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House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 9th, 1994 / 3:10 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Fernand Robichaud LiberalSecretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs)

Pursuant to our Standing Orders, I want to inform the House that tomorrow, February 10, and Friday, February 11, will be allotted days.

The House resumed from February 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements and Federal Post-Secondary Education and Health Contributions Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

When Bill C-3 was last before the House there were four minutes remaining in the question and comment period to the speech by the hon. member for Lethbridge. Since he is not in his place we will resume debate.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario

Liberal

Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to stand and speak on Bill C-3 today because I believe the bill speaks to the very value system the nation represents.

I want to begin by telling members of the House a short story about an experience that I was involved in about four years ago. It took place in Quebec City. I met a great Canadian artist from Quebec by the name of Richard Séguin. I went to a concert of Richard Séguin's; it was the first time I had heard him sing. I came away from that event moved by the talent, the energy and the real greatness of this Canadian artist.

When I arrived home to Toronto I went down Yonge Street. I went into some of the popular record stores to try to buy a tape of Séguin because I wanted some of my friends to listen to him. After about six record stores on Yonge Street, in the back corner I finally found one cassette of Richard Séguin. "Journée d'Amérique" was the name of the cassette.

I guess it was about a month later that I had lunch with him in Montreal. I told him the story about how it was so incredible that while this artist sold 100,000 tapes, records or albums in the province of Quebec and was so well known, in downtown Toronto in the largest record stores, it took six stores and in the back corner of one store I found one cassette.

He said that sort of exemplifies some of the frustrations and some of the reasons why many of us in Quebec ask ourselves what is in Canada for us. He is a great artist and sells a large number of tapes in Quebec but outside Quebec he is known to very few people.

Just as Canadian artists from Quebec are not well known beyond their borders, there are a lot of things done through the Government of Canada that are not well known in the province of Quebec.

I am not standing here today trying to suggest that there are not frustrations or discrepancies coming from Quebec or, for that matter, from many other provinces. It is very important that on a bill such as this all of our constituents, no matter what region of the country they are from, should all understand what equalization is all about.

It is especially important today because this is the first Parliament in our history in which Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition represents a point of view which wants to dismantle Canada, wants to separate from Canada.

My community hears about a bill like Bill C-3, in which through equalization we transfer moneys from the have provinces to the have not provinces. We are talking about an agreement that was signed last week supported by all the provinces and the Minister of Finance. We are talking about a deal that goes the next five years. The basic essence of this bill entitles seven of the ten provinces to fiscal transfers from three provinces, B.C., Alberta and Ontario. They are funds with no strings attached so that they will have the same standard of living, a national standard, a national tax base, the same access to services right across the country.

The Quebec portion of this transfer over the next five years, the period of this Parliament, is $70 billion. That means that we as Canadian taxpayers will be transferring from the have provinces to Quebec and the other seven provinces a large sum of money. I want to deal specifically today with the $70 billion that is being transferred to the province of Quebec.

I want to say at the outset that by constitution this is an entitlement which I have no quarrel with. I support it happily but it is in the face of that transfer that I have great difficulty in understanding why members opposite would want to walk away from that type of environment where we try to create national standards and national programs so that the constituents of their ridings can have access to the same services as the constituents of my riding.

We tend to think that this is the only thing that happens in this particular bill, that it is just a matter of transferring money. It is more than that. It allows the provinces to basically make their own decisions. Each of the provinces can make their own decisions as to how they want their communities, their people of that particular province served. It is not a condition where the Government of Canada is imposing a very specific directive on that money.

The provincial members of Parliament are the sole directors of how those funds will be spent. It is no business of this Chamber. The only thing that is the business of this Chamber, the Government of Canada, the Parliament of Canada, is to make sure the formula is implemented and the cheque is transferred.

I have talked to a few people, not only in my riding, but other friends that I have from the province of Quebec and many Canadians, not just in Quebec but all across Canada. They are not aware of this equalization bill. They are not aware of the extent or the numbers of dollars that are involved.

That is what led me as we were preparing for Bill C-3 also to look into some of the other Government of Canada activities that take place in the province of Quebec. I am skewing or I am pushing my argument a bit toward the province of Quebec today because we do not have representatives from the other provinces saying that they want to separate, that they want to tear the place down.

I for the life of me cannot understand why this is going on, this notion of wanting to run away from this partnership, from this value system, where we all share on a national standard. We cannot just think of this bill as I mentioned earlier. We have to think of the presence of the Government of Canada in many other areas.

I would like to cite a few of them. One of the highest profile projects in the province of Quebec is the James Bay project. There is a perception out there that it is primarily a provincial project. As I was preparing today I did a short overview, a glance, a summary of some of the Government of Canada

expenditures from 1986 to 1991 in the James Bay project. Did you realize, Madam Speaker, that in that one project the Government of Canada, through Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada Mortgage and Housing, Transport Canada, Industry, Science and Technology, Employment and Immigration, Secretary of State, Health and Welfare, Energy, Mines and Resources, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Justice and the Solicitor General, contributed $607 million toward James Bay?

I am not standing here saying that we should not be doing these things. These were decisions made by this Chamber and by members of Parliament who fought for their constituents, whether it be for job creation or to make sure that the economic viability of the province was there, but what I cannot understand is after all of this sort of federal presence, this Government of Canada work and presence, why Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition wants to separate.

That is a question that many of my constituents have. I thought that today, because we were debating this bill, it would be a time to reflect and a time for all of us on this side to revisit the whole exercise of examining the Government of Canada presence in the province of Quebec. It is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that all of our constituents and all of their constituents know just what services are provided and where we fall short.

I am not suggesting for a second that the situation is perfect. I think that Richard Séguin has a legitimate beef. When we talk about Canadian artists I believe Richard Séguin is a Canadian artist. When we listen to English radio stations all we hear is English radio programs. Those are Canadian airwaves. Why can we not have Séguin on every radio station in Canada the same way we have Anne Murray or Blue Rodeo on every radio station in Canada?

I am not standing here saying that there are not some legitimate concerns, but what I am concerned about is the fact that we are not communicating to the people who live and work in the province of Quebec all of the Government of Canada presence that is there for them. The Government of Canada presence through programs and services, whether they be in industry, through the Department of National Defence, through the historic sites that are supported by the Government of Canada, through the Department of Tourism, all of these points of presence are something that we have to make known to the people of Quebec. If they should want to walk away from that they should at least know what the whole story is all about.

I am convinced that once the total and accurate story has been told there will be some Quebecers who may now be thinking more in the separatist mode who might change their position. Is it possible? I hope so.

I feel the more the members opposite become exposed to some of the Government of Canada work that is done in the province of Quebec that some of them might be a little less antagonistic toward the whole notion of Quebec within Canada.

I stand here today recognizing and supporting totally Bill C-3. I hope that all members opposite will communicate to their constituents that we on this side of the House are supporting this bill with firmness. We are not in any way, shape or form questioning it, but we are asking ourselves if we are communicating. Usually when someone has a resentment toward a particular institution or a particular operation of government, there are legitimate reasons like waste or duplication. I accept the fact that we must work at correcting a lot of those flaws that are in the system.

Those flaws that are in our system right now were created by many institutionalized bureaucracies around here. Those frustrations, believe you me, are the same for many people. We have the same feeling in downtown Toronto for those duplications and institutionalized bureaucracies and units that are no longer serving the end user in the way they were originally intended to serve the end user. But we do not say okay, let us throw up our hands and quit. The purpose of our presence here today is to make sure that we fix those things that are no longer serving the public.

I hope that the message of the bill can be told to the people of Quebec. In the last five years close to $50.7 billion was transferred; in the next five years it will be close to $70 billion. That, along with all the other Government of Canada presence in the province of Quebec, I believe should mean something. Let us hope with a good communication plan over the next little while it will shift the attitude and cause a different approach from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood for his speech, because finally he got into the substantive issue.

The people of Quebec all know what is in this bill; for 25 years, we in Quebec have been debating this situation of money from the federal government that fluctuates from year to year. For us the time for plumbers is over; for us now is the time for architects.

We do not care that you wanted to give us fish with a law like that. We want to be able to fish. What we want is to control things ourselves and have a free hand to run our own show. For that, what is most important to us is to have a government that raises taxes giving services to the people for the taxes it raises.

Now, because of the problem with Canadian federalism, to begin with, whereby the federal government has the right to raise taxes in areas it does not control, we have this fantastically hypocritical situation where the federal government says that it is giving us money back. It is not giving us money back; it is collecting our taxes and distributing them differently and for 125 years we have fought it because it never suited us.

That is why we in Quebec decided that there was no longer any point in coming here to fight with federalist members. Thus Quebecers elected sovereigntists because, as I was just saying, they no longer want to change the plumbing; they want to change house.

What I also wanted to tell you is that there are still problems with this bill, because from the time a ceiling was set, the following perverse effect has been created: Quebec's payment is 60 per cent of what it would be without the ceiling. When the federal government was run without the present level of deficits, we could afford this reduction, setting aside the basic problem with the federal system.

Since the federal government has no more money because it mismanages ours, not only Quebecers' money but that of all Canadians, it set a ceiling. With the ceiling, Quebec's share is decreasing systematically.

I quite agree with what the hon. member said about Richard Séguin-I know him well, and also his twin sister, who is a great singer; they are about my age and we have the same dream-we want to control our means of development so that our future can turn out as we want.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not think the hon. member is reading the bill accurately. The fact is the money being transferred to the province of Quebec is not coming from the province of Quebec. It is coming from other taxpayers in regions of the country that happen to be blessed with natural resources or other economic advantages. As part of a constitutional agreement and through entitlement the money is taken from those advantaged provinces and regions and put into the province of Quebec so that there is a national standard for all citizens.

For the hon. member to suggest that the taxes are coming from Quebec and going back into Quebec is not accurate. That is the point I was trying to make. The whole area of fiscal transfers and transfers of Government of Canada service needs a full examination.

If the hon. member's remarks were to be picked up in his community right now they would not be accurate. The hon. member should be saying to his constituents that they will in fact be receiving from advantaged provinces over the next five years close to $70 billion in equalization payments. That would have a much different effect on his constituents and their attitude toward Confederation than if he said they are just reshuffling their own money.

At least the hon. member did agree that this is the essence of the whole discussion which has to go on in the next little while. I for one am not going to shirk away from my responsibility to talk about the Government of Canada's presence in the province of Quebec, not just where it failed but also the good things it has done for the province.

In this debate it is very important that the separatist members make sure they put the facts on the table and not twist them.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was deeply shocked, I must say, by the previous speaker's comments because I think they show a profound ignorance of the whole tax system, of the way government revenue is collected, as well as a mathematical oversimplification. I even wonder whether he understands the overall purpose of federal transfers and how they work. He should be looking at established programs, at what has happened in the education and health sectors to find out what is going on and recognize the strong tendency behind it.

Equalization enables us to measure the capacity of a province to collect revenue. It is this factor that determines whether a province is defined as rich or poor. He should take into account the fact that many decisions made by the federal government, particularly Quebec's non-involvement in research and development, has led to Quebec being seen as a province that does not have the same capacity to collect tax revenue. Other actions by the federal government prevent Quebec from doing this.

We should not act in isolation. If he wants to do it, I can do it with him. I have before me figures on defence spending. Quebec, with 25.5 per cent of the population, only receives 17.4 per cent of spending, an annual shortfall of $565 million. The hon. member should not indulge in fiscal oversimplication.

If we look at the whole picture, as we did during the election campaign when we had all the data, he would be surprised to see how unfavourable federalism is to Quebec from a fiscal point of view. We do not get our fair share given all that we pay and what we get in return.

Saying that equalization is a gift is an outrageous attitude. Quebecers also pay taxes here.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

I did not say that.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

It is an outrage to suggest it is a gift. I refuse to accept it and I challenge him to come and debate the issue during the referendum campaign in Quebec in the same forums I will attend, so that Quebecers and Canadians can look at the real figures and get the whole picture.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Madam Speaker, my remarks will be very short.

I have said on more than one occasion in the House that there is not a region that does not have some legitimate frustration with the Government of Canada, and Quebec is no exception. The House must thoroughly examine the last 20 years of the presence of the Government of Canada in the province of Quebec and its attempts to try to make life meaningful and productive just as it does in every region of the country.

Members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition should realize that not only do we have members in our caucus from the province of Quebec who represent a voice for Canada in that province but for many years before that there were members from Quebec who would disagree with the approach these members are taking today.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to associate myself with my colleagues to vigorously protest against the fact that the government does not limit itself to technicalities regarding equalization in Bill C-3.

What should have been done is a comprehensive review of federal transfer payments to the provinces, including established programs financing through which the federal government makes contributions to health and post-secondary education; the Canada Public Assistance Plan through which the federal government makes contributions to the provinces' social assistance programs and welfare services; and all the other programs governed by federal-provincial arrangements.

This piecemeal approach the government is taking will leave the door open to unpleasant surprises when the time comes to renegotiate the other bilateral arrangements. This approach does not give us a complete picture of all the cuts to come.

In fact, the trends are worrying. Federal contributions to transfer programs as a whole are in free fall. In Quebec alone, federal transfer payments have dropped from 28.9 per cent of the gross revenues of the province in 1983-84 to 20.1 per cent in 1993-94, and they should account for a as little as 15.8 per cent of Quebec's revenues by 1997-98.

Fiscal transfers no longer meet the objective they were intended to meet, although this objective was entrenched in the 1982 Constitution to promote equity among the regions. It is common knowledge now that attaching limits to equalization and established programs financing makes have-not provinces poorer and have provinces richer.

The federal government's withdrawal from various transfer programs is proving to be very expensive for Quebec. It is clear that the federal government wants to reduce its deficit at the expense of the provinces, and including Quebec.

Since the Bloc's position on equalization was already explained at some length by the two previous speakers for the Official Opposition, I would like to address two areas where Quebec did not receive its fair share: research and development and established programs financing.

Why is spending on research and development so important for the economy? Why talk about research and development in a debate on equalization? Simply because research and development constitutes a so-called structural investment, an investment that helps create a modern and competitive industry that generates high quality, well paying and permanent jobs. Through its productivity and growth, industry has a positive impact on the entire economy of a country.

The federal government is a very important player in research and development. In fact, it provides two types of funding for R and D activities: internal funding and external funding. Internal spending covers all R and D activities funded and conducted by the federal government. These expenditures are recurrent in nature. As for external spending, this covers all R and D activities which the government finances but does not conduct itself. This type of spending is random in nature since it can easily be shifted elsewhere in subsequent years.

In 1989, the federal government funded nearly 30 per cent of all R and D activities in Canada. Between 1979 and 1989, Quebec received only 18 per cent of federal spending in this area, while Ontario received 50.1 per cent, which works out to $4.6 billion for Quebec and $12.5 billion for Ontario.

In a study dealing with the equity of R and D financing, Pierre-Étienne Grégoire applied four criteria to determine under-funding or over-funding of R and D in the provinces.

These criteria are as follows: demographic weighting; economic weighting, which reflects support for regional economic activities; significance of regional R and D activities, which reflects support for new technology in the region; and significance of R and D involvement by provincial governments.

Accorded to these criteria, Quebec and Alberta are under-funded across the board. The study concludes that the provinces benefitting most in terms of regional development and economic growth are Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba; Saskatchewan and British Columbia benefit in terms of regional development;

and Quebec and Alberta do not benefit, either in terms of regional development or economic growth.

Finally, Quebec and Alberta are the only provinces with a negative balance for internal spending on research and development.

If we consider the amounts paid under established programs financing, Quebec and the poorer provinces are paying a very high price for the policy adopted by the federal government.

Established programs financing was introduced in 1977. Initially, the government indexed the per capita contribution and prorated this indexed contribution according to the population of each province. However, starting in 1982, the federal government gradually withdrew from financing this program by reducing the per capita increment.

We must realize that across-the-board cuts per capita are felt more severely by the poorer provinces, and this situation becomes even worse with the ceiling on equalization payments, since the provinces no longer receive additional equalization to make up for the lost revenue caused by federal cutbacks.

Since 1982, cuts in established programs financing have meant a loss of revenue for Quebec, which amounted to $1.8 billion in 1993-94.

Let us consider the impact of federal disinvestment on post-secondary education, especially at the university level. It is generally agreed that basic requirements in terms of training and skills will increase because of economic globalization and the ensuing need to specialise.

In its third report, the Conseil de la science et de la technologie predicts that by the year 2000, 64 per cent of all jobs will require post-secondary education. The government's withdrawal from funding our universities leads to under-funding of institutions that will be increasingly hard pressed to play the active role one expects them to play in this frenetic race to be competitive. Peter J. Nicholson, vice-president of the Bank of Nova Scotia, defines competitiveness as follows:

"The ability to produce goods and services that meet the test of international markets while citizens earn a standard of living that is both rising and sustainable over the long run".

An economic study conducted at the request of the Organisation nationale universitaire, which deals with the consequences of disinvestment in higher education and was published in 1993, provides some significant figures in this respect. For instance, a 40-year old worker who graduated from high school earns about $23,000 while a university graduate earns $43,000. If we extrapolate what these would earn in the course of their working lives, the university graduate receives additional income that mainly benefits governments, thanks to the current tax system. In Quebec, progressive tax rates allow the state to take an average of 53 per cent of the income of university graduates and 33 per cent in the case of high school graduates.

The study concludes that this sizable difference reflects a potential loss to the State of over half a million dollars every time a high school graduate decides to enter the labour market instead of going on to earn a bachelor's degree.

In the short term, the government saves money by disinvesting in higher education but, in the long term, these so-called savings result in a loss, and as the organization says, when the government wants to save money in the short term and decides to withhold one dollar from its funding of higher education, every dollar not invested will, in the long run, cause the government to lose $10 in tax revenue. The substantial reduction in tax revenue will, sooner or later, have to be compensated by a corresponding increase in the tax burden for all taxpayers. Unfortunately we will never be able to compensate for the net loss in human capital to our economic, social and cultural development. Basically disinvestment means that human potential and creativity remain untapped, and the loss to society is immense.

Of course disinvestment also has a negative impact through the resulting drain on unemployment insurance and welfare.

According to the Bureau de la statistique du Québec, in 1992, the unemployment rate was 14.3 per cent among high school graduates, while during the same period, university graduates experienced an unemployment rate of 5.8 per cent, despite the recession.

There is also a very significant cost in terms of social assistance, and the government's disinvestment in funding for university education will increase the number of people who will need social assistance later on.

According to Statistics Canada, in 1986-87, 52.2 per cent of welfare recipients were people who had only partially completed their high school studies, whereas 2.4 per cent were university graduates.

We could talk for a long time about the negative impact on the economy of the federal government withdrawal in the field of post-secondary education, but all these figures do not say anything about the loss of human potential resulting from this disengagement of the federal government.

After participating in this exercise, my party and myself come to the following conclusions. First, Quebec is far from getting its share in the research and development sector. This loss results in a very heavy price for our province, since R and D is an extremely dynamic sector of a country's economy. I want to point out that, overall, between 1979 and 1989, Quebec received $8 billion less than Ontario for that sector alone. In fact, Quebec's economy will feel the adverse effects of this loss for a long time to come.

Our second conclusion is that tax transfers are no longer a reliable source of financing for Quebec and for all the have-not provinces. Cuts imposed by Ottawa deprive Quebec of important revenues. If at least those cuts helped reduce the deficit, they would provide some benefit, but we are well aware that such is not the case. In fact, the federal government forces the poor provinces, including Quebec, to pay for its mismanagement.

The third conclusion which can be drawn is that all the cuts made to the tax transfer system have the effect of increasing the fiscal burden of the poor provinces, that select club to which Quebec belongs. In 1992-93 Quebec lost $2 billion under the established programs financing alone, yet the law forces the province to maintain national standards regarding the quality of services to which the federal government contributes less and less.

Sovereignty has become more necessary than ever for Quebec. All the measures taken by the federal government to cut these tax transfers to provinces destabilize Quebec's finances. To make things worse, the federal government is not even able to control its deficit.

I want to quote Mr. Jean Campeau who, when he came to my riding during the election campaign, said: "There was a time when Quebec wondered if it could afford to leave Canada. Now Quebec knows that it can no longer afford to remain part of Canada".

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech. I have several questions for her. First, I would like her to explain to the House and to those listening to this debate the difference between sovereignty and separation, because I do not really see any difference between these two concepts. I have to say that when I talk to Canadians, not only those outside Quebec but those in Quebec as well, they have some difficulty understanding the concepts. I think that when the hon. member uses the word "sovereignty" or "sovereigntist", it is simply to hide the true objective. That is my first question.

As for my second question, I greatly appreciate that the hon. member has taken the time to explain her position, but is she prepared to concede that this is only one viewpoint? I find it amazing that in all the years that have gone by, nothing good has been done for Quebec as far as transfer payments are concerned. What you are doing, Madam, through you, Madam Speaker, is the same thing that the Reform party did today. It was dishonest when it tried to make Canadians believe that out of a total of nearly $8 billion in transfer payments, Quebec received $3 billion, or 47 per cent of the total. What they neglected to say-and they know this-was that Quebecers account for 60 per cent of those who receive equalization payments.

Is the hon. member not trying to do the same thing, namely choosing situations that promote her aims, namely separation? She is trying to make Canadians, and in particular those who live in Quebec, believe that it is unhealthy to be a part of this beautiful country, that it is impossible to sit down and negotiate new agreements that would satisfy their requirements. I find that astonishing.

I was surprised to see the hon. member do the same thing as Reformers who must be getting a little nervous. They are trying to make the voters believe that Quebec receives more than its fair share. They are claiming that Quebec receives 47 per cent of transfer payments whereas in actual fact, it accounts for 60 per cent and more of the population receiving such payments.

I wonder if the hon. member would care to respond to my comments?

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his questions.

It is very interesting to see that, in spite of the official position of your party-it is true that the red book has become a thing of the past but still-you seem to be in favour of a referendum debate. Good, welcome to the club!

I do not want to spend too much time explaining the difference between sovereignty and separation, but the hon. member seems to have understood that sovereignty is a legal right. Sovereignty means that as a nation, we can negotiate our own treaties, make our own laws, levy our own taxes. Separation flows from sovereignty; once we have achieved sovereignty, we will be able to say, to put it simply, that we are separate. One is a legal reality, the other a consequence. Sovereignty is a legal status, and separation its consequence.

There is one important point I should make though. This House may not be aware of this, for we are continually portrayed as playing the poor, but the truth of the matter is that this has never been the attitude in Quebec. We Quebecers are proud people. We prefer to stand, even on a broken leg.

What I am getting at is that the federal government is taking nearly 23 per cent of its revenues from the pockets of Quebec taxpayers. On the other hand, between 1963 and 1993, federal departments have made less than 18 per cent-17.9 per cent to be exact-of their investments in Quebec. For 30 years-not one mind you-we never got more than 17.9 per cent of federal investments. This type of investment have a structuring effect. It

creates steady employment, steady jobs that make insecurity disappear.

Instead, what you are giving us is unemployment and welfare, and we have had enough. This House and Canadians from coast to coast must understand once and for all that we are sick and tired of being told that we are lying to the people. We will not stand for that any more.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very glad we can have some lighter moments in the House, even after listening to some nonsense from separatists.

The previous speaker's comments relating to equalization payments were replete with data, numbers, all kinds of figures suggesting how the province of Quebec was getting the shaft in Confederation. I would invite the previous speaker from the Bloc to go beyond equalization payments. I can assure her there is a lot more to Canada and a lot more to equalization payments than sharing in the national wealth. It has to do with Canadians sharing in the entire cultural life of the country, sharing in its full experiences. That is what Canada is all about. It is not just raw numbers and raw figures as the Bloc suggests. I would invite these people to look beyond these narrow figures, which I suggest are placed in a context that really makes for a bogus argument, a bogus presentation.

I would also say this. Yes, all of us are ignorant. One would think after listening to the Bloc that the only thing Quebecers are concerned about is how they are being shafted in Confederation and their preoccupations with the Constitution. I do not pretend to be an expert on Quebec but I know there is much more to that province and certainly much more to Quebecers than any concern about the Constitution and certain financial arrangements.

I would also say the same thing about people who come from the other nine provinces. We do not know enough about Quebec. We ought to learn a lot more.

I really appreciated the comments of the member for Broadview-Greenwood. We can do a much better job of telling the Canadian story. I have always been a critic of the CBC, even though I worked there for 18 years. In a way the CBC enforces or perpetuates the two solitudes. We have an English language network and a French language network and neither comes together which is very unfortunate.

I would like to see many more exchanges, French language programs appearing on the English television network and vice versa-

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry but time has run out.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would the House allow the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata to reply to the hon. member?

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4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Unanimous consent from the House would be required to allow the hon. member to answer.

We need unanimous consent to permit a response from the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata. We are a minute over our time.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you will find that the next speaker may be the member for Winnipeg-St. James.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements And Federal Post-Secondary Education And Health Contributions ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Thank you, but I still do not have unanimous consent for the member to continue.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, I was not expecting to speak at this time, but I certainly welcome the opportunity to talk about the equalization program.

As I said yesterday, the equalization program as we know it embodies some of the great ideals and great values of Canadians. I cannot think of a much greater ideal under our democracy than sharing one's wealth, sharing one's resources. It is an ideal and a value that all of us cherish. It recognizes that there are those provinces and those people who perhaps have it a little better than others. It may not always be that way.

It had been my experience that the province of Ontario was the fat cat province. We always looked on Ontario as rich, with plenty of people, the home of manufacturing, the leading province, certainly the leading English speaking province. We expected Ontarians to share some of that wealth with the rest of Canadians. It was always very laudatory on the part of Ontarians that they wanted to do that. They wanted to share their resources and their wealth.

In the last three or four years things have not been going so well for Ontario. In relative terms it is still a rich province but it has not been doing as well as in the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s. At certain periods of our national life some provinces contribute to other provinces that are not doing so well. That is why I am a very strong supporter of equalization and of this equalization program.

It was pointed out by one of the Reform speakers yesterday, and I appreciated his comments, that the proposal put forward in the bill by the finance minister gives the program an element of certainty. We are going to know for the next five years what this program is all about. We may not be totally happy with the floor

or the ceiling that is set but as least we know for the next five years where we are going with respect to equalization payments. Right now it is in the $8 billion range and the projections under the five-year figures put it at about $10 billion.

Let me say one other thing as I talk about equalization and this element of caring and sharing under it. There are others in our society that could learn a lot from the government about equalization.

What comes to mind is the National Hockey League. We know there are a number of NHL cities in the country that are scared to death they will lose their NHL franchises. The city of Winnipeg where I come from is one. Even though Edmonton has won five Stanley Cups and in the last 15 years has been one of the most prosperous and talented teams in the NHL there is even concern about the Edmonton Oilers moving. In fact Mr. Pocklington who owns the team has been trying for more than a year to move it. I do not think Quebec City is in a much different situation.

What I am getting to is that the NHL does not have equalization. I suspect the NHL is run by a bunch of right wingers who believe in dog eat dog, everybody for himself and take whatever you can. That is what they have been doing. But it certainly works against the best interests of smaller cities. There is no doubt that if the NHL does not deal with this problem, if it does not put a cap on players' salaries or if the NHL does not deal with some of the financial problems, smaller cities like Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Quebec City will not be able to keep that financial pace. They will ultimately lose out and those franchises will move to larger markets in the United States.

I bring this up only because there are others in Canada who can learn a lesson from equalization. I cannot imagine this Canada without equalization. I cannot imagine not helping the province of Newfoundland, or the province of New Brunswick, or my home province of Manitoba.

My province geographically speaking is smack dab in the middle of the country but we are in terms of wealth a have less province. I do not say have not. I do not like that term. I say have less. However, thanks to equalization and other transfer payments of one kind or another, Manitobans can expect a certain standard of living, a certain standard of services thanks to a vision that our forefathers had a long time ago. I am very proud of that.

In conclusion, I want to say that I am very glad the government has re-enunciated its commitment to equalization. We know where we are going for the next five years. It is very important. We have heard this from a number of government agencies, not only from provinces. They want to know where we are taking them. They want to know where they stand. I think that is very reasonable.

I support Bill C-3 and I hope we can move forward with it very quickly.

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4:15 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg St. James for his comments.

The hon. member made a terrible mistake. He discussed hockey in the middle of a political speech. Whenever we do that we run the risk that the conversation will quickly turn away from politics and stay strictly with hockey.

The NHL has a form of equalization. It has the annual draft which has the effect of redirecting players to teams that perform poorly and I should add, redirecting players away from the areas of the NHL to some of the smaller urban centres in Canada that produce a lot of the hockey talent. Arguably there is a form of equalization that is overequalization and quite detrimental in that case to our interests. It is somewhat like what the member for Lethbridge alluded to yesterday when he talked about overequalization in some of our programs here.

I would just like to ask the member for his comments on one question. I am curious about his perspective. Under equalization levels for this year, 1994-95, the per capita top up for the province of Manitoba is $849 and for the province of Saskatchewan $552, his province and the neighbouring province. This is a tremendous difference. I have looked at statistics from Statistics Canada and I see that Saskatchewan residents have a lower personal income per capita than Manitoba. This seems to me to be a bizarre result and one that is in favour of his province.

Does he think there are problems in the formula? Maybe some time down the road we should study the formula and come up with a more fair one that is easier for people to understand and a little more clear in the kinds of results it produces. I would be interested in his views on some of the particulars of the equalization program.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. friend from Calgary West. I am glad he supports the principle of equalization. I did overlook the matter of drafting in the NHL. However when it comes to straight financial arrangements there is no equalization.

With respect to Manitoba's share under the equalization program, my good friend from Calgary is suggesting that perhaps Manitoba is not treated as well as Saskatchewan. I am not prepared to give an evaluation right here and now about that. Earlier today in question period the Prime Minister pointed out that this is a very complicated formula.

I would like to say this to my friend from Calgary. I do not think that equalization can be all things to all people. It cannot be the panacea or the answer for every fiscal problem faced by the federal government or by the provinces.

I would just point out one thing to my hon. friend. When it comes to western stabilization or the famous Crow rate, western farmers share in that program to the tune of $700 million, somewhere in that neighbourhood.

That is a program for western farmers. We are all in favour of it. As far as I know, people in Newfoundland do not share in it. People in Nova Scotia do not share in it and so it goes. People in Quebec do not share in it.

What I am getting at is that while perhaps equalization does not take care of every difficulty that we have in this Confederation, we do have other programs. If the speaker is asking whether we should not revisit the formula that is used under equalization, no, I would not bury my head in the sand. If that is what he is asking it is fine and dandy with me.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank and congratulate the hon. member for Winnipeg for his speech on hockey-it is my favourite topic-but we will now move on to something more important. I found out that he worked for the CBC, which is my other topic. This honourable organization did such a good job that the two solitudes have grown further apart with each passing year.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister reminded us that somebody else had his head in the sand; the hon. member just told us that he does not have his head in the sand. I must conclude that this government is going from coast to coast in a submarine to hide from reality in this country. This country is two countries. That is what we have been trying to say since we came here, and we must stop suppressing this reality. There are two countries: Canada and Quebec. We came here to speak for Quebec and to defend its interests. In addition we were presented with Official Opposition status on a silver platter. We will also look after Canada because we want the country to be in good shape when we leave. We do not want a heavier debt burden and we want our share of a country that can stand up. We do not want to leave in a wheelchair.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, all I want to say is that the Bloc suffers from double vision and I suggest it should see a doctor.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Laurent Lavigne Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened closely to the previous speaker. He criticizes Bloc members, and the province of Quebec, for focusing on money and on how poor we are and how we do not get our fair share of the equalization pie. But if this gentleman paid us a visit, he would see the effects of not getting our fair share of equalization payments for research and development and regional development. What is the outcome? Unemployment.

Let him go and tell Quebecers on unemployment or welfare what a great and beautiful country Canada is. When one is hungry, unemployed or dependent on welfare, one does not care much about this great and beautiful Canada. That is why equalization transfers are important. We must get our piece of the pie.

Quebec hands over to Canada over $28 billion a year in taxes, but we are left with the crumbs. This has drastic consequences in the daily lives of the people of our country, which is Quebec. That is why we are not afraid to claim what Quebec is entitled to.

We are not indifferent to the Canadian deficit and $500 billion debt, as it has daily consequences for all people living in this country. Speeches such as the one delivered earlier should not be allowed.