- His favourite word was tax.
Last in Parliament October 2000, as Progressive Conservative MP for Markham (Ontario)
Lost his last election, in 2000, with 18.71% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Emergency Service Volunteers October 4th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the motion presented by the right hon. member for Kings—Hants. The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the Income Tax Act should be amended to provide a tax credit of $500 to all emergency service volunteers.
It was not too long ago, in my riding of Markham, that we had volunteer firefighters, and I appreciated the services they provided for Markham. If we had to at that point in time bring them on, even as part time workers, it would have created considerable hardship on the municipality and would have driven taxes up. Like myself, the hon. parliamentary secretary who spoke and other members who live in urban ridings, we recognize that this is not a problem for most ridings because they have full time firefighters and it is incorporated into their tax base. However, in small and more rural type ridings if they had to pay for this type of service they could not afford it.
What we are talking about here is a $500 tax credit. If a small urban riding had to pay for a full time firefighter we would be talking about 60 to 100 times more in cost to the municipality. These people give of their service willingly and do a tremendous job. They volunteer not only as firefighters but in many other ways for their municipalities. When they are putting their lives at risk right beside full time firefighters, then it is important that we honour their services.
From that standpoint, I will recommend to my party that we support the motion put forward by the hon. member for Kings—Hants. I think it is a great motion.
Canadian Tourism Commission Act June 12th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, today I am delighted to speak to Bill C-5, an act to establish the Canadian Tourism Commission. This is a particularly significant bill because it involves an issue that is of utmost importance to the Canadian economy: the future vitality of the tourism industry.
For the information of hon. members, just to give an indication of the magnitude of the tourism industry in Canada, consider the following facts.
Tourism spending in Canada reached $51 billion in 1999. The industry employed in excess of 500,000 people in 1999, clearly proving to be one of the leading growth industries within the Canadian business community.
Additionally, according to the Buchanan report on tourism, it is estimated that for every $1 billion of tourism revenue generated in Canada a further $230 million is generated for the federal government, $160 million for provincial governments and $60 million for municipal governments, all in tax revenues.
The continued vitality of the tourism industry is crucial for our country. Anything that can be done to improve Canada's lot in the share of the worldwide tourism industry can only be a positive step.
Bill C-5 will see the Canadian Tourism Commission transformed from what it currently is, a special operating agency, into a crown corporation. The PC Party believes that this is a positive, desirable change that merits our full support.
The Canadian Tourism Commission was originally established by an order in council in April of 1995. Its mandate was and continues to be to plan, manage and implement programs that generate and promote tourism in Canada. The bill before us, which calls for the CTC to become a crown corporation, represents the natural evolutionary step in the developmental process of this successful agency.
In Bill C-5 we find a number of suggested changes to the Canadian Tourism Commission. Many of the proposed changes will result in fundamental differences for the commission, but all of them are designed to provide greater flexibility, thus allowing the CTC to better serve the Canadian tourism industry.
Perhaps one of the most persuasive reasons to support graduating the CTC from a special operating agency to a crown corporation lies in the fact that this move will result in increased flexibility and a greater role in the promotion of tourism for the CTC. First, moving the CTC forward from an SOA to a crown corporation will make the CTC more like a business, which is good. Under Bill C-5 the CTC will have greater administrative, contracting, financial and personal flexibility. This will bode well as the Canadian Tourism Commission strives to meet the new challenges in the Canadian tourism industry.
The new challenges in the tourism industry will be numerous. I will mention four of the primary challenges that the tourism industry will face in the coming years. First, there will, doubtless, be an economic challenge to the industry. This will be a challenge that will require a greater role for actors in the industry and national and regional economies. As a crown corporation the CTC will be free from undue administrative burdens that impede the necessary progress in the industry. This, along with the national reach of the CTC, will enable it to answer the economic challenge.
Second, the major players in the tourism industry will have to convince their respective private sector partners that they are viable in the long term. Clearly, as a crown corporation the CTC will meet this challenge.
Third, the tourism industry in Canada will face stiff competition from the likes of our giant neighbour to the south and from other prime destinations.
Fourth, and perhaps one of the most challenging of all challenges for the Canadian tourism industry, players in the tourism industry in Canada will have to battle the stereotypical foreign view of Canada. I am referring to the stereotypical view which pictures Canada as safe and clean, but equally as cold and boring. Certainly, answering these challenges will be difficult.
As a crown corporation whose mandate it will be to market Canada as a great tourism destination, I am confident that these challenges will be met with success.
The Canadian Tourism Commission will have as its purpose the marketing of Canada as a desirable tourism destination. Toward this end it will be supportive of co-operative marketing relationships between the private sector and governments. It will also provide state of the art information about Canadian tourism to the private sector and to government.
I am convinced of the ability of the CTC to meet the challenges to compete against other appealing world destinations and to battle some of the mistaken images foreigners have of Canada as a destination for tourism.
I am equally convinced that the CTC as a crown corporation will be better equipped and better motivated to serve the Canadian tourism industry. The characteristics of crown corporations are such that they should be on firmer ground as they seek to produce results.
Crown corporations function like the private sector firms with which they compete. This will motivate the CTC to maintain excellence in its service delivery because it will be in competition with other firms. Just as important is that under this bill the CTC will have to balance and consider the benefits of its public policy objectives with the cost efficient delivery of goods and services. The PC Party believes that this notion of fiscal responsibility, and to a very real degree frugality, is best achieved by having the CTC exist as a crown corporation.
Hon. members of the House do not have only my word to support the bill. In fact a number of stakeholders appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, on which I sit as a member, as witnesses in support of Bill C-5. For instance, we heard from a representative from the Tourism Association of Canada. This association represents the various sectors within the tourism industry, be they small, medium or large tourism businesses, destinations, attractions, transportation providers, adventure tour operators or any other sector. Clearly it is a group with wide ranging membership, not compromised of just any one player in the tourism industry. This group is home to all major and minor players in our national tourism industry.
It says a lot when this group, the Tourism Association of Canada, has characterized Bill C-5 as pivotal. The bill is not only pivotal for the future success of the CTC but for the entire tourism industry in Canada according to the Tourism Association of Canada. Those are strong words and even stronger support from the industry's key players.
The testimony of this association is representative of the bulk of witnesses we welcomed to our meetings as our committee discussed and considered Bill C-5. Their judgment was entirely positive, as hon. members have certainly surmised by the result of our clause by clause consideration of the bill.
In closing, I will add only a few points. It is important to note that there is general support from the provinces and territories for Bill C-5. The provinces and territories play a vital role in the tourism industry and without their support Bill C-5 cannot be successful. This is why I am particularly pleased to see that there is support from their end.
The other factor in the equation is the private sector. Is the private sector on board with this initiative to transform the CTC from a special operating agency into a crown corporation? In one word the answer is yes. Throughout the private sector there is very strong support for Bill C-5.
As a businessman I realize the importance of strong linkages among stakeholders. The fact that the provinces, the territories and the private sector have signed on to this initiative is encouraging for two reasons. It is an indication that the Canadian tourism industry will continue to grow and expand as a successful component of the economy. The wide ranging support for this bill is such that it can only result in success for the Canadian tourism industry and for the tourism players. With the help and co-operation of the major players in the tourism industry, the Canadian Tourism Commission will be better equipped to serve our tourism industry. The PC Party will support Bill C-5.
Budget Implementation Act, 2000 April 13th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I do not have any problem with increasing the deductions for spouses so that they are equal. The family is the future of Canada. It should be encouraged to raise kids and perhaps parents should stay at home. I think that is fair and equitable. I am not sure if if the increase in the child tax is the right amount, but I think it is heading in the right direction.
With regard to the flat tax, I agree that taxes are too high. If we are to be a player in the global economy we have to acknowledge that our neighbour to the south, the United States, has a tax regime considerably different from ours. Its system is based on entrepreneurship, innovation and encouraging people to do what they can do. Somehow the tax system has to get flatter. I am not sure flat tax is 100% correct but definitely tax rates have to come down at all levels.
Budget Implementation Act, 2000 April 13th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, since 1993 the federal Liberal government has cut billions of dollars from the health care system. What we are seeing now is a struggle of not only my province but other provinces as they try to address this situation.
In the long term, if this is a priority, the government will have to restore investments to the 1993-94 level. The population is aging in all areas of the country and this issue has to be addressed. There are long waiting lists. Cancer patients are going to the U.S. for treatment. If the federal government is going to be a partner in health care it also has to come to the table with cash dollars.
Budget Implementation Act, 2000 April 13th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest.
It is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak on Bill C-32, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in parliament on February 28.
The bill deals with important measures, such as increasing the Canada health and social transfers, reinstating full indexation of the personal tax system, increasing the Canada child tax benefit amounts, increasing the foreign content amount for RRSPs and amending the Employment Insurance Act, among other things.
Today our high corporate and personal tax rates create a competitive disadvantage between Canada and our trading partners in today's global economy. It is clear that competitive tax rates are essential. Meaningful tax reductions combined with tax reform will increase both economic growth and opportunities for all Canadians.
The current Prime Minister has suggested that young Canadians should leave the country if they are unhappy with Canada's taxes. This kind of thinking reflects a sixties or seventies view of the world. This option, unfortunately, is becoming increasingly appealing to many young Canadians, particularly those in the high tech sector.
When Canada loses its best and its brightest young people, it loses both the capital and the talent essential to generate a higher level of productivity and innovation. The Conference Board of Canada states that the number of skilled Canadians moving to the U.S. has increased from 17,000 in 1986 to 98,000 in 1997. This is a staggering sixfold increase in just 10 years.
In the last five years there have been 50 different tax increases. Canadians now pay on average about 47% of their income in taxes. Government revenue has increased by $40 billion since 1993, including a hike of $24 billion in personal income tax revenue.
The 2000 budget was the tax cutting budget. Before this budget, Canada had the highest personal income tax in the G-7 and the second highest corporate tax in the OECD. Surprise, surprise, after these measures were implemented, due to more innovative and aggressive tax cutting strategies by other countries, we will still have one of the highest tax burdens in the industrialized world, yet the government claims that it has put Canada on the right track for the 21st century.
The government continues to look inward when it should be looking outward. Our trading partners have pursued policies of lower taxes, less regulation and lower debt and their levels of growth have been striking. For example, Ireland's real GDP per capita growth has been 92% from 1988 to 1999. GDP per capita increased 18% in the U.S. during the same period and in the U.K. and Germany by 14%. In Canada our GDP per capita growth was only 5% during this time.
Furthermore, since 1990 American net disposable income per capita has climbed over 10%, while Canadian real disposable income has fallen by 8%.
The fact is that the government has had at least $115 billion available to provide all Canadians with broad based, meaningful tax relief. The finance minister pretends to be listening to the call for tax relief and for meaningful action on the health care front but he is not listening hard enough. The 2000 budget falls short of its potential.
The case for deep and immediate tax cuts is real. Canadians now pay about 47% of what they earn in taxes to all three levels of government.
The PC Party of Canada firmly believes that Canadians have suffered long enough. They should not have to wait until after the next election for tax relief that falls far short of what could have been delivered. The government has a surplus because taxes are too high. That surplus ought to be returned to the Canadian taxpayers.
Increasing the basic personal income amount by only $100 this year, as the government has proposed, works out to be about 33 cents a week, or only $17 a year.
The finance minister's poor plan means that lower income Canadians will still pay taxes on earnings as little as $8,200. When we add on provincial taxes and payroll taxes, governments are taking away as much as 30 cents on the dollar from people with virtually no income.
What the government fails to mention is that since 1993, due to bracket creep, the government has actually dragged 1.4 million low income Canadians under the tax roll for the first time.
The PC Party would raise the basic personal amount from its current level of $7,131 to $12,000. Increasing the personal amount to $12,000 would remove 2.5 million Canadians from the tax rolls and could save an individual taxpayer up to $1,200 annually. This tax cutting measure would benefit all Canadians but particularly those in the low and middle income classes. I feel it is indefensible that right now in Canada someone making as little as $7,131 is paying income tax.
The greatest single disappointment in the bill is its failure to address the real needs of Canada health care. At one time the federal government shared the cost of health care 50:50 with the provinces. In recent years that share has been reduced so that now only 13 cents of every dollar spent on health care in Canada comes from the federal government. Meanwhile, inflation, population growth and the aging population are increasing health care costs.
Brian Tobin, premier of Newfoundland, has said that the government missed the boat by not reinvesting in health care. The Canadian Health Care Association has said that the budget does not recognize the severity of the current health care crisis in Canada. They are right. However, the government has again refused to restore cash payments under the Canada health and social transfers to 1993 levels. A one time payment out of lapsing year funds of $2.5 billion does not provide the kind of long term stability that our health care system needs. It is essential that the CHST funding be restored to the 1993-94 levels.
The government has no long term plan to save health care. Instead, it has chosen simply to put a band-aid over an arterial wound. Further, there is no serious intent on the part of the federal government to sit down with the provinces and at least attempt to fix the problem.
Bill C-32 amends the Employment Insurance Act and the Canadian Labour Code to double the duration of maternity and parental leave to one year. However, the government has continued to refuse to reduce the ridiculously high EI premiums. This year the government expects to collect over $18 billion in EI premiums but only pay out $12 billion in benefits. That is a surplus of $6 billion.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada proposes that EI premiums be reduced immediately to $2 per $100 of insurable earnings from the current level of $2.40.
EI premiums are a regressive tax on the poorest of Canadians. Somebody making $39,000 per year in Canada pays the same amount in EI premiums as somebody making $300,000 per year. It does not seem like a fair system.
The federal government is making it harder and harder to qualify for benefits. Currently only 30% of applicants who pay into the system actually qualify for assistance when they need it. Changes are needed to the EI system so that people can make proper use of what the system was designed for: help those who paid into it. It is not to be used as a fund to pad government books.
The tax grab from the EI fund of $19 billion that the government has taken from workers and employers is disgraceful and shows the true intentions of government.
The current arbitrary 20% limit for foreign content penalizes investors when returns from foreign investments are higher than returns on investments made in Canada. Bill C-32 increases the current limit of 20% to 25% for the year 2000 and to 30% in the following year. The PC party proposes that we increase this to 50% over the next two years.
The 1998 budget was called the education budget and the following year 12,000 graduates in Canada were forced to declare bankruptcy. The 1999 budget was called the health care budget, but over the last year hospital waiting lists have grown longer and the crisis in health care has become even bigger.
The 2000 budget has been dubbed the tax cutting budget, yet after these measures in Bill C-32 are implemented, we will still have the highest personal taxes in the G-7 and the second highest corporate taxes in the OECD.
There are certain measures within Bill C-32 that the Progressive Conservative Party support, such as the restoration of full indexation to the personal tax system. However, with the majority of the other initiatives, it is yet another case of the government lacking vision and taking baby steps forward.
We could have lower taxes and better spending on health care and social programs if the government had the courage to ensure that Canadian taxpayer money would be invested carefully instead of wasted rampantly.
Competition Act April 5th, 2000
Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to address Bill C-276, an act to amend the Competition Act with respect to negative option marketing. It is also with pleasure that I commend the efforts of the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton. His tireless work on this file is a testament to his character and his commitment of upholding the interests of the Canadian consumer, all of this despite intense pressure from members of his own caucus and, in particular, from his party's front bench.
Negative option marketing is a practice in which enterprises offer clients new goods and services that clients must expressly refuse in order to avoid being billed. If clients do not expressly refuse the offer, they are deemed to have accepted it and are therefore charged. It is usually common practice for goods or services to be provided for a free trial period, after which a charge is automatically levied, unless the vendor is contacted directly and told to discontinue the service. Often the free product is bundled with other services the customer has already ordered.
Before proceeding to discuss the merits of this bill, I would like to address the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Témiscamingue.
It is certainly no secret that the member's party has opposed this bill since it was first tabled. Last spring during the debate in which the Bloc opposed this bill, the party argued that French language broadcasting services need the protection of the CRTC given the smaller market in Quebec.
However misguided, the Bloc believes that the French language is under fire across Canada and that its viability is increasingly threatened. I will not go into the numerous reasons why the Bloc's reasoning is flawed in this regard because there are countless groups, organizations and political parties like the PC Party, which are forcefully committed to ensuring the continued vitality of the beautiful French language from coast to coast to coast. Despite the PC Party's articulated pledge to uphold the rights of all Canadians, the Bloc feels that the French language must be protected and promoted as much as possible.
As such, the Bloc believes that negative option marketing, as for instance in the case of cable companies that use negative option marketing to introduce new French language services in Quebec, must be protected. As far as the Bloc is concerned, negative option marketing is a good thing which means that this bill is a bad thing.
The story gets very interesting as we uncover its many layers. It turns out that this past fall the Bloc member for Portneuf articulated the opposite sentiment. He complained about the CRTC, a federal organization, forcing all Quebecers to pay for a service whether they liked it or not. Translated into English, the member said “that is not right, that is not representative of a free market”. The member for Portneuf declared it is not right to force consumers to pay for something that they may not want. It is not right, according to the Bloc, to make Canadians pay for something that they have not explicitly said they want.
That is precisely what Bill C-276 does. The bill protects the rights of Canadian consumers because it prohibits negative option marketing, a tactic that forces consumers to pay for something that they may not want in the first place. This is the same kind of tactic, I might add, that the Bloc has most recently described as not right.
I do not support the motion brought forward by the member for Témiscamingue and, as we have seen, neither do certain members of his own caucus.
With respect to this bill, I offer my support to the member for Sarnia—Lambton because I realize the importance of consumer rights and I recognize the value in upholding those consumer rights. Bill C-276 protects the most fundamental of all consumer rights: consent. Bill C-276 protects the right to express consent before purchasing a new product or service. Consent, which is an individual's expressed will to accept the offer to contract, is an essential condition of contracting, one which negative option marketing disregards.
This bill, if my colleagues see the wisdom in allowing it to pass in this place, represents a large victory for Canadians. Not only does it protect all Canadians, but it is truly refreshing to see that it seeks to protect the little guy in an age where the concerns of the little guy are always deemed secondary, if not even meaningless.
I would like to take a moment to record my acknowledgement of the concerns this bill poses to the Canadian banking industry. Although, as I see it and as the banking industry itself does as well, there are no valid principled objections to this bill, there are examples which show that should the bill become law it would be very difficult for banks to abide by its provisions. I recognize these difficulties and I offer my assistance to the banking industry in identifying possible solutions to the hurdles it would face if the bill were to pass.
The bill proposes to eliminate what is known as default billing. Default billing is an insidious practice that has plagued unwitting consumers for years. If the bill does not pass, default billing will continue to plague consumers in an increasingly invasive and damaging fashion. What opponents of the bill fail to recognize is that default billing upsets the traditional buyer-seller relationship. This relationship is simple. Basically, if we want something, we inquire as to its availability and if it is available, we buy it from the seller. This is only logical.
However, some crafty and, quite frankly, cunning individuals have upset the harmonious balance in the buyer-seller relationship by instituting the practice of negative option marketing. This practice does not allow the buyer to even consider purchasing a product. It does not allow the buyer to even consider if the product or service is something the buyer needs or that would be helpful in his or her life. Rather, this practice imposes products and services upon the buyer without consent, without even asking the prospective buyer if this is what he wants. Madam Speaker, would you believe that right now it is legal to do that? Did you know, Madam Speaker, it is legal for shrewd individuals to do this in certain instances? You, Madam Speaker, could be billed for something that you did not even ask for, something for which you did not even express an interest. Does this sound fair? Does this sound right?
As my colleague from Portneuf so accurately stated, this is simply not right. Beyond the fact that this kind of tactic inconveniences and troubles average Canadians, this tactic has far reaching impacts upon those who do not represent the average Canadian. For instance, negative option tactics penalize customers who do not understand that they must cancel the service, for instance, Canadians like the elderly or the aging. It also penalizes immigrants whose first language is not English and even those who are away on vacation and cannot respond in a timely fashion to the new charges imposed on them during their absence.
These are simply a number of many specific problems the bill will address, problems I am thankful will finally be resolved.
In closing, Madam Speaker, please allow me to reiterate that consent is a fundamental tenet upon which the consumer-business relationship is founded. Here in Canada we have always thought to preserve the privileges and uphold the rights of our citizens.
We must preserve the basic principle of consent and ensure that that it continues to hold the same consequence and weight that it has for ages. How can we do this? What role can this House have in furthering the preservation of consent? We can start by passing this bill, Bill C-276. I encourage my colleagues to recognize the importance of this legislation and to look beyond our party distinctions in order to offer a resounding commitment to ensuring the security of the Canadian consumer.
I urge my colleagues to do as I will, that is to support Bill C-276.
1911 Census Records March 2nd, 2000
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise to address the motion raised by the member for Calgary Southeast with respect to the release of the post-1901 census records.
Upon initial consideration, supporting this motion may seem to be quite a simple decision.
However, as we begin to uncover the complexities of this matter, this decision becomes a much more difficult one to make.
In recent months a number of genealogists and historians have articulated their collective disappointment that the 1911 census records will not be available for review in the public domain in the year 2003. These individuals had previously expected the 1911 census records to be made available for research purposes in this particular year because census records have been, up to this point, accessible to the public after 92 years.
However, censuses administered after 1901 fall subject to the Statistics Act that explicitly prohibits the release of all census records. This prohibition does not allow anyone to access census records for any reason. The only exception is that individuals may access his or her own personal records. But that is the only current exception. An individual may not access the census records of anyone else, not even those belonging to his or her immediate family members nor even those records belonging to members of the ancestral family tree.
The dilemma here is quite clear and yet it is quite difficult to resolve. We have two competing interests that present a difficult case for the House. On the one hand we have the reality of statutory integrity upon which our nation is founded and, on the other hand, practical idealism presented to us by historical curiosity.
Many have argued that the release of census records is crucial to furthering the knowledge Canadians hold of their past, of their communities, of their families and of themselves. Access to census records is what enables individuals, scholars, researchers and historians alike to trace their respective histories and to answer questions about their past: from questions as simple, yet so personally important as when exactly one's ancestry arrived in Canada, to questions as drawn and as nationally significant as the face of the brave men who fought and defended Canada in the first world war. Answering these questions can indeed teach Canadians a lot about themselves and about their origins.
In fact, Canadian amateurs, historians and academics alike have called upon these records to answer these and countless other questions which offer great insight into our history as a people. As such. the availability of census returns up to 1901 have been a tremendous resource for researchers in search of information with respect to housing, health, income and general social conditions of the day. But again, researchers have been able to conduct their invaluable research based on the laws in place before 1906 which authorized the release of these census records 92 years after they were taken.
For the first time, census data will not be available to Canadians come the year 2003, the year during which census data from 1911 would have been available in the National Archives for public reference.
On the other side, those who argue that the census records should be released to the public argue that respect for statutory integrity is quite important, particularly for our nation. In 1906, when the change was made that all future censuses would be kept confidential and rendered forever inaccessible, legislators made a commitment to Canadians. This commitment, this promise was that Canadians' responses to census questions would not be divulged to anyone, not even to the most trusted and loved ones.
The federal government currently requires Canadian residents to answer increasingly intrusive and intimate questions on its census. These questions include proddings into Canadians' marital status, physical characteristics, nationality, ethnic origin, wages earned, insurance held, educational attainment and also proddings into respondents' infirmities and sicknesses. Clearly, the government census is not an everyday survey or questionnaire. It is very involved and it can also make for quite a personal experience.
While most Canadians will readily answer these questions and willingly provide the federal government with the information it requests, others will be more hesitant to divulge this very personal information. Still, because the federal government requires Canadians to do so under penalty of fine or imprisonment, Canadians do indeed answer all these questions, albeit hesitantly perhaps. Why do they answer these intrusive questions? What puts their minds at ease in divulging this information? It is no more than the federal government's unqualified guarantee of confidentiality that allows Canadians to answer these personal questions. This guarantee is what convinced Canadians to divulge so much of themselves dating back to 1911. This guarantee puts the minds of Canadians at ease when, in the absence of such a guarantee, it is extremely doubtful that Canadians would willingly and accurately provide this information. The guarantee offered by the federal government through the Statistics Act was and remains the pledge that the federal government has professed to Canadians.
Here is our dilemma. It will please the member for Calgary Southeast to know that although the Laurier government promised that the information collected post-1901 would remain confidential, the puzzling thing is that it is really not clear why this promise was made. Furthermore, archival records indicate that the confidentiality provision was designed to reassure citizens that census enumerators would not pass along information to tax collectors or military conscription personnel. What does this mean? Simply that the reasoning for instituting this law remains unclear today and, more to the point, that Canadians in post-1901 may not have been as concerned with privacy as we think they were.
It is true that the times have changed dramatically since 1901 and so have cultural values. While today we place the utmost importance on personal issues, back then, as archival information indicates, the reasons for keeping census records forever confidential was that Canadians feared the information would leak to tax collectors and military personnel, not because they wanted to keep the information confidential forever. Canadians' concerns in 1906 were short term: “Let's keep this information away from the tax man and from the military”. The goal was not to keep the information from historians.
At a time when Canadians are increasingly interested in their past and when private foundations, such as the newly created Historica are allocating millions to improve the teaching and dissemination of Canadian history, it does not make sense that we would be barred from access to our own history.
While I certainly do appreciate the concern for statutory integrity and privacy interests, I do not believe that releasing the census records 92 years after the administration of the Census Act would pose an infringement on either of these principles. In the U.S. it is 72 years and in Australia it is 99, so 92 is reasonable. It is not an infringement of statutory integrity nor an invasion of privacy since after 92 years those who completed the census as adults are likely deceased, at which point the concern for privacy is moot.
Furthermore, Canadians today have been quite vocal in their support for releasing census records for research purposes. Given the overwhelming support for the release of the records, we in the House cannot ignore the call of Canadians. This is an instance where the sensibilities of Canadians, what they feel is right and justifiable, must be recognized. If Canadians of today do not feel that the release of census records is an infringement on the privacy rights of Canadians of yesterday, then we as legislators have no choice but to acknowledge their call.
If Canadians today wish to retain access to census records 92 years after censuses have been administered, then I do believe that, given the precedent set in the period leading up to 1911, we must accommodate them. In so doing, we would be accommodating ourselves as well, for research into our history as a people and as a nation may only be furthered by allowing access to these invaluable records.
Therefore, I offer my wholehearted support to the motion brought forth by the member for Calgary Southeast.
Canada Post Corporation Act February 28th, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-238 put forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre. This bill would delete section 13(5) from the Canada Post Corporation Act and require the Post Office to hire on as full time salaried employees all of the mail contractors whom it now does business with.
Let me first congratulate the NDP member for bringing attention to this issue. As I understand it he is primarily concerned with the rural mail contractors and the treatment they receive in their relationships with Canada Post, although the measure he has proposed would have effect going far beyond just the rural mail couriers. Even though we differ in our prescription for the problems faced by rural mail contractors, we can certainly agree that rural couriers have been subject to some of the most unprofessional business practices at the hands of the government owned monopoly. This needs to stop.
We have been dealing with this issue as a party since before the last election. My colleague the member for Tobique—Mactaquac has discussed this issue with representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers and Canada Post Corporation. Many of my colleagues have also met with the rural route mail couriers in the past year.
As we know, Canada Post became a crown corporation in 1981 by means of the Canada Post Corporation Act. As such its labour practices were no longer governed by the Public Service Staff Relations Act but by the Canada Labour Code, which allows dependent contractors to unionize, something not provided for by the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
Section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act provided an exemption to section 3(1) of the Canada Labour Code which deems all of the Canada Post mail contractors, including rural route mail couriers, not to be dependent contractors. In 1981 under the guidance of our former postmaster and at that time Progressive Conservative postal critic John Fraser, our caucus voted to support section 13(5) for a number of reasons.
First of all, this provision continued the historical relationship that Canada Post has always had with its mail contractors. Our national mail service has contracted for rural route delivery since before confederation.
Second, it was felt that changing that relationship could potentially increase the operating costs of the corporation substantially with no corresponding improvement in service levels to the public.
According to the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers, there are presently 7,000 rural mail contractors in Canada. If we compare the value of the average contract with the cost of a salaried unionized Canada Post letter carrier, there is a difference of between $15,000 to $20,000. That means to convert all 7,000 mail contractors to full time unionized post office employees would cost up to $140 million. Where would the money come from to make this change?
The Post Office could raise stamp prices and the prices for other postal services and the customers would have to pay. But Canada Post is limited to increasing stamp prices at less than the rate of inflation so most of the money would have to come from elsewhere. That elsewhere of course would be the taxpayer. Canada Post would be pushed back into a deficit position and the difference would have to be made up by taxpayers.
What would Canadians get in exchange for shelling out more money for their postal service? Better service? Better or more frequent delivery? No. In exchange for the $140 million, Canadians would see no improvement in postal service. This is not a change my party is prepared to support.
Third, the nature of this change would have removed some of the flexibility for both parties to negotiate an arrangement particularly suited for each individual contractor. For example, under the current arrangement contractors have the ability to subcontract while employees do not.
Finally, this arrangement kept Canada Post on a level footing with many private sector companies which also use private contractors for deliveries.
For all of these reasons our party continues to support section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act. That is why we cannot support this bill.
Let me however set our opposition to the specific measure proposed by the hon. member. Anyone who has ever done business can tell us that more often than not, Canada Post is big, bureaucratic and bullying. Its guiding principle seems to be squeezing out as much as it can from customers, suppliers and partners.
Two examples come to mind: postal rental retail franchisees and the ad mail program for large volume customers. In both instances, Canada Post arbitrarily introduced large changes that were poorly communicated and very costly to the people with whom it did business. In both cases business partners were not consulted on changes but were instructed that they had to purchase new, expensive and confusing systems if they wanted to continue to do business with Canada Post. In the former case commissions were simultaneously slashed, while in the latter case costs were unilaterally raised.
This sounds a lot like how Canada Post treated rural mail contractors. In many conversations with individual contractors, with representatives from the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers, CUPE and some Canada Post employees, we have heard many horror stories about the contracting practices of the post office.
For example, at one point it was common practice that when a delivery contract was up for renewal, a Canada Post employee would phone up a contractor saying that it had received a bid from another source which was thousands of dollars less than what the contractor was currently being paid. Because Canada Post operates a closed bidding system, there was no way for the contractor to verify the claim of the postal representative. The contractor would be faced with the difficult decision to undercut his or her own price by several thousands of dollars or lose the contract. These and other bad faith practices by the post office have led my party into discussions with Canada Post.
As a result of complaints from contractors and others acting on their behalf, the post office has introduced a series of new measures that I hope will alleviate a great number of the difficulties contractors have had in the past. These include the following. Rural routes will be contracted individually. Contractors that in turn subcontract out their routes at a reduced price will be ineligible for renewal. Rural contracts will be issued for five years with a five year renewal option based on satisfactory performance and tendering after 10 years. A negotiated adjustment will be included for the five year renewal option to ensure that market conditions such as inflation are considered. A performance component will be included in the contract renewal and awarding process to recognize the past performance of incumbent contractors. The evaluation of tenders will be based on criteria such as experience, performance, reliability, image and cost.
In addition, when contracts are up for bid, Canada Post will make contractors aware of the specifications of the routes they will be performing, such as the number of points of call, daily kilometres, number of stops for personal contact items and the amount of ad mail they can expect to deliver. These numbers will be updated annually or more frequently if a significant change occurs. Contractors will be compensated for these changes.
The post office has also prepared a handbook to provide assistance and guidance with a reference and a phone directory of key individuals at Canada Post to call when a problem arises. In addition, local supervisors and postmasters will be provided with an operator's handbook and supporting training material to assist them in working with contractors.
Canada Post is currently in discussion with representatives of rural route mail couriers in order to finalize this new package. I am hopeful that both sides will be able to improve on the relationship they have had in the past and will be able to agree on a set of business practices they both can live with. In the meantime we will continue to work with and listen to rural mail couriers to ensure that they are treated fairly and that Canada Post deals with problems that arise in a timely and equitable fashion.
Transitional Jobs Fund February 23rd, 2000
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development has indicated that since the TJF inception, the transitional jobs fund has created 30,000 sustainable jobs. If the minister does not have a report available for the House to verify her claim, my colleagues and I have no choice but to assume that she has misrepresented the success of this program.
National Unity February 21st, 2000
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise to announce that I will be hosting a town hall meeting on the topic of national unity.
The meeting will be held Thursday, February 24, at 7.30 p.m., in the Markham Civic Centre and will feature a panel discussion among some of the leading figures on the question of national unity.
Panellists for my event will include: Senator Noel Kinsella, my colleagues from the ridings of Beauharnois—Salaberry and Vancouver Quadra, Professor Nelson Wiseman and Thomas Mulcair. Our moderator for the panel discussion will be the Hon. Bob Rae.
Town hall meetings are important because they represent my effort to keep Canadians, and Markham residents, well informed. My town hall meetings offer an invaluable forum in which my constituents can learn about and express their views on national issues of the day.
It is my pleasure to extend the warmest invitation to my colleagues in the House to join me, my constituents and our guests for what promises to be an enlightened discussion. And, yes, I invite the member for Waterloo—Wellington.