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House of Commons Hansard #42 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table in both official languages the government's response to five petitions

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. In this report, our committee recommends that it be authorized to act as advisor to the speakers of the Senate and of the House of Commons when they exercise their authority over the Library. We are also asking permission to meet with a reduced quorum as well as during sitting of the Senate. This is the first report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament since March 5, 1970.

Canada Elections ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-229, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (registration of political parties).

Mr. Speaker, as members know this is my very first private members' bill. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canada Elections Act to allow the registration of political parties by the chief electoral officer only when the party nominates candidates in at least seven provinces that have an aggregate of at least 50 per cent of the population of all the provinces and in at least half of the electoral district in each of those seven provinces.

For the purposes of the Canada Elections Act, "province" includes Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to present to the House of Commons pursuant to Standing Order 36 a petition on behalf of many of my constituents as well as others who reside in Saskatchewan. These petitioners are interested in seeing Bill C-91 repealed because of the dramatic effect it has had on the price of prescription drugs in Canada.

In essence, Bill C-91 has driven up the price of prescription drugs by over 120 per cent in the last five years. This has been a severe problem financially for those people who require prescription drugs. It also has hindered provincial governments across the country in terms of restricting and reducing the drug plans they have.

The Canadians from Saskatchewan who have signed this reside in Semans, Duval, Nokomis, Earl Grey, Assiniboia, Craven, Southey, Cupar and Strasbourg to name a few of the communities.

I summarize by saying they are begging and requesting this Parliament to repeal Bill C-91, the drug patent legislation.

(Questions answered orally are indicated by an asterisk.)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 10.

Question No. 10-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

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

What action, if any, has the Department of Fisheries and Oceans taken to resolve the many long-standing deficiencies- in management practices of the fishing vessel insurance plan, including a rapidly declining insurance base, rising deficits, and declining efficiency, the failure to improve client service and the process for reviewing and approving claims, the plan's deteriorating performance, and the Department's lack of corrective action, as raised by the 1992 Auditor General's report?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has taken a number of steps to address concerns raised in the 1992 Auditor General's report.

In February 1993, a general manager at the executive level was appointed for the program with headquarters in St. John's, Newfoundland. This concentration of full line autority for managing program resources across all regions has streamlined decision making and reduced opportunities for diverting funds away from the program. The consolidation of two regional offices and a reduction of staff complement through attrition has resulted in increased efficiency at decreased costs.

Steps have been taken to ensure the implementation of a national FVIP data base by the first quarter of fiscal year 1993-94. This will provide needed management information for ensuring more efficient administration, establishing appropriate rate structures, maximizing revenue and setting national standards in a number of areas.

A training program developed for field officers on vessel appraisals and claims adjustments is now in progress. The first two week session began on February 28, 1994 and the second two week session started March 12, 1994. Training will also be provided as part of the data base implementation.

Updated procedures for the review and approval of claims now ensure that claims are forwarded to head office with proper documentation. As a result, HQ approval has been reduced to one week thus improving overall service to clients.

A report has been prepared assessing the reasons for the declining insurance base and recommending measures to reverse the trend. This report is now being analyzed.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The question mentioned by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary has been answered.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Shall the remaining questions be allowed to stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

moved:

That this House deplore the government's lack of vision and lack of concrete measures relating to job creation policies.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending March 31, 1994, the House will go through the usual procedure to consider and dispose of the supply bills.

In view of recent practices do hon. members agree that these bills be distributed now?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed we, the Official Opposition, feel that it is important to make this House and the government aware of the need to worry, and not just talk, about employment in Canada.

Four heavyweight ministers-I do not intend to put them on a diet -participated in the last G-7 conference. We are waiting for them to inform us of the innovative solutions they learned at that conference to help Canada improve the tragic situation of unemployment here.

I must admit however that I am anxious to see what these senior ministers will propose, considering that when the previous crisis occurred, the G-7 advocated drastic measures to control inflation and Canada subscribed to those, so much so in fact that it tried to show the way and applied a solution whose effects were worse than the problem.

In fact, it seems to me that the federal government must ask itself what kind of policy would stimulate employment, as Quebec has done perhaps because it has been experiencing serious unemployment problems for a long time. Quite often countries, including G-7 members and those which are most easily and naturally prosperous because they have been wealthy for a long time, think that employment is what is left once everything else has been looked after. So the government looks of course after problems such as inflation and the deficit, which is largely the result of its anti-inflationary policies, and what is left in the end is the employment situation.

Then nice speeches are made to say how sorry the government is to learn of the plight of the poor ordinary citizen who is in real trouble, who has no security, and who is deprived of what little hope he may have had of at least getting a minimum income for a while through UI benefits. So the government makes nice

speeches to the effect that it is concerned about employment, and it gets elected by pledging to look after the problem but, in fact, it is essentially business as usual.

I want to take this opportunity to tell members of this House- even though their previous income level was not necessarily the same-that very few Canadians and Quebecers enjoy the same peace of mind as we do. Indeed, many of them live in a great state of insecurity which has a profound influence on the rest of their lives.

Of course, when we are in office, we are surrounded by advisors who tell us: You must not worry about it. It is a jobless recovery, it is the same everywhere, and you must get used to people's anger. You have to be thick skinned and not let yourself be moved if you see people who are having a hard time.

I would like to take the time allotted to me to say that there are two main types of economic policy. The first, the most common kind, is a sort of laissez faire, as I was saying; you look after the fashionable parameters and live with the outcome once that is done, and that is the more or less long-term unemployed.

We know that since the 1980s, some ideas that were in in the 1930s have come back in fashion; they say that basically only the strong can survive, so let us help the strong and as for the weak, well, too bad, they are disadvantaged so let them suffer.

But other countries over the years have developed other types of policies where employment is not a leftover, not a residual concern about which nothing can be done; no, they say: the purpose of the economy must be to give ordinary people a minimum, not just enough to keep them from dying, but enough to live with dignity, to have some hope and fulfilment, and in our societies for a long time to come, the key will still be employment.

Some societies have taken the trouble to give themselves instruments, not just macro-economic instruments, not just monetary policy, not just a policy on the deficit, not just a trade policy, but a policy concerned with how jobs are actually created and lost and how, with patient effort, by influencing macro-economic policies, through common effort and working together, asking questions, even tough questions, the future of people can be assured.

Unfortunately, we must admit that in politics, these methods often take time and politicians, men and women in politics, because I distinguish the two, can be in a hurry, their time is limited. However, there can be no quick-fix solutions-there are none. There is only the ability to look at a situation and to develop approaches with people at the grass roots.

Mr. Speaker, you will understand that I will talk about decentralization at some point and I will talk about Quebec. But before that, I want to remind you of the situation, not for the fun of it, because it is not at all funny. The latest figures show 1,559,000 unemployed people. Remember that the unemployed counted here are those who are actively looking for work. You can be unemployed but not counted in this category if you are a discouraged worker. It is more practical that way; you are forgotten.

In Quebec, how many are officially unemployed? There are 428,000, not counting all the long-term unemployed who are on welfare. We can say without exaggeration that there are about 800,000 unemployed people in Quebec who are actually looking for work, although not as Statistics Canada sees it. The lives of 800,000 people in Quebec alone are tied to the ability to find work. It is a question of self-esteem, of parents being able to face their children or help them, of people being able to build a home, have children. According to Statistics Canada, there are 1.5 million unemployed in this country.

The Liberal government came to power on a worthwhile slogan. In either French or English, it was "jobs, jobs, jobs". The government rose to power on the heels of this catchy slogan.

The Liberals conducted a clever campaign. Their slogan amounted to: "Vote for us, vote Liberal".

So, what has this government done to follow through on its promise to create jobs, jobs, jobs?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

It has created jobs.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Since being elected? You must be joking. Look at the record.

Mr. Speaker, would you kindly remind hon. members to be courteous and to look at the latest Statistics Canada figures?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

As the hon. member should.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

I have seen quite few figures, sir.

So then, what is the government doing? It does not like to be reminded of its record, but that is our job. What action has it taken? First of all, it cancelled the helicopter deal, without giving any thought to preserving high-tech and scientific jobs, as the Bloc had recommended.

Next, it increased unemployment insurance premiums. It is trying to make people forget this decision any way it can by saying that it will lower the premiums next year. I will come back to this point.

The government plans to inject $1 billion a year into its largest initiative, the Infrastructure Program. It hopes that the provinces and municipalities will match this amount. After two years, the government hopes to have created between 45,000 and 65,000 temporary or short-term jobs. It is a simple matter to calculate the cost of each one of the 65,000 jobs, in light of the problems.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite should stop saying that they have created jobs. If that was their slogan, and if they are satisfied with the Infrastructure Program-some bad language comes to mind, but I realize that members cannot speak such words in this House, unless they are willing to temper their remarks and I have no desire to do so.

At best, the Infrastructure Program will create 65,000 jobs. According to the Johnson government, the program will create 20,000 in Quebec. By extrapolating, we see that this initiative will create 20,000 jobs, while the lives of 800,000 depend on finding a job, often any job.

Therefore, when the government says it has followed through on its promises when we know that this program is only a drop in the bucket, it is showing a certain lack of understanding and compassion, as well as extreme thoughtlessness. Its actions must be sternly denounced. Can anyone argue that this is the way to create jobs? However, for the government to be satisfied with creating 65,000 jobs-and this is not done yet-by the end of this period and to claim "mission accomplished", words fail me, Mr. Speaker. Let me just leave it at that.

The government's next move was to bring down a budget, which it claimed, with great fanfare, would get Canada out of the woods.

What was not mentioned too often though is the fact that the forecasts-not the targets but the actual forecasts-for employment in this budget see the overall rate of unemployment move from 11.2 per cent in 1993 to 10.8 per cent by the end of 1995 in Canada. This means that the government itself is resigned to doing nothing more than what is outlined in the infrastructure plan and hope it stirs things up a little.

Mr. Speaker, this is my first mandate as a member of Parliament, not that I did not try to get elected before, and if my constituents have elected me to represent our riding, it is to testify to the best of my abilities to the misery and despair of so many people. I will never tolerate that the government does nothing after running on a platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs". And especially after claiming-and this shows its lack of imagination-that 40,000 jobs will be created by the end of 1996 because it did not further increase unemployment insurance premiums.

The government says-and I know the word for saying the opposite of the truth cannot be used in this place-that it will create jobs, when in fact the only thing it will be doing is not further hindering job creation. The truth is, based on Employment and Immigration Canada's indicators, that the January UI premium increase probably prevented the creation of 9,000 jobs. That is the truth. We are expected to applaud the government for not preventing the creation of 40,000 jobs by the end of 1996! That is not my idea of a good employment policy.

The government has all the tools of a powerful state. In spite of its huge debt, Canada is part of the G-7, although it is closer to being booted out than ever before. It is among the have nations. This wealth, admittedly, was acquired for a large part owing to the richness of Canada's subsoil. As the government is now discovering, its true strength rests with its human resources.

Unfortunately, there is no easy recipe for investing in human resources development, and job training, as powerful a tool as it may be, is not a cure-all. I have spent a lot of time, along with other members of the Committee on Human Resources Development, in hearings where we were told repeatedly by the people involved in assisting individuals looking for a job how many of them have qualifications that they cannot even use. Painting in glowing colours the advantages of a little job training, which would be made compulsory, and having people believe that this would solve all their problems and create these jobs they are looking for is not permissible. In fact, it is absolutely forbidden. In any case, it goes against the testimony we heard from people working in the field. In Quebec alone-I do not know the latest figures but I will use slightly lower figures than those recorded during the last recession-over 4,000 engineers were jobless; we are talking about engineers and not about someone who took a little three-month course to upgrade his or her skills in some area. I am not underestimating the value of such courses. But I am saying that to make people believe they can get jobs after a short, compulsory training period is fiddling with the truth.

We will have many opportunities to come back to this issue. However, I wanted to say that I participated-I did not check the time I have left, I will be quick, I could have asked you before continuing-with 1,200 other people in the Quebec forum on social solidarity. What I want to say is this: There has been, at least in Quebec, perhaps because the unemployment problem there has been serious for a long time, a change in mentality. We do not simply ask others to show their concern about jobs. We know-and it may be true of unions, it is true of businesses, governments, and individuals-that the unemployment problem can only be tackled by means of a policy of solidarity. Solidarity means that everyone, including the rich, will have to do their part. We cannot simply let the rich carry on with their business while telling others they must tighten their belts because we can no longer afford to pay for social programs.

We in Quebec have been working on these issues for a long time. We have developed the ability to act in concert with employers, unions, citizens' groups, and governments. After a long debate, we developed a capacity to reach a consensus. Many see sovereignty as a project because we can no longer afford to waste time on discussions. We want to act quickly to

use the resources at our disposal in pursuing the priorities developed in the regions of Quebec.

I am making this speech in this House because I know that other regions of Canada are facing tremendous problems, that they can no longer rely on their previous wealth, that they may have to undergo a long process. But, if the government is not aware of this, if it thinks it can collect revenues and leave those in difficulty out in the cold, it is on the wrong track. It can change course and that is the purpose of today's motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Lavigne Liberal Verdun—Saint-Paul, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of always criticizing everything this government does, she should realize there is more to this than infrastructures. Members should look at the situation for small businesses in their ridings, get organized and help create small businesses. These generate a lot of jobs and can be created in all regions. I think that if all members look after their ridings as they should, a lot of jobs could be created in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

I think the hon. member should look around in Quebec, as I have been doing, since we have already started into small businesses, and we have made a start with creating jobs. We are looking in my riding at all the agencies that take care of job creation and training, to ensure that people are not being trained for jobs that do not exist. If we provide training and if once people finish their training, they have no jobs, it is no use training them.

We should have on-the-job training, with the assurance of a job for at least the next few years because, as you know, small business creates 85 per cent of the jobs in this country. I want to ask the hon. member what she has done in her own riding since she was elected and what kind of initiatives she has introduced.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to smile when I see someone who wants to put the employment problem right back on every member's doorstep. I find that amazing. I do not see why a party would want to get elected and have the power and the instruments it needs to run the economy, if it means making members responsible for job creation.

However, I will give you my thoughts on small businesses, and I can tell you the concept was not discovered by the newly-elected Liberal government. It has been common knowledge for years. Anyone who is concerned about employment issues knows where the jobs are. There are jobs in the public sector, which are being cut because it is felt the public sector is costing too much, which means fewer jobs and less money in circulation. However, one soon realizes that jobs are created by the business sector. At one time I was working for a union and I said, at great personal cost to myself, that unionized workers should be concerned about productivity.

Yes, small businesses do create jobs. But the federal government, which runs Employment and Immigration Canada and which has, and this is just an example, I am hitting the ball back in your court, Self-Employment Assistance-

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order, please. I might remind hon. members on both sides of the House that they are to address their remarks through the Chair.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I said this in the heat of the debate, and I apologize. I certainly would not be able to maintain this intensity when addressing the Chair.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say to the hon. member that Employment and Immigration Canada, which has what could be an effective mechanism, called Self-Employment Assistance, decided, despite the unemployment rate we have in the Montreal area, to restrict the number of persons-I think it is 125 or 165-to be given assistance in starting a small business. However, it has been proven this option is effective. Throughout the Montreal area, we see people who have projects but often do not have enough money to make the initial investment. They lack a framework and need help in the start-up stage- I have done that sort of thing, and I know what I am talking about. There are a lot of people like that. Unfortunately, governments are only concerned about macro-economic policies and do not care about how jobs are created or lost. We have businesses closing that should not close, but they say these are lame ducks, and so forth. There is a lot of time and effort involved in starting a business, and sometimes all it takes is a few adjustments and some management restructuring. With a little more attention and assistance, far more could be done for these businesses.

As far as small businesses are concerned, I am looking after my riding and helping specific businesses, but the hon. member is not about to make me responsible for what a government should be doing, including the obligation to know what has to be done at the grass roots level.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech which, and this might amaze her, I enjoyed. Now I am asking her and her party to help me. I am not passing the buck.

What I am referring to is last week in my riding of Kent in southwestern Ontario, the provincial government removed the excise tax on ethanol and also contributed $5 million to the building of a $160 million to $170 million company in the riding. I have been asking our government if it would do the

same as the provincial government did and keep the excise tax off ethanol for at least the next 12 years.

It is in the red book. It is environmentally friendly. The job creation factor is that over 90 employees will work in this factory, with a spinoff of over 400 to the agricultural area, taking in the corn in the area to put into ethanol.

The next factory to be built after the completion of this factory, anticipating the passage of this bill in the House, will be in Quebec. It will be the same size; a $170 million plant to help not only Quebec but Ontario. Another is being built in Saskatchewan as well as an addition on the one already there.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I know that members would want to seize the opportunity in the limited time of questions and comments to make them directly to the last spokesperson. If we are going to have a triumvirate discussion, excluding the Speaker, we would have great difficulty getting to the issues of the day.

The hon. member for Kent, please.