House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was programs.

Topics

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

None of that is true.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 1994 / 4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, truth hurts. See how the members opposite become vocal when we point to the real problems, when we remind them that their Prime Minister, their leader, was Minister of Finance when the financial situation started to deteriorate seriously in Canada. Their leader was the one who, while he was Minister of Finance, never could redress the downward curve the country's economy had hopelessly taken. It hurts!

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

At a time when we are trying to solve the financial problems of Canada, the members opposite have only one suggestion to make: cut social programs, cut off the unemployed. There is no other way. This is the third federal government to bring us deeper into debt, the third one to add to the debt which has now reached $500 billion. That is quite a debt! And they want to solve the problem at the expense of the have-nots of our society. Do you expect us to accept such unfair proposals without a word?

If they want to know where to save money, let us explore a few avenues before we cut social programs. Let us try to find solutions before we cut off the unemployed, welfare recipients and old age pensioners, let us try to find a way to trim the fat off government institutions. From the beginning of the election campaign, from the instant we set foot in this Parliament, the Leader of the Official Opposition, our leader, has been requesting the creation of a committee where elected members would examine government expenditures. Our role should be enhanced, they say; well, what better task is there for a member than to tell government which useless activities to cut or abolish in order to protect his constituents, especially those in need.

Three consecutive governments have failed in this Parliament; Liberals, Tories and Liberals again can be rightly accused of mismanagement and poor administration. Their inability to make the necessary decisions, their lack of political courage put us in such a difficult situation that today we have to call upon the disadvantaged of our society to make up for their incompetence.

They want to know where to cut? Well then, let the government members tell their Prime Minister that they are dying, as I know they are, to go through the federal government's expenditures, item by item. Let those members in power satisfy their burning urge to go and tell senior civil servants how harmful some of their department's activities are, how useless they are, what a total waste of money overlapping is.

I can see it written on the faces of some of you here, that you have the interests of your constituents at heart and would like to do your job as an MP properly and be able to save money, as any responsible parliamentarian would. Every time we save $100,000, it is $100,000 that will not come out of the have-not's pockets, we can be sure of that. And maybe they will get to keep it. Only then will we feel we are doing our job of representing our constituents.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, there is another problem which seems to go over the heads of every one on the government side in this House, and that is the issue of overlapping jurisdictions and duplication of services. If I remember correctly, we have been here for three weeks now, and if we were to study the issues which have been of concern to us, the topics which have been raised the most often for the past three weeks, we would probably come to the conclusion that our overall concern is the overlapping and duplication we have been subjected to by the federal government over the years.

This administrative overlap is not disconnected from reality; everyone recognizes that it does not make sense. In public management, every time we mention government deficit, we are told about private enterprise: "Look at how this or that company is managed". Then they give us examples: "Look at Alcan, at General Motors, at Chrysler, at Bombardier. See how successful they are". What did these companies do when they ran into economic problems? Very simple. First, they streamlined operations.

Every time a responsible businessman wants to take significant administrative measures, the first thing to do is streamline operations. For the benefit of the hon. members opposite, streamlining means eliminating all dual responsibilities, redundant organizations and non-essential services, simplifying administration and lines of communications to become more efficient and cost effective.

If this is good for private enterprise, if everyone sees it as the right approach, why should it not also be good for governments? Should the first step to be taken by a government wanting to turn around a disastrous financial situation not be to eliminate everything that is unnecessary, all overlap and duplication?

Before cutting into services and product quality, Chrysler Canada went through a crucial streamlining process.

The government is doing exactly the opposite. Instead of streamlining, they will cut into product quality, into social services, they will reorganize by saving a few billion here and there at the expense of unfortunate people. I am convinced that no administrative measure will be taken to eliminate this dual administration with provincial and municipal governments.

In the employment sector alone, just to show how political beliefs deeply held by the hon. members opposite prevent them from being efficient and seeing clearly, there is total unanimity in Quebec, except for Liberal members of Parliament who have managed to get elected in Quebec. Everyone else, including Liberal members of Quebec's Legislative Assembly, is convinced that employment responsibilities should come under Quebec's jurisdiction. Even the previous Premier had understood this and taken a step in the right direction.

It is essential to convey our position to the members of this Parliament because it is shared by everyone and publicly defensible.

Do you know how many employment programs there are? Give or take a few, there are about 24 in the Quebec government and 27 or so in the federal government. An unemployed person who wants to get out of unemployment insurance or welfare in Quebec is faced with a total of 51 programs under two or three different administrations and in different buildings. They are not always consistent and he may well lose any hope of ever getting out of this vicious circle.

What are the hon. members opposite doing in this regard? We are looking at $250 million a year. It is an impressive amount: $250 million a year. Have you ever thought of renouncing your crippling brand of Canadian nationalism, with your tentacles reaching into every Canadian province and territory, this kind of new disease that makes Canadian federalists want to keep a finger in every pie, because the truth lies in this Parliament?

Do you realize that, if we did without, we could save-and by acting diligently we could also solve an extremely serious problem-$250 million a year?

Instead of making cuts on the backs of the poor, in benefits to less fortunate Canadians, old age pensions, unemployment insurance or federal transfer payments used to pay for social assistance, we could at least manage to save that much, and this $250 million could stay in the pockets of people who really need that money.

Madam Speaker, you are signalling that I am running out of time. I would have liked to take each area of duplication and demonstrate, with figures to back it up-because it can be done-how many millions of dollars could have been saved, how much streamlining of the government system should be done and how much simpler relations between Ottawa and the provinces could be made. By taking these steps, we would have done the very first thing any sensible manager does. Without sacrificing quality, we would have cut the fat and taken a hard look at administration and bad management.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened very attentively to the remarks of the hon. member opposite, and I was somewhat surprised. Surprised because the words never change. We are always covering the same ground in this debate.

I want to ask the hon. member who gave him the right to say that only his party speaks for the most disadvantaged in society? His party represents only a portion of this country. The Liberal

Party of Canada represents all Canadians and all of the disadvantaged people in this country.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

As a Quebecer and as a member of a community that is not one of the country's two founding communities, I get the feeling from the hon. member that he thinks the people on this side of the House-and let us not forget that we are all well off-that we come from a segment of society that does not understand the problems of the less fortunate. I was rather insulted by what he said because I believe that the Liberal Party of Canada and its leader tried to field candidates who represented all segments, races, languages and economic levels of our society. When our party speaks, it does so not only on behalf of the wealthy. It speaks for everyone.

Besides, who said anything about cuts? We have not yet made any decisions about cuts in this House. The Minister of Human Resources Development has yet to make any announcements about cuts. Instead, he has welcomed a debate on this issue. He has asked members to think about the future of the services provided here in Canada. The hon. member has already decided that we are going to make cuts, but we have not yet decided anything of the sort. We are in the process of holding consultations. We have not yet made any decisions. We want to consult all Canadians, not just one group or one province, but all Canadians. Then we will make our decisions.

We are not going to reduce pensions. If the hon. member had taken the time to read the Liberal Party's red book, he would have seen that we stated clearly that we would not cut pensions or target the most disadvantaged members of our society.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her comments, for this question and for her assessment. Of course, far be it from me, if she ever took it that way, to say that the people opposite were all rich and disconnected from the middle class in this society.

What I said, however, is that I tried to explain in this House that normally, when you want to find out what motivates a particular group, you look at the hand that feeds them. If the hand that feeds them is a certain type of people in society, if those who support their political party, those who get a good hearing from each of the hon. ministers of this government, those who are known to be friends of those in power-I am not at all calling into question the hon. member-I say that the backers of those who are in government and the supporters of the political party from which the government is formed have well-defined and clearly identifiable interests. That is just what I mean, no more and no less.

I would simply say to the hon. member that I do not think that broad based geographical representation is enough to represent adequately the interests of a certain category of people in society. Rather, it is the policies proposed which show who represents whom.

When the hon. member says that there were no cuts and that no decisions have been made, I am sorry, I must tell the hon. member that I disagree. I noticed that our colleague, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, just before the opening of the session, in a speech here in Ottawa, not far from this Parliament, said as seriously as could be that 20 per cent must be cut from the cost of health care in Canada.

I really like the hon. member, I take her word, I wish that she had the same weight in cabinet as the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, but she does not. He intends to cut 20 per cent from health care. He said so.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario

Liberal

Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, to begin, I found it difficult to follow the logic of the previous speaker because at one point in time he was asking why the government would not operate the same as a business.

The fact of the matter is that in the case of many of the examples the member for Roberval used in his remarks, such as Chrysler, Alcan and General Motors, over the last 10 years when these corporations ran into difficulty, they came to government and asked for help in the interest of keeping their people employed. In most cases-I believe in all these three cases-in the interest of keeping these organizations vibrant, alive and keeping their skilled labour forces active and competitive, the Government of Canada supported these organizations.

The same thing happened with those organizations in relation to the tax act. Many of these organizations have tremendous tax preferences and tax grants. I find it inconsistent that the member would say we should try to operate this place like a business when in fact business gets into trouble, especially big business, and usually the first place they come for help is the Government of Canada.

I am happy to have eight or nine minutes to speak on the initiative of the Minister of Human Resources Development to attempt to reinvent our social net, not cut or trash it but reinvent it, so we can make it much more effective and productive for those people in our communities who need it the most.

The reason I personally have such great confidence in this exercise is because I had the opportunity of working with this minister during the last great recession we had in this country. That was in November 1982. I would like to share with the House and with Canadians a very specific initiative that the then Minister of Employment and Immigration-today he is responsible for human resources-put forward.

It was November 10, 1982. I went to the Library of Parliament on Monday morning to pull this out. It was called the New Employment Expansion and Development Program.

This was an effort by that young minister to try to put unemployed Canadians back to work quickly during that very tough recession. I am going to talk for a few minutes about this program because I believe this program can work today, and I hope that as we go through renewal we would consider going back to some of the good things we have done in the past and consider them, especially if they worked.

What the minister essentially said at that time was that it costs on average, using today's dollars, approximately $17,000 to $20,000 a year to keep a person on unemployment insurance or welfare. Why would we not take that same money and work with the small, medium and large businesses of this country in a joint venture program to help put people back to work? They would have to put in a percentage as well.

At that time it was approximately 70-30. In today's terms that would mean we would divert the $20,000 for the person unemployed and the company would put in approximately $10,000. In a five-month period under that NEED program we put close to 300,000 Canadians back to work.

What I liked about that program was the fact that it used the private sector as the operational unit. This was not creating a new bureaucracy. This was not using the institution of government. This cut out duplication. The Bloc Quebecois always comes back to duplication and multiple programs, and quite frankly, I share their view. One of the worst states we have in this city is the way the bureaucracy has institutionalized itself on so many different programs, where 50 cents on the dollar goes to supporting the bureaucrats and the end user gets only 50 cents.

If we ran anything like that in the private sector we would in fact be trashed. We should be trying to make sure the end user gets a majority of the money rather than the bureaucrats and their institutions and their paper pushing mechanisms.

Those small and medium sized businesses also had a crisis of confidence at that time and were reticent about putting people on the payroll, because it was a tough time in 1981 and in 1982 as well. The beautiful thing about the NEED program the minister instituted at that time was the fact that this money, which would otherwise have gone to a person on unemployment, was there as a lever to get people into productive capacity, and the fact that they only had to put in approximately 30 per cent of the wage was a catalyst. There was very little paper involved.

I believe what the minister was trying to say to us this week was that we have to go back to the drawing boards. We were elected to put people back to work right away and to do that in the most cost effective way we possibly can. I believe that as we are going through these programs and as we do this analysis, we should not just throw everything out the window. We should also take a look at some of the things we have done in the past that have worked well for Canadians. If we can see that they worked, as the NEED program worked, then we should consider them again.

What I like about this program is that-and I say this to all members-we do not need to reinvent the wheel; we can bring it up to date.

One of the flaws in this deal, in my opinion, was that they allowed government organizations to participate in this program at the provincial and municipal levels. I suggest a modification would be that it should be only private sector employers and only small, medium and large-sized businesses.

I believe that with the success rate the minister had in 1982 with the NEED program, where in a five-month period he put close to 35,000 people back to work, if we use that same kind of creative thinking today, that notion of reinventing, then there is great hope for us to put people back to work quickly. That is the kind of thing the minister is hoping we will all participate in.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Prior to going to questions and comments, I wish to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 33(2)(b), because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 52 minutes.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I too remember the NEED program.

As the hon. member mentioned, there definitely is reason to resurrect some of the programs that worked. But if we are going to resurrect and not reinvent the wheel, we had better go back to the marketplace and discuss with people who actually use the program what happened as a direct result of the use of some of these programs.

One of the problems with that particular program was this. When the government is prepared to pay 70 per cent, what happens is that people get laid off and others get rehired to replace them. That may not be the way the program was designed but that was the effect of the program.

I would suggest further that if this kind of thing is done it should be exactly reversed. The majority of the income an employee would get would have to come from the employer, and if the government was going to top up anything, it would have to be the minority amount and not the majority amount.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, through you to the member for Edmonton Southwest, that is where we have an ideological difference.

I am speaking now as someone who has the experience of living in a city like Toronto, where we have about 650,000 people unemployed. It is the worst unemployment in the country right now and it is something we as a city are not used to. We have never had a crisis of confidence like the one we are going through right now.

Part of my reason for going to this NEED program was that a couple of my constituents reminded me about their success in being on the program.

We are so desperate to get people back to work right now, I am afraid that if we only come up with 30 per cent of a person's wage, I am not sure that would be enough to mobilize the 650,000 small businesses in my province that we really depend on. That is the case not just in my province, but all across the country.

Maybe I am being a little too generous on this, but I believe that the dignity of a person working is very important. We are already disbursing close to $20,000 when they are sitting at home doing nothing. Maybe we could make this a national exercise and maybe only have it in operation for about six months, not forever. Maybe we could have a couple of million signs sent to every small business person in Canada saying: "Jobs Canada, six-month period, here is where it is. You must take advantage of it in that six month period to get people back to work again or the opportunity lapses".

If we could build in the kind of protections the hon. member is talking about we would be able to meet both our objectives.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. member and I asked myself a few questions. We know that in the past, some programs for re-entry into the labour force enabled employers to hire new employees whose salaries were paid in part by the government. Unfortunately, they were often laid off when the government grant expired. Today, in my riding and the neighbouring ridings, people are telling me that they do not want short term employment, jobs partly paid by the government to give the illusion that workers have been rehired, have been made to re-enter the labour force.

Although I agree with much of what the hon. member said, I would not want people to be fooled, I would not like to see companies firing their employees once the government funds run out. Beyond that, I did not sense in that speech-

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The question and comment period has expired.

We are now returning to debate unless we have unanimous consent for a comment.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

We do not have unanimous consent.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating all my colleagues who were elected to the House of Commons on October 25. I would also like to thank the constituents of Lincoln for electing me to office. I consider it an honour and will do my best to serve them. I would like to thank my family and friends for their support and also the many volunteers who worked so very hard during the election.

For those hon. members who are not familiar with my riding of Lincoln, it includes part of east Hamilton through to St. Catharines which encompasses Stoney Creek, Grimsby, Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan.

Lincoln's workforce combines the industry found in Hamilton East and Stoney Creek and the farming area for which the Niagara Peninsula is so famous. Both of these industries have been under severe pressure due to increased global competitiveness. That is why I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the hon. members on some of the means by which this government will effectively manage its labour and employment programs despite the continuing financial constraints.

At the outset I want to acknowledge the Minister of Human Resources Development. My colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, is playing a strategic and visionary role in leading our government on these critical matters.

As the Minister of Human Resources Development has pointed out, in developed societies like ours the primary source of income is derived from paid work. Earnings are distributed among family members and savings are put aside for education, retirement and the unforeseen contingencies.

In the same way our social security network allocates funds for the benefit of children, the unemployed and our senior citizens. Learning, training, income security and old age pensions are all inextricably intertwined and this is a reality that we must face as we approach the whole question of social reform in a rapidly evolving society.

We cannot do this in piecemeal fashion, as there are many considerations we have to take into account. While this government must and will take the lead in this process it is vital that all affected parties, particularly labour, business and special interest groups, be involved in the consultation process.

Recent history shows that countries best able to contend with economic changes are the ones committed to strong labour-management partnerships. These types of networks and alliances set up by consistently successful industrial nations illustrate how critical consultation and co-operation are to achieving that competitive edge.

Human resources are at the very top of this government's list of priorities with respect to restoring Canada to a leading industrial nation. Our focus is to get Canadians working. To get Canadians working the contribution of skills development to economic performance must be emphasized.

One of the pivotal factors leading to improved productivity, trade performance and creativity is the enhancement of those proficient skills. These skills are the key to our long term competitiveness, both in specific industries and in the entire economy. The very nature of employment is changing.

Most income securities were designed in an era of strong demand for labour at all skill levels. It was possible for individuals to leave school at almost any age or to arrive in Canada from any country and find work quickly. The prospects that work would pay reasonably well and would lead to a career with the same employer were quite good at that time but the economy and labour markets have changed since the mid seventies Traditional sources of high wage and high benefit employment such as large companies and government are cutting jobs.

Most jobs now being created require relatively high skill levels. Often these are difficult to fill because too many of the applicants lack the required proficiency. This has lead to a disproportionate impact on two groups of workers. One comprises of the older workers whose skills are now obsolete and whose wage expectations are high, and the other group is made up of young people who have not undergone the training necessary to move into these positions.

We all know that young people are facing hardship today. They have the highest rate of unemployment in the country and in Lincoln, in particular, the unemployment figure for youth is close to 22 per cent. We cannot permit this new generation to reach adulthood without any sense of achieving employment security. It has become increasingly evident that market forces alone will not solve our problems. We must focus our attention on providing Canadians with the opportunity for meaningful employment, employment that contributes to the growth and development of our economy.

There will be employment gains made in some sectors of the economy. For example, the service sector, including both the high tech and the more traditional service industries, is expected to continue to grow in the 1990s as well as the small business sector.

Almost half of the new jobs created between 1979 and 1989 came from firms with fewer than 20 employees. The economy is creating jobs that demand more education. Between 1990 and 1993 jobs from university graduates increased by 17 per cent, while those for high school graduates remained about the same. More important, jobs for high school dropouts dropped by 17 per cent.

At a time when jobs that pay well require higher skill levels we have almost 40 per cent of Canadians with limited or no reading skills.

The statistics are quite alarming but the difficulties that they reflect are not insurmountable. Working together we can galvanize our intellectual resources and face these daunting challenges as we have done in many areas of endeavour before.

It will take a collaborative approach with the provinces, the private sector and communities across the country. It will also take creativity and courage to change our preconceived notions about how to go about changing the business of the activating of our work force and instilling it with confidence.

Through consultation with all members of the House, small business, labour and other interested parties, we will ensure labour issues are dealt with in a manner that provides for the highest possible standards, consistent with progressive training and leading-edge technology.

Through consultation we may devise restructured working arrangements to better accommodate work and family responsibilities. This could well involve reducing the number of working hours or bringing in shared employment to protect jobs and ensure the equitable distribution of the total hours of work available.

In conjunction with the provinces, private sector, unions and local communities, this government will strive to improve the income security programs. A comprehensive and integrated approach to reforming the whole raft of national and provincial social programs is necessary to restore the hope, confidence and pride of the Canadian people.

These redesigned programs will better meet our current and future needs within the context of providing work incentives rather than disincentives. The government is undertaking the redesign of programs because it has a vision. The vision will have the objective of encouraging individual incentive, promoting the creation of wealth, and establishing a robust export-oriented economy which will benefit Canadians.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

We will now move to the question and comment period. The hon. member for Portneuf has the floor, since I interrupted him during his first comment.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, this is very kind of you. In a way I am glad you interrupted me, because the hon. member has said things I did not hear in the speech of the previous speaker who has now left.

The hon. member spoke about training. He was proposing that manpower be upgraded to a level which would allow it to fill the more technical jobs now offered. In that sense, I quite agree with my colleague, the hon. member for Lincoln.

This being said, I am sure that the hon. member will agree that, in Canada, industries and companies differ according to the local natural resources or the contacts with our neighbour to the south of the 47th parallel. Therefore, the needs are different.

Is it possible to direct an operation of such complexity and such diversity from Ottawa? I do not think so, but I would like the opinion of the hon. member on that.

I would like to mention a solution that works in Quebec, but would probably work even better if the federal government was willing to follow up on it. Perhaps he heard about the Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre. This organization would be more than willing to undertake precisely what he mentioned. In my opinion, it is high time that his colleagues in the Liberal caucus take into consideration his brilliant ideas, especially the previous speakers. I wish he could propose a regionalization of actions with the help, for example, of the Société québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre. I would like to hear the comments of the hon. member for Lincoln on that.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

I appreciate the opportunity to respond. I should also state that training is a shared responsibility. Through consultations like today, I am sure we will investigate the various opportunities available in order to deal with the training.

As a government we are promoting a national objective. We want to increase employment. We are looking at the portability of these skills so we can break down interprovincial trade barriers and have the movement of skills and capital throughout the provinces.

Although the hon. member is indicating that the skills and training should be taken care of by the province of Quebec, we as a government are pushing for the reduction of those trade barriers and increasing employment. We are also taking other measures besides the national apprenticeship program. We are bringing in, as we have announced, an infrastructure program right across the country to increase employment. We believe that by breaking down these barriers and allowing the transfer of skills across the provinces we will achieve success.

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5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Laurent Lavigne Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to what was said by the last two or three speakers and I would like to say I agree entirely with the statements of the member for Roberval. On the other hand, I am concerned by what I heard coming from the government members who have not been reassuring since the beginning of this debate. True enough, nothing has been decided yet as regards cuts in social programs, but I can tell you that this morning's La Presse outlines major problems in the area of social housing in Valleyfield, in my riding. Compared to the average of 16.9 per cent for the province, in Valleyfield, 19.3 per cent of the people have to give more than half their salary for rent.

There is nothing reassuring in the government's remarks on the next budget as far as social housing is concerned. The situation is disastrous and urgent; the government must immediately find a solution and restore financial assistance for social housing.

As far as the workforce is concerned, we have been talking about this for a long time now. Quebec has its own manpower development programs. I see no need for a continuing debate or discussion between the two levels of government since it could slow down the implementation of those programs. I regret that the federal government is asking Quebec for Canada-wide manpower programs. We have our own programs; all we need now is the money to implement them.

You say my time is up, Madam Speaker, but I wanted to stress these two points.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to advise the House that pursuant to Standing Order 43, our speakers on this motion will be dividing their time in half.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend the Minister of Human Resources Development for his commitment to the process of change. I find his remarks both refreshing and encouraging. This commitment to the process of change that the government proposes generates genuine hope for the future.

However, I wish to remind the government of the hope we had in 1985 when a new government launched a royal commission on unemployment insurance. Then in 1986 those hopes were dashed when the Forget commission issued its final report and dozens of good ideas were disregarded because of opposition attacks on a few ideas that needed a bit more work and more input from common sense Canadians. Adversarial politics reached its zenith in the 1980s. Canadians expect that Parliament in the nineties will be both different and better. Canadians expect that the good ideas brought forward in Parliament should be implemented regardless of which member or which party initiates them.

In my reply to the speech from the throne last week I talked about how our safety nets are catching more people than the fish nets in Newfoundland have been catching cod in the past few years. While many people have been saved by our safety nets, there is a growing number who are caught and trapped in them. W5 reported last Thursday night that one in every four people in Toronto is dependent on transfer payments from the government. Even in my home province of Saskatchewan where our unemployment rate is always low because many people move out of province when they become unemployed, the statistics are still alarming. Spending on social programs has increased seven times between 1972 and 1992, and as of September 1993 there were almost 40,000 welfare recipients in Saskatchewan, a 13 per cent increase in the last year.

The tragedy here is that 49 per cent of welfare recipients were considered fully employable.

Our challenge is to give Canadians new hope for the future. Can we give them new hope by going deeper into debt? I think not. For years the cry from special interest groups has been to spend more and more money, and it has not helped. The problem is quickly going from bad to worse.

The Newfoundland Economic Recovery Commission recently published a report called "A Proposal for a New Income Supplementation Program and Other Reforms to the Income Security System". Page 2 of this report outlines some of the weaknesses in our current income security system. First, the system discourages self-employment and small scale enterprise. Second, the system undermines personal and community initiatives. Third, the system undermines the importance of education. Fourth, the system distorts the efforts of local development groups. Fifth, the system creates disincentives to work. Sixth, the system impedes productivity for employers.

Page 6 of the same report states: "On the whole the current system has induced an unconscionable degree of dependency which is unfair to contributors to the unemployment insurance fund and in light of recent fiscal restraints is not sustainable".

In order to address this crisis, Newfoundland has proposed to replace both unemployment insurance and social assistance with an income supplementation plan that would direct over 85 per cent of the money currently spent on these programs to the people in Newfoundland who need them most. I agree with the thrust of the Newfoundland proposal, which would basically eliminate the duplication of federal and provincial programs that have ended up serving much the same purpose and many of the same clients.

Last week my hon. friend from Medicine Hat outlined some key principles that should govern this process of modernization and restructuring of the unemployment insurance program. First, he stated that all stakeholders must have a real voice in the process. Second, decisions must be made in the long term best interests of the country. Third, decisions should take into account the current economic, social, cultural and political environment. Fourth, the programs must have clear, measurable objectives. Fifth, all programs must be user friendly.

Some of the people in my constituency say our UI program is not user friendly but maybe it is a little too friendly to the users.

Sixth, all government programs should treat all Canadians the same, regardless of where they live. Finally, he said all government programs should promote and encourage personal responsibility and initiative.

Some principles of my own that I would like to add to my hon. friend's list are as follows:

(a) Our social programs must be financially sustainable in the long term.

(b) Our social programs must make people less dependent on government. There should be incentives built right into the system that would wean people off the system and not make them more dependent on it.

(c) Our social programs should be designed so that there are incentives for the public service when the program objectives are achieved. For example, public servants should be rewarded for reducing spending. They should be rewarded for lowering taxes, rewarded for increasing the number of new business starts and expansions, and ultimately rewarded for lowering unemployment.

(d) Our social programs should be designed to eliminate all duplication among the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

(e) Our social programs should learn from the lessons of the past and be designed to eliminate the abuse to the system and the outright fraud that hurts every Canadian taxpayer and robs them.

(f) Our social programs should be targeted to those who most need them.

(g) The need for social programs should be based on family or household income and be administered through the income tax system. I believe we should have one income security program that would replace all others.

(h) Our final proposal for reform of our social programs should pass regional fairness tests.

(i) Whatever the final package of social reforms looks like, the majority of Canadians should be in favour of it.

How we manage this process of change will go a long way to determine how successful the end result will be. The process has to be truly open to new ideas, even radical new ideas. The

process should be open to new ideas from all Canadians, not just the so-called elite.

The best design for our social programs will come from an open bottom up process. It is time to start putting our trust in the common sense of common people. As we embark on this process of change, we could learn something from the private sector.

Every year the Fraser Institute holds an economy-in-government competition. This competition is open to all Canadians. Canadians are asked to submit ideas to the Fraser Institute on how to save government money without reducing services. A panel of experts reviews the submissions and selects the finalists, and the finalists submit complete proposals. The panel reviews the proposals and selects the winners, who win substantial cash prizes.

The whole process works much like a suggestion award program. The Fraser Institute publishes the winning proposals and sends them to the federal and provincial governments. I recommend that the government seriously consider this kind of approach to kick off this process of reform.

This suggestion award approach would be exciting. It would permit all Canadians to get directly involved in the modernization and restructuring of our social programs and it would reward those Canadians who come up with the good ideas that government implements.

If the government is interested in the grassroots approach, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development could design and administer the suggestion award program.

In conclusion, fishermen in Saskatchewan have designated many lakes as catch-and-release lakes. This means one can catch as many fish as one wants but one releases them so they can continue to grow and propagate, providing more fun and relaxation for sport fishermen and, I might add, generating more revenue for the government. Maybe we should start a catch-and-release program for those unfortunate people who have got caught in our social safety nets so they can be retrained, find work and, I might add again, generate more revenue for the government.

I look forward to participating in this exciting process of change.