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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 58 petitions.

International Joint CommissionRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, in both official languages, the government's response to the seventh biennial report of the International Joint Commission.

Great LakesRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in record time this morning Canada responded formally to the seventh biennial report of the International Joint Commission on Great Lakes water quality.

Last spring the IJC issued a clarion call for action by Canada and the United States to get serious about cleaning up the Great Lakes.

The Government of Canada has taken the IJC's message to heart and we have responded in an unprecedented timeframe-not just with words but with deeds and concrete action.

Since last spring Canada has got its Great Lakes act together. In July we signed and are now implementing the Canada-Ontario Great Lakes agreement, an agreement that had languished for three years. In September we released the proposed toxic substances management policy. Today I wish to announce a new action plan for the management of chlorinated substances in Canada.

These measures are forceful responses to the recommendations of the International Joint Commission. More important, they demonstrate that Canada will do its part to restore and protect water bodies like the Great Lakes. We will work to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all residents and, in response to this issue, in particular for the 45,000 citizens who live around the Great Lakes basin on both sides of the border.

The Canada-Ontario agreement is innovative and co-operative. It sets out schedules, targets and mechanisms for co-ordinated action. Canada and Ontario have agreed on a shared vision of sustainable development for the Great Lakes.

I would like to thank those people in the department who worked very hard to bring forward this speedy response. When we asked for a response this fall they said it could not be done. The Department of the Environment did it and I think John Mills and the team from Ontario deserve special credit.

In this new approach we are embracing the ecosystem approach, cleaning up pollution hot spots and implementing binational commitments. We cannot clean up the Great Lakes alone. The agreement is based on the principles of pollution prevention, shared responsibilities, openness and accountability.

Equally important, in responding to the commission's call for building partnerships-and I see a member of the commission in the House today-the Canada-Ontario agreement provides a context for the participation of other partners.

Governments cannot do the job alone. The agreement provides a smart fiscally responsible way to resolve the complex challenges that we face in the Great Lakes.

Canada and Ontario are putting in place strategies to eliminate the use, generation or release into the Great Lakes' environ-

ment of 13 problem chemicals. The agreement targets significant reductions for 26 other toxic substances.

We are putting our money and our science where our mouth is. Despite serious financial restraint the federal government is putting millions of dollars over the next six years into the restoration of the Great Lakes. These efforts make a difference.

Collingwood Harbour in Ontario is the first Great Lakes hot spot to be declared clean. We intend with the stakeholders group to keep it that way. Co-operative efforts produce tangible results.

Our proposed national toxic substances management policy would commit Canada to the virtual elimination from the environment of those substances that result from human activity, take a long time to break down, build up in living organisms and are toxic. In drafting this policy, the Government of Canada paid attention to the IJC's recommendations.

I want to repeat. In response to the IJC's report we are proposing that Canada reach virtual elimination from the environment of all man made substances resulting from human activity which rest in the environment for a long time, accumulate in living organisms and are toxic.

In elaborating the policy we are in fact adopting the recommendations of the IJC. The emphasis has to be on prevention. There is no point in spending a small fortune to clean up the Great Lakes, the Fraser River and le fleuve Saint-Laurent if we turn around and pollute them all over again.

As part of our approach to toxics I am pleased to advise the House of Commons this morning that Canada is implementing a chlorinated substances action plan that will benefit the Great Lakes region and the rest of the country.

Chlorinated substances will be managed under a five part action plan. That action plan includes targeting actions to focus on critical uses and products. Government action will include eliminating the most harmful chlorinated substances, taking a sectoral approach to managing chlorinated substances and entering into environmental performance agreements with key industrial sectors like the dry cleaning sector and other governments.

We will also improve the scientific understanding of chlorine and its impacts on the environment and human health. Following the IJC report we will develop detailed socioeconomic and health study issues of the use of chlorinated substances and their alternatives. We intend to improve access to all this information for Canadians. We want to promote international efforts for global action on chlorinated substances.

We are adopting the advice of the world's most respected scientists. I personally want to thank Dr. David Shindler for his very constructive contribution in the development of this action plan.

At a special meeting convened by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, scientists agreed to ban all uses of chlorine that are not supported by a critical review of the scientific evidence to protect the environment. They also agreed that actions are needed to restrict or ban a number of toxic persistent and biocumulative chemicals, some of which are chlorinated.

The scientists agreed that there are some positive uses for some aspects of the chlorinated chain, including the use of purification processes in drinking water. At this point we have no alternative to the use of chlorine for safe drinking water. Certainly it is reasonable to expect that Canadians want to feel safe about the water they drink. There is also no reasonable alternative to certain chlorinated compounds in the development of pharmaceutical products, including antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medication.

The plan I am announcing today has to do with ridding Canada of chlorinated compounds that do persist, that are biocumulative and that are toxic. These chlorinated compounds will be gone. We are committed to the virtual elimination in the Great Lakes basin of nine toxic chlorinated substances identified by the IJC. We are also committing to significantly reduce the use, generation and release of five other substances.

As part of our immediate efforts, we will be working with two important industry sectors to reduce the release of chlorinated substances: dry cleaning and metal degreasing.

We are all in this together and the smartest route is to work together to find solutions.

We know we can make progress. Since we determined that chlorofluocarbons were destroying the ozone layer we implemented a phaseout program to reduce their production in Canada. So far we have reduced CFC consumption by 77 per cent. The government intends to build on this progress by introducing an accelerated ozone protection program.

We are also working with the provinces and the territories to produce national guidelines for water, sediment and soil quality for more than 40 chlorinated substances. We are undertaking major initiatives to examine the alternative use to chlorine based technology.

The government believes all Canadians wherever they live care deeply about the environment and want to be included in the

future decisions, but Canadians often feel hamstrung by the lack of information. That is why the government will produce later this year a national publicly accessible database with information on the environmental release of 178 substances.

We want the public to have a say in understanding and in developing public policy. We see the national database as a step in the right direction in furnishing Canadians with the information they need to make sound decisions about their own environmental future.

Next spring, Canada will co-host, in Vancouver, a United Nations' conference bringing together international experts on the long-range transport of persistent organic pollutants.

[English]

We will be hosting in Vancouver next spring an international congress of experts from the United Nations on the transportation of long distance, persistent toxic substances. It is a direct result of our intervention at the United Nations commission on sustainable development. We pointed to a situation in which in the Canadian Arctic right now women face the incredible difficulty of having excessive levels of PCBs in their breast milk. This is not because of industrial development from which they have benefited but rather because of long distance airborne toxins which come from other parts of the world. We need a global response.

When we met yesterday with the Prime Minister of the Ukraine we underlined the importance of developing an international approach to toxic management so the women of the Arctic do not have to face the incredible health hazard of having elevated levels of PCBs in their milk because the world community has not responded with tough regulations and with tough responses of pollution prevention.

We are also entering into negotiations with the United States because we believe an ecosystem approach is the way to go. We are exploring with the United States a pilot project on chlorinated substances in the Great Lakes in which Canada and the U.S. will focus on a dual approach to the elimination of persistent biocumulative toxins.

Canada will continue to work with the United States in addressing other Great Lakes issues. No Canadian program, no matter how comprehensive, no matter how successful, can achieve the goals set by the International Joint Commission. In a meeting I had recently with the members of the International Joint Commission they pointed this out to me.

Let me use Lake Superior as a microcosm. If today all industrial input into Lake Superior on the Canadian and American sides were eliminated, we would still see a poisoning of that lake by up to 20 per cent as a result of international airborne toxins.

Not only do we need a domestic approach, we need a binational ecosystem approach to develop closed loop systems for industrial emissions. We also need a global approach to deal with the problem of international airborne toxins. Canada will continue to work very hard with the United States. I know that my American counterparts are expected to table their IJC response next spring. They are looking forward to working very closely with us in developing a constructive binational approach.

We need joint action on the clean-up of boundary waterways such as the Detroit and Niagara rivers as well as Lake Superior. We are eagerly awaiting an American national program.

We are waiting with impatience for a national American program to clean up, to prevent pollution and to deal with the health of this vital ecosystem. As I stated earlier, it is an ecosystem that supplies the drinking water of 45 million people, the heart of the fresh water supply of the world.

I want to thank the International Joint Commission. Through its carefully considered recommendations the commission continues to provide vital advice on Great Lakes environmental issues. The government wants to clean up the Great Lakes. It believes the best way to encourage action from our neighbours to the south and from other countries is to show leadership on environmental issues in Canada.

In the last month we have tried to do that. Working with the very able chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development we have announced a new environmental industry strategy. We have proclaimed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, no mean feat and one for which special tribute is due to my parliamentary secretary, the former minister of the environment for the province of Quebec.

We have also introduced important improvements to that act only yesterday.

We have announced new legislation for a commissioner of the environment and sustainable development and we have announced the proposed toxic substances management policy and the chlorinated substances action plan.

Canadians want the government to be a world leader in environmental issues. We are determined to provide a balanced ecosystem approach that recognizes the key is pollution prevention and that responds positively to the very constructive IJC recommendations. The goal for chlorinated substances that are toxic, persistent and that accumulate in living organisms should be virtual elimination. That is the goal we have embraced today.

Great LakesRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the International Joint Commission, a Canada-U.S. bilateral organization created by treaty in 1909, is responsible for monitoring the progress achieved in meeting the objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement by the Canadian and U.S. governments, Ontario and eight states bordering the Great Lakes.

Last winter, the commission tabled its seventh report reaffirming the recommendations in the two previous reports and made new recommendations to eliminate pollution in the Great Lakes. The conclusion of the seventh report was inescapable: The Joint Commission rejected the approach traditionally favoured by both countries. It recommended a drastically different strategy. The commission wants a clear action plan aimed at virtually eliminating persistent toxins threatening human health and the future of the Great Lakes' ecosystem.

It favoured a consultation process involving the federal government, Ontario, as well as union and community organizations to allow each player to participate in making decisions on how to achieve cleanup goals. What caught the attention of ordinary people-who do not know as much about the environment as biochemists and scientists with recognized expertise in this field-is probably the effect of toxins on animal and human health.

Reproductive, metabolic, neurological and behavioral abnormalities in humans, fish and birds which are due to water pollution in the Great Lakes are simply inconceivable. Exposure to these toxins increases the risk of breast and other types of cancer. In the long term, scientific evidence shows that PCBs, dioxins and organo-chlorinated compounds disrupt hormonal balance in animals. Studies show the existence of similar effects in humans.

Even more distressing are the long-term effects of these toxins on the body; they are currently hard to identify but may become devastating in the not too distant future. This is caused by toxic waste spills in the Great Lakes.

We must, however, admit that the governments of Ontario and Canada have made significant progress since the first agreement was signed in 1971. Since then, the amount of PCBs found in seagull eggs has gone down by 90 per cent. The iron and steel, and pulp and paper industries have reduced their release of conventional pollutants by 75 per cent since 1972, compared to 90 per cent for the petroleum industry.

The Bloc Quebecois is not denying the efforts of the two governments, but would like to point out that certain problems remain and that the Canada-Ontario agreement signed in July has been criticized on several counts. For example, Jay Palter of Greenpeace expressed his disappointment with the agreement. He felt that it would not protect the health of the public and the environment of the Great Lakes, because it ignored the most toxic chemicals and did absolutely nothing to eliminate the most toxic chlorinated substances in the Great Lakes.

Today, the minister is admittedly proposing an initial step towards the elimination of toxic chlorinated substances, but it is clearly insufficient and does not seem to meet the expectations of the environmental stakeholders. The minister indicates that the plan is designed to eliminate nine toxic chlorinated substances and to reduce the use, generation and release of five other substances, without placing a total ban on the use of chlorine.

The International Joint Commission proposed that the use of chlorine and chlorinated compounds in manufacturing processes should be restricted, gradually eliminated and ultimately banned. Naturally, this approach was dependent on government consultation with industry and the other stakeholders.

The minister is basing her opinion on the results of a special meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, from which she has concluded that it is not necessary to ban the use of chlorine in manufacturing processes. We need hardly remind her that this opinion is not shared by all stakeholders in the Great Lakes' question.

At the biennial meeting of the International Joint Commission, which was held in the fall of 1993, a big controversy developed over the prohibition of that toxic substance.

For example, Greenpeace and Pollution Probe challenged claims made by American organizations such as the Chlorine Chemistry Council, as well as the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association, to the effect that chlorine is not such a toxic substance.

It is essential to conduct research on chlorine and its alternatives in industrial processing techniques to put an end to the ambiguity regarding the virtual elimination of toxic substances which are harmful to our health.

Let us not forget that 40 million people live on the shores of those lakes. We often hear about the damage caused to the Amazon forest, the desertification of African land and numerous other sites threatened by human activity. The Great Lakes are one of those sites, since one quarter of the world's freshwater supply is found there. A long time ago, people may have believed that, because of its size, this body of water would never be seriously affected by pollution, but now we have to recognize that, after years of spillage, these toxic substances have formed sediments and created a very real problem.

The minister says that she is anxiously waiting for the American plan. It seems somewhat strange to us, Bloc Quebecois members, that the Canadian strategy would be released when the American plan is not even known.

If there is an issue over which the two countries should consult with each other it is the follow-up of the recommendations made by the International Joint Commission. The clean-up plans of both partners have an impact on the same body of water; consequently, these efforts must complement each other. As was the case when the signing of the Oslo Protocol on acid rain was announced last May, when measures to be initiated by the Government of Canada to deal with transborder environmental problems are announced by the minister in the House, it is imperative to supplement these with an agreement with the neighbouring country in order to make these clean-up efforts effective.

In this respect, the 1992 report by the sub-committee on acid rain of the Standing Committee on the Environment was quite clear, and I quote: "Thus, while a unilateral Canadian program of controls on acid-rain-generating emissions might carry moral or political suasion, it is recognized that a permanent solution to the problem in North America must include the United States".

The same applies to dealing with pollution by chemical substances in the Great Lakes. The same applies to the clean-up of the St. Lawrence River. Last week, I went with the environment and sustainable development committee to the St. Lawrence Centre, which implements a federal-provincial program, with a budget of around $100 million, to clean up the river.

We know that 40 per cent of the toxics that pollute the river come from the Great Lakes. We therefore feel it is essential to take a comprehensive and consistent approach. Why bother spending all this money on cleaning up the river, if toxic substances can come from unmonitored sources upstream?

If we do not take steps to deal with the whole problem, we are just wasting taxpayers money. We are literally throwing it down the drain.

In concluding, we want to thank the members of the commission for their excellent job in clarifying what remains to be done to eliminate pollution in the Great Lakes. Their determination is a sign that future generations may yet see these magnificent waters in their pristine state.

As the commission's report said, what we do to the Great Lakes, we do to ourselves and to our children.

Great LakesRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a divided opinion on the minister's statement. While I support action that will lead to the clean up of the Great Lakes, I question the manner in which the minister is planning to attain this goal.

During the last few weeks we have seen a flurry of activity coming out of the minister's office. Some of the announcements I have agreed with, such as the submission on environmental assessment regulations and the commissioner for the environment. Others I have disagreed with, such as the $57 million subsidy to the already booming environmental services industry.

Despite the minister's recent activity I still have some concerns regarding this government's approach to the environment. Considerable obstacles remain before Canada can claim, in the words of the minister, to be a world leader on environmental issues.

Most important among them is the question of federal-provincial jurisdiction. Herein lies the Achilles heel of all environmental laws and regulations in Canada, this tug of war, this fight between the federal government and the provincial governments on environment, or who is going to have control.

The minister will recall earlier this year she fought hard to have the NAFTA environmental office placed in Montreal. We have heard nothing further from this commission for environmental co-operation. Why? I would suggest in all probability it is because the commission is ineffective without provincial co-operation. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act still requires federal-provincial agreements to avoid confusion and duplication with provincial laws.

These are some of the critical issues that must be addressed before we can claim to be a leader in the environmental sector.

This announcement on the Great Lakes is one which I support in principle. However I cannot agree with the minister on its content for it is heavy on studies but light on substance. For example phrases like detailed assessment, improved access to information, seeking global action, and improved scientific understanding are all nice rhetoric and make great headlines but they result in little action.

As my colleague has said, the Great Lakes provide one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply. I will repeat that: one-fifth of the world's fresh water supply is in the Great Lakes. Protection of this resource is clearly of critical importance and there is no one who disputes this.

Numerous agreements and reports have been produced since the first Great Lakes water quality agreement was signed in 1972. Protection of this resource clearly remains critical. Response to this problem to date has been a Canada-Ontario agreement and a proposal to manage chlorinated substances. The Canada-Ontario agreement is a jointly funded $250 million program to clean up the Great Lakes. This is a good first step, but we must take our southern neighbour into consideration when dealing with the Great Lakes.

Environment Canada released a report last year estimating that dump sites along the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence River were responsible for about 60 per cent of the most hazardous substances polluting Lake Ontario. With facts like these obviously a Canada-U.S. agreement is critical, but there is no joint agreement with the U.S. to date. The minister says she is working with the U.S. toward an agreement, however I would like to see some concrete actions toward this goal.

This plan does not hold much water-no pun intended-without an American agreement. We are sharing the same water trough. Our actions are being undermined by the fact that we do not have a joint agreement to ensure U.S. participation and compliance.

The minister was correct when she stated that progress can only be made in co-operation with other governments and federal spending will be useful only if it levers participation by other parties. Without American and provincial co-operation these plans are futile.

The minister talks about discussions, but when will the minister get beyond talk and take some concrete action? We need an agreement, not just rhetoric.

The seventh biennial report which the minister refers to suggested that the degradation of the Great Lakes has potentially catastrophic implications for human health. The IJC report noted, as the minister has pointed out, that chlorinated substances are an integral part of the problem and link chlorines with low sperm counts in men and increased breast cancer in women. Although the IJC report suggested a ban on all chlorinated substances, these conclusions lack scientific backing. It is impractical to ban all chlorinated substances, however we do need to manage them more effectively.

To reduce the release of chlorinated substances the minister talks about working with two industry sectors. She mentions the dry cleaning and metal degreasing industries. What about Canada's number one industry, forestry? Pulp and paper mills are major users of chlorine in the bleaching process. The minister fails to mention this industry in her speech and I question why. I suspect it has a lot to do with the older mills and the precarious balance they have between the economy and the environment. However it is a major sector in Canadian industry and I believe it needs to be addressed here.

In conclusion, I am encouraged that the minister is taking action on the Great Lakes. However it is not enough just to say that Canadians want to be a world leader on environmental issues, we must take the necessary steps to attain this goal. We need an agreement with the Americans and all of the provinces to reduce chlorinated toxins. We must work closely with all the industries involved.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegates to the Interparliamentary Union. This report was prepared by the official delegation which represented Canada at the 92nd Inter-Parliament Conference held in Copenhagen on September 12 to 17, 1994.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 42nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of committees.

With the consent of the House, I intend to propose later on today that the 42nd report be concurred in.

World Trade Organization Agreement Implementation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy MacLaren LiberalMinister for International Trade

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-57, an act to implement the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 25th, 1994 / 10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think there would be consent to dispense with reading of the 42nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning membership of committees.

If so, and if the House gives its consent, I move that the 42nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Mr. Speaker, I present this petition on behalf of my constituents. They urge the government to support a domestic ethanol industry, especially since a world scale ethanol plant in Chatham hangs in the balance waiting for a federal commitment.

This plant would be the eighth largest in North America. The petitioners note that our federal government has no long term ethanol policy, unlike the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, the U.S. government of Bill Clinton, Brazil, Australia, and many others. The people of Canada are waiting for action.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario

Liberal

Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

moved:

That this House requests the government to table a clear detailed plan to show how and when it intends to balance the budget including a clear statement of its vision of the role of the government in the economy in order for the people of Canada to debate the plan and vision.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to talk on this motion on this auspicious day. Today is October 25, 1994. It happens to be the first anniversary of the general election last year at which time the Reform Party laid before the people of Canada a real plan of how to deal with the debt and the deficit.

We presented to the Canadian people a plan that we called zero in three, a plan to balance the budget in three years. We laid out specifically where we would cut the money. We had a balanced plan between growth in the economy and cuts in government spending. In that way the Canadian people would know that within three years we would have a balanced budget.

We spelled it out in detail that we would cut 25 per cent of subsidies to crown corporations. We would reform unemployment insurance to make it a real insurance plan based on the debate and discussion between management and labour. We talked about abandoning and eliminating subsidies to special interest groups, and so on. We laid out a complete and detailed plan on how we would achieve that.

On this day last year 2.5 million Canadians voted for that plan and elected 52 Reformers to this House. It was one of the great electoral upsets in the history of Canada. We had only one MP before and now we are represented here by 52 MPs.

During that same election, the Liberals ran around waving their red book. The Prime Minister said that he had a book and he had a plan. The nature of our motion today is to ask where that plan is. We have not seen it yet. On this the first anniversary the Liberals have been in power for one full year and we are still waiting for them to take action on that infamous red book "Creating Opportunity, the Liberal plan for Canada". We have not seen what they intend to do with it.

The Liberals talked about reviving the economy, reducing the deficit, creating high tech jobs. One of the first things they did was cancel the helicopter program that was going to cost about $5 billion and would have generated all kinds of research and development and high technology. What did they do with the money? They started digging up ditches, digging sewers and so on. That will not add to the future viability of this country. That type of plan will get them nowhere in the long term.

We were expecting big things when they waved that book all through the election campaign. We thought it was going to be an exciting 100 days, even though we were sitting in opposition, but what happened? It took the government almost 100 days to get Parliament back sitting. That type of lethargy is what has happened. That is the story of this Liberal government in this past year.

The Liberals have fallen flat. They have not delivered on their promises. They have accomplished very little, if indeed they have accomplished anything apart from their discussion papers of course.

A few weeks ago the Minister of Human Resources Development laid before us a document that said we have a problem. Did he have any solutions? No, he had nothing. He promised to deliver that paper in June and he did not. He took until October before he laid that plan before us and all he could was say was that there is a problem.

We are looking for real direction from this government. We have not seen it so far. In his plan of a review of social programs he excluded $20 billion of old age security payments. That says this is not even going to form part of the discussion. Transfers to the provinces for help, let us not even talk about that. It is not part of our social security review. Yet the whole idea is surely to review the program to find out if any money can be saved.

The ministers of the government have to get their act together. We are asking and pleading with them to lay before Canadians a plan of action that shows us how they intend to balance this budget.

He talked about a health care program. The Prime Minister took great pains to explain and be proud of the fact that he was going to call a premier's conference on health care in June. It did not happen in June and it did not happen in July. By the time October came around he finally got a few people to show up. Not one representative from the provinces showed up on his much vaunted forum on health care. Again it has fallen flat.

The red book said the Liberals were going to reform the GST. The finance committee met ad nauseam from January to June. It produced a document but we still have not seen anything. They have no plan. They promised to get rid of the GST and they have not produced a thing.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Stand by. A simple tax is coming.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Small business people are struggling to handle all the complex accounting. Yet one year later, no plan, no proposal. The finance minister floated out the idea of a national 12 per cent sales tax. I can assure the Minister of Finance that a flat 12 per cent national sales tax will not fly in my home province of Alberta.

Canadians were promised good government and that Ottawa would hold the separatists at bay through their good government. We have 53 of them sitting here and through their lack of leadership we now have a bunch sitting in Quebec City which is bent on taking Quebec out of this federation. It is a national tragedy that through their lack of leadership and lack of direction they have allowed that to happen. If they had kept the separatists out of the provincial government in Quebec this country would be a lot better off today. We found out through question period in the last few weeks that they were caught flat footed and did not even get the documents and agreements all signed properly. Therefore the separatists were able to make political hay out of their lack of ensuring that paper work was done and getting an agreement signed on Collège Lac-St-Jean.

They promised that parliamentary democracy would be revived and we would have open government. Yet we find that the whip is applied as soon as one person wants to step out of line. Oh, no, that is not allowed. So much for their great statements on revived and open government.

They did promise us that there would be action on the deficit and the debt. By the admission of the Minister of Finance when he brought down his first budget, within three years he will add $100 billion more to our debt. He has not even told us or given us any idea when he will even attempt to get to a balanced budget.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

He does not know how.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

An hon. member

There will be a royal commission.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

My friends are also upset. We want to know what the government is saying. What is the plan? There is no plan. They have been around for a year and we want to know what they intend to do. Canadians want to know. That is that they were elected to do, yet they have not been able to produce.

The Minister of Finance talks about the deficit being reduced to 3 per cent of the GNP within three years. It is the wrong target because the debt will continue to grow. He has not given us any idea how he is going to go beyond that.

To bring it down to $25 billion in three years is minuscule, timid and lacks any guts whatsoever to get the job done. Now we find by the Minister of Finance's own admission last week that even his own small and timid target of reducing the deficit to $25 billion is going to be out of his reach unless he makes more serious cuts. He has not given us a plan.

We need to know what the government intends to do. Canadians have their right surely because those members were elected on a red book that set action and we have had one year of inaction.

The Minister of Finance tells us about the $6 billion to $9 billion of additional cuts that are necessary to meet this target. Yet nothing in the two documents that he tabled last week before the finance committee, "A New Framework for Economic Policy" and "Creating a Healthy Fiscal Climate", in any way shape or form gives us any idea how the minister is going to tackle this job of cutting.

He could have gone back to the plan that we laid out last year, our zero in three plan. We laid it all out there. It was quite simple. The advice was there for free and yet even that seems to be beyond his comprehension.

He did say last week that what we seek are jobs and growth. To get there we must stop the debt. Our ultimate goal is a balanced budget. He has said it. We want him to deliver. We want to know how he is going to deliver and we want to know when he is going to deliver on the commitment that he made before the finance committee last week.

The minister also said that the entire role of government in the economy must be rethought. I hope he has some kind of vision when he makes these kinds of statements, some plan or idea of

the role of government in this country and how it is going to interact with private industry to ensure that we get back together on our fiscal senses. Nothing has been produced.

The government has lost a clear sense of economic leadership in a vision of what the role must be in a modern economy and where it should leave the action to others.

Here is another quote out of the same publication. We see that the Minister of Finance really does not know. He is asking Canadians what they want. This is what I call leadership from behind. He says: "We have a problem. Everybody talk about it, please. If I can find that there is some consensus in the nation then I will go in that direction". That is not leadership.

That is leadership from behind. That accomplishes nothing. We are looking for resolute action now to resolve the deficit for the benefit of future generations. Six hundred billion or $650 billion in debt at an interest rate averaging 6, 7 and 8 per cent is completely and absolutely unsustainable by this country. The Minister of Finance seems quite willing to allow that to happen.

Canadians deserve to know what cuts are to be made, when they are to be made, how and when this government plans to balance the budget. The Canadian people deserve to know the vision of the Minister of Finance and the role that the government has for this economy.

I ask the Minister of Finance now to ensure that he eliminates all the waste in government, that he can reform the MPs pension plan. He can start here in this House. He does not have to go out in the street and talk to Canadians and say: "What do you want?". We in the Reform say and I know that all Canadians agree that it is time that we reform the MPs pension plan.

I looked at the public accounts. They were tabled in the House last week. The government threw in another $10 million just to bring up the level of money in the plan to cover the excess payments that are now going out because 200-odd MPs at last election are now out on the street. They are not out on the street but they are on their own. They are out on the street with a huge pension plan paid by the Canadian taxpayers. They are upset and they would like to see some reforms.

If the Minister of Finance needs any ideas we say he can start right here in this House.

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10:50 a.m.

An hon. member

Is he listening?

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10:55 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

I doubt it. What about unemployment insurance? We said last year that business and labour should sit down together and revamp the UI program in order for it to be a self-sustaining program. We hear some musings by the minister along those lines on this the anniversary of the election. It has been one whole year and he is just starting to get to the point where we were a year ago.

He could target social spending to those in need. Yesterday afternoon at the University of Alberta I was talking to people who are faced with substantial increasing costs in their education. As they are being asked to pay for more and more of their education, there are retired people who are sitting on the beaches in Hawaii or who are sitting in the sun in southern United States and Mexico collecting old age security on top of the whole wealth they have accumulated during their life.

I said during the election that we will cut off old age security to senior families which earn more than $54,000. All I got from the seniors was: "Why so high at $54,000? Bring it down. It is far too much".

They had never seen that kind of money before. Yet this government continues to pay almost $5,000 a year per retired individual regardless of their income. They may be millionaires. When we have fiscal problems why should we be spending that kind of money on people who do not need it?

Consider special interest groups which get half a billion dollars. Just cut them off. It is that simple. It does not take a lot of guts. Just do it. The Minister of Finance should start right away.

How about improved financial accountability in government? Treasury Board has a policy in place called program evaluation where programs are evaluated basically on four points. One, is it relevant? Are we still spending money by virtue of habit? Two, is it effective and meeting its objectives? Three, are we delivering the program efficiently and, four, is there another better way to deliver the program?

Program evaluation is a policy that is currently being used a small amount by the Treasury Board, but could be used much more in order for Canadians to find out how the programs are working and how they can be revamped and regeared to ensure we are getting maximum bang for our buck, that those in need are receiving the assistance and we are spending Canadian taxpayers dollars efficiently, well and wisely.

These are just some of the things we and the Minister of Finance could do, but unfortunately he is going to wait another six months until he tables his budget in February before we know what his next nickel of cuts is going to be. Even by his own admission he is already missing his target.

Let us take a look at some of the figures we have so far. The 1994-95 spending estimates show old age security costing $20.6 billion. Next year it will increase to $21.4 billion. Transfers to provinces were $26.3 billion last year, increasing to $26.4 billion. Grants to natives of $3.8 billion last year are up to $4.1 billion. Grants to international assistance remain the same at $2.6 billion. Other subsidies and transfers at $4.5 billion are going up to $4.9 billion.

There is not a single cut. We wonder why this country is in a mess. We wonder when this government will take serious, real, concerted action. That is what Canadians want. It is long

overdue. We call upon the Minister of Finance to table his plan and his vision now.

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10:55 a.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario

Liberal

Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I looked forward to this opposition motion today because it gives the Government of Canada a chance to put on the record in a factual way not only the vision this government has in terms of putting people back to work and getting this economy going, but some of the specific initiatives that have been passed in the last eight months since we have taken power. It is important that we focus on the deficit and debt of this balance sheet for Canada and we are doing that. The Financial Post , which no one would ever claim to be a paper sympathetic to the Liberal Party, in the Saturday edition had a masthead saying we are heading in the right direction. The Reform Party should take note of that.

I want to be very specific. We need growth in the economy. As a government we have said pre the red book, during the red book, in the last eight months that small business represents the greatest hope of putting Canadians back to work.

I am not going to use this report from the industry committee called "Taking Care of Small Business" as a display, but I do want to say that the Reform Party, which worked on and supported the report, has to acknowledge that already the banks are acting on some of the recommendations we have put in the report.

At the same time I do not know how the member who was the lead speaker for the Reform Party could stand in his place and not acknowledge that our exports have been up four months in a row, our manufacturing sector is on the rebound. All the statistics and all the numbers show that. Our tourism deficit is coming down.

By the way, I am not standing here claiming victory. That is not the point. The point is that we have created an environment not only with specific actions but a psychological environment which is important in any economic equation. We cannot go around here cut, cut, cut without using our creative ability to cause growth specifically in the small business sector.

I hope the remaining speeches put forward by the opposition parties today will be a little more balanced. Confidence in the economy is an important factor in the equation. Reformers have to acknowledge, if they are going to be looking at all of the facts, that there are many good signals in the economy today. I believe that the government has assisted in creating those positive facts.

I would like the member of the opposition to stand in his place and acknowledge that manufacturing is up. Exports are up. The tourism deficit is coming down. House starts have been up the last four months in a row. It is a fact that 300,000 new jobs have been created in the last nine months. If he would just acknowledge those things, we could begin having a truly constructive debate here today.

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11 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the selective statements by the parliamentary secretary certainly seem to bolster his case. He talks about the masthead in the Financial Post at the weekend supporting his vision. It was from that particular article that I thought about leadership from behind.

The article talked about the fact that there is a consensus among Canadians that the Minister of Human Resources Development should move ahead and reform UI even though he has not laid a plan before us as part of his social services review. The survey said go and go now because the people want something done.

As for the psychological advantage, businesses want cuts, cuts, cuts. As I said in my opening remarks we could start by cutting the MPs pension plan. We would get applause from Canadians just by doing it right now. That is the type of demonstration which would send a strong signal to all people in Canada, not just small business people, that the members of Parliament are serious about reining in the deficit. If we are talking about austerity let us start right here. It is a wonderful opportunity that the government is missing.

He talks about vision. We have not seen any vision from the Liberal Party. We are asking for a plan. We hope the Liberals can deliver one very soon. I know that Canadians are getting fed up. They will run out of patience and find somebody else to do the job if the Liberals cannot.

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11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, let the record show that the Reform Party did not acknowledge any of the facts I put on the record in my previous comments.

I would like to show that we are prepared to debate the tough issues openly. As the Minister of Human Resources Development said quite clearly on many occasions, his document is not a fait accompli. It is a discussion paper. It is a debating tool. It is an instrument to get people involved as we restructure the government's social service programs.

Quite frankly that is the way to go. I know Reform Party members really think that is the way to go. They are known for their 1-800 numbers and their fax machines where they get their questions for question period. The point I am trying to make is that Reformers should go back to the way they started where they were going to be a bit more constructive about debate.

I want to acknowledge one area. It is an area in which I have a personal interest and it is the whole issue of tax reform. I was absolutely amazed at the opening speech today. The Reform Party campaigned vigorously on a single tax system to reform the tax system. All of us believe that the tax system of Canada needs reform. I would like it to show on the record that the opening speaker today never once talked about the single tax system or as they call it, the flat tax system.

In the whole year Reformers have been in the House of Commons they have done very little to honour the campaign pledge which they made that they were going to work diligently to reform the tax act of Canada. I hope the member today is not symbolic of the whole spirit of the Reform Party, that it has deserted its campaign on comprehensive tax reform.

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11:05 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to confirm for the hon. parliamentary secretary that no, we have not abandoned or given up in any way, shape or form our desire to reform income tax.

We would not stop there of course. We want to reform many more programs, far beyond just the income tax system. We include elimination of subsidies to special interest groups, reform of the pension plan for members of Parliament, downsizing government, downsizing subsidies to crown corporations, bringing in competition to ensure that we have effective and efficient government. Why stop at just reforming the tax system? The whole system needs reforming from top to bottom.

The hon. member talked about the Minister of Human Resources Development's plan as being not a fait accompli. My goodness, he did not even get started, beyond saying there is a problem. We have said in our motion today that we are looking for a vision.