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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5:10 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, certainly there are problems. I assume the hon. member was referring largely to such things as the underground economy and how a lot of revenue the government should be collecting is disappearing. There are two ends of the scale. There are allegations that at the top end of the scale there are people who use tax loopholes to escape paying their due portion and at all ends of the scale from the bottom up there are people who are using this underground economy to escape paying high taxes and particularly the GST.

These are things that definitely have to be addressed. One of the ways we are looking at addressing the tax system is using a flat tax type of system. Interestingly, one of the models I have looked at was originally devised by a member of the Liberal Party. Unfortunately it did not get a lot of response at the time.

We have system that we have devised in which we will ensure that each person pays a fair share. The only deductions that will be allowed are those that apply to the most general population across Canada. With regard to the money we are losing in things like GST and so on with the underground economy, one of the problems is if we put so much burden on people, they finally will get to a point at which they justify in their own mind that it is proper, that it is actually the right thing to do to avoid paying taxes wherever possible. We saw this in the case of the cigarette tax in the east where people openly flaunted the fact that they were buying cigarettes that did not have the tax paid on them. People will get to the point at which they say enough is enough.

These are things that have to be dealt with. We think the only way that will be dealt with, rather than extracting more money or enforcing under GST, is to get government's end under control, which is the spending. We have to reduce the government's need for those tax dollars. We have to deal with the tax burden that is placed on people so we are not taxing people to the extent that they find every loophole they can get, legal and otherwise, to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

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5:15 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a special privilege for me to participate in this debate. I am going to spend my time talking about what this government has been doing and proposes to do in support of older workers who sadly find themselves displaced from a job at a time in life when it is not easy to find a new job.

I want to preface my remarks by saying that I have tremendous confidence in the Minister of Human Resources Development. He has put a set of options on the table that I believe are historic. They are based on extensive consultations which took place earlier this year. They are packaged in a format that Canadians can easily understand. I am confident that when the message is fully out and all the options are fully explained, Canadians will significantly support what it is we need to do to put Canada's social security safety net on a solid foundation for the future.

I have had a number of round table discussions in my riding of Algoma over the last few weeks. I have met with a wide cross-section of the community to discuss how these options might affect them and to elicit their feedback. I have been most impressed with some of the things I have learned. I will not dwell on those items today. I am not finished those consultations and in fairness to the participants, I want to give them a summary of those meetings. I will report their comments, the consensus and disagreements to the standing committee and to the minister by early December.

I get the sense that Canadians agree something has to be done to improve how we take care of those in need, how we make sure our young people get a proper education, how we take care of older workers who find themselves displaced. I am confident that the proper choices will be made when legislation is proposed next year.

I especially want to spend time talking about the men and women who have devoted their lives to building this great nation. I know hon. members will agree that older workers deserve the same consideration as do all Canadian workers. Of course older workers generally find change much more difficult to deal with than younger workers, which is quite understandable.

In years past workers could count on being at a job from their late teens or early twenties until it was time to retire. Unfortunately and regretfully times have changed and the world of work has changed. Our country is very much enmeshed in the global

economy and it is not so easy for people now to look forward to a lifetime of work at the same workplace.

We require of our citizens and of ourselves a lifetime of learning and adaptation, but there are older workers who find themselves trapped. We are all creatures of habit. After spending 25 years or more at one job it is quite a challenge to suddenly be out of a job and faced with finding another job. This is usually a shock to the worker and his family. If it is part of a large lay-off in the community it is a shock to the entire region.

Canadians are resilient. We have adjusted over many decades and I am sure we will be able to do so in the future. This government is certainly not abandoning older workers during the reform of our social security system. They are very much full participants in the reform process.

This stage of social security reform is a learning process and we are learning from the measures we have already taken for older workers. For example, I remind hon. colleagues that the government did not abandon older workers who were hard hit by the decline in a large number of this country's industries. We have seen tremendous dislocation over the last 10 years. We have not and will not abandon those in need. The coming changes will ensure that those in need are protected.

One program that has been most helpful and has come into play in a number of difficult situations is the program for older worker adjustment, commonly known by its acronym POWA. Through absolutely no fault of their own many older workers find themselves out of a job and sadly with very little chance of finding a replacement job. This is where the program for older worker adjustment can be so helpful.

Canadians want us to show compassion for those individuals, those hard working men and women who have contributed to the economy of Canada for the greater part of their lives. Let me emphasize that POWA is not a disincentive to seek work. By helping older workers adjust because they cannot find a job is not keeping them away from the workplace but simply providing a safety net or a bridge until they can make an adjustment or until their old age pension comes into play.

This program is only one of a broad range of options available to older workers. As I say, it is only one measure the government has taken to support older Canadian workers. POWA has been a carefully crafted program that addresses the needs of workers. It is a fine example of government innovation and partnership between the federal government and various provincial governments to provide long term income assistance to older workers with little or no re-employment prospects.

I can say from personal experience and the experience of hundreds indeed thousands of workers in my riding of Algoma that a number of laid off workers have benefited from the program for older worker adjustment. Since 1990 we have seen the loss of nearly 4,000 mining jobs in the community of Elliot Lake. In this group of nearly 4,000 workers many hundreds have been in the awkward age of 55 to 60.

The program for older worker adjustment has been of significant help to many hundreds of laid off workers in Elliot Lake and the north shore region of my riding. While POWA cannot solve the financial problems of every individual family, it can play a major part in making life a lot easier during a very difficult time for these laid off workers.

I would like to point out another example of where this government has exhibited its extreme interest in older workers. In the province of New Brunswick there is the New Brunswick job corps program. It is a proactive program that helps older workers get back into the labour force. It is different from the program for older worker adjustment. It recognizes the need to try different things in different areas and is a newer initiative.

I will explain how the New Brunswick job corps initiative works. I will use the example of Gilles, which is a name I will use for the purpose of this discussion. He is a 53-year old worker who was on social assistance. Like many others his age, he had years of work experience but could no longer find work. At 53 it was very difficult; the new technology had simply pushed him aside. He was in danger of getting caught in the welfare cycle and Gilles being a proud person did not want to be on welfare.

Thanks to the federal government's strategic initiatives program, we have been working in partnership with the New Brunswick government and since last July Gilles has been employed through the New Brunswick job corps. This older worker is now employed by the city of Bathurst in its parks, recreation and tourism department. How does Gilles feel about this? To quote him he says: "I would rather be here than on welfare". I do not think it matters so much the kind of work Gilles is doing.

I am certain all of my hon. colleagues will agree that very few people who find themselves on welfare, family benefits or unemployment insurance actually prefer to receive their income through those programs. As the Prime Minister has often said the very best form of assistance and the best form of income is a job. One can achieve the dignity of bringing home a paycheque with which to purchase the family's food and shelter.

People like Gilles, and there are many thousands, can benefit from the kinds of initiatives this government is bringing forward

that will give people a chance to have dignity each day as they bring home a well earned paycheque.

The strategic initiatives program is a partnership with the provinces and territories. Together we are funding projects on a 50:50 basis. In the New Brunswick example it is a $40 million investment over five years. This new kind of partnership, along with POWA which has been in existence for a number of years, is an example of the leadership of this federal government in trying to get this country back on the right road. Another example is job link in Ontario, a creative idea to allow welfare recipients broader opportunities to get back into the workplace.

Gilles is only one of about a thousand participants in the New Brunswick program. Older displaced workers between the ages of 50 and 65 are given a guaranteed annual income of up to $12,000 in return for a minimum of 26 weeks of work. It gives these deserving men and women the opportunity to feel good about themselves. They are doing meaningful work and contributing to the prosperity of their province.

The strategic initiatives program is enabling us to test innovative and cost effective ways of reforming our social security system. It is helping us to determine the best approach to creating lasting employment, to understanding what is needed in education and training and to adjusting income security measures so they address the realities of the 1990s.

Of course the question often comes up: What have you done for us lately? This past Friday on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development I was involved in the announcement of a major study that will eventually help us to understand measures needed to assist older workers and other laid off workers.

This major study was announced in Elliot Lake. It will provide valuable information, research that is available nowhere in the world on what happens to the community, the businesses, older and younger workers, families, spouses, children, teenagers, when there is a major layoff in a community.

The study will be undertaken by a research team from Laurentian University in Sudbury in co-operation with the community. It will study the long term effects not only on displaced workers but on their community.

Something like 4,000 jobs have been lost since 1990 in a community where the population was roughly 18,000 and several more thousands in the nearby north shore. There is only one mine left with about 550 workers. In spite of that some marvellous things are happening in the community of Elliot Lake and the surrounding area. You would be surprised at how vigorously the community has responded to the tremendous challenges it faced when the major layoffs occurred. I am very proud to have this community and this region in my riding.

I believe this study will show that this occurrence and the response of the community will be an example to the rest of the country on how to deal with major layoffs. Imagine nearly 4,000 workers out of a population of 18,000. That is nearly 25 per cent of the entire population. They had good paying jobs in the mining sector. Take 4,000 jobs out of a community and see what happens if there is no creative response.

Come and visit the area and see the miracle that is occurring, the response. In fact the population did drop a little bit. It is about 13,500 now. Projections are that it will soon start growing if it has not already done so.

This research announcement is again a partnership initiative with the province. The federal government will invest a little over $2 million under the innovations program. I believe great things will be learned from this exercise.

In Quebec the federal government recently announced joint assistance to help eligible unemployed older workers between the ages of 55 and 59 whose benefits after unemployment insurance and other normal assistance programs had run out. Major lay-offs which meet the program criteria are designated by federal, provincial and territorial ministers on a case by case basis after being assessed according to a range of socioeconomic factors.

The government is not sitting back, lying down and waiting for things to happen. We are acting proactively to anticipate what Canadians need.

This is all part of social security reform. Older workers are invited, in fact encouraged to give their views to the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development during the committee's current public hearings. Their input is welcome and will be given as much consideration as that of any Canadian. Of course all citizens are entitled to express their views to their member of Parliament. I am sure that each member will ensure the minister and/or the committee will hear their views. It is important that we reach a consensus on how to repair the social safety net.

As I said earlier, older workers are full participants in social security reform. Through the various programs and services that address their needs we will gather valuable information. I assure the House that the information will be reflected in our development of new social security policies and programs.

I have been focusing on older workers particularly. The critical needs of our older workers must never be forgotten. The workplace has changed permanently and we must be creative in our search for solutions.

I would like to conclude there. I mentioned earlier the round tables that I have had in my riding. I have been amazed at how much I have learned sitting around a table with average Canadians. We were all equals at the table. With all due respect to this place, I have learned as much around the table over a cup of coffee with average Canadians as I often have at meetings here in Ottawa. It is amazing the insights that one can get and garner

from the experiences of folks who are living with their problems in their communities every day.

I encourage those members who have not already planned their round tables or public meetings to do so. They are well worth the trouble.

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5:30 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, throughout his speech, the hon. member had nothing but praise for his minister, the Minister of Human Resources Development. I wonder whether tomorrow morning he will go to his office to receive a token of appreciation.

The hon. member said that the document we are discussing was the result of extensive consultations, and that is the point I would like to discuss: those extensive consultations that produced a reform to be implemented at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society-the unemployed or the beer drinkers, as they call them.

If these consultations were so meticulous, why, when we are consulting the public, does the minister send his go-between to do the ground work in our regions? The hon. member for Outremont is now scouting around Quebec to get the pulse of the people. In my own riding, in Chicoutimi, only fifteen people turned out.

This is a waste of taxpayers' money. In Jonquière, the number of spectators, because that is what they were more than anything else, was even lower, and in Roberval they had to cancel the consultation. Since people do not want to hear about this reform, because it will be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society, I think the minister should do his homework all over again. The public consultations being conducted by the committee across the country are a sham.

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5:35 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Chicoutimi for his comments and his question, although I believe he has it wrong. To suggest that the member for Outremont needs to go out, scout around and prepare the way for the Minister of Human Resources Development misses the point.

First, I would suggest that a turnout of 15 at the meeting he refers to might also suggest that people are satisfied with the options that have been put on the table. They were not so worried that they had to go out and participate. I put that forward as a possible explanation for the low turnout. In polls that I have read, something in the order of 60 to 65 per cent plus Canadians support the initiatives we are taking in repairing and renewing our social safety net.

Canadians have confidence that we will not take measures that will hurt those in need. To suggest we are doing this on the backs of the needy flies in the face of the philosophy on which our proposals are based. It is an attempt to deploy dollars in a more effective way so that those truly in need can get the help, retraining or assistance they need in order to become players in the workplace.

The hon. member really has it wrong. I would suggest that he re-read the documents. The pulse I get from talking to the people on the street is to keep going for the changes. Move ahead. Do not be worried about our detractors, those who would speak negatively of our initiatives. We all agree changes have to be made. The status quo is not acceptable.

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5:35 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with enthusiasm to the report by the member. I would like to participate in the debate by sharing what my hon. colleague already knows, that I get a little bit upset when I hear day after day, when the government advances any type of reform, we are doing it on the backs of the least fortunate. To use this as an occasion to exploit those more unfortunate for opportunistic reasons I find is self-serving.

My colleague and I both sit on the finance committee and we listen intently to the debate that is going on about the deficit. We both know that if we were to attack or remove outright the subsidies to small businesses, as business has told us, if we were to tax lottery and gambling winnings, and simply do as members of the Bloc Quebecois have said: "Cut government spending and defence spending" by 25 per cent, I put it to the House that the $3 billion the finance minister needs this year and the $6 billion the finance minister needs next year, the $9 billion could come from these.

How can members of the opposition continually stand in the House and say that we want to reform social security on the backs of the unemployed, students and the least fortunate? As the member knows, the status quo is not acceptable, not only in Quebec, it is not acceptable anywhere in Canada.

Does he not agree with me that the present programs are outdated, no longer respond to the needs and aspirations of Canadians and Quebecers alike?

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5:35 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague is dead on. He has in very few words concisely put our government's agenda in the proper perspective.

My colleagues-at least the colleagues who would admit it, which would be the members of my party-and I are not receiving from our constituents the complaints about leaving programs exactly the way they are. "Do not touch them". We are not receiving those kinds of comments. People generally recognize that change has to take place. To argue: "Don't make

changes because this will happen or the sky will fall down" is totally inappropriate.

Those in need, the poorest of the poor, need us to make changes so they can more properly take their place in the work place. One of the previous speakers from the governing party mentioned literacy for example. There is a 38 per cent illiteracy rate in Canada. Almost four out of ten Canadians experience some serious degree of illiteracy where they have difficulty functioning in number or language skills.

This is part of what we are talking about in dealing with a redeployment of human resources. To say that we are doing this on the backs of the needy is churlish in my view. It is complaining for the sake of complaint. Let us get on with the job. Let us recognize and acknowledge that what we have done, as my hon. colleague said, for 20 or 30 years is not acceptable anymore.

Times have changed. The world is changing. We do not want huge sectors of our society being left behind as we move into the next century. If we care about our fellow Canadians, we must gather them up and move together. If we do not take action now and improve our safety net programs, we will leave those folks behind. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions. We have to take action.

I suggest the options that have been placed before Canadians are the right place to start.

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5:40 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address the government's proposed social policy review today. I have been pleased to take the charge the government has suggested to participate in fostering informed public debate by taking up the debate in my constituency in the last several weeks.

Today I would like to spend the majority of my time on the issue of the family as it relates to child care. First let me echo the surprise and concern of some of my constituents as I talked to them in the past while.

First, when the whole social security program was presented, including old age security, the CPP and federal government transfers to provinces for established programs and equalization, the people in my community were convinced that surely we cannot avoid reducing expenditures in social program areas, as this represents a very major portion of government expenditures.

In fact at present rates of growth in these very programs, social program expenditure and debt service charges alone will exceed our total revenue in government within just a few years. Cuts must be made. However, they feel that taxes must not be increased, specifically as relates to our CAP. They were shocked to hear that the federal government forbids a work component in any welfare assistance.

There were a few things they were shocked about. They were shocked to hear of the unsecured liability of over $500 billion, as great as the federal debt, in the CPP program alone. They were angry at a government that would possibly consider taxation of RRSPs when its own security programs for seniors, including the old age security program, are becoming totally unsustainable.

Changes must be made to provide a social security system that addresses the real needs now and for the future of our citizens.

As we speak of the future, I would like to spend the majority of my allotted time on the foundation for that future. The Reform Party believes in the importance of strengthening and protecting the family unit as essential to the well-being of individuals in society.

The family, I believe, is the fundamental building block of our society. Not only is it the best institution for the transfer and protection of values, of culture and of social stability, it is the very best institution for the practical realization of our social policy renewal.

I stand distinct in this House today in the fact that my background has basically been one of a homemaker. I have heard in this House people complain about different programs that government proposes or that are actually in existence that make one spouse dependent on another.

I am not sure that is always a bad idea. A dependency in our social structure between people especially if those people can create a unit that will indeed strengthen the base of society is not a bad thing. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in combination of talents. There is strength in bringing viewpoints together.

Our society must be built on values such as commitment and understanding, shared goals and willingness to sacrifice. These things are epitomized in our families and they should be honoured in that situation.

Recently while attending the Standing Committee on Justice concerning changes to the Young Offenders Act I was not at all surprised to hear a witness remark that he felt that government legislation had worked against families.

I see it often in my constituency office in stories from distraught parents as to how those provincial and federal laws, their programs and their bureaucracy have affected their children, their ability to make a living and even their hope for their future.

Short term planning and ever escalating government programs have removed authority from parents. They have skewed their responsibilities in all directions and even hinted that perhaps they should not even work together in the home, it is better to work outside the home, and then they diverted their energies from their families into basic economic survival.

With the social policy review, once again the government proposes new and bigger programs that will adversely affect

families. Even presently according to the children's bureau federal spending on children exceeds $15 billion a year.

Again much of the government's social policy focus is not on families but on children and more specifically to our discussion today the issue of the best care for our children. Like all Canadians, I would like to see the most effective means available to create opportunity for the families of these children.

This solution, however, may not be-I do not believe it is in government programs-only addressed to children. Children are a part of families.

Specifically as relates to child poverty, the backgrounder to the discussion paper reads: "The very best way to fight child poverty is for parents of poor families to have a job". Given the present levels of government debt and spending, potentially made even worse as I have mentioned by increased government programs, let us take a closer look at this statement.

What happens when a family gets a job, particularly when a single parent family gets a job? May I suggest that single parent families or one earner families have a very difficult time in making ends meet even now. Let me explain.

Recent statistics out of Port Moody-Coquitlam, my home riding, tell us that over 80 per cent of families are composed of a husband and wife and 12 per cent to 16 per cent, depending on the community, are single parents. Surprising to some, this actually is quite consistent with out national statistics.

Nationally approximately 80 per cent of families are dual parents. Twenty per cent are single parents and that is up from approximately 17 per cent in 1981. Of concern are the low income families, that is those that fall below the StatsCan low income cut off point.

What I found interesting was that over one-half of single female parent families, precisely 51.6 per cent, are low income when they work. They have a job but they are still low income. Almost one-quarter of one earner dual parent families are low income. These tell me that a job alone is not enough. One earner is not enough.

What is there in this make-up that encourages the single parent to actually get a job? There is not much. Over half of them will still be in a low income category.

Given our present unacceptable high taxation directly resulting from continued government debt, spending and continued government program creation this poverty trap cannot be solved by a job alone.

Recently during consultations in my riding I had a long discussion with a single mom. She already was having to do dishes at two o'clock in the morning after juggling work, child care and unfortunately right now time with a sick elderly parent. She was asking me what more can she do. When I said to her that the family should be the primary care giver she asked me if we were asking her to do more. She just could not comprehend her ability to do more than she is already doing.

However, it is ever increasing government spending that will end up asking her to do more in the long run. Less and less of what she earns when she is working will be put toward her family. It is decreased government spending, decreased government programs at all levels that will actually free her to make more decisions and to apply her time the way she should.

We are simply asking that the government do less and allow her greater choices with her consequently saved tax dollars. Such savings would allow individuals such as this single mom to be more self-reliant. Families would be able to choose their child care. Communities would benefit from the increased local resources and businesses would thrive and share in programs to support their local needs. This is a real long term and far reaching solution.

Government economic and fiscal policies not only affect the income levels of Canadians, StatsCan figures reveal the average middle class after tax income was $39,500 in 1980 and by 1991 that figure had dropped to $37,200. Government economic policies have actually been instrumental in forcing dual parent families into dual earner families simply to make ends meet. Presently most Canadian parents are in the workforce including those with preschool children because of the demands of taxes in their lives.

The federal government presently spends more than $400 million every year on institutionalized day care. Its red ink book promises $720 million more tax dollars over three years on subsidization or the creation of up to 150,000 new child care spaces. The 1994 budget promised $360 million tax dollars toward a national day care program over two years if economic growth hit 3 per cent this year.

Reformers totally reject such a program regardless of our economic growth. Child care should be a personal choice. I along with many Canadians believe that the very best care is in the home. Canadians reflect that in their present decisions. According to a 1994 Statistics Canada report less than 40 per cent of child care presently takes place in day care centres.

In my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam the clear choice of child care for most parents is to have their children in the care of a sitter, a neighbour or a relative. Private child care is a natural part of many neighbourhoods. Moms with young children can opt to care for their own children and the children of working neighbours. Communities can work together. Child care needs are met in the communities.

The government's proposal would create unnecessary spaces at a high cost to the taxpayer. Subsidization exclusively for their programs would coerce participation in government facilities over more casual arrangements as well as create yet another

penalty against that parent who chooses to stay home to raise his or her own child out of their own convictions.

Relating to the government child care activities in the national day care program, let me read yet another interesting quote from the social policy review discussion paper: "Linking child care and child development could represent a comprehensive and preventative approach to social problems at the earliest point in life. Rather than using our money to rectify social problems which eventually occur as a result of a lack of support or security for young children, investment at the front end could save us enormously in both human and financial costs 10 to 20 years down the road".

The parent state seems alive and well in this government's agenda. What I read here is a government that feels it is a better parent than a parent of the child. It is no secret that failed full employment policies and failed nanny state systems of the past 10 to 20 years are now being lived out through social turmoil in the former Soviet Union. It proved, and it will be proved again, that the state is not the best parent. A healthy family with a full choice for child care is the very best way to create a healthy society.

We propose that child care programs must subsidize financial need and not the method of child care chosen. Any such subsidy must be directed to the children and to the parents, not the institution and professionals, in order to allow a full choice of that care including the choice of the parent to stay home.

Surely a government which would consider direct payment of fees to students in its latest program of student fee transfers would consider the validity of a direct payment of child care costs to the parents of the child.

We support the regulation of day care standards but at the provincial level. It is at this level that medical and social services and the decisions that go with them are made. These relate directly with the needs of day care regulations. More fundamentally, as so much of the issue of the need for child care stems from economic factors, we support the concept of income splitting between legally married couples to help support and nurture families. Why should a family with a single wage be penalized with higher taxes than dual earners with the same total income?

Another more possibly distant solution would be a system of flat tax for all Canadians. I am encouraged as members from both sides of the House investigate this as a possibility. Within such a system accommodation could be made for the needed care of children through social assistance program support where it is needed, at the level closest to that need.

This government can continue to promote short term solutions. More government programs will demand more taxpayer dollars. The need for the increased taxpayer dollars means less money for individual use. Decreased disposable income will create fewer real jobs and less incentive to work and in turn will create more poverty, which in turn will create more poor children.

We need long term vision for the solutions. We reject a national day care program. Fewer government programs will allow individual Canadians to have choice and self-reliance. Families and their importance in our society will be enhanced for stronger communities.

We speak often of citizenship and the necessity of participation in the community. It is time the government dropped the rhetoric and faced reality. I believe, and may I add that single mom agrees with me, that our sense of citizenship and belonging will come through our strength as families and our participation as families in our communities.

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5:55 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague from Port Moody-Coquitlam for her remarks. I have to say that I think she makes some very good points. The member talked about a national day care program. There are still a lot of questions that have to be answered with respect to day care.

If I may, I will point out to her a little experience I had just recently with respect to that issue which might throw some light on it for her. It concerns a meeting I was at where a for profit lobbyist found her firm in a confrontation. They were hired by a private day care centre in a community to get established in that community. They were up against a publicly funded day care advocacy organization, in other words a special interest group. This special interest group which was supporting national day care and government controlled day care won the issue and the privately funded day care centre was forced to close.

When we approach the issue of a national day care program, I think we all agree that the opportunity must be there however the opportunity is expressed. I think government has to be alert to the fact that we have a lobby group out there now that has for many years been funded by government and that lobby group is very alive and active.

I certainly agree with the member that this is something we should debate. I certainly do not have my mind made up on it. I think we can carry it forward but I hope the debate will be done between ourselves or out in the community rather than without the intervention of special interest groups.

I do not know whether the member would like to comment on that but I would invite her to do so.

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6 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. I certainly am interested in the anecdote that he mentioned.

This is probably the way things will progress given the present scenario of government involvement in day care. It will become increasingly impossible for an alternative to exist. This is the point I was trying to make. It will take away the choice from parents in communities and force on them a government dictated and funded program which will end up being more expensive.

The root of this problem and so much of what has happened with government funded programs is around those special interest industries, shall we say, the very people who are employed and get their future security rally around the programs that the government proposes and then build their industry on that. I have seen it in immigration and in different areas of government involvement. If there is money to be had, security of employment and an opportunity for garnering government funds, we can be sure hands will be out and people will be there.

This is certainly a problem with national day care especially as the government funds the institutions and the professionals that are involved rather than the families. Maybe that comes back to me underlining what I mentioned in my talk. If funds are needed to support child care that money should go to the parents for them to make the choice and be able to put wheels on that choice by choosing what they feel is the best care.

Giving the money to the professionals, giving the money to the day care centres simply creates that special interest environment. Those people will be there to encourage a self-perpetuation of that system. That is not to the betterment of our families, our kids or our communities. I thank the member for his comment.

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6 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, I was interested to hear what the hon. member had to say, especially when she talked about preserving the family unit, which is the nucleus of our society, and I think everyone in this House would agree wholeheartedly with that view.

Today, however, we must realize that as a result of this reform, the family as we know it will change. We will be left with only two kinds of families. We will have very rich families with a lot of tax shelters and very poor families. The middle class will disappear altogether. What kind of country will we have as a result? A very wealthy class and a very poor class. No more room for the middle class.

You also pointed out that you were against introducing measures for spouses. I respect that, and I agree.

Today, employers and employees pay very high unemployment insurance premiums. You said that to help families, it was necessary to create jobs, and not temporary jobs but well-paying jobs. In that case, in order to create jobs and to help employers and SMEs create jobs, present UI premium rates should be reduced.

I would appreciate hearing the views of the hon. member and her caucus on the possibility of reducing UI premium rates for employers and employees in the very near future.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. There were two major points made. I will address the first one. There are two kinds of families, the wealthy and, increasingly, the poor as indeed the middle class seems to be buffeted on all sides.

What is it that is destroying our middle class? The very thing that is taking the power and the resources from that middle class is the increase in the government programs that are ever increasing its taxes.

The poor become trapped in a cycle of not breaking out of poverty because, for instance, single parents families get jobs but earn hardly more than they receive on welfare. They choose not to because it works against themselves to do so.

I believe the best way is a fair taxation system and government only doing what it has to do so that the resources are left in the hands of Canadians. A fair taxation system, for instance the flat tax system I suggested, would fairly treat wealthy and middle class, and allow and accommodate for poorer people so that Canadians would be able to use the money to address the needs they have. That way I believe the middle class can survive and the families of the middle class can survive. The more government we have the worse it is.

I am not sure I quite understood the second half of the member's question. Again it may go back to the same philosophy. I agree we should not be asking for more government assistance for programs. The government money should go to people who need that money. Our social assistance programs should be designed to be targeted only to those who need them and if it is a social program, whether it be day care, UI, or any of the other many programs that are there. We could take it right to the equalization to provinces. Social spending should go only to the people who need it. Perhaps then employees and employers and indeed the families represented in those relationships would have more money to do what they need to do.

I am not sure I answered the question but again it goes to less government involvement, therefore less government spending, better targeting for government spending long term. That is a solution to most of these problems.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to rise today and speak to this motion. I would like to focus my comments on the opportunities that Canadians have for input into the social security reform process and to encourage Canadians to participate.

Certainly, social security reform is one of the most important initiatives undertaken by government in many years. Canadians have an unprecedented number of ways of making their voices heard on this particular subject. All Canadians must be able to have their say on how we should rebuild the Canadian social safety network for the 21st century.

Let me outline the many ways in which Canadians will have an opportunity to share their concerns, ideas and solutions on how to redesign our programs. These consultations will help to make our programs not only more efficient but certainly more effective, which is one the big goals of this whole social security reform.

It has been about six or seven weeks since the launch of the discussion paper. Public interest in the document has certainly been quite high and remains high. Since October 5 the ministry has received over 12,000 calls requesting material and information. In total, we have distributed about 114,000 copies of the discussion paper and almost 210,000 copies of the summaries of that discussion paper.

We want a mutual exchange of ideas with the public on the federal government's initiative to reform social security and we want to hear from as many Canadians as possible. To encourage this we have recently released a workbook called "Have your say" which seeks the public's input on our social security reform options. We supplied a postage paid envelope in each workbook for the return of the response. All answers mailed prior to January 16, 1995, will be part of a final published report on what Canadians have said.

As well we will be sending the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development an interim report in late December. The analysis of the responses will be conducted by D.R. Harley Consultants Limited, an Ottawa based firm which assisted in the development of the workbook to ensure its objectivity.

The workbook is widely available through postal outlets, Canada Employment Centres, many grocery stores, the YM and YWCAs across Canada. It is also available by calling the 1-800 number, a toll free number, or by calling your local member of Parliament.

The 1-800 line is a source of information and an avenue for Canadians to express their views on social security reform. Canadians have already made extensive use of this line and it continues to be heavily used. I think this alone is a prime example of the importance that Canadians place on social security reform and the government's commitment to hearing their views.

In addition to the workbook and the 1-800 line, Canadians have an unprecedented number of ways to make their voices heard on social security reform.

The Department of Human Resources Development Canada has produced a wealth of information on the reform that is available to the public. The information is not only available in print and alternative formats, but much of it is also available to Canadians on the information highway.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources Development is the focal point for the consultations on this reform. All other forms of consultation will be fed into the standing committee for its final report.

We should not forget that the committee is comprised of members from the three largest parties represented in this House. I am pleased to say that there is significant interest in appearing before that committee. More than 80 national organizations appeared before the committee between October 26 and November 8 of this year. In general, these national organizations supported the need for reform and the principles laid out in that discussion paper. Most groups expressed a wide range of concerns about the specific options available in that paper.

The committee has now started its consultations with Canadians. Fifteen members of the committee will travel for five weeks to 22 cities and towns in provinces across this great country. This will present Canadians, whether they live in an urban or rural setting, in the far north or in downtown Toronto, the same opportunity to participate. Once again, interest from the public has been overwhelming. Nearly 500 requests came into the committee from the western portion of its trip. The committee is making every effort to hear from as many groups and individuals as possible.

Those who cannot appear have the opportunity to submit a brief before December 9, 1994, so that committee members can benefit from the widest range of views and ideas. We would encourage Canadians who may not be able to appear before the committee or attend any of the local workshops presented by members of Parliament to submit a brief to the committee before December 9.

Social security reform consultation encourages each member of Parliament to become involved in these consultations. Working within their own constituencies to inform the electorate, MPs provide Canadians with yet another avenue to express their concerns, ideas and solutions on how to redesign Canada's social security system.

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a social security workshop in my riding of Lincoln. Approximately 70 constituents took the time to come out and address their concerns. They raised a number of important issues.

They felt that government must remove the disincentives to work and that government should provide some sort of income supplement but only to those individuals who need it. We must stop duplicating training programs. We need to work with industry and the provinces to ensure that they are efficient and practical. Industry and government have to work together to ensure that programs meet the needs of tomorrow's workers. We should look at more effective ways of forecasting for jobs. We also had widespread endorsement for the idea of restructuring student loans based on the ability for students to repay those loans.

Since the release of the discussion paper more than 190 public town hall meetings have been planned by members of Parliament, including several members from across the floor. The feedback we have been getting is that Canadians understand the need for reform and recognize that change is not only inevitable but essential. Canadians may differ on the solutions but whether these town hall meetings are held in Bridgewater or Whitehorse, Canadians want to be an integral part of the dialogue and the debate.

Community agencies are getting involved in the consultation process. Agencies such as the United Way, the Laurier Institute, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Agency and the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg are organizing seminars across the country on social security reform. The seminars are designed to provide Canadians some of whom are the individuals most affected by social security reform with an opportunity to offer their views. I am pleased to report that some 500 Canadians are taking part in these seminars.

Finally, a series of four policies colloquia will provide an opportunity for experts to brainstorm on some of these options in the areas of lifelong learning, post-secondary education, training and employment development services and child poverty. These colloquia will take place in January 1995 and are being organized by institutes such as Caledon and the Conference Board.

The purpose of these colloquia is to broaden the dialogue on some of the more contentious issues associated with social security reform. These issues are identified in a discussion paper but have not to date been fully addressed in briefs, submissions or other forms of consultation.

As this update illustrates we are serious about consulting with Canadians. The public may be heard through the 1-800 number, the workbook, the standing committee, their MPs at town hall meetings, in consultation seminars and through policy colloquia. In addition, Canadians are encouraged to write directly to their member of Parliament or to the Minister of Human Resources Development or to fax or send electronic mail to the minister. We want as many Canadians as possible to take part in rebuilding our social security system to meet the needs of Canadians today and into the 21st century.

I want to make a couple of points based on the discussion I heard today from a number of colleagues from across the floor. One of the first speakers today from the Reform Party had indicated they wanted government to say more on this consultation process. The purpose of the consultation is to hear from Canadians and not to bias the discussion in any way, to make sure that the whole process is very transparent and open. We are doing that.

The other comment was that we need to act now and that we do not need to consult any more. I do not believe this type of consultation has happened before. It has never happened before. Government will show leadership by taking action after listening to Canadians. We will be acting in a way that reflects Canadians' concerns.

Another comment made was that taxpayers' money was being spent uselessly. I beg to differ. As I mentioned in my discussion constituents in my riding came out to speak with me. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development came out to meet with the people of Lincoln to discuss and consult on what the options were. We heard what some of those options were and received feedback from constituents.

I will close by saying that our government will listen and lead. That is the leadership Canadians have asked for and that is the type they will receive from this government.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House after listening to the Liberals describe how they have discovered consultation after 125 years of sharing power with the Conservatives. It is long overdue but a very welcome discovery. We would recommend it to them at any time.

It begs the question of course: What were they doing for the previous nine years as they sat in opposition? What were they doing with their red book? It is a good thing it did not take them as long to organize the red book as it has taken them to organize what needs to be done here. It could be that what we have in front of us is a softening up process.

Everyone agrees that changes have to be made. Everyone in the country knows we cannot go on the way we have been and that changes are required and must be made. We all agree on the principle, it is the policies that are going to be a little difficult.

I would ask my hon. colleague from Lincoln who has delivered such an impassioned, reasoned address: What should be the criteria? He mentioned in his discourse that the criteria for social benefits must be based on need which would preclude then that social benefits should be determined by want. They should be addressed on need and certainly I think most members in this House would concur. What will be the criteria for need? Has the hon. member opposite given any thought to what the criteria should be for those who are to receive social benefits from the taxpayer?

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I would certainly like to recognize once again that the hon. member does agree with the whole process and I thank him. We are certainly on the right track. I am hearing from my constituents that consultation is long overdue and is something our government is moving on quite rapidly.

When I reflected in my discussion on what the town hall participants said I was reflecting what my constituents have said to me. One of those things is to assess our programs and try to make them more effective and more efficient.

When it comes to need, we are absorbing that information from the constituents and from the various sources of information and different processes that are available. Once the consultation period is over we will be coming forward with very concrete responses to that question.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Madam Speaker, I was most impressed with the delivery and the content of the message given by the hon. member for Lincoln, as well as the hon. member across the way from Edmonton Southwest.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Somewhat less.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

But somewhat less.

However, the member across the way recognized the importance of the red book this government has been using for guidance, a bible as one might call it.

This publication is the result of the efforts and contributions of tens of thousands of people over a two year period. It is a beautiful example that for the first time in the history of this country the democratic process was put into operation prior to an election over a very lengthy period of time. It produced an enlightened document and provides us with the guidance we so require in order to guide this country out of the turmoil it is presently in.

I would like to point out, as the member for Lincoln has pointed out, that the democratic process we have been using is very time consuming. It is true. If this was a dictatorial system, we would have an answer immediately. Because we adhere to basic, democratic principles, we will always listen to the people for guidance. That is exactly what we have been doing with the document pertaining to our social network and social services.

As a result, from coast to coast, a multitude of strategies have been put into operation. We are, as our eloquent speaker has already pointed out, receiving the type of guidance that is required to be sure that no one is suffering because of drastic changes in financial support or human resources or any kind of policy whatsoever.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I can only repeat once more that the whole process is about listening first and then leading. That is the leadership Canadians have asked for and that is the type of leadership they will receive from the government.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Madam Speaker, I too have a question or some comments for the hon. member. We have seen two types of consultation take place in regard to this process. The first type is members of Parliament consulting directly with their constituents. Certainly Reform has been doing that for some time. I am pleased to see that the Liberals have picked that part up. That consultation has been very useful.

The second type of consultation has been through the human resources development committee. That is the travelling road show. It has been much less successful. I liked the hon. members comments on that.

A young person approached me in my constituency. He said he had been invited first of all to Calgary to meet with the minister to discuss advanced education on less than 24 hours' notice. This young person was then invited to the meeting in Edmonton. He was cancelled from the meeting in Edmonton. The person who told him he was cancelled said to him that the committee is in a shambles.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to address the hon. member's comment on consultation. Certainly he realizes that he does not have a monopoly on consulting with his constituents. The Liberal Party has been doing that for some time.

As far as the committee is concerned and whether it is working properly, nearly 500 requests came into the committee for the western portion of its trip. The committee is functioning. Canadians have an opportunity to appear before the committee and I encourage more to do so.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Lincoln for his speech this afternoon. Obviously the hon. member has a firm grasp on the importance and relevance of this issue to Canadians and to his constituents in the riding of Lincoln.

As far as the member from Windbag, Saskatchewan, what is it, Gasbag, Saskatchewan, I have to say that I find it somewhat humorous if not ironic, maybe even hypocritical, when we hear the reforming social security part of this agenda for growth here in this great country of Canada-

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My hon. colleague opposite referred to Windbag, Saskatchewan. I wonder if the Chair might ask the member opposite to be a bit more explicit. Did he mean Windbag, Alberta?

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

If there was time allowed, I would get into much detail on this hon. member's riding. As I said, the hypocrisy I see here is that we are talking about reforming social security as part of our agenda for growth.

This is a concept that the Reform Party does not quite grasp. We know the Prime Minister, the Minister for Human Resources Development, all Canadians, those in my riding of Hamilton West, or in the riding of Lincoln, where the hon. member hails from, realize that these programs put together will put people and jobs together. The programs we have today do not do that well enough and we are making sure that it will be working for Canadians in the future.

Social Security ProgramGovernment Orders

November 21st, 1994 / 6:30 p.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I certainly concur with what my hon. friend has said in that there is much need for reform of these policies. These policies have been in existence for a long time, for decades. Canadians are looking for more effective ways of dealing with these policies. This reform process and the consultation process will point us in that direction.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Social Security ProgramAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform Kootenay West—Revelstoke, BC

Madam Speaker, it seems to be a fairly standard procedure for me to end up in adjournment proceedings whenever I ask a question of the Minister of Transport. The purpose of adjournment proceedings is to try and get an answer when you did not get either a full answer or any answer at all during Question Period. That occurs almost every time I pose a question to that minister.

The question that brought me here tonight is can the Minister of Transport advise the House how he justifies denying any Canadian the right of due process? It is not the first time I have asked that question and it is not the first time that the minister has declined to answer.

The minister instead came up with his usual type of rhetoric. One of the comments he made, which of course I have heard before, is that I want to help my friends, that I want to help my Tory friends.

I would deal with that the same way I would deal with it when it has been brought up before. Only 18.5 per cent of those on the Pearson consortium were known to have close Tory ties, while over 50 per cent are known to have close Liberal ties. I have never heard the minister suggest that I am out to help the Liberals, although God knows they could use some help.

What I would ask instead is with regard to due process. How can he justify denying it to any Canadian?

Had the Pearson consortium been made up of American companies or Mexican companies, the minister would have had to give them the right of due process because it is guaranteed under the North American free trade agreement signed by the Liberal government.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister rose in this House in early October and stated for the record that José Salinas Mendoza, a sexual predator who has been deported from this country and is back again now claiming refugee status, has the right to due process.

I had a conversation on air with the chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport who says that is not valid, that is criminal law and we are not dealing in Pearson with criminal law, while the NAFTA argument was civil law.

Civil law or criminal law notwithstanding, it seems that everyone including foreign companies and illegal immigrants have the right of due process. Why will the minister not grant that to Canadians?

This could set a dangerous, unbelievable precedent for all kinds of different companies and organizations throughout Canada that have contracts with government.

Where is the actual break point between what happens with Pearson and what happens with any other company in Canada that has a contract with the government?

The minister said in answer to my question, an alleged answer, that if this thing ends up in the court the court could find that the contract was valid and entered into in good faith, in which case damages would be awarded, and we do not want to pay that money, so consequently we will ban them from the court.

He also said Reform has no respect for the court or the law. On the contrary, we have respect for both of those institutions and, more important, we have respect for all Canadians and their right to due process.

I will repeat my question to the minister, hopefully to get an answer. How do they justify denying the right of due process to any Canadian or Canadian company?