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.