House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was programs.


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3:25 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

I watched it on television.

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3:25 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Certainly we need to have that flat tax system. We do not need to study it any more. We need to change our UI system. We do not have to study that any more. We need to change and reform these systems, but we do not have to study any longer. We need action.

There are 295 MPs who can bring here the words of their constituents through town hall meetings. We do not need to have high priced studies nor listen to a bunch of special interest groups and academics tell us how to do things. The people will tell us how to do things. It is the job of the 295 MPs to get out there and find out about it.

There is a questionnaire from the Minister of Human Resources Development. That is a pretty good item. The only thing is we can predict every single answer we are going to get because we have already done that.

Above all we need to destroy party discipline in this House. We need to go to a free vote system whereby we can really get into voting the way of our constituents. Rather than sending people across this country at a cost of $800,000, $1 million or whatever, we have the information and we know what people want. Now is the time to act on it. In terms of social reform, that is what I encourage the government to do more than anything else.

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3:30 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer. I found that his remarks other than the free vote remark were very well thought out.

It is a pleasure to see that everyone in this House has taken this issue of social security reform seriously. It is very important for Canadians to see that.

I have a question for the member, a very serious question coming out of his remarks that I would like him to consider. He mentioned in passing that he thought that the delivery of programs should be downloaded to the provinces rather than the federal government.

I just wish to say that I had trouble with that. I know it is the Reform Party platform point but I have trouble coming from Ontario where I am not entirely satisfied with the way the Ontario government handles education for example.

There is a lot of unevenness in the way various provinces handle various programs. I would like him to consider that. Does he not think that actually it is preferable and more efficient if the federal government keeps as many programs as it can to itself and make them more efficient rather than relying on the provinces to do so?

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3:30 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, the point that I would really like to make about offloading from the federal government is getting down to the actual delivery level, particularly in some of the areas like welfare.

Those sorts of areas lend themselves probably the best to getting them down to the very delivery levels themselves. Obviously that means that the federal government has to give up something. It has to give up the collecting of that money to the level that is providing the service. As so often would happen, we would not want to go that step. We would just want to give them things to do to keep the money for ourselves. That will not work, obviously.

They can feel part of it by cutting out those tiers of administrators. So often we have that. In Ottawa they think they know how to do it this way and that message then comes down to the province and the province then translates it to its particular political bent. Then it goes down to the municipality and it delivers the service.

By the time one gets all that bureaucracy, one has lost the efficiency, lost the true delivery to the people. That is what I am getting at. I can understand the member's point. Certainly some provincial governments are less desirable than others and that would be a concern but I guess we have to trust the people to simply replace that government if that were the case.

I would much rather trust the local officials to deliver than I would somebody here in Ottawa.

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3:30 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, it is nice to have you back here in the House. We have not seen you for a while.

I would like to begin by reading from the conclusion of this working document that was given to us by the Minister of Human Resources Development. It is the chapter entitled "What can be accomplished by reform?".

The purpose of this paper is to stimulate interest and debate among Canadians over the coming months about how together we can reform one of our great national institutions, the social security system.

It is a system, a set of programs and services that reflects the best of who we are, our compassion for those less fortunate in our society and a commitment to equality of opportunity and our belief in the dignity of work.

As times change, so must our institutions. Without exception provincial governments have recognized this and many of them have launched discussion papers of their own, setting out reform priorities. This is the federal government's contribution.

I want to congratulate the Minister of Human Resources Development for undertaking such a comprehensive push on reform to our social security system. I believe, quite frankly, that very few men or women in this House could actually take this challenge on other than the minister. I say that because I think most members of this House and most people in the country who know the minister realize that his history, his tradition in public service over the last 25 years has characterized him not only as a strong Canadian nationalist but also as someone who has always been there for the most disadvantaged in our communities.

I can remember in the last government when we were in opposition whenever the minister would speak it would drive the Conservative Party nuts because many viewed his vision, his feeling, his caring for the country as a sort of radical left position. I never viewed his position as radical left. It is very important that someone who has won the trust of our communities in caring for people who are disadvantaged lead this charge. This is a very comprehensive review.

We are talking about reviewing a program of reform that is almost $39 billion in taxpayers' money. We are talking about the Canada assistance plan of $8.2 billion; the Canada student loans program of $.5 billion; the post-secondary education established programs financing of $6.1 billion; the UI administration of $1.2 billion; UI maternity, parental adoption and sickness, $1.7 billion; unemployment insurance regular benefits, $12.4 billion; employment programs for developmental uses, $1.9 billion; employment programs consolidated revenue fund, $1.4 billion; vocational rehabilitation for disabled persons, $.2 billion. That is a total of $38.7 billion.

Obviously I cannot in this short time take on every aspect of this particular reform initiative. I would like to address my remarks to a very special, very tight area of this debate, women in poverty.

All the statistics of children in poverty and women in poverty have been talked about in the last few months before this House. I believe it is incumbent upon all of us who are involved in this creative exercise of reform to really make sure that when the recommendations for renewal come forward at the end of this debating exercise, we make sure we have the most enviable program in the world for women who are involved at the lower end of the income spectrum.

We cannot miss this opportunity. I say that because I believe that women in the entrepreneurial sense and in the business sense are one of the great untapped markets of opportunity to help revitalize the economy of this country, and in so doing bringing dignity not only to themselves but to their own families, especially their children.

I want to remind colleagues in the House about something that is happening in the United States right now. Women owned or partnered businesses in the United States are employing more

Americans today than all the Fortune 500 companies combined. That is a staggering statistic.

The force of women in the United States is becoming a recognized fact. I do not believe that it has hit the consciousness of this country yet or sunk in to all of us in this Chamber who are presently charged with redesigning the social security system.

As the minister has asked us for ideas during this debate, I would like to present the idea that we consider as a Chamber and as a government to set up women in business centres all across Canada. I am talking about centres the purpose of which would be to offer women training and support in developing businesses. We are talking about centres that would facilitate access to capital for women in business, centres that would be test sites for innovative, educational and technological efforts. These centres would also act as a catalyst for business and entrepreneurial opportunity. It would ultimately improve the business and entrepreneurship capability in Canada.

I have to talk about a personal experience for a moment that is driving me in this direction about women in business. My grandmother was a widow at age 48. She had 14 children but at age 48 she still had eight of those children at home. Four of her sons had gone off to join the RCAF, one of them being my father.

This single mother was left with eight children at home. We are talking now about the early 1940s. She had a small, home based business. It was a very simple business. She rented tables and chairs for banquets, weddings and social functions. My grandmother managed, because of her own creativity and her hard work, to raise that family of eight children under her roof and to provide a respectable living for all of them. As time went on she eventually developed the business and it grew into something that looked after many other families other than her own children.

My point in bringing this example up is that this happened at a time when there was absolutely no unemployment insurance and no welfare system. There was no social security system to look after a single mother in the early 1940s who had eight children. They had to use their own creativity, their own work ethics and had to rely on their friends and neighbours. Certainly there was not a lot of support from the banks for a widowed mother with eight children. That just was not part of the scene in those days.

That example of what an individual can do under great stress for me has always been testimony that if there is a will there is a way as long as there is some kind of support system from your friends and community.

I think what the minister of human resources is saying to us in this debate is that defending the status quo which is not working is not in the cards and by wanting to defend the status quo we are defending a decline, not to mention the fact that we are spending almost $40 billion a year and we are not getting the results.

When we go through this exercise we have to look at every idea presented to us. I use as an example my grandmother who was a single mother with eight children at home. She built a family business from her home with no government grants, no support. It shows me that if we give a little bit of support to women in business throughout the country, we can probably get a lot more Canadians working. The most important thing is to raise the standard of living of a lot of women who are currently trapped in a welfare system that is certainly not working. It is a system that none of us in the House wants to defend.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. It is a comprehensive challenge that the minister has placed before us but if we use the premise that we put all of the ideas on the table and keep an open mind concerning those ideas, then I believe at the end of this exercise we can create a new social security system that will be the envy of the world.

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3:45 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, I am also glad to see you again. We did not forget you while you were away.

I listened very carefully to what my colleague had to say. Of course, in 15 or 20 minutes, he could not touch on all the various aspects. Given the examples he used concerning the family, the underprivileged women and all the problems he mentioned, I would have liked to hear his views on education.

Unemployment is the big problem. It is an economic problem and we have to pay for it. Unemployment causes other problems to develop. For example, our youth are faced with problems like dropping out of school, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. In the reform currently under review, we are being asked to reconsider student loans. I, for one, say that education is the cornerstone of the whole system.

If we do not invest in areas like human sciences, where we should inject a lot of money into research and development when, in fact, we are cutting research, if, as I said, we do not give education all the tools needed to catch up in this area and to undertake important research projects, we are heading not only for bankruptcy, but for real chaos.

I would like my colleague to comment on these cuts in education and research and development, which the government wants Canadians to swallow.

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3:45 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for his question.

As I stated in my opening remarks, the minister responsible for human resources is calling for a debate where we advance ideas on how we can take the current $38 billion expenditure and redesign it in a way that we can get a better bang for the taxpayers' buck.

I believe that education is paramount in this debate. No one is questioning that. In fact there are no further cuts. It is a redesign of the current system.

I share the member's view. Education is something to which we must continually commit ourselves and of course the R and D that the member mentioned as well.

In order to make sure that the resources are there, to make sure our educational system can handle not only the R and D aspect but also make sure that our younger people have access, we have to create an economy where they have income so that they can afford to pay for their tuition rather than take student loans. The greatest problem that our young people have had, especially in the last three years, is they have not been able to get decent work to pay for their university education. The whole economy has been flat.

The member knows full well that if we can create a more vibrant economy where younger people can get work it does not take long for a student, working part time and in the summer, to raise $6,000, $7,000 or $8,000 a year which goes a long way toward paying for his or her education.

We are going to have to put more emphasis on the macro economy rather than just the old system where we would automatically write cheques.

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3:50 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments.

I want to state categorically that the question of status quo is not only unique to Quebec, as I found from travelling with the pre-budget consultation hearings on the finance committee. It is a preoccupation throughout Canada from one coast to the other.

I would like to bring to the attention of my hon. colleague two valid ideas that surfaced from a workshop in my riding this week on the reform of human resources. One was that small business people who are unemployed and try to start up a business find that they cannot collect unemployment insurance. The suggestion was brought forward that perhaps a person who is on unemployment insurance should be allowed to collect their benefits at the same time as starting up a business.

The other question I would like the hon. member to comment on is this. He mentioned the need for assistance for women in business. Another suggestion from our workshop was that the older group, the 55 year plus, have a wealth of experience and cannot find jobs. They would be willing to work 5 to 15 hours a week to help the women that he mentioned and youth who want to start up small businesses. Could he put in his idea the concept of allowing older people to give the benefit of their experience to the young and the women to start up their businesses? Could he not consider these two ideas in his proposal also?

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3:50 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to say to my colleague this is when a debate becomes most enjoyable. We are advancing ideas. We are building on ideas.

The idea of taking a counsellor assistance program, not unlike the one in the Federal Business Development Bank, and marrying that with the youth and my pet project, women in business, is a great way to go. That is a way of using up the great wisdom and experience that exists from people who have taken perhaps early retirement from a 70 to 80 hour a week job but want to only work 10 or 12 hours a week.

I would certainly support that idea. It is a great one. That is the kind of thing I believe our minister needs to hear.

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3:50 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the hon. parliamentary secretary's comments, especially with regard to his grandmother and the eight children.

I have two questions stemming from that. The first one is a question on welfare and whether he thinks there is a possibility that had welfare, as it is now, been available to his grandmother that instead of finding her own way she might have gone on to welfare and become a burden to taxpayers. That is the first question.

The second question is about programs for women. Had it been your grandfather with the eight children in the same situation, the same difficulty, would he have been any less deserving than your grandmother?

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3:55 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, first I want to answer the question about welfare.

I knew my grandmother because she looked after me. Probably she would have figured out a way to avoid the welfare option. However that is my own declared bias for my grandmother. Maybe she could have fallen into that trap as well.

That is one of the real problems we have in our society today. The system is set up in such a way that it becomes the thing to do, and people are not challenged to their depths in terms of their work ethic or their creativity. We have to redesign this program in a way that the basic inner strength of people, their creative

skills and work ethic are maximized. By changing the welfare system that will happen.

As to the second question, I do not differentiate because we are all equal. However society is much more receptive to men who are involved in the business realm than women. As a government we have a chance to do something unique in this mandate by moving women in business from the back burner to the front burner. If we were a House of Commons that did that, it would be one of the great experiences we could leave this place.

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3:55 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in today's debate on the social programs reform. I did not think this issue would show up so soon on the Order Paper, but I am glad it did, because I spent last Thursday, November 17, working with my riding assistants to organize public hearings, since I feel that the Gaspé constituents will be hard hit by the measures proposed in the social reform.

So, along with my assistants, I decided to hold public hearings, because the closest the Parliamentary Committee will come to my area is Rivière-du-Loup, a one day journey away. As you can understand, my constituents wanted to be heard on this issue. However, because of the distance, few will able to make it to Rivière-du-Loup on December 11.

I organized these hearings with the firm belief that this social programs reform is such a crucial issue that it goes beyond partisanship. With this in mind, and that will make some of the members opposite smile, I asked the director of an hospital centre, a known Liberal, as well as a former PQ minister and MNA for Gaspé, to give me a hand. With these two commissioners on board, we heard something like 18 witnesses, including representatives of at least 16 social organizations.

If only to pay tribute to these people, since this had to be organized rather quickly because I also thought crucial to start the discussion in my constituency, I would like to mention them in this House.

So, the following have made themselves heard: the Regional Municipality of Côte de Gaspé, the Gaspé Chamber of Commerce, CRCD, the concertation committee of the Regional Municipality of Parbock, the Regroupement contre l'appauvrissement dans l'est du Québec, the United Church, CASA, the Anglophone Social Action Committee, the Ralliement gaspésien et madelinot, the Anse-à-Valleau Development Committee, the Denis Riverin Unemployment Action, the Regional municipality of Parbock Work Action, the Gaspé CNTU, the Association des capitaines propriétaires de la Gaspésie, the Regroupement des pêcheurs professionnels du sud de la Gaspésie.

We also heard from Rural Dignity and the Regroupement des femmes and others whose name I forget. These are either regional or local groups and this was reflected in their comments. But they are all wondering if after the reform proposed by the minister the safety net which we have now in Canada will still suit Gaspé constituents. Madam Speaker, allow me to state at the outset that people are very sceptical about that.

I would like to state a few facts. First of all, people from the Gaspé Peninsula know how to read. They heard about the leaks in the Toronto Star regarding the possible cuts of $7.5 billion and another $7.5 billion that would accompany this reform. Every time they were questioned about their briefs, they would talk about these cuts. They would tell us also that, from their viewpoint, the objective of the reform is not to improve assistance to the needy, but rather to cut assistance to the disadvantaged. To them, it is absolutely inconceivable.

Some facts about our riding are in order. As I have already mentioned to the Minister of Human Resources Development, the riding of Gaspé receives approximately 27,000 unemployment insurance applications a year. About 33 per cent of those applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks. It is not because they do not want to work longer. There are no jobs. Our region has to live with the seasons.

If I look at the situation in some areas in particular, in the Chandler area for example, 38 per cent of UI applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks. These figures were provided to me by the employment centres for the Gaspé Peninsula and the Islands. In the Magdalen Islands area, and my colleague opposite can correct me if I am wrong, close to 40 per cent of UI applicants have worked only 10 or 11 weeks.

I used to work for the fishing industry, representing fishermen, and I wonder where these people could go to work more weeks, especially considering the fact that this resource has been scarce. When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans declares a moratorium on fishing, his goal is the conservation of stocks, but the Minister of Human Resources Development is telling us we should be working more. In the Madgalen Islands and the Gaspé Peninsula, our economy is seasonal in nature. Tourism is a seasonal industry, although we have started to take action in order to extend the season. We have yet to reap the full results of those measures and reach our ultimate goal, which is to have people work during at least six months each year in viable businesses.

Forestry workers would also like to work more. The problem they face is winter conditions. When winter begins, at about this time of year, at the beginning of December, there is already a fair amount of snow high up in the mountains beyond Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. It is very difficult to work in the snow, not onlybe-

cause of the cold, but also because it is hard to haul the timber out.

Of course, we could use heavy equipment, but it gets expensive for businessmen to clear bush roads every time there is some timber to haul out whereas, during the summertime, roads are always open and accessible. Springtime conditions are no better. It is hard to work in the bush when the snow is melting. When you are using a chain saw, you need to have your two feet on solid ground. There is also the haulage problem, which can be serious in the spring.

I have already dealt with fisheries, but I could add the example of lobster fishing. The data on resource preservation show that, for as long as I can remember, at least since the beginning of the 1970s, lobster fishing has been limited to ten weeks. The resource itself makes it impossible to fish for a longer period. Around the Gaspé Peninsula, they go lobster fishing from Mother's Day to the beginning of July. In Nova-Scotia, they go a bit later. For example, some areas are still open around Nova Scotia. However, the resource is subject to a limit of ten weeks.

How can we find a way for these people, who have a highly specialized job, but one which does not provide them work for any longer than that, to continue to earn a living? In the past, they used to rely on cod fishing, but there is no more cod to be caught. We worked with these groups in order to create other projects for them to start fishing other species and diversify, but it is not an easy task. The first years when you start working under a federal program made mostly for shore workers, there are no incentives that would allow for a lucrative kind of fishing to emerge, such as soupfin shark, or spiny dogfish as we call it in my region.

However, I will admit this is a remarkable effort and I know the people opposite in the government co-operated. I hope we will get the same kind of co-operation next year and the following years. The Gaspé Peninsula needs tools like this. It is not because we did not reach the objective this year that we should forgo the experience next year. On the contrary, we should profit from what we have learned this year.

I am going from one subject to another, but I would like to mention some other points. First, I am somewhat moved by this because life in that region flows with the seasons. We need this form of support. If we want to do without social programs like unemployment insurance, the question is: Are you people listening to us this afternoon willing to pay two, three, four times what you are paying now for your seafood? Maybe you are, maybe not. One thing is certain, we will have to be given time. What we want are the tools to give more responsibility to people in the industry. Marketing tools, of course, but also tools to clean up the industry, in particular as regards incidental captures.

Last spring I attended hearings where I heard a number of groups from the Atlantic region. Whether they were from Quebec, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, people wanted to be part of the discussions on their future. People wanted to be consulted. More than that, they wanted to be able to intervene locally on matters of interest to them. Unfortunately, this is not possible under the present system.

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Human Resources to the fact that a debate on this subject is forthcoming. Last week, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans recognized that we would have to review the whole fisheries administration in Canada. I congratulate him for acknowledging that we have a problem. I also let him know that the province of Quebec had submitted a project that might solve the problem. He told me that, naturally, he had to consult the other provinces. During the next few weeks I will follow up on that, to make sure that the minister has, indeed, started discussions with his counterparts and that officials of the two levels of government are doing the necessary groundwork. It is most important.

I would like to go back to what my constituents said because it touched on all of this. They said: "We do not understand this reform. We are in dire straights, and we would like the government to help the poorest members of society, to give us the necessary tools to break this vicious circle". Before, it used to be called the 10/42, from now on it will be the 12/38. The government is tightening eligibility, increasing the number of work weeks, while shortening the benefit period. It is very disappointing for people.

People would like to have the tools to take care of themselves. But the government is not providing them. With respect to the unemployment rate in the Gaspé Peninsula, the government came to the brilliant conclusion that we do not have too many people out of work, we have too many people for the number of jobs available.

The second point which really irks people is the matter of employability. A fisherman told me this: "In our village, with a population of 200 to 300, should everyone become a welder?" It does not make any sense to retrain some 30 fishermen to all become welders. What I want to point out with this story is the fact that we need the tools to modify the economic structure of our regions.

We will not be able to transform the Gaspé Peninsula overnight into something like Montreal. Montreal also has its share of problems. The unemployment rate in this city is somewhere around 13 per cent, I believe. People are warning me that if this reform goes any further, it will trigger an exodus. Where will people go, if they have to leave an area where the unemployment rate is now 17 per cent to go to an area where it is 13 per cent? It is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

But this will not solve the problem; our problem is one of structural unemployment. We are not showing our people how to become self-sufficient. We are not giving them their own decision-making tools, we are not allowing them to manage their own affairs. These tools should be transferred to them, people should be consulted, and yet it is not done; it is one of their main comments.

I would like to point out that I will supply the Minister of Human Resources Development with a summary along with these briefs. I will also give it to the parliamentary committee, which is on the road right now.

But I would still like to raise a few points. As I believe was mentioned by some hon. members a few minutes ago, shared time is one solution to the employment problem being used by the CNTU in the Gaspé Peninsula. People are ready to discuss solutions, to look at all the possibilities. As I said earlier, fishermen throughout the Atlantic provinces, not just in Quebec, mentioned that they are hoping, and indeed are asking, for a bigger share, for permits with more variety.

Some of the things I heard were amusing. There was one woman who said: "The Liberals are forever consulting, but we need more than that right now. The barn is on fire and we need a fireman who knows what to do".

Madam Speaker, as I told you earlier, I was accompanied by two commissioners. I am merely repeating what people told me. One woman asked: "Why are we reforming social programs, when the problem is elsewhere?" The problem is in the lack of employment, in the fact that the government is facing excessive debt, that over half this debt is owed outside the country and that we are going to be in serious trouble if we do not get our finances in order soon.

The message is that the Bloc Quebecois agrees that the deficit must be reduced and said so during the election campaign. However, we do not want cuts to be made blindly. We want there to be respect for the public. If there is an objective to be met, people should be asked what tools they need to reach it, and whether it is feasible. If it is not feasible then, as a society, we will have to make a choice. We will always need fishermen.

One of them told me: "I am willing to work 12 months a year, but is the Minister of Human Resources Development willing to thaw the gulf in the wintertime? Is he willing to stock it? If so, I could fish 12 months a year".

Of course, we had a bit of fun. In spite of the seriousness of the problems, people in the Gaspé Peninsula came to these hearings with a smile on their face and kept their cool. They suggested solutions. They also sent a serious warning to the government. If it realizes what their needs are and gives them the necessary tools, they will meet the objectives that the government wants to set behind their backs.

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4:15 p.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Mac Harb LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Madam Speaker, let me begin by congratulating the government and the Minister for Human Resources Development on his initiative. Indeed, it is a bold approach that in my view will respond to the nineties and beyond.

This is one segment of an overall strategy and overall action plan which will be proposed by this government over the next year or so in order to respond to a commitment made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada as well as on behalf of the people who elected him. Those commitments were made in Creating Opportunities or the red book as people might call it.

There are three aspects of the proposal. One looks at the whole way in which we deliver our social programs in Canada, as well as human resources training and development. The second aspect will look at the overall industry in Canada and the way we deliver our goods and services here and abroad. The third aspect is to try and put our house in order in terms of looking at the overall finances of the government.

There is no doubt in my mind that if one is to look at Canada from the outside, which the United Nations has done on a number of occasions, one would come to the conclusion that we live in the greatest country on earth. I knew that 20 years ago when I came here. I knew I was going to heaven on earth. I am sure that my colleagues in this House and all Canadians would agree and would know that we live in the greatest land on earth.

To keep Canada in the forefront in terms of equality of social programs that we provide our citizens, the quality of education that we provide and access to the finest medicare in the world, we have to do a number of things.

Before I enter into a detailed explanation I want to share with you some statistical information in terms of the status quo, the situation that now exists in Canada.

Today approximately 10 per cent of the Canadian population are considered to be senior citizens. By the year 2031 that number will double to the point where more or less about one in every four Canadians will be a senior citizen. In parallel with that if we are to look at the number of people who are entering the workforce, we have a shrinkage. Today there are a lot less people in the workforce than there were 10 or 15 years ago.

The challenge is to use the output or the productivity of those people who are in the workforce to try and support all of the programs, social benefits and everything else in order to contin-

ue to provide the quality of life that we have been providing to Canadians for the past 100 or so years.

To that extent one would say that we not only have to work harder but we have to work smarter.

I would be misleading the House and Canadians if I were to say that at the turn of the switch things are going to be better. Canadians know that in order for things to get better we all have to make sacrifices. We all have to take a bold approach toward changing not only the appearance but the fundamental structure when it comes to the kinds of things we do and the programs we provide.

The reason I say this is because if we look at the programs that we have today, many have been in existence 25 to 50 years in some cases. Some of those programs have kept up to the demand and to the technological changes and have been updated. Other programs definitely require a closer look.

I am going to give a couple of examples. Let us look at the figures for 1972. In 1972 the Canadian government spent $3 billion on unemployment insurance and social assistance. Guess how much we spent in 1993? We spent $33.4 billion. Looking at how much we spent on education, it is interesting to note that Canada spent perhaps more than any other country in the world on education. All governments together spent in excess of $50 billion a year on education.

When it comes to the overall expenditure on all of the social programs, that would put Canada behind Sweden as the country that spent the most on social programs of any country in the world. That is why we have the finest support services anywhere on the globe. That is why we have to make sure we do everything we can to continue to provide the quality services that are required.

If we look at what we are spending in terms of resources, gross, financial and otherwise versus in terms of how much we need in order to continue to support those programs, the devil will show up. That devil is a tremendous amount of debt that totals in excess of $700 billion if we combine the federal as well as the provincial governments' debts.

To support that debt in terms of the deficit it is in excess of $37 billion to $40 billion on an annual basis. If we add this to the amount of funds we are putting in to support social programs and our educational system and if we continue to do the kinds of things we are doing today without some major overhaul, it will take us quite a while to catch up. I might suggest that we will never be able to catch up because, as my colleagues know, cutting services alone is not going to solve it.

If the government was to fire every public servant we would still have a deficit of approximately $20 billion a year. Cutting programs is not going to solve it. What will solve it is if, as the Minister for Human Resources Development has suggested, we look at the way we provide those programs and services to the community and try to fine tune those programs and services so they will meet the needs and the challenges of the 1990s.

Second, we have to improve our productivity and our standing on the international scene as well as here in Canada in order to create wealth. The NDP's theory of redistributing wealth failed. We have seen it in Ontario as well as in Saskatchewan and British Columbia when they were in power. It does not work.

The second theory of ultra independent capitalism without government being at least there in order to provide a fair and proper environment also does not work because the private sector alone will not solve it. As well, if we leave it up the public sector alone it will not work.

Historically, the best approach to solve our socioeconomic problems has always been the Liberal approach. Would the House not agree?

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4:25 p.m.


George S. Rideout Liberal Moncton, NB


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4:25 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

That is basically what this government is doing. We are looking at the way we deliver our services and our programs. We are trying to put in place a mechanism that will help us move ahead to control the deficit, reduce the national debt, eventually eliminating it, and continue to provide quality social programs for people, including our seniors, and continue helping our youth so they can obtain the kind of education they need.

There are some challenges. I would like to share some of those. Now in Canada over 38 per cent of the Canadian population is considered to be functionally illiterate. In other words, these people may have difficulty to calculate properly, read or write properly, fill out an application form properly and/or properly read manuals that might relate to their daily work.

The cost to the business community alone on an annual basis is over $4 billion. It costs the government $10 billion a year in terms of lost productivity and other accessories that go along with it. Looking at the national deficit of $40 billion alone, it costs us about 25 per cent of that. If we lived in an ideal world with no illiteracy, we would not have a problem. I know we have to catch up in order to reach that particular state.

I spoke earlier about the fact that there is a shrinking in terms of the number of people who are entering the workforce. That is a result of two things. First, the productivity rate in Canada is decreasing, not increasing. Second, there is a major problem in our educational system. Out of every three students now there is one student not finishing high school. Did anyone know that?

About 33 per cent of our youth are not completing high school. Instead, they are getting low paying jobs at Dairy Queen or at McDonald's. As a result of that eventually, if they are unlucky, as are many of our youth, they will find themselves in the unfortunate situation of not finding the job they need. They go on welfare or UI. They find themselves outside of the safety

net this country has provided its citizens for the past hundred years or so.

We have to make sure the system is open, accessible and ready to provide opportunities for those who would like to take advantage of them. On the other hand I will look at the overall situation in terms of the opportunities that exist for us as a country.

Let us have a look at the other programs. I want to share some figures. We spent about $33.7 billion annually on UI in 1993. In 1972 we spent something like $3 billion. One would think if we had spent more in 1993 that the figures in terms of unemployment would improve. In other words we should have less people on unemployment.

Unfortunately, the numbers of unemployed since the fifties until now have not been improving. They have been going backward. In the 1950s, the number of unemployed people in Canada was in the range of 4 per cent to 5 per cent. In the 1990s unfortunately that figure exceeds 10 per cent of the population. That does not include the people who are on welfare.

We have to work harder and we have to work smarter. I have said that 33 per cent of our youth are not completing high school and 38 per cent of the population is functionally illiterate. Our world is changing. My colleague from the Atlantic provinces would know that in the past in order for us to support our social programs all we would do was get a back hoe, dig some gold or metals and raw material and sell it. That was easy. We would take a few chain saws, cut a few trees and sell wood. That was easy. Or fish.

However the fish are being depleted, the number of trees is declining as are our raw materials. If we sold all the raw materials we could it would not be sufficient to support the expenditures our government and past governments have made. To that extent we have to do things a little differently.

According to a study published by employment and immigration in the past three years, by the year 2000 approximately 67 per cent of all jobs in Canada will require at least a grade 13 education. Looking at the present situation we will not be able to catch up. We will have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister of Human Resources Development is taking. We will have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister of Finance will be taking when he delivers his budget next February. We will have to take the same kind of bold approach the Minister of Industry will be taking. We will also have to take the kind of bold approach the Minister for International Trade or the Minister of Health will be taking.

We have to look at the way we do things. The Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs has been embarking on a major undertaking to look at the programs the government is delivering and to see if those programs can be better delivered by another agency or another level of government. We will see what we as a federal government can do and what the provincial and municipal governments, agencies or crown corporations can do. That review will definitely lead to a more efficient and dynamic, a more progressive and upbeat government that can move forward with flexibility.

We will never abandon our social programs. The Liberal government will never abandon its commitment to those who need assistance and support. However, we have to look at things and see if they still meet today's needs. I will give some examples.

Despite the fact that we spend some $34 billion on UI and social programs I am amazed there are still 1.3 million children living below the poverty line. A large number of single mothers still cannot find work and cannot make ends meet without a social support network. They cannot get the education required to make a better life for themselves and their children.

There is no doubt in my mind that a review is needed as the Minister of Human Resources Development has stated, that will be effective, affordable and fair. I am very much interested in the aspects of the proposal the minister has put forward which deals specifically with child care and child poverty.

In Canada approximately 450,000 lone parents are on welfare. Ninety per cent of them are women who could work if they had the right support, such as child care. Instead of helping single mothers and their children to get out of the welfare trap the percentage of single mothers who work is actually declining rather than increasing. The problem is that good quality child care is expensive and not readily available.

Most parents are in paid employment. In 1993, 63 per cent of women with children under the age of six were actually in the workforce, up from 47 per cent in 1981 and up from 35.5 per cent in 1976. Despite this increase the supply of licensed child care spaces in Canada is limited. Only 28 per cent of children six years and under with working parents are in licensed day care. I am sure that many of my colleagues know of some people who experience those kinds of difficulties.

The shortage of affordable child care could keep parents, especially lone parents out of work. As well, the lack of flexible work arrangements such as job sharing and compressed work weeks make it difficult for working parents to balance work with

family needs. One would ask how we can help those families and those parents do better.

The minister came up with a number of options. He proposed that we can and should work with the provinces to increase the number of child care spaces. The government already has set aside new funding for up to 150,000 new child care spaces and we will work with the provinces to decide how the money will be spent. Also the government could work with employers to find ways to encourage flex time and a shorter work week.

Also we can invest to help meet the child care needs of parents in paid employment. That makes good economic sense. Some of the benefits would perhaps include more productive employees, jobs for child care workers and less pressure on welfare programs.

Those are some of the things we can do. I could go on but I see that my time is coming to an end. I conclude by congratulating this government on a job well done and I welcome the Prime Minister home after a wonderful trip. It is going to create many jobs for now and the future.

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4:35 p.m.

Moncton New Brunswick


George S. Rideout LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, first I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary on an excellent and insightful discourse. The sheer volume of facts, figures and information was quite edifying for all members of Parliament I am sure. I would like to ask a couple of questions in two areas.

With his experience in international trade as parliamentary secretary to the minister, I am sure he is aware of the types of educational requirements needed. If we are going to make this economy work, not only do we have to make government function better but we have to make the economy grow. The Prime Minister in his trip to China and the Asia-Pacific has shown the opportunities that are available to Canadians. We have to make the Canadian workforce ready for those opportunities. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could show us how the social safety net could be utilized in order to take advantage of those international opportunities.

Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could also discuss some of the things experienced in New Brunswick. There are disincentives built into the present system. I am thinking particularly of the UI system in which it is better to stay on UI than to go out and get a job. I am thinking of the welfare system in which it is better to stay on welfare because after taking a low paying low skilled position and getting off welfare the benefits available under the welfare system such as dental care, clothing allowances and allowances for single parents are lost.

For anyone to say that the status quo is acceptable, that we can leave things exactly the way they are obviously has no real understanding of the tremendous change that is necessary and which this government has embarked upon.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to comment on the disincentives in the UI system and in the welfare systems in the different provinces and also to offer some hope to Canadians through the opportunities in the international marketplace.

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4:35 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. It was because of his effort and his former experience as a mayor on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities that I was inspired along with my colleague from Nepean to co-chair the Liberal infrastructure task force which went across the country. It visited his home province. The task force came back with a report that was adopted by our caucus. I thank him again for his interest in the well-being of his constituents.

The hon. member asked me to mention the kinds of things we could do to prepare our workers and industries. We have to focus on training. Training and retraining is the key. People might ask: Training for what? That question deserves an answer.

The global economy as they call it and you can call it whatever you want, but every country in the world economy is using high technology tools such as computers, robotics, machinery with advanced technology. Canadian industries have not adapted to that. About 50 per cent of Canadian companies do not use advanced technology instruments to help productivity.

After Belgium, Austria and Australia, Canada's expenditures per capita on research and development are the third largest in the world but the private sector is nowhere to be seen. Canada's private sector, industry in Canada is not spending enough money on research and development. Because the job market is going to require at least a grade 13 education and the required information base, understanding and knowledge, we have to invest in the areas of research and development, education and training.

The member asked what we could do to improve employment services. The minister is already looking at ways and tools to improve these services such as individual job counselling, helping people develop their own employment plan, providing information about the job market, pointing people in the right direction, giving them access to basic skills training, and helping them with reading, writing and math. We must give them better training programs to acquire skills that match-a key buzzword-the local labour market. That is very important. Train them for what? That is the key. Many of my constituents ask what they are being trained for.

We must work in co-operation with the private sector. It takes two hands to clap. You cannot clap with one hand. Government cannot do it all by itself. We need the co-operation of the private sector. We have to work with it hand in hand.

With respect to trade this government has probably done more in that area in a short period of time than any other government in the history of Canada.

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4:40 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, let me go back to what the hon. parliamentary secretary said at the beginning of his speech, namely that it must be recognized that the reform under way is aimed at reducing the debt and the deficit. I do not want to repeat the figures, but he admitted that this reform was a total package in relation to the existing economic situation.

He confirmed that the debt and the deficit will be reduced at the expense of the less fortunate, that is, the seasonally unemployed, students-some of whom we saw last week on Parliament Hill-, single mothers, high school drop-outs, to whom he also referred in his undoubtedly accurate figures. It is true that over 33 per cent of our students drop out of school. We must of course put our fiscal house in order before it goes bankrupt, but not at the expense of the less fortunate.

I wish he had mentioned other ways to reduce the deficit. There are other ways such as family trusts, to name just one. What is keeping them from taking action on this front? What is keeping them from going after the millions of dollars we are losing because the GST is poorly administered? We could then achieve the same goal, that is, reducing the debt and the deficit, but not at the expense of the less fortunate.

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4:45 p.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like us to reread the "blues". I never said that all this government wanted to do is to reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor. On the contrary, I will again repeat what I said, in case the hon. member did not hear me. We will continue to set up and launch the necessary programs to help Canadians. Let me quote what the minister said in English:

"A hallmark of our Canadian society is our commitment as a government to people who cannot work because of illness or injury, low income families struggling to make ends meet, people with disabilities or chronic illness and children living in poverty. Our social programs are the way in which we offer protection and hope to Canadians". He goes on to list some of the social programs that we have in place.

Madam Speaker, the minister is dealing with the needs of people who ask for help.

I especially want to point out to the hon. member that I never said in my speech that we would reduce the deficit on the backs of the poor. I am sure he agrees with me that we must control the deficit. To control the deficit, we must act more intelligently. If the hon. member tells me that $50 billion a year is not enough spent on education, well, I do not know, but we spend more than any other country in the world.

Probably what we need in the end is to harmonize the systems, eliminate duplication and deliver services better, and I am sure that we will end up saving money, but never on the backs of the poor and those who need assistance.

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4:45 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a number of areas that I wanted to touch on but I keep adding as I listen to this debate here today.

One of the areas that I would like to touch on briefly are the comments made by the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood. I listened with interest to his heart warming and somewhat inspiring story of his grandmother. I believe that many people have similar stories. It does show what people are able to do under adverse conditions when the need is really there.

One of the interesting things is that we have gone too far. I think the pendulum has swung the other way. I do not think we want to return to conditions under which he mentioned where there is absolutely no help for anyone under virtually any circumstances. It is very warming that his grandmother was able to persevere in the face of that kind of adversity.

Nowadays we have a different situation. I have one friend as an example who has a son who plants trees. This may be alien to some of the people in some regions of the country but in British Columbia tree planting is a very active profession during the summer months. Someone who is a good tree planter can make a great deal of money during that season; $35,000, $40,000 or more in a three or four month season for those who are very good at this. It happens that his son is one of these who is very good at what he does and he makes very good money.

During the balance of the year under the existing system he collects unemployment insurance. When I talk in terms of the pendulum swinging too far the other way, this particular individual belongs to something that is known in my riding with some satire, with tongue firmly in cheek, as the UIC ski team. He is an avid skier. This particular individual spends a lot of time at the local ski hill and to his credit volunteers a lot of his time to the voluntary ski patrol which is very worthwhile.

The interesting story that his father conveyed to me is the fact that this individual one season was offered a job at the mountain to be on the regular ski patrol and to be paid for it. He went home that night and pondered his situation. He looked at his UIC benefits and looked at what he would be paid as a member of the ski patrol.

He weighed all the factors and he went back to the ski hill the next day and told them that he would be happy to remain a volunteer at the ski hill, but if he took the job he would give up his UIC and his net benefit would be a drop in income. He did not particularly care to do that.

We have improved over the hardships that people like the hon. member's grandmother had to live under and deal with. As I say I think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far the other way and these are the kinds of things we are going to have to look at when we talk in terms of social reform.

One other factor that I want to touch on while still on the subject of the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood is that of women in business. Once again it is something that is moving in the right direction but with a potential problem as well.

We saw recently in the province of Ontario a provincial government ad that said in essence white males need not apply. There is no question that women, whether it be in business or in any other area, have been discriminated against in the past. I hope that time is coming to an end. I am sure there is still discrimination out there but it is being reduced, it is being dealt with and it is something that people are now very much aware of.

However, it is hard to really properly deal with it by introducing various types of reverse discrimination. There is a risk in doing that if you can help a woman to go into a business, to assist her and give her some benefit that is not available to other people. We see this not only in the area of women in business but we see it in many things. It applies in general business without categorization-it might be men to men-but nonetheless we have to take a very cautious look at any area which offers specialized help for any one group no matter what it happens to be.

We obviously have to reduce the amount of money we spend, the payments that we make, as it were, under social programs. It has been said by very learned people that by some time in the next decade the cost of our social programs combined with the interest on our debt-those two factors alone-will exceed the government's income. Obviously reductions can be made in other areas but if you eliminate everything, if you eliminate the departments of agriculture, fisheries, defence, foreign policy and all other departments, totally eliminate them, we still would not deal with our debt problem. Obviously changes have to be made under social programs.

However, before we start reducing payments made under these programs we have to first reduce costs in other areas. These costs have to certainly be in the delivery of social program benefits. Not just under that, we have to look at all the other programs and all the other departments as well.

One of the things that will happen is if we stop removing so much money from people in all the other areas it puts less pressure on the social programs.

Something we might want to look at under agriculture, for example, is grain car allocation so that the farmers are better able to get their grain to market; likewise, the labour disruptions at ports. These are problems that affect the revenues of farmers. Not only that but as we saw in the last labour disruption in the port of Vancouver, it had a spinoff effect that started to shut down factories in other parts of the country that had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with farming or grain. It is a matter of problems that tie up the ports and then start to affect people in other areas.

In my own riding Cominco Ltd. had I think about three days worth of supplies left before it had to start providing layoff notices. These are things that we have to look at.

On business subsidies, we are talking in terms of women in business. These business subsidies also apply in other areas. One of the problems with business subsidies is that not all people get them. How do we reconcile the fact that we give a subsidy to one business and not to another? We could end up with a government subsidized business competing directly with a similar business that receives no subsidy.

The hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood had a question after his talk about why there cannot be some form of program that allows people on unemployment insurance to start a business of their own while collecting it.

There is such a program called SEAP, the self-employment assistance program, which does exactly that. One has to be on unemployment insurance in order to apply for it. The benefit that one gets is one year from the point of time that one's program is approved one gets to remain on unemployment insurance for one year while one starts his or her business.

That has some potential but again it is one of these things where one cannot just arbitrarily say what a wonderful program. I have had cases come up in my riding recently in which people who were on unemployment insurance were given the opportunity to start a business and had their unemployment insurance benefits continued while they did this for one year. However, two cases have come up in which they are in direct competition with existing businesses.

The latest case that has come up has resulted in the person getting this assistance dropping his prices to carve his niche into the market which will result in the other competitor who is already there and did not get assistance before and is not getting

assistance now probably laying someone off. Our program in this particular instance does not work.

We also have to look at such things as interprovincial trade barriers. The Atlantic provinces, for example, receive economic development grants as do other regions of Canada. Just to put it into perspective, the cost to the Atlantic provinces of interprovincial trade barriers exceeds the benefit they get from the economic development grants. Obviously we have some changes we could make there that will enhance the prosperity of the region and take the pressure in some areas off of the social programs.

We have the salmon fisheries on the west coast. The salmon fisheries are now headed down the road that many of the Atlantic fisheries have already travelled. We have a problem out there and this problem has to be dealt with. It has to be dealt with openly and quickly or we are going to have the same kind of problems in the west, at least in the fishing industry, that Atlantic Canada has experienced for many years.

We then have the firearms legislation. We are now talking it seems about the registration of rifles and shotguns, anywhere from seven to twenty-one million of these rifles and shotguns depending on whose figures one uses. Let us say it is probably somewhere in the middle between those two figures. The expected cost of that could run as high as a billion dollars or even more. That is a cost to the taxpayer.

Even if we charge an amount for each registration that is equal to the cost of the government registering them, it is still removing a billion dollars out of our economy that is doing absolutely nothing to resolve any of the other pressing problems of government or the deficit and debt problem.

RRSPs are probably one of the most dangerous things that the government is playing with right now because it is trying to get some revenue out of possibly attacking RRSPs, the cost of which will be future problems down the road. If we have a shortage now because we are trying to pay pensions and other benefits to people who in some cases do not need it, think of the problems we are going to have further down the road when we are telling people they have to be more responsible for themselves, they have to look after themselves if they are able to do so when we potentially may set in force legislation today which will affect their ability to look after themselves somewhere down the road.

On the unemployment insurance commission, before we can go out to industry and start attacking industry that we feel may not be acting in the country's best interest, the government has to get its own house in order. The minister responsible for UIC specifically singled out the automotive industry. Maybe he should. Maybe there is a problem there. I am not an expert in that area but what I do know is that there is five times the cost that the auto industry causes the unemployment insurance program right in the government to the point that it is costing some $400 million a year because of seasonal benefits in the government. The government cannot attack industry until it has its own house in order.

Under the question of consultation there is a problem that I have seen. I realize that this is my opinion and the government is free to counter it. I have seen a lot of instances in different bills in which the government loves to have a long list of all those groups it has consulted with. When we see this list of businesses, organizations and individuals who have been consulted with, we are supposed to assume that the government then automatically has listened to the input from these people it has consulted with and drawn its legislation based on that.

We know the reality is that does not happen. The most prime example is the Minister of Justice again. The Minister of Justice has been quoted as saying with regard to the firearms lobby: "I will not produce legislation on the basis of head count. I will do what I believe is the right thing". This could be very easily interpreted as: "I do not care what you want, I know better".

Reform consultation is ongoing on this particular thing as it is with the Liberal members in their various ridings. We are going to great length in trying to consult with people to find out what changes they will accept, what alternatives they have to suggest and how they see we should deal with the problem. The question is will the government consider our input after we have had this consultation or will it continue with its own agenda?

I am having quite a number of meetings in my own riding. I am setting up to meet with pension groups, medical professionals, education professionals, labour groups, employer groups and student associations. In addition, to get a feeling of the general constituents in my riding I am holding ten town hall meetings over the winter break.

With regard to dealing with student groups, I have a particular concern that we do not make significant further cuts to transfer payments in support of post-secondary education. We talk about government spending in the past. Whether it be Liberal or Conservative does not matter. We are here now and that is what happened in the past. Nonetheless we are in a situation in which we have mortgaged our children's and grandchildren's futures.

When we start dealing with student groups we have to recognize that we have already placed a huge penalty upon these people. Let us not add to that by placing another obstacle in their way to their getting the implements they need to deal with the legacy of debt we have left them.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, you are not quite out of time.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke, Pearson International Airport.

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5 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleagues are pointing out that I have placed you in a position in which you have to interrupt me to tell me that I will be speaking further after I finish speaking.

I am pretty well wrapped up on this, other than to say that consultation will take place. The very first thing I said when I rose in this House for the first time at the beginning of the session in the spring was that I am not here to oppose for the sake of opposition. I will be the first to applaud the government when it brings in legislation I or my constituents agree with. If I do not agree with its legislation then I hope I would be able to offer some constructive alternatives. That is what we are trying to do in terms of meeting with the people.

I have my own certain ideas. I am not trying to sell these at town hall meetings. I am trying to explore with people what types of alternatives are out there, what the bottom line is that we have to reach, what the government is proposing and then listen the kinds of choices they make. I hope we will have good opportunity for consultation. We will not take an adversarial roles, saying we cannot accept anything you do because it makes less of our plan or vice versa. In the end we want what is going to work for the people of Canada. I trust we are all working toward that goal.

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5:05 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke for his comments on my earlier remarks.

I assure the member that we are sincere. The Minister of Human Resources Development is someone I have watched in this town since 1980. He is someone who respects good ideas. Without ideas we are dead around here.

The members opposite should feel that any good ideas they put forward here, no matter where the members come from, if they will make the fabric of this country better we are going to take them.

I want to pick up on the member's comments about the unemployment insurance ski team member. I have problems with the UI ski team. I have problems for a number of reasons. I think the member said this person was making approximately $40,000 in three months working in his forestry career. If someone is doing that in three months and then all of sudden going on this unemployment insurance system, I think of the ski unit, if it happens at a time when it might displace someone else who needs more than the basic minimum wage that a UI cheque would give I think we are putting that other person at a disadvantage.

In other words if I were looking for a job on the ski slopes and needed to get $15 or $20 an hour because I did not have the $40,000 income for the three months, and if all of a sudden I do not get the job because here is a fellow who is volunteering his time and it is not costing the employer a nickel, we are working against ourselves.

Does the hon. member not think that when a firm receives the benefit of having someone contribute toward the health and viability of his business where it is being funded by the taxpayers through the UI system perhaps there should be some accountability so that we are not working at cross purposes?

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5:05 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am not sure exactly where we ended up with that question. I am sure the member will correct me if I get too far off the track.

In the case of this particular individual I mentioned in my example, there are both volunteers anyway and full time people they are required to have as part of their licence. This individual by volunteering was just that, a volunteer who would if he had taken the full time job hopefully have been replaced with another volunteer. The full time job that he did not take because he was a volunteer still existed and still had to be filled by someone else. In that particular example he was not taking away someone's job by volunteering while supported by his unemployment insurance benefits.

I think where the problem comes overall is we have taken some of the incentive away. It is not just a matter of policing. Some would argue that if there is no work for this individual and he is getting unemployment in any event he might as well be on the ski hill.

The argument is that one of the things we are looking at in our policy dealing with unemployment insurance is if someone makes $40,000 a year, should he be able to collect benefits which are paid in part by someone who has a $27,000 a year job and works 52 weeks of the year paying premiums so that individual can be off.

There has to be some cut through which we say you have made over a certain amount, you have gone beyond what we have guaranteed you would make and therefore you are not eligible for further benefits or at least it would be at a severely reduced point.

I am sure the hon. member is aware of our concept of old age pension for people with high income. If we applied the same type of principle to the unemployment insurance program, the saving would run to quite a few billion dollars.

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5:10 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to emphasize a positive point made by the Reform Party member. I agree with him when he says that, as regards post-secondary education, the federal government should not put students deeper into debts. Consequently, the hon. member would oppose a reduction in federal transfers to the provinces for education. I hope his views are shared by the rest of his caucus.

The hon. member approves the reform and every measure related to it. In fact, he said that on top of implementing this reform, we should also look at program expenditures. I agree that many departmental programs should be reviewed. However, my question is: Before implementing a social program reform which targets the poor and the unemployed, does he not think that we should take a look at foregone tax revenues for the government, because of family trusts, because of a major shortfall in GST collection, and because of subsidies granted to industries which do not appear to need them? Does he not agree that, before implementing this reform, the government should try to recover all the money it is losing right now?