Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Burin—St. George's (Newfoundland & Labrador)
Lost his last election, in 1997, with 38.56% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Committees Of The House April 17th, 1997
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Health.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), your committee has agreed to adopt the report on preventive strategies for healthy children. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests a comprehensive response to this report within 150 days.
In presenting the report let me acknowledge the fine work of all members of the committee, representing all three parties in this House and thank them sincerely for their diligence in what we believe to be an important contribution to the issue entitled "Towards Well-Being: Strategies for Healthy Children".
The Budget March 18th, 1997
Madam Speaker, one of the things we whisper on our side is that the Minister of Finance is really a closet conservative. Certainly on fiscal matters it is well known that he is a conservative. If we look at his record of budget making over the last three or four years, we will notice that on the matter of projections about employment levels, deficit levels and so on, he has always been a bit cautious.
What my friend from La Prairie characterizes as hiding I would put in another context altogether. I would submit that the Minister of Finance is being true to form here in that while he has projected a deficit of $17 billion, I am sure, as the member suggests, that the Minister of Finance is hopeful it will come in below $17 billion. I would not subscribe to the suggestion that somehow he has been duplicitous and is somehow hiding a lot of money. He is just being himself and is being a bit conservative.
Let us hope the member for La Prairie is right that the deficit is even lower than the $17 billion projected so conservatively by my friend.
The Budget March 18th, 1997
Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from La Prairie for his question. However, I must have missed the preamble to his question because I did not fully understand what the conspiracy was. He said that the Minister of Finance is hiding some $8 billion. Could he be a little more specific. I will attempt a response.
The Budget March 18th, 1997
Madam Speaker, I too want to rise and voice my support for the measures in the budget brought down just over a month ago. The would-be minister from Calgary Centre draws attention to his presence here.
I say to my good friend from Calgary Centre, I have a lot of choice on this one. It is my choice to support this budget. If he will give me a chance, being the gentle man that he is, I will tell the House in the few minutes I have some reasons why I support the budget.
The first was alluded to by my good friend from Bourassa just a moment ago, the issue of child poverty. As my friend from Hillsborough said, not enough is being done. However, we are making some progress. Some money has been put into this important initiative. I happen to believe, as a Canadian and as a Newfoundlander, that it is an absolute disgrace that so many people are living in poverty in this, the best country in the world.
Obviously, we have done some things very wrong over the past few years so that we should have that situation still applying. We have to address that one. It has to be a priority for Canadians of all political stripes because poverty, which you rather take for granted in third world countries, is right under our noses. People have to ask why we cannot do more to alleviate that situation, to get rid of it sooner rather than later.
I salute the Minister of Finance because he has made some progress in this area through the child tax credit. It is a step in the right direction in addressing the problem of child poverty.
The budget this year, which proposes to increase spending on children, will increase from $5.1 billion to $6 billion by July 1998. That is some progress but dollars do not say it all. The reward will be in the benefit that these dollars achieve over time. Also in the budget there is new emphasis on young people not only in terms of increased funding for summer jobs but in terms of addressing some of the problems they face with funding for university. We have an improved system of student loans and education credits to ensure fuller access to a good education by all young Canadians from coast to coast.
I like the emphasis in the budget on the assistance for disabled people, including broadened tax relief for medical expenses. It is something that I have been fighting for for a long time, I and many others in this House, and I am glad to see that the government is moving in that direction.
I was also pleased with the emphasis on health care in this budget and the new initiatives that the government proposes to take, in particular in the area of nutrition for example.
If we reflect on the time we have been here since November 1993, three and a half years, things in financial terms, in fiscal terms were quite different and a lot bleaker at that time than they are right now. This government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, has restored some sanity to the public finance system. We all know the statistics on how we have brought down the deficit by so much over such a short period of time. I will not bore members with those stats again.
Let us always keep in mind that government finally is not about managing money, as important as that is. That is the means to the end. If we do not manage our money right, we cannot do these things in terms of social programs and job creation that we are dedicated and committed to doing. We have to keep our eye on the ball. While managing money is an important step it is not the end in itself. It is just the means to the end. The end itself has to be, must be at all times, people. We have to see that people are better served.
People who are unemployed are not very well served. It is difficult to appreciate the importance of deficit reduction or many other things that are touted in this budget if one does not have a job. In my own riding, in my own province the unemployment rates is still unacceptably high. I salute the job creation initiatives in this budget. I believe we are generally going about it in the right way because I am a free enterpriser. I believe that government does not create jobs. It is the private enterprise sector that creates the jobs and small business that creates jobs. There are measures in this budget including lowering employment insurance premiums which make it more attractive for small business to create jobs.
We have had to be patient. It is hard to be patient if one does not have a pay cheque to put the groceries on the table. I believe that the effect of the kind of budgetary measures that we have had over the last three or four years, together with the one right now before us, the cumulative effect of that will be to increase more jobs out there.
Already the record of this government is that it has increased 700,000 jobs. The projection is that we will see another 300,000 or so in this year.
We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have great concerns for those people who do not have jobs. We have to see that more is done by government in terms of leadership, in terms of the incentives we provide to bring down the unemploy-
ment rate. In my own situation in Burin-St. Georges and in Newfoundland generally, we have over the past three or four years been devastated by a terrible downturn in the fishery.
There too we are beginning to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I do not want to anticipate my friend, the minister of fisheries, but I am hoping that he will accept the recommendations of his advisory council and reopen the fishery at least in a limited way on the south coast, 3PS, 3PN, 4S and so on, that area that recommendations apply to. I hope we will see a reopened fishery.
Those people who are on TAGS, those people who are on government assistance, are not there because they want to be there. They would rather be working. Speaking of those people, we are still leading the charge on the issue of labour force attachment.
These people through no fault of their own were prevented from working by a government initiated endeavour. They were barred from working. The government mandated that shutdown. Through no fault of their own they now find themselves being treated as new entrants. That is unconscionable. It has to change. These people were not told upfront that might happen to them. Indeed it was not going to happen to them. If we had been able to stick with the original objectives in that program, where all would be trained, that would not have happened. That circumstance of no labour force attachment would not have applied. It applies today because in midstream, because of increased numbers coming into the program, the government had to change the rules and deprive people who would normally have had some training opportunities because of a limited budget.
For those reasons, that they did not know upfront and that the rules were changed in the middle of the game, these people, in all conscience, have to be given labour force attachment.
I have addressed that issue on every forum I have been able to. I have talked to the Prime Minister and the minister. I have raised it in caucus and I have raised it on the floor of the House on several occasions. We have to continue to punch away at it until we beat some sense into the heads of the people who matter on that issue. It is an important issue. It affects about 15,000 people in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the five eastern most provinces. We have to do the fair thing when it comes to that issue.
Government is also about fairness. People out there have difficulty identifying with the positive things that may be in a budget or in a government initiative if they see something like the TAGS issue which has become a symbol of basic unfairness.
There is no good reason for it, certainly not a monetary reason. What we are talking about would cost $30 million to $60 million over time. That is not a lot of money in the greater government context. It is money which would be well spent.
Let me recap my remarks, as my time has expired. I support with a heart and a half this budget. I invite my friend from Calgary Centre to do likewise.
Questions On The Order Paper March 10th, 1997
Could the Minister of Health indicate what will happen to the existing national AIDS strategy due to finish in March 1998 and in particular the existing HIV clinical trials network?
Tobacco Act March 4th, 1997
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to take part in the debate. As the chair of the health committee that dealt with Bill C-71 I and my colleagues from Lévis, Drummond and others have had a fair amount of exposure to the bill. We have had a good opportuntiy to say what we want about it. My words today will be few and quite pointed. They will be largely related to the amendment which stands in my name in the group before us.
In general terms I believe very strongly in the provisions of Bill C-71. I believe very strongly in its objectives. The bill goes a long way to seeing that its objectives are met, namely the objective to reduce tobacco consumption particularly by young people.
Our hearings were extensive. I am proud to say on behalf of the committee that we were able to hear all who wanted to be heard over three or four days. The hearings last fall were televised which gave a large body of people, apart from those in the hearing room, an opportunity to participate, to see how the matter was dealt with and to hear the arguments on both sides of the issue. The overall process was served very well. We were able to hear in committee the real concerns that people had with the bill.
At the end of the three or four days of hearings I was rather impressed by the case that had been made by the representatives of sponsored events, those events which have heretofore been sponsored by the tobacco companies. I thought their argument made a fair amount of sense and ought to be examined.
As a result, once the bill had passed clause by clause in committee I as a member of the committee said to my colleagues that we ought to look at some transition period. Instead of bringing in the provision which would limit sponsorship when the bill came into effect, I felt we could allow some lead time for a couple of reasons.
It would give those people involved in sponsored events time to adjust to the new reality. I was cognizant that many events had been planned for this summer and even for next summer. We needed to give those people some lead time to adjust to the new reality.
Equally important was to remove from the tobacco companies a potential weapon, namely the possibility that the tobacco companies would rush out on the excuse of this legislation and cancel forthwith sponsorship funds they had already subscribed to events. I wanted to remove from the tobacco companies that particular excuse. I wanted to take that weapon away from them. The lead time proposed in my amendment has the effect of doing that. If the tobacco companies want in the next year or so to continue
sponsorship, nothing legislatively prevents those companies from doing so.
It would give the organizations running the events time to look around for alternate funding without the threat of having their events collapse because of the immediate loss of the funding upon which they have come to depend over the years.
With these thoughts in mind I made a suggestion to the committee. The committee put forth a resolution to the House a day or so after the bill was reported. It is in that spirit my amendment before the House has been made.
It is not intended to water down or detract from the measures in the bill. My own view on sponsorship was different from what is in the bill. I felt we should have wiped out sponsorship altogether from day one. That was my view. I felt that we ought to have provided alternate funding for a period of three, four or five years. That was my position on that issue.
That view did not prevail. What we have in the bill, I understand for constitutional and other reasons, is a limited sponsorship. That is my second position. I would have preferred to have no sponsorship by the tobacco companies at all. A good argument can be made for that, but that is yesterday's battle so I will not get into it.
The amendment I have proposed will give some assistance to the groups whose concerns we heard in committee. The transition period will give them the extra time they need to find other sponsors. However they also need the certainty of knowing the precise date when the restrictions on sponsorship promotion will come into effect. We do not know exactly when the bill will receive royal assent. It is fair to assume it may well be some time this spring. Events are already en train for this summer. I thought we ought to give them this summer and next to make the adjustments.
With that in mind, and the importance of having a definite date, my motion indicates that we would have the sponsorship provisions in the bill take effect as of October of the following year. This would be a welcome measure for those who are looking for as much time as possible to make the adjustments.
As I have said before, I do not think it in any way detracts from the health principles of the bill. It does not in any way dilute the principles of the measures in the bill.
In closing, let us remind ourselves that this is first and foremost a health bill. Anything it does ought to have as its mandate the improvement of the health of Canadians. The bill goes a long way in that direction.
I hope my amendment is not seen as a diversion but rather as a practical way of accommodating what is a problem created by the bill but not intended. The people who sponsor these events are not the culprits. If we as legislators can avoid making them victims, we ought to do so. The spirit behind the amendment is to give them that little extra time.
Tobacco Act March 4th, 1997
Motion No. 34
That Bill C-71 be amended by adding, after line 23 on page 22, the following:
"Coming into Force
- Subsections 24(2) and (3) come into force on October 1, 1998 or on such earlier day the Governor in Council may fix by order."
Petitions February 21st, 1997
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 and on behalf of my colleague, the hon. member for Labrador, who would normally present this petition were he here today, I am pleased to present a petition from approximately 5,200 residents of the riding of Labrador.
The petitioners point out that current law does not require the screening of passengers prior to boarding an aircraft at class four airports and that airlines have given notice that effective February 28, 1997 the screening of passengers will not take place at Goose Bay or Wabush airports in Labrador. They point out that due to this action the safety of the travelling public will be jeopardized.
They call on Parliament to enact legislation which will make the screening of passengers mandatory at all airports, ensuring that the safety of people when flying in Canada is maintained as priority number one.
I support the petition and I am pleased to present it on behalf of my colleague, the hon. member for Labrador.
Questions On The Order Paper February 12th, 1997
Could the Minister of Health provide a detailed explanation of the effect of the newly adopted population health approach on existing initiatives currently aimed directly at groups adversely affected by family violence?
Questions On The Order Paper February 12th, 1997
Could the Minister of Health specify what initiatives will replace those funded under Phase II of Canada's drug strategy when it ends in March, 1997, and in particular, will there be an ongoing role for the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse?