House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was programs.


The House resumed from October 6 consideration of the motion.

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10 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I wish to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 43(2) the parliamentary secretary will be speaking for the regular allotted time of 20 minutes. All other government speakers today and for the remainder of the debate will be sharing the time in 10-minute sections.

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10 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We finished off yesterday by announcing that under Standing Order 43(2) we would be splitting our time. We had the last speaker last night. The hon. member for Edmonton Southwest had 10 minutes and 5 minutes. I believe we should be up first today to continue our allotted time, finishing from yesterday.

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10:05 a.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the social policy review, the discussion paper, the Liberal plan tabled by the Minister for Human Resources Development.

The credibility of the political process right now in Canada remains very low. People are looking to politicians to be specific, to demonstrate that they at least know where we are going, but what a lackluster performance; a discussion paper which makes a vague attempt to shape a social system which is collapsing.

The minister acknowledges the obvious, a desperate need for change, but how do we get there? We diverge substantially. I would like to see a plan that recommends some courageous and creative changes but the minister obviously prefers to consult, discuss, review and study for another year before he institutes any changes at all.

Adding to the confusion of the Liberals' plan for social reform is the damage created by the leaked details to the press regarding the $7 billion cut to support programs. The Liberal agreement has now been reduced to merely an issue over money. There are no numbers in the plan to support any defence the government may put forward to stem this challenge to its credibility.

How can the minister in all good conscience continue with his consultation process until all of the questions have been answered with hard numbers to validate his approach to social reform?

This government continues to spend taxpayers' dollars, giving the appearance of action, but it continues to be the Liberal version of action, continued overspending while doing nothing to reduce Canada's deficit and debt load.

The Reform Party has always supported the idea of listening to the voice of the people, what we call the grassroots of Canada. We listen to what they have to say and we have tried to do for them what they have asked.

Canadians are being quite clear. They want leadership and they are challenging government to produce real legislation to reform a shockingly wasteful and battered social safety net. We cannot afford to wait. Canada's debt and deficit are lodestones around the necks of Canadian taxpayers.

The government spends $110 million a day more than it earns on programs that are antiquated, misguided and that Canadians no longer believe in or support. Given this mindset the government now has an excellent opportunity to begin to overhaul the system and to redirect funds to individuals who need it.

The Reform Party believes that the people of Canada are this country's most valuable resource and that the nurture and development of human knowledge, skills and relationships are the keys to full participation in the 21st century.

We affirm the value and dignity of the individual person and the importance of strengthening and protecting the family unit as essential to the well-being of individuals and society.

Page 9 of the discussion paper states: "As too many older workers and young families have been squeezed out of the middle class our society increasingly has begun to be polarized between well educated, highly skilled Canadians in demand by employers, today's economic elite, and less well educated people without specialized up to date job skills who have been losing ground. Thus the key to dealing with social insecurity

can be summed up in the single phrase, helping people get and keep jobs".

How specifically are the Liberals going to ensure people get back to work? It is evident in Canada that the median family standard of living is falling even with two wage earner families. The number of people living in poverty is growing and within that group the number of those who work full time but are still poverty stricken is growing even faster.

The number of unemployed, even counting the part timers as fully employed and not counting the 100,000 who are too discouraged to seek work, is at a shocking 1.1 million Canadians. It is time to get to the root of the problem facing Canadian families and their children.

This problem is ultimately the state of the nation's finances. The reason so many children are reported to be living in poverty is that many are the children of parents who are unemployed. Unemployment still remains above 10 per cent in this country. Even though the Liberals have been throwing billions of dollars into the so-called infrastructure program the unemployment rate has only dropped two-tenths of a point.

Why is the infrastructure program not working? The government is giving billions of dollars to infrastructure projects. Yet here we are one year after the election, billions of dollars poorer and the unemployment rate has barely moved.

We are experiencing an economic polarization that affects everyone.

Canadian taxpayers are less able to buy the products that big industry produces. Industry consequently has fewer opportunities for further expansion. The rich consequently have fewer opportunities for investment. Workers consequently have fewer job opportunities. Less money now flows into normal projects and investment cycles. Wages are affected and further restrained and the end result is reduced employment. Who suffers? Our families.

The Liberals continue a status quo approach to Canada's employment dilemma and divert attention from this problem by calling it child poverty. The Liberals suggest that Canada's children live in poverty. The Campaign 2000 group issued a report that condemned the Canadian government and indirectly the compassion and generosity of Canadians. It is alleged that our child poverty rates are higher than all other countries in comparison except for the United States. The statistics that are tossed carelessly about would have us believe that fully 20 per cent of all Canadian children live in poverty. This condemnation leaves a very graphic image in the minds of all who hear it. Children are seen to be living in a deplorable state: malnourished, poorly clothed, poorly housed and under loved. Such careless statements damage the image of Canada both within the country and internationally. This repeated suggestion that 20 per cent of children in Canada live in poverty is not defined. What does this really mean?

The report of the standing committee on health and welfare, social affairs, seniors and the status of women stated on page 5 of its report that the Statistics Canada measures are continually and deliberately misused as poverty measures.

When the Liberals state that 20 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty they are using a definition of poverty that does not conform to what most people think it to mean. This is where the confusion begins. This government is purposefully perpetuating this confusion and is misleading the Canadian public in terms of what the real problem is. Perhaps it has become easier to create a problem that does not really exist than to fix the real one.

Let me explain to the House how this interpretation has been purposefully and carefully crafted. When the Liberals refer to poverty they are referring to a financial state measured by StatsCan low income cut-offs. Each year, StatsCan produces a series of income cut-offs that marks the level of gross income below which families must spend disproportionate amounts on food, clothing and shelter. The cut-offs are commonly referred to as poverty lines. They are adjusted for family size and size of the community in order to reflect differences in basic expenditures. StatsCan considers those whose incomes fall below these lines to be living in straitened circumstances. A poor child is one who is defined as one who lives in a family whose total income is below the low income cut-off.

When StatsCan states that 20 per cent of children live in poverty what it means is that 20 per cent of children live below the low income cut-off point. This LICO is purely relative and does not relate in any way to actual comparable standards of living. Fully 18 per cent of Canada's LICO population own their own homes mortgage free. This issue becomes a matter of responsibility on the part of not only government but Canadians. My party supports the legitimate role of government to do for people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all-or do as well for themselves-individually or through non-government organizations.

The solution to Canada's dysfunctional social support system is less government interference. Provide assistance in meaningful ways. We need to offer incentives for parents in determining the best choices for child care. Social engineering policies that force parents to place their children into day care are intrusive and discriminatory. Treat all families fairly and remove the day care expense allowance.

Support single parent families by allowing private collection agencies to go after deadbeat parents delinquent on maintenance payments.

Provide good jobs for Canadians and cut their tax burden, creating a climate of initiative and investment. Stop overspending, balance the budget and begin to pay down our debt which now totals over $533 billion.

While I recognize the attempt that has been made to wrap some protective arms around Canadians in the name of social reform, the discussion paper is mere rhetorical flourish, long on words, short on numbers and devoid of any plan.

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10:10 a.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Wellington—Grey—Dufferin—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the hon. member's speech. I have one very short question.

The hon. member's party has repeatedly criticized everything that we have put forward so far, and the social reform is no different. It has said, and I caution it is in Hansard , that it is going to cut $15 billion. From where?

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10:15 a.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be quite blunt this morning in my response to the question from the hon. member on the other side of the House.

All that happened yesterday during question period was an attack on the opposition side by the Liberal side of the House. Genuine questions were placed yesterday during question period and all we saw was an attack.

I am going to give an answer this morning to the hon. member and ask him to look at the big picture because this government has failed Canadians financially, socially, economically and constitutionally. Quite frankly, Canadians are fed up, like I am, with this kind of approach to social reform. That is my answer.

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10:15 a.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Human Resources Development and this government for taking on a very important initiative. It is an initiative of historical proportions and is extremely important for this generation of Canadians as we deal with changing dynamics and the changing configuration of the Canadian economy.

If there is one thing that is constant about our society, it is change. If we look at the social, technological and economic changes that have occurred over the past 30 years, it would follow logically that our social programs which were initiated many years ago need to be altered to better deal with the present reality.

Our social programs touch every single individual who resides in this country. It is about the people in this Chamber. It is about our neighbours. It is about our friends. It is about this country's children. It is about the young people who today are struggling to get that very first important job, to reach that milestone of getting the type of training they require.

Underneath this change and new configuration there is a very simple notion, a simple premise which ties all the issues together. The best form of security for Canadians comes from having a job. That premise underlies every part of this discussion paper.

Canadians want to work not only for economic security but for the sense of purpose and dignity that work provides. The Catholic Children's Aid Society in Toronto expressed this point very well in its submission to the parliamentary standing committee earlier this year. It said that people receive meaning and a sense of who they are from their work. Their well-being, social involvement and contributions are defined by their work. That is what social security reform is all about.

If the best form of security is a job, then our social programs should help people get jobs. Unemployment insurance should really be employment insurance, a springboard to launch people back into the workforce. Employment programs should be measured by one simple criterion: Do they help people get jobs?

Social assistance should help people find jobs, not hinder them. It should provide support where it is needed, but focus on helping people gain independence. That is not the way the system works now. For too many people it does just the opposite, making it harder for people to gain that independence, to access training. For too many people the system gets things backward.

This debate is about addressing the real challenges and real problems of real people throughout this country.

In a letter to the Minister of Human Resources Development a divorced mother of two writes about how she tried to get off welfare and how the system abandoned her as a result. She says: "It is very backward that I had to quit my job to provide better for my family".

A young man writes about his pride in staying off UI by taking short term jobs in his desire to improve his job prospects through training, training that he cannot afford unless he quits work and gets UI benefits. He comments: "The price of values is extremely high under the present system". How in heaven's name can we motivate youth with things as they are?

An unemployed worker writes about the bureaucratic red tape that has delayed the training he needs while his UI benefits run out and his life savings are depleted.

A young woman who lost her job writes about programs that seem irrelevant and ineffective. After a year in the system she finds herself no closer to finding a job than the day she started.

A disabled athlete writes with enthusiasm about his plans to get off welfare and start his own business. He expresses his frustration with the welfare rules that stop him from raising the capital he needs to get the business started.

Is the status quo working for these people? Is the system working for these people? Or is the system that is supposed to help these people actually denying them their rightful opportunity to bring about positive change to their lives?

We could have chosen to do what past governments have done and shy away from this very difficult debate. However we asked Canadians and members in this House to take on the challenge of changing people's lives and their children's lives by providing them with a better tool kit.

Everywhere I go, in every city and town, on every street and avenue, citizens of this great country are looking for change. It is our responsibility to bring about that change. It is our responsibility to give our young people a green light, not a pink slip. It is our responsibility to get people off the welfare rolls and on to the payrolls of our businesses. That is what this debate is all about.

It is clear that things are not working. We can sit idly by and not answer to the changes which are occurring all around us, or we can take some tough decisions and engage Canadians in a meaningful debate about the type of social security system they want.

I would like to look specifically at the options proposed in this debate. Let us look at increasing investment in our people through better employment programs, refocusing unemployment insurance to help people get jobs, and helping parents to balance work and family responsibilities through such measures as funding for better child care.

Let us bring children into the fold and give them opportunities. Let us get started the right way. Let us give young people, our children the support they need. Start them off on the right foot so they can look to the future with confidence because they have been given the tools, the nurturing and the love so many of them require. Let us support a welfare system that opens up opportunity and hope instead of locking people into dependence and keeping too many of our children in poverty.

I hear the hon. member from the Reform Party heckling. I think the Reform Party should come clean with Canadians. The only thing it has offered in this debate is that the way to erase poverty in this country is by lowering the level at which we define poverty. That is a simpleton's approach to a very important problem.

The federal government spends more than $3 billion on employment programs and services like job counselling, training and labour market information. It is or should be a good investment. It should help people get off UI or welfare and back into paid work. However, far too many people end up in programs that have little to do with opportunities or their needs. Many get training for jobs that do not exist locally. Many are shunted from one training program to the next when all they really need is some basic counselling and advice on what jobs are available.

The key is to build a flexible system. Social programs should serve people, not the other way around. People should not be made to fit into programs. Programs should be made so that people can have access to training. There should be flexibility so that people can go from one program to another to obtain the tool kit they require to participate fully in our economy.

For example only 10 per cent of all UI claimants receive counselling. We have to change that. We have to provide Canadians with wider opportunities, a bigger menu. Sometimes we put people in training programs when what they really require is some counselling and a personal action plan. Give them better labour market information. Tell them where the jobs are and what they should be training for. Tell them what the opportunities are in the present market and give them the required tools so they can get back into the labour force.

The action plan we are talking about would have to be supported by more flexible programs. As I said earlier, people need good information about the job market, more accessible training programs, different kinds of training, classroom training, on the job training, computer based training and distance learning to ensure they get what works best for their situation in their community.

Let us talk about incentives for hiring unemployed workers. In some cases government could pay part of the wages for those unemployed workers who need experience and on the job training. This would make it easier for employers to hire people with employment problems. Funding could also pay wages for unemployed workers to do useful work in their communities or to help unemployed individuals start their own businesses using the available tools. We have to pay more attention to getting results, to making sure that people get the help they need to get jobs. This means less attention to rigid rules and procedures set in Ottawa, more flexibility in letting communities manage their own programs. Businesses, workers, and others in the community can often decide what kind of programs work best at the local level. Let us put the words empowerment for communities, empowerment for the individual, a reality. It is by far the best way to deal with the issues ahead.

Let us look at better ways to deal in a co-operative manner with the provinces. Let us talk about a single window approach. People should not have to go to 7, 8, 9, 10 different offices to find out who is going to help them during these difficult times of unemployment and restructuring in our society.

Let us establish single windows in co-operation with the provinces, with local communities. Let us reach out at the community level and use what we have at our disposal to make sure that people are provided with better services, with better assistance, with a more efficient system that can help them deal with the challenges they face.

In addition, discussions with the provinces should look at improving the federal vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons. This exercise is about maximizing human potential. It is about giving our country the best possible, best skilled workforce available so that people, so that businesses, will be attracted to our nation. They will invest and we will create the type of vibrant community business environment that will speak to generating wealth for our nation.

Better employment programs will depend in part on designing a better UI program. The UI program works well for people who require short-term support while looking for a job but it does not work well for those who need help adjusting to the changes in the job market.

Canadians who find themselves repeatedly out of work need better support to get and keep jobs. The program often discourages adjustment. For some unemployed people there is no incentive to learn new skills that are in demand by employers.

The program is easily abused. Some workers and employers plan their work schedules around the UI program, alternating employment with UI benefits as a way of life. Many working Canadians, such as people in part time jobs or the self-employed, are not covered at all by the existing program.

What does that say about a society that on the one hand speaks about self-employment, promoting business, but then does not provide the support mechanism that is required for business to prosper?

The discussion paper outlines two basic proposals for unemployment insurance. One would work more or less the same way it does now but what is really the key is the adjustment component. Forty per cent of all UI claimants in the past five years have had at least three claims. That tells us that there is a dysfunctional relationship between that individual and the marketplace. So what do we do. We have to provide people with a tool kit that can reintegrate them into the workforce. These are new problems. We are not dealing with cyclical unemployment, we are dealing with structural unemployment. We cannot have the old form of unemployment insurance dealing with the new reality, the new economy. We need to change it, and this is proposed in the discussion paper.

There are many options to explore in this approach. For example, we need to decide how long claimants can draw adjustment benefits, and how much they should get. Two of the hardest questions would be the following.

Should benefits be income tested so that the amount a person receives depends on what other family income is available? That is one question we have to openly debate.

Is it fair that an individual who makes $40,000 or $50,000, working eight months of the year, receives UI benefits? Is it fair that somebody somewhere making $18,000 or $20,000 a year, working 12 months of the year, actually subsidizes that other individual? Is that fair?

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10:35 a.m.

An hon. member

Not fair, no.

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10:35 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Is it worth debating?

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10:35 a.m.

An hon. member


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10:35 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

It is worth debating, and that is why the government has placed it in the discussion paper.

The second approach to UI reform does not distinguish between occasional and frequent users. It adjusts the eligibility requirements or the benefits available to all claimants. This involves increasing the time a person must work to get benefits, reducing the length of time that people can draw UI benefits, or lowering the amount a claimant receives.

This approach could save money which might be re-invested in employment services. However, I feel it does not in itself address the real problems of people who have trouble getting and keeping work. Under either approach we should consider the needs of workers in non-standard employment.

More people today work in part time or temporary jobs, or have more than one job. Also there are more self-employed people. Many are not fully covered by unemployment insurance. Some are excluded entirely from UI. If the current trends continue many of these kinds of employment will not be non-standard for long, they will set new standards. If the UI program is going to stay in touch with the needs of Canadians we will have to start thinking about where the new kinds of jobs can fit in.

The discussion paper talks about child care. It talks about restructuring and modernizing Canada's social security system. Many questions need to be answered. I ask Canadians, members of Parliament who will be holding town hall meetings, Canadians whom I think should be sitting around their kitchen tables discussing these key issues, to participate in this historic debate so that we can bring about positive change to the lives of our people.

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10:35 a.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development. There was much that was well-intentioned, but instead of all these words, I would have liked to hear figures and specific proposals.

I would have liked the parliamentary secretary to tell us how much will be cut from employment programs, student assistance programs and income security programs for the neediest in our society. I would have appreciated some figures.

When the Minister of Finance brought down his budget, the figures mentioned were in the billions of dollars. I would have like the parliamentary secretary to show us the courtesy of explaining how this applies to the government's proposals, or in any case, the proposals mentioned in the paper. If that means three or four or five billion dollars less invested by governments in social programs, it would have been nice if he had said so. I think that is the least we could expect.

I also wish he had elaborated somewhat on the implications of the minister's proposals for provincial jurisdictions. We are getting into a big federal-provincial squabble here. Of course, as a sovereignist Quebecer, I do not really mind because I see the federal government and the State of Quebec as having entirely different objectives, and I think they should each have their own policies. When I see the federal government massively invading provincial jurisdictions, it merely confirms my arguments in favour of Quebec's sovereignty. I should be pleased, but in a way I am not because, once again, the neediest in our society, in Canada and Quebec, will have to wait and listen to all these discussions, and meanwhile, there will be no solutions on the horizon.

In other words, I would have liked to see some clearcut proposals at last. Basically, the minister is inviting us to participate in a big dialogue. It is like being invited to Parler pour parler , on TV. For six months, Canadians and Quebecers will discuss the minister's proposals but there will be no solutions on the table. I would have like to hear this: ``We, as a government, propose to deal with unemployment this way; we propose to deal with unemployment in another way; and we propose to invest certain amounts in income security''. Nothing is being proposed. We are invited to talk about it, to discuss it amongst ourselves. That was the comment I wanted to make.

I also have a question for the parliamentary secretary. So far, I can see no proposals in this document concerning employment. However, the parliamentary secretary did say that some jobs in Canada were not being filled because Canadians lack training. I wish he would tell us which newspaper today, in English Canada or in Quebec, has pages and pages of want ads with jobs that will not be filled because people lack skills. We do not find that in the papers. The papers tell us that the unemployment rate is between 10 and 12 per cent. The papers tell us that people want training but are not getting it.

We have a society that tells us: "We are going to help you find a job", but as far as anyone can see, there are not that many jobs to go around.

So I wish the parliamentary secretary would help me in this respect. Where should my constituents in Jonquière look to find all these job offers in Canada?

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10:40 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to what the hon. member said. I have a bit of a problem with some of the comments he made vis-à-vis federal-provincial relations.

If the hon. member takes some time to read the program as outlined by the federal government, he will see that we have a very caring federal government which is reaching out to the provinces in a number of ways.

We have a federal proposal dealing with the management and planning of the labour market, a single window approach which I am sure the hon. member would like to support in the province of Quebec, to make our system more efficient and to avoid the waste and duplication that occur in various programs we deal with as federal and provincial governments.

On the issue of fiscal parameters, the hon. member should read that section once again. It is in the green paper. It is quite clear. We spoke about it in the last budget. The hon. member knows about the $2.4 billion that we cut from UI. That is in here. The government was elected on a commitment to reach 3 per cent of the GDP deficit reduction target. That is in this book.

We are being extremely upfront with Canadians. In reference to job creation, I find it quite ironic that we have created over 275,000 jobs. Nothing illustrates more the success of the government than what we have been able to do in the riding of the official opposition critic of human resources development. When she came into office in October the unemployment rate in her riding was 12.3 per cent. I am happy to report to the House of Commons that the unemployment rate in her riding is now 9.1 per cent. I do not hear members of the Bloc Quebecois congratulating us on such initiatives, and may I add that members on that side rise in the House day in and day out.

When we look at job growth the province of Quebec is number two in Canada. That speaks to the type of programs the government has initiated in bringing about what we refer to as positive change in the lives of the people of Quebec.

On the issue of the general philosophical thrust of the government, when we look at legislation that has gone through the House already; when we look at the fact that our Canada student loans legislation, which was approved by the House, has a section that deals with special opportunity grants for disabled Canadians, for women who are pursuing doctoral studies, for high need students, and for people who come from lower incomes; and when we look at the whole notion of deferred grants where students graduating with debt loads of $22,000 are seeing them reduced by $6,000 by the federal government, it speaks to the spirit in which we operate.

Let us also look at the unemployment insurance changes we made in the last budget. Low income unemployed Canadians with dependants are receiving the highest possible benefit rate of 60 per cent; 27,000 people have benefited from that change.

For the life of me I do not know where the hon. member has been in the past few months. We have moved very quickly since the October 25 election when we received an overwhelming mandate from the people of Canada on legislation that speaks to improving the quality of life of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including those in the province of Quebec.

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10:45 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested to hear the member mention in his speech that we may have to take a look at the size of family incomes when we talk about social services. I think that is a really great idea.

The biggest problem we face at the end of the process is that most members in the House will not be permitted to vote freely on whatever legislation the government decides to bring down. They will end up having to toe the party line regardless of all the consultation that took place in the ridings. As the House knows, I am originally from New Zealand and I have seen what happens when consultation goes on and on and on.

Is the member taking responsibility for letting his constituents know that the whole area of social programs is costing a phenomenal amount of money?

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10:45 a.m.


Maurizio Bevilacqua Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I engage in very extensive consultation in my riding. I take great pride in representing the views of my constituents.

Talking about free votes, I have not noticed too many people voting against their own parties; everybody stands at the same time. Let us put the rhetoric aside for a second and address the reality of the fact that the Reform Party operates more or less like any other traditional party.

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10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this very important subject.

I recognize, as do many of my colleagues in the House, the need to reform our social safety net. There are several compelling reasons for that reform. We live in a world where more and more skills are needed to meet the needs of more and more jobs today. It is also a world of rapid technological change and we have an aging labour force.

We live in a society where unfortunately marital breakdown has become more commonplace, leading to poverty. That is one of the reasons I am a strong advocate of returning to traditional family values and of polices which help families stay together. We live in a society where those in need can rely less and less on their families and communities for help.

Canada's current income security programs were set up at a time when unemployment, regardless of skills, was a brief condition between jobs; when the one-income two-parent family was the rule; and when child poverty was hardly talked about, let alone measured.

Canada has seen great change in the last decade alone. The former government was working on reforms that would help Canadians meet today's challenges, reforms that would reorient passive income support programs to an active investment in people; reforms that would remove barriers that prevent many from becoming active members of the labour force; reforms that would replace disjointed programs with a coherent system.

Social policy must be designed for people. More specifically it should be designed for the people who need the most. Canadians already pay enough taxes to have some of the most generous social programs in the world. Our challenge is to use the money already in the system to make programs as flexible as possible so recipients can receive the benefits to meet their needs and become self-reliant.

We must encourage individuals to break the cycle of dependency and help them to help themselves. I realize, as many Canadians realize, that if we do nothing the quality of these programs will deteriorate. Social policy must be updated to fit the realities of the nineties and the 21st century so that all Canadians can participate and face the opportunities and challenges ahead with confidence.

I will be listening to my constituents in the days, weeks and months ahead and getting their input, but these are some of my initial concerns with the green paper. I am not convinced the government's discussion paper contains a coherent set of proposals that will let us move in the direction which I have been talking about.

I am deeply concerned about the time it has taken the government to bring forward the discussion paper. It was a paper that we were supposed to see in the spring. We should now, according to the original timetable, be looking at legislation. While we were waiting and as we continue to wait, thousands of people and thousands of mothers and families wanted and want to leave welfare but could not and cannot because they would lose the dental and medical benefits their children need.

As members of Parliament we are often called on to help people in dire straits, people who are not worried about constitutional niceties like a division of powers. For example, I know a family with a severely disabled child. In the past the family has been able to count on government support to help meet the needs of their child, but no longer.

Families such as these look to the federal and provincial governments to work together to rationalize programs so they help those most in need. Some of the most worrisome parts of the paper are the suggestions for changes in UI, worrisome because in its two-tier proposal the government was unable to offer a definition of frequent user.

In areas of Atlantic Canada we have people who can be considered frequent users of UI. It is not because they are abusing the system. Nor are their employers abusing the system. It is because some parts of our economy are highly seasonal. That is why Atlantic Canadians need a coherent system of programs that will allow them to move with the changing times. What they do not need are proposals that cut them off at the knees.

Canada's strength has always been to combine a strong economy with a commitment to a secure social safety net that supports the needs of Canadians. Historically we have proven to be practical people who see that we have to move forward and adapt to changing conditions in order to keep our high quality of life.

I am not convinced the government's proposals will let us do that. This has been said in the past but let me repeat it because I am a firm believer in it: Good economic policy goes hand in hand with good social policy and vice versa.

We should all want to protect programs that work and change the ones that do not. We should all want to see to it that our workforce is trained to the highest standards. We should all want to make sure that our educational system produces graduates who can take full advantage of opportunities in a constantly changing economy. We want those graduates to have long term, high paying jobs. We want an educational system that encourages lifelong learning.

I do not believe Canadians will be well served by an approach to social policy that wants governments to borrow billions of dollars or impose more taxes on Canadians to retain a false and unrealistic sense of security. Nor will they be well served by an approach that will simply rip apart the social fabric. We need a reasonable approach with the watchwords of fairness, efficiency, self-sufficiency and dignity.

I will support proposals that advocate that approach and make the system more proactive. Hopefully before it is too late the government can offer such suggestions because I fear the discussion paper released yesterday does not. In fact in the words of a wise man, "never has a government taken so long to say so little".

Social Security ProgramsGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member across the way that this is a discussion paper. Some of the things I have heard over the last day have really concerned me; I heard a lot of partisan politics.

We were elected this time to do the very best we could. We should offer strong, viable solutions rather than rhetoric, niggling and sniping. I have heard very little concrete suggestions or very little from members about what they will actually do for input into the government before this is made government policy.

I am really looking for some concrete suggestions. What will the member who has just spoken with such heartfelt feelings about some of the suggestions in the paper do to ensure that there is good input into this paper?

Social Security ProgramsGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have time to answer the question after question period.

It being 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Lupus Awareness MonthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, October has been proclaimed National Lupus Awareness Month. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects thousands of Canadians, mostly women during child bearing years.

The cause of Lupus is yet unknown. As one of its priorities the government has issues relevant to women's health. Here we have an example of an illness that affects women for which treatment is limited and about which medical science has yet much to learn.

I encourage all members of the House to support the many volunteer groups at work all year round to help and support the individuals affected by the disease.

Please join me in extending best wishes to Lupus Canada for a successful awareness month.

National DebtStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Ivan Grose Liberal Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I address an annoying action being taken regularly by some hon. members opposite. Each day they list the current amount of national debt, down to the last penny.

What they fail to do is list the assets balancing the debt. I have no doubt that if they were asked to list their personal net worth they would declare their property mortgage, car loan, credit card balance and maybe even the balance owing to their tailors for the suits they are wearing. I have no doubt hon. members would then list their property, cars, et cetera, as assets, pointing out the equity they had in the items.

In the interest of fairness, if they persist in these statements I will at every opportunity list the assets of our country from each plane, train and ship, down to the last public toilet, bus and buffalo.

We could start with the building in which we stand. I trust it is paid for by this time.

Member For Bonaventure-Îles-De-La-MadeleineStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, to our great surprise, the member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the Liberal Party's specialist on statements under S.O. 31, has dissociated himself from his party's caucus and expressed reservations about the proposed reform of social programs. He said: "I have some reservations about occupational training, etc."

To show his dissent and to distance himself from his party, the member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine joined a strategic friend in his party, the member for York South-Weston, who said: "For the ten years we were the Official Opposition, we accused the Conservatives of reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and we are doing exactly the same thing".

I therefore call on the Liberal Party's No. 31 to pay attention to his fine career, because breaking the party line is unlikely to please his Prime Minister or many other people, for that matter.

National UnityStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, Monday night the Reform Party heard the views of thousands of Canadians during an historic nationwide electronic townhall meeting.

Unlike the Prime Minister, these Canadians are willing to look at new methods of solving the problem. Ninety-three per cent of the more than 10,000 callers want to see an end to the national unity issue. Fifty-seven per cent believe the best course of action is to change the system for all of Canada, with 92 per cent saying that change should come from the people.

While the Prime Minister has stated that he finds referenda revolting, he might want to pay attention to these results. The Prime Minister has also said that Reform wants to discuss this issue because we are a failure with other issues.

Failure is defined in the dictionary as a falling short of what is wanted or expected, in not doing, neglecting. Based on these definitions, it would appear that the word failure is best used to describe Liberal policies when they have them.

St. Catharines' OktoberfestStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Walt Lastewka Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fall season is upon us and in St. Catharines fall means Oktoberfest.

This year Oktoberfest will be held from October 15 to 23. It features special events at local clubs, pubs, city hall, the St. Catharines centennial library and much more. The festival means music, food and the occasional beer, a nine-day celebration of Bavarian fun.

As Canada's oldest Oktoberfest, St. Catharines is very proud on this its 34th annual festival.

Special thanks and congratulations to the St. Catharines Oktoberfest-Pumpkinfest committee and to the many volunteers who will make this event great.

I encourage everyone to visit St. Catharines next week. As president Stephen Ruf and CHSC Morning Mayor John Larocque say, come for the friendship, come for the music, come for the food and come for the fun.

AidsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, look around the House. Many persons are wearing red ribbons.

The red ribbon has become the symbol for AIDS, the commitment to end this tragic disease and a memorial to the men, women and children who have died in its lethal grip.

Last Sunday I attended the 8th annual walk for AIDS in Vancouver. Thousands of men and women, seniors and families walked to raise badly needed funds for community services and to increase public awareness of this tragic disease; walking in solidarity against a virus that wreaks global devastation but also walking in triumph of life over death, of compassion over prejudice.

Sadly some still remain ignorant of the origins of the HIV virus. They stigmatize and stand in judgment of those who are sick and dying from AIDS. Therefore in this week of AIDS awareness, I implore all Canadians to fight ignorance and prejudice, to wear the red ribbon in celebration of the courage of those who live with AIDS, in respect of those who have died of AIDS and in hope of the day when AIDS will be banished from our world.

Manpower TrainingStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, after the referendum episode, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is still up to his tricks, with a skill and subtlety that no one expected.

This time, the incorrigible minister is telling us what he thinks about labour force training: he is offering the provinces half a loaf and suggesting that the other half will be negotiated later. He might as well have added that the federal government will take the best part and leave the crumbs for the provinces.

However, the minister should understand that Quebecers were not born to accept crumbs.

His intention not to transfer full responsibility for labour force training to Quebec, on the pretext of national standards, is the cavalier response of the federal government to the broad consensus expressed by Quebecers.

Drawing on the famous cartoon character Gaston Lagaffe, I say to the minister: "Keep it up and thanks!"