House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was need.


House Of Commons

10 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, you may have noticed this early in the morning that we have a new mace on the table. This wooden mace was used when the House of Commons, the Centre Block, burned down in the fire in 1916. Every year on this date we commemorate the date of the fire by using this mace.

As we were walking down I heard someone say: "No, we did not melt down the old one, we do have it and we are going to bring it in tomorrow".

This is to remind us that things get a little bit hot in here sometimes and we have to know we can survive and take the heat.

We are all here together as Canadian citizens and it is very important that we work together for the well-being of all our people.

That is what the mace represents and I just wanted to bring it to your attention.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition pointing out that single income families with special needs children have not only a unique challenge but incur extra expenditures in raising their child or children.

Often one or other of the parents have no choice but to stay at home. Frequently the children must be sent to specialized day care centres incurring extra costs, sometimes significant extra costs.

These petitioners believe that the current system of taxation is unfair to them. They would like a review by the government of this particular situation as it looks at all of the difficulties and the unfairness that exists in our tax system.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my duty to present a petition on behalf of more than two dozen citizens, most of whom live in my riding of Winnipeg-St. James. Pursuant to Standing Order 36 the document has been certified correct as to form and content.

The petition reflects the concern these people have regarding the language policy of the federal government. It proposes a referendum on the issue. This would be a national referendum involving all electors in the provinces and territories.

I humbly present this petition to Parliament for its due consideration.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

The Speaker

Should all questions be allowed to stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from February 2 consideration of the motion.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House asks the House of Commons and a committee of the House to study, analyse and report on Canada's social security system. As a matter of fact, it asks that we study the modernization and restructuring of the social security system with special reference to the needs of families with children, youth and working age adults. It is commendable

that we study, analyse and revisit our social programs, our income support and income replacement programs. However I want to remind the House and the minister that there are some things we should keep in mind. We will encounter serious difficulties in doing this examination of our social security system.

I want to remind the House that this was done with some intensity in the 1970s when the Hon. Marc Lalonde was the Minister of National Health and Welfare. A very serious attempt was made to rationalize and bring up to date our social security system. While some good improvements were made at that time, some of the simplistic approaches that were first suggested were found not to be workable.

We have different types of social security systems. We have those where the payment is universal and comes out of our general tax revenue, for example the old age security system. We all pay into it in varying degrees through our progressive tax system but at age 65 we all receive the same payment no matter what our income is. On top of that we have the guaranteed income supplement which pays additional amounts to people who do not have other sources of income, who do not have private pensions or RRSPs or whatever. That is one kind of social security support system where the payment is the same to all individuals. I am talking about old age security which is paid for through the general tax system.

We have other types of programs such as unemployment insurance and the Canada assistance plan. Depending on our income we pay in varying amounts. If we have lower incomes we pay in less. If we have higher incomes we pay in more. When we collect we receive more if we have paid in more and we collect less if we have paid in less.

The principle behind it makes sense. The highly skilled worker who pays the top premium because he has a higher income will have made commitments and entered into debt for homes, cars, household appliances. When unemployed he still has to meet those higher commitments so he gets a higher payment. But he has been paying in at a higher rate.

It is the same with the Canada pension plan. If we have paid in at a higher rate we get a higher payment at the end but it is usually because we have been living at a higher standard of living. Usually the rent, mortgage and other payments are higher and when we retire or are unemployed we need that.

When they tried to rationalize all these systems back in the 1970s they found that to put together a flat payment system with the systems that were based on varying contributions and varying payments was not an easy task. As a matter of fact they were not able to do it. I bring that to the attention of the House.

Some programs are geared to meet the types of debt and commitment we have made while we are working. When we become unemployed or when we retire or when we are forced to leave work because of injury or disability we need payments that will meet that type of commitment.

For example we do not want skilled workers to have to sell their homes simply because they are unemployed or because they are retired. To suggest we should have one payment for everybody no matter what they have been doing when they were working does not make sense. It could drive a lot of people into poverty and that is not what we want to do.

I want to refer also to the unemployment insurance system. There has been some suggestion that, and I do not know whether it goes that far, in order to collect unemployment insurance one should be obliged to participate in training programs or in some type of community work or whatever.

First let us deal with the training programs. It is a fact that a good number of our unemployed are highly trained already. They are skilled. They are machinists, electricians, architects, professional people and trades people with highly skilled trades. Their problem is not training, it is the lack of jobs. To suggest the solution to all our problems is to simply retrain or upgrade everybody is not correct.

It is true a large number of people cannot find work because their trades are out of date or they have no trade whatsoever or they are illiterate. Those are the people we have to train and make competitive with the people in the United States, Europe, Japan. I fully support that. However, let us not overdo it and suggest that the total solution is to retrain everybody. Many people come to my office and probably to my colleague's office every day who are trained but their problem is jobs, not training.

We hear another suggestion on the street. It is terrible these people are on unemployment insurance and they should be made to do some kind of work until they get a job. One of the major tasks of the unemployed person is to look for work. It is a time consuming undertaking. If unemployed people are serious, and most of them are, they spend a lot of time going for interviews, searching the newspapers and writing letters. They want to get back to work in the field in which they are competent.

Let us be careful so that this sort of work fair is not overdone. To put to work or in training programs as a condition for receiving benefits certain young people who are in good health but have no training is fine, but let us be very careful that we do not overdo it.

I want to remind the House and my own party that in the two previous parliaments we savagely attacked the Conservative government for the amendments it made to the unemployment insurance system, amendments that made it more difficult to qualify and amendments that reduced the benefits. In a previous set of amendments, it increased the penalty for those who quit or were fired without cause, as defined in the act, up to about 11 or 12 weeks. This was quite a considerable increase in the penalty.

In the last round of amendments in 1993 the Conservative government took away all benefits from people who had quit their jobs for serious reasons but could not meet the definition of just cause in the act. It was the same with those who were fired, according to the bosses for just cause, but which was very often in the mind of the employee not a just cause. It was simply a case of harassment or trying to get rid of those people with trumped up charges against them.

We questioned the minister at that time. We said: "Well you just amended the act a couple of years ago to increase the penalties from six weeks to twelve weeks"-or whatever it was-"and now you are completely eliminating any benefits at all. You are going to a very extreme penalty without ever really testing the penalties that you put into place a few years ago".

We attacked those sorts of things. We attacked the government for totally removing the $2.8 billion that the government used to contribute to the unemployment insurance fund. Prior to those amendments in the last Parliament, the Government of Canada always contributed to the fund after the unemployment rate went over a certain level. The other contributions to the fund came from workers and from employers. It was a three way contribution: the employers, the employees and the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada then withdrew its contribution of $2.8 billion and put the entire burden on workers and employers. The rates went up. They were another form of taxation. We were very critical of that. We said that was not the way to do it.

What happened is by doing these things to the unemployment insurance system, by cutting back the benefits, by making it more difficult to qualify, by throwing people out of work without any benefits whatsoever in some cases, it simply shifted the burden to take care of those people to the provinces and to the municipalities. When people do not have work and they cannot find work someone has to support them. We are not living in a cruel, inhumane society. We do not let people starve to death. What happened was the provincial social security systems had to pick up those people and take care of them. In Ontario and Nova Scotia the cities had to and they could not afford it. It was simply a shifting of the burden.

I am trying to remind the House and my party that I fully support this re-examination of social security. However, I am also reminding them that we have to be very careful in not overdoing it to the extent that we are cruel, inhumane, insensitive, unfair and unjust.

Let us study, let us recommend, let us save money if we can through a better delivery system, let us eliminate duplication. Let us not take benefits away from those who worked for years and years, built this country and contributed to funds, such as the old age security fund. Let us not take benefits away from those who worked and contributed to unemployment insurance. Let us not make our workers slaves of their bosses.

Let us be consistent, I say to my own party, with what we said in opposition. Let us be consistent with what we said in the campaign. Let us be credible. Let us be fair, just and compassionate in this country.

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10:20 a.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech by the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, an excellent speech by a 28-year veteran of this House who is very experienced in parliamentary matters and also very knowledgeable about Quebec, since he comes from Quebec.

However, there is something that surprises me. I have been a member of Parliament for nine and a half years, and from time to time people have come to my office with serious problems caused by inconsistencies-we have mentioned this before-in the area of manpower and training programs. In fact the situation is far worse than we think.

I would like to mention one example I think is absolutely inhumane. Some people who were on unemployment insurance after losing their jobs were taking courses funded by the federal government. These people, who were between the ages of 30 and 45, had decided to finish their fourth and fifth year of high school in order to graduate. They were in fact encouraged to do their third, fourth or fifth year. Unfortunately the unemployment insurance regulations are inconsistent with the rules of the Quebec school commission. For instance, these people had to take classes during the summer to finish their course. The Unemployment Insurance Commission told them they could not stop working or stop taking courses for more than two weeks.

As everybody knows, in Quebec, because of the unions and the government, teachers have to stop for a month during the summer, which meant the courses were automatically cancelled. Most of these people had almost finished their courses but they could not continue because Quebec's regulations were not consistent with Ottawa's. As a result, these people who had

worked very hard for one, two or even three years were penalized, because if they wanted to continue later on, they would have to pay for the courses themselves.

Now this is an incredible example. It is inhumane, when you consider the time and effort involved. I would like to ask the hon. member who is an experienced politician whether as a member from Quebec, he intends to work on this issue and ensure that manpower training is transferred to Quebec as soon as possible, so that Quebecers can take their courses and keep their dignity as human beings and also save some money. The duplication and inconsistencies make this system truly inhumane. Does the hon. member, as a member from Quebec, intend to ensure this problem is dealt with once and for all?

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10:25 a.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with the hon. member that there are provisions now in the Unemployment Insurance Act that are ridiculous and have to be changed.

One of them is the provision that we had historically that one had to be ready and available for work at all times in order to collect benefits. That meant that somebody who took a course was not ready and available for work because they were studying during the day. Those studies were essential in my view and in the view of many people to prepare that person for a job.

There were amendments a few years ago that allowed people to do study programs while they were on unemployment insurance but unfortunately one needs the permission of the unemployment insurance officials to do that. That permission is not always given. In my view it should be almost automatic.

I also said in my remarks that I am fully in agreement with taking steps to eliminate duplication between the provincial programs and the federal programs to get rid of waste in the delivery systems and so on. I would hope as a Quebecer that we could reach an agreement between Quebec and Ottawa to eliminate the inconsistencies between the federal unemployment insurance program and the provincial welfare system.

The elimination of the duplication is essential. The provinces should have prior jurisdiction in matters of education and training. That was the position put forward in the Charlottetown accord. Consequently we have to work out agreements that will satisfy the provinces in this matter and stop the fighting between the federal and provincial levels. We have to make sure that we have programs that are efficient and meet the situation that was put forward by my good friend from Longueuil.

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10:25 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our caucus co-ordinator I would like to advise the House that our party will be dividing the speaking time in accordance with Standing Order 43.

It is with a great deal of pride that I stand to give my first address here today as I join with my fellow MPs in this place of history and decision. This country, of which we are proud citizens, has given to us the responsibility to guide the direction of the ship of state in the next several years. The responsibility is awesome indeed. There are many potential dangers ahead in the presence of existing cracks in our vessel. Each of us in this Chamber will play a role in the challenging task to bring Canada to its port of safety.

It is my honour to have been elected to serve the people of Port Moody-Coquitlam. On the north side of the Fraser River on the outskirts of Vancouver we enjoy the beauty of the mountains and the temperate climate of the west coast.

As one of the fastest growing districts in Canada we are blessed with five thriving communities. Families from all nationalities and backgrounds have chosen to call this area their home. With its central location in the beautiful Fraser Valley so much of the employment and customer pool of this lower mainland is within easy reach. Originally containing the western terminus of the rail line in Port Moody, we now host a myriad of small businesses complimented by a busy port and rail connections.

I must pause and thank my family for its part in allowing me to take this responsibility. I have always made by husband and my two girls a very real priority and it was concern for them that crystallized my political choices. As I am sure every MP can already testify, this task that we are taking on demands sacrifices of both time and energy. Doug, Carolyn and Kathy, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, support and understanding.

A sincere thanks to all those who voted for me. A special thank you to those who worked so hard in my campaign leading up to the election.

It is especially important to me to recognize that it is the people of Port Moody and Coquitlam who sent me here to represent them regardless of political stripe. I will honour the trust they have given to me, an ordinary citizen, to be their eyes and ears here in Ottawa and I will speak out for them on issues that affect their homes and our community.

The people of Port Moody-Coquitlam have told me that our country needs healing. Canada is critically ill with a half trillion dollar federal debt.

This one fact alone dictates the treatment for so many of its other complications. Where are the sore spots? Government policies are affecting the people I represent in real ways. It is not ink on a line, it is people and their families in their daily lives, their ability to find work, their sense of security, their openness

of heart to new ideas from around the world. That is what I want to talk about.

In Port Moody-Coquitlam one sore spot becomes apparent as we talk about roads and transportation systems, infrastructure, if you please. Our unique area is understandably one of the fastest growing municipalities in all of Canada. Coquitlam alone is projected to double in size by the year 2021. Even today traffic is in gridlock. The history of non action is too complicated to address here but even the federal government has a part in it.

Campaign promises of a previous losing government have made an equal provincial-federal cost sharing program a political football. Hope still exists for $16 billion or, better yet, equal funding for what is now a $120 million rail proposal.

What is our government's response? I ask not for more spending but about some of the areas in which expenditures are deemed more worthy than others. What makes these areas? Let decision making bodies such as the infrastructure panel include representations from those most affected by its decisions, elected representatives from all three levels of government. Who better than the municipalities themselves to best represent their own needs?

Sore points two, three and four would be taxes, taxes and taxes. When will the government realize that Canadians are fed up with its spending and borrowing and the taxes that go with it? I have talked with many small business owners from the tire dealer forced to reduce staff from 25 to three, to the community minded hotel owner who sees perspective investors come and leave, scared off by increased tax burdens. I have talked with family wage earners frustrated and plain mad that they cannot make progress.

This government talks about jobs. Careers and family income come from secure jobs within small business. It is folly for government in the name of fairness to tax away the job creators. The removal of capital gains or RRSP deductions and higher or broader tax bases will force more of our job creators across the border or out of business if they come here to start with.

Higher taxes on the individual put more pressure on families. Government spending must be reduced, not taxes increased, to help job creation. Jobs will be there by letting business do business.

What of those who need special help? Those who need the social programs of which Canadians are so proud? There is an infinite distance between the theory we see in some bureaucratic descriptions and the reality in our homes and on our streets. The social safety net does not need cutting, it needs to be saved from self-destruction, to be there for those who really need it. We must bring social programs back to their original purpose.

Unemployment insurance was originally designed to give temporary support for unexpected job loss. Welfare was there to support those who could not support themselves.

Take the sore point of unemployment insurance. In case number one, a young mother I talked to because of her honesty could not fill all the spaces in her day care but she could not afford to give up her partial UI supplement, so in turn she had to give up her day care or close her business.

In case number two, a well meaning pipefitter enrolled in a course but did not give proper notice and lost all his UI benefits.

Case number three is a government induced non productivity where west coast fishermen use UI as a supplement to yearly earnings already that are well in excess of national average because the government owes them as much.

Real job training and apprenticeship programs not by government but by business will put people back to work. There is no shortage of research on what must be done. We need government action not further studies.

My constituents have identified more sore points. I am proud of the tenacity of the Belcarra Council that spearheaded a national petition of municipal councils in protest over the present Young Offenders act. It put work and time behind the message I hear from citizens from parents to policemen. The present government must listen to Canadians as they tell it to reduce age limits and raise repeat serious young offenders to adult court. It is a poor system as we have lately seen that allows convicted criminals loose on our streets. Members of the public demand that their protection once again be the primary focus of government programs.

This message ends with one final concern. We welcome the increased participation and friendship of people from all parts of the globe. Our neighbourhoods proudly represent a microcosm of a broad, cultural and language mosiac. There is a common belief by all residents, new and older Canadians, that each one of us must be equal as individuals before and under the law and the privileges of this land.

Labels must be removed and not applied in ever new ways so that we come together as a people, proud to be Canadian first of all and proud to support our own heritage within that context. We must address the issue of our national identity for a nation with no identity is no nation at all.

I urge the present government to hear Canadians from all backgrounds tell it that they want most of all to be Canadian. New Canadians need to have the opportunity and access to jobs

and must be given that opportunity by wise immigration policies. It is the economic health of all Canadians that will dictate the social and economic climate that all must share.

I intend to scrutinize all government initiatives in multiculturalism and immigration and actively participate to make those initiatives more closely reflect the views of ordinary Canadians.

I salute my fellow Canadians as they watch the proceedings of this 35th Parliament. As Canadians we must never forget the richness of the land and the potential of its future. May we see past the quick fixes and easy solutions to work toward solutions that will provide a solid future of prosperity. That future is very possible as we have been blessed with so much.

As stewards of the abundant resources of this land and its people we must seek to be wise in our decisions and compassionate in our hearts.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague on her address. I listened attentively and I appreciate a number of the comments. I agree wholeheartedly that most Canadian taxpayers really believe they pay too much-and I also believe that they do-and there is anger out there. They are angry.

My question is not a trick question. It is a very important one to me. I am trying to find out whether or not it is true that rich and influential families can in fact shield some or a great part of their wealth through trust funds. If it is true that a certain number of wealthy Canadians pay no taxes at all, that a number of profitable corporations supposedly pay no taxes, that clever people with the human resources as well as other resources are able to shield or protect some of their money by taking it to foreign countries, is it still appropriate then to ignore these people or perhaps ask them to pay their fair share?

Thereby we probably would improve the economic health of the country and help to protect those programs we have. It does not mean they need not be changed in order to be more efficient.

Would my colleague care to comment on that?

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

I thank the hon. member for his kind comments and question.

As I have stated Canadians do feel they are being overtaxed. What the hon. member has expressed is a very real concern of an ordinary Canadian: Why is it that I have a burden whereas it seems other people do not, perhaps even the most wealthy.

Unfortunately the rules of the game in our present world are that capital is becoming more and more international. The rules of the game are that money cannot be forced to be maintained in one country. That very fact dictates that Canada has to become very wise in its economic decisions.

The rich as the hon. member said can take their money and invest it in other countries. Corporations can move.

As I said in my speech the producers of our wealth and the producers of our jobs can move elsewhere. Thus it becomes that much more important for us to make sure that this, our country, is a place where they want to invest, where they want to bring their talents and their jobs. Then the rest of us can have jobs by that. Sure, they need to do their part, but we have to do our part to bring them here. I do not think we have done that in the last short while.

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10:40 a.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with the hon. member when she says that we definitely should not raise taxes.

We have reached the limit and people are just about to break out in revolt. Her leader said that people would rebel and I think he is right. People are going to look for all sorts of ways to stop paying taxes.

It is obvious that the middle class is overburdened with taxes. Those who have a bit more money or a better education are leaving Canada. Last year, more than 400 physicians left Canada for United States. It costs the nation about $2 million to train one physician and we have a situtation here where 400 moved to United States.

What we should do, and I think my hon. colleague is right about this, is find better ways of managing our social affairs. There is a lot of waste at the management level. I do not want to see less services, but I want to see a lot less management. We have to decentralize, to make individuals, municipalities and provinces more responsible. The federal government could set the guidelines, but social affairs should be managed at the grassroots level if were are going to provide services to people who need them rather than to bureaucrats.

Social Security SystemGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments.

I agree that the middle class is maintaining a burden of what is happening in the tax load of our country. We are losing our best brains, our best job producers because of poor economic policies here.

I would take it a step further. I would take it to the very root. This was mentioned by my colleague yesterday. The society that we live in has had the tendency to be dependent on government doing things for its members, whether that be federal, provincial or municipal. I would like to see our country becoming one where Canadians care about Canadians. Perhaps even at that lower level, as families and as communities we are able to address the needs especially in the social sector where they need to be addressed.

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10:40 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government has embarked on the first step in democratizing Parliament by allowing free debates such as this one on the future of Canada's social programs. For that it really should be commended. I hope it will soon finish the job by allowing free votes on these issues we are debating.

So as to keep our heads on straight during this emotionally charged debate I think there are a few questions we should be asking ourselves as we begin the much needed overhaul of Canada's social programs. In fact I believe these are questions we should always ask ourselves in our role as parliamentarians.

The first question we need to ask is: Does the federal government need to be involved at all in resolving this problem? Can it be more effectively dealt with by other levels of government, by business or through private sector organizations or even charities?

In response to that question there is no doubt in my mind that a completely overhauled unemployment insurance program could be run by employers and employees themselves. This of course is what many have been asking for. In essence this was the recommendation of the highly respected findings of the Forget commission in 1986.

With respect to health care and welfare it is important that we recognize that the provinces are in charge of the administration of these crucial programs. We should let them continue to lead the way in progressive and meaningful reform. Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Alberta are all bringing forward exciting new approaches to income support and supplementation. Alberta is also proposing bold new initiatives in health care. Out of these varied approaches will come a synthesis, an idea, a program that combines the best of all.

In both areas however the provinces are limited in the scope of the reform by the strictures of federal legislation. I encourage the federal government to put everything on the table in its initiative to bring change to health care and social programs.

The second question we should be asking is: Will this decision lead to a long-term solution, or is it a short-term band-aid fix that helps in the short run but creates problems of its own in the long run.

I would argue that the changes made to unemployment insurance over the last 23 years have not only led to ever rising premiums and a bankrupt program, more important it has led to dependency on government, a problem whose economic and human costs are incalculable. For the sake of Canadians let us ensure we have the courage to design social programs and health care reform that promote personal responsibility and initiative.

The third question we have to ask is: Are all the stakeholders involved in making these decisions or is it the top down, my way or the highway approach?

How many task force reports and royal commission reports now serve as chair props and doorstops because governments were not committed to following through on the recommendations that flowed from the people of the country? How many times have governments committed to a process of consultation only to ignore the comments they do not like?

The government should listen extra hard to the people who fund the health care system to find out what services they are willing to pay for. The government should listen especially hard to the people who fund unemployment insurance to find out where it needs changing. The government should strain to hear from the people who fund social assistance to see how that program can be improved.

The fourth question we need to ask is: Will this decision make government more user friendly and more accessible, or will it increase paperwork and layers of bureaucracy?

Canada's social programs today are a nightmare. They are designed by bureaucrats for bureaucrats and woe is the user who dares to verse his social program without his trusty bureaucrat at his side. The design needs to come from the people who use the programs. To do otherwise is to dehumanize further and make even more wasteful an institution, and I speak here of government, that is already characterized by gross inefficiency.

The fifth question we have to ask is: Does this proposal have clear measurable objectives, or are its goals vaguely stated and therefore unmeasurable?

I desperately hope that the government will bring forward a clear set of objectives when it tables its new legislation this fall. Putting people back to work or restoring their dignity sounds very nice, but unless we can clearly define our goals in measurable terms and then monitor our progress in striving to achieve them we may as well not even begin the process of reform.

Clear goals will force us to determine beforehand whether or not they are reasonable goals, whether or not they can even be attained. Clear goals will give guidance to the means by which we will achieve those goals. Clear goals will force us to set budgets that will be sufficient to sustain these new programs in boom and in bust periods. Without these goals we will be blindly spending wheelbarrows full of money in the vain hope that somehow this will improve things.

The sixth question we have to ask is: Has it been explained to the public that if this decision leads to more government spending then spending will have to be cut in other possibly more essential areas or that taxes will have to be raised?

The government has a responsibility to communicate what is going on in government. As servants of the people we are duty bound to ask them where their priorities lie, which social programs are the most important to them, second most important, and so on. As the debt passes a half trillion dollars it must be apparent by now that our resources must be carefully rationed. I hope the government will fulfil its responsibility and address this issue.

The seventh question I ask is: Is this decision being made with complete awareness of the current economic, political, cultural, historical and social situation and environment both within the country and outside the country, or does it ignore current trends and important facts?

While I touched on the economic situation, we must also be aware of other factors that determine our environment. For instance in the fast-paced world of free trade we have to decide if it is even possible for government to predict successfully where the jobs of the future will be. Can we determine if technology will allow us to do more with less in the field of health care? These are questions that can only be answered by carefully investigating the delicate interplay of the many forces that shape our country.

The government is embarking on an ambitious plan. Canadians from coast to coast recognize that our social programs and health care are in desperate need of deep, profound change. Not so obvious, however, is the subtle link between strong social programs, a strong economy and the right of Canadians, not politicians, not special interest groups, to guide this modern day reformation movement.

Well intentioned politicians find it easy to spend other people's money. Their good intentions are infinite but sadly the money is not. Well intentioned special interest groups want to help but have a powerful economic incentive to maintain the status quo. Only real taxpayers, people who grind it out every day to make a dollar, can make those tough decisions about how their money should be spent. We should trust them to tell us what is wrong with the social programs, what is wrong with health care, which programs are most important to them, and how they should be distributed and paid for.

I will conclude with these two lines that I believe sum up what I have been attempting to say this morning. If we fake it, if we only hear some people, if we only push our agenda, we cannot succeed; but if we listen hard, if we communicate, if we take our guidance from real taxpaying Canadians, we absolutely cannot fail.

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10:50 a.m.


John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the previous speaker.

I would like the member to elaborate a bit more, if he can, on what he calls real taxpayers. If I am hearing him correctly he is suggesting that if we just listened to real taxpayers we would be more apt to make the right decisions. I would like to hear a more explicit definition of a real taxpayer.

How do we take conflicting advice? I would suggest his constituents are not unlike mine. I can assure the previous speaker that I have, as he calls them, many ordinary taxpayers, ordinary citizens and ordinary Canadians in my riding. They disagree on how to move the country forward.

Constituents are not monolithic. They are not of one mind. They are the macro of this institution. We are the micro. We reflect the opinions and views of Canadians. We come here with all the conflicting views and philosophies. We fight it out, most of the time verbally, to get the job done.

Constituents are not much different. I can assure this new member that he will be receiving conflicting advice from his constituents every day that he sits in Parliament. He will be receiving advice on taking a collective approach on certain issues, sometimes the laissez-faire approach, sometimes the government approach and sometimes the individual approach.

What I am leading to is that the member should try not to be so simplistic in his approach or advice to this institution and other Canadians. He should just listen to Canadians. Canadians are divided. At the end of the day after we hear the conflicting views and advice we have to make a judgment. That is what Burke was saying 200 years ago. We are obliged to offer our constituents our judgment.

We cannot be robots because the constituents are pressing different buttons. They are pressing different buttons every day. They are telling us to go this way and they are telling us to go that way. Yet I hear the Reform Party say: "No, our constituents are of one mind. They are of one opinion. They are monolithic". That is baloney and I think they have to come to grips with that. I want you to respond to that.

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10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I remind all members to direct their questions and comments through the Chair.

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10:55 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member raises some important points. I would point out to him that it was not the people involved in making the decisions who led us to the point where we have a half trillion dollar debt today. They did not have direct input into designing the programs that led us to that half trillion dollar debt. Edmund Burke had some wise things to say, but he did not have the opportunity to go through 300 or 400 years of democracy to see where it would lead.

The member is making his comments, not in the context of the current situation, not in the context of the fact that we have a huge debt and deficit, not in the context of the fact that people

are cynical about politics and politicians, not in the context of the fact that we have huge divisions in the country because people do not feel they are being consulted.

If someone is simplistic in the House, it is not the people in the Reform Party who believe people have to be given a voice. It is people who believe they have all the answers. I encourage the hon. member to take a look around the country today and acknowledge we have to listen much more carefully to people than we have over the last 20 years.

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10:55 a.m.


Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I too want to say a few words on this important motion put forth by my friend and colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development.

I want to say to my friend from Medicine Hat that he should take a good look; he is looking at somebody who does not have all the answers and does not pretend to have them. I do have some concerns about this resolution and I shall express them.

If we look at the resolution, the guts of it say that the committee would make recommendations regarding the modernization and restructuring of Canada's social security system. Since I have only 10 minutes I will not take any time to talk about how proud I am to be in a country with such a good social security system that has served the country very well for many years. I wish I had time to do that but I do not. I do have the time to say that I acknowledge any system however good needs regular scrutiny, regular reviewing, to see what is good about it, and we will hold to that. Whatever is not so good or has become obsolete we will jettison; we will do away with. That is why our system in Canada is a dynamic, unfolding, growing system.

There are a couple of buzzwords. I hate buzzwords; I just hate them. I know I use them but I hate them because often buzzwords wind up inadvertently skating over issues. The word modernization and the word restructuring, maybe they were just a bit of shorthand. Maybe they are buzzwords to mass a whole set of intentions. That I want to know the answer to. Let me ask people who hear the word rationalization: "Have you ever heard of a company that was going to rationalize the workforce that wound up doubling the work force?" Not quite. Rationalizing has always come to connote wipe out, destroy, reduce to nothing.

My good friend from North Vancouver injects the term improve. Yes, I suppose there is a context in which by rationalizing we can improve. I am not arguing that point. I am saying to him that the term rationalization has so often come to mean everything but improve. That is my point.

I come to the two buzzwords in this resolution: modernization and restructuring. We have to be careful what exercise it is we enable the committee to do. We must see to it that it has a full mandate to scrutinize the present system and see ways in which, in the words of my good friend from North Vancouver, the system can be improved. I say to him improved, not gutted. To gut the system is not to improve it. That is my whole point and he helps me make it.

In the haste to modernize I have never had any excitement about if it is modern it is therefore good. I happen to know some good old fashioned things that are very good too. Modernization does not get me too excited if in the process we jettison something that was worth while. Restructuring for its own sake does not get me very excited if, in the process, we restructure some of the goodness, some of the inherent value of the particular program.

I come from a province with a very proud and very long history. By 1997 it will be 500 years since the Brits discovered us, except those who were here before us were discovered a long time before that. The Vikings discovered us around the year 900. When they came here they found people in Newfoundland already. The Dorset people were there about 2,500 years ago.

There has been settlement on the island of Newfoundland and Labrador for thousands of years. The Caucasian settlement is much more recent but it has been there for 500 years plus. When the Brits arrived in 1497 they found the Portuguese already there fishing quite regularly.

You know, Mr. Speaker, because you have heard me say many times in the House that the reason people came to Newfoundland was the same reason in effect that people went to the prairies of western Canada. They came because there was a resource there that they could earn a living from. In the one case, fish, and the other case, land. That is why they came.

I introduce that in the context of this debate because there is still a bit of stereotyping around. I had a professor in Boston University many years ago, a very wise man. I will use his words. They might not be politically correct these days but I have to use his wording. He said: "All Indians walk in single file, at least the one I saw did". There is always the danger of generalizing from too few examples.

I have heard it. I am a proud Newfoundlander. I was born and bred there. I spent all my life there and I hear about the lazy Newfoundlander. I hear it all the time. We got used to the Newfie jokes. They are intended for stunned mainlanders anyway so we do not mind that. However we are stereotyped that we are all down there trying to find a way to skin by, so we can get 10

stamps, so we can sit home and drink beer for the other 42 weeks. That is somehow contradicted by the reality.

Here is some of the reality. Today there are 580,000 Newfoundlanders living in Newfoundland. The reality is that there are three-quarters of a million native born Newfoundlanders living outside Newfoundland. Maybe some of them went to Fort McMurray, to Cambridge, to Toronto-there is a quarter of a million of them in southern Ontario alone-to Los Angeles where there are 85,000, to what we call the Boston states, the New England states where there are 75,000 native born Newfoundlanders. Did they go because they found a way to beat the system there and get 10 stamps?

No, they went to get a work opportunity. They have done it for 500 years. If the work is in the boat they stay there. If it is on the rail tracks of Saskatchewan with CP that is where they go. If it is cutting logs in Nova Scotia that is where they are today. If it is working on the Great Lakes that is where they are today. Several hundred of my constituents, even as I speak, are working the Great Lakes.

I want to demolish one more time the myth that somehow there are a bunch of lazy kooks down there who are waiting for a government to come up with some more programs that they can milk and stay home and drink beer. That is not what this exercise is all about.

I am proud that I live in a country that says some people out there, through no fault of their own, cannot look after themselves and so we have a welfare system. I live in a country where there is the reality that some people cannot get employment for 12 months of the year and so we have an unemployment insurance system. Does that mean we ought to foster abuse of the unemployment insurance system? No, it does not. It means something else. It means that in our haste to modernize and to restructure we not throw out the baby with the bath water.

The basic system is good and has served us well. If there are some abuses, let us find them. Let us not get so caught up in the idea that now we have to reinvent the wheel. We have to find some new things because it is 1994. Let us find some new ones if they are better than the old ones but let us have a good look at the old ones too. They have served us very well.

All this is a matter of perspective. I heard the exchange between my good friend from Winnipeg-St. James and my friend from Medicine Hat. It is not that one has all the answers. Some of us state our views more vociferously than others. Some of us do not believe them more deeply but maybe articulate them more strongly at times.

We come from different perspectives. We come from different solitudes. It is one thing if one is the leader of the Reform Party and one's riding of Calgary Southwest has an average family income of $49,000 or the newly independent gentleman from Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville who comes from a riding that has the highest family income in Canada, $58,800.

One would have a different perspective if one represents those ridings or if one represents my riding in which the average family income is $24,800. The gentleman from Annapolis Valley-Hants represents a riding in which the average family income is $30,000.

It is a matter of what the reality and background are and who sent us here. I have to say to my colleagues in this Chamber that the people who sent me here are every bit as Canadian as the people who live in my good friend's riding of Gaspé or my other friend's riding of Rimouski-Témiscouata. They are every bit as Canadian but with very different perspectives than somebody who lives on the prairies of Canada or elsewhere in this country.

That is what this debate is all about. We do not run a government here. We do not sit here and look at the gorgeous stained windows, as nice as they are. We debate here. This is a forum in which we bring the ideas of Canadians in two territories and ten provinces together. There is going to be a debate of different ideas. We are going to have differences of opinion. However, at the end of the day we are worth our salt, our salary.

We justify our being here only if we take what we had in the past in terms of social security systems and not destroy them or with euphemisms of restructuring throw them out. We should rebuild them. We should craft a better vehicle for the 1990s. That is the challenge that my people in Burin-St. George's want me to address. I believe it is the one that all people across this country want us to address here.

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11:05 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the speech given by the hon. member. I enjoyed it very much, although for a while I wondered if he was talking about buzzwords and Newfie jokes more than the problem at hand.

However, he did mention at one stage rationalization being a bad word that meant terrible things. He gave me credit for bringing in the term improvement.

Companies that have had to go through a rationalization program have ended up with a better structure, more efficiency and a profitable situation from perhaps one that would have meant disaster before.

He also mentioned the term reality. I wanted to bring some reality to the discussion here and ask him a specific question. A person who retired on CPP in the early 1980s will collect almost five times what they contributed to CPP in their lifetime.

However, a 20-year-old today contributing to CPP will end up collecting less than three-quarters of what that person contributed. A similar problem exists with UI when a person

using the system can collect up to 17 times as much as they pay into the system.

Does the hon. member agree that the CPP and UI systems should be modernized or rationalized so that they are much more like true insurance rather than a system of transferring benefits from one person to another?

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Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, my friend from North Vancouver makes two excellent points.

The best way I can respond to the first point is to tell the hon. member about the three people who were facing execution by the guillotine. The rule was that if there were something wrong with the guillotine you went scot free. The first person put his head down, the blade jammed half way down and he was let go. The second person, the same thing. The third person was watching this and always wanting to be helpful he said to the executioner, "I think I know how to fix that".

If efficiency is the only objective, I can make the system very efficient for the hon. member for North Vancouver. Efficiency is not an end in itself. It must never become an end in itself in government. It must become one of the vehicles by which we get there.

If the only objective is efficiency I can tell him how to make unemployment efficient. Do not send out any cheques. All right? Just give people food stamps maybe. I can tell him how to make CPP efficient. Let us call it off. That would be the ultimate in efficiency, would it not?

Let us go to his second point of whether the examples he cites need fixing? I say to him gently we are having a debate. It was moved by the Minister of Human Resources Development, seconded by the Minister of Finance and the debate is calling on us to look at the social programs and see if they can be improved. That is to say, that debate itself, the fact that the gentleman rose in his place and moved a motion, is an acknowledgement that there is a lot wrong with the system. The hon. member for North Vancouver has given us two examples. If I had a week I could give him 10,000 others.

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11:10 a.m.


Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take part in today's debate on the modernization and restructuring of Canada's social security system.

In particular, I am pleased that the Minister of Human Resources Development has proposed to consult as broadly as possible with the Canadian people by directing the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development to listen to Canadian concerns and priorities regarding all aspects of the social safety net.

This grassroots approach is precisely what Canadians have been demanding for many years. During the last election Canadians told us that social assistance programs and unemployment insurance are not leading them back to the work force.

Canadians are right to be concerned. We risk becoming polarized into two camps, those who have jobs and those who do not. Too many people are not working. Too many people want jobs and cannot find them.

Part of our social safety net is comprised of social assistance or welfare administered by the provinces. Social assistance has been designed to help those whose lives have a taken an unexpected turn for the worst. It helps the disadvantaged and the disabled. It ensures that people have the basics of life, food, shelter and health care. In some cases social assistance also provides training programs to prepare clients for jobs and independence. Through this process a new idea has emerged.

Social assistance that provides the basics of life is no longer enough. Social assistance also needs to be geared to making people more confident, self-reliant and ready to re-enter the work force.

It is true that welfare is a provincial jurisdiction but the federal government must not and cannot shirk its responsibility. The federal government is an important part of the social safety net. We have the responsibility of the unemployment insurance fund which distributes up to $20 billion annually and the same problem that besets social assistance also affects unemployment. It does not lead people back to the work force. For too many people unemployment insurance is just a stop along the way to welfare.

Besides unemployment the federal government has programs that assist the elderly, veterans, disabled and aboriginals. We also provide transfer payments to the provinces to help support health, education and social assistance programs. These direct and indirect expenditures represent the single largest component of federal spending. It is in the amount of $70 billion, slightly over half of all our federal program spending.

High taxes and huge debt are crushing Canada's economy. On the other hand social assistance programs that generate a continuous cycle of dependency are crushing the lives of millions of Canadians. We simply cannot afford either financially or morally to continue this cycle.

The Canadian people know that our social programs, both federal and provincial, are strained to the limit. Many feel they no longer do what they have been designed to do.

Instead we need a brand new model so that we would better meet the needs of the Canadian people. This new model for our social safety net will require changes along the way at a number of levels, from the fiscal arrangements which help to pay for these programs to the ways these programs themselves are delivered.

For 127 years Canadians have enjoyed a system of government that has served us well, two tiers of jurisdiction, federal and provincial, divide powers and responsibilities. What makes Canada great is that we have always been able to work together and compromise for the greater good.

At this juncture of our history we once again find ourselves in need of that co-operation and goodwill. Now is not the time for another protracted turf war between the federal and provincial governments. Canadians will not accept it, nor should we as federal representatives be drawn into jurisdictional squabbles. What the times appear to demand now is a new rationale for the social security system and a willingness to co-operate in implementing this rationale.

I am pleased to note that a number of provinces have taken the lead in exploring new ideas and trying new programs. They are to be commended for their initiative and for their creativity. For example, British Columbia and New Brunswick are experimenting with pilot projects that use financial incentives to get those on welfare back to school or back into the work force.

Ontario is proposing a three tiered approach: a child benefit for all parents on low income, a basic benefit for jobless adults, and a special allowance up to $450 a month for jobless adults in retraining programs.

Newfoundland has proposed replacing unemployment insurance and welfare with a form of guaranteed annual income of at least $9,000 for everyone in the province. The needy and the destitute would receive other monetary housing and health benefits. As for those who receive welfare or unemployment insurance they would no longer be penalized if they take part time, short term or minimum wage jobs. They would no longer lose their housing, health and child care benefits until they could afford to pay for them.

All these examples illustrate a workable common sense approach to the change of Canada's social safety net. By combining the principles of need and merit with incentive, these examples of welfare reform illustrate that social programs can be based on a kind of hard nosed compassion.

The question is familiar to anyone living in Canada. How with limited funds can we support in some dignity those who cannot work, reward those who can for trying and either educate or train the rest? We already have some interesting examples before us. Enterprising welfare reforms have been heard before and then forgotten.

I do not believe Canadians can afford to let that happen again. That is why I am so pleased that the Minister of Human Resources Development has already agreed to study several of these proposals made by some of the provinces.

The changes when they come might happen in the following way. Assuming that the Canadian economy must undergo pronounced structural change to remain competitive the labour force is naturally faced with job retraining, job dislocation and economic uncertainty. A significant job category in the near future may well be that of trainee or student.

Unemployment insurance seems to be the likely candidate to be transformed into a training and upgrading allowance scheme. Such allowances could even begin with students completing high school and beginning occupational training or higher education. These allowances would continue to be available to people in the process of retraining when that becomes necessary.

The possibility even exists of entirely banishing the concept of unemployment. Temporary lay-offs could be used as holiday time while more lengthy lay-offs could be used for sabbatical or for periods of job retraining.

As illustrated by the Newfoundland scheme such allowances might also be used to supplement the incomes of those in part time employment. The beauty of this vibrant as opposed to passive form of guaranteed annual income is that when someone on social assistance finally finds a job they will not be punished with a smaller cheque. They would be given a bigger one. The assistance would taper off until earned income reaches a certain level, and then slowly subside to zero until another level is reached.

The advantages are easy to see. Unemployment insurance and make work spending are redeployed to support the unemployable and also reward the effort of getting work. Conventional, passive welfare spending declines as people find jobs or create their own through self-employment and enough is left over to finance better training programs and education.

The provinces have come up with many new approaches. It is this government's desire to work with the provinces with one simple goal in mind, getting Canada back to work. We want to sit down with our provincial partners and come up with a unified and effective program that works for the Canadian people. By co-operating I believe we can find new solutions. I believe our shared deficit and debt crisis has opened a window of opportunity to try new common sense ideas. They have forced us to recognize that our first task is to get Canadians working again. They have forced us to recognize that what we do now is not working.

The federal government and the provinces of this federation have been given a unique opportunity. Together we can perform a fundamental overhaul of all the social assistance and unemployment insurance programs. Let us not waste this rare opportunity. Let us tap into that reservoir of Canadian ingenuity and

good old-fashioned common sense and work together for the good of all Canadians.

At this time I would like to apologize to my hon. colleague for using the buzzwords.

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11:20 a.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate the member who just finished her speech. I certainly share some of her concerns and I also understand why many Canadians want democratic debates like the one we are having right now. But Canadians also expect us to take immediate and concrete measures.

Up to now, this government has made no major decision. Nothing has been done to tackle great priorities like the deficit or the social security system reform. We must remember that during the campaign, the Liberals promised they would maintain the status quo in that area, particularly in the case of welfare.

I would like to know if the member thinks job creation might be a good way to begin the reform. The government announced an infrastructure program to put people back to work, but we will need more than that. What is the government waiting for to launch job creation projects which would at the same time lead to this reform?

It is clear the announced reform was only an excuse to cut social programs because the government is unable to create jobs. We cannot train welfare recipients if that training does not lead to enriching, creative and well paid jobs. Otherwise, as someone said before, we get into a vicious circle and go back to square one.

The number of people living below the poverty line keeps on increasing. We must therefore, first and foremost, focus our efforts on job creation. As her government said: jobs, jobs, jobs, I say jobs, jobs, jobs, yes, but with concrete projects, and reform will follow. I would like to have her comments on this.

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11:20 a.m.


Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his kind remarks.

As to the social programs and the funding, I believe throughout our campaign we illustrated the fact that jobs and the social security programs together are unified. If we get people back to work the social programs will be less in use. The moneys will be there and in close ties with that, the financial end of the social programs will help alleviate the debt and the deficit.

We have to be patient. We have been here for a few months, but I can assure the hon. member that the human resources minister is certainly working hard to come up with a strong effective program to meet the challenges of today. I am sure it will be something that will meet well with all Canadians.

The Liberals have been known to be caring and compassionate people. I am sure the hon. member's concerns will be addressed by the ministers involved. I again thank the member for the kind comments.