House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was programs.


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January 31st, 1994 / 3:20 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Madam Speaker, I very strongly subscribe to the philosophy that we cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

There are people in the country who have worked extremely hard and long to build security, assets and a life for themselves. If they are now to be penalized by taking away their ability to bring economic activity and jobs to the country and by saying that somehow what they have done is unfair to others, the government will be in very big trouble and will that cause a lot more problems than we anticipate.

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3:25 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Madam Speaker, today I am going to direct my comments to the matter of Canada's cultural identity from the perspective of my constituents in Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt and all Canadians who are looking for fiscal responsibility.

The arts is an area in which my family has been involved. For many years my mother operated an academy of dance in Alberta. My sister is still involved in that industry. My brother has been an actor on stage and in film in Canada and is now a producer in the Toronto area. My own background in commercial radio and the cable television industry has given me the perspective I would like to share with hon. members of the House.

I congratulate the government for talking about our cultural heritage in the throne speech, although the two sentences were very vague and lacking any detail. It certainly left me feeling as though the government may feel it appropriate to spend more tax dollars in this area. This would not be something to which I or the average Canadian who realizes the fiscal dilemma we face would agree.

First we must ask: What exactly do we mean by Canadian culture? I submit that where we live in Canada, our ethnic background and even the size of our bank account would have an impact on the answer. As Canadians we embrace individuality and freedom, caring and concern for other people. We embrace healthy competition as shown in the love of our sports. We appreciate our country's abundant natural beauty and as a people we have generously supported the arts. Therefore I ask again: What is Canadian culture?

The answer is that culture is what Canadians consume, what we as a people in a free society choose on our own to read, watch and listen to. These things are consumed. Whether art, literature, music or theatre, they will not and should not survive if they do not appeal to the Canadian consumer. No matter how much money is given in the form of government subsidies, it will not encourage the consumer to enjoy the product any more.

Our culture is as varied as the immense geography of our land. It defies attempts to reduce it to a common denominator. The things that are important in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, are not necessarily the same things that are important to us in Summerland, British Columbia. Prairie communities have their own cultural values. The people of Quebec and the people of the First Nations have their own vibrant cultures and traditions, as do members of every ethnic community in our country.

Canada's culture is not about some standard imposed on us by the culture bureaucrats. Too often in recent times someone else's idea of what is Canadian culture has been shoved down the throats of Canadians.

It is in vogue in certain cultural circles to disdain producing art for public consumption. They call it commercialization. All art, however, is commercialized and destined for consumption. Giving government subsidies to artists without equal consideration to marketing and distribution of the product is giving money away to talented people to show their works to their closest friends. If Shakespeare were alive today his name would probably be Steven Spielberg.

Canadians can be proud of the great achievements of many members of our arts community. These achievements stand out in the global community, not just on some national stage. The achievements of Alex Colville, or for that matter of Bryan Adams, stand out in a global context.

These are achievements of individuals, not of national cultural institutions or organizations. These individuals would stand out in any culture, in any society. What made them great was the fact that what they produce is what many people want to see and hear, and will pay for.

The Canadian taxpayer has generously funded the arts community for many years now. We have created institutions and a cultural bureaucracy that have a seemingly insatiable appetite for funding. In today's climate of mounting debts and out of control spending, we can no longer continue this. Every expenditure must meet the test of necessity. We have to set priorities.

In this context we have the sacred cows of the cultural bureaucracy, and expensive cows they are too. We have the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1992 it gobbled up a subsidy of $1 billion and still turned a loss of $108 million. One of the mayors in my constituency after losing a battle for funding to clean up a lake pointed out that the CBC received more money than all the federal funding for environmental programs. This is just one crown corporation.

We must priorize our spending.

Then we have the Canada Council. This institution spent some $108 million last year. Over $23 million went to administration. The projects supported by the council have also been the focus of much discussion as to their actual worth. The National Citizens Coalition of Canada says: "Actors, writers and poets all receive huge amounts of tax dollars to produce works that in most cases few want to read or hear". Unfortunately hon. members in this place will never know the effectiveness of the council because it does not have to account to Parliament.

The Auditor General has asked to examine the accounts of the Canada Council but under the exemption from part X of the Financial Administration Act the council does not have to submit to his scrutiny. That means that hon. members have no opportunity to evaluate this organization or the seven other crown corporations that are also exempt. This not only includes the CBC and Canada Council, but among others the Canada Film Development Corporation and the National Arts Centre Corporation.

We also have the National Film Board with a budget of $82 million. Can we justify this kind of spending when we have a thriving film industry? How many films does the National Film Board produce that Canadians will pay to see?

We must ask ourselves in these times of huge deficits and burgeoning debt if this cultural bureaucracy can be tolerated. Can a country with a debt of half a trillion dollars afford to continue to pour money into the institutions that have little or no benefit for the average Canadian?

I would also suggest that we concentrate on encouraging excellence in the arts, encouraging those Canadians who actually want to be listened to or seen on the global stage. We should be encouraging and assisting our best talents to reach the world stage.

Although it received no mention in the throne speech, I applaud the Liberal government's commitment expressed in the Red Book to take measures to enable producers of Canadian cultural products to export their work to international markets.

Sixty years ago people in remote areas had little access to the outside world. First radio and then television changed all that. Technology expanded the role of culture in Canada. With cablevision came community access channels which allowed local groups to reach a much wider audience. Satellite and cable technologies have allowed Canadians to watch the deliberations in this chamber via the CPAC network and they have taken us to the very scenes of world events as they unfold. Few will forget the drama and intensity witnessed at Oka or during the gulf war.

In the near future as access to hundreds of channels approaches and as individuals are empowered to decide for themselves what they wish to watch through the power of interactive technology, we will see a global culture emerge. The opportunities for our best artists and our best writers will grow but only if we have encouraged excellence.

The best assistance government can render our cultural community is to ensure that all Canadians do not face a future of national bankruptcy.

In conclusion, I applaud the government's attention to culture although I doubt we will find much common ground when it comes to spending taxpayers' money. We must critically examine every aspect of spending in this country if we are to avoid

the future of bankruptcy. Social and cultural policies cannot be exempt from this.

While spending in this country is clearly out of control, it seems to me an obvious thing that representatives of the people must have the ability to examine for themselves whether our constituents' taxes have been used wisely.

I do believe we can agree on this much. At the very least the Auditor General should be allowed to examine those corporations exempt from part X of the Financial Administration Act as part of his review of government programs and that he be asked to provide an interim report to this House as soon as possible.

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3:35 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I have to say to the member opposite that I was a little disturbed by his remarks. I come from downtown Toronto where the largest employers are those directly or indirectly related to the motion picture industry. Many of these young men and women got their beginning in places like the National Film Board and the CBC. The programs and the apprenticeship training in these great national institutions that helped these young men and women to develop the world class skills which currently allow them to make movies.

In my riding there are close to one million square feet of motion picture studio space. Right now, 5,800 people are employed with good paying, quality jobs. They make films for Disney and companies from Germany and all over the world.

Quite often people are obsessed with looking into government institutions like the CBC and the Canada Council. They are so obsessed with deficit cutting they do not realize that these are incubators for great human development and ultimately serve the whole nation and allow for a variety of export potential.

I share the concern of the hon. member about waste and making sure that we are getting a good bang for the taxpayer's buck. All too often the contribution of Canada's cultural industry to the whole macroeconomic equation is viewed in a deprecating way.

We have to be diligent. We must keep our heads up and make sure that we never desert the cultural industry in this country because it represents a good part of our soul.

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3:35 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate to the hon. member that I come from a background in the arts community. My family spent many, many years striving for excellence in the arts. We did so by other means and with no subsidies from the government.

I point out that it is not my contention that we simply abandon all the cultural programs. The thrust of my message is that we must be accountable. Those corporations must be accountable to the Canadian taxpayer. Right now the way it stands there are eight crown corporations which are exempt from the scrutiny of the Auditor General. This is unacceptable to the Canadian people from coast to coast. It does not matter where you are, if you are involved in the arts or not, this is something that is wrong. It has to be changed and we have to address it immediately.

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3:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario


Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, this morning the Minister for Human Resources Development launched us on a challenge and a journey that must succeed. It must succeed not only because the Liberal government was elected with an overwhelming message of hope and jobs, but most particularly because over the last decade we have seen a generation of young Canadians who are losing hope in the capacity of our country to survive and to provide them with the kinds of opportunities that were available to those of us who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.

I was very pleased to be joined in this Parliament by a tremendous number from the generation of the so-called baby boomers and even some who are younger than the baby boomers.

I remember that as a child growing up I came from a family where neither my mother nor my father had a university education. My mother quit school at age 15 to go to work and support other members of her family. Every single one of their children had the opportunity for a college or a university education and to better themselves.

If there is a driving motivation that leads certainly Liberals to Parliament it is to create a climate whereby our children can at least meet or exceed the same level of life we have had.

Earlier there was a reference to our expectations and needs with respect to immigration. All those men and women who decided to come to Canada made that decision because they felt there was a place where they would be able to do better than their parents did, and that place was Canada.

The great challenge the minister of human resources faces is getting Canadians to believe in themselves and in their capacity to be the greatest country in the world. That requires innovation. That requires a capacity to stare change in the face without blinking.

This means all members of all political parties must be able to accept and welcome change, because the social programs that formed the basis of our society in the sixties no longer work. The members of the Bloc Quebecois know this. The members of the Liberal Party know that today, the training programs that are

supposed to give our young people a chance no longer work. We can say it is a bureaucratic problem and that it is up to the bureaucrats in Quebec and Ottawa to improve the way programs are managed. But that is not the answer. The real answer is to give people the tools they need to strike out in new directions.

We are entering into the year of the family. In 1994 the United Nations definition of the family has changed very much from the kind of family I grew up in, where my mother immediately upon getting married was required by the Steel Company of Canada to quit her job because in those days you could not be a secretary at Stelco and at the same time be a married woman. They were incompatible.

Times have changed, thank God, Madam Speaker. We are seeing women who are able both to compete in the workforce and indeed to carry more than their share in the home in a way that we have never seen before. We are seeing blended families. Indeed we are seeing single parents, particularly women, in numbers greater than ever before and who in fact are emerging as one of the under classes of society.

One question we have to ask ourselves is what kind of family do we want to support in terms of public policies. More families have both parents working outside the home. Indeed the proportion of working women has doubled in the last three decades.

The family, the workplace and society have and continue to change. There are same sex partners. The world is a changing and evolving place and it is our responsibility, as the Parliament of Canada, to be on the cutting edge of change, not to merely be the tail wagging the dog.

When we look at families we have to understand that the first transition we make is that from infancy to school. Those are crucial formative years. During this stage a child's capacity to succeed or fail in the future is very much underlined and dependent upon the support that he or she receives from family and from the greater society.

We need an integrated approach and I believe that is the approach launched this morning by the minister for human resources. We need economic growth obviously to provide hope. We need economic growth in the short term so that we can address the very crucial issue of child care.

As you know the Liberal Party made a commitment to child care that was dependent on economic growth. That is because we recognize the limitations in the pocketbooks of government and in particular, the pocketbooks of taxpayers.

We want and need to have economic growth to increase substantially the kind of support we can provide to give young children from the ages of zero to five the kind of leg up they need to be able to take their fair place in society.

Twenty years ago, Piaget realized that the most important years in a child's life were between the ages of 0 and 5. People who today have no respect for the law and believe that guns are the answer to all our problems are people who did not have the right kind of nurturing when they were young, and that is very important.

How can people who are living in poverty get out of it if they do not have access to legitimate available community supports?

The second transition outlined by the minister is the one that young Canadians make from school into the work force. This is a real priority for the government. The capacity of our young people to succeed and even to be welcomed into the real world is vital not only for individual self-esteem but also for the collective well-being and prosperity of our country.

When a 17, 18 or 19-year old young person or even a 21 or 22-year old has done all the things we have said such as get an education and then finds that the job market cannot be cracked, what kind of signal are we sending?

The third transition and one that is most critical in industrial ridings like my riding of Hamilton East, is the transition that workers are making as they move from an industrial to a post industrial economy. Job security, benefits and liveable wages are no longer a given.

That ties into the final transition and the one which will occupy a tremendous amount of the attention of this government. That is the move from the work force to retirement. Canadians are living longer. We have to be able to think about how we can most rapidly help an aging population.

It is very troubling to realize that while we are talking about the circumstances of our children, who are the future of this country, there are more than one million families living in poverty in Canada and more than one million young people under 18 who are living in poverty. Children may become the poorest group in Canada. The repercussions of poverty extend into our classrooms, where in some cases 40 per cent of school children do not get proper nutrition and care.

In some instances 40 per cent of children are going to Canadian schools hungry.

Common sense tells us that children who are hungry cannot learn. They cannot pay attention on an empty stomach. We know that poverty among young people and children is caused by the increasing number of low-income families who are unable to break the poverty cycle. These families have little incentive and few opportunities to make a change in their situation. Social programs like unemployment insurance and welfare are supposed to help them break out of the poverty cycle and recover their self-respect, their independence and especially their dignity.

Our social security system must change, both in the way it deals with families caught in the poverty cycle and with children who are disadvantaged from an early age. The transition from school to the job world is one of the most important steps in our lives.

I am sure that everyone here remembers the experience: the hesitation mixed with apprehension. We may have felt the same way when we made the decision to get into politics, because we have a number of questions that have not been answered: will we achieve full employment? Will it work? Will we have the co-operation and resources we need?

In some parts of Canada, up to one out of three students will drop out of high school. Employers tell us they need workers who know how to read, write, do mathematics and learn new skills. At a time when well-paying jobs require more and more skills, one-quarter of Canadians cannot read a newspaper, a book or a restaurant menu.

In 1992, the Economic Council of Canada warned us that if this problem were allowed to persist, the next decade would add another million illiterate young people to the labour force.

I just said that according to a 1992 study done by the Economic Council of Canada, if the trends continue where we have one-quarter of young people leaving school without being able to read and write, we will be adding one million young people to the unemployment rolls who can neither read nor write nor add up the cost of items on the menu in a restaurant.

These young people are at the greatest disadvantage on the labour market. They realize they need to improve their skills, but sometimes they have no idea where to go for help.

That is why we cannot fail in our mission to restructure social security, unemployment insurance, the whole social fabric, to give those young people a chance to get out there and to be the best they can be. Improved literacy and dropout prevention programs are part and parcel of the kinds of labour market programs that our new social security system must provide in concert with the provinces.

Including Quebec because that province is also looking for ways to improve the lot of its young people. We want to give them a second chance, not write them off by putting them on welfare, on B.S. as they call it in Quebec, and everyone knows what people think of B.S. By the way, the acronym B.S. does not stand for the same thing in French and in English. Those young people on welfare want concrete solutions to their problem.

Too many young people are falling into a black hole between high school and the workplace. The training opportunities we are identifying must emerge and we must expand into occupations where there will be good paying jobs at the end of the road. Environmental technologies, the information age and the electronic highway are opening up all kinds of avenues in a country that is as geographically and demographically diverse as Canada.

Our guiding principle must be to remember that young people have the potential to learn, to improve and to succeed. We cannot afford to write them off like some sort of debt and deficit liability. That is why the minister of human resources said today that our concern is the deficit but our concern is also the human deficit that is creating a generation of young people who have lost confidence in the capacity of society to give them the kinds of chances that I had.

When I graduated from university I applied to four newspapers for a job, two in Ottawa and two in Montreal, and I was hired by one of them. A young journalism graduate now coming out of university could send out 60, 100 or 200 job applications and would more than likely come up dry. That certainly has a real impact on self-esteem and the capacity to believe in yourself and your country.

Let us seize the opportunity to turn the situation around and build a generation of hope, a generation of talented young people who envision chances for a better life or even a life as good as that which many of our generation have enjoyed. Education and training touch the lives of every worker. The work force as we know it is changing: contract work, part-time work, at home work. They are all potential fixtures in the new

and emerging economy. Restructuring, downsizing, streamlining, whatever the buzz word, they all mean the same thing: lay-offs.

The economy is shifting. It is forcing more and more Canadians to face the prospect of frequent job loss, retraining and job hunting. Our social programs have not kept up with the workplace realities of the new economy.

To put it in context, I remember during the election campaign I knocked on the door of a gentleman who lived on Nash Road in my riding. He had worked for 23 years. His daughter was in university. He was hoping to meet the dream of getting her into a university that he never could have gone to and he was on his last week of unemployment insurance. He was on the verge of going to apply for welfare. This was a person who wanted to work but after knocking on door after door, they were closed to him.

The challenge is to get to these people and the doors that they need opened. We must help the displaced workers in manufacturing which I certainly know very well in my own riding. The fisheries and resource industries face a real tough reintegration into the work force.

We are talking about workers who have contributed to our country and communities year in and year out. They are hard working people. They need our help to get them back on their feet. They do not want a permanent welfare cheque. What they want is a trampoline. They want a system that supports their efforts to try and face the challenges of a new economy. We must enable older workers to learn new skills and adapt to changes in the workplace.

We are all aware of the changes our society is going through. More and more children will have to take care of their parents. The Canadian population is getting older. We must together find a way for the aged to keep their independence and their dignity.

These transitions form our collective experience, shared by each and every Canadian.

I can speak to the situation in my own community where a citizen action group has been offering pilot programs to help workers over the age of 50 get back on their feet and into the job market. They are using a very creative pilot project where they top off welfare benefits and integrate people into working offices. That program has been working. What the Minister of Human Resources Development is asking Canadians to do is to get our collective heads together and find solutions that work in our communities.

It does not mean that everything will be managed at the federal level. On the contrary, the experience of the last decade shows that solutions will have to come from communities. Whether manpower programs are changed in Quebec or in Ottawa, what is important is that people from Chicoutimi, Rimouski, Hamilton and Shawinigan have the opportunity to get directly involved in training. That is exactly what is proposed in the minister's plan.

I know that my community is already working to make sure that the minister's model for new employment works at the local and community level. We want to hear from Canadians.

We must also try to implement an integrated approach to social reform. Naturally, we need the provinces in order to face that enormous challenge. We cannot and we must not act unilaterally in an area affecting the lives of everyone.

We need and want provincial support. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources Development have had very positive signals from the provinces that they too see the need for real reform.

The task is enormous and urgent. The government is determined to see it through, but we know it will be impossible without the support of each and every Canadian.

That is why we want to hear from members on this issue. This is a monumental task. It is a real challenge. It is one we must succeed in, not so much for ourselves because obviously with the backgrounds we have and the support we have received, we have been able to benefit from living in a great country. But there are literally thousands of other Canadians who are asking us when will they benefit?

This package and this initiative by the minister will set in motion the opening of doors for those Canadians who are looking for their chance into the 21st century.

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3:55 p.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Madam Speaker, let me thank the minister for her statements and her emphasis on job creation and developing hope, especially for Canada's young.

Let me stress as she did the importance of job creation in our economy and let me ask her a question which flows primarily from the difference between words and action.

If we look at the research, we will now see that while an active social program policy is important in terms of training Canadians to be better equipped to take on the jobs that might be there, we also know that this active social program approach will in the main create just more skilled unemployed people, unless we do something on the job creation side. Nothing that we do on the social program side will do anything to create jobs for those people.

The minister will remember in the Red Book these words: "The Conservatives' single-minded fight against inflation resulted in a deep recession, three years without growth, declining incomes, sky-rocketing unemployment, a crisis in international payments and the highest combined set of government deficits in our history." The minister, along with others in the government, has said, "Judge us by our red book".

The minister will know that her government has appointed to the Bank of Canada a John Crow think-alike, Gordon Thiessen. This particular comment that I read was targeted for Mr. Crow. I think the statement in the Red Book is right. Appointing Mr. Thiessen, I think the minister will agree, will make it almost impossible to create jobs on anything like the scale needed to get those 3 million or 4 million Canadians back to work.

I wonder if the minister would like to comment on whether the Red Book was right or appointing Mr. Thiessen was right.

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4 p.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all I want to thank the hon. member for his question. In the last Parliament his party and my party were involved in many vigorous debates. I am happy to see that the Canadian people sent us to government in large numbers, but I know that he has certainly a record of being a social conscience on these issues and I hope he will continue to be that conscience.

That being said, I think the decision of the Government of Canada to accept the resignation of John Crow is one that I thought the member actually would be applauding. I am a little bit surprised that he somehow is taking it from stage one to stage two. I do think also, in all seriousness, that the approach of the Government of Canada has to be to inject some hope in the economy first and foremost.

Mr. Thiessen or Mr. Crow, single-handed, are not going to solve the problems of Canadians. I think we need job creation strategies. That is why the first thing we did was in fact to implement the $6 billion infrastructure program.

There is another area where his colleagues from Saskatchewan may be able to help us. I have been working very closely with the Minister of Industry on the whole issue of environmental technologies. We are hoping at the same time to ensure that interprovincial barriers to job and economic growth are wiped out. I know his colleague, the Premier of Saskatchewan, is going to want to hear his views on how important it is to ensure that we have a growing economy that basically breaks down provincial barriers.

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4 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister for her speech. She drew a very interesting and penetrating, albeit alarming, picture of the social situation prevailing in Canada at the present time. However, I am concerned by the fact that when it comes to solutions, she is less than forthcoming, to say the least.

As far as I am concerned, I see three different options and I would like to know what she thinks of them. First, you cut social programs, as some recommend, that is to say that you go after those who are already in a weakened position.

Second, you increase taxes, affecting the middle class who, as we know, is already heavily burdened. Finally, you can, as the member for Davenport suggested with a lot of courage, lucidity and insight, go after the rich who, in Canada as in the rest of the world, are hardly affected by incentives to fill the public purse. It takes a lot of courage for a government to tackle this segment of our society. First of all I would like to know where the Deputy Prime Minister stands on this issue.

Then, I would like to know where she stands, in reference to the remarks made by the member for Davenport, regarding the two main avenues offered to us concerning public expenditures and revenues. In other words, is the government spending too much or is it short of revenues? We know that in the last three years, it has shown that both spending and revenues have been decreasing.

Finally, I would like to know what she thinks of an opinion held by some analysts to the effect that the hidden agenda of this gigantic exercise of co-operation, upgrading and restructuring we have been invited to participate in, is to suppress the middle class in the Western world so that there only remain a few rich and powerful people and a lot of poor ones, just as in the under-developed countries. Is it not what we can expect in Canada and, consequently, in Quebec?

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4:05 p.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Obviously if we continue to do with the tax system what our predecessors did, we will have a society with some very rich people and some very poor people and no middle class. That is why I think it is very important for the initiative launched by my colleague to succeed. This issue does not concern only government taxation. You know very well that if we cut the Canadian government's budget by 6 per cent tomorrow, we would not be able to meet our commitments on spending, transfer payments and so on. I think that the Bloc

Quebecois is very aware of the need to give the provinces some assurance about their revenue situation.

We recognize that cutting government spending will not solve the problem, nor will broadening the tax base. What will create confidence is training to prepare our young people for the job market. When they work, they will pay taxes and the economy will grow. I think that is where we differ, and I will take the beautiful riding of Bellechasse as an example. We can admire the lovely geese of Montmagny, which suggests very specific solutions in terms of expanding tourism. The solutions would not necessarily be the same for the riding of Lévis, which depends heavily on the Seaway.

The important thing in the process is not only the sharing of responsibilities between the federal and provincial governments but also going directly to the people and asking them, "Do you have solutions to offer that work?" It goes from the grass roots right up to Parliament. Sometimes we are too caught up in issues of federal versus provincial jurisdiction; there are too many bureaucratic battles. The important thing is to have jobs and training to meet employment needs in all regions. That is what the Minister of Human Resources Development is looking for.

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4:05 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister for her comments.

There is something that is getting on my nerves and I would like to tell the hon. member about it. Some people say that the federal government wants to interfere in areas under provincial jurisdiction. If you look back on Canadian history, you can easily, very easily see that the federal government has constantly impinged on provincial jurisdiction, and I think it is because-

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4:05 p.m.


Sheila Copps Liberal Hamilton East, ON

Madam Speaker, we should not be interfering in provincial jurisdictions. But then, when I read in the papers, for example, about toxic chemicals being found in the St. Lawrence, I wonder where they come from? They come from the Great Lakes, in Ontario, from my region. Every action induces a reaction. When the famous British North America Act was drawn up, nobody was concerned about the environment. What has to be done now, what is expected of us, is to stop arguing about who is responsible for what, and to fulfil the mandate we were given by the people, that is to take care of training and job creation. I think and we all think that the local authorities are in the best position to do this. Of course, they need support and harmonization at the federal-provincial level.

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4:10 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the hon. Minister of Human Resources Development for his kind remarks. Unfortunately, that is about as far as it goes. Since the very beginning of the session, the minister has shown no sensitivity to the specificity of Quebec as a nation, a distinct nation, one that has been hit particularly hard by federal policies. Quebec's backward economy and poverty cannot be measured against the economic conditions and poverty found across Canada, as the hon. minister did in his speech. To insist on doing so would be an insult to history, and even more so to refuse to yield to facts, facts which are measured and compared better and better by the day. Many people deny these disturbing facts because they would call for an explanation and, today as in the past, they constitue a strong incentive for action.

You would think that statistics were conspiring to break the whole truth to the House of Commons about the relative economic backwardness of Quebec and the extent of poverty in Quebec. We have before us the annual reports that allow comparisons to be made and conclusions to be drawn.

When the second largest province in Canada ranks first in terms of low-income families, it is out-of-place to state, as the minister did, that there is poverty in Quebec like everywhere else in Canada. The truth of the matter is that Quebec has only recently won this title, although it had always been in the running. It is the first time that Quebec takes this dubious honour away from New Brunswick or Newfoundland. Just for the sake of comparison, let us say that there are as many families below the low income cut-off in the Montreal area alone as in all of the Atlantic provinces combined.

Let us take a look at the significance of this. If Quebec, with a little over 25 per cent of the population of Canada, has 31 per cent of low-income families living within its borders, this means that the rest of Canada, all of Canada minus Quebec, with 75 per cent of the population, accounts only for two thirds of low-income families anyway. Poverty in Quebec weighs more heavily on Quebec than over-all Canadian poverty on Canada.

We all know that unemployment and poverty are rampant almost everywhere in Canada. Millions of Canadians are without hope, if not to say living in despair. Without being unique to Quebec, the phenomenon has nonetheless hit Quebec the hardest in terms of intensity and numbers of people affected.

We could expect the standard of living to be about the same for all the people living below the low income cut-off, thanks to the social safety net we have in place in Canada. For that to be true, the concentration of poverty would have to affect neither the people nor the region, which is not the case. The higher the

level of poverty and unemployment, the more destructive the effects on the affected communities.

These just-released census data show that, of all Canadian metropolitan areas, Montreal also comes first for the proportion of low-income families. These figures apply to the entire census area, so that we can say that the concentration of poor people in metropolitan Montreal is quite alarming.

The concentration of poor people in large and small communities or provinces has a significant effect on the services these communities need and on their ability to pay for and obtain these services. It impacts on their ability to keep their young people and their more dynamic elements and, in turn, on their demographic development.

The regions of Quebec are emptying faster because they are in a vicious circle of impoverishment.

I want my position on the fight against poverty to be clear right from the start. As an Official Opposition critic and member of Parliament, I will make every effort to speak on behalf of those who are not here but whose hopes and future depend on the work done in this House and, in the end, on the vote of the majority.

It is too easy for those whose income is a lot higher than that of the average Quebecer or Canadian, whose jobs are secure for at least five years, like the hon. members opposite and beside me, to look at budget constraints and forget about ordinary people who work for minimum wage or a little more, who would like to work for minimum wage or a little more but who cannot find jobs or who would not be able to raise their children on so little.

Because of their insecurity and inability to plan ahead or to save money, a large number of Quebecers and Canadians depend on collective support. This support is being questioned by the government, and any attempt to sugar-coat it for Canadians would be misleading. The government got elected by promising jobs. It did not say that the unemployed themselves would be held responsible for not having jobs.

Let us talk about poverty and unemployment, not in terms of statistics but of living conditions. Let us try to understand. When we talk about poverty and unemployment, we see two scenarios: the first is a low income level but the second must be called poverty.

The first situation, simpler for lawmakers, is when people earn less money for a while because they have lost their jobs but hope to find new employment; because they are students in a sector where jobs are available; because they are ill or have just given birth. People temporarily earning less or no income: that is the kind of problems governments like to deal with. This lack of money does not mean poverty but, combined with other problems, it can lead to it. That is why we must make every effort to prevent people from getting caught in such a horrible trap.

The second situation facing lawmakers could be called "true poverty"; it is a horrible vicious circle experienced by people whose health, education, housing, addictions, repeated failures, depression, solitude, harassment or family responsibilities only aggravate their feelings of failure and powerlessness.

In such cases, and they are becoming more and more numerous, lack of money turns into a chronic problem and life becomes worse than jail because many prisoners have a hope of getting out. Prisoners have the means to study or occupy themselves and even, ironically, a sense of security.

This poverty is worse than jail because the outside world is there, just beyond the door but, with all its attractions, it remains out of reach. Except perhaps on the evening of payday, but those who want to forget for one night will have to pay the price all month. Yes, hundreds of thousands of Quebecers and Canadians are experiencing these awful feelings of failure and powerlessness.

They accept and often internalize the judgment which they know is made against them, and they isolate themselves in their silence. These people need to be helped and not threatened with being deprived of the small pittance which is their only security.

When we, members of the Official Opposition, defend existing social programs it does not mean that we oppose any amendment or reform of those programs merely for the sake of opposing them; rather, in these times of crisis and deficit cutting, it is to defend with constantly renewed energy our social security mechanisms and the principle of fairness, and also to reinforce social cohesion. To defend the existing programs is to oppose duality, to oppose the fact that hundreds of thousands of Quebecers and millions of Canadians will be left to fend for themselves with a pittance barely sufficient to ensure their mere survival.

This is what fighting for existing programs is all about. But to do a good job at it, we must constantly demand that the government introduce an economic policy which will foster job creation, otherwise any social program, any new training, however good, will only be a makeshift solution which could make things worse, since people will be even more desperate if there is no job after this training and all their efforts prove futile.

For more than 20 years Quebec has been asking for control of all social and revenue protection programs to make them more effective. The reasons mentioned today by the minister to justify his reform are far from being new ones. In fact, the Liberals, who today find nothing better to do than to undertake a restructuring of the social security system in Canada, were the ones who refused to give Quebec full responsibility for the tax points, something which Jean Lesage had negotiated at a time when the

Liberals were still willing to negotiate, that is before the arrival on the scene of former Prime Minister Trudeau.

A social security system, no matter how good, cannot of its own give back hope and dignity to Quebecers and to Canadians. What we need more than anything is a true employment policy.

Since 1990, the employment growth rate, to which research services in Ottawa do not often refer to but we will do so, is diminishing. Indeed, the number of Canadians able to work increases more rapidly than the number of jobs available.

Why is this reform of our social security system suddenly so urgent? Why is the Minister of Human Resources Development, who is accountable to Quebecers and to Canadians for fostering job creation, not desperately trying to introduce a true employment policy, which is the only solution to give hope to young people and workers who have very little hope left indeed.

Among all the testimonies to which he referred, the minister surely remembers that of the former deputy minister of Employment and Immigration, Mr. Arthur Kroeger, who strongly criticized Canadian governments. His comments were reported in the Globe and Mail , last week. This is not a quote; it is an excerpt from the

Globe and Mail.

He said, "Canada has never had a real employment strategy, even though the unemployment rate, especially long-term joblessness, has been climbing since the 1950s and the labour market is polarizing into well-paid jobs for those with solid skills at one end and low-paid jobs for those with little education at the other".

Later, he added, in his own words:

"What we are seeing is a growth of a Canadian under-class".

In another article, which was reproduced in Quorum by the way, yet another expert, Mr. Lars Osberg, told the hon. Minister of Human Resources that social program reform is not what will create jobs, that reform and job creation should go hand in hand. He insisted on the necessity of an employment policy.

If the minister is preoccupied by jobs, why did he increase unemployment insurance premiums as of January 1 instead of freezing them for now, while recovery is so slow, and increasing them later on when recovery has reached the level that economists are promising him? They all agree that these repeated increases have a negative impact on employment, that they constitute an employment tax.

The answer is simple; with all its generous statements the Liberal government has but one purpose and that is to reduce the deficit. No, I am sorry, they have two main purposes: to reduce the deficit and to implement a system, and I quote from Mr. Axworthy's speech, on page 7, a typically Canadian system that will "give Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness".

Therefore, it is not surprising that today, in the area of occupational training, as was the case yesterday with family allowances and as it will be tomorrow with welfare, Quebec is confronted with arrogance and an ever present desire for centralization. The important thing is not to find efficient solutions for people, it is to find a system "which will give Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness". Quebecers do not need programs to help them discover their own identity. Indeed, the central government and especially the Liberals have consistently tried over the years to suppress the very existence of that identity.

Consider the incredible refusal on the part of the central government to give Quebec control over occupational training. I listened to the hon. Deputy Prime Minister talk to us about the great benefits of occupational training. We and indeed all Quebecers do not need to be convinced of these benefits and we have been waiting and we will have to wait two years. Because the most implausible of all detours is being taken, namely a comprehensive review of social and training programs, Quebec is being denied the means with which to launch a serious assault right away on some of its major problems. Yet, if we look at the Liberal program, we can find nothing in what Quebec is now doing that goes against what is advocated in the red book, except for one thing. Quebec wants control because it knows that the current mess only leads to wasted resources and energy and to dashed hopes. Quebec cannot afford to wait. In the face of Ottawa's refusal last week, labour, business and provincial government representatives had some very harsh words for the amazing ineptness of the government which is seeking "a typically Canadian system".

Do we need to remind the government, or perhaps say it for the first time, that an employment policy is urgently needed, in Quebec more than anywhere else, because it is in Quebec that the employment/population ratio reflects a largely inadequate level of business activity.

To clearly grasp the difference between Quebec and Ontario, let us say that if Quebec and Ontario had the same rate of employment, there would be hundreds of thousands more jobs in Quebec today.

No doubt it is not merely a coincidence that for many years now in Quebec, labour, business, social agencies and governments have been working together to tackle serious problems and improve the situation. Responsibility for occupational training falls to them and to the Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre to which the government refuses to hand control over training.

Together-and this was not obvious at the outset-they have come a long way and acquired the necessary expertise. The only explanation for the minister's refusal can be found in his speech where he says he is looking for a "typically Canadian system, one which gives Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness".

To delay action for two years on such a critical, fundamental matter as occupational training is a slap in the face for Quebecers. What kind of trust should they place then in the aims of the social security reform process?

The Minister of Human Resources Development wants to carry out a comprehensive reform. He wants the proposals and suggestions put forward to be Canadian solutions. He wants to institute a social security system that gives Canadians a sense of their own uniqueness. If the Minister of Human Resources Development refuses to see that the people of Quebec have their own identity which requires a made-in-Quebec solution, if he persists in wanting to encroach upon provincial areas of jurisdiction such as education and training, if he steadfastly refuses to transfer quickly to the Government of Quebec full responsibility for manpower development, well then he should expect vigorous opposition on our part.

In point of fact, the Minister of Human Resources Development is in the process of demonstrating that Quebec is right to claim, as it has for many years, the right to manage its own income security system. That is what the minister wants, for reasons of efficiency. Yet, the same reasons can explain Quebec's position. The only difference is that Quebec wants a Quebec-style administration, while Canada wants a typically Canadian system.

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4:30 p.m.

Mount Royal Québec


Sheila Finestone LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member's remarks with great interest. She has certainly made some valid comments on the structure of the family and the rather sorry state it is in.

I would like focus my comments on my riding of Mount Royal, where young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the Black community are facing a 60 per cent rate of unemployment. I must tell you that our party, this side of the House, this government wants to listen to everyone, whether they are from the City of Mount Royal, the riding of Mount Royal, downtown Quebec City, the Lower St. Lawrence, Newfoundland or British Columbia. We are concerned with improving the well-being of families, young people, middle-aged people, that is to say people 45 and over, wherever they are in Canada. We are not concerned only with Quebec, but with Canada as a whole.

You claimed, first, that we did not have a single idea. That is not true and you know it. You also said that we had done nothing so far and created no jobs. That is also untrue. We are setting up an entire infrastructure policy that the hon. member is well aware off.

There were good points in the hon. member's speech, but they were set in a biased context that I find harmful to the people of Canada, including Quebec, because what matters is not whether you live in Quebec or in Canada, but that poverty should not exist in this country.

If the hon. member has such good ideas and is so much on top of all to provincial responsibilities, I hope, Madam Speaker, that she will participate very actively and whole-heartedly in the projects we will be putting forward to ensure that all Canadians, young and old, are better off.

I detect a certain narrow-mindedness when the hon. member says that we did not come up with a single idea when-and she knows full well-with regard to the Unemployment Insurance Program, we have a piece of legislation regarding the increase in the level of benefits. She failed to mention that we found money elsewhere in order not to increase Unemployment Insurance rates.

I hope that the hon. member will contribute more positively, although she did note genuine facts in most of her remarks.

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François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I did not want to interrupt the speech by the hon. member for Mount Royal. This is just a reminder, as the Speaker himself asked, to hon. members to address the Chair and not each other directly.

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The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

That is for the Speaker to decide. I am sorry, I did not hear it.

The hon. member for Mercier has the floor, to answer the minister.

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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I went over all the points raised by the hon. member for-

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Some hon. members

Mount Royal!

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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mount Royal. Of course! How could I forget? I already went to see her.

Of course the government wants to listen to everyone. If we are talking about the proposal, you must talk about this proposal. The government allows two months for a parliamentary committee to hear all of Canada on a thorough reform, the modernization and restructuring of the whole income security system, and it announces that it will table a policy on April 1. That is what I heard this morning. That is very little time to hear everyone. I had several opportunities to sit on parliamentary

committees studying much more restricted subjects. If the government has a plan, it should come out with it.

Anyway, the government was elected to govern. I find this show of concern touching, but if you accept and are prepared to take power, you have some ideas. You do not just keep telling people what their problems are. However, I did not say that you did not have any ideas. I must have mis-spoken. Nevertheless, no one in this country can maintain that the infrastructure policy takes the place of an employment strategy. It is a short-term policy which will create 65,000 temporary jobs at best. It is better than nothing, but it is not what we call a jobs strategy when the needs are what they are now.

You said that my way of speaking was harmful. I regret that deeply because what I tried to explain here, before the hon. members opposite and beside me, is the urgency of the situation in Quebec. This urgent situation which they-

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Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Throughout Canada.

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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

It is urgent in Canada, but let me say, because the Minister of Human Resources Development had me go back and say that there is poverty everywhere, that when it is so concentrated, it is urgent. This urgency explains the impatience of many Quebecers who heard-

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Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

And Canadians.

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Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member with respect. This impatience, faced with new promises and the refusal to transfer immediate control of labour force training to Quebec, just fills us with doubt.

I would add that many people from all quarters and groups said that increasing unemployment insurance premiums would be bad for employment.

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4:35 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the member.

I must say that I read the member's opening address last weekend when I was taking a bus to Belleville, Ontario. I brought it to the House today because I was struck by the second last paragraph in which she said, on January 20:

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

I thought that was a most constructive and supportive statement.

Earlier in the member's speech she talked about the fact that there was inherent overlapping, duplication and consequential incapacity to make the right decision at the right moment for the maximization of social benefits. I thought this was just a great speech.

When the minister responsible for human resources addressed in a speech today some of the very things the member talked about in her opening remarks, did she not see that eliminating some of the duplication or overlap and flushing out some of the waste in institutionalized bureaucracy would allow us to have further resources at the same time to help put people back to work? Is that not the way she sees the debate unfolding?

I did not hear the minister talk today about cutting. The only deficit I heard him talk about today was the human deficit. That to me was the sense he was projecting. Could the member not try to see it as a possible approach of the minister?

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry but the time for questions and comments has expired.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Bellechasse-National Revenue; the hon. member for Thunder Bay-Nipigon-Grain transportation; the hon. member for Québec Est-Agriculture; the hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing-Job creation.

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Mount Royal Québec


Sheila Finestone LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women)

Madam Speaker, it is a particular privilege to join in this very important debate for the people of Canada and for members of the House of Commons. I would sincerely hope that as members of Parliament and Canadians from all regions and all backgrounds we are beginning to undertake an examination of our social safety system which will be in the best interests of all Canadians. This reform is the first step in making our programs more responsive to the social and economic needs of the people of Canada as we prepare to enter the 21st century.

I pledge my support to the Minister of Human Resources Development who has the necessary courage and dedication to tackle such a complex and important task as this review. The life of every Canadian will be affected for many years to come by the results of this reform.

This is why the minister is taking measures to ensure that all Canadians will be heard and that they will not be hurt by this initiative but will benefit from it. The minister has said he is

asking each and every one of us in the Chamber to participate in the review so that the government is better able to serve the people through an open and transparent system.

He asked us to sit down and speak with our constituents, to seek their opinion and to get their advice. He is also asking Canadians to come forward with their ideas and suggestions for solution. The time line is not just a short two months, as the member for Mercier seemed to suggest. The time line is far longer than that.

If hon. members really are concerned about the people of the country they will get their business and information together. They will respond to the wonderful new transparency that we are presenting as an option for Canadians and will get their suggestions and their ideas to the parliamentary committee in a variety of different forms as will be determined by the committee.

This reform of our social security system is of great importance to me and to all women in Canada. Women must participate in the process, and I am committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that they have that opportunity.

It is my hope that Canadian women will seize this opportunity, will provide the guidance as to what kind of social security system they would feel comfortable with, what they think would be important for us to maintain, and where the sense of well-being will be ensured. They can in this way contribute to the progress, and to their own progress, toward equality.

As the minister has pointed out, close to half of Canadians no longer have a sense of security about their lives, and that is dramatic. Many are afraid that the company they work for may close or restructure and as a result they will lose their jobs. They are afraid that should they have to look for another job, they would not have the opportunity, the training, or the education needed to find one. If they are over 50 years of age they are terrified that they may never find another job.

Over and above the concerns that are being expressed, I think it is important to recognize that there has been a dramatic change in the structure of the family. There has been a growth in the single-parent family. There has been a change in what we would call the traditional two-parent, two-child, white-picket-fence image of that particular word "family".

There has been a change in the work force. There has been a change in the workplace. There are too many changes taking place for many people, who seem to feel there is a loss of hope, and they do not understand where things are going. Along with the globalization of the economy, this change to a knowledge-based economy, this restructuring of our bigger firms and the growth of the small business sector are all undeniable elements of the new reality that confronts Canadians. As I said before, many are fearful of these changes.

The consequences of these changes are wide-ranging and diversified in scope. We have to look at them from a different perspective from that of a company's bottom line. I think that people's lives and people's ability to live in this country have to be taken into consideration, not just, as I said before, the bottom line.

We have to look at the social impact with respect to the issues we are facing, adjust our focus and redirect our very scarce resources. Men and women in Canada are proud, hardworking and dedicated people. Canadians want to be contributors, not dependants of our society.

Collecting unemployment insurance cheques or living on welfare is not good enough for any of us. This is not our aspiration and our hope for ourselves, for our families or our children. We want to work. We want to feed and care for our family, and we want to be able to put a little money aside for some pleasure, as well as to protect ourselves in our older age.

This is not a dream. This is the Canadian way of life. This is what has made Canada so rich and so appealing both for Canadian-born people and for all those who have chosen to join us over these years. Now we must take steps to ensure that the social programs that have helped guarantee our envious standard of living over the past decades will continue to serve us well for a long, long time.

The last decade has undoubtedly been a lot more beneficial to the rich than to the general population. Individual purchasing power has fallen and the middle class, caught between tax increases and runaway inflation, has been hit hard.

Food banks, which were the exception and only existed in the big cities 10 or 15 years ago, have now become a familiar sight and that is sad.

I think that the most important and revolting sociological phenomenon to emerge in Canada in the last few years is the face of poverty. Poverty is increasingly taking on the face of a woman and, if that was not bad enough, of a woman carrying a child or of an old woman. That is the face of poverty here in Canada.

When I talk about women, I think of women of all races and ages, but I must admit that our immigrant, native and handicapped women are in an even more difficult situation as they also face discrimination and poverty.

In a country as rich and as fortunate as Canada, we cannot accept this disintegration of our social fabric or leave these hungry children and desperate women at the mercy of market forces. We cannot ignore the unemployment and poverty that

contribute to such serious problems as violence against women and children or the formation of youth gangs usually leading to crime and violence. We cannot forget that racism, intolerance and discrimination are devastating parasites that we would like to eliminate from our society but which continue to do a lot more damage than we are willing to admit.

I feel very emotional when I think about this situation we must face, and I think that our Minister was very brave to implement global changes by listening to society in order to improve our current situation.

It seems to me that one of the single most important factor to take into account in this review of our social safety system is the situation of women. I say women because we represent the majority of the population, and I say women because we make an enormous contribution to our society and our economy. However, as women we are often economically disadvantaged due to the disproportionate responsibilities that we bear for both our homes and our families. I say women because we have diverse needs and concerns that are often overlooked and neglected. Our roles have undergone tremendous changes since the social security system was first established. I say women because we have to struggle for the right to have many choices in our lives: to pursue an education, a career, voluntary activities, caring for children and for our parents. We must continue to value and protect this right to choose.

This is unpaid work that we take, and it does contribute very significantly to our collective wealth as a country.

I say women, because the new social security system must take into consideration the economic and social realities of women today and our aspirations for tomorrow.

Finally, I say women because it is still largely in our hands that the future of our children lie, and that is the future of Canada.

Madam Speaker, the sad reality of the difficult situation of women is revealed in simple statistics; that is, cold, hard fact. Today women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds represent 45 per cent of the work force. They are expected to account for almost two-thirds of the new entrants into the job market between now and the year 2001.

Despite the unprecedented participation of Canadian women in the work force, most women work for low wages in low-status jobs. Almost one-third are still employed in clerical positions and, on average, Canadian women working full-time today earn just 72 cents of every dollar earned by men.

In 1950 about 5.4 million income recipients received a total income of less than $10,000. Of this, 36 per cent were men and 64 per cent were women. That is those who get $10,000.

At the other end of the scale, looking at those who earn $40,000 or more in income, of these 78 per cent were men, whereas only 22 per cent were women. I would say to you that that is inequity.

Women, especially women of child-bearing age, experience more career interruptions. In too many cases fathers do not share fully the financial responsibility of raising their children.

In 1991, 82 per cent of all one-parent families were headed by women. They made up almost two-thirds of the 900,000 families living in poverty. Those are chilling statistics.

Children living with a single mother are five times more likely to live in poverty than those living with two parents. The vast majority of women have very little money to put into an RRSP or a pension plan. Only 48 per cent of women workers aged 45 to 64 can expect to receive company pensions upon retirement. So by the time they reach the end of their careers, only a small percentage of women are financially secure. All the others have to rely on government programs. For too many a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice is rewarded with poverty and deprivation.

If we do not fix our social security system, we will pay a terrible price for our indifference. Women's poverty is not just a woman's problem, ladies and gentleman and colleagues; it is a problem that every Canadian has an interest in solving.

As we initiate this social security review, it is time to recognize the extent of women's poverty in our country and to fully examine the basic cause: women's inequality.

Any plan to end women's poverty must be pursued within the context of the overall efforts to promote the equality of women in all aspects of human endeavour. That requires broadly based co-operative efforts that involve Canadians from every walk of life.

To change this we must place a higher value on the work that is traditionally performed by women. We must offer women the opportunity to diversify their occupational qualifications and seek advancement. They must have the ability to compete for the better paying, more challenging and responsible positions within the work force, because in many cases they are able, willing, ready and competent.

Improving the education and training opportunities for women is central to achieving this goal and is central to sound employment practices. Issues such as training in non-traditional occupations, encouraging girls to continue with studies in math and science, support for school work and home-school transition, and better financial resources must all be addressed for men and for women.

I would say that the economic situation of women is such that should pay particular attention and make sure that it is addressed as we go forward with this review. This is true for all women, but particularly, as as I have said before, for immigrant women who have special needs such as language training and recognition of their credentials. They also need guidance to be able to access and use all the services available to them.

I will work with my counterparts in the provinces and the territories, along with the minister, to improve women's access to education, training and retraining in order to give them equal opportunity to compete for jobs in the workplace of today and tomorrow. I shall work with these ministers and with our minister to ensure that our immigrant women are given equal access to federal government services as well as vocational training and language courses.

And finally, we must think of young people. We can never exaggerate the importance of our young people for a country like Canada. On them and in them we place all our priorities, all our hopes and all our dreams for the future. I have to say that few things are as painful for me as to see young people fall victim to violence, to discrimination, and to poverty.

As the minister said so well, there is a human deficit in our country and we all have to realize that if we can deal with this human deficit and put Canadians, all Canadians, back to work, it will be much easier to deal with the financial deficit. I think there is a tremendous interlinking between both these things.

I said in this House on Friday that from now on this government will follow a simple but important path, an action-oriented path. I also said that governments must deal with change in full partnership with Canadians. We have today the perfect application of these two principles.

Yes, we are taking action to review programs that in some cases date back to 1942. Yes, we have refused to take the easy path of amending something here, increasing a part of something there, adjusting something here and imposing a few cuts there.

I would suggest that any members who are really interested in this process read the minister's speech and get a fuller picture of where he intends to go in a large number of areas that are of importance to each and every one of us.

I would suggest that instead of the easy path, we have chosen to remake our entire social security system after we have done the necessary consultations. Once change of this nature is made, one does not jump into it in two minutes flat. The minister has laid out a very comprehensive and intelligent plan of consultation, which will allow groups, including women's groups, to get together, consult with their grass roots and feed back into the process.

We have the parliamentary process, we have the standing committee process, we have members going into their riding for an open hearing in that way, and we have the standing committee to do something.

We really must do something now and do it with full participation and collaboration for all Canadians. To do this we must ensure that organizations representing women-that is, all women, including immigrant and visible minorities, which so often have limited resources and broad mandates-have sufficient time and support to consult their grass roots and get back to us.

Knowing that this government and this House are quickly confronting this complex and difficult issue facing this country hand in hand with all citizens I think should only assure and reassure even the most skeptical and bring hope of a brighter future for all in this nation. That is what we are in this House of Commons to do, address the concerns.

We have to take into account the concerns of every Canadian, no matter where he or she may live.

This is exactly what Canadians have elected the Liberal Party, this side, this government, to do, and that is precisely what we are going to do. Whether you live in Newfoundland with your problems, in Manitoba with your problems, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, it does not matter. We are concerned, and certainly with the Northwest Territories and certainly with our aboriginal people, and we have a global view of society. That is how this government intends to allow us to bring this change; it is through consultation, through transparency, without dogma, without dictation, but with an open heart, an open ear, to effect the changes that the Canadian people want for themselves.