House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was economic.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question is very interesting but also very complex. It should be asked to the responsible minister during Oral Question Period. I urge the hon. member to do just that in order to get an answer which I cannot provide in the time allotted to me. Generally speaking, my answer is the same as the one I already gave to the member for Québec-Est. The Minister of Finance's budget will provide a more detailed answer to that question.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate the hon. member for Davenport on his re-election. He was an accomplished opposition member in the old Parliament. Now he obviously plays a different role on the government side. In that position I would like him to clarify his remarks on a couple of items.

He spoke about the need to preserve programs for seniors and also his opposition to tax breaks. Would he support his government's musings about possibly cutting seniors programs by cutting the RRSP? This is one seniors program that is well funded and secure in this country. Does he support that examination?

Also on the old age security, now that he is a government member does he support the previous Parliament's actions introducing a clawback to old age security? Does he expect his government to bring a repeal of that in the upcoming budget? If the government does not, would he be prepared to vote against that budget?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the measure introduced by the Conservative Party in the latter part of the 34th Parliament, the RRSP program has been distorted to such an extent that it provides a considerable tax advantage to high income Canadians and provides no advantage at all to Canadians in the lower income brackets. I therefore urge that this distortion be removed and that the loss in tax revenue be restored to the advantage of the overall revenue of the federal exchequer.

As to old age security, I believe that society is best served by a system in which we all contribute and where on reaching retirement age we all share in receiving the pension we have contributed to. In the case of the old age security to which we do not contribute directly, it is my belief that it should be redistributed to all Canadians equally regardless of income.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to talk to the people of the riding of Mercier who gave me and the Bloc Quebecois such a huge majority and such a clear mandate to defend their interests and those of the whole province of Quebec in this House. I want to thank them for the confidence they have shown in me and I will try at all times to be worthy of their trust.

The riding of Mercier is located in the easternmost part of Montreal and it has suffered a great deal as a result of all the changes in the world economy. This riding is currently undergoing major changes and is in desperate need of a good employment policy, and that is what I want to talk about this afternoon.

I cannot help expressing the emotion I feel as I begin my first speech in this House, thinking about the forced union of 1840 when the patriots, companions of Louis-Joseph Papineau, ceased to be Canadians to become French Canadians just as the English became English Canadians.

The patriots who became French Canadians-and we know that Lafontaine was one of them and so was Laurier-had no other choice but to accept colonial government and to try to make alliances with members representing Upper Canada. And that is exactly what they did.

As a person with an active and abiding interest in history, I can testify that French Canadians have done everything to try to take their place in Canada. Individually they were successful, in some cases, although assimilation was sometimes the price they had to pay. As Quebecers they were not.

Mr. Speaker, let me explain, as others before me have done, why so many Quebecers see sovereignty as the only future for Quebec. I think the members of this House would find it worthwhile to listen to what I have to say and I think they should understand what is going on in a part of Canada's territory that has 25 per cent of its population.

The success of the Bloc Quebecois has made it abundantly clear that although placed in a minority positions, the Canadiens, later French Canadians and then Quebecers-in Quebec-were able to maintain their collective identity in the face of series of constitutional set-backs.

Today, members of the Bloc Quebecois form the Official Opposition because they represent a founding people that was never recognized as such. Members of the Bloc Quebecois can neither come to power nor govern Canada but they can testify to a truth that has long been denied and is nevertheless one that all Canadians must face: there are two countries in Canada. Quebec, like it or not, is that other country.

Mr. Speaker, it was not revenge for what happened in the past that led Quebecers, for the first time in their history, to elect as their representatives in the House of Commons a strong contingent of sovereignist members who campaigned as such. It was to prepare for the future in a Quebec with sufficient powers to use its resources to meet its own tremendous needs.

Today, standing before my peers and constituents, the people of Mercier and all of Canada, I want to start by discussing poverty and unemployment in Quebec. As I describe the extent of these conditions, I think you will understand why so many Quebecers became sovereignists in order to deal effectively and quickly with this catastrophe. This is an emergency, Mr. Speaker.

Quebec's pervasive unemployment, structurally higher than in Ontario, does not even give the whole picture of the devastating impact of federal policies. To really understand the difference between Ontario and Quebec, we should talk about the employment rate, the number of people in the labour force and the number of people who have jobs, and then we see the difference in wealth and development that separates the two so-called central provinces which have been indiscriminately attacked by the other Canadian provinces.

Mr. Speaker, high unemployment, a low job rate and an unusually high percentage of Canada's poor: that is the picture, and it shows us how economic conditions have affected social development. Without the economic picture, Quebec's participation in the federation might be seen only in terms of social expenditures. We must conclude that preventing economic development in Quebec has created a condition of apparent under-development which has had a profound impact on society itself.

And now for some history. You will recall that poverty levels in Quebec were measured and compared, probably for the first time, and in any case it was the first time they were compared with the rest of Canada, by the Boucher Commission. Some of you may remember this. In 1963, the commission concluded that Quebec, with, at the time, 28 per cent of the population of Canada, received a little over 36 per cent of the benefits paid in Canada under the new Unemployment Insurance Act.

This week, Mr. Speaker, the Montreal Island School Board published a report containing figures that are absolutely devastating for Quebec. I read the whole report last night.

For the first time since Statistics Canada has been gathering data, Quebec has the dubious privilege of being the poorest in Canada. Quebec has the largest number and the largest proportion of families living below the poverty line. In fact, the situation is worse than Newfoundland and New Brunswick which used to compete for this dreadful ranking. There is, in Quebec, a little over 25 per cent of the Canadian population, but almost a third of low income families.

The data from the 1991 census show that the Montreal area, among 25 areas considered, has the largest proportion of low income families. I might add that when we talk about the Montreal area, we include not only the island, but also the surrounding suburbs which have been remarkably richer for a long time. This gives you an idea of the standard of living in the city of Montreal and especially in some or its neighbourhoods. The situation is untenable. We can conclude that the years of the quiet revolution, which we are so proud of, although they did produce development, did not alter the distribution of wealth between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Poverty and relative under-development have a great deal of impact on social development.

The Minister of Human Resources will understand the social significance of the Canadian Assistance Plan, which pays 50 per cent of all welfare payments, and other cost-sharing programs of which Canada is so proud. We should add that this program has also contributed to maintain poverty rather than reduce it. Generally speaking it has increased Quebec's dependency on the rest of Canada and the dependency of individuals on society.

The Boucher report highlighted three main reasons why Quebec is poorer: its economic development, its share of the GDP, a poor state of health and mentalities in general. In its conclusion, it called mainly for what we would describe today as a full employment policy. To recognize as fundamental the right

to last recourse assistance could, in no way, contribute to the fight against unacceptable poverty levels.

It remains true; last recourse assistance can only be that. Having stated this truism, I feel compelled to state that the Canada Assistance Plan is partly to be blamed for this dependency. For example, because of the CAP, in the 1980's, Quebec was unable to claim 50 per cent of the assistance it wanted to give low income workers to help them stay in the work force. Under this plan, assistance could not be given to people who did not pass the needs test. In other words, Canada only supports helping the poor as long as they do not try to escape the poverty cycle, lose hope and give up their minimum wage job, and make the smart decision, moneywise, to go on welfare.

The way the federal government has managed unemployment insurance has led to the misuse of social programs, with the blessing of the federal government, since the 1970's; it has set up and financed short-term employment programs with no other way out than unemployment insurance. Lise Poulin-Simon and Diane Bellemare, two writers well known in Quebec for their work on full employment, stated in their first book entitled Le plein emploi, pourquoi? that neither government has any interest financially in investing in job creation since the other level stands to reap more benefits from the spin-off. Quite an important finding!

Beyond the totally negative impact of federal policies on the Quebec economy, redistribution policies have had perverse effects which, far from rectifying disparities, have had a tendency to maintain them and to keep people in a state of dependency and poverty.

I hope the House now has a better understanding of why Quebec has always wanted to repatriate all powers in the area of income security, including management of the unemployment insurance program. Using accountability as an excuse, the federal government has always insisted on keeping complete control over the funds it received and redistributed for social programs; in doing so, it maintained and even increased the gaps instead of decreasing them.

As critic for human resources, as a human being interested in the fate of ordinary people and the poor, wherever they are, I will not fight only against poverty and unemployment in Quebec. To be effective, though, we must first determine how to proceed. The fight against unemployment and poverty is a matter of collective will. Whether we like it or not, we must rely on the authorities in place and count on community participation. The solutions recommended for Quebec will not necessarily be valid for the rest of Canada, but already some broad lines are emerging.

In a recent proposal the Economic Recovery Commission of Newfoundland said, and the premier of that province concurred, that the unemployment insurance program and the various social programs should be managed jointly. In spite of the interest on the part of the Minister for Human Resources Development, I am not sure this reform will be possible without modifying the Constitution and renegotiating the plan in depth.

Even now we can imagine that the Newfoundland proposal would require a joint management headed by regional authorities who would take into account the specifics of each area. Premier Clyde Wells, the gravedigger of the Meech Lake Accord, could find himself asking for more than what he thought then could not be given to Quebec.

A secondary issue, which is nevertheless at the heart of the debate on social policies, concerns the accountability of the federal government for the amounts redistributed under their spending power. I take this occasion to mention that Premier Jean Lesage's negotiation for tax point repatriation in 1964 ultimately led to the establishment of the famous national standards, which caused the aberrations mentioned earlier.

In fact, if the federal government cannot redistribute the wealth without monitoring the application of national standards, it appears that Canada will be forced to choose between two equally serious evils, namely inefficiency which would be costly in economic, fiscal and social terms, or a basic inequality between regions and people in Canada. All the rest is simply talk.

Let us take, for instance, what we call the full employment policy in Quebec, and which could be called a labour-market active policy, a policy supported and promoted by many groups in Quebec and by the Parti Quebecois. Such a policy could not be applied in Quebec within the Canadian framework because the inherent overlapping, duplication and the consequent incapacity to take the right decision at the right moment are an obstacle to the maximization of social and economic efforts focused on employment. Could the other provinces that accept centralization hope for a Canadian policy of full employment that would be efficient? Of course, that is our hope.

It must be said that the prosperity enjoyed by Ontario and, at times, by Alberta, on which the Canadian redistribution system is based, is due only to the fact that all government policies converged to create this industrial complex and the many jobs associated with it that make Ontario by far the richest province, in spite of the tough recession it went through.

For cultural and linguistic reasons, this Canadian strategy does not work in Quebec. These last few years, Quebec has based its development on the creation of many consultation mechanisms. Unions, businesses, regional organizations and

governments have learned to consult with each other. These mechanisms, however, have not yet yielded their full results, far from it, because they are deprived of the decision-making powers which are in Ottawa, whose policies even sometimes work at cross-purposes.

Remember the sad story of occupational training? Many people in Quebec are becoming sick and tired of waiting for projects to materialize, of the waste of time and effort caused by duplication, the incredibly slow decision-making process and this federal-provincial morass that stifles every initiative. Quebec has one project that must be implemented soon.

As the Premier of Quebec said only yesterday, it is absolutely essential for the federal government to transfer quickly to Quebec responsibility for manpower development, including responsibility for unemployment insurance.

The Bloc intends to put up a strong defence of social programs, but bearing in mind that if there are no jobs at the end of the tunnel, all these people who want to stand on their own two feet at last will never be able to do so. We believe our social programs can be improved, but when the Department of Finance discusses social programs in terms of what can be cut and how to reduce the deficit, improvement is hardly the word.

Let us get this straight: if we want to get rid of the disincentive aspect of certain programs without exposing people in need to greater insecurity, we are not saving money, but increasing costs, at least temporarily. When we want to help people get training and create their own jobs and become employable, we have to invest the required money. If we want them to be productive during the time they are unemployed, we have to invest in counselling and training and financial support. And above all, if we want to boost employment, our regulatory framework and our monetary, economic and trade and regulatory policies should be such that they do not undermine the process.

The Minister of Human Resources Development will also have to take a clear stand. Either the reforms he has in mind are aimed at reducing costs, as the Department of Finance says quite firmly in its document, or he really wants to help the unemployed find jobs, and in that case, he will not be able to save money on social programs.

There is a dramatic gap, emphasized by a harsh recession, between those who want to cut social programs and, being rich, have never experienced insecurity or lacked money, and those who want to improve the effectiveness of these programs and who may, at any time, be obliged to use them for a certain period of time. The first group only thinks about the deficit. The second group considers the need to survive in a country going through tremendous economic changes, where there are no guarantees that the loss of many lucrative jobs would be compensated by promises of fantastic jobs in various technology sectors.

Canada must decide whether it wants to be like countries in Western Europe or like the United States, where wealthy neighbourhoods are surrounded by high walls and protected by armed guards, or like European countries where capitalism has realized it is in its interests to have an effective security net.

Mr. Speaker, you can tell the Minister of Human Resources and Development that he can count on my unqualified support whenever he wants to help people in need, but I will make every effort to be as fierce a parliamentarian as he was in the Opposition, whenever he deviates from this path. The people of the riding of Mercier, Quebecers and Canadians can count on my support in this respect.

Our party will vote against the sub-amendment moved by the hon. member for Calgary South West, because we cannot accept conditional limits on government spending, and in any case these spending proposals would first have to be submitted for scrutiny by a parliamentary committee.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

January 20th, 1994 / 4:10 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Mac Harb LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member of the Bloc Quebec for her rather interesting speech. I was intrigued by a number of points she raised, in particular the question of the administration of different provincial programs as compared to federal programs. In point of fact, several of these programs come under joint federal-provincial jurisdiction. Manpower training programs are just one example. The hon. member said that everywhere in the world, people are talking about the need for free trade and worker mobility.

Would it not be important to have a national manpower training standard which would allow federal and provincial governments to work together, instead of at cross-purposes?

As far as economic development is concerned, I would simply like to mention to my hon. colleague that study after study has shown that in every country of the world, economic development is truly a function of the education system. For instance, Japan's economic development is a function of its education system. The same holds true for Germany. As far as Canada is concerned, I say that in order to have strong, confident and sufficient economic development, we have to make education our number one priority.

I would like to point out to my hon. colleague that under the Canadian Constitution, education is the responsibility of the provinces. There is nothing to stop any province or territory in Canada from making education its top priority and from initiat-

ing a dialogue on this subject to ensure that its education system meet the needs of the private sector and of the public.

I can assure my hon. colleague that if this kind of action is taken, one of the troublesome economic issues in the province of Quebec will be addressed. The same thing is true for all of the other provinces. Therefore, we must start by focusing our attention and our energies on the education system.

While we are on the subject of manpower training, I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Minister responsible. I believe this government will initiate an extraordinary, and even historic, dialogue on, among other things, training and unemployment insurance administration.

I believe that all members of this House have an extraordinary opportunity to work together to draft an action plan for the next ten, twenty and even fifty years. Canada will continue to be not only the best country in the world, but also the strongest from an economic standpoint.

Could my hon. colleague tell me how she sees the issue of worker mobility in relation to her proposal for administering unemployment insurance and manpower training?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to say that we have given a lot of thought to the questions you have raised. If Mr. Bouchard was able to speak so forcibly yesterday, it was because it seems to us that the economic situation is evolving in such a way-with culture being more and more closely associated with the major issues-that the solution we are proposing is increasingly called for.

You said yourself about education that the OECD keeps saying that what is important now above all is education and that performance-oriented countries invest in education. That is right, education is under the jurisdiction of Quebec. The federal government however is the only level of government to have the spending power, even if it has been using it to put us all deeper and deeper into debt, to force provinces into arrangements.

It is therefore obvious that the federal government will want to have its say in the area of education, while we, in Quebec, we will want them to interfere as little as possible because our very survival depends on it. In fact, we want to get away from survival and start to live. That is what we want. We have had it with survival. We have had it with overlapping responsibilities and the fights surrounding the issue. We cannot wait to get projects under way.

We are in a real mess right now. I am only expressing a wide- spread opinion. There are people literally fidgeting with impatience. We are frustrated because things are not moving. The SQDM is getting nowhere these days for lack of funds and agreements. The Deputy Minister assured me last week that all was well-read nothing is happening. Education is indeed a major issue. What do they do about it? They cut.

Of course, the issue of mobility is important too. But you have to understand that what we want in Quebec is development. Francophones account for 2 per cent of the population in North America, most of them concentrated in one area. So, to be able to live as francophones, we need to develop the labour pool to its fullest. We have developed plenty of means, projects I would call them. What we need now to implement them are funds. It is not that funds are not available, but they are often earmarked for other things, and we want to be able to spend them as we see fit.

I just want to say that this debate is useful to promote understanding between Canadian political parties.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


David Berger Liberal Saint-Henri—Westmount, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will perhaps have an opportunity to participate in this debate in the coming weeks.

I listened with interest to the member's speech, but I think that in it she ignored globalization. Her economic analysis is quite simplistic; of course, she blames poverty on our federal system without considering the economic changes throughout the world which Quebec and Canada as a whole cannot help but feel.

I must say that I also find it rather funny to see how she as a federal member of Parliament wants to pass off responsibilities given to her by her constituents. Why not make recommendations to improve the unemployment insurance program instead? The minister is here and he would probably listen with interest to her suggestions or those of her colleagues. But no, her solution as a newly elected federal member is to transfer all responsibilities to the Government of Quebec.

Does she not recognize that the federal government has an important role to play in economic interdependence and mobility, as my colleague said a few minutes ago, and the distribution of wealth? Does she not recognize, as the Prime Minister said today, that giving Quebec full power to manage unemployment insurance would deprive Quebecers of important resources that could come from the total wealth of Canada?

Those are some questions that come to mind, Mr. Speaker. I will have a chance to ask some more in the coming days.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

I would say that on the contrary, globalization shows that we need to go ahead with this plan in Quebec. Wherever we look, the way to react to these new requirements is to decide locally, on the basis of the local advantages which we

must put to good use. As History has shown, this globalization of the economy will be matched by regional specialization.

We are not at all going against the current. I would say that on the contrary, look at what is happening now where they are organizing to compete. European countries are still sovereign. They have kept their sovereignty but are working together. As a sovereign power, we would be delighted to agree with you on standards that we would consider necessary.

I would like to say a word if I may about the management of the unemployment insurance program. Mr. Speaker, you know that there is a consensus in Quebec to get this jurisdiction, although not all of it in the present context. We know Quebec needs to go on developing its economy and make the necessary investments to that end. It is certainly going to do it.

There is one point I would like to respond to. I will not abdicate my prerogatives and I will not back down one single inch in the defence of the rights of my fellow citizens in Quebec and of the Canadian citizens for whom I have accepted to be the official critic, but, in my maiden speech, it is important to explain to members of this House why things change the way they do in Quebec. Just pretending they do not change does not mean they do not.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, let the Minister of Human Resources Development know that we will keep a watchful eye on him and demand the reforms that are needed.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, first my congratulations to you on your new and most honourable and difficult task. We welcome your presence in the chair today.

Also, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Mercier. In her first speech in the House, I appreciated the strength of her convictions, but I am also prepared to co-operate with her in a spirit of collaboration in the process of reforming social security programs. I look forward to that, in fact.

Mr. Speaker, you will recognize that this is not my first speech in the House nor my first throne speech. I still treat each opportunity with a certain frisson. There is an element of excitement.

I want to begin by expressing my thanks to my family who are the great source of my ability to participate in public life. They are a source of great encouragement when I most need it.

This is the International Year of the Family. I hope somewhere along the way the United Nations will reserve a special little spot in its declaration for the political family that provides a service that only those who are involved can fully understand and acknowledge.

Once again I want to thank my electors from the city of Winnipeg who have supported me going into my third decade of public service. It is a great honour to represent them and to speak for them.

As we have talked about in this House, many members are discovering for the first time that they have a telephone with which they can respond to constituents' wishes. For those of us who have been doing it for well over 20 years we recognize that that still is a fundamental task.

I would also like to express a great deal of appreciation for the chance once again of being a member of a government under the present Prime Minister. I have gratitude for the opportunity that he has given me to serve in this post.

I came into politics 22 years ago because I was disturbed by what I saw around me in my neighbourhood, the condition of the children and of the city itself, the poverty that existed.

It is a great tribute to the way our democracy works that eventually one is given the responsibility and mandate for however short a time to fulfil those great hopes that one had many years ago to do something for the people one represents.

In accepting the position of Minister of Human Resources Development, I accepted the mandate of helping all Canadians, Mr. Speaker, be they Atlantic fishermen, poor children in eastern Ontario, unemployed Ontarians, native people on the Prairies or school dropouts in British Columbia.

At that time, all Canadians, not only Quebecers and Westerners, stressed the need for a new social security system that would provide employment and hope.

I speak today not just for those who elected me, not just for the region of Canada which I welcome to represent, but I have the rare opportunity to speak for all Canadians. I ask every member of this House to remember that obligation which brought them here.

I was interested in the comments of the hon. member for Mercier who spoke with great feeling about the problems she sees in her home city and her home province. I say to the hon. member that those problems are shared by Canadians from coast to coast. They are not unique to Quebec. They are not unique to any one region of the country.

Unfortunately, in this time and in this place the problems of unemployment, the lack of security, the feeling of disillusionment, the lack of economic opportunity, are too common. If there is one thing that unifies this country it is that in the last 10 years Canadians have not been given much opportunity to feel they had a place in society. That is why we have an obligation in representing all Canadians to restore that sense of hope and opportunity that still exists.

We talk about the issue of social security. It is interesting that one of the great changes which has taken place in this generation is how people do have a feeling that what used to be a firm base of their existence no longer is there-their jobs. For better or for worse that has been the touchstone of much of what has given people the sense of belonging, of having a sense of dignity.

A survey I read recently showed that close to 50 per cent of Canadians no longer have that sense of security. They do not have it because, in a sense, the future no longer appears to them as one where choices can be made. It appears to them also that the rules of the game in Canada are no longer fair.

My philosophy as a Liberal is that fairness is the principle and justice is at the centre of our society. Each one of us must be given the chance to shape our own life and those of our families in our own way as long as we allow other individuals in society the right to do the same. To make that happen we have to have rules that make sure there is equal opportunity, a sense of fair play and a sense of fairness for everybody.

In the last 10 years that sense of fairness has been lost. Too often there are high paying, stable, good jobs for a minority of Canadians, and insecure, part-time, no jobs for a large portion of Canadians.

We have had growing gaps in income. We have had a shrinking middle class. We have had over a million children facing the situation of poverty. I recall with sadness reading a column in the Globe and Mail which I thought was a very good piece of journalism. It spoke of 40 per cent of Canadian children who go to school today without proper nourishment or nurturing. There is a lot of love being lost in this world because there is nobody there to give it.

When I hear people say to me that we must defend what exists, I ask them to talk to those children who do not have enough to eat, who do not get enough parental care. Talk to the young men and women of this country, a lost generation, who have done everything we have asked them to do. They have gone to school, got a good certificate, a good degree, and have come out into the working world and there is no work for them.

I ask them to talk to the displaced workers in our fishery industries who have seen an entire industry disappear before them. They say: "We do not want to simply collect a cheque every week. We want to put our shoes on every morning and go somewhere where we can make a contribution to society, to our families and to our community, but we are not given the chance". Simply collecting a UI cheque is not good enough. They must be given the hope that UI cheque will lead to decent, hard, serious work in this society. That is why we must make a change.

We hear a great deal of talk about fiscal deficits in Canada. There is a human deficit as well.

There is a lack of resources to invest in Canadians. There is a lack of effective programs that are essential for training, for the unemployed and for welfare.

It would be a serious mistake to wipe the whole slate clean. I do not have a lot of patience for those in the three piece suits who say: "Cut the social programs" when they themselves are not prepared to make any sacrifices. It is not a matter of cutting social programs; it is a matter of going to the root causes of what is wrong in our society and redesigning the programs to meet those causes. That is what the effort of our government will be.

I invite all members to participate. As our friends from the Reform Party say, forget for a moment the ideology or the platform that brought us here. What we are saying is that all of us, every single one of us, have a job to do in this Parliament to help reform the system for Canadians, to once again restore their sense of security, their sense of fairness and their sense of hope. We understand as a government that we have a special responsibility because that was the mandate we were given.

The red book struck a chord when we said that we want a country whose people live in hope, not fear. We want a country where all see themselves as contributors and participants, not liabilities and dependants. We want a country whose adults can find good jobs and whose children can realize their potential. When our Prime Minister speaks about the red book that is the core, that is the spirit. Everyone has a fair chance.

I ask members to refrain from raising alarms of fear. We must go on a basis of trust and confidence. I ask members, in particular because there are many eyes upon this House these days, to treat this subject with the seriousness it deserves. I believe strongly that this is a time when there is a willingness to make serious changes.

I spoke about the red book. We want to clearly signal our intentions to Canadians right at the start. We have proposed a youth service corps. The Secretary of State for Youth and Training has now completed a round of consultations with a variety of users. We will be making announcements within the

next month about a series of projects based upon existing organizations that are prepared to collaborate and help-

-throughout the country-

-in every single part and region.

Our red book also put forward a very clear proposal for a program of apprenticeship. We believe one of the real failures of our present system is that it does not address people during the most vulnerable periods: children before they go to school, young people when they leave school and go into the workplace. That is why the internship program, as I prefer to call it, is designed to make that possible.

Again we have been meeting constantly with a wide variety of private sector groups throughout this country to see if we can bring them in as part of a broad-based program for young people to acquire on the job skills with the co-operation of the employers, government and the educational systems.

I said that to my colleagues on the other side of this House. That is why we must have a national program, because we are sharing the responsibility among all groups, regions and sectors in Canada.

That is not a problem only for them, but for all Canadians, and we need the co-operation of all sectors, all regions, and everyone.

I simply want to signal that in these efforts to target our young people particularly it is the beginning of a much broader approach. That is because we see that we must provide our young people with a virtual guarantee of work, training or education. The world of work has changed so dramatically and so radically that we can no longer expect that a formal education for the first 16 years is enough. We must become a learning society that enables young people and adults alike to constantly recycle their skills and recycle their aptitudes so they can meet the new world of work with competence and vigour.

When we talk about reform of the social security net that is why it also must include serious discussions of training and education as supplied at the federal level. It must be linked with unemployment insurance and it must be linked up with social assistance plans. These are not separate programs. These are not stove pipes that spew smoke into the air. They are all linked together so that we can provide a total fabric of opportunity, of basic standards at which people exist.

That is why one of the first principles of our reform is that it must be comprehensive. We cannot cherry pick any more. We cannot tinker away at one little program after another. That was the problem during the last 10 years. The government was constantly bringing in amendments and changes to unemployment insurance or the Canada Assistance Plan.

Who knows this better than the leader of the opposition who was a member of the government that was always changing social programs when he was a member of that government. He would recognize now that it was a mistake to do it that way. We must do it in a broad comprehensive way.

We must also do it in a way that is transparent and public. The time has come that we can no longer have private agendas. That is why it is the commitment of this government to ensure that in the reform of our social security system, our programs on training and employment, social assistance and the unemployment insurance and student aid, the place for decision and discussion will be here in Parliament.

This will be the place where the decisions and dialogue take place. This will be the place where Canadians have the opportunity to express their views and be heard. I hear members opposite say that we must make Parliament important and that they have all kinds of mechanical solutions. The real way to make Parliament important is to discuss important things in Parliament and make sure that Canadians see that this is the place where the vital interests of their lives will be discussed, debated and decided. That is why the fundamental right of social security will be a primary issue of this House over the next year. You have our commitment on that.

We also must make sure that the proposals, solutions and ideas that we have are Canadian-made. We have taken great pride in this country over the years. We have made real progress.

Contrary to the comments made by the hon. member for Mercier, we have made much progress for the elderly. We have increased old age security and the progress made in our country results from the efforts made by the federal government and the provinces.

That is a real accomplishment.

We have also been able to say to our young people in large part that we provided good opportunities for education. We have provided a real fundamental security foundation during times of recession.

Now the times have changed and we must change with them. We must change our programs. We must begin to look at Canadian-made solutions. One constant irritation I had sitting on the opposite side over the last nine or ten years was when ministers of the crown at that time would bring in solutions to economic problems that they had borrowed from somebody else. They were always using somebody else's model, somebody else's idea and somebody else's ideology. It is time once again that Canadians were responsible for designing a social security

system that gives them a sense of their own identity and their own importance.

I see your signal, Mr. Speaker, and I respect that, but I want to make this final case. I believe that if we do our work well, bring the different voices of Canada together to sing in a single chorus and if we give and restore a sense of hope to a lot of Canadians then nothing will be a stronger unifier. Nothing will bring us together more and nothing will give Canadians a greater sense of hope and opportunity than if their members of Parliament from all regions and everywhere in Canada are working together to build a system that will be distinctly Canadian. That will give Canadians a sense of who we are and what we can do and bring that special touch that we have brought to the world so often: compassion, understanding and humanity.

That will say to all Canadians that this is why we are different. We are not different because we take different stands from other countries but because we are able to design for Canadians the way we want to live and give people once again, in this great tumult that we face around the world, a feeling that this is a place that belongs to them and that everybody has a fair chance.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister. I heard the speech of the Minister of Human Resources Development and, listening to him, you would think that everything is just fine in our country. Workers' productivity seems adequate as well as the competitive edge of our businesses; in fact, the need to fundamentally improve our competitiveness in light of the globalization of markets and, consequently, the productivity of Canadian workers, seems to have been overlooked by the minister.

Does the minister not agree that it is time to fundamentally change the Canadian approach regarding the training and development of human resources? Indeed, with two levels of government, the Canadian system is one of duplication and overlapping in the field of human resources, occupational training, business training and revenue security, which includes unemployment insurance where there are two employment offices and some 40 standards for 12 or 14 programs.

I ask the minister if he would be prepared, given that action is required urgently regarding job creation and the development of the productivity of workers in Quebec as well as everywhere in Canada, to consider offering to each province that the federal level withdraw from every field dealing directly or indirectly with the implementation of a genuine labour-market policy by the provinces? In so doing, the federal government would satisfy Quebec's claim for a single window which would be managed by the Quebec government, offering at the same time a new opportunity to all Canadian provinces. Quebec would thus be satisfied but would also be in a position to respond to the emergency in unemployment and could hope to develop its labour market, at least in the short term, until its sovereignty becomes a fait accompli through the democratic process.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, when I spoke earlier, I did not say that everything was fine. Quite the contrary. I expressed my concern about poverty in Canada and about the lack of job training for young people. Perhaps the hon. member was otherwise occupied, but I did indeed stress in my speech that this was a serious problem for Canada.

The solution to this problem, however, is not to divide, but to unite Canada and to work together to find a solution. Of course there should be good discussions with the provinces as they are after all our partners in this great process of reform. At the same time, the problem of duplication is a good point to consider within the broad framework of social reform. Training initiatives cannot be considered separately from unemployment insurance or social assistance measures.

As the Prime Minister stated during question period, if funds for training were transferred right away, Quebec would lose considerably in terms of per capita allocations. I do not think Quebecers want to receive less support from the Canadian government.

I would like to have a productive meeting with the new Quebec ministers of Labour and Manpower, just as I would like to have the same discussion with the other ministers. In fact, I am thinking about meeting with all of the ministers some time in February and this would be the time for discussions between the two levels of government. Then we would have a good idea of the duplication problems that exist.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his speech and congratulate him on his perennial re-election in his constituency of Winnipeg South Centre along with his appointment to cabinet in an important post which reflects a great deal of confidence in him on the part of his party and leader.

We welcome the attempts that the government will be making to create a comprehensive social security system and to encourage open discussion of this in Parliament.

Recently the Ministry of Finance released a document that showed our unemployment insurance program to be one of the

most generous in the world. This can create serious disincentives to upgrade skills, to work and to move to find work.

I would like the minister to comment on whether he agrees with that assessment of the unemployment insurance system. Assuming he does, would he share with Parliament his view on what features a new comprehensive social security program would have to combat those problems in the unemployment insurance system?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the hon. member's good wishes. We will certainly be in need of those as time progresses.

I look forward to the full co-operation of his caucus in this period of very substantial reform we wish to undertake.

There is the question of unemployment insurance. Over the years the evolution of that program has gone from one that provided temporary assistance to workers who were in between jobs to one that has provided a great deal of income security. This is especially so in industries where there are a lot of seasonal variations and where we have had to deal with very serious disruptions.

We are facing this now in the fishing industry. There have been times in his own province in the resource industry, in forestry and in the oil and gas industry where the unemployment insurance system has been an extraordinarily important base of support. It has also been a very important element in making the labour market work.

If I may be allowed one small digression. One of the false divisions we have in our country is that there is a thing called social policy and a thing called economic policy. That is not so. Good social policy leads to good economic policy and vice versa. If there are workers who feel that they have some security and some ability to move and change jobs then that helps the labour market work.

Therefore, I would say to the hon. member that there are some problems with unemployment insurance. There is no question that over time the program no longer meets many of the requirements. One of the things our Prime Minister has talked about and we feel strongly about is how to begin to make some transformations to have a system of employment insurance where the form of income security is designed to allow people to move back into the labour market, to create new work and to get new employment opportunities.

However, that must be linked up with the social assistance programs and the training programs. One cannot divorce them. That is really why I ask members opposite once again to agree with us. If we are going to make these reforms we must do them together. There are linkages in all the programs. Stop thinking for a moment about unemployment insurance or the Canada assistance plan or student aid. Think for a moment about the problems I outlined of displaced workers, changes in industry, new demographics and the problems of young people. If we start identifying the real root causes of those problems then we can begin to design the programs to meet them. That will be the intent of this Parliament.

I can say to the hon. member that he should get his shoes on because he is going to be running fast very soon.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to participate in this debate on the speech from the throne.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Speaker on his being elected as Speaker of the 35th Parliament. Indeed, I would like to pass on my congratulations to the Deputy Speaker. I want to assure the Speaker that we will endeavour to make your job easier and you can always count on us.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission since this is my maiden speech in this Chamber, I would like to dedicate my remarks today to the memory of my late father, Glen Johnston, who served from 1952 until 1967 in the Alberta legislature, in fact in the party that the Prime Minister this morning referred to as the grandfather of the Reform Party. In those years he served as the member of the legislature for Ponoka-Rimby.

It is my pleasure to carry on the legacy of hard work and caring support of his constituents, many of whom I represent today. To those people of the federal constituency of Wetaskiwin I thank them for their overwhelming support and their vote of confidence in me. I would like to assure them that I am dedicated to serving them and their interests in this House.

Let me say a little bit about the constituency of Wetaskiwin. It is located in central Alberta just north of the constituency of Red Deer and south of the Edmonton ridings. We are bounded on the north and northwest by the North Saskatchewan River and the terrain varies from heavily treed areas to the west to the prairie-like grain fields on the east. I am proud to say that we are a resource rich area. Agriculture, gas and oil are the engines that drive our economy. Our rich farmland is ideal for raising prime Alberta beef.

The Ponoka Stampede is an annual event. It is the second largest stampede in the west. I would like to invite the Speaker of the House and all members to join us on the Canada Day weekend for an exceptional stampede and rodeo.

Over the last year I have travelled extensively throughout the constituency speaking with many people and the message was loud and clear. People are concerned about the economic future of Canada and what kind of Canada their children and grandchildren are going to inherit.

Two days ago His Excellency the Governor General delivered the government's plan for the next four years to anxiously waiting Canadians. The election results from across Canada indicated a desire to depart from the status quo and it would appear the government MPs received the same message. I would like to congratulate this government for embarking on a path of dialogue and consensus.

We commend the initiative to cut $5 million from the House of Commons budget. I am pleased that the government acted on a few of the suggestions contained in the Reform Party's paper on pensions and perks. We encourage the Minister of Finance to incorporate our other recommendations in his budget.

The Canadian public have lost faith in their politicians. It is time for the elected people to win back that trust. Being elected does not mean that we are automatically respected. We have to earn back that trust.

Canadians have the right to expect their representatives to act with dignity and decorum of office. An end to double dipping and a limit of age 55 before MPs can collect their pensions would be steps in the right direction.

The whole issue of MPs' pensions, however, must be addressed. The voters told us that they would no longer settle for a plan that gives members of Parliament substantially more than average Canadians. The Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act must be overhauled, not just tinkered with. It must be brought into line with the private sector.

The MPs' pension plan is not self-supporting. How can we in good conscience ask the overburdened Canadian taxpayer to pay for this generous retirement plan? I cannot, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you feel the same way.

Canadians are looking to this government to restore their hope and to restore their jobs. The widely acclaimed $6 billion infrastructure program must be recognized for what it really is, a joint project equally funded by the federal government, the provinces and the municipalities. This short term project will cost the taxpayer threefold. There may be three levels of government participating in this scheme but there is still only one taxpayer.

The talk of creating jobs and restoring confidence are only small steps in encouraging economic growth. We can no longer tell small business people that they can be the impetus to get the economy moving while they remain overburdened with heavy taxes.

The government plans to replace the goods and services tax, but what with? The GST, the most despised tax in Canadian history, does provide almost $15 billion in net revenue. This is an issue that the Reform members on the finance committee are looking forward to tackling. Earlier today my colleague from Calgary Centre suggested that this caucus supports and proposes to replace the goods and services tax with a flat tax system.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

A single tax.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Sounds good to me.

My concept of Canada is a Canada economically strong and self-reliant. If we are ever to achieve self-reliance we must eliminate the federal deficit. This year alone the deficit could reach $46 billion. The national debt has topped the $500 billion mark and it increases by $85,600 a minute. The time has come to take serious steps to control spending. Federal departments are still spending on frivolous, unnecessary schemes.

Here is an example. Just the other day there was a news report stating that federal government departments had commissioned videos that had cost the taxpayers of Canada $18 million. Couple this and other examples of irresponsible spending highlighted in the Auditor General's report and one comes up with a soap opera that stumps the average Canadian. This has to stop.

The government must put a halt to this type of luxury spending. The Canadian taxpayer cannot afford it, Mr. Speaker, and your constituents and mine deserve better.

I want to ask this government how it plans to control departmental spending. The new initiatives announced in the throne speech are commendable and worthwhile, but can we afford them? Who is going to pay for them? Will we have to borrow more money and increase the debt load in order to pay for these programs?

All parties in this House acknowledge that we must reduce the deficit but we differ in the method. In my view, we will never accomplish this task unless we face up to the reality that we simply cannot continue to live beyond our means. Canadians do not want to rely on the government for their retirement so it worries me when I hear that this government is considering the elimination of the capital gains tax exemptions. Does this also mean that the $500,000 capital gains tax exemption for farmers and small businesses will be axed?

People who work for large corporations and governments often have access to a pension plan, but the farmer and the small business person does not. Most often, he or she counts on the sale of assets accumulated over a lifetime to finance retirement and maintain their financial independence.

We must undertake a joint effort to deliver the best possible representation to the people of Canada. It is important to ensure that we are productive and co-operative in order not only to make this Parliament function better but also appear to function better, in a less offensive manner.

The constituents of Wetaskiwin can expect availability, accountability and austerity from me. What I plan to deliver is the same kind of representation they may have received from my dad.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Wetaskiwin on his introductory speech to the House.

Because we are only an hour away from having to make a decision on his party's amendment to the speech from the throne I wonder if he would be so kind as to respond to some questions I have concerning the proposal to put a cap on expenditures.

In spite of the fact that this House in the last Parliament passed such a law introduced by the then Minister of Finance, Don Mazankowski, member for Vegreville, we had the largest deficit overrun that has ever occurred in this country. I am wondering why he or his party think that a repeat of that absolutely useless kind of legal requirement from this House, that absolutely ineffective law and direction, is going to work this time.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Certainly there is no chance of it ever working unless we place a spending cap on the budget, live by it and plan to honour it.

To ignore the problem certainly is not going to be the answer either so let us all recognize that this is a problem, but not a revenue problem. My party believes very strongly that we do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. That is the way you would run your business. That is the way I would run my business. If I find that the income does not balance the expenditures the first thing I have to do is look at my expenditure side of the ledger.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Laurentides has two and a half minutes. Does the hon. member wish to ask a question or make a comment?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment. This being the first time I have the floor, I would like to congratulate you on your election.

As for expenditures-

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It seems that you are not interested in asking the member for Wetaskiwin a question, but rather that you would like to resume debate. Is that right?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

I have no question but rather a comment.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Then I think that according to the understanding between the parties, the member for Fraser Valley West has the floor now.