House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.


The House resumed from January 27 consideration of the motion for an Address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his Speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Sudbury Ontario


Diane Marleau LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House as the representative of the people of Sudbury and also as Canada's Minister of Health to expand on a number of themes raised in the speech from the throne.

On October 25 Canadians from across this country sent a clear message to politicians that there are certain principles, policies and programs which must be maintained as part of our national heritage and our national fabric.

Fundamental among them is our national health system which for many Canadians represents the essence of our unique experience as a country.

Our health system remains the envy of people around the world. Many Canadians are watching with interest as our American neighbours wrestle with the many problems of upgrading their own health system. In a way the debate south of the border has served to heighten awareness in Canada of our own system, one that we may have come to take for granted.

I am fully aware of the financial pressures on our health care system. We, as Canadians, face a number of critical choices if we are to preserve and improve the health system which we all cherish.

The challenges to our health system are daunting. We cannot isolate health issues from other public policy issues: economic, social, environmental and even political. As governments at all levels search for ways to ensure development and growth, I say look to the health system, look to the health of Canadians. A healthy Canada will be a wealthy Canada. The reverse is true as well, I might add.

Can a child who has not had a proper meal or proper rest absorb the mass of information required to prepare for the economy of the future? Can a worker who is dependent on alcohol or a prohibited substance produce at his or her full capacity? Can we deny Canadians access to the research and treatment breakthroughs in the health field which could improve their overall quality of life?

The health of Canadians is something that is precious to this country and so is the health system that has developed to support it. When we have something precious we must protect it. This government and this minister fully intend to protect the health system in Canada for all Canadians.

Our approach is straightforward. We intend to improve the current system, not by some radical shift in the fundamental principles, but by the development of creative solutions to the problems that have arisen as the system has grown and evolved. I call this approach creating value while maintaining values.

That means that we will stick to the five principles of the Canada Health Act which have served Canadians so well over the past quarter century.

Let me repeat what those five principles are since many members are new to this House and because the principles are so important to the debates which inevitably will ensue over the months ahead.

First, universality-Canada's health system must be for all Canadians.

Second, portability-the benefits of our system must be available wherever in Canada our residents choose to live.

Third, comprehensiveness-it must include all medically necessary services.

Fourth, accessibility-no Canadian should be deprived access to the health system, and that means no user fees. This government cannot accept any measures which amount to a tax on sickness.

Fifth, public administration-the health of Canadians represents an important national asset and it must be administered overall on a non-profit basis by the public sector.

Even with these principles firmly entrenched there is still considerable opportunity to improve the overall health system. Since the health system is such an important national asset it is essential that we bring Canadians together to work co-operatively to renew and enhance it for the future.

There is considerable agreement that we need a more cost-effective and efficient health system and about what it should look like in the future. However there is little agreement about how we get there. These are not easy questions and they require a national dialogue to generate the necessary consensus to improve the health care system.

This is the thinking behind our announcement to create a national forum on health to be chaired by the Prime Minister of Canada.

The Prime Minister's personal involvement signals just how important we consider this issue to be for our national well-being.

I know that some Canadians have grown tired of all the consultations, special task forces, and other mechanisms established by the previous government to examine issues ad nauseam. We know Canadians appreciate their health care system, we know they strongly oppose user fees, and we know they are looking to the federal government to continue to play a major role in the health system.

Let me assure you that this government is listening and acting upon these messages. We do not want to duplicate existing mechanisms for co-operation. Instead, we wish to create a focus for a national discussion on a health strategy for Canada which encompasses all the various viewpoints, including those of the ultimate users.

We understand that the federal government is not the only government responsible for the health of Canadians. We cannot and will not go it alone. That is why I will be discussing this important initiative with my provincial colleagues when we meet in Ottawa on February 8 and 9.

I want to emphasize at this point that I am fully aware that health spending represents on average 30 per cent of provincial budgets and that provincial governments have made very significant efforts to come to grips with challenges in this area.

The national forum will provide an opportunity to highlight the issues and the difficult challenges all governments face. It will also help improve the climate for change.

However, governments at all levels cannot and should not bear the full responsibility for the health of Canadians. The medical profession, health care providers, the research community, the pharmaceutical and other health related industries, employers, employee organizations and consumers have important roles to play.

We hope that the national forum on health will raise the knowledge level of Canadians on a number of issues, many within their own control, and educate the general population on the possibilities as well as the challenges. Yes, individual Canadians also have a role to play. While health is a collective responsibility, it is also an individual responsibility.

We are each our own personal health managers. Many of our personal choices will determine the extent of our health and our quality of life. By bringing together all the participants from governments to individual users in this renewal exercise, I truly believe our health system can gain without pain.

One area where I believe that there is substantial potential for co-operation is in the field of health awareness. Right now, all levels of government are engaged in awareness programs on such issues as substance abuse and AIDS. Improved co-ordination among federal, provincial and territorial program areas would certainly lead to more efficient messaging and give all Canadians greater return on their health investment.

Where I live in Sudbury, northern Ontario, the health needs and the available services vary from those in downtown Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. But a good idea developed in Sudbury or for that matter in Moncton or Red Deer can be of value to all Canadians wherever they live. There are plenty of good ideas out there in Sudbury and in every region of Canada. Let me give hon. members a few examples.

For nearly 20 years there has been a federal-provincial territorial committee on group purchasing of drugs and vaccines whose efforts have resulted in real savings to our health care system. When one member changed the method of supply for measles, mumps and rubella vaccine from dealing directly with

the supplier to bulk purchasing through this group, they realized a 68 per cent saving.

Three Ontario schools, including Laurentian University in Sudbury, are establishing undergraduate programs in midwifery which are expected to save money by reducing the number of prenatal doctor visits while providing pregnant women with quality care in the community.

Unique to Quebec are the local community service centres which provide locally-based health care in an effective and client-friendly manner. All of these programs are good examples of what I call spending smarter.

By placing existing innovative programs within a more coherent framework and by bringing together creative people with those who must administer and those who must use the system, I believe we can generate even more ideas which can add value to the overall health framework in Canada.

International comparisons show us that we do not have to spend more to produce a better overall health system for Canadians. For example, thousands of Canadians are sent every day for medical treatments of various kinds. But how many of those treatments are really evaluated to see if there are effective and better alternatives? I believe that there is tremendous potential for savings in our health system by doing a proper evaluation of what currently exists.

I believe that women's health requires special attention. One of our specific initiatives, as outlined in the red book and the speech from the throne, will be the creation of a centre of excellence for women's health.

Traditionally the health system has been regarded as gender neutral, but most adult women and adolescent girls can give vivid examples of how the system has a strong male bias. The women's health issue is an area which I believe urgently needs more research as the recent forum on breast cancer so dramatically highlighted. I must add that this is a personal priority of mine.

Let us face it, there are basic biological differences between women and men. Gender does have an impact on the distribution of many diseases across the population. Yet many clinical trials of drugs and other treatments under-represent women in their samples or exclude women completely. Not only is it bad policy, it is bad medicine.

Women do have special conditions, from osteoporosis to menopause, and they merit equal attention from research to treatment, to care and prevention. We have to move the health system forward in this regard, not to the detriment of anyone's health but to the benefit of everyone's health.

Again, we have many ideas in this area from the establishment of specific research goals to the development of programs for groups such as immigrant women and aboriginal women whose particular needs have not always been adequately served by the health system.

Any discussion of women's health must establish the connection between violence in the family and the overall health of the woman, her children, and others living in the household. My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has overall responsibility for this critical area, but my department continues to play an important role with respect to family violence prevention through building partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the provincial and territorial governments. We will develop a national strategy to address the various aspects of women's health, and my department will work diligently, again in close co-operation with our partners, to pull together all the pieces of this gender puzzle.

The establishment of centres of excellence for women's health is only the first step in a solution. What we really need is the basic research and raw data on which to base our future programs and policies.

Preventing illness is just as much a health care responsibility as curing it. One of the unique biological functions of women is childbirth. Our government is committed to enhancing the support system for this important period of a woman's life by creating a pre-natal nutrition program for women at risk. In Canada there are between 350,000 and 400,000 pregnancies a year. Of these, 10 per cent of pregnant women are at risk because of poor health and malnutrition. Poor nutrition is a risk factor for low birth weight in newborn babies. In turn, low birth weight is the determining factor in about two-thirds of all deaths among newborns. Those who survive are at greater risk of developing serious and chronic disabilities.

The costs of this can be startling. For the 21,000 babies who have an unsatisfactory birth weight, the immediate costs of medical care can be as high as $60,000 per infant. As their lives progress they face higher risks of poor health and developmental difficulties which could sentence them to a life of poverty.

What is the cost of preventing such a fate? We believe that it runs in the range of $300 to $400 a pregnancy, depending on individual circumstances. Again, good health policy is sound economic policy.

Healthy children are also very much at the heart of a program we proposed for aboriginal families living off reserve in urban centres and in large northern communities. The aboriginal head start program would provide enriched programs for young children and include such important elements as nutritional counselling, physical activity and child care.

However, it also involves parents as both leaders and learners. The program would be designed and managed by aboriginal people at the community level and would be sensitive to both cultural and linguistic realities. We anticipate committing $10 million to this program in its first year, to be expanded to a total of $40 million in its fourth year of operation.

Successful head start programs can help reduce some of the effects of poverty by stimulating a desire for learning, by entrenching a positive self image and by providing for social, emotional and physical needs of these at risk children.

If successful-and I am very positive it will be-this program could be extended to other Canadian children in need.

Children are the future of our country and their well-being is everyone's responsibility. Healthy, confident children can develop and grow to their potential and all of us benefit.

In the early sixties, when I was a secretary in a doctor's office, I had to collect the outstanding accounts. I know first-hand how medical bills can paralyse a family. It has as much devastation as any debilitating illness. It is the reason why I am so set against user fees. In my mind, compassion must always come first. Without it we are simply turning health into another commodity to be traded and bargained for. That is not my way. In my world people, from newborns to seniors, come first. I pledge to this House that the people aspect of health will remain the driving force behind all of our thinking.

In the months ahead it is our intention to work with all Canadians to make an excellent health care system even better. Canadians should expect no less and this government will make it happen.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment and wish you the very best. I also want to congratulate the hon. minister on a very fine and well-delivered speech. I have only had the opportunity to meet this minister on a short term.

Having been a high school principal for many years I have a tendency to take a first impression of people. I would like the members of this House to know that I indeed was impressed with the minister. I know she is going to be a fine lady to do this job and can count on a lot of support. I do not envy her. It is an horrendous task.

However, I have one thing I would like to bring up concerning user fees. This Chamber is transferring the responsibility of delivering medical services to the provinces. The province of Alberta is struggling desperately to save its health care programs. Under the leadership of Ralph Klein, the Government of Alberta and the people of Alberta have jointly agreed to institute some form of user fee that would not affect those who are most in need.

Does the hon. minister not feel that if we are putting that kind of responsibility on that province that we should not interfere with the deliverance of that medical process?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Wild Rose for his kind words. It is indeed a new Parliament and a new atmosphere here. I do not recall ever having heard these kind words in the last Parliament.

I would like to remind the hon. member for Wild Rose that the actual management of the health care system is within the jurisdiction of provincial governments but the federal government does set the parameters. The Canada Health Act specifies medically necessary services.

I hold very dearly to the concept that user fees are detrimental to what happens to Canadians. I am going to tell you why. In many instances when a user fee is charged it becomes a short-term way of collecting more money but it does not change the functioning of the health care system. What ends up happening is that the same people who perhaps have been abusing the system or not using it properly then feel that they can continue to misuse or not use appropriately the actual medical system in place.

Very often those people who needed to access that service could not because they did not have the amount of money available to pay up front. It perhaps was a very small fee but for some people it is a big fee. They do not visit the doctor in the early stages of a disease and in the end the disease progresses. They become much sicker and have to enter the hospital. The whole thing has now cost the government far more because not only does it have to pay the medical costs, it then has to pick up all of the other social costs associated with, let us say, a single parent being admitted to a hospital. It also has to bear the brunt of the hospital costs which are far higher than the initial doctor's visit might have been.

From my personal experience, I know that a user fee is the wrong way to go. It is not the way to ensure that our system changes to meet the needs of those who really need it.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to start by congratulating the Minister of Health on her election of course, but also on her appointment to this portfolio which is extremely important to all Quebecers and Canadians.

I listened with a great deal of interest to her speech and, as the hon. member before me said, I really get the feeling that the minister is concerned about preserving an efficient health care system while acknowledging at the same time the financial problems that the government is currently facing. This is to her credit.

I would, however, like to draw her attention to the work being done in the community. She referred to initiatives aimed at lowering the cost of providing services. It is a well-known fact that community organizations are doing some amazing work in this area.

I represent the constituency of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead and in the Eastern Townships where I live, there is an agency called IRIS that provides counselling and home care services to persons with AIDS. This organization's incredible work is praised by all those working in the community sector and, of course, by people with AIDS. IRIS, like most other organizations of this nature, depends on grants to stay in business. The cost of the services it provides cannot be compared to the cost of caring for people in an institutional setting. The salaries paid to workers in the community-based sector are, more often than not, well below the poverty level and volunteers are crucial to the operation of these agencies.

I would like the minister to tell us what importance she attaches to the community-based sector and what her government intends to do, not only to maintain but to increase the level of assistance to community agencies right across Canada, and to those in my region and my riding in particular.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, as you know we are deeply concerned about funding issues. The National Forum on Health which will be held shortly will examine many of these questions. It is absolutely essential that we look at ways of treating people while using the dollars we have more effectively.

The local community service centres, or CLSCs, in Quebec have a remarkable history. They do extraordinary work and they are certainly an example to many others in our country. Therefore, I hope that we will be able to compare notes and exchange ideas because I am convinced that they will provide us with an answer to the financial pressures we are now facing.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, my congratulations to the minister of health on her appointment to cabinet.

The minister may recall that Bill C-91 was passed in the last Parliament. It was a bill ensuring that drug manufacturers have patent protection for certain drugs. The minister may also know that since that bill has been passed the cost of prescription drugs to Canadians has skyrocketed.

Given the fact that this bill has provided monopolistic protection for drug manufacturers to charge whatever prices they see fit to people who really require prescription drugs for the sake of their health and in many cases are in life giving situations, is the minister now contemplating a repealing of Bill C-91?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, but let me remind him that the particular bill on patent legislation is the responsibility of the minister of industry, science and technology.

What concerns me, though, is the cost of prescription drugs because it puts an awful burden on our health care system. The patented prices review board which reviews the prices of patented drugs has reported that in the first six months of 1993 the prices of patented medicines have decreased somewhat.

This being said, I am still very much concerned with the prices of non-patented drugs which take up a very large number of dollars. I am also very much concerned with a statistic released recently that indicated our usage of prescription drugs had increased by over 8 per cent.

There are very serious problems that we have to address and I am working with my provincial counterparts to find a solution to them.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in this House. I first want to express my sincere thanks to the people of my constituency of Laurentides for their support and for the confidence they placed in me last October 25. The people of Laurentides, surely the most beautiful riding in Canada, can count on me to represent them well in this House. I will do my job in a vigorous and dynamic manner. My actions and decisions will always be based on the principles of respect, equity and dignity.

Last October 25 the population made a choice reflecting its profound dissatisfaction with the existing political and administrative system. The people clearly showed us that they were fed up with an unproductive system that is too costly and too complex and that does not meet the needs of a population looking for major changes. They also demand more power through their members of Parliament to influence and guide their government.

Let us never forget that we are the people's representatives. We must always act as their spokespersons and look after their welfare. If we want to regain their trust, I honestly think that we should adhere to that philosophy.

We, as members of the Bloc Quebecois, intend to address the problems clearly identified during the last election campaign. Our efforts will focus on creating long-term jobs, reducing the debt, putting government finances on a healthier footing, maintaining social benefits and, of course, promoting Quebec sovereignty. Despite what some members of this House are saying, the people in my riding knowingly elected me as a sovereigntist member of Parliament. We did not wait till the morning of October 26 to tell Quebecers: "Okay, from now on we want a sovereign Quebec". That was our message throughout the election campaign and the people still elected us.

Our mandate is clear. Even if the Prime Minister claims that he does not want anything to do with the constitutional debate, we will always remind him that our basic mandate is to help Quebec achieve sovereignty. We were elected on a sovereignty platform, without making election promises, without a Prime Minister's office to table projects.

If the government intends, as it says in the throne speech, to work vigorously to make federalism meet the needs of Canadians, we on this side will do the same to promote our political option that will also certainly meet the needs of Quebecers.

These needs are numerous and vary for each individual. However, what people need can generally be summed up as decent living conditions. The government must do its utmost to meet these basic individual needs.

Regarding employment, we all know that the government has just launched its famous infrastructure program. This program that the Liberals see as the saviour of our economy is clearly insufficient. It does not bring about any of the major changes needed by our flagging economy. The government is creating short-term jobs.

The worker who paves a road or paints a building will find himself without a job again after his contract is completed. The government will never manage to create long-term jobs in this manner. The infrastructure program is only a band-aid solution. We put ointment on the cut without worrying about the scar. The program will create 65,000 temporary jobs, while over 1.5 million Canadians are unemployed.

The government must strive to find and create sound, original programs to more effectively fight the chronic unemployment that has plagued us far too long already. We must act now. In my riding, which is part of the Laurentides administrative region, the unemployment rate was 15.1 per cent in December 1993. Add to that 28,000 income support recipients and this brings the total of unemployed people to 60,000, out of a workforce of 213,000. This means that 28 per cent of our people are out of work. That is an alarming figure and a great concern to me. We cannot hope to make our society a better place to live in when so many people are unproductive.

Work is an important value and is essential to the good health of people and societies. It is imperative the government address this priority. We on this side are prepared to support any sensible action that would hold the promise of lasting employment.

The road to employment must include manpower training, an area that currently reflects how poorly the federal system is working. The workers also need to be able to respond quickly to market requirements. I would be remiss not to mention the youth employment issue that we have to examine thoroughly. Drop-outs and street children are a growing social phenomenon that demand serious attention. We must lead, guide, motivate our young people to plan a career that will be rewarding to them. It is not with the Youth Service Corps, which revives so to speak the former Katimavik program, that we are going to boost youth employment while young Canadians are so hard hit by the present economic situation.

Supporting the efforts of businesses to gain access to new markets is another good way to increase employment levels. The government must play a major role at the international level by developing with the stakeholders ways to spot market opportunities that can be seized to create longer-term employment.

Another interesting alternative is work restructuring. If our economy is sluggish, managing work differently could make up for it.

The throne speech suggested very few new approaches in that area. It is marked by a glaring lack of vision and innovative ideas. Yet, this is an all new government.

As opposition critic for public works and government services, I have given some thought to the complexity of the system and how the country should be run.

At first glance, it is obvious that the system is getting out of control and does not promote effectiveness, as the Auditor General's reports keep reminding us year after year.

My remarks will of course tie in with my party's priorities in terms of fiscal consolidation. Our position is clear. We want a House committee to be set up to review budget expenditures, item by item, and cut unnecessary expenditures, including some defence expenditures.

The purpose of the review will be to maximise the return on investment of every dollar taken out of the pockets of Canadian taxpayers. We must put an end to squandering, trim the fat, reduce the number of departments and streamline their operation.

The message we received last October 25 was unequivocal: the taxpayers have had it with paying all the time but not getting their money's worth. As our leader said in his reply, the people of Quebec are certainly not reaping the so-called federal manna.

The big Canadian bureaucracy, an insatiable tax collector, is unable to control its costs, to eliminate needless spending, to cut fat. The ship is huge and it is sinking faster every day. The crew cannot plug the thousands of holes which are dragging them down. For now, Quebecers are on the ship but they have asked us to start inflating a lifeboat so they can return to dry land. That is a very realistic request.

Right here in this House, we are able to note wasteful spending, superfluity and a certain indifference to all that. Imagine a similar situation in all departments and crown corporations. Monstrous is the word that comes to my mind.

Just in front of the Centre Block of Parliament, Public Works and Government Services is now doing masonry work in mid-winter. A well-built shelter is being heated and masonry work is going on. Is that logical and sensible? Would it not cost less to do that work in summer? Who decides? Every day, we see workers on the roof of the Supreme Court. I know that this work is done by the private sector, but is it logical and does it make budgetary sense to plan roofing work for mid-winter? Who makes those decisions?

We in the Bloc Quebecois all advocate a clean-up of the federal government. However, these cutbacks must not be made on the backs of the poorest people in our society, the Quebecers and Canadians who have been left behind and in these last few years have had to cut not luxuries but necessities. This is particularly true for co-operative and social housing programs.

In this International Year of the Family, how can we accept that some families do not live in clean, well-heated, well-lit homes? How can we ignore this deplorable situation? How can the speech from the throne be silent on this question? Of course, we are promised a residential renovation program. But how will we renovate homes for the poorest people who are homeless?

The present government seems inclined to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors under whom, from 1984 to 1994, the number of social housing units built in Canada dropped from 25,000 a year to zero: what a Tory massacre.

Today, across Canada, some 1.2 million households urgently need housing. In Quebec, the figures show an intolerable level of poverty. One household in three, or 404,000 tenant households, pay more than 30 per cent of their income for housing. Even worse, one household in six, or 194,000 households, pay more than 50 per cent of their income for housing.

In New Brunswick, according to the Telegraph Journal for October 1993, 28,000 people needed adequate housing. However, the government remains silent on this subject. Every month, hundreds of thousands of households ask the same question: How to pay the rent? How do you pay the rent when all your income is from welfare, unemployment insurance, an old-age pension or from insecure, underpaid or part-time employment?

Households cut in other areas, on food, clothing, transportation and the few recreational activities that are still affordable. Single people and the ever-growing number of one-parent families in our society are the most affected by this deplorable situation. I add to this list the homeless, the young people who are out on the street and the native people living in cities.

Do we pay the rent or eat? Does anyone in this House have to ask himself or herself that question at the beginning of each month? So why do fellow citizens have to ask themselves that question? Must we conclude that the Liberals do not care, since the throne speech is silent on this issue? Will the Liberals reinstate federal assistance to social housing or not? This situation is a real shame. The government should be quick to act and invest in a global social housing program in order to meet the urgent needs of the poor. In Great Britain and in the Netherlands social housing units represent 70 per cent of all rented dwellings. In Sweden, it is 55 per cent.

In 1991, only 10 per cent of dwellings were social housing units. The right to a dwelling is a basic one for everyone, regardless of their income, their sex, their race, and their physical or mental health.

The private sector, which is strictly motivated by profits, is unable to fully respect this right and to allow everybody to have access to dwellings. The state must play a major role in the housing sector.

Over the last few years, we have repeatedly seen members of Parliament cut ribbons to mark the opening of social, low-income, co-op or other social housing units. These members had a big smile on their face; however, they refrained from telling the public that their scissors were also cutting housing programs for the poor. Indeed, as of January 1994 these programs are a thing of the past.

I ask the members opposite to go to their ridings to see what is going on and to realize that some people are living in very inadequate dwellings. I also ask them to talk to the Minister of Finance to tell him to restore and improve the social housing programs which were abruptly ended by the Conservatives.

To get an idea of the urgency of this issue, tonight go to bed without eating and turn off the heating. You will put yourself in the situation experienced by thousands of households at the end of each month. If it is very cold, your skin will gradually turn

from red to blue, colours we are very familiar with in this House. At that point, get up and turn the heating back on, otherwise the cold will get to you and you could face amputation, with only two members in your house. Now, this is something we have seen before.

You will then understand your mistake; you will realize that your coolness toward the poor has left you totally incapable of doing anything except implore. Honourable members opposite, I realize that the red book has become your bible, but other books exist. For your information, I can tell you that the Messiah is no longer with us and, in any case, was not from the riding of Saint-Maurice.

Let me tell you that we Bloc Quebecois members are going to keep a close eye on you; we are constantly going to pester you regarding social housing and other social programs. We are here not only to promote Quebec's sovereignty, but also to protect the interests of the poor.

The disengagement of the federal government is an inhuman act. The government uses the public debt to justify unjustifiable cuts. It keeps telling us, like the Prime Minister did, that we have to live within our means. There is not enough money. Yet, the government grants numerous tax exemptions which cost billions of dollars every year and which profit the rich. Canadians obviously want changes in this area. We mentioned it clearly before October 25 and people supported our message on tax reform.

In the long run, additional funding for social housing will translate into very significant savings in sectors such as health and social services and will have a major impact on the economy, for example as regards job creation.

I am disappointed by the throne speech as regards social housing and in fact many other issues. We were hoping for new initiatives from the new Liberal team which was announced during the election campaign. Unfortunately, originality, creativity and new ideas do not seem to come easy to that new team. Quite the contrary. Its program is flat and bland. We are part of the federal system. Quebecers will soon decide about their future. In the meantime, we are here to promote sovereignty and to protect the interests of Quebecers and those of the poor within our community.

I do hope that each hon. member in this House will have a thought for the poor in his or her riding and in our society.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick


Fernand Robichaud LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs)

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Laurentides for her speech and I can assure her that the members on this side of the House will certainly have special thoughts for the underprivileged and the people who need housing.

The hon. member wants to protect the rights of Quebecers and of all Canadians. She also said in her speech that the Canadian ship is, in fact, sinking. She mentioned a lifeboat they were trying to inflate. I find it a bit hard to understand how the members opposite can claim to act in the interests of all Canadians when they use their separatist argumentation like a torpedo to try to sink the Canadian ship. Does the hon. member not know that her speech is not helping and is not in the best interests of Canadians?

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

He is right, you know.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, when we say we want to work in the best interests of the underprivileged in Canada, we mean it. I maintain that the Canadian ship is sinking and I think the government managed to do it without our help.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

We are now trying to save the underprivileged and Quebec.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, may I take this opportunity to congratulate you, the government and all other members of the House on their recent successful elections. I would also thank the residents of Comox-Alberni for allowing me the honour of representing them in the House.

Comox-Alberni is a large resource based riding on central Vancouver Island. The key natural resources are forestry and fishing. In addition there are several retirement communities located on the east coast of the island, as well as the Canadian forces base located at Comox.

I thank my family, my wife Karen and my son Cameron, for without their help I would not be here today.

I would like to address some concerns shared by many Canadians about anticipated actions of the government regarding natural resources, in particular issues concerning forestry and the environment.

Forest products are not only British Columbia's main export but Canada's as well. Forestry is Canada's number one industry as many members here today will be able to attest in their own ridings.

For example, in British Columbia the forest sector provided 270,000 jobs, paid $2.4 billion in taxes, and exported $11 billion worth of products in 1992. However the forest sector is facing losses both in jobs and in profits and will continue to do so until a balance is struck between forest conservation and forest development.

Speech From The ThroneGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

It being eleven o'clock a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5) the House will now proceed to statements by members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Alzheimer Awareness MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, January is Alzheimer Awareness Month in Canada. All across the country organizations involved with Alzheimer's disease will undertake activities to raise awareness of this terrible illness. There is no known cause or cure for Alzheimer's disease. It not only affects the people who have it but it also affects the lives of their families and friends.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer's at home is challenging and burdensome. Alzheimer Awareness Month is a time to demonstrate support for Canadians with Alzheimer's and their families. It is also a time to acknowledge the many informal caregivers who are doing such a tremendous job throughout the country.

I urge all Canadians to support efforts to increase public awareness of Alzheimer's disease and to research to find a cure.

Tragedy In Les BoulesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, the small village of Les Boules in my constituency was hit by a terrible tragedy last Tuesday, when five members of one family died in the fire that destroyed their home. Mr. Michel St-Pierre and his four daughters, Julie, Claudia, Jessie and Émilie, aged 15 months to 11 years, all died in the blaze. Only the mother, Martine, miraculously got away. Mr. St-Pierre was well known in the area for his involvement in municipal politics and his performance in various sports. The couple also did volunteer work to help the destitute in the area.

I want to express my deepest sympathy to the friends and family of Mr. St-Pierre as well as to his fellow citizens. This loss will deeply affect this small community.

Tragedy In Les BoulesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. I know hon. members want to present their statements, but before I give the floor to the hon. member for Prince George-Peace River may I suggest that when they practise their statements they are about 50 seconds, and things would probably flow more smoothly in the House.

DecorumStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of importance to all members of the House of Commons, one which I believe is of concern to many Canadians. I am speaking of decorum, or rather the lack of it, in the Chamber.

I applaud my colleagues in the Reform Party, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, as well as the new Liberal and independent MPs, for the restraint they have shown and for the example they are attempting to set for our more experienced colleagues.

Considering the lack of respect demonstrated by some hon. members, is it any wonder that Canadians take comedians seriously but think politicians are a joke?

If we are ever to change the attitude of Canadians toward parliamentarians our greatest opportunity is now. I implore you, Mr. Speaker, as well as members of the media and the constituents we represent, to assist us rookie MPs in our efforts to restore dignity to the House.

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to refute statements made by members of the Official Opposition who charge that so-called ethnic ghettos are the inevitable byproduct of Canada's multiculturalism policy.

In fact my constituents and I in Winnipeg North view the tremendous ethnic diversity of our neighbourhoods as one of their most endearing and exciting qualities.

The variety of cultures that come together on our streets and in our schools and offices enhance the character and quality of life for all residents.

The suggestion that the varied ethnic makeup of an area necessarily leads to any form of ghettoization is patently false.

The multiculturalism policy is there to help primarily non-English, non-French and non-aboriginal Canadians on an individual and community basis to play an important role in the development and cohesion of Canadian society.

Overall the policy is about the equal participation of all citizens irrespective of cultural backgrounds and thereby counteracting isolation and fostering national unity.

PovertyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the city of Winnipeg has the highest percentage of low income households in western Canada. Twelve thousand households use food banks every month, almost three times as many as in 1990.

Unfortunately there has been a collective growth in the number of people using food banks across the country.

More than 60 per cent of single-parent families live below the poverty line. We know full well that children who live in such miserable conditions are unable to realize their full potential in school and are more likely to contract infectious diseases.

While the two-pronged approach to job creation offered by the government's platform as well as other specific programs is not a panacea, it will address this lamentable situation and boost the standard of living of thousands of Canadians currently living below the poverty line.

Only through the creation of jobs will the quality of life improve for these unfortunate Canadians.

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the comments made yesterday in the House that suggested multiculturalism creates ghettos are wrong.

Some members seem to believe new Canadians will flock together in abject poverty if multiculturalism is allowed to continue. This is absurd. To its credit, the Government of Canada wants new Canadians to retain their culture and heritage.

The melting pot philosophy of the United States, which seems to be what some members want here, is not the answer. Are there no ghettos in the United States?

As we head into the 21st century this is not the time for xenophobia. The world is getting smaller and Canadians are demonstrating how we can all live together without losing our identity.

EmploymentStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gaston Péloquin Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the speech from the throne tells us that job creation is the government's top priority. Yet, just before Christmas, the Distribution and Transportation Directorate of the House of Commons dismissed 10 messengers.

What surprises me is that when the Conservative government tried to dismiss these same messengers in August 1993, several members of the present government protested vehemently. Even the hon. member for Hamilton East, now Deputy Prime Minister, said at that time, and I quote:

"For many this is the only family income. The result will be hardship and misery for the employees, their spouses and children".

Even the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said in a radio interview that it was shameful to offer 20 hours of work a week to these heads of families with two or three children. He thought it was just like sending them straight to the welfare office.

They were promised full-time jobs some time in the future, but for now, all they have are temporary jobs.

Unemployment InsuranceStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on unfairness in the unemployment insurance system.

Some members of the Canadian forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and public service are paying premiums for unemployment insurance they will never be allowed to collect.

When they reach a certain stage in their careers these people, should they retire or be released, have qualified for and will receive a pension sufficient to make them ineligible to receive unemployment insurance. Yet at present they are still required to pay the premiums. Since they can no longer collect unemployment insurance they should no longer have to pay UI premiums.

I submit the regulations should be changed so that when the pension entitlements of individuals equal or exceed the unemployment insurance they would receive, they stop paying UI premiums. To do otherwise amounts to extra and unfair taxation.