House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Finance
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

No, that is not what he said. I listened closely to his comments, and that is not what was said.

There is something else that the hon. member surely knows. It was not Canada that closed the Canada-U.S. border but the United States of America. If the United States of America decides that the herd can leave Glengarry—Prescott—Russell and cross to the United States, I certainly agree. Go see an American customs officer and tell him that you have Canadian cattle that you want to enter the United States but it does not count because it does not come from the same region. It is not the Government of Canada that you will have to convince but rather the American authorities. They are the people who closed the border, not us. To claim somehow that it is the Government of Canada that is preventing the export of the Quebec herd to the United States is verging on the ridiculous.

We are moving mountains in our efforts to open all the borders all across the country, including Quebec, eastern Ontario, my region, and everywhere. That is the reality. Beginning March 7, for example, live slaughter animals less than 30 months old will be able to cross the border.

How was that done? Through intense lobbying efforts by all the parties in the House. The representatives of the parliamentary associations in the American Congress, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, all the ministers, our experts and our public servants have been working all this time. It did not happen overnight. It was not the Government of Canada that closed the border but rather of the United States. One should remember that.

In the beginning, when there was one case of mad cow, the Government of the United States closed the border. But after the Government of Canada, working together with the international community, demonstrated that there had not been any contagion, the American border should have re-opened.

I heard an interesting statement from a member of the U.S. Congress last week or the previous week. This is what he told his fellow Americans and especially the agricultural producers in his own region, his own state. He said that Americans would do well to be careful about telling Canadians that their beef is no good because there was one case of mad cow. He wondered what Americans would tell their own fellow citizens the day when they find a case at home. He added that that day would surely come, because if it had happened in Canada, it could happen to them as well.

Finally, I have heard someone in the United States who is able to reason in this regard. Canadian consumers have been reasoning from the outset. After this mad cow question, Canadian consumers rallied behind the farmers. Beef consumption did not even go down, as might have been expected. It even went up at first. In other words, Canadians showed solidarity. The hon. member does not talk about that. But that is what happened all across the country. That is not where the problem is; it is the American border. Furthermore, we must now increase our cull cattle slaughtering capacity, especially in eastern Canada. That is the reality.

Finance
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, we all knew that member as binder boy in the previous Parliament when he was sitting over there. In 1988 he was part of the rat pack holding the Conservative government accountable.

When his government came into power in 1993 it made two promises: one, to abolish the GST; and two, to raise the immigration level to 1% to 300,000, neither of which his government fulfilled.

Is the member, as a member of the Liberal government, going to tell the finance minister to fulfill those promises that were made in 1993 when he was part of that government?

Finance
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the rat pack did not start in 1988. It started in the 1984 election. This is very important because my memoirs outline all these things and I just thought I would correct this historical inaccuracy that the member has described.

The hon. member talks about the immigration level and I am glad to hear him say that because he was a member of the once Reform Party. In the 1997 election the Reform candidate in my riding went to Alexandria, Ontario, and said in front of my constituents that if elected he wanted to reduce the immigration levels. I suppose he is entitled to his opinion. He also said that in his opinion, refugees were all phonies.

I took him to task on that. I said that in the constituency of Glengarry--Prescott--Russell the ancestors of the people in the audience came to Canada in 1784 after a war in the United States. They were the United Empire Loyalist refugees and they were the ancestors of some of the students in the class. I also told him that some time later there were Highland clearances in Scotland where the British sheep barons kicked out the Catholics from the hills. They became known as the Highland clearance refugees and they were the ancestors of yet more students in the class.

As well, in 1848 there was a great famine in Ireland and the ancestors of my wife, of my children and of my grandchildren came to this country. They were the Irish potato famine refugees and they were not phonies either.

What is phony is to pretend today that the people across the way care for refugees and care for immigrants when they never have in the past.

Finance
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will inform you straightaway that I will be sharing the time I am allotted with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

A budget involves making choices in terms of social measures. To make a proper evaluation, each party must at the same time be able to make a political reading of the situation and determine its position.

In football terms, if the final score were 54 to 21, you could say that the losing team took a beating. But there are reasons for that defeat. In the case which concerns us, the reasons have to do in particular with the fact that this government made bad political choices. What is more, the governing was highly dubious.

Today, I would invite this House to note that the present government, which was in place previously, before the recent election, has governed mainly for its friends and for the party, instead of in the interest of the country. And the term “country“ includes Quebec here. We realize in particular how great the damage resulting from those political choices has been.

Those political choices have also revealed certain misappropriations of funds. Today we find ourselves with a commission of inquiry that will cost $60 million, over and above the hundreds of millions already spent to promote friends and enrich the party.

I invite this House to ensure that the present government clearly understands its obligation to stand up for the most disadvantaged. The government is there mainly to legislate, of course, so as to balance the forces of society in terms of use of the country's wealth. In recent years, the country's wealth has often been squandered in programs not only suspect, but utterly reprehensible, such as the national unity program.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were swallowed up in this program, while on account of political choices, cuts were made elsewhere, notably in the case of the unemployed, people in substandard housing, and municipal infrastructures. I could give you a very long list of the sectors victimized by these cuts, but I shall refrain, so as not to take up too much time, since my colleagues have been talking about them for two days.

What is needed today is to call upon the government to make responsible choices, so that we can pass a budget I would call therapeutic. The government has developed a disease, the all-powerful syndrome, the symptoms of which include what I have already mentioned: misappropriation of funds, dubious choices and measures victimizing the most vulnerable members of our society.

A therapeutic budget is one that will include remedial measures, first of all where EI is concerned. Scores of families have been impoverished in this country. I am particularly well placed to know just to what extent this is the case in one part of the country, a part that constitutes a country within another, that is Quebec.

When families are reduced to poverty, so of course are their children. The Canadian government has just received a report on child poverty. When there is a finding that there are children living in poverty, the reason is that there are families living in poverty. We have heard this before, but it bears repeating as often as possible. We will keep repeating it until the appropriate steps are taken to remedy the situation.

I very much hope that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development will make a commitment to propose to the Minister of Finance, with no further delay, that he include the preliminary measures already recommended by the Standing Committee on Human Resources and Skills Development: creation of an independent employment insurance fund so that its contents cannot be touched, since the Canadian government does not contribute to it. This fund is made up of the contributions of workers and employers and belongs to them. This being their money, there is no reason for it to be used for any other purpose—in fact to do so is indecent.

The Liberal government took $46.4 billion to use for other purposes. This is absolutely scandalous, when we know there are tens of thousands of workers forced into unemployment and excluded from employment insurance.

This fund must also have the protection of an independent administration consisting of commissioners representing workers and employers, for the most part. The commission must also be managed in such a way that the commissioners can determine themselves the contribution rate and the level of benefits for the unemployed.

There is another perfectly scandalous aspect as well. I will give an example that shows that the government has not understood the message delivered in the last election. It continues to behave as if it were all-powerful.

Even though no one asked it to do so—quite the contrary, the contributors had said that the problem was not with the premiums, they were even prepared to increase them—before the holidays, the government reduced the premiums by three cents, which amounts to $270 million in contributions to the fund. Once again, that put pressure on the fund and prevented the benefits from being increased. That is completely unacceptable. Here too, the government will have to answer to the people other than with the kind of nonsense that we have heard over the last few weeks.

There are also measures proposed by the standing subcommittee on human resources and skills development. There are 20 measures that would improve the employment insurance benefits. The members of the subcommittee unanimously recommended that what had been diverted from the employment insurance fund, i.e. the $46 billion, should be gradually returned to it at a rate of $1.5 billion a year.

Here too, the government must agree to this request. It is not very much. In fact, the amounts that the government diverted and even stole from the fund over the last eight years will be paid back over more than 32 years.

Such a rate is clearly more than reasonable. This will not be what drives the country into bankruptcy. As this is done, the fund will be able to improve benefits. At a rate of $1.5 billion a year return to the fund, virtually all the planned improvements may be assumed.

If topping the premiums back up to $1.98 is added to that, virtually all the recommendations for improving the fund can be met. As proof of that, the largest bill will be about $1.2 billion to increase the benefits from 55% to 60% of wages. This amount is therefore already largely covered by the $1.5 billion that will go into the fund on a regular basis every year.

In conclusion, the other parts of the recommendations involve about another $450 million, which are already covered by premiums that will be recommended as a result without increasing the contribution rate,which was $1.98.

Member for York West
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 14 I stepped aside as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration after outrageous allegations were made against me. At the time of my resignation, I indicated that I was stepping down to clear my name and my reputation. I am going to use Canada's courts to do just that.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my constituents, my caucus colleagues, my family, and the many people across Canada who continue to provide me with their support and their well wishes. I would like to sincerely thank the Prime Minister for his unwavering support.

As a public figure, I understand that it is reasonable to expect some occasional personal criticism and complaints. However, I cannot allow outrageous accusations of the nature that have been levelled against me to be left unchallenged.

While the last several weeks have been personally very difficult, I would like to assure my constituents of the riding of York West that I will continue to work extremely hard on their behalf.

Finance
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week as MPs deliberate the upcoming federal budget, I am urging the government, on behalf of the 72,000 citizens of Prince George, B.C., to remember some of its election promises.

If the government were to keep its promise for a new fair infrastructure deal for Canadian municipalities, Prince George could get the funding it requires to construct the new Nechako River industrial crossing.

If the government were to keep its promise to boost the size of Canada's military reserve forces by 3,000 personnel, Prince George could get a 120 member army reserve unit.

If the federal Liberal government were to keep its promise to consider the needs of western Canada, it would properly address the mountain pine beetle epidemic and the softwood lumber dispute.

This could be the budget that stops blowing tax dollars on the useless gun registry, government advertising and corporate welfare, and instead implements tax relief for low and middle income Canadian families that they could actually take to the bank.

Tsunami Relief
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the memory of the more than 200,000 people who perished in the devastating earthquake and tsunamis of December 26.

In my constituency of Beaches--East York, over 300 members of the Sridurka Hindu Temple have lost family members. This incomprehensible tragedy was a call for action, and the people of my riding have responded by uniting and giving generously.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a local fundraiser which raised $8,000 for tsunami relief. I would like to thank organizers and participants of this event and, simultaneously, events held across Canada.

I would like to commend the Government of Canada's contribution of $425 million to provide immediate and long term support. Canadians can expect their government to be a continuing leader in efforts to restore and reconstruct Southeast Asia.

I ask all members to join in making a commitment to helping those affected to fully recover.

Normand Maurice
Statements by Members

February 1st, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were very sad to learn that Mr. Normand Maurice passed away on December 31. Mr. Maurice was known as the father of recycling in Quebec.

This visionary Victoriaville resident was a high school teacher for many years. Familiar with both the environment's fragility and problems related to school dropouts, he created along with his colleagues, in Victoriaville, the first centre for on-the-job training and recycling or CFER. In short, he found a way to salvage the lives of young people as well as the environment.

A true builder, he leaves behind a rich environmental legacy. Today, the CFER network operates 17 centres in Quebec and 3 in Europe. Recycling has become a trademark of the Bois-Francs region, and Mr. Maurice had a hand in that.

Mr. Maurice leaves behind his wife, Madeleine, and four children, Michel, Daniel, Hélène and Christiane. I join my Bloc Québécois colleagues in offering them our sincerest condolences.

Canadian Forces
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Valley Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the community of Kenora for its efforts to send Christmas presents to our troops in Afghanistan.

While back in the riding, I saw the tremendous pride this community felt in reaching out to our armed forces. Everyone wanted to be involved. Coming together under the leadership of Mr. Tom Beach and his family, the community gathered more than two tonnes of material with shipments still being sent to Camp Julien now.

I would like to recognize the many businesses that donated goods and services to this cause, as well as the many volunteers who donated their time to show the troops we care. It was an amazing example of what a community can achieve and I applaud all the participants.

While it is a little late to talk about Christmas presents, it is never too late to thank our military.

Forestry
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is fully aware that the forests of British Columbia are being ravaged by a devastating pine beetle epidemic, but the government has made it very clear that it simply does not care.

At this time over 300 million cubic metres of mature pine trees have been attacked. That number will grow to over one billion by 2013. Again the Liberal government has made it very clear that it simply does not care.

In the fall of 2004 the minister of forests from B.C. asked the federal government to come to the aid of B.C. in a new 10 year plan to mitigate the pine beetle disaster. The government has not responded. Again the government has made it very clear that it simply does not care.

The federal Minister of Industry from B.C. has done nothing to urge his government to help B.C. in its pine beetle crisis. He has made it very clear that he simply does not care.

All the false promises made to B.C. before the last election have made it very clear that the Liberals simply do not care.

Dartmouth Work Activity Society
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, last Friday I was privileged to attend the wonderful graduation ceremony for the Dartmouth Work Activity Society. This organization is focused on providing skills upgrading for adults who have faced a variety of challenges.

Without this opportunity many would have no recourse other than to give up on meaningful employment and join others who have virtually given up on life.

Going back to school as an adult is not easy. Learning new skills takes courage, commitment and sacrifice.

The success of the program is evident as many of the grads were unable to attend the ceremony because they were at their new places of work.

I congratulate these graduates. I am confident they will succeed in life through their hard work and unwavering confidence.

I also know they would join me in congratulating and thanking the Dartmouth Work board and staff, particularly Frank Gibson, an inspiring and dedicated community leader, for recognizing that the quality of a society is perhaps best judged by how many people we empower through education and dignity.

Oxfam-Québec in the Eastern Townships
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the terrible disasters that occurred in Asia in December, we see just how much people can pull together.

So, I want to draw attention to and encourage the excellent work of Oxfam-Québec in the Eastern Townships. Thanks to the hard work of staff and volunteers, the organization has had a strong presence in the Eastern Townships since its arrival in 2001. The recent Estrie solidaire project is proof; its aim is to stop the exodus of young people from Stanstead by getting them involved in their community.

Oxfam-Estrie is providing international aid by holding hunger banquets, promoting fair trade products and has collected $70,000 for Haiti.

In order to help tsunami victims in Asia, it is holding fund-raisers. Thanks to donors, the association was able to send drinking water and food items to the stricken areas. The funds raised were used to pay the salaries of people cleaning up the debris and rebuilding infrastructure.

Congratulations to the people at Oxfam-Québec in the Eastern Townships and, above all, may their good work continue.

The Environment
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne last fall, the government is committed to realizing the goals that have been established in regard to wind power as an alternative energy source.

As a former chair of Exhibition Place in Toronto, I strongly supported the construction of a wind power turbine on the grounds of that city owned facility. I am pleased to report today that the turbine has produced $32,000 in dividends for its investors and has displaced approximately 300 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

In supplying sufficient power to provide electricity to 280 homes for one year, the Exhibition Place wind turbine is an example of how we can move forward with this renewable and clean source of electricity.

I encourage the Minister of the Environment to move forward with respect to wind power in Canada.

Task Force Kabul
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the soldiers of CFB Edmonton and Task Force Kabul for raising over $13,500 for the Edmonton Garrison United Way campaign in 2004. These efforts of our brave men and women in Afghanistan to raise money were led by Major Dave Whittier and surpassed expectations by 35%.

The members of TFK have been in Afghanistan since early August 2004. The whole contingent has been busy taking over the mission with everything from force protection to providing security during the recent elections.

Amidst the danger, our soldiers organized several fun events to support the fundraising drive. From what I have been told, the dunk tank and the jail and bail gave everyone a good laugh and everybody involved had a great time.

I congratulate the wonderful job our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan. I am proud that they are not only serving Canada abroad, but also are helping Canadians at home.

Foreign Affairs
Statements by Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, it appears that a member of the Conservative Party would rather do publicity stunts than engage in frank discussions with Chinese officials.

During the Prime Minister's trip to China there were two occasions where I raised the issue of governance and human rights: at a meeting of the Chinese Communist party international and with representatives of the Canada-China Legislative Association. Had the member attended, he would have had an opportunity to address his concerns. It is clearly impossible to do that when one does not attend.

The death announcement of Zhao Ziyang was controlled by Chinese government officials, but trying to make cheap political points is not the way to advance the issues of human rights and democracy. If the member were truly interested in paying his respects, why the media entourage? Death for the Chinese is a private affair.

The actions of the member will not advance the issues he claims to be concerned about. The Prime Minister directly raised these issues as did other parliamentarians. The member clearly is not interested. It is about time he came clean on what he did in China, which was very little.