding. It deals with the same issue raised earlier by the member for Guelph regarding amendments to section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada to provide for an exemption for martial arts sanctioned by provincial boards.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I have another petition signed by many Canadians. The petitioners ask that the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations be amended to include IBI therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present a petition from residents in my riding of Langley.

The petitioners state that fuel and gas prices have reached all-time highs, that the charging of GST on the federal excise tax and other taxes is double taxation, that every cent of increase in fuel generates an extra $40 million of revenue for the federal government, and that these high prices on oil and fuel have a negative effect on our economy, businesses, and low and fixed income families. The petitioners ask the government to stop taxing the tax.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-55, An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, yesterday when I was talking about participating in the debate on Bill C-55 I mentioned a few changes this bill was recommending, particularly regarding employees. When an employer goes bankrupt, the wages earned by employees should be paid prior to other creditors.

I also talked about the impact on small businesses, as well as financial institutions. I also talked about locked in RRSPs not being part of the payments during bankruptcy.

Then I talked about the bill's impact on students. As members know and as the report states, the Senate banking committee recommended that student debt be eligible to be erased in a bankruptcy five years after the student completed his or her studies. In the case of hardship, the recommendation was that the court be allowed to discharge student loan debt in a period of time shorter than five years.

Bill C-55 does not go as far as the Senate committee recommendation. Instead, the government proposes amending the law to allow student loans to be eligible to be written off in a bankruptcy if a student has terminated his or her studies seven or more years ago. Also, higher student loan limits and higher tuition fees ensure that the students will continue to graduate with higher debt loads. However, many graduates find few job opportunities. If they end up seeking bankruptcy, it is a decision not taken lightly.

The Liberal government is seeking to doubly punish the students. While the Liberals allow their friends and donors to get away with repaying only 2.4% of grants to loans, they expect young people to pay 100% of the student loans. Who are they trying to punish?

I am disappointed to see that Bill C-55 neglects to offer protection to firms that are suppliers to bankrupt companies. The reality is that the bankruptcy of one company can drag down many others with it, especially when suppliers are small businesses.

The current system is unfair to workers as well as to the students. It must be changed. The Conservative Party generally supports these amendments. We will allow the bill to pass, but we will continue to seek further clarifications.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by the member for Newton—North Delta. I was pleasantly surprised by his remarks on student debt and bankruptcy by former students.

People are often prejudiced against former students. They think that declaring bankruptcy is easier for graduates than for other socio-economic groups. They also believe that students are more eager than others to get rid of their debts by declaring bankruptcy. However, as the member for Newton—North Delta said, it is not easier for graduates than for anyone else. In reality, this must be a very psychologically and emotionally difficult process.

No doubt the member for Newton—North Delta would be willing to support an amendment that the Bloc Québécois intends to move in committee on this particular aspect of Bill C-55. Why make former students wait seven years before they can discharge their student debt when declaring personal bankruptcy? This waiting period is so arbitrary, as was the ten-year waiting period set out in the previous legislation. Why not five, four or three years, or even nothing?

In keeping with its commitments in recent years, particularly those set out in its 2004 election platform, the Bloc Québécois will move an amendment in committee to eliminate this mandatory waiting period before former students can discharge their student debts during a personal bankruptcy.

I want to hear what the member for Newton—North Delta thinks about this.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member from the Bloc, and I do think that how students are treated in this country is a serious concern, particularly when we know that tuition fees have been skyrocketing.

In British Columbia, the average student tuition fee is about $5,000, but students make barely $10 an hour when they work to finance their education. On average, a student graduating with a bachelor's degree owes more than $20,000 in government debt. Private loans are not included in that amount. A government debt of $20,000 is too high. Then, when students graduate, they find that either there are not enough jobs for them or the jobs are not the type where they will be making enough money to pay back their loans. This is a serious concern.

On the amendment the hon. member is talking about, the time period for terminating the debt used to be 10 years after the students terminated their studies, but the Senate committee has recommended that it be five years. The government is saying it should be seven years. I do not think there should be any time limit like that. The member is right. There should be no arbitrary time limit. It should depend on the student's circumstances. If the student is facing undue hardship in repaying the borrowed money, the limit is supposed to be lower than five years, but again, it is not very clear.

Therefore, I suggested toward the end of my speech that we would be seeking clarification on those amendments. We will review the amendment the member is talking about once the amendment is made; this amendment has not been made in committee. We are open to the amendments. The Conservative Party does not want either students or workers to suffer. That is what I explained earlier and argued for in the bill.

I look forward to the amendment the member is suggesting, Then we will make a decision. Certainly we do not want to punish students when they try to get higher education by borrowing money for their studies.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to this bill, primarily because in the 13 years that I have had the privilege of being the member for Kootenay—Columbia, I have always taken very seriously the issue of workers and people in my community who are in the labour market .

This was driven home particularly in 1993, immediately after I was elected. There was a massive bankruptcy of a very major corporation in my constituency. There were wages owed. There were very severe difficulties with pensions. I am proud to say that through the hard work of my staff and my office in Cranbrook we managed to do what was right for the workers, at least to the greatest extent possible.

I have never wavered in my commitment to the workers or to the companies and businesses in my constituency and I try to represent them as aggressively and as well as I possibly can in this chamber, but it was through that massive bankruptcy and the work we had to do on behalf of the people who had been formerly employed by the bankrupt company that I became acutely aware of some of the stories of real hardship.

It was therefore very interesting to me to be working and finding myself in a small degree of agreement with the member for Winnipeg Centre. It is very difficult for me to have any kind of very frequent connection with some of the more socialist thoughts of the NDP. NDP members have a tendency to be a bit pie in the sky; however, the member for Winnipeg Centre and I, although we have had some differences of opinion, have also found some common ground.

Certainly, the way that the NDP was proposing to handle this issue to be able to give greater protection to workers in the event of bankruptcy was not one that was possibly acceptable to my way of thinking and certainly not to my caucus or the leader of our party. So what we did was sit down together, recognizing that there was a common objective. We wanted to arrive at the same place.

We sat down. I am sure that in speeches prior to mine from members of our caucus, members have heard our very competent member of the shadow cabinet stand in his place and describe the fact that we actually formed an ad hoc committee within our caucus, under the leadership and with the direction of the leader of the Conservative Party, to try to take a look at how we could resolve this issue.

We took a look at two things on the basis of the initiative that had been brought forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre. The first was the issue of wages and the second was the issue of pensions in the event of bankruptcy. We decided that those two issues, although they appeared on the surface to be the same, were significantly different, certainly in the way in which bankruptcy could handle them.

Then, when the Minister of Labour and Housing came forward with Bill C-55, I took a very hard, independent look at the bill, along with the other members of our caucus committee, and came to the conclusion that, while the government had approached this from a different angle than we would have approached it, nonetheless there were some real grounds to be able to move forward and the nitpicking and the details could be taken care of at committee.

I note that the majority of bankruptcies occurs in sectors that employ a large number of workers who are low paid, part time, or on temporary contracts, who do not have the protection of a union. This does not mean that this bill will not be applicable to workers who are part of a union or to workers who are part of a larger corporation, but the reality is that 60% of bankruptcies occur in the retail, food and accommodation, personal services, and small manufacturing sectors. The other interesting statistic is that 70% of bankruptcies occur among businesses with fewer than 10 employees, which also tend to offer precarious conditions of employment.

The $3,000 cap ensures that the basic levels of earnings are covered. The $3,000 cap means that the amount eligible under the wage earner protection program, WEPP, would be equivalent to one month's annual industrial wage for full time workers or four weeks' maximum insurable earnings under employment insurance. The $3,000 cap is sufficient to cover virtually all wage claims due to bankruptcy because the current average claim is about $1,500 and 97% of current wage claims are under $3,000.

There will always be exceptions. I can imagine a time when, unfortunately, there may be a bankruptcy which we perhaps cannot even foresee at this particular point and someone is going to try to stuff my words back into my mouth by saying, “See, I was one of those people over $3,000”, or “See, this was a large corporation”.

Those statistics are nonetheless very meaningful statistics and we have to do legislation in the chamber that is reflective of what is going to do the most good for the most people.

I have always cautioned people, whether they are managers or whether they are people in companies that have unions or do not have unions or whatever it is; it does not make any difference. I have said that we have to be very cautious. In a bankruptcy, the reason why there is a bankruptcy is that, by definition, the liabilities exceed the assets that can be liquidated and realized against those liabilities.

In a situation where we have a company that has gone into business in good faith and has basically said that it needs a $10,000 line of credit or a $100,000 line of credit from whatever the lending institution is, the lending institution then takes a look at the covenant, the person and the assets. If the lending institution wants to protect itself against a rather large amount of money, it asks what it can do to legally attach an asset to make sure that it will be repaid. That is simply called security. The money is advanced.

This bill does not affect that money. As I have explained again and again to people who have talked to me about this issue, it is very important to understand that when we say we are going to allow wages to be taken in advance of money that could be realized from a fixed or a secured asset, we depreciate the value of that asset and therefore lower the amount of money that would be available to the company in the first place. That is a very, very important consideration.

I see my friend from the NDP shaking his head. He cannot argue with the reality. If he were a lending institution, which I am sure would be unusual for an NDP member, and he could have a $50,000 asset, he would be prepared to advance up to $30,000 on that $50,000 asset. If someone told him that wages could possibly take $10,000 or $15,000 away from that asset in the event of bankruptcy, he would have to rethink how much he would actually be prepared to advance to the company in the first place. Anything that is done to reduce the value of a security for a potential lender reduces the amount of money the lender will give to the company. There is no way around that.

Therefore, I am a little concerned about the unsecured creditors, the people who would be providing the widgets, the gaskets, the switches, the rods, the clips, the flanges, the paper or the copiers, whatever it is that is being provided to the company on an unsecured basis. For those companies, particularly if this is an ongoing business and they become concerned about the potential of the business going into bankruptcy, in regard to the availability of credit, because there can be a charge with the superpriority that is put into this legislation and the potential for there to be this charge, there is going to be some difficulty and some reticence on the part of unsecured creditors in dealing with existing businesses.

Nothing comes for free. The money has to come from somewhere and it should never come out of general revenue. This is a business venture in which people are deciding that they are going to be working for wages or working for some form of remuneration.

That said, I believe, as does my party, that there is more than sufficient merit in the bill for it to move forward at second reading. When it gets into committee, all of the details that our critics and I are concerned about can be looked at.

I think there is a sufficient spirit of cooperation in this House to see that workers are properly taken care of. We should be able to come back from committee with probably an improved bill.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I really appreciate the presentation that I have just heard. It was dead on, in my opinion. Oftentimes both sides of the House do not agree.

The point the government has been trying to make is there needs to be balance. There needs to be balance between the workers, balance between the lenders and borrowers, balance that keeps jobs, balance that keeps our business flow in an appropriate system so that money will be lent, so that workers will be protected and so that the system works.

My colleague across the way presented his case so well. Does he see any other way to bring further balance to the system? Our goal was to bring balance, which I believe is there. There may be some added things my colleague could bring forward because he was so good on what he presented.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments. It must be a frosty Friday, because I am agreeing with a Liberal.

One of the other ideas which I think really deserves a look-see is the idea of there being a small contingency fund put into the EI fund, that is, not from EI premiums. There should be a small contingency fund set into EI funding so that does not come out of general revenue. There might be consideration taken to not having the superpriority. In other words, it would be paid out of the fund from the extra premium that would be collected on EI funds. That way the actual cost of this potential benefit to the workers would come directly from their employment.

That would be another way to do it. It would not upset the relationship between the borrower and the lender.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia, who is agreeing with the Liberals today. He also agrees with the NDP. I think he is on the right track for the future. He is welcome, with his good sides, leaning somewhat toward the left, perhaps even with a socialist touch.

Does the hon. member really think that today, in 2005, the situation is acceptable? Take for example a Canadian working for a company, who has completed his or her week of work. The fact of the matter is that companies seldom go bankrupt overnight. One seldom wakes up on Friday morning and, by evening, the company has declared bankruptcy. Knowing that bankruptcy is imminent, how can one figure that the employee, the man or woman, the Canadian who has worked for a company does not deserve to get paid for the work he or she has done for that company?

I believe that the situation is unacceptable. This shows lack of respect for workers. If legislation is in place which applies to all companies and financial institutions across the country, does the member really think that financial institutions are going to refuse to lend money to a company? Will they say, “We do not lend to companies”? I for one do not think so. This is but one of the ways that workers are penalized, like with pension funds in the event of a bankruptcy.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, the money has to come from somewhere. That is the reality.

The bill effectively makes sure that compensation up to a cap of $3,000 is taken care of. The statistics that I have read out are that the actual amount that will likely be sought by workers will only be $1,500, statistically.

I think that all members of the House are in agreement that there must be respect for the work that people do and that they must be properly compensated. That is taken care of.

The difference between the NDP and me and particularly the Conservative Party is the recognition that somebody somewhere has to pay. If I pledge an asset and if that asset could potentially be depreciated by the amount of potential claim against that asset by workers, then that will be the value of the asset. It will be the value of the asset minus the potential claim which will be the net value of the asset and that is the amount that the lender will choose to lend.

We cannot as politicians say to a lending institution that it must lend money. That institution must make that choice. It is a voluntary choice.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I really enjoyed a lot of the remarks made by the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I appreciate the support for this legislation. It is important legislation.

I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-55, an act to establish the wage earner protection program act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make amendments to other acts. The House has witnessed much good debate on this legislation already. I know it will continue in committee should the House see fit to send the bill there, and I feel very confident that it will.

I think all in the House would agree that this is a very important piece of legislation. It is the result of extensive consultations with Canadians and stakeholders all across this great country.

The bill's four main objectives are to encourage viable but financially troubled companies to restructure as an alternative to bankruptcy, to better protect workers' claims for unpaid wages and vacation pay, to make the bankruptcy system fairer and reduce abuse, and to improve the administration of that system. These objectives offer positive changes for businesses and employees alike. This will serve to help the continued strength of our economy.

I know full well the difficulty that people experience when a company is in financial difficulty. The turmoil people personally feel is hard on them and their families. They worry about their next paycheque and what will happen if worst comes to worst and their employer shuts down. That alone is very hard on families. Then begins the task of recovering the wages that other people owe them. It is not pleasant and a task many Canadians consider far too difficult. For those who do attempt it, far too often they find, quite frankly, that they are unsuccessful.

That is one of the reasons I support this bill. We are making workers' claims for unpaid wages and vacation pay a higher priority than secured creditors' claims in bankruptcy situations. Workers will benefit from a limited superpriority for unpaid wage claims up to $2,000. The people who need it most will be given increased priority.

This legislation also establishes the wage earner protection program. The responsibility for this program will be housed under the portfolio of my colleague from southwestern Ontario, the Minister of Labour. He is very familiar with the challenges facing hard-working Canadians. Quite frankly, I cannot think of a better minister to administer this program.

The minister has indicated that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 workers in every workplace across this country in both federal and provincial jurisdictions are left with unpaid wages or reduced pensions due to employer bankruptcies in Canada. The wage earner protection program will for the first time in history provide workers with a guaranteed payment for unpaid wages up to $3,000. This is a good thing and I am proud that the government is acting.

I also like the fact that the government will recover a portion of the cost of this program by making claims against the employer's estate, thereby making it unnecessary for an employee to do so. I know that some of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have questioned the sufficiency of only being able to draw $3,000 in back wages. I think that is a fair question and one which should be given further consideration in committee.

The minister indicated that the $3,000 figure represented approximately 97% of the usual amount of wages lost. If the committee has a reasonable recommendation of a different amount that members can support, I look forward to giving it every consideration. From the minister's remarks in the House, I would say that he does also.

I also know that my colleagues in the NDP have questions about the limited superpriority for wage claims up to $2,000. Here again I think that the committee has work to do. The minister has indicated that there is evidence to support this figure. I think the committee should see what this evidence is and should give that serious consideration also.

Concern over their pensions is another issue that many Canadians worry about when their employer goes bankrupt. I am glad to note that Bill C-55 addresses this too. Many workers rely on their company pensions for retirement. Faced with the loss of this retirement income, many would be put into severe financial difficulty. It is just not right that the pensions of those workers are sometimes used to pay other creditors instead of being returned to those who have paid into them. The proposed reforms would improve on this situation.

One of my colleagues from the reform alliance Conservative Party was concerned that these initiatives might relocate the burden from employers to government and that these initiatives might encourage companies facing potential bankruptcies to offload responsibilities to government. The government is aware of this possibility and has taken that into account in the legislation.

We are seeking to help those employees who have faced an unfortunate and unexpected event, not to shift the burden to the taxpayer or government. If the provisions within the legislation to this end are not sufficient, I am sure that the committee will come forward with additional recommendations.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order to perhaps help the member opposite who referred to a party in the House as the reform alliance Conservative Party. I know no party in the House that has those names. There is the Conservative Party of Canada which is the official opposition of this Parliament.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Thank you for the information but that is not a point of order.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, since I have been in the House as long as the hon. member, I know he was a member of all those parties.

It is my understanding that my colleagues across the way will seek to introduce numerous amendments to the legislation. I say that it is good to see them coming aboard with the government legislation. It is a step in the right direction, both with this legislation and on working together for all Canadians.

My community of Guelph is also home to the University of Guelph and therefore another aspect of the legislation is particularly appealing to me. As a university town, a great many of our young people, plus a great many more who come from across Canada, take the opportunity to attend our fine university and then start out on the road to build a life for themselves in our beautiful community.

Therefore my staff and I are very familiar with the challenges that student debt presents. I am very glad to see that the legislation would allow student loan debt to be eligible for discharge in bankruptcy if seven years have passed since the former student terminated his or her studies. It offers greater flexibility for those young Canadians who may have hit a bump in the road of life. Most students want to pay off their debt but sometimes this may not be possible for one reason or another. I am glad that we are creating additional options for Canadians in financial difficulty. I know my colleagues from the NDP would like this passage of time requirement to be further reduced and this too merits further consideration in committee.

I also like it that the legislation puts forward reforms to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. This would help companies in difficulty to avoid putting employees out of work altogether by providing additional options and assistance to restructure and return to profitability. This, too, is a good thing.

Many members have made excellent points in the House and I am sure many more will be made in committee. However I want to indicate that the legislation is a good step and there seems to be interest and support within the House for the legislation. I hope we can move forward swiftly on this as it is a positive change for Canada and for Canadians. I would ask all members from all parties to move it forward.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, before proceeding with my speech, I would like to put a question to the hon. member who just spoke.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, the government party, she is now applauding Bill C-55. She indicated that she had been in this place for quite a long time. This means that she is familiar with the fundamentals of the House and, I would assume, with older bills, but primarily more recent ones.

Could she tell us why, in October 2003, her party opposed a NDP motion to ensure that, starting in October 2003, wage and income protection measures would be taken to protect workers in the event of a bankruptcy? This has resulted in two years of wage protection in the event of a bankruptcy being lost.

I would like to hear the hon. member on that.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a good point. There is no doubt that good ideas come from all sources in this House, absolutely.

With that particular piece of legislation, there were some flaws in it, quite frankly. We have tried to go back and get this right. It is important. When we look at the statistics we see that 10,000 to 15,000 workers annually have unpaid wage claims when employers go bankrupt. That is huge and we have to do something to address that.

I am really pleased that the hon. member is in support of this and wants to move ahead with this. As I said, I think all members have indicated pretty strong support when they have spoken. The idea is good. It is a sound idea and definitely its time has come, so let us move it forward.

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, speaking of good ideas, one of the ones that was missing in Bill C-55 of course was any protection for unfunded pension liability.

The truth is that the government rushed through the legislation because it had to keep a commitment, when it had a gun to its head, to the NDP for propping them up to stay in power here. It rushed this legislation through and missed the important component that is a companion to this legislation, which is to protect workers when it comes to unfunded pension liability. Why did it neglect workers? Why did it leave them out of the legislation?

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, there will be much debate in committee and if there is need for further action I am sure the committee will recommend it and things will come back to this House. I have no doubt about it.

However, under this legislation, 97% of the people would be satisfied in full. What is key is that when people are going away without money and they do not have the ability to put food on the table or lights on, this bill would go a long way to address that.

I implore the House to move forward on this legislation. I think everybody has spoken one way or another. If there are certain areas in which they would like to see changes, that is fair enough and that can be decided in committee, but let us move and let us move quickly.

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address this very important bill, which seeks to protect wage earners when their employer goes bankrupt, through amendments to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, to the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and, of course, to others acts, as I will explain in my comments.

We are pleased to hear, from the Liberal Party, arguments that reflect those made in the fall of 2003 by both NDP and Bloc Québécois members, who were convinced of the need for such protection. At the time, the NDP had presented a motion to that effect, but the Liberal Party had voted against it.

According to the figures quoted by the hon. member for Guelph, each year, between 10,000 and 15,000 workers suffer losses of wages that are owed to them when their employer goes bankrupt. We knew that in the fall of 2003. I do not want to reflect on the past, but it is rather sad and upsetting that, over the past two years, workers were prevented from enjoying such protection. The Liberal Party was aware of the situation, but it still voted against that motion.

I also want to draw an analogy with another bill that was tabled by the Bloc Québécois just recently, during the spring. This bill was debated and supported by my Bloc Québécois colleagues, including the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who also took part in the debate on the current legislation, Bill C-55, at second reading. The bill proposed by the Bloc dealt with job protection during labour disputes, and more specifically with replacement workers.

In recent years, this issue has been debated countless times in the House. Again, it is because of the Liberal Party, which defeated it by 12 votes, if that bill was rejected. The Liberal Party, and particularly the ministers, voted against this legislation.

So, I am drawing an analogy between that bill and the one currently before the House. Why did the government wait so long and let workers suffer so much before adopting constructive measures?

We support the principle of Bill C-55. However, a number of amendments to be presented in committee will have to be included in it.

It would be rather useful to review the way the law is currently worded, in order to have a proper understanding of the content and scope of Bill C-55, as well as the necessary amendments.

At the present time, there are two kinds of creditors when there is a bankruptcy: the primary creditors, which are termed secured claims, and the secondary claims. Secured claims include all those secured by mortgage or some tangible form of guarantee. Employers have never had such a security, and all other types of claims have to be satisfied before they get to the workers.

Then there are the non-secured claims. There is a whole series of these, and wages rank only fourth. Higher in the list are funeral expenses, administration costs, and deductions payable to superintendents. Wages come only after all these, so it is a rare occurrence indeed for workers to receive compensation for work done or monies owing to them. Sometimes these amounts make all the difference, and at least provide them with an income and the ability to live in dignity until some other recourse comes along.

There is an expression used in labour law, in fact a statement of principle: “All work deserves pay”. The same thing must apply in this case. It is amazing that there is no protection for workers in the event of bankruptcy in the year 2005. The bill will, of course, remedy that shortcoming. Just how it will do so, we will come back to later.

The responsibilities of trustees in bankruptcy will also be broadened. At the present time, the time period and the amount distributed are governed by law. There is a time limit of six months for wages owed, and a maximum amount of $2,000.

Now, for the Employment Insurance Act. Workers who lose their jobs still use the term “unemployment insurance”. We are all aware of the philosophy that lay behind the Liberal Party's decision to change its name. The connotation was that the insurance was there to ensure people of work, yet we all know very well that it was an insurance in the event of misfortune, of job loss. So it should still be called “unemployment insurance”.

Currently a worker has to use up all of his resources before he can get employment insurance, which is another major shortcoming that needs to be corrected. The whole matter of earnings during a waiting period, a period of unemployment, undeclared earnings during a claim for benefits period, and earnings within the framework of employment benefits or allocation of earnings during a program, are things that further put off when the worker receives employment insurance. The Bloc Québécois called on the government to correct this for a number of years.

As I was saying earlier, other hon. members in this House joined the Bloc in finally correcting this matter in 2005. Better late than never. We will support this bill by providing a number of corrections and changes.

Let us now talk about the very nature of the bill, which is said to create the wage earner protection program. Under this new legislation, the federal government will cover up to a maximum of $3,000 of the wages of wage earners in the event of a bankruptcy. We are quite pleased with this measure. We have no objection to the government becoming the primary guarantor and taking the appropriate measures to seize or recover the money owed by the company. That was the second aspect.

Contrary to the past claims of the current government, it is interesting to discover that the related costs are quite limited. An hon. member from the Liberal party reminded us earlier that there are 10,000 to 15,000 workers a year who will be affected by this measure. That is no small figure.

What would it cost the government should it be unable to recover the money owed to workers? For the first year, it would cost $32 million. In the worst case scenario, it could cost up to $50 million. This is not much at all for this kind of palliative measure, which makes the delay in implementing such a measure even more questionable. It is certainly a cause for joy, and all the more so since these amounts are theoretical in the sense that the government will be able to recover some of that money. In certain situations, it will recover all the money owed, based on the value of the company.

With Bill C-55, the federal government would create a priority higher than secured creditors for workers' claims of unpaid wages and vacation pay. I will take this opportunity to mention something that was raised earlier by another member, and that is the need for more coercive or more direct measures to protect the pension funds of these workers.

Since I seem to have enough time left, I will elaborate on this issue.

Indeed, I have time to deal with the pension protection scheme. The bill also creates a mechanism. Thus, under the bill, a court would be able to authorize a proposal for bankruptcy or for an arrangement only when proof has been made—the interesting thing is that there are three very clear conditions—“that employee and employer contributions to the pension plan that had not been paid at the time of bankruptcy or receivership have been paid or that the court is satisfied that the contributions will be paid under the arrangement, or that the involved parties made an agreement”.

So, this first measure is being taken. And if these obligations were not met, the court could ask that the money in the pension plan be used in priority in the claim payment. In this way, workers would not be penalized by the bankruptcy, because their pension would be protected.

This leads me to an aspect that is not in this bill and that might very well have been. In the advent of a bankruptcy, of course, wage earners will be able to get their salary back. However, this would come to an end at some point. What is due is due. People need money to survive. However, when they do not have any income, they rely first, of course, on employment insurance, which we commonly call “unemployment insurance”. Thus, the amounts payable to wage earners should not delay the receiving of employment insurance benefits. When people have exhausted their employment insurance benefits, if they have worked beyond the age of 55, what will happen to them? They will have nothing. Will they wait for their pension?

It is during debates on this bill, that we need to be concerned about this, as the Bloc has done tirelessly. We have reminded the other parliamentarians that POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, needs to be reinstated. This program assists workers when they no longer have an income, because of their age and the fact that there are no more jobs available in the regions. This is often the case for young people, but it is even worse for older workers. This way, they would receive an income. For now, we believe that EI should be paid out of the consolidated fund. This would allow older workers to receive benefits, and therefore an income, until they are eligible for their Quebec pension, along with an adjustment. This would help them until they are eligible for the old age pension.

This program would not cost more than $50 million in the first year, for individuals who are truly unable to find other employment. At worst, in subsequent years, it would cost $75 million. So, this is peanuts for an EI budget of $16 billion.

We wonder why it is taking the government so long to implement this measure, when we know that thousands of jobs are being cut and that older workers are unable to find employment. They are appealing to programs of last resort, often without receiving anything. As a result, they are being reduced to poverty.

It would be interesting for the government to find out what happens to older workers who are unable to find a job and have no income. People say that a government is judged by how it treats its seniors and its children.

The current government would get a nice taste of reality if it examined the fate it has imposed upon older workers who are unable to find a job now and who have no income.

The last point I want to raise relates to labour unions. There is another measure we welcome. Sometimes, in very specific conditions, even before bankruptcy, it can be established that a company is in a bad situation because of circumstances over which it has no control, like foreign competition on our markets. Here, it would often be competitors from Asia. That could push a company to bankruptcy. The measure would allow the re-opening of collective agreements. In such a case, the court would have to evaluate the situation and if appropriate, there would be discussions with labour unions. Then new measures could be agreed upon and introduced.

In the case where the unions made concessions, for example, where employees would have to accept a salary reduction, as we have seen recently, the employees collectively, through their union, would also become creditors. That is another interesting provision.

Other members will undoubtedly talk about students going bankrupt. After a number of years, they should not be forced to reimburse their loans, even if they go bankrupt. When it has been established that their bankruptcy is real, they should be treated like any other citizen who goes bankrupt and their debt should be completely erased.

I will conclude on that. That is our position. There are surely a lot of other points to raise. I will try to do that while answering questions.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to thank my colleague for his excellent presentation, his great sense of analysis and his speech, which made his ideas come across so clearly. Congratulations to my colleague from Chambly—Borduas.

He raised some particularly interesting points on the Liberal government's attitude toward protecting workers. He mentioned, among other things, the fact that the Liberals did not support the anti-scab bill the Bloc Québécois introduced in April. The bill was defeated by 12 votes. It should be noted that those who contributed to its defeat were Liberals from Quebec. We were very hurt by this, but workers were hurt even more.

In 2003, when our colleague from Winnipeg Centre introduced a similar bill on protecting workers, the Liberals defeated it.

In December 2004, when the same NDP colleague from Winnipeg Centre introduced another bill on protecting workers, the Liberals did not seem in favour of it whatsoever.

Now all of sudden, a few months later, they reach into their magical hat and pull out a little rabbit with small ears and presto, we have Bill C-55. And they seem quite attentive to the needs of workers and quite sensitive to workers who lose their jobs when their companies go bankrupt.

This change of heart is welcome. It is a step in the right direction. We see that they have thought about this. We also see that every action taken by our colleague from Winnipeg Centre and by the Bloc Québécois was seen through all the way to the Minister of Labour and Housing. As I said, this change of heart is welcome. We hope to find the same attitude when we present amendments on student loans in committee.

I have a question for the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas on the program for older worker adjustment, whose importance he illustrated so eloquently. Does he believe the Bloc Québécois should propose an amendment in committee requiring the government to include in the Wage Earner Protection Program some aspects that would allow POWA to be implemented?

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for this opportunity to make some clarifications. This is a matter of concern to her because employment is her speciality. Every time she has a chance to support measures relating to human resources and skills development, she does so with alacrity and pertinence, not to mention great vigour. I thank her for this.

As to whether it would be appropriate to raise this issue here, I think we would need to see whether it is allowed by the Standing Orders. If it is, I think we should, because time is moving on. Today we are trying to remedy the shortcoming relating to wage protection when there is a bankruptcy. Two years have been wasted. In the meantime, how many companies have closed on account of bankruptcy and so on? People have lost all that was owing to them in the way of earnings and separation allowances, and often pension funds as well. This is a critical situation and one that needs to be laid at the feet of the Liberals because it was their responsibility to do something. They could not say they were unaware. There was an NDP motion on this, and much discussion. There was even a vote on the matter because of that NDP motion. The Liberals voted against that motion. This is a critical situation. The same thing goes for POWA.

I appreciate my colleague's question, because if this is not done in connection with this bill, the government will have to explain why it does not take the initiative, when it is well aware of the consequences on workers and their families. When we talk of poor families in bad housing, having trouble to feed themselves, measures like these are to blame.

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4:20 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for his presentation. When we talk about pension funds and covering them in the manner that he has suggested, it raises a question in my mind and in the minds of many people. In trying to do something that is very helpful for workers, it could be very negative to workers. Financial institutions must lend money to businesses to keep businesses running. They must allow businesses to loan and borrow money to start new ventures and move forward.

If we stop and think about the methods of pension plans, if there is a shortfall in investment, for instance the stock market goes down and the pension funds were invested in the stock market, or the interest rates are not as high as required to pay the pensions, then people who lend money to small businesses might stop and think about whether they should continue to lend it or whether they should lend it at a much higher rate, which would curtail business dramatically in our country.

The Liberal government has looked at that pension plan and has said that it will ensure that any dollars collected by the employer, any inputs the employers have made, have to be paid before the settlement of bankruptcy, and they would receive a priority in that case. All funds that went to the pension plan must be brought up to date before that final settlement is made. That protects the workers in the most sincere way possible while not preventing loans to businesses and others.

We all have to be afraid. If small business does not have the money in investments, it will be unable to proceed. Everyone knows the biggest problem for small business is dollar flow or cash available for ventures moving forward.

Maybe in trying to help one way, we may hurt another way unintentionally. I would just leave that with the member to think about.

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4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, I would point out to my distinguished colleague that the answer lies within his question. I believe the hon. member has all the information.

When there is a bankruptcy and one of the creditors cannot be repaid by a credit union or a bank, some funds are secured. So, for them, it does exist. As a former administrator of financial institutions, I know that mechanism is there. So, they cannot lose. Will that add to their burden? No, since the government will take the initiative to make the payment in respect of wages and to recover it itself.

The other aspect of his question underscores the following: is there a problem, for instance, with hesitating or arranging to avoid supporting benefits from the employment insurance fund ? Are we talking strictly about premiums to be paid to pension funds in this case? If we were to reason as the member suggests, we would be agreeing that employers would use assets in the pension fund to ensure the survival of their business. Well, I would surmise that such was not the intent of the House. Moreover, that is not how I understand the bill, unless my interpretation is wrong.

Thus, regarding the two scenarios, I think the answer lies within the question. The danger that is feared in this regard does not exist because of the two reasons I have mentioned. The first is that the bank has a security in case of bankruptcy or bad debt. As to the Government of Canada, it is able to place itself among the high-ranked creditors in relation to wages.

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Before resuming debate, I would like to inform members that we are now into 10 minutes for debate and five minutes for questions and answers. The time for 20 minutes has passed.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-55. I particularly want to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for the battle he has been fighting for workers for many years.

That has been recognized in this House. Earlier, I heard the Conservative member for Kootenay—Columbia allude to the job done by the member for Winnipeg Centre, and the Bloc Québécois member for Chambly—Borduas acknowledged it as well. This goes to show that discussions have been ongoing in the House of Commons for a number of years. Unfortunately, the then majority government consistently denied workers the opportunity to benefit from wage protection and pension protection in the event of a bankruptcy.

We will recall how shameful and outrageous it was in New Brunswick, when Nakawick went bankrupt, to see employees who had worked for the company for 30 years, who were 53 years old and had not reached retirement age, lose their pension fund.

We have to remember that, when a collective agreement is negotiated, that is part of the so-called package. When you negotiate a collective agreement and the employer agrees to a 12% increase over three years, the pension plan is part of that 12% that the employees have obtained.

What message is this sending? I am not talking about now, because I am in favour of Bill C-55. It is a step in the right direction, but I do not think that it goes far enough. Are we sending unions and employees a message, saying, “Do not negotiate private pension funds. Ask for the maximum amount of money instead. You will be much safer if you handle your money yourself”?

The fact is that an agreement has been signed at the negotiating table, providing that the workers would have a pension fund and that the company would be responsible for setting money aside for these workers.

I am suggesting that this may not be the appropriate legislation. Indeed, when we look at pension funds, instead of having a bill, we should say that a company is responsible for setting aside a fund that neither the company nor any creditor that might come back to collect money following a bankruptcy can touch. That money would be set aside and guaranteed to be there. It would be put in a fund for workers.

As I already mentioned, I find it absolutely appalling when we look at the wage issue. It does not make sense that a man and a woman who get up every morning and go to work for a company, who help it make money over a period of 30 or 40 years, would suddenly find themselves in trouble because the company has filed for bankruptcy after spending too much and not closely monitoring its finances. All of a sudden, at the end of a week, it decides to go bankrupt. As for the workers, it is too bad, but they are not getting anything. It is the banks that will get money before anyone else does.

As regards students, for example, the government is telling them, “You will have 10 years to go bankrupt”, as if students were second-class citizens. By contrast, large corporations would be first-class citizens and would be protected. The Liberal government, and also the Conservative government when it was in office, have always protected big companies.

As we can see in the last budget, the government wanted to grant a $4.6 billion tax cut to large corporations. The Conservatives were not happy when the NDP said no to this minority government. Instead of giving this $4.6 billion to large corporations, we want it to go to ordinary Canadians. We want affordable housing and we want money to be set aside for that purpose, to the tune of $1.5 billion. We want this $1.5 billion to be used to reduce the debt of students, children and Canadians.

Nevertheless, the Conservatives complain daily in the House about how the Liberal government has bowed to the demands of the NDP by giving something to ordinary, everyday people. As if it were disgraceful to give students money. As if it were disgraceful to demand affordable housing so that the homeless can find suitable accommodation. That is how the Liberals saw it. Since they are a minority government, they had to give in. Otherwise, they would have had to put up their little election signs.

The Conservatives cannot believe that the money has not gone to big business. They are upset about it. Once again, they are defending the big banks. I am convinced that if any legislation in Canada were to put the workers first, the workers would be protected.

It is the public who votes in an election, not corporations or the great friends of the government. In fact, a company president gets only one vote. Consider Inco in Sudbury. If it has 8,000 employees, then that many people get to vote for politicians. Inco, however, has only one president.

How can this government show such little respect for the workers and try to make us believe all kinds of things? It is incredible. I was listening earlier to one of my Liberal colleagues say that by not paying them, they are protecting them. He said that they should be happy, since they being protected. He is trying to make them believe that if the money were not given to the bank than they might not have had a job. This is what they want people to believe. Furthermore, this government is trying not only to make us believe but also swallow the fact that workers who leave their employment are not entitled to EI. And if they make a mistake in their EI application, they might end up owing the government $10,000.

However, Mr. Dingwall can resign his position and get a $500,000 severance package. The government feels responsible for a former Liberal minister who has resigned his position. So, it gives him a half a million dollars. But when lowly workers leave their job, they are not entitled to EI. This is completely unfair.

I believe it is time we had a bill, one to which amendments could be made, particularly concerning students, so that they can be treated just like any other Canadian. I hope Canadians are aware of how they are treated. Workers are not entitled to their pension money if there is a bankruptcy, but the banks can get their money. A former minister who is working for the government leaves his job for no valid reason—he should perhaps have been sacked—and is entitled to half a million dollars.

An ordinary worker let go for misconduct is not eligible for EI, but Mr. Dingwall, with his $750,000 in expenses and his $274,000 salary, a man who even claimed the cost of a little pack of chewing gum, is entitled to a half million. Unbelievable.

In another case, a person who has stolen $1.5 million from the Government of Canada writes a $1 million cheque to pay it back and avoids going to jail. What is more, that person acquires the job of going around to our universities telling our students how not to get caught. Unbelievable. What kind of world are we living in?

Personally, I hope Canadians are going to wake up and clearly tell the government, or any political party, that they will no longer put up with this. They want protection. Someone who goes to work wants to get the wages he is entitled to according to the number of hours worked. If the company has been able to enjoy all these profits over the years, the worker at the very least deserves his pay at the end. He also deserves payments from the pension fund that was negotiated for him.

He also deserves a respectable life and a respectable retirement.

This is why we support Bill C-55. It does not go far enough, in my opinion. We should work on it and broaden its scope. All colleagues in the House should sincerely support it. It is not enough to express one's support for workers, while the major corporations and the banks are the ones really getting the support.

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to my learned colleague. I have a question for my colleague from Chambly—Borduas, who made a very good speech. I want to pay tribute to him. I saw him work on several files, among others, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment, which we want to re-establish. The Bloc will put enormous pressure on the House to have it restored, because it is necessary.

I have a question to ask my colleague concerning the bill before us. I would like him to tell us about student bankruptcy. After receiving loans and grants or following other arrangements with the federal government, they quite often cannot pay the government back. I would like my colleague to tell the House about this. I would like to know what his position is about this to see whether it goes as far as that of the Bloc Québécois.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's question.

We favour having the law apply to everybody. In the past, if a student, two years after finishing their studies, could not pay back their debt, that student had a right, just like anybody else, to file for bankruptcy.

One feels sorry for the student, in a way. Let us take a frequent occurrence in rural areas. People pursue their studies in a university out of their region, they come back home, but they do not find work. They already have to start paying back their debt, even though they do not have a job.

From the start, the student in debt is treated in the same manner as a person who has filed for bankruptcy. The student has no right to file for bankruptcy, but the debt is recorded with collection agencies. They get their first job. They want to buy a car, but have no right to do so, because collection agencies have a file on them. They want to buy a house to get a start in life, but cannot do so because their debt is recorded with collection agencies, and all that even though they have not filed for bankruptcy. In fact, the mistreatment they suffer is twofold. It is discrimination. It is not fair that they be considered second-class citizens.

The government has introduced this measure because too many students were going bankrupt. If this is the case, perhaps we should analyze the cost for the student. What did the government do? It balanced its budget and had a zero deficit, saying that it did not want to transfer the debt to the future generation, but wanted to pay it before the arrival of the future generation. What it did was transfer the debt to the future generation directly through universities. After university, it is now the student who is in debt, not the country. The debt has been transferred to these young students. Who are these students? They are our children. This is what the government has done. It has put our children in dire straits. This is what this Parliament has done. It is not right.

Perhaps several members here already belong to big corporations, represent these and do not have any problem paying for their children. However, there are parents in Canada who cannot pay for their children and these latter are forced to go into debt.

It is quite sad. The government has put into debt many young students in Canada who cannot go back.

Nowadays, a young university student graduates with $40,000 in debt. If they have met someone who has studied at the university level and they decide to live together, that translates into a $80,000 debt. Suppose they do not work at the same place and both buy a small car costing $10,000, the debt soars to $100,000. If they want to buy a $80,000 house—and that is not expensive—the debt reaches $180,000 and they have not had babies yet. That is what the government has done to our children.

Bill C-55 provides an opportunity to adjust the situation so as to help our students. We should grant them the same rights in the area of bankruptcy and help them pay their student debts, not bury them in debt as is the case today.

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4:40 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-55, an act to establish the wage earner protection program act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Many members have already expressed support for the principles of this bill. In my view this clearly demonstrates the need for this piece of legislation.

Bill C-55 will help thousands of Canadians who must rely on a fair and effective insolvency system to deal with the situation of financial distress.

Stakeholders from a broad spectrum of interests, insolvency professionals in the legal and accounting communities, labour groups, associations of creditors, the business and financial community and consumer groups have been demanding improvements in our insolvency system. Bill C-55 will do just that. It will make our system fairer and more attuned to today's marketplace environment as well as help Canadians to overcome problems associated with bankruptcy. The bill will bring about many important changes.

First, the bill significantly enhances the protection of workers when their employer goes bankrupt or undergoes a restructuring process. The creation of the wage earner protection program act is a major breakthrough. Numerous previous attempts to deal with this issue have been made over the past 25 years and they have all failed.

I firmly believe that the solution proposed in Bill C-55 not only greatly expands the protection to workers, but does so in a balanced and reasonable way that mitigates the adverse impact on credit.

Let us not forget that bankruptcy is always about sharing the burden, because by definition bankruptcy means that there are insufficient assets to pay all the creditors. Bill C-55 ensures that the burden is shared in a fair and equitable manner by taxpayers, lenders and other creditors.

Second, the bill further encourages restructuring as an alternative to bankruptcy. The Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, which governs all major corporate restructuring, has not been substantially modified since it was first enacted in the 1930s. It needs to be modernized to improve the predictability and consistency of the restructuring process.

Many new provisions are proposed in Bill C-55, including the treatment of contract, the provision of interim financing, governance arrangements and transparency and notification procedures. It also introduces clear rules to govern the treatment of collective agreements during a restructuring process, which fully respects labour law principles while recognizing labour costs may need to be dealt with to ensure a successful restructuring.

Third, the bill makes the bankruptcy system fairer while reducing the potential scope for abuse. Many changes proposed in Bill C-55 are directed at redressing inequities. In this regard I want to emphasize the proposal to exempt all RRSPs from seizure in bankruptcy.

Under the current rules, only registered pension plans with employers and some RRSPs held with a life insurance plan are protected. There is no reason for treating retirement savings differently. Bill C-55 will ensure that all Canadians have the same exemption for their retirement savings.

Fourth, the bill contains a number of technical amendments to clarify the law and improve the administration of the insolvency system. Several amendments pertain to clarifying the role and conduct of trustees, receivers, and monitor as well the supervisory functions of the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. While perhaps very technical, these amendments are clearly needed if we want our system to operate efficiently and with fairness.

Bill C-55 is the result of an extensive consultation process. The Senate committee conducted public hearings in 2003 and received more than 40 submissions. Its report contained detailed recommendations for changes to Canada's insolvency laws. In fact, the committee submitted more than 50 specific recommendations and a vast majority have been translated into the provisions of Bill C-55.

It is quite clear that this legislation is of interest to a very large number of Canadians. I am convinced that Bill C-55 deserves the full support of the House. I urge that the bill proceed expeditiously to the committee review stage.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Wage Earner Protection Program Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-57, an act to amend certain Acts in relation to financial institutions, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this bill and for the resounding thunderous applause and enthusiasm with which this bill has been greeted.

This is a bill of great significance to our economy because the financial services in this country are extremely important to the functioning of our entire economy. For instance, in my area, which is the greater Toronto area, it is estimated that financial services account for something in the order of 21% or 22% of the GDP. That is a pretty significant industry when one thinks of all of the people in the GTA.

The proposed legislation fulfills a commitment made in budget 2005 to bring governance standards for financial institutions up to the levels adopted in 2001 for other federally regulated corporations. As well, this bill proposes to update certain provisions and governance standards that are unique to financial institutions. In 2001 we brought up the corporate standards. This bill in some measure follows on that initiative in 2001 and makes certain changes that are unique to financial institutions.

The financial services sector is one of the key foundations of a modern industrial economy. It is an important part of Canada's economic infrastructure and plays an essential role in ensuring stability, safeguarding wealth and fuelling growth and productivity. In this regard, the Government of Canada can ensure a modern and efficient regulatory framework needed to support a successful financial services sector. That is what Bill C-57 is all about, providing an updated and modernized governance framework that will help Canada's financial sector succeed and better serve Canadians.

A well functioning and innovative financial services sector is essential for the Canadian economy to achieve its full potential. Healthy financial markets represent a critical element of a positive and competitive business environment and are fundamental to achieving key economic policy objectives. A successful financial services sector is also critical to the interest of all Canadians.

As I said earlier, Canada's federally regulated financial institutions play a pivotal role in the national economy. Not only that, but they play a significant role in the lives of Canadians. That is why, notwithstanding the fact that some of this bill is quite technical in nature, all Canadians should in fact be interested in the progress of this bill through the House.

Indeed, financial institutions employ about 600,000 Canadians and account for something in the order of about 6% of Canada's GDP. Of course, they are also leaders in the use of information technology.

Because of the sector's importance, the policy framework must ensure that financial institutions have the tools they need to adapt to a changing marketplace. One of the tools that is essential to the effectiveness, safety and soundness of the financial system is good corporate governance practices.

Governance rules underpin the effective functioning of these institutions by setting up rules relating to the rights of shareholders, policy holders and members, the role of directors, auditors and other advisers, and rules relating to the preparation, review and disclosure of information. In this bill all of those elements are touched on in one way or another. Some changes are made. Some changes are parallel to what happens in other corporations that are federally regulated.

Effective governance benefits all stakeholders, including the financial institutions themselves and their shareholders. The regulator, in turn, relies on sound practices as part of its regulation and supervision of the financial system. For these reasons, the governance rules of financial institutions need to be updated on a regular basis. This is where Bill C-57 comes in.

To set the stage for changes proposed in this bill, as hon. members may know, federal financial statutes such as the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act and related legislation set out the governance rules for federally incorporated financial institutions.

The governance framework set out in the financial institutions statutes uses the Canada Business Corporations Act, otherwise known as CBCA, as a reference point. As I said earlier, take the CBCA and therein is our basic governing structure for all federally regulated corporations. Then from there go to financial institutions and we will see some changes which are unique to financial institutions. There, in and of itself, is a key to reading the bill.

Changes made to this act are normally implemented in the statutes as appropriate for financial institutions. Members may recall that in 2001 the government undertook a comprehensive reform and modernization of the CBCA, as well as the Canada Cooperatives Act in Bill S-11, which received royal assent in June 2001.

Bill C-57 would provide financial institutions with the same modern governance tools by updating their governance framework generally along the lines of the changes made in the CBCA in 2001 and would update certain governance standards that would be unique to financial institutions.

The measures in the proposed new legislation fall into five broad categories that I mentioned earlier, adapted to each particular type of financial institution. These categories are: clarifying the roles of directors; enhancing the rights of shareholders; modernizing governance practices; strengthening the governance elements of the regulatory framework; and increasing disclosure in respect of participating and adjustable life insurance policies, otherwise known as par policies.

Let me take a moment to explain how the proposals in this bill will affect each of these categories.

First is with respect to clarifying the role of directors. An effective board of directors is key and critical to protecting the best interests of a financial institution. The financial institutions statutes recognize the importance of the board by setting out the standards, qualifications and duties expected of directors of those institutions, and it is quite extensive.

The new legislation contained in Bill C-57 also would clarify the role of directors in carrying out these important functions, for example, by explicitly allowing a due diligence defence. A due diligence defence in simple parlance is a director saying, “ I did everything possible within the bounds of reasonableness to understand what was happening in that institution. Therefore, when things went bad on this institution, I was still fulfilling my role as director and, therefore, should not be liable”. In simple terms that is a due diligence defence.

The way things stand currently, directors are liable in court if they do not fulfill their duties as prescribed in the financial institutions legislation. Imposing liability is a fair way of helping assure that directors comply with their responsibilities. It also is, and this is the point, fair to give directors an opportunity to demonstrate that they have exercised good judgment in fulfilling their responsibilities by doing such things as setting up appropriate policies and procedures.

Under the proposals contained in this bill, directors of financial institutions would have the same rights as directors of other corporations, namely, they can rely on what is known as a due diligence defence if, and this is a big if, they can demonstrate that they have fulfilled their responsibilities by exercising “care, due diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in comparable circumstances”. That quote is from the CBCA legislation. This due diligence defence has now been incorporated into financial institutions legislation. This legislative standard would allow directors of financial services providers to show the proactive steps that they have taken in the exercise of their duties

The next point to be emphasized is the enhancement of the rights of shareholders.

The ability of shareholders to discuss and monitor corporate performance is an important element of good governance. The financial institutions statutes set out the rights of shareholders to participate in major decisions of a financial institution in which they have an interest. For shareholders to exercise these rights, they must have access to corporate information because, as they say, information is power and if one does not have the information, it is very difficult to exercise the power that would normally accrue to oneself as a part owner of the corporation.

Bill C-57 would enhance the ability of shareholders to exercise their rights by, for example, allowing shareholders greater freedom to communicate without triggering the proxy rules. Normally shareholders who wish to communicate about issues to be considered at the annual general meeting must circulate a formal document to every shareholder of the bank. This is intended to ensure that all shareholders receive timely and accurate information, but it is also an impediment to information communications among shareholders. Imagine if a person was a shareholder in bank X and was concerned about whatever was happening in bank X, that person would be loath to trigger a proxy fight by virtue of simply communicating his or her concern to other shareholders.

Bill C-57 would create greater freedom for shareholders to communicate without triggering a requirement to send out information to all the shareholders. As we know, in Canada, bank stocks are widely held. To communicate to all shareholders would indeed be a very expensive proposition even for a shareholder who was wealthy. For example, they would be able to make public announcements and issue press releases and would be able to communicate with small groups of shareholders without, as I say, triggering the proxy rules.

The third element of the bill concerns the modernizing governance practices. Given the importance of good governance to the well-being of a financial institution, the governance framework needs to be kept up to date with the best practices in this area. The new legislation in the bill would create a new going private transaction regime and would enable insider reporting, proxy and prospectus rules to be harmonized with the rules applied by provincial regulatory authorities.

Bill C-57 also would facilitate electronic communication and the voluntary use of electronic documents. Facilitating a more efficient flow of information would reduce compliance costs for the institutions and promote more effective governance practices. The bill would make it possible for financial institutions that get written consent to communicate with their shareholders electronically. As we can imagine, with a lot of the banks and other financial institutions, there are literally thousands of shareholders. Anything which would allow a more efficient form of communication as opposed to sending everything in the mail would be good for not only the shareholders but for the institution itself and all the stakeholders in the institution as well.

The fourth element of the bill concerns the governance elements of the regulatory framework. Unlike ordinary business corporations, federal financial institutions are regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions which oversees the safety and soundness of federally regulated financial institutions. Bill C-57 proposes to strength a number of governance elements of the regulatory framework, including improving the flow of the information to the regulator.

The bill also would harmonize various governance standards within and across financial institutions and statutes. For example, the legislation would harmonize the authority of the minister to exempt and ensure a trust and loan company from its 35% public vote requirement with the same exception authority that applies to banks.

To clarify what that means, when an institution such as a co-op reaches a standard of $1 billion in equity, the normal requirement would be that the institution make 35% of that billion dollars in equity available to the public for purchase on an institution such as the Toronto Stock Exchange.

If we think about it, a co-op is owned by its members and it is uniquely inappropriate for the requirement of a co-op to float stock on an institution such as the Toronto Stock Exchange. The change proposed by the bill will allow a broader range of companies to apply to the minister for an exemption from the public float requirement. Currently they cannot even apply for the exemption.

A number of co-ops have come to me to express their support for the legislation. It was not contemplated when these institutions and this legislation was created, literally decades ago, that these kinds of institutions would achieve a $1 billion equity requirement. This catches up to the reality of the marketplace in the year 2005.

Finally, the policy governance framework in the Insurance Companies Act reflects the unique interests of the role of policyholders in corporate governance of insurance companies. The new legislation in Bill C-57 contains a limited number of proposed changes to the framework. These would work to increase disclosure in respect to participating and adjustable policies, otherwise known as par policies.

For example, the new legislation would require directors to establish corporate policies on participating accounts and changes to adjustable insurance policies. It would require actuaries to prepare fairness reports for the board's consideration. It also sets out requirements for communicating and making information available to policyholders, shareholders and the public. The details would be set out in the regulations which would be developed in consultation with the stakeholders.

A par policy at its simplest is a right on the part of the owner of the policy to participate in the governance of the institution. There were some difficulties with respect to some par policyholders getting sufficient and adequate information in order to make informed decisions with respect to their policies and with respect to their participation, such as it was, in the individual insurance company.

As well as committing to updating the financial institutions governance regime, budget 2005 also announced a review of the legislation concerning financial institutions. The Government of Canada's commitment to conducting regular reviews of the federal financial services regulatory framework has been key to promoting efficiency and competitiveness in the sector.

The sunset clauses in the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act and the Cooperative Credit Associations Act provide for an automatic five year review of the legislation. Therefore, legislation amending the financial institutions ought to be brought into force by October 2006. I hope it does not take all this period of time, but we have basically a year to get royal assent on this bill. I hope members opposite will be cooperative and recognize that this important to our sector.

This is a practice that sets Canada apart from virtually every country in the world, providing an important advantage to Canadian financial institutions relative to their foreign competitors. We are constantly refreshing the legislation that governs these banks.

During the upcoming months work will progress on the review of the federal financial services regulatory framework so that draft legislation will be ready to present to the House in early 2006 with a view to having it come into force by the deadline of October 2006.

The bottom line is that the intent of the bill is to provide Canada's financial institutions with the modern government tools they need. The initiatives proposed in Bill C-57 would provide them with the tools to do exactly that. I therefore urge all hon. members to give the bill their full support.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, I have already, in this House, told my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood how much I like having an opportunity to debate various issues with him and to show him that, too often, he contradicts himself. However, I must admit today that following this most interesting speech on Bill C-57, it would seem that, this time, for once, the government is on the right track, which I must say does not happen often enough.

Indeed, there seem to be a number of very interesting measures in Bill C-57. It should be understood, however, that I am still not convinced that this bill cannot be improved. But the government is certainly on the right track. That being said, the member mentioned earlier a number of provisions dealing with institutions that have between $1 billion and $5 billion in equity. He was talking more specifically about cooperatives. He mentioned in his speech that other types of institutions could also be exempted from these obligations.

Could the member elaborate on those other types of institutions that could be exempted from the obligations set out in this bill?

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I never thought I would actually miss the hon. member on the finance committee. I have never quite been able to resolve his ultimate contradiction of being a separatist in a federal Parliament, but that is another issue altogether. His contributions to the finance committee were quite reasonable within the caveat just stated.

The equity float is $1 billion and it only applies to financial institutions that are federally regulated, so there are no other businesses outside the purview of a financial institution for which this float would be required.

I hope that gives the hon. member a straightforward answer to a specific question.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance mentioned one key element that is important to all Canadians and that is that these stocks are widely held. A lot of people may not recognize what it means to them but if they are participating in pension plans, if they have insurance or if they are buying insurance from a company, it is important for that company to be stable.

We learned not too long ago what happens when the investments of these insurance companies go sour. We had our insurance rates greatly increased because the funds backing up our insurance were reduced when the market went sour. Investments were probably too high in the technology sector and we had to pay much higher premiums to rebuild the financial capacity of those institutions.

I come back to the question of our pension plans. As Canadians we participate in RRSPs, in defined contribution pension plans or invest not necessarily in the company for which we work but invest in the market through one of the larger insurance companies, trust companies or the banks and we have an interest in where these funds are invested and that they are properly governed. As individuals, we might be a little dissociated from that because we do not directly hold the shares. They are held in trust for us.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell us how this improves our confidence as indirect participants in these financial institutions that the moneys held in trust for us on our behalf are properly managed through proper governance procedures?

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right and it is one of the things I probably should have pointed out in my speech. The shares are in fact widely held and constitute a significant portion of Canada's wealth both in pensions, in RRSPs and directly held by individual Canadians. Yes, this is an extremely important area for our financial stability.

The member is also right to point out that a year or two ago insurance companies, particularly in the property and casualty sections, were experiencing some extreme difficulties. I think their normal return on equity is somewhere in the order of about 8% to 12% and they were experiencing negative returns on equity in the order of 1% or 2%. That is not sustainable in a market where, if the stock market flattens out or goes down and claims go up, in very short order they would have some difficulties with the sustainability and viability of their insurance companies.

These are challenges that the government faces. I would like to think that the Government of Canada over the last number of years has faced that regulatory challenge quite well. Therefore what we see is improved wealth creation in the hands of pension funds and in the hands of individual Canadians through the increased viability of our financial institutions.

We see institutions like Scotiabank that has made significant inroads internationally and now generates something in the order of 40% of its gross revenues offshore. This is a significant accomplishment on the part of that particular bank.

Sun Life and Manulife are Canadian success stories and have achieved a level of success around the world which I think augers well for Canadian pension plans, Canadian RRSPs and Canadian individuals. All of their share values have increased quite dramatically.

I think the Royal Bank is either number one or number two and Manulife is either number one or number two depending on the day on the Toronto Stock Exchange. My recollection is that about $50 billion is the share value of the Royal Bank.

Those are rather important and critical investments for Canadian pensions and Canadian wealth creation.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-57. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has given a pretty good explanation of what the bill is all about.

It is very important to mention the participation of the corporations, such as banks, bank holding companies, the insurance companies and all the corporations for which the bill would set, modernize and update governance rules.

The parliamentary secretary did not mention this but it is also important to thank the members of the official opposition finance team for the input they gave to the government. I know the government, on many occasions, sought the advice of our finance critic, the member for Medicine Hat; the member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove; the member for Peace River; and the member for Portage—Lisgar, who all played a part in the formation of this bill. They have given input to the government over the years at committee and in the House. I know the government appreciated the fact that the members of the official opposition's finance group were able to participate and help the government out when it was seeking advice on some very complex issues of this bill.

The bill would make changes to the corporate governance framework of banks, bank holding companies, insurance companies, insurance holding companies, trust and loan companies and cooperative credit associations to bring them in line with the Senate Bill S-11, which was updated in 2001 for business corporations under the Canada Business Corporations Act. That is a mouthful to the average person out there watching this debate but what it means is to modernize the governance framework that the banks and financial institutions operate under so that what they do becomes more open and more transparent to shareholders and the general public at large that may do business or invest in these corporations or be part of credit unions and cooperatives. They would now be able to sleep a little better at night knowing that these governance regulations on how these corporations operate would be open and transparent. It would give them an extra measure of comfort when they are placing their money in the trust of these people.

The bill also enhances the ability of shareholders to exercise their rights by allowing for the electronic participation at meetings, which is important because many times shareholders may be living in Vancouver or Toronto and they just cannot afford to jump on a plane, fly across the country and be part of a shareholders meeting, even though they may have something important to say or to cast their votes. This would let them cast those votes electronically, something we have talked about in the House here. I am sure the day will come when members of Parliament may be able to cast their votes electronically from the other side of the country if they cannot make it to the House of Commons, which certainly would be a savings to the taxpayer given the cost of air travel these days.

The bill seeks to improve the flow of information from financial institutions to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. The important part of the bill is that it would allow medium sized insurers and trust companies to apply for an exemption to the public holder requirement which requires institutions with equity holdings between $1 billion and $5 billion to make at least 35% of their voting shares available for trading on the public stock exchange. That is going to be a huge benefit to credit unions and co-ops that have been seeking this modernization of the rules.

The bill proposes changes to the policyholder governance framework and the Insurance Companies Act, which would be intended to increase disclosure in regard to participating in adjustable policies.

Millions of Canadians have insurance policies and millions of Canadians invest in insurance companies. These companies are reputable and have demonstrated that they are trustworthy, and although Canadians may feel comfortable investing in them, I would hazard a guess that many shareholders and policyholders really do not understand the fine print in their policies. This legislation would give that more disclosure.

It is important to point out that after the next election a Conservative government, this Conservative Party, will protect the best interests of consumers by fostering competition and ensuring that the financial services sector is appropriately regulated for the protection of shareholders and balanced with stability and the opportunity for success and growth. This is a written policy of our party, which we intend to follow through on when we become the next government in this House.

Cooperative organizations and banks have all expressed a level of comfort with Bill C-57. I think it is important to keep a line of communication open to the very companies that Bill C-57 would apply to, particularly banks and other financial institutions in our country.

In many cases, the government has failed to do this. Many times, banks have been left hanging by the indecision of the Minister of Finance on some very key issues such as bank mergers and cross-pillar merging. Credit unions have been seeking some administrative changes.

Bank Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read the third time and passed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

It being 5:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-25.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Remote Sensing Space Systems Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from September 28 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, September 28, 2005, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the motion to concur in the fourteenth report of the Standing Committee on Health.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the concurrence motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you would seek it, you would find consent that all Liberal members present will be voting for this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is there agreement to proceed in this way?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the members of the Conservative Party will be voting yes on this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will not count as two each vote from our conservative colleagues.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I will vote in favour of this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members from the NDP are in favour of this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Independent

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I vote yes on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to order made on Friday, September 30, 2005, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to proceed in the following way, and that is all Liberals present be counted as voting yes on this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is there agreement to proceed in this fashion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, for sure on this one the members of the Conservative Party will be voting yes.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois will vote for this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the NDP will be voting yes to the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Independent

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I vote yes.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to make sure you understood that we will vote for this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from October 3 consideration of the motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Pursuant to order made on Monday, October 5 the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion for concurrence.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent that all members having voted on the previous motion now be deemed voting on the motion before the House, with Liberals voting no.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Is there agreement to proceed in this manner?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, members of the Conservative Party will be voting yes.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Québécois will vote for this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the NDP will vote for this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Independent

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I vote no.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote for this motion.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will vote for this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from September 29 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Textile and Clothing Industries
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the amendment to Motion No. 164 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Textile and Clothing Industries
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Textile and Clothing Industries
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from September 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-360, An Act to prevent psychological harassment in the workplace and to amend the Canada Labour Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-360 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Workplace Psychological Harassment Prevention Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from October 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-363, An Act to amend the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act (profits distributed to provinces), be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion for second reading of Bill C-363, under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Act
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from October 4 consideration of the motion.

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 227 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Property Rights
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I declare the motion lost.

I wish to inform the House that because of the delay there will be no private members' business hour today. Accordingly, the order will be rescheduled for another sitting.

It being 7:19 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:20 p.m.)