House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

My question will be very brief, Mr. Speaker. Among other things, the Minister of Industry said that efforts had to be focussed on creating and strengthening small and medium size business. Are the nearly 50,000 farmers in Canada who have invested in excess of $1 million in their operations the kind of small and medium size businesses that he would like to promote?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Québec-Est on his maiden speech in the House. It is never easy to speak in this Chamber for the first time. He will find that things get easier after a few years.

I find the hon. member's comments rather odd. Canada accounts for approximately 3 per cent of world trade. Therefore, when we negotiate within an international forum such as the GATT, a forum that is of truly great importance to Canada and to Quebec as well since our economy is greatly dependent on trade, it is important to find a way to achieve a consensus with everyone.

Now the hon. member has said that he favours sovereignty for Quebec. Judging from his remarks, he seems to think that a sovereign Quebec would not be a part of international organizations such as the GATT. How then does a sovereign Quebec intend to become a player on the world trade scene?

International trade agreements are always a source of problems. There are always winners and losers. It is a difficult situation. Adjustments have to be made. That is always the case.

After all, there is a role to play on the world scene. If Quebec can negotiate a better agreement for the farmers to which the hon. member alluded with the world's trading partners, then I wish it good luck. As the minister of agriculture stated, the government is deeply concerned about the future of Canadian farmers. We also believe very strongly that Canada and Quebec must be members the international trade community.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

I welcome the opportunity to take part in this throne speech debate. At the outset I would like to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon your appointment. I would also like to congratulate our Speaker of the House of Commons upon his election as Speaker of this 35th Parliament.

As someone who is vitally concerned with parliamentary reform I feel we owe a debt of gratitude to those who served on the special committee on reform of the House of Commons in 1984-85 and who recommended the method of election of the Speaker. A Speaker elected by his or her peers in a free vote is ideally placed to serve the needs of this Chamber and its members.

I would also like to congratulate all those who have been elected to serve in this 35th Parliament.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the electors of Mission-Coquitlam, a riding in the heart of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, for seeing fit to send me to Ottawa to serve as their elected representative.

For those of you not familiar with this most beautiful part of our country I can only attempt to describe it. Mission-Coquitlam has a population of approximately 115,000. Its population has grown more than 25 per cent between 1986 and now and

therefore has associated with it all the problems of a growing rural area located close to a thriving metropolis, Vancouver.

Employment in this area is spread among the primary industries of dairy farming, lumber and fishing as well as manufacturing, construction and the wholesale and retail trade required to serve the population.

At this time I would like to just take a few moments to address this House on two government initiatives that, depending on how they are implemented, may or may not be beneficial for my constituents. I understand the government is proceeding with its shared cost, two year, multimillion dollar infrastructure program to upgrade transportation and local services. I trust the moneys to be used for this plan are not new moneys but are already designated as government expenditures and we are dealing here with a simple reallocation of funds and priorities.

I also want to say that such a program would be of great benefit to my riding. Improved transportation and communication links are of vital importance to the industries of Mission-Coquitlam and to our residents, many of whom commute daily to Vancouver in a frustrating two hour, one way trip.

I am concerned that the outcome of the recent GATT discussions may have a detrimental effect on our nation's farming community and in Fraser Valley dairy farming in particular. The recently signed GATT agreement calls for the removal of border restrictions in article XI. This will, we hope, be replaced by a set of import tariffs which will be removed on a graduated scale until eventually completely phased out in approximately 15 years. I trust the government realizes that these tariffs and the long phase out period will be necessary to ease the transition of our supply managed farmers.

This being my first address to this House I would like to take a few moments to reflect upon why I believe so many of us from the Reform Party of Canada were elected on October 25, 1993.

During the past 10 to 15 years a feeling has developed among Canadians that government, the party in power, the opposition parties and the bureaucracy is not serving the needs of the people who are to be served and whose tax dollars pay for this government. The separation between government and the people grew in the last few years because the views of Canadians seem to be ignored by government or, alternatively, there was no means by which Canadians could see that their views were being expressed, especially in this House. This led, I believe, to an unprecedented feeling of frustration in Canadians.

I believe the electorate chose on October 25 a higher standard in political accountability and by their votes requested a role in the policy making process. The people of Canada want their views to be considered and they want to see how their views and interests are reconciled when policy is formed.

I believe the people of Canada are willing to give their trust once again to those of us who are willing to take up this challenge. They want to see politicians who are willing to exercise the courage necessary to state their views publicly, even though they may be contrary to party line. At the same time the public wants to see courage exercised by our leaders so that dissent may be publicly expressed without fear of retribution.

I am privileged to have been chosen as the chairperson of our caucus committee on parliamentary reform. In the short time I have been here I have had the opportunity to study this subject at some length.

I have come to the conclusion that the first fundamental change we must make in this place does not involve rule changes but lies in an attitudinal change that must be made by the party leadership of this House both on the government and opposition sides.

This change in attitude relates to allowing private members, back bench MPs, to exercise some measure of independence from the party line when voting on measures in this House.

Freer voting among members requires only attitudinal change. However such a change in attitude would send a signal to the people of Canada that we as politicians are listening and are reflecting their views in our decision making.

I want to make it clear at this point that I am speaking about freer voting which means a relaxation of the established informal rule that private members vote the party line on all legislative matters.

This is to be distinguished from free votes when the party leadership actually tells members that on a particular piece of legislation they are free to vote either for or against it.

The declaration of free votes by the leadership of this House does not solve the problem of exercising independence by the members. It is my understanding that in our Canadian political system the leadership of political parties have taken the confidence convention to extremes. It has been linked to a view whereby virtually all votes both in committee and in the House of Commons are matters of confidence so that any member who votes against the wishes of the leadership, whether that member is in government or opposition, is being disloyal and is subject to reprimand.

A simple review of the voting practices in Great Britain illustrates that this does not have to be the case. In recent times backbench independence has been asserted with members voting against the party line. In some cases this defeats government legislation. Once this independence was exercised it could not be stopped and has successfully resulted in allowing members to influence the public policy agenda. It is important to note that punishment by the party leadership did not materialize. A participatory attitude prevailed.

What I am saying today is not new. Attitudinal change in relation to the confidence convention and freer voting was one of the major recommendations of the special committee on reform of the House of Commons in 1985. This committee even went so far as to categorize the types of confidence votes so that on all other matters private members, at least on the government side, would feel free to vote against the government position without fear of bringing down the government.

It is appropriate to recognize that today's Minister of Foreign Affairs represented the Liberal Party and the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona represented the NDP on that committee.

While in opposition the government participated in other committees and advanced a policy paper on January 19, 1993 on reform of the House of Commons. This also formed part of the red book giving more freedom to members to voice their concerns in the House.

Leadership on this issue must come from the government. A clear statement should be made by the Prime Minister that dissent will be allowed and only certain legislative matters will be looked upon as confidence matters requiring strict party discipline.

It must also be made clear that anyone exercising independence will not be punished. Opposition parties must agree to this so that their members are free to voice their own views. It is also important that opposition parties not treat government members voting against the government line as special or as lightning rods of dissent within the government caucus.

Opposition parties should not call on the government to resign if a few of its members break with party discipline or if the government loses the occasional vote in the House or in committee.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that this change of attitude will require political courage on the part of all concerned. For the first few times that members break with party discipline the media will pounce on the situation as a sign of weak leadership. Political parties must resist the temptation to capitalize on this. In fact they should stress that allowing dissent is a sign of strength.

While we listened with interest to the speech from the throne and the promise of the government to create a greater opportunity for members to contribute to the level of public policy and legislation, I was disappointed that no specifics of how this was to be done were presented.

If members are to become a vital part of the policy making process in committee and in the House then dissent must be allowed to be articulated and occur without retribution.

If this occurs the House of Commons may become a more accurate reflection of Canadian public opinion and the policies of government may become more attuned to the needs of Canadians.

It is unfortunate that the Bloc in its amendment had not dealt with the major issue of parliamentary reform, that is free votes and relaxation of the confidence convention. Then I would have moved a subamendment in this House as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should permit members of the House of Commons to fully represent their constituents' views on the government's legislative program and spending plans, or, by adopting the position that the defeat of any government measure including a spending measure, shall not automatically mean the defeat of the government unless followed by the adoption of a formal motion.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for recognizing me today. I thank the voters of Mission-Coquitlam for placing their trust in me.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the member on her maiden address in the Parliament of Canada. She touched on the very important issue of the freedom of members of Parliament to express the views of their constituents and not be reprimanded.

I rise as a member of the government party to clarify a position of our party. It would be unfair to leave the impression with the viewing audience or Canadians in general that we on the government side do not have the ability to be creative, to debate our views, or even to have the ultimate option of dissenting or not supporting a particular government measure. I want to try to explain the fine line.

In our party we have always been encouraged to work at new ideas and develop policy initiatives. We debate them in our caucus committees and at our policy conventions. From those experiences we ultimately develop a consensus and a party position. Once a party position is taken we have to decide whether or not we want to continue as members of that party.

In our particular case we as members of the Liberal Party signed on to campaign under the red book. It would be inappropriate for us not to support the measures in the red book, seeing as that is in fact what got us elected. However that does not preclude us from participating in debate in committee or in the House.

Having been a member of the past Parliament I just want to say to the member that there was more than one occasion when we constructively debated publicly in the House. Some of us had

different opinions than the party thrust but ultimately when the time came and some of us differed we were not punished. The member mentioned that members could be punished or used as lightning rods. That is mythology. That really does not happen.

The Liberal Party is very vibrant and encourages creativity and debate but ultimately, seeing as we have campaigned on a certain position, it is incumbent upon us to stick with the position that our electorate supported us on.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments regarding my speech. I was very pleased to hear that in fact Liberal members of the House are encouraged to speak freely and to use their own thoughts and ideas in the process of deliberations. I am very encouraged by that.

I want to point out that while I recognize the red book has been used in the campaign and the red book has alluded to certain ideas which I think correspond with many of the Reform ideas, I still feel strongly that there has been much reprimand in the past. We have seen the results of it.

I honestly would like to say here today that allowing MPs to do their jobs in the House and freeing them up to represent their constituents properly can only improve the legislative process.

Differences of opinion are healthy. As long as members are constructive in their criticisms of all members' proposals, all members of the House will witness the parliamentary process as it was meant to be, as it actually has been in the earlier part of this century. The relaxation of the confidence convention will strengthen the proceedings in the House, not weaken them.

I look forward to working with all members of the House, and particularly with the hon. member opposite, in both a co-operative and a constructive way.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, let me offer my sincere congratulations on your appointment to the chair. I also thank your colleagues who are willing to share in the responsibilities of overseeing the proceedings in this Chamber. I take this opportunity to congratulate members on both sides of the House on their election. I look forward to getting to know all of them. I trust we can be friends even if we agree to disagree from time to time.

I also thank my wife, Gail, and our three children, Ehren, Byron and Marlyn, for their love, support and encouragement. They are a big reason why I am here in this Chamber.

Indeed it is a pleasure and a privilege to address the House on behalf of the voters of the federal riding of Kindersley-Lloydminster in west central Saskatchewan who have sent me here to be an agent for constructive change. I thank the residents of Kindersley-Lloydminster who put trust in me by placing an x beside my name. I pledge to work on behalf of all residents of my riding regardless of how they voted.

Last October 25 Canadians from coast to coast sent an unmistakable message to politicians saying: "You had better begin to listen to us like you have never listened before and you had better act on our behalf more responsibly than you have acted in the past, or we will remove you from office".

The results of the last election decimated an old, proud federal political party, sending it the way of the dodo bird. Another party has been delegated to the equivalent of whooping crane status.

Every member in this House, whether Reform, Liberal, Bloc or independent, has thought about the very clear message sent by his constituents. Compared to our predecessors, we have improved our performance. Canadians will accept no less.

I commend the government for many of the reforms it has listed in its speech from the throne. Some reforms it now proposes are the same ones for which Reformers have been working so hard for three, four, five and even six years. I trust our efforts are not in vain now that the government is talking about reform. Talk is a good start but mere talk without substantive action becomes rhetoric, and rhetoric is not what Canadians want from us.

I also join my colleagues who have expressed grave concern that no mention of agriculture or energy was made in the speech from the throne. I hope this is not an indication of the importance the government places on industries vital to Kindersley-Lloydminster.

I was disappointed the government's parliamentary reform measures outlined in the red book and in the speech from the throne overlook one of the most embarrassing institutions of Parliament. Canadians have rightfully called the other place, the Senate of Canada, a disgrace to the nation. Over one-quarter of the legislators in Parliament are not accountable to the people they are supposed to serve. With regard to Parliament and its occupants, second only to the bloated MPs' pensions, my constituents expressed their absolute disgust with the Senate and demanded that something be done about it.

Many Canadians disillusioned with the inability of previous governments to fix this problem are calling for the abolition of the Senate. Just because our political leaders of the past have been unable to find the constitutional key to unlock the gate barring us from Senate reform it in no way precludes us from taking giant steps toward fixing the other place.

Before we look at ways to begin to address the embarrassment of a Senate that does not work, we would be wise to review reasons why the Senate cannot only be useful but invaluable.

Canadians are demanding more balance and fairness in national decision making. Having only a lower House where members are elected by the people has left the most sparsely populated regions of the country like my province of Saskatchewan feeling handicapped when important legislation is debated and passed in Parliament, because no accountable federal institution by its very nature is designed to protect us from the overwhelming political clout of the more heavily populated regions of Canada. For instance, the people of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta had no effective tools to prevent the infamous and unfair national energy program from being foisted upon them by a Liberal government dominated by Ontario and Quebec.

The current infrastructure program which has the economic stimulative capabilities of a one legged kick-boxing sparrow is based on population and unemployment levels and this concerns the residents of Saskatchewan. Our province has suffered severe economic depression for a decade resulting in lost jobs and depreciating infrastructure such as roads.

Saskatchewan people have left the province looking for work rather than going on unemployment insurance or social assistance. With a declining population, low employment rates, high taxes, and deteriorating infrastructure one would think Saskatchewan would be a prime target for the benefits of the government's infrastructure program but in fact the criteria for the program penalizes. I am certain the criteria would be much better if Canada had an elected Senate with equal seats from every province.

The government has the opportunity to take a great leap forward in the cause of Senate reform. We know it can be done because it has been done. One province, Alberta, enacted legislation allowing the people, not the Prime Minister, to indicate their choice in filling a vacant Senate seat. By democratic election at less cost than the cost of political patronage the people of Alberta said they wanted Stan Waters to be their senator to represent their interests in Ottawa.

The Prime Minister of the day was playing a game with dice and one of his moves in the game was to appoint the people's choice to the vacancy in the upper House. He later undid this good by stacking the Senate with friends who lacked commitment to represent people over parties in the GST debate.

The current membership in the Senate is dominated by Conservatives, a party rejected by Canadians right across Canada. Rather than the Prime Minister replacing them with his friends, it is only right that the government give Canadians an opportunity to select women and men to sit in the upper House.

If the Prime Minister and his government really want to move Canada out of the 19th century and into the 21st century, they could take a first step to Senate reform by asking the provinces such as my province of Saskatchewan to pass legislation similar to bill 11 in Alberta. They could then assure that every province with such a measure would see the democratically chosen candidate for the Senate appointed by the Prime Minister to the upper House. This does not require an amendment to our Constitution. What a step forward this would be in the evolution of an elected, equal and effective Senate.

In closing I wish to assure members opposite that Reformers are prepared to support measures the government introduces that will help fix this place. If the government will not fix it then we will wait until the next election and fix it ourselves.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on what was said by the previous speaker, who, I am glad to say, is a member of the Reform Party, because I have the impression that if we consider the causes behind the emergence of the Reform Party in western Canada and the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, there are a number of similarities.

There is of course the aspect of voter dissatisfaction in the west and in Quebec. That explains why these parties suddenly emerged. It is also the very obvious difference between the aspirations of Canadian and Quebec voters, and an apparent inability on the part of the government or governments, and I was going to say the big national parties, to meet people's expectations. I think Canada's very nature makes this inevitable, considering the size of the territory, different needs and the fact that the Conservative and Liberal parties have always insisted on proposing the same solutions from coast to coast.

Where the Bloc and the Reform Party differ is on how to deal with the situation. The Reform Party seems to think it is possible to change the system. Quebecers, after 30 years of attempts at constitutional reform, have concluded, and there is a broad consensus to that effect, that reform is impossible.

Finally, I want to put a question to the previous speaker. He mentioned the Senate, and my question will deal with this institution. At the present time, Senate reform would require the unanimous consent of the provinces. Last summer, in a nationwide survey, more than 60 per cent of Canadians said we should get rid of the Senate.

Considering that the member of the Reform Party seems to be saying his party is concerned with the needs of the people, and considering that the premier of Newfoundland, an old friend of the Prime Minister of Canada, says he will never agree to abolish the Senate, how can the members of the Reform Party of Canada still believe the Canadian system is open to reform?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. What I suggested in my speech, had the hon. member listened, was not a constitutional change to make the Senate more effective but to actually have it elected. We have already had one elected senator in the upper House. He was elected by the citizens of Alberta and appointed by the Prime Minister.

The purpose of my speech was to challenge the government and to challenge our current Prime Minister to follow that precedent and encourage the provinces to pass similar legislation across Canada so we could bring some respect and legitimacy to the Senate. This is so that people who live in the more scarcely populated provinces such as mine would feel that they have somewhere in Parliament to appeal their case and have regional interests heard.

Just to expand a little further yes, with the observations of the hon. member from the Bloc, we are both unhappy with some of the current situations in the country and we are both working to improve them.

However, coming from western Canada, when we have a problem we usually roll up our sleeves and try to fix it. That has been the approach of the Reform Party. If you see a problem, fix it. That is why we are called Reform which means constructive change. We think that Canada is a wonderful country which should contain ten equal provinces, each represented equally in the Senate. We recognize that in some ways Quebec is unique and should have its own cultural and linguistic needs represented at a provincial level.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Prior to resuming debate, this is our first week in this 35th Parliament and we are all learning our new responsibilities. It has come to my attention and I want to share with all members in the House that there is a tradition that we do not refer to the Senate. We refer to it as the other place.

Traditionally, in the House we never refer to the Senate as such. For instance, you could say "the other place". This is just for your information.

It is only for the information of all members that I share this new information I have just discovered, even though this is my second term here.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is truly a pleasure and an honour for me to participate in the throne speech debate. We heard earlier today that one of the Telesat Anik satellites is out of commission. I will ask you to decide in 15 or 20 minutes whether it is good or bad that this is not on live television across the country.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you and your colleagues on your appointment to the Chair. It is my firm belief that you will be presiding over one of the best Parliaments that this country has seen in a long, long time.

I do not agree with the media pundits who refer to this as a potentially fractious Parliament. I do not agree with those who think we are going to be faced with problems day in and day out. I am not naive but from what I have seen so far and in talking to colleagues in my own party and colleagues from other parties everyone I have spoken to has agreed that we have the potential to have a truly great and productive Parliament. No doubt that will be partly due to the great contribution you and your colleagues in the Chair will make.

I would also like to pay tribute to my colleagues, the member for Victoria-Madawaska and the member for Bruce-Grey who moved and seconded this debate. Like the speakers we have heard from our ministry and from other private members, they have given me great confidence that this place will truly reflect the views of Canadians in a way we have not seen in at least 10 years. I dare say that we will be very proud of that in the years to come.

We have this honoured section to your left that at times has been disparagingly referred to as the rump. I would like to disabuse members of this House of that name. I am pleased and proud to take my turn over here. When the others have their turn here I am sure they will be pleased with the view and the chance to see what is going on. They will have a chance to speak directly to our fellow members in the government. Maybe we can come up with a more creative description for this area. Take note that three of the Speaker's team are part of this area.

We should look at this section of the House as evidence that Canadians have put great trust in our party. It is impossible to reflect that confidence any other way except to have some of us over here because of our great numbers. If things work out there will be government members over here for a long time to come. Therefore we may as well look at this area as an honoured place to be. I feel very proud to be here, for now.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the voters of Algoma riding. I will talk a little about my riding in a moment before getting to the thrust of my comments on the throne speech.

The confidence my constituents placed in me has made me very proud. I have assured them at every opportunity and do so again now that I will work very hard for them. We talk about serving the country and individual Canadians. There is no greater honour than to have a chance to serve our fellow Canadians in this place. There are many callings in life where service is the thrust of an individual's activities. I cannot imagine a better way to serve our fellow man than as a parlia-

mentarian. I am sure we all feel that way regardless of the ideological differences we might have.

I truly look forward to getting to know better all the members of this House in all parties. Whenever I am in this place I want it to encourage me in the work I do. I want it to strengthen me in my work here and in the riding.

For a while we are going to feel a little bit schizophrenic. It seems that the work here is different from the work in the riding. The nature of the day is obviously very different. Over time we will find that these two different lives will come closer and closer together. I would certainly defer to the opinion of those who have served in this place for a long time to confirm that. However it is my belief that our work here and our work in the riding is really one. It is only a matter of time before we actually feel that in our experiences. I look forward to that.

I would like to thank my family, particularly Julie. Those of us with families know the great sacrifices they have had to endure to allow us to serve in this way. It goes unnoticed by Canadians in general and it is important that we say in this public place that our families also serve the country. I am truly grateful to mine and to all our families who in some ways are forced to contribute. We appreciate that.

We all had many volunteers working for us in our campaigns and we would not be here without them. The whole exercise of democracy is built on the building blocks of volunteers. The volunteers that work in the political process are as valuable as any volunteer raising funds for heart research or the kidney foundation. All those activities are important and the volunteers that work in the political realm are equally important. They make this country run. They are the lifeblood of democracy, in my view.

Of course we all depend on staff and I can assure you that the staff I have working for me are among the best.

I have the honour of representing the riding of Algoma which for the last 25 years was represented by a colleague of many of the returning members, Dr. Maurice Foster. I had the pleasure of working closely with him as his parliamentary assistant for a number of years. It was an experience I will never forget. He will be my adviser, at $1 a year shall we say, for quite some time whether he likes it or not. He distinguished himself as a committee chair, as chairman of Ontario caucus for a number of years, as a parliamentary secretary, and as a representative of this country in several international delegations. He was the kind of parliamentarian who was truly Canadian and truly motivated by service. There is not an ounce of self-serving in Maurice Foster's attitude toward service and I could not let this chance go by without paying tribute to him and his work on behalf of Canada and Algoma.

Dr. Foster followed in the footsteps of Lester Pearson who represented Algoma East. I dare say I feel humbled to follow in the footsteps of such great Canadians as Lester Pearson and Maurice Foster.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to invite you as well as the other members of this House to visit Algoma riding. We all claim to have the greatest riding in the country and if there is such a thing as the greatest among equals then I will claim that title for Algoma.

Algoma riding is situated in the northern area of Lake Huron. It includes Manitoulin Island and the north shore of Lake Huron approximately from Georgian Bay to the eastern shore of Lake Superior. Like some other ridings it is very large. It takes over seven hours to drive from one end to the other. It is a spectacularly beautiful riding with many unique features, but like many ridings it is suffering difficult economic times.

We have a mining sector in Elliot Lake that has suffered tremendous downsizing. In the months ahead you will hear me make numerous interventions on behalf of Elliot Lake where thousands of jobs in the mining industry have been lost, but where tremendous effort is being made to revitalize the economy.

We have a substantial tourism industry. Our proximity to Michigan is helpful but the tourism industry needs revitalization too.

Forestry is a major industry for us but the constant badgering by the U.S. of our softwood lumber industry has had an impact.

I certainly appreciate the attitude of our government, of our leader and Prime Minister that he will take a firm businesslike stand with the Americans. We can no longer tolerate being pushed around. The Americans are our friends on a personal basis but I believe when it comes to country to country relations those have to be conducted in a businesslike manner. In fact during the campaign I asked the then leader if he would commit not ever to go fishing with the U.S. President. His response was that he did not think he would but it certainly seemed to me that the relationship between our previous Prime Minister and the U.S. President was too cosy.

We also have some farming. Believe it or not in northern Ontario there is a substantial farming sector. We have dairy farmers. Like many members who have dairy farmers or other supply managed sectors in their ridings, the GATT has been a tremendous exercise in frustration. I believe though that our government took up the challenge after October 25 and has produced for us a result that was the very best that could be obtained under the circumstances.

In Algoma riding we are blessed with over 40 small communities including over a dozen First Nation communities. I will not dare start listing them for fear of forgetting or leaving one out. One has to visit.

I would like to come to the point of this exercise. I hope I did not leave myself too short on time. I am thinking back to the campaign where one was required to speak longer than one should too many times. I would like to make reference to a comment made by the member for Broadview-Greenwood yesterday. He made an intervention in response to the speech by a member from the Reform Party. That member from the Reform Party talked about the bottom line and generally the need to run Canada like a business.

I was very proud to hear the member for Broadview-Greenwood say that this country is not just a bottom line, this country is people. After all if there is any vision of this country that we should have front and foremost it is that of its people. When I look at the commitments made in the throne speech, the comments made by the member for Broadview-Greenwood and our famous red book, line after line after line, it is people first.

We cannot have a vision about a technological revolution or a vision about being a major trading country without first having a vision about the people who make up this country. I dare say, and with all due respect, the agenda of the Reform and Bloc parties really misses the mark. The deficit is important. The issues that the Bloc bring forward on behalf of their particular constituency are important, but they really ignore the fact that above all it is people and people want to have dignity. People want to have jobs. People want to be able to put food on the table using money that they have earned, not money that was given to them because they could not find a job.

The whole thing goes back to mobilizing and energizing the creativity of our people, mobilizing the capital resources, coupled with creativity to get this country moving again, get it out of the starting blocks.

I do not want to blame all our ills on the last 10 years, but let us blame some of the ills. Members will seldom hear the right hon. Prime Minister blame the last government for the predicament we are in, but those are the facts.

It really requires of us now that we always put people first. If I go through the list of the throne speech initiatives I do not see one that does not put people first, even something like the Rural Residential Assistance Program, the housing program. I can say that in my riding of Algoma where there are a lot of older people who are trying to stay in their homes longer so that they do not have to go into nursing homes that it is important to have access to funds to improve their homes so they can stay in them. That is a program about people.

Let us look at municipal infrastructure. That is a program about people. It gets people, I do not want to say at the bottom of the economic ladder as I do not mean that, but labourers, contractors and equipment operators, working. It gets money into the economy at the local level and gets it there quickly. We are talking about putting people back to work.

When I was preparing for my earlier S. O. 31 statement today on literacy I was reminded of how many of our adult population have difficulty functioning in our modern society because they cannot read. I just beamed with pride when our government's commitment to literacy, not only in the red book and not only by the appointment of a minister responsible for literacy, was given major mention in the throne speech.

If we do not have strong building blocks and if we do not have strong people, how can we have a strong country.

As I mentioned earlier in the statements, literacy is an important issue in my riding of Algoma. We have people who spent years working in the resource sectors of mining, forestry and so on. When times were good it was easy to get a job. Maybe they did not get the education that was required or for economic reasons they had to go to work. Now with our country having to restructure itself economically these people are being left out. I think it is important that we do not leave anybody behind.

When we talk about the social safety net we are talking about people again. The social safety net without a doubt has become frayed over the years. There may be a few holes in the safety net. We would not want any trapeze artist falling into that safety net and hitting the wrong spot. That is what happens too often unfortunately.

I believe we have to honestly look at our social safety net programs to make them better. It does not mean that it is going to cost more. I really appreciated the comment in the speech by the member for Madawaska-Victoria, the seconder of the reply to the throne speech, that we can have a leaner government without a meaner government. We can do things better.

I am prepared and I am sure that my constituents are prepared to look honestly at changing constructively our social safety net program. We want it to do a better job. I campaigned openly, saying that there were abuses and that I was prepared to look honestly at making changes. I look forward to working with other members in this House to that end.

Even our initiative on crime talks about people. Who is it that is worried about getting mugged? It is people. Whatever we can do to make people feel safer on their streets, to make people feel that the justice system serves not only the victim but the community and deals effectively and constructively with the criminal will be moving this country forward.

Why is it that this country is singly the most desired country in the world in which to live? As long as we do not tell people how cold it can get here sometimes, I am sure everybody in this world would like to move here.

We have a community of peoples. Just imagine, this country was really built on three founding nations.

When one considers that we have such a desirable country, what better chance do we have than to serve together to move this country forward into the next century.

I would like to conclude my remarks by saying that we as a group certainly have many tough decisions to make in the months and years ahead. I think if we continue to be transparent in our dealings with the public they will look at us with confidence. If we try hard and we listen to the people I believe we will be successful. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the other parties in this House, we will be here for a long time.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Algoma for his speech. However, before making some comments and asking a question, and since this is my first speech before the House, I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the people from the riding of Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies, in the east end of Montreal, who elected me.

As you know, many newspapers are describing Montreal as the capital of poverty in Canada, and the east end of Montreal is one of the most disadvantaged areas of all the metropolitan area. Therefore, I want to make the commitment to my constituents, those who elected me and even those who did not vote for me and whom I represent today, that I will promote their interests in the best way I know how.

I would also like to thank all members who, probably for the first time, rose or will rise in the next few days in this House. I think that most people, and this has been stressed, realize that it is a difficult task. I believe we all did an excellent job and that is a good sign for the days to come. Surely, we will learn very quickly the technicalities of government. I should point out that this will be extremely important for the debates to come.

You know that, to a certain extent, we are here to learn. In view of the economic situation, Mr. Speaker, I believe that we will have lively and, hopefully, spirited debates in this House. All parties are committed to raising the level of parliamentary debates which people have considered a bit too low over the last few years.

We are presently in a political situation quite peculiar as in a few months, I strongly believe, Quebecers will be called upon to determine their own future. We will probably have a referendum within 18 to 24 months and, in due time, this referendum will generate some debate in this House where, for the first time, there will be clearly defined positions on both sides. Canadians will no doubt follow that debate. We will have to approach it in a very professional way.

I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague from Algoma, and I thank him. He mainly spoke of something I also believe in, something he referred to by using the terms "people first". I would like to ask him a question in this regard. Clearly, the first role of government and of people in government is to represent and defend the citizens who elected them.

I believe that the Conservative Party-if you allow me this political digression-lost the elections when Ms. Campbell said that she would reform social programs. We know that the Liberal Party did not make that promise, on the contrary, it promised to stimulate employment. However, statements by the Right Hon. Prime Minister lead us to believe that the government do indeed plan cuts in social programs, either directly or through cuts in transfer payments to the provinces.

My question to the hon. member for Algoma is this: How can you say that you put "people first" when in actual fact you are planning cuts in social programs?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

I would like to thank the hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies for his question and offer my good wishes on his first intervention.

It is because we are putting people first that we have included in the throne speech a number of initiatives. It is because we put people first that we need to look at the social safety net so that it better serves Canadians. Maybe all of us, certainly I did during my campaign, have people approach us and talk to us about what they perceive as abuses to the system and ways to improve it and make it serve the public better. I am not saying that we have to make cuts to improve it, but we have to look at what we do. We always have to renew our contract with each other and consider the terms of our contracts with the public. If we do not constantly update and reflect the current situation in our relationships with others we will lose track of where we are going.

I have great confidence in the minister of human resources who is, as members know, now undertaking a review along with the provinces in consultation with people across this country. I am very confident. I have faith that changes will be proposed that will be constructive, acceptable, fiscally responsible and reflect the realities of today.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Algoma on his maiden speech in this House, but I feel I must comment and set the record straight on one thing regarding the position of my party on the bottom line. That position on the bottom line, through you Mr. Speaker, to the hon. member is people related.

As a small businessman I appreciated the importance of the bottom line because if I did not have a bottom line my people lost their jobs. Therefore, as a businessman I was constantly concerned about the bottom line and how it related to my ability to employ people and pay fair wages.

The concern of my party is that the government is a business with a bottom line. Our taxpayers support that bottom line. Our bottom line is in danger of collapsing and then who will be there to look after those who are truly in need? We want to save the social safety nets for those who are truly in need. It is the deficit and the debt that is the real threat to those social safety nets. That is the threat to this economy and the creation of jobs. Our party is dedicated to doing something about that. That is why I say to all members of the House that our party's position on the bottom line is very much people related toward the people who need us most.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Mr. Speaker, governments are not businesses. I do not disagree with conducting our affairs in a businesslike manner. However, one cannot lay off a citizen. One can lay off an employee from a business but one cannot lay off a citizen. One cannot tell them to go away because one cannot afford to provide a certain fundamental and essential service.

When I talk about my concern about a single minded focus on the deficit as not being people oriented it is in recognition of the fact that people have to be working to pay the taxes that will allow the deficit to be managed.

I had this debate numerous times during the campaign. I really appreciated the other candidates in the campaign. They were excellent, all of them.

It is a matter of what comes first. It is not a chicken and egg problem because people must really be working first. If it requires investment to bring that about then I think we have to do it. If we have to use bottom line then we have to look at it in longer terms.

Consider the motion that was put forward about limiting the expenditures this coming fiscal year. Without thinking that through I have to question if it is people first or is it just a blind devotion to the bottom line without that consideration for people?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish you great success in carrying out the responsibilities vested in you, at the beginning of the week, by the parliamentarians of this House.

I am confident that you will discharge these new responsibilities of yours with a firm yet courteous hand, and above all with a keen sense of fairness, a sense a fairness which the veterans of this House did not fail to mention.

Mr. Speaker, tradition has it that on the occasion of our maiden speech in the House, we are allowed to tell our fellow members what inspires and motivates us. As the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, I will be guided by three principles.

The first one is never to forget that all of us are parliamentarians, elected by the people, and as such our behaviour must constantly reflect and be based on the right to express our diversity.

The second principle deals with the fact that we live in a representative democracy .

Mr. Speaker, if I can address you today, it is because people put their trust in me. These people, you will have understood, are my constituents in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve to whom I would like to express my deepest appreciation; they can rest assured that I will defend their interests with all my energy and enthusiasm.

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve is an urban riding, 92 per cent French speaking, located in east Montreal. It is a typical working class riding.

I am the son of a labourer and proud of it, and I think this is the best guarantee for my constituents that I will never let the government cut social programs, drop its plans for tax reform or downgrade the extent of our economic problems.

Finally, my third principle arises from what we must conclude from the last election on October 25, and my conclusion is that Quebecers rejected the constitutional status quo once and for all.

By electing 54 Bloc Quebecois members, the people of Quebec rejected a government that attacked the most vulnerable members of our society. For instance, we had the notorious measures to reform the unemployment insurance system, when Canadians saw their benefits reduced from 60 to 57 per cent. Canada also made dubious history when it became the only OECD member that does not contribute to a public unemployment insurance fund.

On October 25, Quebecers chose to support a national liberation movement. This movement, as you know, is rooted in the recent and not so recent history of the only French-speaking people in the Americas.

Quebec, as lawyer André Brassard reminded us, is the only example in the world of a people living within a federation where 82 per cent of the same population has a territory, democratic institutions and common aspirations.

The election on October 25 made it clear to the political elites that the concept of national unity, so dear to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his followers, died with the demise of Meech Lake and the clear rejection of the Charlottetown Accord.

The arrival of a strong contingent of Bloc and Reform members is eloquent testimony that Canada has entered the era of regional identities. As these identities mature, Canada will have to make a thorough review of its institutions. I am firmly convinced that as a result, Quebec will be able to propose new forms of political co-operation with English Canada. These new forms of co-operation will reflect a generous, modern and effective approach and together they represent sovereignty. Sovereignty as defined by international public law, that is to say the power for the State to collect all taxes on its territory, to see to its own external relations and to enact all the laws that apply to its citizens.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the Speech from the Throne read by His Excellency the Governor General on behalf of the government.

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister and his cabinet, and wish them the best of luck in their responsibilities.

Among the positive aspects of the Speech from the Throne, I would like to mention the commitment of the government to enhance the credibility of Parliament and insist on integrity and honesty. This is to the credit of the government.

I cannot but concur with the intention of the Prime Minister to change the rules of the House of Commons to give Members of Parliament a greater opportunity to contribute to the development of public policy and legislation.

However, on the financial side, the Speech from the Throne is rather disappointing. This is because it is so vague, so nebulous, because as the philosopher Pascal would have said: "It is a speech where the centre is everywhere and the periphery nowhere." It is so conservative that it looks like a commitment to the status quo.

We would be hard pressed to find any project of significance, capable of giving some hope to out-of-work Canadians and Quebecers.

There is no indication that the government is determined to get out of the rut we are in, to innovate and create the conditions that should lead us to what is really needed, and that is full employment.

We cannot limit our economic development policy to the national infrastructure program. Even if that program does address some of the issues raised by the municipalities, we must admit that the tripartite financing could create problems since municipal administrations are tragically short on resources and provincial governments are not much better off.

What is disturbing is that the national infrastructure program is likely to create temporary jobs that will only bring disappointment to workers.

Finally, the Speech from the Throne was totally silent on the question of tax reform.

For now, let me examine the Speech from the Throne from the point of view of research and development since my leader has chosen me as our party's critic in that area.

It is easy enough for me to deal with that issue since there is a consensus on research and development. I think I can safely say that all parties in this House recognize that research and development is a necessity for the future, a pathway to the next century.

We all know that industries who want to be competitive in the near future have to invest considerably right now in research and development.

Why is research and development so important? Simply because the strength of any economy no longer resides in the possession, the processing or the transformation of raw material, as the Minister of Industry indicated this morning.

Competitiveness lies mainly in a worker's ability to master new production technologies and deliver new goods and services. This translates into a demand for a more educated and better trained labour force willing to continuously upgrade their skills. It is in such a context that the relationship between competitiveness, training and research takes its full meaning.

Several advisory bodies, in Quebec as well as in Canada, warned that in the next 10 years, half of all new jobs will require up to five years of postsecondary education.

The increased significance of research and development will shape a society in which economic growth will rest first and foremost on skilled labour.

In the eyes of the Bloc Quebecois members, research and development is particularly important. If there is an area in which Quebec has been the poor relation of the federation, in which Quebec has been systematically discriminated against, it is in that one.

It is important to remind Quebecers that the federal government is a main player in that area. For example, in 1990, the federal government invested around $6 billion in research and development.

No matter how you look at this issue, disparities are painfully obvious when it comes to Quebec. One fact is clear, the

distribution of research and development expenditures has constantly been unfair to Quebec and, consequently, has hampered its future economic development.

This fact is so clear that even Robert Bourassa's former government had to recognize it on the strength of the now famous study carried out by the ministry of industry and commerce, which can hardly be suspected of being a sovereignist sympathizer.

The great merit of this study performed under Étienne Grégoire in 1991 is that it assessed the distribution of federal funds allocated to research and development over the past decade, using four seldom considered criteria: the size of the population in each province; federal spending in relation to the size of the provincial economy; as well as regional support for research and, last, development and the federal support in that area as compared to that of each province.

The study shows that over the last decade a mere 18.5 per cent of research and development funds went to Quebec, while Ontario got the lion's share, receiving 50 per cent of the funds. These findings are both disturbing and unacceptable, especially knowing how pivotal R and D is in societies intent on expanding their share of the market on the international market.

It is imperative that the Minister of Industry and the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development develop corrective action to put an end to this underfunding affecting Quebec.

I can assure you that my colleagues and myself will fight relentlessly to put a stop to such discrimination.

Quebecers have invested too much in their development over the last 20 years to put up with this situation. We will act and be vigilant to ensure that Quebecers do not tolerate any unfairness in research and development.

While federal investment in research and development in Quebec is far from satisfactory, R and D in Canada is also cause for concern on several fronts as well. First, Canada is one of the industrialized countries which spends the least on R and D, on average, a mere 1.44 per cent of its gross domestic product, while the other OECD countries spend 3 per cent on it. Second, most Canadian and Quebec companies do little or no research. Third, Canadian industrial research is concentrated in a few very limited sectors.

What does the Speech from the Throne offer us in terms of research and development? Very little, actually, except for a centre of excellence for women's health, with which we agree. Nevertheless, in the last election campaign, the Liberal team and its leader, the present Prime Minister, swore to heaven that R and D would be a priority in a Liberal government.

These promises did not make it as far as the Speech from the Throne.

The greatest disappointment of the scientific community is the government's silence on the Liberal team's commitment to spend $1 billion in support of research and development. I want to say it loud and clear: the Official Opposition will not accept the government shirking its responsibilities in such an important area as research and development.

The scientific community is concerned, for two reasons: first, no one in the inner cabinet is responsible for science, research and development as such. Mr. Speaker, you will tell me that there is a secretary of state responsible for these issues, but you will agree that he does not sit in the council of ministers. Will he be able to influence the government on policy development? Will he be able to convince the government to invest the billion dollars promised in the last election? That is very uncertain!

Secondly, will the government allow the main granting agencies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Medical Research Council to play their proper role by stabilizing their resources and giving them a five-year funding plan? In this regard, I heard about the concern of some social science researchers following the departure of the former president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Dr. Paule Leduc. I take the opportunity to thank her for her services to the scientific community and urge the government to fill the void left by her departure, in consultation with the interested agencies.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has a key role to play in reaching Canada's and Quebec's R and D objectives. Therefore it wants its funding to continue to come from the same envelope as the other two granting agencies, thus showing the public that social science research is also scientific research.

Rumours have been going around that the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council could be transferred to the Department of Canadian Heritage. Such a move would disturb the scientific community in that it would suggest that the social sciences are closer to culture and the arts than to science.

One sector that must receive particular attention from the government is biomedical and biological research, especially since Canada and Quebec have solid experience in this area.

A coalition, the coalition for biomedical and health research, was created a few weeks ago. This coalition brings together 16 medical schools and 6,000 biomedical and biological researchers.

I submit that a novel approach to curbing the growth of health costs and the deficit would be to invest significant amounts in biomedical research.

Disease and its accompanying harmful effects create not only personal hardship but also a financial burden that we must strive to alleviate.

Did you know that, each year, loss of productivity due to short-term or permanent disability costs $21 billion to the Canadian economy?

In order for biomedical and health research to constitute a viable solution and to help curb health costs significantly, the Minister of Industry and the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development must be urged to take three steps. First, to restore funding to federal research councils to their 1992 levels. Second, to develop a mechanism to protect R and D activities carried out in federal laboratories from government-wide budget cuts. Third, to call a summit conference bringing together representatives of the stakeholders in the area of biomedical research and health as well as the Prime Minister and his ministers responsible for finance, science, health, human resources and labour to develop an integrated research and development strategy with a long-term view to improving Canada's international competitiveness.

These suggestions, which take into account the present state of government finances, would enable the government to honour a number of election promises and above all send a strong signal about this government's commitment to biomedical research.

In closing, I want to reiterate that federal investment in research and development in Quebec is a great tool afforded this government to correct the injustices Quebec has been suffering for much too long already. This is an area where economic development and constitutional reform are not incompatible. I hope to have persuaded the hon. members that the horizons of the Bloc extend way beyond sovereignty, even though this is indeed our ultimate goal.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:20 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his opening remarks. I would like to deal specifically with those remarks in his speech pertaining to research and development.

I would also like to make a general statement through you, Mr. Speaker, to members of the Bloc Quebecois. I have been sitting here listening to their speeches over the last few days. Quite frankly I am impressed and encouraged because I find many of the things they are representing and fighting for, with the exception of independence, are the same things that we and our constituents are fighting for. If we could somehow get them to rekindle their spirit toward Canada rather than give up on Canada, this could probably be a very interesting Parliament. However we will not try to get that all accomplished in the first week.

I want to make a point about research and development funding. Proportionally the amount of funding for R and D in Quebec and in Ontario is relatively the same. We inherited a situation where a lot of the cuts were made for us. We are not going to cry over a mistake that was made in the past. I want to give an assurance that we on this side of the House are looking forward to a renewed commitment toward research and development in all regions of the country with laboratories because funding is more organized around the labs than on an across the board basis.

If the member reads the red book closely he will see we have made a very serious commitment to enhanced research and development in the up and coming session.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend for his kind words. From the outset I noted that he was an excellent parliamentarian and it is a pleasure for me to debate these issues with him.

I know the Bloc Quebecois is concerned about a number of issues, including independence, which it will have the opportunity to address.

However, I disagree with him when he says that proportionally, Quebec and Ontario receive relatively the same amount of research and development funding. Moreover, I would be happy to provide him with some material on this subject so that we can discuss the matter with full knowledge of the facts.

Which brings me to the role the Official Opposition will be called upon to play in the next few years. It will be our job to make our friends in the government party understand that sovereignty is first and foremost a form of political organization, one that is inevitable when one belongs to a minority.

As for the rest, as a number of members have said in this House, there is nothing to stop us from sharing the same interests. My hon. friend will agree with us that States share interests first, and feelings second. I think we will be able to demonstrate in this House that as parliamentarians, in areas of mutual interest, we will not hesitate to recommend associative formulas.

There have been a number of references to an economic union. In our program, we speak of sharing the same passport and of the free flow of goods. There are many areas in which Canada and Quebec can find common ground as two distinct nations. Where it hurts, however, is when one is in a minority position, and that is why the government will be unable to avoid a proper debate on the Constitution.

As Maurice Séguin, a celebrated Quebec historian and the first of his kind to advocate independence, once said, a nation must demand the right to take full charge of the development of its economy, culture and language. And in order to accomplish this, it needs to have all the political levers required.

What we are demanding, with magnanimity and an open mind, is the economic leverage we lack to initiate this development. I know I can convince my hon. friend that this is certainly a debate worth getting into.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:25 p.m.

Kitchener Ontario


John English LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to express my congratulations to the member on his address.

I was particularly interested to hear his references to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. They were of particular interest to me because I had a grant from the council that I had to give up when I joined this Chamber. I was the first person to do so since the member for Winnipeg South Centre gave his up in 1974. Also the remarks about Madam Leduc were appropriate. She has been an excellent leader of that organization.

In addition to the possibility of support from the SSHRC in the province of Quebec there is the possibility of support from the provincial government which I did not have in the province of Ontario. In other words, social scientists in Quebec have more substantial opportunities for funding for their social science research than do social scientists in Ontario.

Second, having served on juries for the SSHRC, I recall that the province of Quebec received a proportion that was higher than the portion of its university population. In terms of the member's larger remarks about sovereignty, in considering these questions he should recognize that over the past 25 or 30 years these councils have developed social science research. The province of Quebec has had an extraordinary amount of research supported by the SSHRC and the federal government. Social science research in the province of Quebec has benefited admirably by this contribution. In a sovereign Quebec it would be lost.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

January 21st, 1994 / 2:25 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I appreciate the excellent job done by the former chairperson, Dr. Paule Leduc.

True, Quebec is particularly active in social studies. There are historical reasons for that, and I would like to remind the hon. member that, when we consider such issues, the first criterion to use is the specific amount of money invested by the government. But since the accepted proposals have to go through a peer assessment process, there is a second criterion to take into account, and that is the number of requests and research proposals received. My colleague would certainly agree with me that, historically, in the past, Quebec has submitted more proposals than a number of provinces.

When we talk about sovereignty, it is not that we do not want to recognize but first, we have to recognize a significant and historical event, which I am not afraid to refer to in this House. The people who were 20 or 30 years old during the fifties felt freedom in the air, a feeling originating from Ottawa. I can appreciate that and I know some people who can testify to that effect, namely Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A number of them published articles in Cité libre , a publication which had a lot of influence on intellectuals. What has changed today is the fact that Quebec built itself a modern State and seems capable of handling all the levers and responsibilities granted to a modern state. That is why sovereignty is supported by more and more people in our province.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:30 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to congratulate you on your appointment this week. It is an appointment much deserved. I am sure that the good people of Stormont-Dundas are very proud of you.

I also want to offer my sincere congratulations to my good friend and colleague and now former room-mate who was elected Speaker this week. It is a great honour. I know that he will serve us and the whole country very well.

Over the past five years I have come to know the Speaker well. I can tell Canadians with utmost certainty that he is kind, decent and a man of great integrity. We parliamentarians would do well to emulate our new Speaker. I will do everything in my capacity to do that.

I also want to thank the people of Winnipeg St. James for electing me to my second term. It is indeed an honour to represent the people of Winnipeg St. James. I promise to continue to do my best to represent their best interests.

It is a privilege to participate in this debate. Before I get on to the economy, which is the number one priority for this new government, I want to talk about restoring integrity to government which is a preoccupation of the Prime Minister.

Over the past 10 years Canadians came to believe that they could not trust their government any more. In fact, it spilled over to include almost all politicians. Canadians thought that they could not trust anyone any more. They saw sleaze everywhere. Sometimes they saw sleaze when none existed. People were in the grips of cynicism. Such was the mood of Canadians. They were distrustful and cranky and they used the last election to make a point: "Mess around with me and mess around with my country and you're gone, you're history". The people across the way, the Bloc Quebecois, would be very clever to take note of that.

That explains, at least in part, why there are so many new faces in this the 35th Parliament, over 200 new MPs, an unprecedented number.

The message we Liberals received, one which we have already acted upon, is that Canadians want a government they can respect, a government of integrity, a government that works with Canadians not against them, a government that says what it means and means what it says and, in these difficult times, they want a government that is lean but, as the Prime Minister has pointed out and as the seconder to the throne speech pointed out, not mean. That can be done. A compassionate government can make difficult financial decisions. I think that the government has made a good start in that regard. We understand that people do not want a big spending, pompous government. They want one which is down to earth. They want practical managers who are careful with the public purse.

Examples of such careful decisions were the cancellation of the Pearson airport contract, cuts in government departments and staff, and the Prime Minister's services such as the sale of the so-called Mulroney air force 1 aircraft or the bulletproof Cadillac and the proposed reforms to the House of Commons budget and procedures where we will see a significant reduction in the services offered to members of Parliament.

I am enthusiastic about our government's promise to delegate more power to opposition MPs in standing committees in influencing public policy and determining legislation.

These actions all highlight the characteristics of our government, frugality, rationality and openness which we solidly stood for during the election campaign. These are some of the things that reflect the style of this new government, a government that wants to earn the respect and trust of Canadians.

If this is done, and I am confident that the government is well on its way to that goal, Canadians will I believe be more understanding of the difficult decisions which are bound to come. I think the electorate has already responded positively to the messages and signals that we have set out.

I have taken note of some of the letters I have received and I want to read into the record a few of the comments made by constituents in letters to me.

"Mr. Chrétien is an honest man and I am sure he will work for the people in Canada to the best of his ability". Jean Cutting from St. James.

Joyce Chapman of St. James writes: "I am impressed with Mr. Chrétien. I have a feeling he is an honest man. What a difference from King Brian".

There are more letters. "I do not know what is involved in the job of the Prime Minister but it seems to me that he has a frugal nature that will extend to all of his work," writes Cathy McLean of St. James.

Here is one from Carey and Christine Lee of my riding: "So far the Liberals have shown that you don't need all the bells and whistles that the Tories had to run a government. I hope it stays that way. Keep up the good work".

Those are just some of the comments made by constituents. You can tell they are listening and watching, as they should.

Let us hope that the days of bad mouthing everything the government tries to do are gone for good. We have had enough of the neo-Conservative nonsense that government is essentially bad, that it is an enemy of the people.

Over the period of Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney we were told that the government should just get out of the way and leave most big decisions to the marketplace. I can say that I have the utmost respect for the marketplace and, yes, government is far from perfect. The neo-Conservative approach to government certainly proved that. But in a democracy, Sir, there is a major role for government. It can lead. It can act as a partner. It can work toward equality and justice for all and it can be a unifying force for good.

The Prime Minister understands that perhaps better than any person in this country. Instead of dismissing government as ineffectual this Prime Minister is committed to making government work better for all Canadians.

Specifically we were given the mandate to turn the economy around. Our main objective as stated so often during the campaign and in the red book is to create jobs. We were committed to that through the throne speech and we will continue to be so in the upcoming budget.

Canadians want the opportunity to work. Our focus on developing opportunities for small and medium sized businesses by improving access to capital such as the Canada Investment Fund to help high technology firms means better employment prospects.

The tripartite infrastructure program has already been welcomed by politicians at all levels of government and the public in general. The reintroduction of the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and the establishment of the Youth Service Corps will give young people and others who have limited opportunities a chance for a good livelihood and prosperity.

Through partnerships, streamlining and improved accessibility to capital our Canadian economy will bounce back with much needed job opportunities.

We have already heard criticism on our policy on the deficit and the debt. The hon. member for Calgary Southwest apparently did not hear alarm bells go off during the throne speech debate on Tuesday with regard to the deficit and the debt.

I would suggest that the hon. leader of the Reform Party check his hearing. The throne speech did mention the importance of deficit reduction. Let me just quote a couple of the sentences in the throne speech: "The budget will be tabled in February and will include measures to bring the federal debt and deficit under control in a means that is compatible with putting Canadians back to work". The throne speech continued: "The government will work with the provinces to ensure that our shared fiscal challenge is dealt with co-operatively and creatively". I think that is pretty clear.

The throne speech did mention the importance of deficit reduction. That is why we proposed a prudent balance to the economy as mentioned in the red book. Members can be sure that the budget will reflect that.

As the Prime Minister so clearly pointed out yesterday the best way to control the deficit is through job creation. It creates revenues and thus lessens the need for cutbacks to important government services.

Let us not hear any more talk about the government not being serious about the deficit and the debt. Instead of rhetoric and corny analogies the opposition should offer alternatives and ideas.

I am excited about the government restating its commitment to a national forum on health. I find a touch of irony here that the hon. Leader of the Opposition should come out in defence of medicare and social programs. On this issue we agree. However this is the same man who wishes to take the province of Quebec out of Confederation. Let us try to understand the situation. He wants to save our most cherished social program which brings Canadians together, but at the same time would rather forsake it to break up the country. I do not believe that the people of Quebec see it that way. I cannot envisage a Canada without medicare and I cannot see Canada without Quebec.

The government is completely committed to maintaining medicare and the social safety net. Admittedly there are problems with the system and we in the Liberal Party have been long concerned by the situation, not just since becoming government. How better a way for Canadians to influence the future of health care in this country than through a national forum. We have agencies and ordinary citizens who may come together with federal and provincial politicians to strengthen, not weaken, universal health care. Not only is medicare a way to cover service costs, but it is available to all, not just the rich. The only qualifier for our health care system is that one be a Canadian resident. We pledge to keep this inherent right for all Canadians in the future.

I cannot forget the riding and the province which I am privileged to represent in this House. Growth in the Manitoba economy in the last 10 years has been well below the national average. My good friend from Winnipeg South has done research on this and has made that case forcefully, not only here in Ottawa but in the Manitoba legislature when he served the people of the provincial constituency of Osborne so well. He showed graphically with strong evidence that Manitoba when it comes to its own economy, compared to the economies of other provinces, has not kept up to the national pace, if I can put it that way.

We now have 12 government MPs from the province of Manitoba and as the chair of the Manitoba Liberal caucus I am confident that this fine group of experienced and some rookie members will work together as a team. I can assure the House that we are all Canadians first and foremost.

As we say though, we believe Manitoba should have a just share of the nation's prosperity. We have an excellent senior minister in the hon. Minister for Human Resources and Western Economic Diversification. He knows the province of Manitoba as well as he knows the back of his hand. His assurances of economic growth in our province give me optimism for the near future.

Manitoba will benefit in the short term through the infrastructure program, a $68.3 million investment by the federal government and over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. We have also heard of a revamped core area initiative with a wider scope. This means good news on the horizon for all the people in Winnipeg and not just those in the downtown area.

In my riding a vibrant aerospace industry exists. Part of this industry took a serious hit when the helicopter contract was cancelled. Our party made very clear during the election campaign our intention to revoke approval of this deal because of its enormous costs. The Prime Minister carried through on that promise just days after the election.

While layoffs brought all of us pain, especially to the workers involved, I still believe there is a strong future for aerospace in Winnipeg-St. James. Our government I am sure will do everything to make this happen. We have taken a leap of faith in our defence conversion program which proposes to adapt aerospace technology to civilian projects. With the right policy we will see more, not fewer, jobs coming to the province of Manitoba.

I also consider the Winnipeg International Airport a constituent of sorts. As a regular stop for several domestic and international airlines the Winnipeg International Airport can become a major centre for air cargo facilities. Studies prove that Winnipeg is in an ideal location, at the heart not only of North America but between western Europe and the Pacific rim.

Government and the private sector are now working to create what is called an intermodal transportation service at the Winnipeg International Airport. I can see no reason why it cannot become a world class facility worth billions of dollars and hundreds of jobs for Winnipeg and Manitoba. I believe our government will be committed to supporting this initiative.

While I am on the subject of the Winnipeg International Airport and before I close I would like to voice concerns relating to the proposed privatization of the airport. The previous Tory government introduced a plan toward privatization but that plan has been put on hold by the new government pending a review. I think that is prudent on the part of the new government because the plan as proposed by the Tories raises many questions.

I would like to bring to the attention of this House the Auditor General's report on this matter. The report warns that privatization could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. In fact the Auditor General states that at Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton, airports which were recently privatized, revenues are much lower than forecast. That shortfall could mean another hit on the taxpayer or it could mean slapping user fees on air travellers. Air travellers through Vancouver airport are familiar with such user fees and I can say that they do not like them.

Therefore, airport privatization, at least Tory style privatization raises concerns and a government review of how that is to be carried out is very much in order. Over and above cost concerns I have a concern about accountability or perhaps more precisely, a lack of accountability. That accountability as proposed by the previous government amounted to little more than the printing of an annual report and holding a public meeting once a year. To me that is not accountability.

If we are going to have a local airport authority to run the Winnipeg International Airport, and I am not opposed to this change in principle, there must be transparency and openness. Business cannot be done behind closed doors. Business plans proposed by such an authority that have a substantial impact on air travellers, people, or business around the airport or the airport itself should be scrutinized publicly. Such an authority should manage the airport on a sound business basis. However, the airport should make room on its board for people representing air travellers, labour and the public at large.

This government promises greater accountability. That accountability starts here in Ottawa, but it must extend right across the country and include all institutions of government. The Winnipeg airport is a public facility and it must be managed accordingly.

This approach fits in with the style of this government, a government committed to openness and whose Prime Minister is committed to restoring integrity to government.

In closing I would like to say that we face some daunting problems, repair of the economy and overhaul of social programs to name just a couple, and things cannot be turned around over night. I believe that if we offer good honest government, and I think we will, Canadians will give us the time needed to get the job done. The throne speech shows that that job has already begun.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:50 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first speech in the House, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my congratulations to you as my hon. colleagues have done.

Before I put my questions to the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James, I would like to focus in on some remarks he made to the effect that the Bloc Quebecois and its leader wanted to break up this beautiful country. In my opinion, this is not only a pejorative, but also an inaccurate statement. I would like to draw his attention to several historic footnotes to this debate.

First, there was the Act of Union which, in my estimation, may have been the beginning of the emergence of the two solitudes. As we know, Upper and Lower Canada were united in 1840. Lower Canada came out on the losing end since at the time, it had a much more effective and efficient administration than did Upper Canada. The situation was unfair from the beginning.

I will not review the events of the past 200 years, since it would only bring me to cite examples of the way Quebec has been treated by English Canada. Specifically, in the case of the Meech Lake agreement which set out five minimum conditions for bringing Quebec back into the constitutional fold, English Canada was unable to accept these conditions and these were just our minimum demands.

Charlottetown ultimately signalled the end of this debate and for one very simple reason. English Canada as a whole rejected the Charlottetown accord, claiming that Quebec was asking for too much and that the accord was slanted in its favour. Quebec rejected the accord for exactly the opposite reason. Our goal is definitely not to break up the country. It is to build a nation that would work side by side with Canada, share the same economic space and viability.

I would like my hon. colleagues to think of our objective as being not to break up the country, but rather to complement it on our terms.

Now then, as far as the economy is concerned, I fail to see how the Liberal Party can resolve the problem of the deficit which will hit $45 billion this year, tackle the national debt which just surpassed $500 billion and create jobs without touching social programs. This would seem to me to be a Herculean task, one that I personally think is impossible to accomplish. Therefore, as we can already see, there are some glitches in the throne speech which lead one to believe that this government says one thing, but when the time comes to follow through, it will find that it cannot.

Does the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James agree that a parliamentary committee should be set up to look at ways of resolving the country's economic problems? This is the course of action we are advocating. Why not make this a priority, sit down together and review each budget item separately? And everybody knows that the bureaucracy must be streamlined. So, let us start there before embarking on a crusade against social programs, which is what could well happen now. I would like the hon. member to answer a question. Would it not be better to have an all-party joint parliamentary committee instead of a red book or a throne speech which is only wishful thinking?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:55 p.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I will try to answer his questions as best as I can.

In so far as this Parliament examining the kinds of issues that he raised and wants examined, of course we are in favour of that. The committees will be up and running in the next few days and they are going to be working very hard.

The Prime Minister has already pointed out when it comes to tax matters, especially the GST, the finance committee will be given instructions to do a very thorough job. The finance committee will also be taking into consideration not only the budget that will be brought down next month but future budgets as well.

I say very sincerely to the hon. member from the Bloc that there will be plenty of opportunity at the committee level to discuss all the issues that weigh so heavily on his mind.

Let me respond for a moment to his remarks about his leader not being a man who wants to take Quebec out of Canada. As far as I know, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois calls himself a sovereignist.

My definition of sovereignty is a country that is sovereign, separate from another country. It seems to me when a party leader says he wants to establish a country that is sovereign, that is a country which is separate and apart from Canada. As far as I know the province of Quebec, which is a terrific province and one that is as good as any other province in this country, is still not a separate country.

Let us not try to treat this as some kind of semantic argument. This is a political problem and a political issue. No fancy dancing with semantics will change it. What we are talking about here is a faction in this House that wants to break up the country.

If the Péquistes in Quebec win the next provincial election and if, God forbid, they win the referendum as they promise to do, does anyone think that these ladies and gentlemen who call themselves the Bloc will be sitting around here representing the best interests of Canada? Not on your life.

Let us put a stop to this talk about semantics. One more thing. The hon. member tries to misquote the Prime Minister when he said that the Prime Minister was indicating that we were going to solve all our economic problems and revamp our social programs in the coming year. Nobody ever said that.

When it comes to government and politics, a year is a very short period of time. In fact, one never completely solves all economic problems and one never completely solves all social problems. This is an ongoing thing.

We have promised to tackle these problems head on. We are going to make some changes. We are going to create jobs. We are going to turn this economy around, but it will not be overnight and it will not happen in one year.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

2:55 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief.

As you know, my name is Jean-Guy Chrétien and I am referring to the letters read earlier by the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James. I wonder if the hon. member could tell me why the right hon. Prime Minister is so unpopular in Quebec, and so well-liked outside that province. The primary problem which I encountered in my riding during the six weeks of the election campaign was my surname. People would say: "Your name is going to work against you. Some will think that they are voting for Jean Chrétien, the leader of the Liberal Party." Much to my surprise, the name of the party on the ballot was written in very small characters.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

3 p.m.

An hon. member

You only have two minutes left.