House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.


Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Thank you for giving me more time. I basically said that only once in Quebec's history was an NDP member, the former hon. member for Chambly, elected in a by-election. Despite his potential, this devoted and dynamic person decided not to run again in the last general election and, in our opinion, his decision was due to his party's insensitivity towards what was happening in Quebec.

Does his party, having noted the results of the democratic vote held last October 25, want to review its position regarding a strong central federal government?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member has put a very important question. The New Democratic Party believes in democracy. We went through an election campaign and ran candidates in every constituency in this country on the basis of a jobs plan that we felt would work. I thought the jobs plan was very attractive and popular with many people. As a matter of fact it was so popular that the Liberal Party basically took it and put a red cover on it and sold it as their own. Unfortunately it had a little more success in marketing its program, which was based on ours, than we did.

I agree with the hon. member that I am not very well versed in all of the dynamics in Quebec. However we as a party really believe that government does work. Liberals and Conservatives fight campaigns on the basis that governments do not work, elect us and we will prove it.

We believe that government does work. New Democrats have been in government in Saskatchewan for 36 of the last 50 years and nationally we have adopted many of their programs, one being medicare. If we were of the view that government did not work we probably would not let our names stand to try to become the government. We want to ensure that government serves the people from which it derives its power.

I very much believe in the public service. I believe that all of us in this Parliament have come here with honourable intentions. I believe that truly. I think all of us want to see something better for our country after four years in this Parliament than when we first got here.

I still believe that government has to have certain authority and certain influence and certain economic instruments to use in tough economic times. When the economy is very difficult and there is a lack of jobs, it is extremely important that government take the initiative and use whatever economic instruments it has as a central government to create jobs. I still believe very much in a strong central government. Perhaps it is not understood across the country as much as we would like, and that is one of the reasons I made reference to it tonight. I thank the member very much for the question.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to the chair. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate my fellow MPs on their election or re-election. I would especially like to express my appreciation to my constituents in Lisgar-Marquette who have put their trust in me to represent them in this 35th Parliament and to my good wife, Fran, who has been my constant support and friend for the last 32 years.

The constituency of Lisgar-Marquette is a very diversified area. Agriculture is the prominent industry and we grow everything from vegetables such as commercial potatoes, onions, carrots, to fruits such as apples and blueberries. We also grow all coarse grains plus special crops such as lentils, sugar beets, yellow mustard and oil seeds like canola, sunflower and flax. We also have beef, dairy, egg and poultry producers.

In manufacturing we produce everything from small line machinery and grain trailers to recreational vehicles.

Beautiful scenery abounds in Lisgar-Marquette. We are blessed with the Pembina Valley which offers an abundance of recreational activities. From the fertile land of the Red River Valley to the beautiful and unique desert in Spruce Woods Park at Glenboro, Lisgar-Marquette is truly a rare and exceptional place to live.

The voters of Lisgar-Marquette sent me to the House of Commons with one strong message: that the House of Commons again become the voice of the people and that politicians and bureaucrats become accountable to the Canadian taxpayers.

The people of Lisgar-Marquette have become very disturbed about the moral, financial and political state of our country. What took our forefathers 100 years to build has been mismanaged to the point of bankruptcy by Liberal and Conservative governments in the last two decades. The ordinary working people of this country have continually increased production so that our country has not had a manufacturing trade deficit for the last two decades. During one of the most productive times in our history the elite of our country have not only mismanaged our

economy but have mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren.

It is very sad and unacceptable to see two million Canadians depending on food banks during this past Christmas season as a direct result of a quarter of a century of political malaise.

In Manitoba a recent survey stated that 20 per cent of the school children go to school hungry. A United Nations children's fund report notes that Canada has one of the highest child poverty rates among the wealthy industrialized nations. In 1989 this House passed a resolution pledging to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000; in fact, more than 1.2 million Canadian children were living in poverty in 1991, a 30 per cent increase in two years in the number of people under 18 whose families can scarcely afford the essentials of life.

Given that 1991 and 1992 were recession years, it can be safely assumed that the rate is now even higher. Teachers see it. Police see it. The courts see it. We all see it, if we dare, the result of governments' economic mismanagement. Poverty that leaves our children disadvantaged, apathetic and often hopeless; poverty that brings Canadian families to turmoil. The cost to our country is beyond value.

While we in the Reform Party have been given a mandate by the electorate to streamline government spending and slash the deficit, an even more important impetus comes from the single most important future resource, our children. It is on behalf of these future generations that the Reform Party has accepted the task of changing some of the policies that have denied Canada the prosperity it deserves and has cast doubt on the promising futures that our children deserve.

Only through an influx of new attitudes can we build this new Canada for future generations. Imagine a fiscal reform initiative where public funds are regarded by governments as funds held in trust instead of assets that must be spent too often unwisely.

Simply put and speaking as a farmer, it does not seem right that a banker can tell farmers they will have to pay higher interest rates because their products are being sold for a bargain basement price, a price which they have no control over.

At the same time, because of the bank's bad investments in foreign countries for projects like Canary Wharf, they will again pay higher service charges and interest to cover the bank's financial mismanagement of the country's wealth. Where is the justice in this type of reasoning? How can our youth translate this type of logic into a promising future?

I heard the Prime Minister say the other day that MPs' salaries were still far below that of professional hockey players. Well hockey players are paid for their performance. How should we rate the performance of MPs over the last two decades? They have stick-handled their way through the taxpayers' pocket-book resulting in taxes that are eating up half of their pay cheques. Any farmer or businessman who continually puts his or her operation into debt year after year for a quarter of a century would have long ago been bankrupt and not rewarded with a gold plated pension.

I have never gone to sow a field in spring from which I have not expected a bumper crop. As a new politician I also expect a bumper crop of positive changes in this 35th Parliament. If these changes do not happen in this Parliament there are 52 very capable Reform MPs determined to make those changes in the 36th Parliament from the other side of the House.

The Reform spirit was born at Beaver River, has spread into Ontario and will not be deterred until it reaches the east coast of Newfoundland. It is only through political, financial and judicial reform that there will be a future for this great nation of ours, a future that our children will be anxious to embrace.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member for his concern for young people. In my party I am the critic for youth, and I would say that the problem is the large number, more than two million, of young people living in poverty. I think it is extremely important not to forget this fact.

However, a little further in his speech he says that the way to improve the situation is to lower taxes. He does not even mention any program that could help people, especially young people, get out of poverty. Could he comment on that?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:50 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member sure has my feelings along the line of child poverty.

During my years of farming I saw hundreds or thousands of farmers go bankrupt because of interest rates as high as 24 per cent. Today, these farmers are either taking away jobs from people who are living in the cities or supplementing their farm income if they have been able to hang on to their land. When one reads the statistics that over 50 per cent of net farm income today is received from off farm jobs, we can see why there is such a problem of destitution among young families, small and large.

I think it is very important that we correct this situation or there will be no future for this country even if we do clear up the deficit or whatever we do.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the hon. member for Lisgar-Marquette if he and his party, the Reform Party, have reviewed the throne speech to see how much of it was ongoing items and initiatives that had been recommended or adopted by the previous government?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if there have been too many adopted. There is an old saying on the farm that kind words and good intentions do not feed any critters. That is pretty well all I have heard in this Parliament during the first few weeks I have been here. I think that is all the farmers and the unemployed heard in the last Parliament.

I think it needs action, not just words and good intentions.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

7:55 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Congratulations, Mr. Speaker, on your election and appointment. I also wish to congratulate the Prime Minister and each of the members elected to this House.

I pledge to support the positive reforms the government introduces and condemn any and all policies and legislation which does not have the support of the majority of Canadians or my constituents.

I have lived in a number of countries in the world and I always keep coming home to Yorkton-Melville, the heart of Canada's parkland area.

An issue which has been raised in the House more than any other is which riding is the most beautiful riding in Canada. I suggest, when the more pressing issues are behind us, that this matter could be resolved once and for all in a special day-long debate.

The voters of Yorkton-Melville deserve a special thank you for their participation in the democratic process and for electing me as their servant. I pledge to faithfully represent my constituents' views in Ottawa regardless of the party or candidate they supported. I am their spokesperson. Through me their voices will be heard in this Chamber.

I saved my most important thank you for the last, that being to my wife Lydia, my family and friends. Without their support I would not be here.

The throne speech mentions a lot about the need for reform of the social security system. Unfortunately our so-called safety nets have been catching more people than the fish nets in Newfoundland have been catching cod in the last few years. In fact, in addition to the 1.6 million unemployed there are another 869,000 workers who are so discouraged that they have given up looking for work. If this is not discouraging enough, the Globe and Mail reported last week that almost a third of Canada's work force is locked into insecure jobs. The end result: unemployment insurance now costs employers, workers and taxpayers almost $20 billion a year.

Between 1972 and 1992 the number of welfare recipients has more than doubled to over 2.7 million people. In 1992-93 it cost the federal government $7.3 billion. Taxpayers get hit again and again as the provincial and municipal governments have to pay their share as well. These statistics are clear evidence of a failing economy.

In Newfoundland it seems that the only nets that are full are the safety nets. The system, not the people, is to blame.

The replacement of both unemployment insurance and social assistance with an income supplement plan which would direct over 85 per cent of the money currently spent on these programs to the people in Newfoundland who are most in need was recommended by the Economic Recovery Commission report recently published.

The report is a condemnation of the existing social security system. Page 6 of this report states: "On the whole, the current system has induced an unconscionable degree of dependency which is unfair to contributors to the unemployment insurance fund and, in light of recent fiscal restraints, is not sustainable".

In Saskatchewan our safety nets are also full and overflowing. In the last 20 years the amount of money spent on social assistance programs has increased seven times. In 1991-92 the case-load was over 28,000 people, 47 per cent were considered fully employable. The taxpayers would not feel so bad if they saw that the money we were spending was actually solving the problem. But it is not.

It does not matter whether you live in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland or Yorkton, Saskatchewan, the system is sick and getting sicker.

I would like to commend the government for the commitment to announce an action plan for a major reform of the social security system within the next two years and for its commitment to involve Canadians in the consultative process.

I also wish to commend the provincial governments that are leading the way on income security reform in this country, particularly the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Alberta. The time for protecting each other's turf is long past. The time for true innovation and common sense solutions is at hand. Canadians not only expect this of us, they deserve it.

While we are encouraged by the government's commitment to undertake a consultative process for the next two years, we are surprised by the lack of detail about what direction modernization and restructuring might take. Yes, Canadians want to be directly involved in the process of change, but they expect some leadership when we are embarking on what appears to be a complete overhaul of our income security system.

If the government's action plan is to succeed it will have to pass several tests. First of all, will our social programs be financially sustainable or will we keep mortgaging our children's future?

Second, will unemployment insurance be returned to the principles of a true insurance plan?

The third test is will the government's restructuring address the weaknesses identified by the Newfoundland Economic Recovery Commission?

The fourth test is, considering our forty-five billion dollar deficit this year and our half trillion dollar debt, why is it necessary for this process to take two years when so much data, analysis and public input already exists on the subject?

The Reform Party's blue book provides some leadership, direction and grassroots input. Principle 10 of the Reform Party Constitution states: "We believe that Canadians have a personal and collective responsibility to care and provide the basic needs of people who are unable to care and provide for themselves". Our blue book goes on to state that government should first, develop a family or household oriented, comprehensive social security system administered through the income tax system. Basically, one system would replace all others.

Second, explore all the options including a guaranteed annual income, security investment fund and a negative income tax, to name a few.

Third, design several programs that would encourage families, communities, non-governmental agencies and the private sector to resume their responsibilities in the social service areas.

Fourth, target social service benefits to those who need the help the most.

Last, ensure that our social programs are financially sustainable in the long term.

In closing, I would ask all members and parties to co-operate and collaborate as we reform our social safety nets. A net can have two uses. Nets can stop a person from getting hurt when he or she falls, but a net can also trap its victims so they cannot get out. Let us help release many of the people who are trapped in our safety nets.

In 1989 a report issued by the Economic Council of Canada said: "We need to turn our safety nets into trampolines. People want and need work not welfare. People want and need to be trained and retrained to survive in this global economy".

Judith Maxwell, former head of the Economic Council of Canada, was quoted last week saying: "Measures to encourage skills training and mobility could create ladders to help people climb out of low paying, insecure jobs. Canadian workers need to know how to hitchhike down the new information highway".

I also believe Canadians have a right to live anywhere they want in this great country, but they do not have a right to become permanent wards of the state. We need to create incentives in the new system that make people independent of government, not dependent on it.

Let us help people help themselves. Let us eliminate the duplication of effort by federal and provincial bureaucracies. Let us provide help to the people who need it most. Let us make sure our social spending is an investment in the future. Most of all, let us show the voters of this country that their tax dollars are being well spent.

I appeal to the House to support freer votes so that all members have the freedom to vote as their constituents wish and I appeal to all members to support any and all motions before this House that reduce the tax burden on all Canadians.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on what the hon. member for Yorkton-Melville said. Granted, certain aspects of Canada's social programs and health programs could be reviewed. But to do so at the expense of UI and welfare recipients is akin to blaming the present economic situation and government finance problems on the have-nots of our society, when we know full well that this is not the case. The system is allowing abuse to continue. Just this week, more cases were identified. Reference was made to tax shelters being commonplace and family trusts being tax exempt. We could also question the $12 billion Canada invested in national defence. Another very concrete example was given this week when the leader of the Reform Party asked why it was that the Governor General did not pay taxes when he is earning something in the neighbourhood of $97,000. It looks good to ask a question like that, but the same people are denouncing social programs as the cause of our current economic problems. That makes no sense. I think that Canadians should be made aware of the need to show compassion for the less fortunate. I am not saying that there is no abuse. There probably is. But, goodness gracious, let us not sacrifice what makes Canada the envy of other nations.

Just this week, we were told that the health care system in Canada represented 7 or 8 per cent of the GDP, while in the US, it was 12 to 15 per cent. It is simply not true that our system is expensive. What is true, on the other hand, is that our public debt is costing us a lot. In fact, it is too expensive and it is the ultimate reason why we apparently have to go and cut social programs. That is the easiest area to make cuts in, because it affects the less fortunate.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure if a question was asked or whether a statement was merely made, but I would like to pick up on something that member said.

It is precisely because we are sympathetic to the disadvantaged and poor, those who are less fortunate in society that we need to redesign these programs. That is because we cannot continue to run deficits and continue to build up our debt to the

point where everything will collapse and we will be left with nothing.

We need to redesign these programs, to streamline them so that they meet the needs of Canadians. This is what I am advocating. It is precisely because we are trying to protect that element in society which will remain unprotected if we do not try to do something.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Yorkton-Melville on his maiden speech and say it was a pleasure to hear it.

My question regards the blue book. I wish the hon. member would elaborate a little on the negative income tax and financial fiscal management in that regard.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

January 27th, 1994 / 8:10 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

It would take a bit of time to elaborate on the negative income tax. Basically something like that would work in this way: If a person was below a certain income, instead of paying income tax he would receive a certain percentage. I must say at the outset that the purpose of this is to create an incentive for people to work and earn money, not that the minute they do this they are penalized the amount they earn by not receiving a certain amount in social security payments or Canada assistance or whatever it is.

That is the purpose of a negative income tax. A level would be developed. If someone did not reach that level he would get a certain percentage. If someone went over that level of course he would begin to pay income tax. In that way an incentive to find work is built into the system and people are not penalized for finding work.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, before and during the election campaign we in the Liberal Party, and several other parties as well, criticized the Conservative government for promoting high unemployment and pursuing the wrong policies for debt reduction. We said that the government's obsession with inflation and government spending was wrong. The economy went into recession, we had record bankruptcies, unemployment soared to 11 per cent and the national debt tripled.

We said that while some expenditures had to be cut, especially wasteful and non-productive expenditures, the principal emphasis had to be on job creation and economic growth.

Under the Tory approach, people were put out of work, tax revenue declined, welfare and unemployment insurance payments increased, and the deficit grew.

Under the plan put forward by the Liberal Party, Canadians would go back to work, companies would make profits, both would pay taxes and there would be less unemployment insurance, welfare and bail-outs to certain companies, and the deficit would be reduced.

In the speech from the throne the Liberal government committed itself to these goals, and I quote: "The government attaches the highest priority to job creation and economic growth in the short term and the long term."

We have put forward our commitment for the municipal infrastructure program; the residential rehabilitation assistance program, which is a program to restore our older housing and thereby create jobs and leave us with a better bank of housing; the youth service corps, which will help young people build the bridge between school and the workplace; better access to capital for small business; the Canadian investment fund to develop new technology; more research and development; and improved training and retraining.

These are only some of the things that have been put forward in the speech from the throne. During this debate the various ministers have come forward to explain in greater detail some of those programs.

While I am a strong proponent of training, retraining, advanced education and lifetime learning, we cannot presume that this alone will solve the unemployment problem. Some people have suggested that a greater percentage of the unemployment insurance fund should be used for training. However, I must remind them and others that a substantial number of unemployed Canadians are already fully trained. Their problem is not training but the lack of jobs.

Furthermore, we must assure that the training programs are directed to the real economic needs of the country. On the one hand too often we are training people for trades that no longer are demanded by business and the public sector and on the other hand we have no courses for trades that are often in demand. I have seen that very often in my own city of Montreal where people are taking training courses. They finish the courses and there are no jobs available. On the other hand employers and businesses are looking for people to train and there is no one being trained in those areas.

In any case I welcome the review of income support and social security programs such as proposed in the speech from the throne to be initiated by the Minister of Human Resources Development. I believe we will be debating that proposal on Monday.

I would now like to deal with some of the objections that we hear with respect to the government's economic program to create jobs and stimulate growth. First we heard during the election campaign, and we still hear it today, that the infrastructure program is simply a large scale attempt to fix potholes and will not create any permanent jobs.

To begin with this program has the support of all the provinces in Canada and the great majority of all the municipalities. It is much more than fixing potholes, which is a very simplistic response to a very important program.

The minister and the Prime Minister have said that the interpretation of infrastructure will be a very wide one. It will apply to roads, highways, ports, airports, sewage systems, public transportation, communications systems, water treatment facilities, bridges, and so on. These public works will create direct and indirect jobs while being built. The indirect jobs of course are those which will be supplying the construction materials, all the materials that are needed in bringing about the renewal and building of such infrastructure projects. We also at the same time create a better environment for private investment in the renewed, better equipped cities and towns.

This is what attracts tourists, attracts business and attracts economic growth. Such a restoration of our infrastructure will also help restore confidence which is an important ingredient in stimulating investment and growth.

Another objection was raised in this House, and it was raised by several members of the Reform Party, but in particular by the leader of the Reform Party on the first day that we had a Question Period. I refer to a question which he asked of the Prime Minister. He referred to a question which had been sent to him by Dr. Dean Eyre of Ottawa who said, and I am quoting from Hansard :

The government proposes to spend $6 billion on infrastructure and create 65,000 jobs. Has the government calculated how many jobs might have been created if that $6 billion were simply cut from the taxes of individuals, property owners and small businesses?

To begin with, as I stated a few minutes ago, all our cities and provinces need up to date infrastructure if they are to operate efficiently and attract private investment. We need highways, we need railroads, we need canals, we need the St. Lawrence Seaway. Mr. Speaker, that was a great infrastructure program many years ago and it is very close to your constituency. We need airports, we need telephone and telecommunications systems, we need schools, we need universities, justice systems and police forces which are all part of what might be called in a broader sense our infrastructure. If we do not build and keep our infrastructure up to date we become a third-class nation.

As I said earlier not only do we create direct and indirect jobs in building and restoring our infrastructure, but once we build a modern infrastructure system we attract investment for still further jobs.

However there is a supposition in the question put forward by the leader of the Reform Party on behalf of Dr. Eyre, that if we return $6 billion to the taxpayers we would have even more jobs. There is certainly no guarantee of that. Every society has to guarantee that it has the essential infrastructure to operate as a modern state.

We are not at all what sure would happen if we simply returned this particular $6 billion to Canadian taxpayers. I want to make it clear that I believe a very good percentage of our incomes must be left to spend as we wish as individuals and as consumers. On the other hand, as a society we have to ensure that we have the social capital to exist as a modern state.

Some of the people might spend a good percentage of that money, if we returned it to them, outside the country either as consumers or investors. Some might use it entirely for consumption, for consumer goods. Some might use it for illegal cigarettes or other types of illegal products, drugs and so on. Some might put it in their drawer or their sock. No doubt there would be some investment. There would be some private investment if that money were returned to taxpayers.

However there would be no guarantee that it would be invested in jobs, while society through its government can ensure that it is used for basic essential infrastructure that will attract business and in the long run will put more money in the pockets of our citizens.

We in the Liberal Party believe in a mixed economy. The greatest eras of prosperity in Canada, the United States and Europe have been accomplished under mixed economies. Experience shows us that the extremes of socialism or the extremes of free market systems do not work as well.

That is the message in the speech from the throne. Jobs and economic growth are our highest priority. We believe the Government of Canada, along with the provinces, has an important role to play with business and labour in achieving these goals.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce remembers the early eighties when we had 24 per cent interest rates that were caused by his government. We also had a transportation policy formed by his government that did away with thousands of miles of railway track. It put thousands of farmers out of business. It closed oil drilling rigs.

I am wondering how all of a sudden infrastructure is so dear to his heart. Would he please explain that?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remember well the eighties. I remember the seventies, the sixties and the fifties as well. To attribute the interest rates of the eighties entirely to the federal government is an extremely simplistic approach. There were high interest rates in many western countries at the time. It was immediately after the OPEC oil crisis. Many other pressures were brought together in the world at the time. All governments were struggling to deal with the high interest rates and the conditions that were described.

If the member wants to remember periods of Liberal government, I remember the period of Mr. Pearson in the early sixties when we had 2 to 3 per cent unemployment for four consecutive years. As a student I can remember the period under Mr. St. Laurent when we had five to six years of full employment. I can remember the period under Mr. Trudeau when we averaged between 5 to 7 per cent unemployment.

I am saying that there is a role for government in our economy. I am not a socialist. I do not believe in a fully controlled socialist economy. Nor do I believe in the approach taken by the Reagans, the Thatchers, and the Mulroneys who believed they could withdraw altogether and just wish that things would go well.

I believe there is a role to play by governments with labour and business. Under those types of governments we had the highest eras of prosperity in Canadian history and Canada has become a great nation because of that approach.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:20 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce remind us that, in the end, the high cost of social assistance and unemployment insurance is directly related to an excessive unemployment rate. Really, it is a lack of jobs, I do not think I misinterpret him when I say that. There is, indeed, a lack of jobs, which means that people are not necessarily unemployed because of a lack of skill. He was right when saying that.

Representing a riding with includes Laval University, an institution centuries old with over 35,000 students, I am rather aware of that reality.

I have a question for the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Does he think that work-sharing could, in the future, be a way to get trained young people, full of enthusiasm but unable to find a job, out of unemployment and social assistance? If we shared better what we have, would that not be a solution?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, a very interesting proposal which is now under serious consideration in many countries of the world is the fact that we share our employment more equitably among various people. For example, several European countries are now discussing the shorter work week or the shorter work day so that they could spread employment more fairly among a greater number of people.

In this modern age our production for the most part is achieved through technology, machines and robots, not simply by the sweat and blood of workers but by the use of their brains, their intelligence, their imagination and through high training.

As a matter of fact that is what will happen. There will be a greater sharing of work and there are many means to achieve that. I would hope the committee on human resources which will be established in the House in a week or so will examine that as one of the possibilities in looking at a better distribution of work and a better approach to income support and social security.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:25 p.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your new position in the House. I would like to let you know that the Speaker and his deputy speakers can count on my support as I have counted on your friendship over the past few years. As you preside over lively debates in the years ahead, I hope we all remember how lucky we are to live in a democracy in which lively debates are not only allowed but encouraged.

I also welcome the 205 new members of Parliament.

As the Prime Minister was saying last week, the unprecedented number of new members brings to the House of Commons a tremendous energy for renewal.

Most of all I thank the voters of Hamilton Mountain for giving me the honour of representing them again in Parliament. I shall do my very best to fulfil their trust.

Indeed the issue of trust is central in the throne speech. I remember well when the Prime Minister came to Hamilton during the election and held up his now famous red book entitled "Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada". The Prime Minister promised that if elected he would make the red book the basis for a Liberal government. With this throne speech the Prime Minister has kept his word. He has honoured the trust of the voters.

Frankly I am surprised to hear opposition members complain that the throne speech is merely a restatement of our election promises. They should be applauding the fact that the Prime Minister is going to do what he promised to do. They should applaud the fact that the Prime Minister is keeping faith with Canadians.

From the day he was sworn in, the Prime Minister has kept his word. We can look at his record in the first two months. The Prime Minister said that he would cancel the $5.8 billion helicopter deal, and he did. He said that he would have the smallest cabinet ever, and he has. He promised to cut $10 million from the offices of the cabinet ministers, and he made those cuts. The Prime Minister said he would reduce the expenses of Parliament, and he has already reduced those expenses by $5 million. The Prime Minister stopped the costly privatization of Pearson airport. He is stopping excessive spending overseas by integrating our embassies with those of Australia. He appointed a new Governor of the Bank of Canada. He is reviewing the pensions of members of Parliament. He is selling the prime ministerial airbus.

In the House we have seen major changes in the first three weeks of the first session of the 35th Parliament. We have had debate in which we could all participate before a bill is presented by the government. We have debated peacekeeping and nuclear arms. Next week we will be debating social policy. Also for the first time we will all be able to participate in a pre-budget debate.

Those are all major accomplishments but, even more important, the government has already made major changes to our country's policies for economic growth. The new economic approach will make a real difference for my constituency and my city of Hamilton.

The government is implementing the national infrastructure program. We will sign agreements with every province and projects to put Canadians back to work will start in a matter of weeks.

In the very first Question Period of this new Parliament the Prime Minister pointed out the support he had received for the infrastructure program from the mayor of Hamilton. New municipal projects mean new construction jobs. New construction jobs mean new steel jobs. That is what Canadians want, and that is what the government is delivering. That is what Hamiltonians want, and that is what the government is delivering to Hamilton.

Canadians do not expect miracles from the government but they do expect realistic hope and realistic job policies. That is why the infrastructure program is so important. It provides a kickstart for our economy at a time when the economy most needs that kickstart.

This same sound approach is at the heart of the government's policy with respect to trade. The Prime Minister said that he would only agree to implement NAFTA if he obtained an agreement from the United States and Mexico to negotiate on the issue of subsidies, dumping and countervail. This new government obtained those agreements.

The new NAFTA working groups on dumping and subsidies are a major step forward in stopping American harassment of Canadian exports. The road ahead is not going to be easy, but it is very important to note that this government has managed to get the United States to agree to a two-year timeframe to deal with the critical issues.

The new working groups are particularly important to the city of Hamilton since there have been more American trade actions against steel than against any other Canadian export during the last several years. The added benefits is that Mexico will also be party to these negotiations, a significant advance when we consider that Canadian steel is currently facing four separate trade actions by Mexico.

I do not pretend that the government has solved all of Canada's problems in our first two months in office, but I do believe that the government has taken major steps and we have acted quickly to make good on our election promises. Job creation and integrity in government were the Prime Minister's electoral commitments and he is carrying through on those commitments. Of course there remains much to do.

We need better access for small businesses to capital funding. We need to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers. We need to create the Canada investment fund to support leading edge technology firms. We need to reduce the regulatory burden on business. We need to reduce the deficit through more measures for long-term job creation. We need to protect and strengthen our health care system. We need to make our communities and our streets safer. We need to bring in a youth service corps. We certainly need to replace the GST.

We cannot do everything at once but we can and we must take those actions necessary to give every Canadian the opportunity to be the best that he or she can be. We can and we must treat every Canadian with dignity, fairness and compassion. We can and we must ensure that Canada is competitive, tolerant, independent and proud.

There is much to do in Parliament. During the last two months and in the speech from the throne, the Prime Minister has demonstrated his leadership qualities.

As I said at the outset I think we are extraordinarily fortunate to live in a democracy where we can have lively debates. I hope that we remember as we have those debates that we are here to represent Canadians who expect us to put job creation and integrity first. I look forward to working with all members of Parliament as we pursue those goals.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the hon. member and thank her for her speech. In fact, we have something in common. I am referring to a shared concern about the steel industry, which is important in my riding as well. We have two big steel mills, Sidbec Dosco and Stelco McMaster.

I found the feverish enthusiasm with which the hon. member described the achievements of her government, so far, and those of the Prime Minister, almost moving. She mentioned several, starting with the cuts in the House of Commons budgelt.

At this point I think I should remind the hon. member that theoretically the House of Commons is entirely independent of the government and that not the government but the parties represented in the House made these budget cuts. Members themselves reduced the House budget-at the request, of course, of the Prime Minister, but in any case, the consent of the parties was essential. I may add the Bloc Quebecois did its share in this respect.

The hon. member also mentioned the debates we had Tuesday and Wednesday on the presence of Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia and on cruise missile testing on Canadian territory.

The hon. member will also remember that yesterday we protested the fact that these debates were held before the government announced its defence policy. What was said yesterday may no longer be relevant if the government decides to take a different stand. I think the debate itself was entirely appropriate but the timing was wrong.

The hon. member also talked about all kinds of other so-called successes which I will not mention here. I would rather emphasize what this government has not done or rather where it has failed so far. Did the hon. member forget that the government failed miserably on the issue of free trade, for instance? During the election campaign, the Liberals said they would not implement the free trade agreement unless they obtained a certain number of guarantees on the environment and resources, and unless they were given a definition of the word subsidy. They did not obtain any of these guarantees or definitions before the agreement was implemented.

Similarly, on the subject of GATT, the government caved in miserably and failed to protect Article XI which is so important for farmers. I imagine the hon. member does not have any farmers in her riding. I do have a few, in fact I have quite a number of farmers in my riding, and that is one difference. So I would say we are a little disappointed in the government's performance.

Finally, I would like to ask the hon. member, since she mentioned the government's achievements, whether it will take very long for the government to do something about cigarette smuggling and then about tax equity.

Could we have some answers on these issues which are still pending?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

I thank the hon. member for his kind words. I do not think we are going to have to wait very long for very many decisions. The decisions and the problems that the government is looking at right now are going to be handled with the help of all Canadians.

Most of the ministers have spoken already in the House and talked of the process where they are going to be opening up the decision making. The changes that the Canadian people have asked for are going to come about by their input and by all the people in the House of Commons participating.

I am interested that he has a steel industry in his community and I hope that he will participate even further in what is going on in the House of Commons by joining the steel caucus.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the people from the riding of Drummond for their confidence in me; I will try to discharge my mandate to the best of my knowledge and with total dedication.

What I heard last Tuesday in the Senate does not reflect in any way the strong program that Quebecers and Canadians had a right to expect to regain a feeling of hope and confidence in the future. That is why I want to convey to this House and to the government my concerns and those of my colleagues concerning the throne speech, and the health care system in particular.

Unfortunately, the meagre content of the throne speech in this respect creates more fears than hopes. Our fellow citizens are expecting solutions to the problems associated with our deteriorating health care system, such as bed closures, crowded emergency wards, higher drug prices, and so on. Let us take for example the acute crisis prevailing in Sainte-Croix Hospital of Drummondville in my riding. Inadequate funding and severe budget cutbacks have led to obsolete equipment, a lack of specialists, frequent service cuts, split shifts and patient transfers. All this makes life harder for staff and patients alike. What hope does the throne speech give us that these unacceptable situations will be resolved? Very little, I'm afraid, Mr. Speaker.

Let us talk about federal transfer payments and established programs financing. We must first recognize that the finance minister's commitment to improve equalization payments every five years is certainly reassuring for all provinces.

But we must not confuse equalization payments with transfer payments. In 1986, the previous government, criticized on many occasions by the current Prime Minister, started to reduce federal transfers for established programs financing. In 1987, the Tories announced that Canadian provinces and Quebec would receive $270 million less for health care and post-secondary education.

Worse still, they announced in February 1991 that per capita transfer payments for established programs financing would be frozen until 1994-95. All these measures were applied unilaterally, without the consent of Quebec and the other provinces, despite the formal agreement reached by the parties in 1977. So, between 1978 and 1993, the federal government's contribution

to health care and post-secondary education programs in Quebec fell from 47 to 34 per cent.

As we all know, whenever transfer payments are reduced, it is the poorest provinces that suffer the most. What we are talking about is fairness for the provinces and Quebec. A freeze in federal transfers for established program financing is in itself a serious threat to the principles set forth in the Canada Health Act.

Therefore the Official Opposition intends to promote a review of the transfer payment procedures, in a way that will respect the financial capacity of Quebec, the provinces and Canada.

We must also stress that as the federal government got out of funding this program, the provinces and Quebec faced increased costs for health care. This growth is due to several factors, like the aging population, the appearance of costly advanced medical technology and higher drug prices.

The taxpayers of Quebec and Canada entrust the federal government with large sums of money, part of which has always been intended for health care under the 1977 agreement. The problem is that for 10 years, the federal government has not given the portion due back to the provinces and Quebec and thus diverts funds meant for health care. Instead, what it transfers to Quebec and the provinces is its deficit, a consequence of the previous government's inability to control its spending. We are talking about a reduction of nearly a third in transfer payments here. This has had major consequences on the financial health of Quebec and the provinces. If the present Liberal government just froze transfer payments, it would mean a cut equal to the increase in the cost of living.

The federal government would be making the choices which Quebec and the provinces have to make more difficult as they try to cover their shortfall and reduce their tax burden. Since greater efficiency is unlikely in the short term, Quebec and the provinces would be faced with two equally unpleasant options: reducing the quantity or quality of services or going further into debt. In either case, we are not telling anyone anything new when we say that it is still the poorest people who will suffer the most.

Let me point out to this House that neither Quebec nor the provinces are asking for charity here. They are only demanding the money which is their due under an official agreement, remember.

Furthermore, we question the federal government's right and justification in requiring the provinces to maintain certain health insurance procedures, after the Conservative government in its nine years in power systematically went back on its financial commitments with respect to transfer payments.

As a result, the provinces and Quebec have been forced, in spite of themselves, to propose various so-called palliative measures in recent years, such as user fees, service charges, deductibles and so on. All these alternatives have one thing in common: they make health care and services less accessible.

The federal government must be sensitive and above all aware that by increasing the financial burden of Quebec and the provinces, a two-tier system will be created: on one hand, those who can afford access to health care and services, and on the other, those who for financial reasons will delay treatment or even do without necessary care.

We believe in the great principles of universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration. What we oppose is that these great principles are seriously threatened in all provinces and Quebec by the federal government's very inability to meet its commitments.

As my hon. colleagues realize as well as I do, in Quebec like elsewhere, it is always the same people who have to foot the bill. In terms of transfer payments, the federal government takes money out of the pockets of the taxpayers and transfers it to the provincial government. Basically, the taxpayers' money is taking a round trip to Ottawa.

But this trip has a price. In Ottawa, the bureaucracy takes its cut. Consequently, some of the taxpayers' money does not come back. That part is kept here to satisfy the appetite of the federal administration.

Just last week, the Minister of Finance warned us not to expect any gifts when transfer payment agreements expiring next year are renegotiated.

Would it not make more economic sense and make the taxpayers feel safer if they were to pay directly to their provincial government the money they owe for health care, thereby eliminating the federal intermediary, the additional costs and, more importantly, the risk that the federal government will grab this money to reduce its deficit?

In view of the fact that the federal government did not manage to make good its promises in the past, we are convinced that the people of Canada would be better served in terms of health care if each of the provinces and Quebec took things in hand and looked after implementing the Canada Health Act themselves.

This way, the bureaucratic load would be significantly reduced and management would be exercised much closer to home and be much easier to adapt to the specific requirements of the situation, as it would be more responsive and effective in the short term. It would also take away the sword that hangs over the heads of Quebec and the other provinces with every new federal budget!

Health also calls for prevention. As we all know, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, however good the care system is. This is to say that in terms of prevention, any budget cut that is not immediately compensated by an equivalent increase in the efficiency of the programs affected would translate into a cost increase higher than the expected savings.

The best prevention with regard to health is to enhance the socio-economic condition of the people of Quebec and Canada. A large segment of the population could be negatively affected by the precarious state of the economy in Quebec and everywhere in Canada.

From Saint John's to Victoria, women and men, young and old, live in socio-economic conditions that do not allow them to develop their full potential. We all have in our ridings families living under the poverty line and barely surviving.

Pregnant women are not eating appropriately, preventing the foetus from developing normally. Several newborns are underweight and require prolonged hospital care. Others are born with diseases due to deficiencies in their mothers' diet and require treatment during several years. The prenatal nutrition programs announced in the throne speech will have to provide a real solution to this important problem.

School children are even reported to be starving because the fridge is almost empty at the end of the month. These children often do badly in school and drop out before getting a diploma. We must do something for these children.

People who cannot find decent housing are even worse off. As it was pointed out in the health and welfare policy issued in 1992 by the Quebec government, living in a run-down apartment with poor heat and poor ventilation is particularly harmful to the health of young children and seniors.

Therefore, the social housing problem is extremely serious in every province, including Quebec. This situation cannot go on forever.

One of the best ways to reduce health costs is to enable everybody to live in adequate and decent conditions. And it is by providing decent jobs that we will be able to improve the situation.

Also, even though we agree with the efforts of the Department of Health to reduce tobacco consumption, we deeply regret the program implemented by the previous government to increase taxes on tobacco. This program, which is a disaster, has generated four major adverse effects.

First, the creation of a contraband network and a black market which have generated uncontrollable and unnecessary illegal and criminal activities. Second, tobacco sales have dropped everywhere, resulting in a sharp drop in profits for businesses. Consequently, tax revenues have also been reduced drastically. Finally, and this is both unfortunate and ironic, the emergence of this black market has not only prevented the expected reduction in tobacco consumption, but has in fact provoked an increase in consumption among young people, if only because of the appeal of cigarettes as a contraband product.

It is a real shame that this House is responsible for having provoked such a serious and unnecessary crisis when there are so many real problems to tackle. Therefore, we ask the new government to reduce drastically taxes on tobacco products.

The throne speech states in less than two lines that a Centre for Excellence for women's health will be established to ensure that women's health issues will receive the attention they deserve. This project is certainly commendable, but will it be a true program for support, research and action for women's health or will it be merely a documentation centre as the Liberal government program seemed to suggest?

What funds will be targeted to research on women's health? There are deficiencies in the research on breast cancer, gynaecology and obstetrics, chronic and degenerative diseases, mental health, violence and occupational illnesses. If it is the socio-economic situation of women which determines their health needs, what concrete measures are needed to eliminate these unfortunate conditions? It is urgent to act and to go to the roots of the problem. Women are poor and that is the reason for a lot of their health problems.

Everybody has a brother, a sister, or a friend struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. We urge the government to give special support to organizations which work for the detoxication and rehabilitation of those who are affected by such problems.

The throne speech mentions a national forum on health to foster a dialogue on the renewal of Canada's health system. We can only praise the government for this initiative but, at the same time, we are concerned that this type of exercise might take too long to get under way, might cost too much and might end with a report which will be shelved. The Bloc Quebecois will strongly criticize any attitude which would lead such an initiative to flop.

The Bloc will also ensure that the government does not use this forum to justify unilateral changes in transfer payments which would be to the detriment of Quebec's and the other provinces' interests. Indeed, the Bloc Quebecois' mandate is to

ensure that the poor will not have to suffer from changes made for fiscal consolidation purposes.

This is why, as some of my colleagues have pointed out, we are adamant that the government must set up a House committee whose mandate will be to review each budget item in order to eliminate unnecessary and frivolous expenses.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, in order to protect the health of Quebecers and Canadians, the government must guarantee to all the provinces that they will get their fair share of the money paid by taxpayers to this end, as well as the all services which Quebecers and Canadians desperately need.

The Official Opposition intends to intervene in a useful way and, if necessary, as energetically as required, to ensure that each citizen of Quebec and Canada has access to the health care and services which they need.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Government House Leader

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the hon. member for Drummond on her maiden speech to the House. It is obvious that she has some interesting ideas.

First of all, I have a comment. I think she should put some questions about the issues raised in her speech to her leader, since he was a member of the former federal government and, as she well knows, that government was responsible for almost all of the cuts that were made and for causing serious hardship to people across Canada. Her leader often supported this government in the House, as did many of his colleagues. I think she should be putting the questions about the problems the country is now experiencing to him, not to this government.

I believe the hon. member also broached the subject of the tax on tobacco products. What course of action does she advocate? Would she prefer to see the tax remain in place, along with the associated loss of revenues, or would she prefer that it be replaced with another tax? The former government tried something else. It imposed an export tax on cigarettes. Obviously there were some problems with this decision because the government later suspended the tax. What would the hon. member have the government do now? Impose a new tax, suspend the tax altogether or what? She was not very specific. I would like to hear her answer.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

9 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague on the other side for his remarks. What the Bloc Quebecois is calling for is the removal or elimination of federal taxes on cigarettes. The black market is thriving and this is the only way to curb the illegal activities now taking place.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

9 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to agree with the hon. member's comment that the social economic condition is extremely important to health care. The Minister of Human Resources Development is certainly looking at ways of improving the social safety net and making better use of every dollar spent.

The hon. member made a comment that I am intrigued and curious about. It was along the lines that a return trip to Ottawa is at a cost, I think implying that the trips of MPs and others coming to Ottawa that you leave dollars here and it is a drain.

The perception is that Ottawa is English Canada and it is a drain on all the taxpayers of Canada. Now I am not a lover of the bureaucracy by any means, I am a critic of it and we have to make improvements there.

However has the hon. member given any thought or does she know the economic spinoff in terms of the central government's efforts, Parliament and all the ministries, that go to Hull as a result? What would the losses be to Hull and to the province of Quebec if the Bloc ever got its desire to separate Quebec from Canada?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

9:05 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the hon. member that he did not understand me at all when I referred to the return trip taken by taxpayers' money. As you know, health care is paid for by taxpayers, by the provinces, including Quebec. Taxpayers send money to pay the federal government for health care. The federal government administers and manages; the department of health administers and provides health care to pay for medicare. But the federal government does not do a favour to taxpayers. Taxpayers pay their share. What I am saying is that when the money which comes from the provinces, from the taxpayers, goes to the provinces who then send on here the taxes paid by people for these services, it costs a lot of money to administer. The federal government takes its share, it takes its money, and then gives some back to the provinces so that they can administer their health programs.

And it is this administration by the federal government which costs a lot of money. If each province was in charge, and if taxpayers gave their money to the province, which would manage its own health care program, it would be cheaper and hospitals would not have a deficit such as is the case right now. That is what I wanted to say.