House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was project.


Museum Of Industrial HistoryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Canadians can remember that the previous Prime Minister provided for a federal penitentiary in his riding at taxpayers' expense. Now the federal government recently approved $4.5 million of funding for a museum of industrial history in Shawinigan, the current Prime Minister's riding.

Is it the intention of the present Prime Minister to equal or exceed the former Prime Minister in delivering federal funding to his own constituency?

Museum Of Industrial HistoryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec


André Ouellet LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the hon. member that this project was asked for many months ago by the local authorities. In fact, the municipal government, the provincial government and all the political parties in the province of Quebec unanimously support this initiative. It is sad the hon. member's party did not run a candidate in Quebec because I suspect that party would have supported the project also.

The contribution of the federal government is modest compared with the contributions coming from the private sector and the provincial government. It will allow the creation of employment. It will be a centre of tourism. It will generate and spin off a number of financial consequences which will benefit the entire region and not exclusively the riding of the Prime Minister.

Museum Of Industrial HistoryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Mr. Speaker, time and time again we hear just what we heard a moment ago. That seems to be a commitment of previous governments or of some other past groups. The fact is if this government can do away with EH-101s it certainly could have prevented this $4.5 million expenditure.

Is the Prime Minister today delivering on the promise he made last fall in his own campaign to look after his riding? Is the Prime Minister saying that he is delivering $4.5 million to his own riding at the expense of taxpayers across this country?

Museum Of Industrial HistoryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec


André Ouellet LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member that this contribution is part of a number of other contributions from the private sector. The private sector is investing three times the amount the federal government is investing in this project.

It will create employment for hundreds in the region and will serve the interests not only of the riding of the Prime Minister but the entire region.

I assure the hon. member that if he visits the area he will be proud to see that this region is benefiting from the overall expenditures of the Canadian government.

Canadian ExportsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister for International Trade.

This morning we learned that Canada's position as an exporting country has been deteriorating for ten years. From 1982 to 1992, Canada's share of world exports was reduced by over 5 per cent. This translates into an export loss of $7 billion in U.S. dollars and, according to Claude Picher of La Presse , represents a 300,000 job loss for Canada.

What concrete measure does the government intend to take to correct the disastrous situation of Canadian exports, which is an important reason for the collapse of our job market?

Canadian ExportsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario


Roy MacLaren LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the statistics the hon. member cites reflect the fact that there has been a global recession. Specifically in the case of Canada, however, we have put in place a number of initiatives intended to take the opportunities offered to Canadian companies by the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round at the GATT and by the implementation of NAFTA as elaborated by this government when it came into office.

Our trade promotion programs and activities are intended not only to exploit those additional opportunities that result from the reduction in trade barriers but also to identify new opportunities particularly in Asia and across the Pacific, including for example our friends in Korea who offer us all sorts of new trading opportunities.

Public Service Of CanadaOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board.

Treasury Board has a policy allowing employees to attend school full time while receiving full pay. Recently someone in the National Transportation Agency received a salary of more than $80,000 a year while attending university full time.

Will the minister tell us how many federal employees are currently on this paid leave status, attending university instead of performing the work for which they were hired?

Public Service Of CanadaOral Question Period

3 p.m.

York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, employees go on training programs to learn and to be able to use that as a valuable resource of information when it comes to doing their job.

I would be happy to look into any of the specifics the hon. member happens to be concerned about. The government is concerned with the efficient spending of tax dollars. Certainly training is a very important part of efficient use of tax dollars.

Pearson International AirportOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, you and other members will know of the importance of Pearson International Airport to the Canadian economy. It is one of Canada's most prized pieces of infrastructure. Its importance to the economy of southern Ontario and to all of Canada is beyond question.

Recently there have been some reports in the press that have given us a confused message on what will be happening to this valuable piece of infrastructure.

Would the Minister of Transport be so good as to clarify for all members present what the position of the government might be with respect to any plans in the short term or the long term for improving the performance of Pearson and in fact improving the value of this piece of Canadian infrastructure?

Pearson International AirportOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the hon. member that Pearson has enormous economic importance, not just to the greater Toronto area but to Canada as a whole.

The question we must face and that I want to address in response to my hon. friend's question is that in the short term we have announced there will be no new construction this year. We

are going to complete the construction that was begun last year under a quick start project.

I want to emphasize that we intend to listen to members of Parliament from the greater Toronto area. We intend to listen to the leaders of the municipalities, the city of Toronto and other communities in that area to make sure that when we do something at Pearson we do the right thing.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw to the attention of members the presence in the gallery of three distinguished visitors: His Excellency Sung-Joo Han, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea; Hon. Jim Smith, Minister of Community and Social Services of the Nova Scotia Legislature; and Hon. Dan Miller, Minister of Skills, Training and Labour of the Legislature of British Columbia.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of personal privilege to clarify an issue that has become a subject of debate not only in this Chamber but also across the nation.

This has impeded my ability to function effectively and efficiently as the member of Parliament for the riding of Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville. This is the earliest opportunity for me to address the issue in the House.

Approximately two weeks before allegations against me first appeared in the media, I was contacted and threatened by an anonymous telephone caller. It was suggested to me that I should withdraw a pending appeal against the Toronto Board of Education at the Court of Appeal level; if I did not I would become front page news and suffer dire consequences. I ignored this threat and as a result I am standing before the House today.

Threats of blackmail or intimidation should not and will not compromise my commitment to free speech as a member of Parliament. Since this threat was made, accusations about my qualifications have been reported in the media.

These accusations have seriously damaged my personal and professional credibility. In fact the media went beyond making simple accusations. They carried on a campaign of character assassination and were joined by others who jumped on the bandwagon to discredit my qualifications. I was accused, tried, convicted and executed due to their sheer ignorance. They created an hysteria without checking the facts with me regarding my academic credentials. Some accusations such as exaggerating my qualifications were mild in comparison to assertions of outright lying about my credentials.

On the public record I categorically refute all accusations of lying, exaggerating or misrepresenting any of my academic credentials.

I have earned a bachelor of science degree, a master of science degree in physics, a master of education degree in administration, a post graduate certification in education and, last but not least, a certification of completion of intermediate in laws abbreviated as LLB intermediate from the University of London.

I would like to add that none of these credentials is honorary or purchased from a diploma factory. I would also like to add that LLB intermediate is not a degree. It is a recognition of successful completion of two years of law education at the University of London, England.

To clear any doubts whether any such recognition exists, I would like to quote relevant information from the certificate of completion sent by the registrar of the University of London on February 2, 1994. It reads: "This is to certify that Jag Bhaduria passed the intermediate examination in laws in 1976 in the following subjects", et cetera, et cetera. I respectfully request unanimous consent to table these documents.

I have also been accused of misrepresenting myself or representing myself as a lawyer. I have never been a lawyer or represented myself as a lawyer to anyone. Even completion of a law degree will not entitle me to practise law without fulfilling further requirements. There are many persons in Ontario and in other provinces who do possess completed law degrees but are not lawyers.

I can understand the anger generated by these wild, false and baseless accusations. I agree with and applaud the right hon. Prime Minister when he stated that he does not like being lied to. Nor do I. Nor does any hon. member of the House.

With my conviction and firm belief in the policy of honesty and integrity of elected officials at all levels, I refute these false allegations in the presence of my peers in the House. We do not have to be saints but we must strive to uphold these principles. I invite my colleagues in the House to examine my academic credentials and weigh the accusations in a rational and judicious manner.

In conclusion I request the House to ensure that no Canadian be subjected to the demeaning and humiliating accusations I have been confronted with since becoming a member of Parliament.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair at this point is not convinced of the linkage between the words that the member has used and his impediment to being able to carry out his functions.

However, I wish to review the documents which I will permit to be put on the table but not tabled. I will consider what the hon. member has said and I will get back to the House just as soon as is feasible.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

February 15th, 1994 / 3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, even as I address this House, Mr. Irénée Pelletier, who was the member of Parliament for the constituency of Sherbrooke between 1972 and 1984 and who unfortunately passed away last Friday, is being buried in a religious ceremony in the church at Saint-André-de-Madawaska, the village of his birth.

Irénée Pelletier died at the age of 54. He was the 13th of 14 children, something many of us can identify with, and he accomplished many things in his life.

After receiving a BA from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, he earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Toulouse in France. The subject of his thesis was Canada's aid to developing countries, and this was in the very early seventies.

He had a very full life. He was a member of the Canadian forces and he was also very active. He travelled extensively and after his studies he worked as a professor with the faculty of administration at the University of Sherbrooke. In 1972 he ran for the first time as the candidate of the Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of Sherbrooke. Of course he won that election and those that followed in 1974, 1979 and 1980.

While sitting in the House of Commons as the member for Sherbrooke, he was very active and became interested in several issues. For several years he chaired the Standing Committee on Regional Industrial Expansion. He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. He was also very active in various interparliamentary groups.

He was very interested in peace and disarmament issues. In fact-I remember because he told me himself-he had to make a personal, very difficult decision when the House held a debate on cruise missiles and he felt compelled to vote against his own government on a motion to test these missiles.

He told me how torn he was feeling during this debate and how he finally decided to take a very personal position that, incidentally, reflected his deep concern over the hunger problem and other issues affecting to different degrees people suffering around the world.

I had the privilege to face Irénée Pelletier during the 1984 general election. If I may, I would like to relate an election anecdote that says a lot about Mr. Pelletier. We conducted two polls during the election. The first one said basically two things: first, that Mr. Pelletier was very popular with Sherbrooke voters, which was bad news for the other candidates. Another piece of bad news at the very beginning of the campaign was that Mr. Pelletier was going to win the election. The second poll asked the same questions, with the same results.

At the end of the campaign, Mr. Pelletier was just as popular with Sherbrooke voters but this time we found out the wave that was about to sweep Canada was also going to have an impact in the constituency he had been representing since 1972.

Today, it is with some emotion that I join those who have known him in saying how much we will miss him. I met Irénée Pelletier several times after the 1984 election. He was always very generous. I saw him a few days before he died. He was a committed man who served his community better than anyone else ever did. He left his mark in Sherbrooke in several areas because he was a very effective member of Parliament, and he always supported those who sought to help the disadvantaged in our society.

Sherbrooke has a service organization called Cercovie that he was instrumental in founding several years ago. We can thank Irénée Pelletier for that accomplishment.

On behalf of my family and especially of those who knew Mr. Pelletier, who had the privilege to be represented by him in the House of Commons, I want to say how much we will miss him. I especially want to offer our sincere condolences to his family and say in closing that the constituency of Sherbrooke and the country as a whole have lost a great man.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Madam Speaker, I would also like to speak on this subject. I too would like to extend my sympathies to the family of Irénée Pelletier, a distinguished member of Parliament who served with me in this House for 12 years.

In my view, here was a man who truly embodied what Canada stands for. Hailing from the Madawaska Valley in New Brunswick, he earned a degree from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science in France before returning to teach in Sherbrooke.

First elected to the House of Commons in 1972 he was, in the words of his successor, an excellent member of Parliament. He was extremely dedicated and friends with everyone. He was very industrious and keenly interested in international affairs. Typically, however, he was deeply concerned about poverty and focused a lot of his attention on regional development. Given his

rural roots, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Individuals like Irénée Pelletier who serve in Parliament are fine examples for others to emulate. On behalf of Aline and my party, I want to offer my condolences to the Pelletier family. May he always be remembered as a gentleman who served his riding, his province and his country with distinction.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.


David Berger Liberal Saint-Henri—Westmount, QC

Madam Speaker, I too served with Irénée Pelletier from 1979 to 1984 and I was deeply saddened by his demise.

Mr. Pelletier came from Saint-André-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick. A former university professor in Sherbrooke with a doctorate in history, he represented the people of Sherbrooke in the House of Commons, as my hon. colleagues pointed out, for 12 years, from 1972 to 1984.

In October 1975 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Eugene Whelan.

Mr. Pelletier was a great champion of the Canadian marketing board system.

At a conference of Canadian grocery distributors in 1977 he decried the sometimes adversarial relationship between government and the food industry.

"An effective food policy, supported and administered through effective programs, is one that can only be achieved by a united approach".

One subject was particularly close to his heart and that was aid to developing countries. He even wrote his doctoral dissertation on this subject. In 1976 he travelled the country with fellow members Andrew Brewin and Douglas Roche to make Canadians aware of the needs of developing countries.

In a speech, Mr. Pelletier said:

"Canadians have not only a Christian responsibility but a human responsibility to help correct inequalities, and if the developed nations do not share with the developing nations chaos will result. Fifteen per cent of the world's population control close to eighty per cent of the world's wealth. Under these conditions we are just not going to have a peaceful world. The Third World is just not going to accept it".

After being defeated in 1984 he became involved in municipal politics, was elected alderman and then mayor of North Hatley.

Three years ago Mr. Pelletier studied in Rome to become a priest. This was to be the crowning achievement of a career in which the emphasis had always been on dedication.

On my behalf and that of my colleagues, I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends, as well as to all those who were close to him.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, although I did not know Mr. Pelletier, I wish to recognize his service in government from 1972 to 1984. On behalf of all members of the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Irénée Pelletier, former member of Parliament for Sherbrooke.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to join with my colleagues in paying tribute to Irénée Pelletier, whom we remember in this House from the seventies and early eighties. We remember him to be a very popular member in his constituency. Often visitors from the constituency would come to Ottawa and he would go out of his way to introduce them, particularly to those of us from western Canada. I personally always appreciated that.

The fact that he won election after election speaks well of the kind of constituency person he was. We all remember the issues that he was deeply devoted to, not only in terms of overseas development from a Canadian perspective but particularly his concern for the plight of people living in many of the countries in which our aid projects were undertaken.

He would share those experiences from his travels and his knowledge with us in the House, particularly in those days in the evenings over dinner. He would come back from a trip and explain the kinds of conditions he experienced. I found him to be a very motivating individual and a very kind and compassionate member of Parliament.

I simply want to join with my colleagues in saying that Mr. Pelletier will be missed. Our hearts and our prayers go out to him, to his family and to his friends today. Again I want to say how sad we were when we learned of his passing.

The Late Irénée PelletierOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to the memory of Dr. Irénée Pelletier.

I had the opportunity to deal with him on several occasions between 1985 and 1989. I think he was not only a politician and academic but mostly a person of great integrity and human warmth who was interested in his community, his country and anything that had to do with the quality of life.

He was always ready to work with all interested parties to improve the quality of life not only for ourselves but also for the generations to come. I would like to pay tribute to his memory and to extend my deepest sympathy to his family.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, this is the third time that I have had the opportunity to make a statement in this House concerning an aspect of the continuing saga of the fixed link between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.

For the benefit of those members who have recently joined us in this Chamber, this is an issue which has been at the top of the political agenda in Atlantic Canada for many years. The first major discussions about a fixed link evolved around a railway tunnel in the late 1880s. Then there was a combination of bridge, causeway and tunnel in the 1950s and 1960s. Now we are at the stage at which the actual construction of a bridge has begun.

The construction of a bridge between Prince Edward Island and the mainland has not been without controversy. Several court challenges have been mounted to prevent the construction.

To those who oppose this project I must say I respect the passion which they have shown for the cause, but at the same time I must respectfully disagree with the positions they have put forward. The governments of the Atlantic provinces, the Government of Canada and the vast majority of the residents of the regions agree that the construction of a fixed link should go ahead.

One by one the barriers to the construction of this project have fallen away. The latest reincarnation of this project, if I may be permitted to use that term, came about in 1987. Since that time more than 90 studies have been conducted and countless public meetings have been held with the general public and with special interest groups in all three maritime provinces.

Now it has been said, and it is true, that the original generic design of the bridge did not pass an environmental review panel. However, careful study of the specific design of the current bridge did satisfy all of the requirements.

A special panel was convened to study the effects of the bridge on ice in the Northumberland Strait and it concluded that the bridge would have no significant effect.

Fishermen and ferry workers were concerned that the bridge would affect their livelihood and their specific concerns have been addressed with a settlement being reached with the fishermen in the area just last week. Talks are continuing with the ferry workers. I have every confidence that they too will come to a successful and mutually acceptable conclusion.

The work on the project has already begun and the economic upsurge in the Borden area of Prince Edward Island is noticeable already. The construction of the yards for fabrication of the concrete piers of the bridge is under way and employment has been created both there and in the town of Borden which is undergoing a mini real estate boom.

Just last week a tender was awarded to a New Brunswick firm for $40 million worth of concrete to be delivered to the site, a contract which will create some 50 additional jobs. The construction will get into full swing in the year ahead and the economic spin-offs will be of tremendous importance to Prince Edward Island and to the rest of the region.

The very fact that the construction is under way has pointed out a major flaw which presently exists in our transportation system. Because of the geological make-up of Prince Edward Island it is necessary to transport gravel and fill from New Brunswick for construction of the yards in Borden. The truck traffic, as a result of this, has necessitated extra crossings of the ferry this year. There have been delays in truck traffic because of increased volume. All consumer products that come into Prince Edward Island come in by truck, and every delay adds to the eventual cost paid by consumers.

Because of the severely cold weather this winter which has affected most of Canada there has been a tremendous build-up of ice in the Northumberland Strait. Some crossings last week took over five hours whereas in summer it would take about 45 minutes.

This shows that an improved system of transporting our goods out and our consumer products in is badly needed. If we in Prince Edward Island are to prosper and if our economy is to recover we must have a dependable and efficient transportation link with the rest of Canada. We have gone beyond the time where we can adopt a casual attitude when it comes to getting our goods to market. The world has become a highly competitive place and we have to compete at the very highest level if we are to succeed.

A few days ago I spoke in the House about the need for continued equalization payments to help the poorer areas of Canada carry on while they develop their economies. This fixed link project is one of the major construction projects in Canada today. When it is completed it will leave the lasting effect of an improved transportation system in our area.

The benefits will not only be immediate as we enjoy this influx of capital into our economy. They will flow to us for many years to come. The construction itself will create a pool of expertise in Atlantic Canada which will be in demand around the world for similar projects. The bridge itself will initiate a stability in our marketplace that is not there at the present time. In the future people can plan, schedules can be set, and products can get to market.

The last number of years have not been bright in Atlantic Canada. Our unemployment rate is the highest of any region. I also said a few days ago that there was not a politician in Atlantic Canada who would not be happy to see equalization funds flowing out of our region to help other areas of Canada rather than flowing in to bring us up to national standards. That is what this project is about. It is about creating opportunity for Atlantic Canada. It is about creating the opportunity which will allow Prince Edward Island and the rest of Atlantic Canada to stand on their own two feet.

We have tremendous resources in our region. We live within a one-day drive of millions of people who are looking for quality goods and services. We must be prepared to go after those markets and we must have the tools to be able to compete.

Since I have been involved in public life, and that goes back some 20 years, we have heard among other things two prescriptions for the recovery of Atlantic Canada. It has always been said, first, that we must add more value to our products and, second, that we should extend the length of our tourist season. Both these will become easier when the completion of the link and the improved transportation network it will entail become a reality.

The construction of this bridge represents our best hope in both the short and long term to create a dramatic economic improvement in Prince Edward Island and the rest of the maritime provinces. That is why we in the House must show our continuing support for the project. That brings us to the debate we are conducting today.

Transportation has always been one of our most dominant concerns in Atlantic Canada. During the age of sail we were at the leading edge of the world technology but during the winter months we could not sail very far. The age of sail gave way to the age of steam and changes had to be made. At the time that Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873 and for a number of years thereafter, the link between my province and the mainland was steamship during the summer months and iceboats powered by oars in the winter.

The construction of the railway led Prince Edward Island into Confederation. Our Fathers of Confederation were sufficiently astute to include provisions in the Constitution that there be a steam service provided by the Government of Canada. Like the transportation systems of the day that was a state of the art constitutional provision. It made sense at the time to guarantee that the best available transportation system was included in the Constitution. That is precisely what this amendment is doing today. It is bringing the Constitution and its provisions with respect to transportation up to the present time.

There are those who have argued, even in court, that this provision of the Constitution should not be changed. They have used that argument to try to prevent the building of the link. That argument is no more valid than it would be to argue that some of the statutes in some of our jurisdictions which once banned the automobile should not be changed.

The Constitution is a living thing. Constitutions must change and adapt to the changing times in which we live and to the advances and changes in technology which affect our daily lives. One wonders if the ferry service between Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick has been constitutional since the steamship gave way to the diesel powered ship many years ago.

This amendment will allow for people of one province of Canada, Prince Edward Island, to become full partners with the rest of the country. The Trans-Canada Highway in Prince Edward Island will be joined to the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick and islanders will be able to transport their goods directly to market in a timely and efficient manner.

We are entering an exciting time in Atlantic Canada. A new era of prosperity will come to our region fuelled in part by the regional economic policies of the government and in part by the construction of this very major project.

I urge all hon. members to support this constitutional amendment and to bring the Constitution of Canada as it impacts on the transportation system of Prince Edward Island into the 21st century.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Madam Speaker, I am glad to be able to make a few comments on the interesting speech of my hon. colleague who just spoke.

On this side of the House, it is always with interest that we observe what is being done for some provinces of Canada, especially Prince Edward Island which was able to renegotiate its terms of union with Canada and which today sees a project which has long been a source of argument on the Island and in

the rest of Canada. The federal government will finally allocate the required funds.

Considering the expressed desire of the people of Prince Edward Island and the willingness of the federal government to invest in this project, all we can do is acknowledge the democratically achieved decision of the population of P.E.I., which was presented with all the facts. It is not for us to decide what is good for them. We can only respect their will, although we look with some envy at the terms of union of British Columbia, which included a railroad from sea to sea, and more recently at the promises made to Newfoundland, in 1949, after lengthy negotiations.

Unfortunately Quebec never really negotiated its terms of union. We were, through an Act of the British Parliament, incorporated into a union of British colonies in North America. In 1867, we did not have much to say. No referendum was held in Quebec then, despite the repeated requests of the Liberal opposition.

This is why we hope that in a few months, like our friends in Prince Edward Island, we will be able to make a wise, enlightened and positive decision as to our fate as a nation and our desire to negotiate with Canada the terms of Quebec accession to full sovereignty.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention in the constitutional debate that he wants to get me involved in. I want to add that this constitutional amendment comes about because of the bilateral constitutional amendments that are allowed with one province but not more than one. That is why this has happened in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland.

It is happening in Prince Edward Island today because the legislative assembly of Prince Edward Island passed the same resolution last year. We are being asked to do so in this House today. I am sure the hon. member and his party agree that it should go ahead and see no problem in passing it.

As far as getting into the constitutional debate of the rest of the country, I will let other more qualified people than myself get involved in that.

Prince Edward Island Fixed LinkGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this bill, that is this constitutional change.

I am pleased to speak in support of this resolution which will clear away one of the final remaining obstacles to the Northumberland Strait bridge project. Before proceeding further I want to answer a few questions raised today. Neither the minister nor I had the opportunity to provide answers.

Some members will recall that a member of the Reform Party questioned the process the government was undertaking with respect to this initiative. I remind that colleague and other colleagues that the judge had directed the constitutional change. The judge had indicated the change could be undertaken via section 43. It is important to make those points for fear that someone may believe proper advice was not followed.

I was also somewhat taken aback by that member of Parliament who, with a certain amount of enthusiasm, suggested the government had received nothing but bad advice, that it might even have been proceeding illegally. I have to say this person does not lack in confidence and I wonder what credible source my colleague was quoting.

I underline as well the fact that the people of Prince Edward Island joined the union. They made that decision with a condition and it is correct for them to amend that condition. It is correct for them to determine that condition should be changed because they decided to join under it.

This morning, I believe the Bloc Quebecois made reference to a firm which indicated that some $1.3 billion might be spent on that project. If that is indeed the comment made, it is erroneous. The fact is that this firm said in 1988 that even if the project was to cost $1.3 billion, it would be worth it. This is not the same statement at all.

I also want to point out that we did have a reliable source, an independent engineer, who certified that the project would cost approximately $840 million. Again, this amount was certified by an independent party.

I must add another comment. If there are additional costs and if the project goes over the estimated budget, what will happen? I think some are under the impression that the government would foot the bill. On the contrary, it is the private sector which would have to absorb these additional costs.

Finally, you are well aware that environmental concerns were raised regarding this project. I simply want to remind hon. members that more than 90 studies were conducted and over 80 meetings were held; moreover, two court decisions concluded that the project was very reasonable from an environmental point of view. Of course, you can never be absolutely sure, but if you look at megaprojects, you will see that the government proceeded very cautiously with this one, at least as regards financing and environmental aspects.

Finally, there was this question about the workers. It is unfortunate-and I share this concern with my colleagues from both sides of the House-that workers will be displaced. It is really very unfortunate. I want to remind this House that this government makes it a priority-and I hope it is the same for all

my other colleagues-to find ways to meet the needs of these men and women.

With regard to the fixed link project, those workers will have hiring preference and some will be able to take advantage of early retirement programs. There will be training and retraining programs as well. I insist on it and I hope that we will work very hard together to try and make sure that these men and women will not find themselves out of work because of the bridge.

Having answered those questions I felt needed some additional detail, I want to proceed very quickly with some of the main points I consider important from my particular perspective.

Our government made it clear during the election campaign and in the recent throne speech that putting Canadians back to work is the number one economic, political and social challenge facing this country. We are committed to taking every step within our power to support job creation, to stimulate increased economic activity and to restore hope and confidence in the future for all Canadians. This project helps in reaching those particular goals.

Nowhere is this more the case, the need that is, than in Atlantic Canada which almost more than any other area of the country has suffered too long from high levels of unemployment resulting in dependency and despair. Everyone should welcome this initiative for that part of the country which has been hard hit economically.

The Northumberland Strait bridge project will have an immediate significant impact on the economy of Atlantic Canada in general and that of Prince Edward Island in particular. The rest of the country can expect to feel the positive effects of this project in the long term too. That is a positive spin off.

Members will recall we have estimated there will be 1,000 direct jobs for each of the four years of construction or almost 3,000 person years of employment in all. That is a lot of work for a lot of people. Under the terms of the contract between the federal government and the contractor, more than 95 per cent of these jobs will come from Atlantic Canada. Of course with its high unemployment numbers it is of particular importance to this area as well as the rest of Canada.

This project will provide a tremendous boost for employment throughout the region. It will provide thousands of workers with gainful employment and the opportunity to practise and improve their job skills, quite apart from the work it will provide. However direct employment tells only part of the story.

The contract also specifies that some 70 per cent of the total procurement requirements will be sourced in the region. These requirements are massive: thousands of tonnes of cement, reinforcing steel cable, fabricated metal, manufactured components, et cetera. Given that the total project is estimated at $840 million to $850 million, the wages and procurement expenditures paid by the developer will inject more than $.5 billion into the Atlantic economy over the next five years. This should give a real kick-start to the economy in a region of this great country that badly needs it.

It is also important to note that this bridge project most definitely is not a make-work project aimed at providing some short term relief for some of Canada's poorer provinces. Obviously once the bridge is built some jobs will cease, but there will be spin-off benefits. There will be an increase in tourism and in business opportunities. I could go on.

I for one have found the hon. minister's remarks very enlightening and convincing today. There is no question that the bridge project is a very good deal for the Canadian taxpayers. In accordance with the terms of the union act signed with Prince Edward Island, the federal government is clearly required to fund a link of some kind, whether a bridge or a ferry system, to join the island to the mainland.

In the case of a ferry service, it would cost Canadians taxpayers at least $42 million a year for the next 35 years to allow Marine Atlantic to operate the service. This amount includes the cost of operating the ferries, the cost of maintenance and capital costs, for example, for the purchase of new icebreakers during that period. After 35 years, federal government subsidies should continue and increase because of the demand for service. As the minister mentioned, this would lead to uncontrolled spending with no end in sight, and that is not a good deal for the taxpayers of this country.

Let me add a few comments to what the minister said about the environmental quality of the project. This has attracted a lot of attention during most of the five years that the project was being developed. The environment was the main concern of the government and of the developer. Indeed, this project has been the subject of the most thorough environmental studies ever undertaken for a project of this size. As I said, there were over 90 studies, 80 meetings and the public had many opportunities to speak on the project requirements at some 85 public meetings. This project meets all the technical requirements and all the environmental requirements.

In closing, I ask my colleagues to support this project because it is sound, it will meet the economic, tourism and other needs of the region and I think it is being approached in a most appropriate way.