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.


Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the past sixty years, Quebec and Canada have gradually put in place a variety of social programs, more commonly known today as our social safety net. These programs are part of our Quebec and Canadian heritage, in that they reflect values that are important to our societies.

Two basic characteristics of social programs are universality and accessibility. The principle of universality means that all citizens of Quebec and Canada are entitled to receive benefits offered under the program. Accessibility means that insured individuals have reasonable access to the services offered, unhampered by any financial barriers.

Although formerly, the focus was on helping the poor and the destitute, Quebec and Canada have since opted for guaranteeing each citizen a minimum standard of living. This guarantee is now considered a right.

To this end, the federal government has, over the years, put in place a number of social programs, including medicare, the Canada Assistance Plan, family allowances, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, spousal allowances, unemployment insurance and the now defunct social housing program.

Social programs are today one of the main responsibilities of the federal government, which designs and implements some of these programs directly, as in the case of old age security and unemployment insurance. The government indirectly provides funding for other programs while setting certain rules for their implementation, as in the case of welfare payments and daycare under the Canada Assistance Plan and provincial spending on health care.

According to this funding format, federal spending on social programs varies between 70 and 80 billion dollars or two-thirds of federal program spending.

Although existing social programs, with the exception of unemployment insurance and pensions, come under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government has always been able to impose universality and accessibility as well as the application of certain criteria, thanks to its spending power.

Practically speaking, only two programs are truly universal, up to a point: health care and old age security. As far as the latter is concerned, the federal government now requires the elderly to pay back part of their pension cheque if their net income exceeds $50,000, and the entire amount if net income exceeds $76,000. One sixth of federal revenues, or $20 billion, are allocated under this program. This is an enormous amount which will increase

as the population ages. What will happen then in terms of universality and accessibility?

Universality as it applies to family allowances was eliminated in the 1992 budget. As I indicated a few moments ago, the previous government scrapped universal old age pensions by imposing a special tax. Today, health care universality and accessibility are threatened in several provinces where user fees are being considered.

It has been stated repeatedly over the past several years that Canada is no longer able to guarantee the universality of its social programs. Some argue that Canada's social safety net is outmoded and too expensive. The fact is that the system was put in place during the 1960s when jobs and money were plentiful. However, the fundamental principles are as important today as they were then. It should be noted that Canada spends less on these programs on a per capita basis than most Western industrialized nations.

Moreover, universality of social programs is a question of social justice. Without universality, without accessibility, the poor will become increasingly marginalized in our society and the middle class will be at the mercy of misfortune.

We have a decision to make. If we believe that all citizens are entitled to universal and accessible social programs, then we have to take steps to eliminate the loopholes in our tax system and create jobs to build up our tax revenues. When each and every Canadian works and contributes his or her fair, reasonable share of taxes, only then will we be able to cover the cost of the system.

I would like at this time to briefly review a few of the most important programs, starting with unemployment insurance.

The aim of this program, which was launched in 1941, was to provide assistance to workers who had lost their jobs and to tide them over until they found another job. It was intended to be a temporary measure. Today, many people draw unemployment insurance every year in a planned manner. They do so simply by working the required number of weeks to qualify. Theoretically, the program should finance itself. However, it is roughly $400 million in the red on revenues of $19 billion. Given the current rules of the game, recipients receive little encouragement or help in finding a stable job and too little is done to train those who are underqualified.

I know of people in my riding who currently collect unemployment insurance and who, in spite of their efforts and desire to improve their employability, are unable to find work or receive training. Unfortunately I also know of others who would rather collect generous benefits than work at an available low paying job.

We must not blame those who live off the UI program. They are only reacting very rationally to ludicrous incentives. The rules of this program are socially and economically counterproductive. Within two generations, these rules have profoundly changed the way people behave. As the great Quebec poet Félix Leclerc said 20 years ago, when people are paid to do nothing, they become zombies.

The jobs that are available today require highly skilled workers. Or people can start up their own small business. Our unemployment insurance program is woefully inadequate when it comes to helping people acquire the necessary skills or start up a business.

The unemployment insurance program is universal and accessible only in so far as collecting premiums and paying out benefits are concerned. There is absolutely no such universality or accessibility when it comes to supporting training or entrepreneurship. Twenty-five thousand Quebecers are currently waiting for training to which they do not have access.

Furthermore, the increase in the number of weeks of insurable employment needed to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits and the reduction in benefits have increased the social welfare costs of all provinces and of Quebec, simply by transferring the costs from one level of government to another.

The previous government completely abdicated its social responsibilities for unemployment insurance. Not only did its fiscal and monetary measures contribute to a dramatic increase in unemployment, but faced with this situation which could have been avoided, it changed in cowardly fashion the criteria and duration of eligibility so as to offload onto the provinces the burden of the unemployment which it had created. While everything indicated the need to invest energetically in training and small business creation, the previous government took paltry, inadequate measures.

In Quebec, the labour force development corporation was quite prepared to take useful action right away to correct the misdeeds of the previous government with respect to unemployment. The then Minister of Employment and Immigration, however, after the Charlottetown accord was rejected, refused to let Quebec act as it should have done.

The unemployment insurance program must be retargeted to training and job creation in a way that is universal and accessible. In this regard, Quebec and the provinces have a leading role to play.

I would now like to share my thoughts on the Canada assistance plan with my colleagues in the House. In theory, this program ensures that Ottawa pays half the authorized welfare

expenses of the municipalities and provinces. Originally, this program was designed to ensure continuous support for a small number of individuals who could not work.

Today, the situation is very different. This program helps many people who are able to work but cannot find any jobs. Even worse, little is done to help them re-enter the labour market. Many welfare recipients are unemployed people who have used up their unemployment insurance benefits. What I said earlier about training and entrepreneurship applies here too.

Social assistance is universal and accessible as far as the right to benefits is concerned, but few beneficiaries of this program have access to serious measures that would put them back to work through specialized training or help in creating their own employment. In this sense, the program is neither universal nor accessible.

Here we have an example of a perverse consequence of Canadian federalism. By reducing unemployment insurance coverage, the federal government has made honest unemployed people into welfare recipients dependent on their province or on Quebec. For the provinces and Quebec, the purpose of welfare was to provide extended support to people unable to work. The federal government's unilateral action has undermined the plans of the provinces and of Quebec.

By retargeting the unemployment insurance program, the balance of the welfare program will be restored and these two programs will then provide the universality and accessibility which the people of Quebec and Canada need.

There is another social program for which the issue of universality and accessibility should be raised, because this program is no longer in any way universal or accessible, despite crying needs. This is the social housing program.

Before 1986, the federal government helped build about 25,000 new housing units every year. Since then, as a result of a series of budgetary measures, this effort was reduced to 13,000 units. In its 1992-93 budget, the previous government abolished its co-operative housing program.

In Canada, at least 57 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men are tenants. Almost two thirds of the residents of public housing are women. Young women who head single-parent families, women working for low pay and older women on limited income must have access to affordably priced housing, as before. Already thousands of women spend a disproportionate share of their income on housing.

As regards social housing, universality and accessibility are not only moral but also economic necessities. Indeed, people, families and children who live in inadequate dwellings are more likely to experience problems and, consequently, more likely to perform poorly at work or in school. They are also more likely to consume excessive amounts of intoxicating substances, to resort to violence and even to commit offences.

Abolishing the social housing program was a very near-sighted economic measure. The resulting problems in terms of health, unemployment and criminality will be very serious.

Medicare is a program which Quebecers and Canadians are proud of. Health insurance, along with post-secondary training, are financed through what is called established programs financing. Under this initiative implemented in 1977, every province is guaranteed a contribution proportional to its population and to the economic growth of Canada, minus an amount raised by each province through taxes. Let us not forget that, since 1986, the federal government has been reducing its financing, in terms of its rate of increase, regarding health services.

Also, in 1990, Ottawa unilaterally decided that its contribution would no longer be tied to economic growth. Consequently, the per capita contribution is now frozen until 1994-95 and, if the situation persists, it will eventually be totally covered by the tax levy in each province, including Quebec. Therefore, the federal government will no longer have to make any contribution. It must be pointed out, since this is yet another example of the perverse consequences of Canadian federalism, that all these measures were unilaterally implemented, without the approval of Quebec or of any other province, in spite of the formal agreement reached in 1977. So, from 1978 to 1993, the federal government's contribution to health and post-secondary education programs in Quebec dropped from 47 per cent to 34 per cent.

Therefore, a freeze on federal transfers for EPF is in itself a serious threat to accessibility and universality. This trap set up by the federal government makes it even harder for Quebec and the other provinces to make the difficult choices they face to make up for their losses and to reduce their tax burden.

The federal government must realize that increasing the tax burden of Quebec and the other provinces will result in the emergence of a two-tier health care system.

Since the Liberal Party took office, I noticed two trends among its Cabinet members: some ministers are sensitive to the need for universality and accessibility, while others are more concerned by the financing aspect.

Consequently, we hear terms such as restructuring, profitability, reform and review, which are all as vague as they are disturbing. What are the true intentions of the government? If it wants to redirect social programs, while preserving universality and accessibility, that would already be more encouraging,

although we would have to define the targets to be given priority.

But if the government wants to cut the social budget, then there is every reason to be really concerned. Indeed, cuts of this type will invariably generate increased costs further along.

When economists tell the Minister of Finance that Canadians can no longer live above their means and must expect a lower standard of living, do they also tell him that it is the federal bureaucracy which is the most costly element and that a lower standard of living should start there? Streamlining is something which can be done within the federal government and bureaucracy.

Recently, I read that the Minister of Human Resources Development had stated that he would not be very patient with those people in three-piece suits who insist that the cuts should apply to social programs, while they themselves are not prepared to do much. I agree with the hon. minister, but I remind him that this three-piece suit mentality also exists within the public service.

Also, the hon. minister was upset by the calls of the Bloc Quebecois for the federal government not to meddle in the fields of training, education and welfare, which are under provincial jurisdiction.

The minister explained that these problems affect the whole country and that we need national programs to solve them.

This is where I completely disagree with the minister. Training, education and welfare are problems a number of nations are faced with. If I were to follow the minister's reasoning, the UN would then be entrusted with the task of solving such problems. But of course the minister would answer that only a country has all the facts and the vision to understand its real problems. If the minister were to take his argument one step further, he would come, I think, to the right conclusion.

Mr. Speaker, to blindly cut social programs will not be helpful, quite the opposite. Our social policies must support the needy, improve skills and respect human decency.

The government must remember that they can cut unemployment expenses simply by reducing unemployment and that they can cut health insurance expenses by providing housing for the underprivileged, for example.

The Official Opposition will watch the government's every move and criticize any attempt to cut the services Quebec and Canadian society so badly need. We will automatically criticize any lack of consultation with the provinces and with Quebec, any administrative duplication reducing program efficiency, any costly and useless attempt to centralize the various systems, and any cut to programs aimed at meeting the special needs of Quebec or other provinces.

Finally, Canadians and Quebecers can rest assured that the Official Opposition will do everything possible in this House to protect their interests and their dignity.

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1:20 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, through you I would like to once again remind the opposition party that today is the beginning of a debate in which we are attempting to re-invent, redesign or review government programs and services with the ultimate aim of meeting many of the objectives that the hon. member described in his speech of decreasing, overlapping, and eliminating waste. We on this side of the House share that with you. I guess the only thing we do not share with you is that we do not believe in separation.

There is a question related to putting people back to work. In 1982 there was a program called NEED, designed by the then Minister of Employment, who happens to be the same member responsible today. It was a program where, rather than people being on unemployment where they received approximately $17,000 a year, people went directly to small and medium-sized businesses and said, "If you take someone off unemployment or off the welfare rolls, then we will pay you approximately 60 to 70 per cent of their salary", rather than paying them to sit at home not doing anything. The employer would put in approximately 30 per cent. After six months of work the employer's contribution would increase and the government's would go down, and after a year the employer is responsible for the person.

Essentially it acted as a catalyst to help small and medium-sized business. At the same time, within a five-month period we put about 300,000 Canadians back to work in every region of this country.

I wonder if the member would consider looking at a program like that and whether or not he considers that type of reform worth while.

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1:20 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the hon. member who just spoke has voiced his sincere opinion. However, Mr. Speaker, I must say that I have heard these kinds of remarks in the past and they were no doubt made by very sincere people. I am not questioning the sincerity of previous governments. Unfortunately, the only concrete action that flowed from such remarks were reviews, expensive and time-consuming reviews which did not produce the expected results.

I remain a little sceptical, although I am quite prepared to keep hoping. The point I am making is we, the Official Opposition, will check daily to make sure that the good intentions which have been and will be expressed here today and in the

coming weeks will quickly bring about the results the people need. The hon. member is right; creating hundreds of thousands of jobs is important, but how will this be achieved? We do not have the revenues we had 10 years ago.

The reality is-as I am convinced all the hon. members are aware- that when technology is introduced in a business, it does not create more jobs; jobs are taken away, replaced by technology. To compensate, we have to provide the workers who are affected by this technology with high tech training. This is to say that the approach used 10 years ago cannot be applied in the same way. We will have to find much more creative solutions and, above all, find them very quickly. We cannot afford to wait two, three or four years.

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1:25 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply want to tell the hon. member for Portneuf that I greatly appreciated his remarks, particularly with regard to the health care system.

I would like to ask my colleague, the hon. member for Portneuf, to tell me if it is fair to say that, if the federal government cuts its transfers to the provinces for health care, the provinces could encounter serious difficulties, which in turn could threaten the universality of health care. The danger is that we could revert to the way things were in the 1950s, when there were two health care systems: one for the rich and one for the poor. Illness can strike anybody regardless of their ethnic origin or their financial status. Therein lies the danger in reducing transfer payments for health care, and I would like to know the views of my colleague, the hon. member for Portneuf, on this matter.

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1:25 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Montmorency-Beauport-Orléans for his question. He said: "What if we lowered transfer payments", but this is no longer hypothetical. It is a fact, unfortunately. This is what has been happening for 10 years, and we can see the results. We do not have to figure out what is going to happen, we just have to observe.

In fact, health care is less accessible than it was. Hospitals in Quebec, like hospitals in other provinces faced with the same problems and resorting to the same expedients, are selling their laboratory services -I read that recently, perhaps you did too-to the private sector in order to get cash to be able to provide services to people.

You have to understand that if hospitals have to provide services without having the funds to do so, they have to find solutions that I would say are creative, although they are, in a way, creating a two-tier system of health care, whereby those who can afford it get the results of their tests fast, while others have to wait for them.

This is unfortunate, but it is the visible, clear and immediate result of the cuts made over the last 10 years or so. Will things change? I dare think they will. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left? About a minute, two minutes. I just want to say one more thing, Mr. Speaker. The money the federal government is transferring to each of the provinces is not its own money. It is money coming from taxpayers from all provinces.

Here we have money from taxpayer Joseph Latrémouille, or Joe Blow in the English provinces, that is going to Ottawa. Ottawa gets a certain amount. There is a return trip to the province of origin, this is the transfer payment. However, Ottawa does not return the full amount, it keeps some to cover its administrative costs.

Would it not make more economical sense, Mr. Speaker-I am not asking you, of course-for the taxpayer to send that money directly to his provincial capital, in our case Quebec City? Would it not entail substantial savings in administrative costs? I believe that to ask the question is to give the answer, and the recipe of sovereignty for Quebec might not apply to Quebec only. Perhaps some other provinces could feel the same way.

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1:30 p.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak on the government's action plan for social security reform.

The minister has invited the members on all sides of this House to join together in this critically important mission, nothing less than the entire rebuilding of the social security, labour market and learning framework of our nation.

In the recent election the people of Canada asked us for a sweeping change. Clearly Canadians want the government to act, to provide leadership in getting people back to work. No more inattention, indifference or inaction. They want action on job creation.

As the minister has said, reform of our social programs is the most important, most compelling, most sweeping task we face today as a nation. The decisions we make in the coming year will affect every single person who lives in this country, in this century and the next.

The government's approach to reforming our social security programs is to preserve and foster Canada's well-earned reputation as a society in which we help those who need our help. This has indeed been our long tradition, going back hundreds of years, even before the birth of the nation.

Each of us in this House has an opportunity to continue that tradition by weighing the proposals put before us from citizens of every quarter, considering the merits of all recommendations

and, with due deliberation, deciding what the best solutions for our country are.

Each of us, I am sure, know constituents in our own ridings who are suffering: children who are poor and going to school hungry; young men and women with no jobs and no prospects; families trying to support both young children and aging parents; single parents seemingly trapped on social assistance; workers who have spent half of a lifetime in an industry that is now dying; other workers with skills nobody wants any more; people in our inner cities oppressed by poverty and despair. These are people in our own neighbourhoods, on every avenue, crescent, road in our political ridings, whether it is mine in York North, or Montreal or Vancouver. These are people who are suffering, who are asking the federal government for action. We have a responsibility, as we do to all Canadians, to bring back hope, to bring back a sense of dignity to the lives of those people and their children.

Altogether there are millions of citizens who are not benefiting from our present so-called safety net.

It is evident to me that the safety net is full of holes. Restoring employment as the key concern of the government requires a complete overhaul of our existing programs. We must examine, analyse and reform unemployment insurance, training and employment programs, social assistance and income security, aid to education and learning, labour practices and rules affecting the workplace, taxes and premiums that affect job creation, management of programs in government and between governments, and delivery of services.

Our purpose is to renew, revitalize, re-invigorate the government's role in advancing the prosperity and security of all Canadians.

It must foster creative new linkages, eliminate disincentives, seek efficiencies, organize by mission, organize by vision rather than by bureaucratic mandate. We must, at the end of the day, improve spending efficiencies by monitoring the results of those programs. That is fundamental to accountability in our system.

To those who insist that the objective is simply to cut costs, I simply must say to them that they are wrong. The present system is not working. People understand that. People understand that young people are having problems in the transition period between school to work. People on social assistance understand that there are disincentives to once again getting back into the workplace.

Everywhere I go throughout this country people are telling me that what they really want is an opportunity for a job. The high school dropout wants a vehicle of opportunity so that he can return to the workplace, and the older worker whose job has been eliminated because of globalization or downsizing, call it what you want, wants a vehicle of opportunity too. He does not like to sit at home. What he is saying to us is, please, give us something; give us something we can hope for. That person who is sitting there waiting for this opportunity to knock also has a son and a daughter whose prospects are not any better.

I think that in this House we must do some soul searching. We must look within ourselves and find the inner strength to face change, to provide this country with the type of change that Canadians called for on October 25.

We can perhaps fight for the status quo, as the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition stated earlier this morning. But let me tell you, that is not the mandate we on this side received. People told us they wanted change, they wanted reform. We have a responsibility not only to react to what the public wants, but also to take a leadership role that has been missing for far too many years in the House of Commons.

Why change? The evidence is there, for all of us to see: chronic long-term unemployment; too high levels of illiteracy; one million children living in poverty; an entire generation of young men and women without employment. We are still asking ourselves, why change?

The time to move is now. We have no time to waste. The high school dropout who needs a vehicle of opportunity needs it today. Tomorrow is too far away.

Our nation is fast becoming two Canadas: one comprising the secure and well-paid, the other containing those with part-time, low-paid, intermittent work. It is the type of polarization that I spoke about when I was employment critic of my party and I was occupying your seat. I said then and I will repeat today that no one has benefited from nine years of Conservative trickle-down economics. Nobody has. We have divided a nation on economic terms. We have denied people opportunity. The days when working hard and playing by the rules meant reward are long gone. Well, this government will restore those days, and this government will bring back hope to so many Canadians who are today hopeless.

We are living in very stressful, discouraging, dispirited times. This type of feeling is evident with our young people as it is with our older people. It is evident in every sector of our society. Discussions around kitchen tables are not about getting up in the morning and looking forward to tomorrow with confidence. They are about whether or not there will be a job waiting for them tomorrow. It is about reading about downsizing, about trickle-down economics, about young people who have lost hope. That has to change. This is the type of dialogue that I hope Canadians will engage in.

Whether you sit on this side of the House or that side, we were given a mandate to represent people's views. Whether you are a member of the Bloc Quebecois, the Reform Party or the governing Liberals, there is a constant reminder. As we take our seats in this House, we must always remember that when we knocked on doors during the election campaign people were asking us to restore their faith in the role of government. They wanted us to give their children hope for the future and to build safer and better communities for everyone.

The day we forget the reason why we are here will indeed be a very sad day for this country.

If I may, I would like to return to the minister's comments this morning. He set out two goals for our action plan. The first goal is to confront the issues that face us. They include long-term structural unemployment, even when the economy is growing, faulty adjustments for people who have to change jobs, and constant changes in technology affecting the labour market and training programs. There are people in this House who are not aware of the technological revolution that has occurred, even though it has redefined time and space.

The unacceptably high levels of school drop-outs, illiteracy and shortage of skills are things we should all be extremely concerned about. We should also be concerned about the growing poverty, especially among children, the stress caused by competing demands of the family and the workplace. Among some corporations there is a persistent determination to cut jobs, even though there is growing evidence that this does not achieve the expected efficiencies.

While it might perhaps look great in the corporate culture to say "I want a lean and mean organization", I feel that is not the function of a cultured business person. To me, a cultured business person is one who can absorb technological advances while at the same time widening the opportunities for his or her workers. It is not simply saying to your workers, "I have a better and more efficient machine, so I don't need you any more". We are talking about people. We are talking about people's lives. We are talking about families. We are essentially talking about the future of our country.

We will be engaging in a number of discussions with other governments and we will be looking at ways to end duplication and waste that exists. We will also look at the limited capacity of governments to provide assistance and security.

The second goal of our action plan is to propose options for change to meet basic employment insurance and adjustment needs, restructure parts of the unemployment insurance program and the Canada assistance plan, and to create a new form of employment insurance. We want to broaden educational and training assistance to recognize the need for life-long learning. We want to enhance support and care provisions for children, and introduce measures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can achieve equality, independence and full participation in employment. We want to seek a better balance between incentives for job creation and funding social security programs.

We want to ensure basic security for those in need; redefine the roles and responsibilities between governments; improve efficiency; strengthen the co-operative nature of all levels of government; and we want to design new and improved ways of delivering our services. The challenge is great, but let us make it very clear from the start that it is not merely a challenge for members on this side. Essentially today we have begun a process of positive change for all Canadians.

We hope and trust that members of the opposition will take the opportunity to participate, whether through parliamentary committees or in their own ridings, seeking input from their own constituents to participate in redesigning the social security system of this country. Perhaps this will be the most important initiative this government will undertake.

In a modest way I must say to you that we simply cannot do it on our own. We need your input, whether you agree with our vision of the country or not. We need to hear what the people are saying. Some of you will participate as members of the parliamentary committee, but that does not mean that the rest of us will not have a role to play.

These types of issues should be discussed in every riding, in town hall meetings, and in everything one does as a member of Parliament. At the end of the day, the legislation that we collectively will propose to the Parliament of Canada will design the type of Canada that will lead us confidently to the 21st century.

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1:50 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of the member from the other side and I would like to ask a few questions in order to find out more about his way of thinking. Is he one of those who believe we should cut government spending even further or does he think we should strive to find new ways of increasing government revenues?

I admit that I draw my inspiration largely from the speech my colleague, the member for Davenport, made in this House last January 20, a speech I find very enlightened. The member for Davenport is among those who think we should make every effort to increase revenues, since everything has decreased over the recent years in this government, revenues and expenditures alike.

If we are to restructure and modernize every program pertaining to the redistribution of wealth in Canada, I would like to ask my colleague if we should not think about taxing lottery and games winnings. As the member for Davenport said, this would bring in $860 million a year. Should we not tax capital gains, a measure which would bring $665 million a year to the Treasury, and re-examine grants given to multinationals investing overseas, and particularly exemptions for foreign currency deposits which would represent a revenue of $500 million?

I for one think we should reconsider very seriously the issue of revenues rather than throw around words like modernize and restructure that will only lead, in the end, to a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.

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1:55 p.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

I must tell the hon. member that as a member of Parliament I have taken a great deal of time to examine the transformation that has occurred in our society and indeed in our economy. What is fundamental in that examination is the fact that we simply cannot look at issues the way we did before. If I can use these words, given some of the words being used by the Premier of Ontario, we have to look at a new contract, a new set of arrangements between the individual, the community and government. In that sense what is fundamental for the success of this new contract is full co-operation between the various stakeholders in our community.

There are programs today in Canada that date back to the 1940s. They have been tinkered with, but essentially they have never gone through the type of review that is necessary to upgrade and to make them relevant to the present situation. In this social security review that is taking place today and that is being started this morning by the minister, we have to rethink the way we provide services. We have to rethink the purpose for unemployment insurance. We must modernize what individual Canadians have grown accustomed to.

Fundamentally, this change is necessary simply because of the fact that we cannot tell the single mother who is compelled, with her children, to stand in front of the local food bank for her daily meal that this is the way our country is going to deal with her reality. Nor is it fair to tell the high school dropout who is hoping for a better tomorrow that he will be in long-term, chronic unemployment because the measures that we as a government and as a people are taking are not effective.

There is a moral obligation on the part of all members of Parliament on both sides of this House to engage in the type of dialogue that the Minister of Human Resources Development initiated today so that our programs, the delivery of our services, are efficient, modern and updated to the reality of the global village in which we live today.

I hope that in summary answers the hon. member's question. I am certain, given his dedication to representing his constituents, that he will participate fully in this very comprehensive review of our social security system.

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January 31st, 1994 / 1:55 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of the parliamentary secretary and to speeches from both sides of the House earlier in the day. It seems to me that recently there has been a good deal of criticism of Confederation from the other side of the House, addressing some of its so-called weaknesses. We tend to forget that Confederation is a very powerful and successful type of government. One of its strengths is that in times of economic difficulty one part of the country that is prospering can help the parts of the country that are not.

In the reforms that we are envisaging, in the training and retraining systems and in the social systems, I hope consideration is being given to the flow of young people across the country. At the present time only 14 per cent of the apprentices in Ontario obtain licences which allow them to work outside the province. This is a tragedy.

I hope the parliamentary secretary and his colleagues will work to allow the flow of skilled and unskilled young people across the country to become more effective.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

If the hon. member would like to say yes or no, I think we are in good shape.

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1:55 p.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

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

RetailersStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

1:55 p.m.


Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, gasoline retailers in the Châteauguay riding are experiencing major difficulties due to the sale of duty-free goods in Quebec.

Not only does it substantially reduce the governments's tax revenues, but it seriously hurts the retail industry.

The Châteauguay Chamber of Commerce and the South-West Montreal Business Association are of the opinion that governments should uniformly enforce tax laws, and standards regarding the environment, energy, resources, weights and measures,

inside as well as outside Indian reserves, regardless of the type of business.

In fairness to retailers, the government must put an end to the double standard in the present justice system. When will it take steps to ensure that the same laws and standards apply to all?

The Late Merv LahnStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

1:55 p.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Merv Lahn of the city of London who passed away 10 days ago.

Merv Lahn's distinguished career spanned 35 years in the trust industry in Canada. He was considered an innovator in the financial services sector. He retired in 1990 from Canada Trust Financial Services Inc. of London, Canada Trust's corporate parent, where he had served as both chairman and chief executive officer.

Mr. Lahn also devoted his energy and strength to many corporate boards and charities. In our community, the John P. Robarts Research Institute, London Salvation Army, Orchestra London, Theatre London and the Merrymount Children's Centre among others, were grateful recipients of his talent and expertise.

Merv Lahn was a great man in every sense of the word. He was a man with integrity and very high principles, a man respected and loved by his friends and colleagues. I extend condolences to his wife, Myra, and his three children. London and Canada share their loss.

PeacekeepingStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

1:55 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, since 1947 Canada has distinguished itself among the global family of nations through its involvement in the UN peacekeeping function. One hundred thousand Canadians soldiers have participated in over 23 separate UN missions.

I would draw the attention of the House to the worthy personnel of One Combat Engineers Regiment located in my own constituency of Fraser Valley East. Four hundred and forty of their number have been deployed since 1992 in the former Yugoslavia.

In a short while 125 more will leave for this dangerous theatre. Our thoughts dwell with these men and women and the families they leave behind.

In the last century military conquerors were hailed as heroes. In this closing decade of the 20th century, let it be said that modern military heroes are those who conquer the worst of human nature. The House lauds the heroic and sacrificial efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Air SafetyStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

1:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the Department of Transport under the previous administration initiated a study into air transport navigation systems across Canada.

One of the outcomes will be the possible replacement of air traffic control operators at a number of airports with flight service stations. My concern is that Charlottetown is one airport so targeted. Any reduction in essential services at airports is often perceived as a safety factor. The government must demonstrate that cost reduction will not impact upon safety.

I am therefore calling upon the Minister of Transport to ensure that before any action is taken as a result of this review all stakeholders on the island will be consulted. After all, we should not be following the agenda of the previous government but correcting the mistakes it made.

Therefore it is an absolute must that we consult with all parties affected before government decisions.

Tobacco TaxationStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:05 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, many calls and letters I am receiving are saying "do not reduce the tax on tobacco". They believe there are better methods to combat tobacco smuggling.

For example, Canada's tobacco tax levels represent 70 per cent of the selling price as do every other industrialized country in the world except the United States. Why does the U.S. not increase its tax?

They suggest a reinstatement of the export tax. In the few weeks it was in effect in 1992 the flow of smuggled tobacco dropped from a record level of 737 million to 146 million cigarettes.

They suggest licensing tobacco retailers and increased enforcement. It has taken 50 years to lower the number of persons smoking and thereby decrease health hazards.

One of our roles as a government is to protect the health of Canadians. My callers urge the government not to cave into the tobacco industry and immediately host a forum where all ideas can be heard while at the same time allow the government the opportunity to hear and weigh all factors in the equation.

Mount Albert And District Lions ClubStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:05 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to congratulate the Mount Albert and District Lions Club on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.

My family and I live in the village of Mount Albert. We are continually impressed by the contribution the Mount Albert Lions Club makes to our community. Community service groups like the Mount Albert Lions Club deserve special recognition for their good work and the time sacrifice made by individual members.

It is important for parliamentarians to realize the impact these types of organizations have on the communities they serve. In many cases they provide much needed assistance when the government is unable to do so.

Again I congratulate the Lions Club of Mount Albert on its 25th anniversary.

Home Buyers PlanStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:05 p.m.


John Cummins Reform Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, for the last two years thousands of Canadians have been able to purchase or upgrade their homes by utilizing the home buyers plan that allows individuals to use up to $20,000 of RRSP money for down payments. Studies have shown that over 150,000 Canadians took part in the first year alone, representing 26 per cent of all housing transactions.

The government promised jobs during the election campaign and this program has demonstrated its job creating ability. Both the real estate industry and thousands of potential home buyers across the country are anxiously awaiting an announcement from the minister that the program will be extended.

Palestinian AutonomyStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:05 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all Quebecers and Canadians, I want to congratulate the PLO representatives and the delegates from Israel and Egypt, for their successful negotiations at the economic summit held in Davos during the week-end.

A permanent agreement regarding Palestinian autonomy in Jericho and the Gaza Strip appears imminent. Both parties agreed on the deployment of Israeli border guards at the international crossings linking Jericho and Jordan on one hand, and the Gaza Strip and Egypt, on the other.

We all hope that the Cairo meeting will allow both parties to reach a compromise regarding the territory of Jericho and the security of Jewish settlers.

We must applaud the efforts made by both nations for peace and hope, as Mr. Peres said, comparing his experience to climbing a magical peace mountain.

Gasoline PricesStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:05 p.m.


Ben Serré Liberal Timiskaming—French-River, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all residents of northern Ontario I want to protest vehemently the outrageous gasoline prices in our region.

While the price of crude oil has fallen from $20 to $14 a barrel in the last few months, we in northern Ontario are still paying as much as 62 cents a litre compared to a low of 42 cents in southern Ontario. Transportation costs cannot justify this price discrepancy. It costs only 3 cents a litre to transport gasoline in the north.

Is there collusion among the big oil companies to fix gasoline prices in northern Ontario? These immoral business practices cost over $1,500 more for our farmers and hundreds of thousands of dollars more for our school boards and municipalities.

I find it totally unacceptable. I call upon the big oil companies to allow the price of gasoline in the north to fall in line with those in the south and more fairly reflect the international crude price of oil.

EthanolStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:10 p.m.


Julian Reed Liberal Halton—Peel, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of the Environment has created a task force on ethanol which I have been asked to chair. I have in turn asked the hon. member for Lambton-Middlesex to co-chair this venture. In previous Parliaments the interest in ethanol as a motor fuel was driven by her predecessor, the hon. Ralph Ferguson, whose research effort and sustained enthusiasm will make our work much easier.

Ethanol is already in use in Canada in a limited way. Now is the time to expand its horizons. The addition of just 10 per cent ethanol to gasoline reduces carbon monoxide emissions by approximately 25 per cent. As well it raises octane ratings and helps to keep engines clean.

The accrued benefits to both urban and rural Canada make this renewable fuel initiative a natural path to follow.

Agricultural BiotechnologyStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:10 p.m.


Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canada is a recognized world leader in the area of agricultural biotechnology. One of the leading centres for research and development in this area is in Saskatoon where major breakthroughs have been made in many areas of plant breeding and animal research.

However it has been brought to my attention by members of the industry that there are great problems in Canada in registering their new products. Registration rests solely in the hands of federal bureaucracies. What can take days, weeks or months in countries like the United States takes years in Canada. Such delays will result in Canada losing its leadership role in this field.

I urge the ministers responsible for this area to help maintain Canada's world leading role by removing many of the barriers to getting products to the marketplace.

Social ProgramsStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:10 p.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development has announced extensive public consultation with a view to restructuring the social security system. The government gave itself two years to review social programs as a whole, and the odds are that the issue of transfer payments to provinces will be raised.

We believe this is merely a way to gain time as well as to open the way for increased federal interference. We are strongly opposed to any interference from this government in education, which is an exclusive jurisdiction of Quebec and the other provinces. Moreover, overlaps are costly and inefficient and generate waste. We have to address the issue of employment, and employment is dependent on manpower retraining and education. The efficiency of the campaign for job creation therefore requires that these responsibilities revert to the proper authorities, the provinces.

National Forum On Health CareStatements Pursuant To S. O. 31

2:10 p.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I express my thanks to the voters of Surrey North who chose me as their representative in the House. I also congratulate the many new MPs whose presence here reflects the desire of the Canadian people for a real and lasting change.

This Parliament is going to face many new challenges. As a member of the nursing profession the challenge I am most familiar with is that of health care in Canada. Therefore I welcomed the government's announcement in the throne speech of a national forum on health.

I believe a frank and open dialogue is necessary to ensure the survival of our health care system, and I look forward to participating in this dialogue. Debates on health care are never easy. I hope when we approach the enormous task of examining Canada's health care system that members will do so with an open mind.