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.


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11:50 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to see how the opposition motion dealing with "the government's lack of vision and lack of concrete measures relating to job creation policies" draws the members' attention to this problem, which is a very real one, as

we saw during the election campaign. The interest shown here is much greater than in the case of previous motions calling for the striking of committees. It seems that on the government side, they are either getting highly specialized in that area or just falling asleep. The motion before the House today is giving rise to an interesting debate, and so it should.

As a matter of fact, the two major tasks the government was supposed to tackle to meet voter expectations after it was elected, were control of expenditures and job creation.

The budget tabled by the Minister of Finance was a blatant indication of this government's failure to give itself enough room to manoeuvre and make the cuts required to invest in job creation. Because of this budget, Canada still has to pay a risk premium on the money it borrows abroad. I think that this is proof enough of the lack of efficiency and commitment on the part of the present government in the area of job creation.

The most blatant betrayal of their election promises can be found in the job creation field. I read somewhere in the Liberal Plan for Canada , which is not ten years old but only six months old, that unemployment was a waste of human and economic resources. And that the top priority for a Liberal government would be job creation.

And yet, this Liberal government is offering nothing more than an infrastructure program. It will take a lot more than a project, which might create 45 000 temporary jobs, to give hope to the 1 565 000 Canadians who are out of work, 437 000 of them in Quebec. The government's action does not reflect the sense of urgency to create jobs they talked about during the election campaign. Why is it? I think it is due to a lack of vision on the part of the government. It is unable to show the kind of vision necessary to face these tremendous times we are going through.

The structural changes brought about by the globalization of the economy make the conventional wisdom obsolete. To meet their objectives, the Liberals are counting on the economy recovering on its own. For the Canadian economy to reach its full potential, the annual growth rate should be above 4 per cent over the next four years.

The few measures taken now will not be enough to meet this objective; they are mere window dressing.

The initiatives undertaken by the Liberals only touch upon the problem and the government refuses to do something about structural unemployment, which prompted the minister of Finance to say that it would be unrealistic to think that the unemployment rate would drop below 8 per cent within five years. Is it no longer urgent to create jobs?

What would have been the building blocks of a stringent and efficient policy to fight unemployment, which is a waste of our very own human resources? The first building block would have been to restore consumer confidence.

The election campaign restored hope among Canadians and Quebecers for some major changes, including a change in attitude for the government, and voters thought they finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, Canadians and Quebecers learned that the estimated deficit of the Liberal government would reach an all-time high, at $39.7 billion. They cried wolf for several months and came out with a miserable little policy.

Second negative signal, going after the unemployed instead of unemployment. Following the unemployment insurance reform, you will have to work more weeks in order to be entitled to less weeks of UI benefits, and those benefits would, in several cases, be reduced. Given that, the people in Quebec and in Canada have no reason to regain confidence and to decide, for example, to buy a house.

A young couple with no job security, where both spouses hold seasonal jobs, will understand from the messages sent concerning UI reform that, in a year or two, they will not be able to get the income support provided by the unemployment insurance program, because of the increased number of weeks claimants have to work, and for that specific reason they will decide not to buy a house. It would be totally irresponsible to decide otherwise.

The government sent another negative signal when it decided to wait until 1995-96 before reducing the unemployment insurance premiums from $3.07 to $3, which proves that the Liberals do not feel the situation is very urgent. To send a positive signal to Canadians and Quebecers, they would have had to freeze the premiums at $3 in 1994-95, and not only starting in 1995-96.

No, job creation is not really an obsession for the government, it is not even a priority, if you ask me.

Indeed, the government itself is undermining the confidence of consumers by recognizing that these measures will only have a minor effect on unemployment, since it is said in the Budget that unemployment will hover around 11 per cent in 1995.

In my last years at university, an 11 per cent unemployment rate would have been so totally unacceptable that people would have taken to the streets. In those days, unemployment was at 3, 4 or 5 per cent and even then, it was considered unacceptable. We are now told in the budget speech, which reflects the official position of the government, that we can live with an 11 per cent unemployment rate. This demonstrates, I think, that the government is not up to its responsibilities and, above all, to its campaign promises.

I think one rare encouraging signal in the Budget is the permanent renewal of the program enabling people to use RRSP funds to buy a first house. However, as I have just said, employment insecurity dampens the enthusiasm of many.

Another building block of a stringent policy would have been to send a clear message to the government machinery as a whole that the government is engaged in a ruthless battle against unemployment. Instead, the Governor of the Bank of Canada is replaced by another of the same philosophy. The monetary policy of the Bank of Canada is praised even though it is responsible for the fact that the recession was harsher in Canada than in the United States.

The demagogic struggle which the Bank of Canada has led and is still leading while the Canadian economy is plummeting has contributed to kill whatever confidence consumers had in the future of their economy. We must stop being afraid to be afraid and achieve a new dynamism. It is not with this kind of message that we will succeed in making progress.

If you compare the United States with Canada today, you will understand why the Americans are far better off than we are. Between 1989 and 1992, the United States pursued a monetary policy aimed at containing the recession and stimulating economic recovery. American monetary authorities are willing to accept an inflation rate that is higher than ours. There is an economic principle that says that if you fight inflation, unemployment will go up, and vice versa. This principle is long-standing and very fundamental since it is taught in any introductory course in economics. So, we have been very dogmatic and the results of that are obvious in the situation we are facing today.

The third building block of a measure that could have been adopted is a job creation policy specifically directed towards the main groups of unemployed Canadians that should be put back to work.

I have been sitting on the human resources development committee for a few weeks and I am very surprised by the way people talk about how we are going to get things from the disadvantaged. We are always on the defensive, whereas we should take advantage of a department like the Department of Human Resources Development to initiate positive measures, to turn to people who are doers and who will help us turn the situation around instead of simply guarding the status quo.

The primary group that should be targeted is young graduates, people between 20 and 35 years of age. Nowhere in government commitments is this group mentioned as being the target of structural projects.

There could be other structural projects, but there is one example that we have been focussing on in the House for a long time, and I think that we will keep coming back to it. The Bloc Quebecois would like the high-speed train project in the Quebec-Windsor corridor to be carried out. The realization of this project could have a ripple effect similar to that of the great hydro-electric projects of the 1970s. We feel it is essential that Canada and Quebec invest in railway infrastructure for transportation of goods and passengers.

We have a vast territory and the maintenance of the road network is very costly. Moreover, developing a competitive economy while banking on individual transportation is not an environment-friendly solution. The Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to restructuring the railway system if this helps increase its profitability. However, we have to proceed while taking into account possible alternatives instead of abandoning this mode of transportation bit by bit.

Rail transportation is not just nostalgia, it can also be a major development tool, as much for Canada as for Quebec, and it is urgent that we become aware of that and take action accordingly. Canada and Quebec must therefore adopt an efficient public transport policy.

The Quebec City-Windsor high-speed train project would cost about $7.5 billion over a ten year period, but 70 per cent of it would be funded by the private sector. The remaining 30 per cent, about $2.3 billion, would be funded by the Quebec, Ontario and federal governments. By getting involved in this HST project, this government would help stimulate a $5.3 billion investment by the private sector, not counting the spin-offs.

During construction, tax revenues generated by the project would amount to $1.8 billion. Thus, the funding provided would soon be recovered. The HST requires less funding than the infrastructure program and is an investment rather than an expenditure.

This investment by the federal government would not increase the Canadian debt and would help make VIA Rail profitable. It would create almost 120,000 jobs annually, including 80,000 direct jobs in the construction of the infrastructure and the manufacturing of equipment for the HST, and 40,000 indirect jobs upstream and downstream from the project. It would reduce unemployment insurance costs for the government.

In 1991, the Ontario-Quebec Rapid Train Task Force made a comprehensive feasibility study. Extensive public consultations concluded that people in the areas affected by the rapid train project would support it. It has been said many times that the Quebec City-Windsor corridor is crucial and that it is important that the cities in that corridor be made more effective in order to succeed in a competitive market.

Since the committee concluded that the project is relevant, a committee with representatives of the federal, Quebec and Ontario governments was set up to make a cost-benefit analysis of different technologies. The Bloc Quebecois advocates the implementation of an environment-friendly technology. The HST would reduce government spending. It would provide intercity transportation at a much lower cost than an expansion of road or air transportation services. This is a good example of a

streamlining of expenditures which would have a positive impact on job creation.

The multiplier effect of the HST project would contribute to strengthening of local economies. In Europe, it has been demonstrated that the HST can be an engine of growth for job creation and economic renewal. It would attract hotels, office buildings, convention centres, restaurants and other commercial and tourist activities.

During the election campaign, the finance minister acknowledged the structural erosion in Montreal and made a commitment to look for ways and means of solving this problem. He made the following diagnosis: the industrial structure of Montreal is obsolete and fragile and it is not being replaced by new, dynamic, and technologically interesting manufacturing industries. Why is it that the government does not take any action consistent with this diagnosis?

The HST would be an industrial force for Canada and Quebec. Our standard of living and our competitiveness depend on decisions we make now. We cannot sign away our future by rejecting the high-speed train or any other infrastructure project of this kind. Time is running out. If governments act right now, we will have a strategic lead on the North American high-speed train market. There are 20 projects of this type in the United States, a market estimated at more than $200 billion for the next 15 to 20 years. If we are the first on the market, our businesses will benefit from exports of technology.

The Canadian government must have a long-term vision and restart the economy by implementing innovative projects. The high-speed train seems to be a much better way to create jobs creation and increase competitiveness for a lower public investment level.

Furthermore, we must also ensure that productivity gains made by using new equipment, for example, in forestry, do not benefit only investors. These people have a right to make profits, but we must at the same time invest in tomorrow's forests, thus allowing the workers who were replaced by machines to work in tree planting, which will prevent in the medium-term stock shortages like those which fishermen are cruelly experiencing at the present time.

If we do not learn from the fisheries example, we will face the same problems in forestry 20 years from now. Above all, we will cause a serious social crisis in regions where traditional forestry communities have maintained a balance between production capacities and the growth of the forest. Given the new machinery now in use, other means must be developed to counterbalance the increase in production, or tree felling, through adequate forestation techniques. A skilled workforce is ready to take over such trades, but these people will never enrol in high-technology training programs. They are qualified for forest jobs, which I think we should provide them with.

Canada's slow recovery from the recession is also indicative of the inability of the federal system to face the increasingly deep changes sweeping the global economic order. Jurisdictional conflicts, overlap and duplication, and bureaucratic centralization all contribute to our slow responses and to the inefficiency of the measures taken. Think of the infrastructure program! I agree that this program is very good in itself, but when it takes three governments to decide whether or not a stretch of sidewalk should be laid in a village, I think efficiency is definitely lacking.

On top of jurisdictional conflicts, unemployment is a problem which is even more apparent to me on my riding tours. The unemployed need training programs, but the whole array of programs confuses them, not for lack of the required brochures, not because civil servants neglect their jobs, but because too many governments play a part in this jungle, and we have not really developed the tools which would allow us to reach the unemployed in serious need of adequate training programs.

There are 1.5 million unemployed in Canada, but only some 600,000 available jobs. That imbalance stems from the system's inability to adapt rapidly to emerging manpower needs.

Moreover, Canada has not solved its regional disparity problem, in spite of all the efforts made during the last 30 years: federal-provincial agreements, federal economic intervention in provincial fields of jurisdiction, and grant programs. Again last week, the whole issue of regional development in Canada came up once more, because we turned away from real solutions, which require assigning responsibilities, powers and the appropriate level of government's ability to tax.

The problem has not been not solved since the solution lies in deep structural changes which have yet to be settled after 30 years of constitutional debate. Some will say that Canadians do not want to hear about the Constitution. However, they want to put an end to the personal difficulties encountered by those unemployed individuals searching for jobs, whom they meet everyday. It is for us to propose solutions. Social program reform is part of the same logic that brought about the disastrous conditions we are experiencing today.

To conclude, I feel that the government should learn from the past. In order to allow his country to emerge from the Great Depression of the thirties, President Franklin Roosevelt did not hesitate to look for new ways to restore confidence among Americans. He undertook important programs, such as the one in the Tennessee Valley, which restored the confidence of the American people. Essentially, one only needs to have the

political will and the necessary vision to put Quebecers and Canadians back to work.

To build a society, one needs the participation of all human resources and a revolutionary change in attitudes and practices in order to allow each segment of this society to build its development on its strengths.

The present government was not elected to act as the steward of Canada. It was elected to turn things around and to give to Quebecers and Canadians a sense of pride in their achievements. There is still time to act.

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12:10 p.m.


Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the day after the Academy Awards the remarks of the hon. member opposite are interesting in the sense that they were very flashy. It was a good performance.

I tried to follow his logic. I had problems listening to the litany of events historically and of statistics quoted by him in the early part of his speech which he attributes to the repercussions on job creation. Like most members of the party opposite he always refers to Canada and Quebec.

I have a question but I want to draw an analogy first. I live in a border riding not far from the city of Detroit. In the late 1960s we saw in Detroit the rise of the city state, a city at that time of some six million people, not unlike the province of Quebec in terms of population. In the late 1960s we saw the rise of a certain economic pride in the black community. We saw the rise of a saviour by the name of Mr. Coleman Young who became the mayor of Detroit. Mr. Young promised the people of Detroit that he would lead them out of the wilderness into some sort of economic nirvana.

In 1993 Mr. Coleman Young decided he would not run again; at 75 years of age he had had it. At the same time we find that the population of Detroit has declined. The economic base has declined and I ask the simple question why. It was the so-called city state, this type of nationalism that arose in that city that killed business. In fact development did occur in the state of Michigan. It did occur in the United States but it did not occur in Detroit because of the economic policies of that city.

Using the analogy that there is a certain element of nationalism, much like in the city state of Detroit in the late 1960s, will this have a repercussion on job creation, the 465,000 people he claims to be unemployed in the province of Quebec-I do not dispute that number-and are the policies of his party also not contributing to that uncertainty, the creation of the mentality that nobody wants to invest in the province of Quebec because of the policies put forward by his party?

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12:10 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that I talked not so much about the actual government's policy but rather its lack of policy regarding job creation.

As for nationalism which the member mentioned without going into specifics, he was probably referring to the nationalism of Pierre Trudeau who, by creating the Foreign Investment Review Agency, caused serious investment problems in Canada, problems which had to be corrected in order to restore Canada's international image. My colleague was probably referring to that kind of nationalism.

As for pride, I think we have shown in Quebec that despite the current system's shortcomings we were able to develop instruments for capital funds management. For example, the influence of the Mouvement Desjardins and the Fonds de solidarité des travailleurs has been such that, whereas Ontario members of the industry committee are trying, in a roundabout manner, to find ways to enrol them in a way that will allow them to get closer to contractors, in Quebec we have already found a solution to that problem.

We have also found a solution to another problem, namely worker consultation and everyone in Quebec, be it employers, union members, the government or political parties is asking for the patriation of the jurisdiction on labour. There is a unanimous agreement on that. Therefore, a sound nationalism is compatible with positions that further a society's progress.

Let us not forget that our nationalism has also permitted North America to sign the Free Trade Agreement because Quebec is the province that gave the most active support to the agreement and contributed the most to the initiative that will create a certain economic boom in North America. In that sense I can be proud of what we have accomplished.

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12:15 p.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope the previous speaker from the Reform Party listened to my hon. colleague because he would have learned something about history that my hon. friend mentioned and that I was going to mention earlier. We had a depression when the law of supply and demand held sway in the country, on this continent and in the world. We had a mini replay of the thirties in the eighties. We got heated up and there was to be no tomorrow. Interest rates went as high as 19 per cent.

My question has to do with the jurisdictional wars I heard about. In the House committee I am serving on we are working at harmonizing matters between departments and levels of government, not having wars. The infrastructure program was very

careful in putting decision making at the local level, at the municipal level, and that is where it is. I have seen no evidence of jurisdictional wars.

Perhaps my hon. friend does not have that kind of co-operation in his riding. I do in my riding. People are very pleased with the fact that they are deciding at the grassroots level where the money is to go.

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12:15 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I believe it would be appropriate to repeat my position on infrastructures to make sure it is well understood.

To provide this country with adequate infrastructures is fine and is something we need. However, the present Canadian system calls for too much manoeuvering between the three levels of government-federal, provincial and local governments-which have an input in decisions that, in my opinion, should be taken at local level only. Without laying on the table that the one solution is sovereignty, it is clear that the centralized decision-making process is a problem in Canada, one which we have tried to bypass in many ways. In terms of regional development, departments were established in order to be able to deal directly with clients because the federal bureaucracy could not reach those regions.

Therefore, there is a structural problem. And the federalists should have a vision about what they can do to be more efficient and effective and stop developing tools aimed at making governments more visible.

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12:15 p.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief comment. As the hon. member was speaking about rapid transit, modern communications and rail fast track, I too could sympathize with those thoughts. Coming from Nova Scotia, we would like to have a better transportation system. We believe that rail is far more sustainable than highway. We are looking in those same directions.

However, what puzzles me is that as the member talks he sounds as if he is talking as a federalist, as a complete Canadian nationalist. He wants railways to go from Quebec to Ontario. He wants them to be sustainable, to serve all Canadians. I am wondering how this serves Canada and at the same time how he can separate his thoughts from the country.

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12:20 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, if having a vision means that we are looking for the economic development of Quebec and Canada in an adequate and coordinated way, whether federalist or else, I am saying that when Quebec is sovereign, there will still be transportation needs to and from Canada, the United States, Mexico, South America, Europe, every part of the world. Since we will always need tools, we might as well have the best.

In 1867, the Canada compromise was based on the east-west road. Why not redefine the territories, the jurisdictions and say that Quebec is a country and Canada is another one, and that the high-speed train could serve as one of the main communication links between those two countries?

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12:20 p.m.

Ottawa West Ontario


Marlene Catterall LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to have the opportunity to address the members of this House and to reply on this motion.

The motion would condemn the government for a lack of vision in the area of job creation. I would like to comment on this point. A motion saying that the House should deplore the government's lack of vision and lack of concrete measures relating to job creation policies shows very little vision and very little concrete policies in and of itself.

It is a very shortsighted motion and a very shortsighted view of the program the government has placed before Parliament. All members of the House know what major issues are facing the country: the economy, the deficit and job creation. These are easy to see.

We have the example of previous governments that chose to address one or another of these problems at the expense of the others. Recent history has proven that an attack on the deficit only aggravates problems in the other areas, stifles economic growth, makes fewer jobs available to Canadians, and makes the deficit worse. Our view is that we must see the interdependence of all different problems we are trying to solve. This requires actions based on an integrated plan or a vision.

Our plan is to provide support to the economy, to reduce the deficit as quickly as possible without handcuffing economic recovery and to create jobs in the process. By keeping a keen eye on the process and the progress of each of the government's initiatives we know we will see results.

We as a government have put before the House and before Canadians a first step. It will not solve everything overnight, but it will provide a basis upon which we can build. It is the first step to economic recovery, to the well-being of individual Canadians and to the elimination of the deficit.

We have listened to Canadians. We are implementing our plan which includes jobs and growth. During the election campaign we were very clear about the solutions we were proposing. We are following through on them. One of the best and most visible examples is the infrastructure works program, a government program to rebuild the country's infrastructure over the next three years.

The infrastructure program is a shared-cost initiative to which each level of government in Canada-federal, provincial, territorial and municipal-will contribute $2 billion, for a total of $6 billion over the next two years. There will also be some flexibility so as to allow limited financing in the third year. The program is based on the collaboration of all levels of government in supporting infrastructure investment. The private sector will also be invited to invest in these public initiatives if their investments are considered useful to local governments.

The federal funds have already been divided among provinces and territories according to a formula based on the population and unemployment rate of each. I might add that that formula was approved by the First Ministers last December. Each province and territory will match the federal government's contribution, as will municipal and local governments.

The infrastructure program is intended to stimulate the economic recovery while responding to the need for infrastructure renewal and improvement in Canada. In this way, the program should help municipalities and communities to use new, efficient and environmentally sound technology while improving competitiveness and productivity.

We noticed a major reduction in the amounts spent for public infrastructure in Canada. In 1960, our three levels of government invested 4.3 per cent of the gross domestic product in fixed capital, but by 1980 it had dropped to 2.5 per cent.

Members opposite stress that right now, our financial resources are too tight to invest in infrastructure. We, on this side, do not agree at all with them.

The health of our cities and towns is absolutely central to the health of our economies. Good, efficient roads and transportation services reduce costs to individuals and businesses, avoiding expensive tie-ups, reducing wear and tear on vehicles, reducing operating costs. In the same way modern water and sewage systems are vital for servicing industry and commerce, as well as for the health of Canadians and the health of our environment. Without such services our communities cannot attract new industries or maintain the industries they have; local economies stagnate and communities die.

Our infrastructure has started to deteriorate and it will only continue to deteriorate. We have heard much about leaving a debt to our country and to our children. The cost of replacing infrastructure we do not maintain is far greater than the cost of maintaining it. If we do not do something now the debt we will be leaving our children is in collapsing sewers, unsafe water supplies, corroded bridges and crumbling roads.

There are longer term benefits to improving the infrastructure and the quality of life Canadians have come to expect. Improved infrastructure means improved environmental quality and improved amenities. It is vital to our quality of life, whether creating a clean and pleasant environment or a hospitable environment for working, living and doing business.

There are major issues in each of our cities that require urgent investment in infrastructure to remain competitive. These projects are needed to allow Canada and communities across the country to remain competitive and to continue enjoying the Canadian quality of life.

Our goal is to develop economic, social and technological infrastructure to support the efforts of all Canadians to make Canada stronger in coming years. Infrastructure works is a national program. We are investing in each province and territory. The provinces and the territories, as well as the municipalities, are matching our investment.

The infrastructure program is now a reality. Framework agreements have been signed with all partners, getting Canada's three levels of government working together for jobs and working together for Canadians. It is a tribute to the government that within barely two months of taking office we were able to get all the partners to the table and get the agreements.

People across Canada are interested in our country's economic well-being. They have businesses they want to keep working. The needs and commitment of these Canadians are also necessary to achieving the goals of the program.

All members have realized that in one way or another this program will affect their ridings and their constituents. All could probably list from memory a number of worthwhile projects that have been brought to their attention by the people who elected them. Not only will these projects be good for communities but they will also give a boost to the businesses in those communities. In each of those communities these projects will put people back to work. There will be jobs for people who are not working right now. This is job creation where it matters: in the homes, in the businesses and in the neighbourhoods right across Canada.

In every province projects will be submitted to a joint management committee by municipalities, by school boards and by other local groups. This means that the local level, the communities across Canada will be the key to the program. The projects that local governments are willing to approve, the projects that local communities identify as their priorities, will be the projects that make up infrastructure works.

This is truly rebuilding Canada from the grassroots up, rebuilding Canada in a democratic and equal way across the country.

There is also a responsibility in this program for every member of the House. Members can discuss with their town and city councils their local priorities, their local needs so they understand them and give them the support they can.

People will ask what infrastructure is. By agreement with each of the provinces it has been defined as the physical capital assets of our communities. That means the physical capital assets of the nation, with an emphasis on physical infrastructure associated with municipal services at the local level, things like water treatment, water distribution systems, sewage and drainage, roads and other transport facilities, buildings, machinery, equipment, earth works, related construction activities.

It can go further. The program has the flexibility to include smart infrastructure such as information highways or social, cultural and other economic priorities.

We have heard a great deal about government getting out of the way of businesses. A number of members of the House are obviously not aware that this program has the endorsement of the industry associations that will be involved in doing this work. The government does not go out and build roads and bridges. Companies across the country go out and build roads and bridges. We are giving them the opportunity to work again.

We hear a great deal from the opposition about listening to people and representing our constituents. Therefore I find it hard to understand why parts of the opposition have so much trouble listening to the people and the level of government that is closest to those constituents in their local towns, villages, townships and counties. These are the people who for 10 years have been asking their national government to take the leadership to bring all three levels of government together to rebuild the infrastructure of Canada. They continue to be strong supporters of the program, as do the business associations that will be involved in implementing the program.

The framework agreements specify the criteria that must be met for project approval: incremental and/or acceleration of investment; short and long term job creation; enhancing Canada's economic competitiveness; use of sound, innovative, smart technologies; bringing infrastructure up to community standards. Also included in the criteria are: codes and bylaws; enhancing long term skills in the workforce; enhancing environmental quality and sustainability; the use of sound, innovative, financial techniques, including the use of private capital and distribution of program benefits within a province or territory.

Yes, there will be an evaluation component so that when we reach the end of the program and as it proceeds we will know what it is accomplishing. This program will put people back to work this construction season. We will see 50,000 to 65,000 direct jobs and many more indirect jobs as suddenly construction workers and others in related industries have money in their pockets. They will have the money to go out and buy goods and services and to contribute to the public treasury as well.

A great deal of the initial $2 billion investment we have made will come right back to the government and to the people of Canada through the contributions of those people who are now working on this program instead of being unemployed.

From across the House we also hear a disparagement of construction jobs as if these are only old style job creation schemes and not real work for people. I am sorry, but somebody who digs a ditch, who operates a crane, who moves cement blocks, who puts a trowel to bricks is doing valuable, important and constructive work for this nation. We are proud of the jobs we are going to be creating. The people who will have those jobs will be proud of them.

We have heard that unemployment figures are up. Unemployment figures are up because this among other programs is bringing hope back to the country. People who have kept away from the job market are coming back because they believe now, with a new government in place, there may be a job for them.

The government believes it should keep its promises and put Canadians back to work. We ask for support, not criticism, from the other side of the House as we try to do that. By launching this infrastructure program we are helping the economic growth, helping Canadians get back to work and helping to reduce our deficit.

I truly hope that when motions come forward from the opposition, if they cannot be totally laudatory of our programs at least they might be more constructive.

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12:35 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my Liberal colleague's speech and there are a few comments I would like to make.

First a general comment followed by a case in point. This government does not promote job creation as it said it would during the 45 days of the election campaign, and in its now defunct red book. I think the red book can be thrown out, considering the latest Budget brought down by the Minister of Finance.

Of course, the infrastructure program will create between 45,000 and 60,000 jobs, depending on whom you talk to. However, what are 45,000 jobs, compared with 1.5 million

unemployed Canadians, including 428,000 Quebecers? These 45,000 jobs, the cornerstone of the platform of the Liberal Party of Canada, are peanuts.

Does the hon. member not realize that this measure is totally inadequate and provides no structural improvement of the employment situation? Does she not realize that all the measures taken by her government since the morning of October 26 have clearly compromised job creation and this country's economic recovery?

Mr. Speaker, I will give you a few examples which I have found particularly revealing since we took up our duties on the morning of October 26.

First of all, her government, after spending years criticizing the high-interest policies pursued by our defunct Conservatives, has now opted for the same policy. This means that as soon as there is the slightest increase in inflationary trends, of the kind we saw in the first quarter of 1990, the new Governor of the Bank of Canada will administer exactly the same horse medicine as his predecessor, which was vigorously condemned by the present government. What does this mean? It means that as soon as there is the slightest hint of economic growth, interest rates will rise, and this will undermine job creation.

Second, since this government came to power, it has failed to correct the laissez faire approach taken by the budget in recent years. The latest Budget brought down by the Minister of Finance is a failure as far as control of public spending is concerned. So much so, in fact, that financial circles are starting to express concern about the government's lack of control. This means that we can soon expect an increase in the rates of interest charged on government borrowing, a trend that may continue in the foreseeable future.

I repeat, the government is undermining job creation, although for months, if not years, it has been saying that the Liberal Party of Canada is a party that promotes job creation. It is part of the tenets of the red book as well.

Third, Mr. Speaker, as you know, the present government insists on playing a role in manpower training, although this comes under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the other Canadian provinces. When it goes on about job creation being so terribly important, the fact is that by not withdrawing from this area, the Liberal government is undermining our chances of creating durable jobs and quality employment in the years to come.

How can members on the other side of the House say that the government is doing something about creating jobs, when the infrastructure program is merely a drop in the bucket, considering one and a half million Canadians are unemployed, and when the government takes the kind of measures it does in this Budget?

Another point I would like to raise, if I may, Mr. Speaker, is that on the other side of the House they keep saying they are doing something about unemployment and want to intensify the measures that will create jobs. What we find in the last Budget is more like a planned attack against the unemployed, because in the next three years, the government is going to take a little more than $5.5 billion out of their pockets.

That is how the government wants to create jobs and attack poverty, while refusing to restore the budget for social housing, for instance, as it has been promising for years. If that is the way it wants to improve the well-being of Canadians, as it did by attacking old age security pensions and tax credits for the elderly, well, Mr. Speaker, I am truly astonished that the hon. member is still proud to be part of a government that is as far to the right as its Conservative predecessors if not more so.

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12:40 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his speech. I regret that I do not have time to respond to all of the statements made, but I will do my best.

Yes, it is true that the infrastructure program is just the first of many more initiatives to come. We acknowledge that this is only the first step, a building block, but one that will create jobs in an industry that is truly the cornerstone of the economy, namely the construction industry. Therefore, it is very important to begin here because projects can start immediately.

These initiatives will create both direct and indirect jobs.

The hon. member spoke of controlling public spending. This government has slashed $17 billion from its expenditures. I would like to ask my colleague opposite the following question: Which programs would he cut? In which areas would he reduce spending and which Canadians would feel the effects of these cuts?

The hon. member also spoke about training for all Canadians. He knows very well that current programs are, by our own admission, inadequate. We have called for broad program reforms, for example, integrating training programs with social programs. The hon. member knows that we are currently seeking input from the Canadian public on ways to improve programs. We will continue to follow this course of action.

The hon. member mentioned unemployment insurance recipients. While we may have reduced our spending in this area, our goal is to provide improved service to the unemployed who have lower incomes.

Getting back to another point, the hon. member said we failed to control spending. Now, he is criticizing one of our spending control initiatives. Again, I ask him: Where would he have cut? Which Canadians would have been affected?

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12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The debate between the hon. Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot is a very interesting one, but other members should be given an opportunity to speak.

In the time remaining, approximately five minutes to the parliamentary secretary, I would like to recognize two members who are seeking the floor. I will first recognize the member for Lisgar-Marquette and we will come back to the member for York-Simcoe.

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12:45 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the remarks of the hon. member from the Liberal government. I would like to give some constructive criticism.

When the infrastructure program was announced I thought right away it was becoming too political. It was not really for job creation. When I saw a $27 million grant being made to Quebec City for a convention centre even before the guidelines were laid out I was frustrated with the program.

This is my concern right now. I was just informed by some constituents in Manitoba who talk to me quite regularly on this issue that the provincial government now seems to have control of about 40 per cent of that money designated to Manitoba. It is not really going to go to the communities where these projects are desperately needed. It is becoming a political issue in Manitoba because of the provincial election due there in the next year.

I would like the government to look at this and maybe change some of the guidelines if that is the problem. It will not be infrastructure for the benefit of the taxpayers; it will be infrastructure for the benefit of provincial governments. That worries me a bit. Could the member comment on that, please?

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12:45 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be quite happy to comment on that. As I said, one of the strengths of this program is that it is all three levels of government working together. When projects come forward such as the one in Quebec City that he mentioned it is because that is seen as the priority of the local community for its long term economic development and health.

Similarly, while we have worked out agreements with all the provinces and territories based on exactly the same principles I enunciated, there is flexibility within each province and territory to meet the requirements of that community. That respects the diversity of this country and the different needs across Canada, the different needs of different kinds of communities.

The minister has made it quite clear that members of Parliament have a role to play in this. Not just government members of Parliament but all members of Parliament will be consulted about the program and its use in their own communities. All members' views will be sought and taken seriously. I can assure the member of that.

If the member feels there is a problem I urge him to speak to me or the minister responsible for the infrastructure program. If it is truly a problem we will try and do something about it.

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12:50 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just a few comments.

I want to congratulate the parliamentary secretary for her very articulate and comprehensive outline of the infrastructure program. I want to reiterate some of the points that she made in her speech to the members in the House.

It is important to note that infrastructure is very important to the economic well-being of this country as well as to the health and the environmental sustainability of our communities. As vice-chair of the parliamentary committee on environment and sustainable development I am very concerned about those issues. The parliamentary secretary was very good in her explanation of how new sewers and things like that can enhance the health and well-being of our communities.

When one takes a look at it in the long term, when one can get rid of some of the problems that may cause illness and problems associated with health as well as environmental pollution, that can make a substantial saving in our deficit.

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12:50 p.m.


Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has just emphasized the point that this is an investment in the long term health, economic and otherwise, of our communities. She is absolutely right. If we allow untreated sewage to be put into our lakes and rivers and to be dumped on our landfill sites we simply end up leaving our children and grandchildren much bigger and much more expensive problems than we have now.

Any member of this House can look around their own community and find perfect examples of where, had problems of contamination been prevented, it would have been far cheaper than trying to clean up those problems after they occurred. I thank her for raising the point.

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12:50 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to participate in this crucial debate, given the current social and economic situation in Canada and Quebec.

First of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague the hon. member for Mercier who has introduced on behalf of the Official Opposition this motion denouncing the lack of innovation, imagination and vision of this government in terms of job creation, because we must realize the magnitude of this problem in this country.

In January 1994, unemployment in Canada was still hovering around 11.5 per cent and 12.5 per cent in Quebec. This means that there are currently 1.6 million unemployed individuals in Canada, 425,000 of whom are in Quebec. That is unacceptable and honest minds will see this constitutes an emergency, a situation which calls for action, concerted action.

The Liberal Party of Canada apparently understood this at the time-because timing is important here-of drafting the red book presented to the voters during the October 1993 election campaign.

On page 15, you can read the following:

-Canadians are facing hardship: 1.6 million unemployed, millions on welfare, a million children living below the poverty line, record numbers of bankruptcies and plant closings.

Our overriding preoccupation is to offer a government that will help in solving problems and in creating opportunities for Canadians.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs" was their theme. A catch phrase that the people of Canada heard over and over, raising the hopes of many, particularly in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, that the government would finally see to it, as promised, that this hardship be alleviated as mentioned earlier.

At this time, I would like to digress for a moment to deplore the fact that this type of conduct seems to have become contagious. When we see Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson making easy, demagogic promises over which he has no control, there is a common denominator: everywhere we find Liberals who do such things. But have no fear, Mr. Speaker, Quebecers know the score; they are not so naive and will not be fooled; they will be able to judge those who have been in office for nine years and who let this situation deteriorate.

Let us return to the federal scene, which is our immediate concern. What are the Liberals doing now about the commitments they made in their red book? What about it, Mr. Speaker? There is a huge gap between what they say and write and what they do. What has come out of these commitments? A coast-to-coast infrastructure program, in which the government will invest $2 billion, it seems, with the co-operation of the provincial and municipal governments. How many jobs will we create for the 1,600,000 unemployed? It seems that we will create 45,000 temporary jobs. How many in Quebec for its 425,000 unemployed? Fifteen thousand temporary jobs. You should realize that this is what this government has proposed to meet its commitments: 45,000 temporary jobs, which include not only jobs that are created but also jobs that are maintained.

Of course, there is the Youth Service Corps that is also mentioned in the red book. Here is what it says on page 35: No group faces bleaker economic prospects than Canadians under 25. A Liberal government will help return hope to young Canadians by creating the Canadian Youth Service Corps, which will involve 10,000 young people a year. Mr. Speaker, do you know how many people under 25 were unemployed in Canada last month? There were 428,000 unemployed Canadians under 25, 18 per cent of this age group in the labour force, and this percentage and this number are increasing every month. What do they propose? A youth service corps with a fourfold mandate: community service; discovering and understanding Canada, as my colleague, the member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis, said last week in this House; environmental awareness; and personal growth.

That is very nice, it is well intentioned, but we have seen other Katimaviks, we have seen other schemes dreamed up by senators, but that is not what Canadians and Quebecers need, especially the young people we were just talking about. They need specific job creation measures to meet their needs, to give them back their dignity and, in the case of young people, to give them back their collective future and their personal future.

We do not need projects like Katimavik, but we know how interesting it could be before a referendum to take young people who are vulnerable, especially in Quebec, and give them the proper conditioning to show how much people care about them and how good it is to live in this very democratic country that has no work for them. We know all that can be done with that target group to win some more votes to keep Quebec dependent on Canada.

In these two cases, faced with the same unemployment problem, we see the very serious problem of joblessness affecting the Canadian economy and the people of Canada. All that this government has been able to find so far are half-measures, the infrastructure program and the youth service corps, things that skirt around the issue, that do not really solve the problem but that can be described as a sort of smoke screen, pseudo-solutions for problems that the government seems completely unable to solve, despite its claims.

The same goes for the information highway, a scientific and technological project, but what are they doing about it? What is the action plan? What funds are being allocated to it? All we know is that since October 25, 1993, the minister concerned, the Minister of Industry, recently appointed an advisory committee that will study the information highway, behind closed doors. Meanwhile, our American neighbours apparently have a fairly well-defined action plan, which has the full support of the U.S. Vice President.

Without knowing where we are going, we have appointed an advisory committee that, until further notice, will meet behind closed doors: such is Canada's electronic highway, Mr. Speaker.

This illustrates very well the attitude of this government; we do not know where it has been nor where it is going.

Regarding these commitments, we can honestly say without fear of being mistaken that this government has disappointed us, that it is beyond the hopes it had raised or tried to raise among Canadians with respect to infrastructure and the Youth Service Corps; it has only addressed unemployment in science and technology in the manner we just mentioned. The government is letting us down.

I would now like to speak to an issue I am particularly interested in as industry critic: industrial conversion. Let us refer once again to the red book stating the government's intentions in this area and others. On page 55 we read this: "The defence industries today employ directly and indirectly over 100,000 Canadians. The end of the Cold War puts at risk tens of thousands of high-tech jobs. A Liberal government will introduce a defence conversion program to help industries in transition from high-tech military production to high-tech civilian production".

That was the vision, the intentions of the Liberal Party of Canada in terms of industrial conversion. It was a wise, enlightened vision of the situation but unfortunately, after this document was released, we never heard again of this government's so-called vision or intention to encourage the conversion of military production to civilian production.

Yet, this sector is in dire straits. Between 1987 and 1992, the deliveries of arms manufactured in Quebec fell by more than 48 per cent, almost by half, from $1.6 billion in 1987 to $810 million in 1992.

Businesses in the defence industry are value-added high-tech manufacturing ventures where salaries are high. The number of Quebecers working in arms production is estimated at over 46,000. Electronics, aerospace, general transport and EDP are the most active sectors in the defence industry. The major defence companies are very well known: Bombardier, CAE, SNC, Lavalin, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter, Expro, Héroux, Marconi, Paramax.

All these companies were successful in finding their niche in an international competitive environment. Together, they are responsible for over one quarter of all the research and development work done in the Montreal region. They have always enjoyed the federal government's financial support to develop defence capacities.

This shows how the conversion of these defence companies, given the geopolitical changes occurring all over the globe, is important, especially in Quebec, to maintain a healthy high-tech industry.

During the election campaign, the Liberals made four major commitments regarding industrial conversion. First, to expand the mandate of the Defence Industry Productivity Program or DIPP, to help the industry convert and diversify, a $150 million program. Second, to establish an economic conversion commission, with the participation of industry and labour, to facilitate and coordinate the process of conversion in the defence industry. Third, to develop joint conversion arrangements with the United States, the market for 80 per cent of our defence exports, in order to establish a concerted conversion strategy. Fourth, the conversion of Canadian military bases, for example in training centres for peacekeeping forces.

As we saw earlier, the government's intentions were illustrated by the closure of military bases, without reference to any kind of conversion. As for the new mandate of DIPP, it is said in the budget speech that, indeed, this mandate will be expanded in three years to possibly include some form of assistance for conversion and diversification. But at the same time, the government says that in three years, and not right now, the budget allocated to that program will be reduced by $10 million per year.

One wonders why wait three years given the problems of that industry, a slowdown of all activities, a reduced number of contracts in general, as well as a need to transform that military industry into a civilian one.

Moreover, we never again heard anything about this idea of setting up a commission to look at the conversion issue with the companies and workers affected.

Yet, there is in Quebec an example which seems to serve as a model for all researchers and university people interested in this issue. I am referring to EXPRO, a company specializing in military products, which is famous for having experienced all kinds of problems throughout its existence, including labour relations problems. When it realized that it was obviously and clearly in jeopardy, the company decided to come to grips with its problems, this with the support of its workers. It set up a manpower committee, made an in-depth review of the situation, hired consultants, established a diagnosis, and now EXPRO is a company with a civilian production instead of a military one. I think this is an example to follow. EXPRO is showing that where there is a will, there is a way.

Yet, the situation is serious, and some members of the aerospace industry have already reacted to the government's intentions, and especially to its lack of vision, as illustrated by its decision to cut in the military sector and elsewhere, without having planned anything to make up for the impact of these measures.

So, last week, representatives of this industry, who worry about the government's intentions, asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister of Industry to find out just what these intentions are and to discuss them with him. I am talking about such prestigious industries as CAE and SPAR Aerospace, which asked to meet with the minister because of the government's attitude and lack of planning. We do not know what transpired,

but we sense that there is a malaise in this industry regarding the government's actions, or lack of action.

We have to be aware of the dangers which would threaten our economy should inertia, a lack of planning, or a lack of vision guide the government's actions and policies.

There is a precedent in Canada. A very high-tech industry of the time-I am referring to the AVRO ARROW case in the fifties-had to cease operations, which resulted in thousands of Canadian engineers leaving the country to go to the United States, thus triggering a massive exodus of brain drain.

If the government fails to take any action, the same will happen to the Canadian economy which, in a matter of a few years, may lose a very substantial number of qualified people who might otherwise have stayed here to try to turn the situation around.

Furthermore, while in Canada there seems to be a conspiracy of silence in this respect, in the United States the Clinton administration plans to provide $20 billion in assistance over the next five years for defence conversion. Here in Canada, $150 million will be spent over the next few years on defence research, and this $150 million will decrease by $10 million annually, starting in 1996-97. There is a difference in vision between the two administrations which is enormous.

What is particularly exasperating, and shocking as well, is that there are plenty of projects that could be converted. The Bloc Quebecois was very clear about that during the debate on cancelling the helicopter contract. It is not just cancelling the contract but knowing how we can make the best of the situation and convert a project that was rather questionable, from the military point of view, to civilian production that will benefit the population and ensure that the know-how will stay, in Quebec in this case, and that it will be used for civilian purposes and that the budgets will be maintained.

At the time we said that after cancelling the helicopter contract, the government should proceed with construction of the high-speed train. The manufacturing process would require equally complex technology which would have made it possible for our researchers and scientists to stay here and continue to develop and do research, but this time for civilian industries. If the government were to go ahead with this project, it would be able to develop new expertise in a field with a very promising future, apparently, in North America, and Quebec and Canada would be able to capture a substantial part of the market so that the principal expertise in North America would be spread from Quebec City to Windsor, via Trois-Rivières. However, the project is on the back burner, and the government does not really know where it is headed in this respect. Once again, the government lacks vision. There is also the sad case which we will not forget, despite the government's apathy, namely the case of MIL Davie of Lauzon. This company, which built military vessels primarily for the Canadian government, is facing a situation where it will no longer receive any contracts because of the government's decision to pull out of this field. The company has come up with its own conversion plan depending on the good will of the current government which could, if it wanted to, award the contract to build the Magdalen Island ferry to this shipyard.

We learned again yesterday that the government does not know where it stands. It still does not know whether it will order a new ferry to be built or whether it will purchase one from a foreign shipyard. If the political will existed, the contract would have been awarded to MIL Davie a long time ago, since it has a conversion plan in place and has the facilities to build the ferry. If the government were to proceed on this, it would be killing two birds with one stone, that is it would be keeping our domestic know-how here in Canada and would be conducting research and development and converting former military facilities for civilian purposes.

In conclusion, I have to wonder where all of this is leading. Clearly, this government is guilty of lacking vision and empathy for the situation experienced by hundreds of thousands of Canadians and Quebecers. This government does not know in which direction it is heading. It lacks not only vision, but also the political courage to address the real problems facing people.

The red book is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Personally, I am deeply disappointed and concerned because these are old methods which today have led to public cynicism. People realize that during election campaigns, candidates say just about anything. Once in office, however, they continue to provide the same kind of government and style of administration they once criticized. Nothing changes. This type of cynicism is encouraged and this contradicts the nice statements made in the red book.

How is it that today's Liberals and yesterday's Tories seem to have so much in common? I will conclude on this note, Mr. Speaker, perhaps because there is a common denominator. Both parties are financed by the same persons. They both feed from the same trough and both produce the same results.

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1:10 p.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member speaks about Quebec youth and their vulnerability to federal Liberal programs.

I would have to differ. I have great respect for the Quebec youth. I believe the young people of Quebec are just as intelligent, if not more so, than the rest of our young people in Canada.

We have smart, competitive, aggressive, intelligent young people throughout this country.

He would suggest that the young people of Quebec are vulnerable, they are susceptible, they are less than knowing of what kind of program they might get into if they pay allegiance to the youth corps program. I disagree. I would give them more credit. The young people of Quebec are very intelligent and they will decide whether it is a good program or not. It is not incumbent upon us to suggest that they are not that intelligent.

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1:10 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I do not think that we have to wonder if our young people are intelligent or not; we can take that for granted with the great performances recently turned in by Quebec youth internationally in the Olympics. We saw how competent and intelligent our young people could be.

What gets me, and I refer to something that happened to us in the past, is everything the federal government could do when Quebecers were deciding their future. We know how much the federal government got involved. We had Katimavik with Senator Jacques Hébert at the time, all that can be done to give our young people a feeling of belonging to the Canada of today and tomorrow.

We certainly know what the federal government tried to do in the 1980 referendum campaign. There was the Council on Canadian Unity through which the federal government got involved, although Quebec had a law limiting the "yes" and "no" sides to $2 million each. The federal government's involvement in the 1980 referendum is estimated to have been between $15 and $20 million. We are expecting a similar kind of operation when we see the government, as if by chance, come up with a similar initiative called Youth Canada which seeks to promote better understanding of Canada.

I repeat what your colleague, the member for Lachine-Lac-Saint-Louis, said, a better understanding of Canada. He told us about the four main projects, the four major thrusts, and I think that in complete intellectual honesty we can suspect this government's intentions, what it intends to do about the future (of Quebec) and to make Quebec stay in Confederation, and as we say in Quebec, what are a few thousand bucks, Mr. Speaker, it never bothered them.

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1:15 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for his speech.

He mentioned in it the real problem, le vrai problème. It seems that one of the real problems we are facing, the solution to which will help everyone in Canada and particularly I hope the young people to whom he refers, is simply getting the economy moving.

I know that the member listened to the parliamentary secretary's remarks earlier about one aspect of the budget which was the infrastructure program. She stressed the jobs which will be created and she stressed the value for our economy in the future of improved infrastructure, as he knows.

There is one aspect which relates to this business of getting the economy going that she did not stress greatly. That is that through the infrastructure program which affects Trois-Rivières as it does the riding of Peterborough, already capital is being released, capital which is already there.

I do have a question about this, with respect for the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. In my riding for example, there is a seniors group which has already raised a great deal of money, some hundreds of thousands of dollars toward a new building. They are able to move on that building sooner than was the case before. I believe the flow of those moneys will help stimulate the economy.

There is also an arts group which has done the same thing. It has not raised quite as much yet but these are moneys which are there which will be released into the economy because of the infrastructure program.

Also in the public sector I would have to say one of the townships in my riding has money from dump fees. J'ignore l'expression française de ce terme.

The township is in fact being paid for the discomfort of having a dump on its property. It has accumulated those fees and it is going to spend them constructively on local projects with some jobs and by the way local raw materials, sand and gravel and things of that type.

Once these projects start, and in my riding we are talking about scores of construction projects in 17 or 18 townships, in the city, in the county, in the university and in the college, scores of these projects all starting when the frost is out of the ground. Again the wages will be paid, the wages will be spent. This capital which I have mentioned will flow across the country.

If it scores in Peterborough, I do not know if it scores in the Trois-Rivières area, hundreds if not thousands of those projects will take place and all of them we hope will stimulate the economy and that will help the young people and all the people of Canada.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on that point from the point of view of what is going to happen in Trois-Rivières once these projects start.

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1:15 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. We in the Bloc Quebecois are not against the infrastructure program. We are against it being the solution the

Liberal government seems to have found to deal with a very serious problem in this country with 1,600,000 unemployed people.

I think this is easy to demonstrate. The government says it will create 45,000 temporary jobs, and we must remind you that when they talk about jobs, they talk about maintaining jobs; 45,000 jobs created and maintained for 1,600,000 unemployed workers. I do not see how the hon. member for Peterborough can think this will solve in any way the situation in his riding. Assuming that unemployment should be around 10 per cent-it is now around 13 or 14 per cent in my riding of Trois-Rivières-it is no reason to rest easy and tell ourselves that the government is up to the task.

Especially since-and I see the Minister of Human Resources is here-this same government is going after the unemployed rather than unemployment, the poor instead of poverty itself. We hear the government tell the poorest among us, those who are already in a bad spot, because unemployed workers are in a bad spot, that from now on they will get 55 per cent instead of 57 per cent of what they were earning and work longer to receive less, for a shorter period. I think they are going after those who are poorest.

They say we must modernize and revamp-the words they use are exceptionally subtle in denoting intellectual honesty-our social programs. We do not know how but we do know one thing as I speak: the government was able to figure out how much it will cost in two or three years, so it can spare the public purse by going after the unemployed and the poor: $7.5 billion, including $5.5 billion in unemployment insurance. We know that already. That is what I rise against when I hear such comments.

First of all, we have no real solution for reducing unemployment since the so-called infrastructure program is not a solution, it is not even a half-measure. At the same time, the government is going after those who are already hard pressed while leaving the richest Canadians alone. They create committees to examine whether their measures are justified or not. The time has come to review our thinking because the underlying process, as everyone is increasingly aware, is the disappearance of the middle class, like in an underdeveloped country with few rich people and a lot of poor people. This is what we think.

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1:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak at this time, particularly in light of the comments just made by the hon. member.

First of all, the motion before this House is incorrect and so are the comments made by the hon. member from the opposition. I will take this opportunity to set the record straight.

For one thing, this year, there will be more jobs for Canadians, and particularly for Quebecers. The Conference Board said there could be as many as 57 per cent more jobs for Quebecers this year, as compared to last year.

Unfortunately, the opposition fails to mention the positive initiatives, measures and efforts the government and the private sector have made to create employment across Canada.

In saying that, I do not think we are here just to argue about figures. I think we are here to argue or talk about a very deep felt need by Canadians to have the opportunity to share in work, to have a sense of dignity, of making a contribution to their own and their family's well-being. The prospect, the hope for a job, for themselves and for their children is one of the great ambitions that we have always held out to Canadians.

What is not recognized in anything I have heard or listened to by opposition members so far is any recognition whatsoever that the world of work has changed and that we cannot simply fall back on old methods, that we cannot simply defend the status quo, that we cannot simply argue on a rhetorical basis for what used to be.

I found particularly interesting, for example, this comment from the editorialist for La Presse , Mr. Alain Dubuc: Program reform is simply a must for everyone's sake. Lucien Bouchard is making himself the advocate for status quo''. And I would like to draw point out this line:Out of demagoguery or sheer narrow-mindedness, the Bloc Quebecois nationalists are turning into advocates for inflexibility and inertia''. How true! It is true that the members across the way are advocating inflexibility and inertia and using demagogical arguments.

This is not a time for that kind of narrowness of spirit, that unwillingness to change, that attempt to exploit people's deep concerns for immediate partisan advantage.

We have to talk about how to put a good employment strategy in place in this country, something that takes into account various elements. There is no single answer. There is no panacea for the creation of employment. It is something that is affecting every country and it is going to take a full, concerted, comprehensive approach.

When I attended the job summit last week in Detroit where the seven major industrial countries were brought together, we talked about the fact that in those seven countries alone there were over 30 million people unemployed and the number is growing.

In Europe there has not been any job creation or any growth at all for the past year or two. In the United States there is job creation but it is low level jobs, part time jobs, insecure jobs at a wage that is not reasonable to live on.

The Canadian answer is to find a balance somewhere between the two. We must make sure there is growth and job creation, that we stimulate the economy, that we provide a boost in the private sector to give a new sense of momentum to the broad base of job creation that the private sector must provide. At the same time we must recognize that there are fundamental changes going on in the labour market, that it is not simply good enough to have a job at a minimum wage if that minimum wage is below the poverty line. It is not good enough to say to workers that they can have a 20-hour part time job if there are no benefits attached.

Those are the kinds of questions we are wrestling with. Unfortunately members, particularly those in the Bloc Quebecois, do not want to face those issues. Their representative on the parliamentary committee refuses to deal with the fact that there must be some change. Instead they go out, organize a demonstration and say to keep things the way they are. If we stay with the status quo then the jobs will not be there, the income will not be there, and the opportunity will not be there.

When this government is asked where is our vision, our vision is to undertake one of the largest, most comprehensive attacks on the question of unemployment ever seen in this country. We have initiated on a number of fronts a broad based employment strategy.

We have already heard some of the measures that have been brought forward today. There is the infrastructure program which by estimates could create 60,000 to 70,000 jobs. This is a way of providing a catalyst to get a spark into the economy. Now that we are beginning to grow at a level of 3 per cent a year there has to be a little bit of an electric shock treatment to get people hiring again. The infrastructure program should not be measured simply in the numbers of jobs directly created but also what it does to send a signal that begins to say to Canadians that we can start doing things again.

I must say when I listen to members of the Reform Party or the member for Mercier say it is a waste of money it seems to me those members do not really quite understand what it is all about. It is not a waste of money if you invest in better roads, better transportation and better infrastructure because that creates productivity. It creates the ability to generate more wealth.

If you allow your infrastructure to deteriorate, if you have too many potholes in the roads, if you cannot move information along an electronic highway or if you cannot begin to rebuild your schools and universities, then you will not grow.

We may argue about spending the money. It may be asked who is going to invest in a new road system. Is an oil company going to invest in new roads? Is the bank going to invest in a new training college? Are they likely? That is the responsibility of the public sector. It is the responsibility of government. That is why we have taken on that responsibility.

I hear members opposite say that it is a waste of money. That simply indicates to me they are not serious about the issue. They are not really looking at a growth strategy or an employment strategy. They are caught up as the apostles of rigidity or demagoguery, as the editorialist in La Presse said.

We introduced a number of measures in the budget. The infrastructure program was one. There is significant support for small businesses because the records show that is where jobs will come from. They will become the engine of job creation if we give them the right incentive or the right signal.

I find incredible the ignorance of members opposite who have criticized our efforts to relieve small business of the payroll burden in order to create jobs.

I find the Bloc Quebecois' position incredible. They are against efforts to reduce UI premium rates which will have a positive impact on small business.

Here is a good example to illustrate my point. Take a small business with 100 workers. As a result of this initiative or plan to reduce UI premium rates, this business will save $30,000. That is enough to hire another worker, one more employee.

How can we argue against a measure clearly designed to say to small businesses that by bringing down their cost structure, by giving them better cash flow and by reducing some of the burden placed upon them they will be given the incentive to go out and hire people?

I met a week or so ago with representatives of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business which represents hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country. They said that was one of the best things any government had done because it began to say to them that we would rely upon them. They said that their membership would now take up the challenge because we have taken the initiative to show we care.

Yet we hear members on the opposition side saying that it does not matter or it does not count. I happen to believe it is very important to give the right incentive and the right stimulus to small business as part of an employment strategy to free up creative juices and to give the cash flow that is necessary. Members opposite-and I know they would not do it deliberately-distort the impact of that. They make all kinds of claims that changes in the UI system will have an enormous effect upon the poor.

I think it was Mrs. Trépanier, Quebec's Minister of Income Security, who said that it had a slight impact.

Our own figures show that it will be no more than an additional $100 million in terms of people coming off the rolls. People do not recognize that simply because we increase the level of weeks of work does not mean to say that people will stop working. A lot of companies and a lot of organizations presently cut their work time to suit the 10-week period. There may even be more work to do, but they cut it and put people on the unemployment insurance rolls as a way of helping their own balance sheets.

A member of Parliament in our caucus who was chairman of a major school board in Ontario said it was a common practice for school boards to hire people on nine-month contracts and then let them go for three months in the summer so that they can pick up UI. That is not a practice we condone. That is one reason we are saying if we begin to relate the weeks of benefit to the weeks of work we begin to provide the proper relationship. We begin to say that one works to earn benefits; one does not get benefits by not working.

It is no wonder the editorialist in La Presse says: ``Il y a les apôtres de la rigidité et de la paralysie''. C'est une bonne raison pour cette déclaration. They are not thinking. They do not have an employment strategy. They do not have any strategy that encourages people to go back to work.

That is a lot more important than collecting UI. UI is a crucial program to help people make transitions from work to work. It is not long term dependency. That has been part of the problem. Over the years we took a good program and started changing it to the point where it became a program not to make that transition but to try to solve all other problems.

We are saying let us have a proper program dealing with long term unemployment. That is one of the reasons we are conducting a major review. That is one reason we invited the participation of members opposite even though they now refuse to participate.

Let us have a special program for long term unemployed people. They should not be kept on UI in perpetuity but they should have programs of training, job creation, income supplements or whatever the proper mix will be, so that we find ways of getting someone who can no longer stay in the labour market back in. We should focus or target that need exclusively. We should have programs designed for that need, not try to tinker with old programs that no longer fit the bill.

This is why we are conducting the review. Opposition members say there is no vision, but that is the vision. Where is their vision? There is nothing in their motion or in anything they have said. Our vision is to get people back to work.

Let us talk about young people. Let us talk about what is happening to the close to half a million young people between 18 and 24 years of age who are without work. It is probably one of the most tragic circumstances we have. How do we come to grips with the difficult problem of enabling people to make that changeover from formal education back to work? In many cases formal education does not even work any more for them. Many young people no longer fit into the school structure; they drop out. There is a 30 per cent dropout rate. It is a tragedy.

If we do not have sufficient levels of education and training we know there will be no jobs. We are not back in the age where skills are unimportant. We are in an age where if one does not have that basic element one will not work.

That is why we place a lot of emphasis on this point. We have included in the red book-and I will be introducing them very shortly in the House-initiatives for a major program of apprenticeship-internship. It will take tens of thousands of young people to give them experience in the workplace. It will be a combination of education and good, solid experience in employment so they can acquire the necessary skills. That is the commitment we made. That is a vision. That is a proposal. It is part of our program. We are negotiating with the provinces now to make sure they are on side.

The secretary of state spoke this morning about proposals for a major youth corps to give community employment experience for young people right across Canada. When they cannot obtain their first employment we get them into a setting where they learn skills, produce their first resumé and learn how to do something useful and important. It will give them some hope.

We are looking at major changes in student aid and student loans programs to give another incentive to young people to get back into the training and educational stream. Along with the discussions we are having with the provinces we are putting in place a serious, broadly based youth employment strategy. I am very pleased to announce today that as part of the strategy we are

substantially increasing the amount going into summer employment by 20 per cent so we can say to young people: "Go back to school and we will help you get a job to get there".

That does not come easy. We have reallocated money. We have brought together another $20 million which will mean that over 60,000 young people this summer will have an opportunity for employment sponsored in a wide variety of circumstances. When the opposition says we have no plans or actions, I say we just announced another one today as part of a broadly based scheme.

It is interesting that not once did we have a question from members of the Bloc or members of the Reform Party about summer employment and what we are going to do with summer students. They were so deeply concerned about our young people they never got around to asking questions about that. They have only been here for a couple of months but they never quite got around to the question of what will be happening to young people this coming summer.

Members of Parliament in my own caucus asked me about it every week. They had the good sense and understanding of what was happening to young people, and that is one reason the government responded to its own caucus.

The question of employment will take a real effort by many Canadians. I hope the committee will report this week on what it heard from a broad base of consultation in the first phase. We are also negotiating seriously with all the provinces to talk about how we change training programs and how we change social security to get people back into the workplace.

We are meeting with a wide variety of advisory groups. In the past two weeks I have met with 15 different groups across the country.

Today, comprehensive consultations are being held in Montreal with several social groups to discuss changes relating to the social security net.

We are talking to Canadians to involve them and to say that change is necessary but we can do it together. We can do it as a country united in the fundamental objective of getting people back to work and of restoring the dignity of work.

The only people absent from the debate, the only people who seem to be withholding their participation, are members of the opposition. They do not seem to think it is important enough to look seriously at how we can change our social assistance system by giving incentives to go back to work. They do not think it is important enough to be looking at what is happening to young people in our society. They do not think it is important enough to look at long term unemployment and how to get a much better mix of programming to deal with the problem. All they want to ensure is that there is somebody to go to the barricades, organize a demonstration and say: "Stay with what you have". Fortunately that is not the message of Canadians.

We are listening to the people who are not in the extreme groups on the left or the right. It is interesting that one group of people on the far right is saying that we should trash every program we can find and the group on the left is saying that we should keep every program we have. Fortunately a large group of Canadians in the middle say that change is necessary but it should be done responsibly and carefully so that we can get the country back to work again.

I ask members opposite to help create a climate in which there can be jobs for Canadians. They should help to put together the building blocks of an employment strategy that recognizes the creation of employment in the private sector, that relieves the burden of payroll taxes, that has a specific target for the long term unemployed, that looks seriously at a child care system, that enables women to participate fully with a sense of security and that works in dealing with our young people.

If we can put those elements together, if we can put the right package together over the next several months, we will create a new vision for the country. We will have given Canadians a new sense of identity. It will not be tied up with some kind of false debate about the Constitution, who controls this or who is responsible for that. The fundamental point is that we will have restored for Canadians a sense of hope and opportunity that they, their families and their kids can go back to work. That is the real meaning of what the country is about, and we intend to do it.

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1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I take note of the number of members interested in asking questions of the minister. I will try to accommodate as many as possible. I would ask members to keep in mind the great interest stimulated by the intervention of the minister.

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1:40 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Minister of Human Resources Development, and not Natural Resources as I said last week. In any case, I wonder if ministers have any real powers, regardless of the department.

So, I listened carefully to the minister, whom I have known for some time now. I must say that he is very articulate and he sounds convincing but, once again, the content of the red book and the speeches we hear every day are the absolute opposite of reality. I must first ask the minister how he thinks he can create jobs by, on the one hand, investing one billion dollars in infrastructures and, on the other hand, taxing UI benefits for the unemployed, to the order of $800 million for 1994-95, following changes to UI which is within the scope of his department. What does that mean? It means that, on one hand, the purchasing power of Canadians is reduced by $800 million while, on the other hand, one billion dollars is invested in infrastructures.

That means that nothing is created. On the one hand purchasing power is reduced, while on the other hand money is being distributed, and we are told that people will spend more and that jobs will be created. The minister does not understand the economy at all, because he is not creating anything. The results are almost non-existent.

Moreover, the minister says that he will create jobs while also increasing taxes and personal income tax by $1.7 billion over the next three years. Over that same period, he will also increase taxes by $1.8 billion for small businesses. And he thinks he will create jobs that way. He is completely wrong and he does not understand anything about the economy. If jobs are created in Canada, it will certainly not be because of the Liberal Party and its alleged vision on economic development and employment. If jobs are created, it will be thanks to the initiatives of individuals and certainly not because of this government's measures. Indeed, there is absolutely no vision in its way of doing things, which is to tax Canadians even more and then try to create jobs with an inadequate program. If you want to create jobs by investing one billion dollars and then take back $800 million, not to mention the fact that Canada's gross domestic product is somewhere around $700 billion, I can tell you that one billion will not make much of a difference.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like the minister, who is responsible for manpower training to tell us when he will fulfil a request which the Quebec government has been making for at least three or four years. When will he delegate manpower training to Quebec? In doing so, he would immediately save at least $300 to $400 million, while at the same time ensuring more effective manpower training in that province? All Quebecers, whether they belong to the business sector, the unions or the government, support this request. When will the minister do something about this?

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1:45 p.m.


Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say to the hon. member that I did address these issues directly and that I am surprised by all the contradictory statements he made. On the one hand he says that we have to bring down the taxes and rates, and on the other hand he says that we should not touch the unemployment insurance system. We have done that. We have reduced the UI premiums. That will stimulate employment and help small business to create jobs. Our policy has had another major impact on workers. It has increased by $70 to $80 the income each worker can spend on goods and services for his or her family, which is also good for small businesses. That is not too bad. Workers now have more money in their pockets. At the same time, we provide stimulus for small businesses and for workers.

I am trying to tell the hon. member that his party is very confused. On the one hand members say not to touch UI. On the other hand they say to bring down the premiums. We have done that; we have brought down the premiums and the stimulus effect is there. However, to bring down the premiums we have to make sure that we can still pay for the deficit of the UI system which this year is $6 billion. We have to bring down the deficit of $6 billion. That is the reason we balance it out. In a way it ensures more benefits going to the poorest people, not less.

Unfortunately members opposite in their statements somehow forget the facts, which is too bad. I feel sorry they have this selective memory. It is not a good thing in a situation like this to be so selective in your memory. It gets you into trouble.

We have increased the benefits for the poorest in society. We have created a new linkage between work and benefits and we have given stimulus to private enterprise to create new jobs. It seems to me that is not so bad a proposition.

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1:50 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition motion deplores the lack of vision in the Liberal policies on job creation and I think the minister missed the point here.

The infrastructure program has no vision because it amounts to less than half a per cent of the gross domestic product. That is like a family of four winning $200 in the Lotto 649 in a whole year.

Then the minister goes on to say that high unemployment affects every country. That is simply not true. Places with low taxes like Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands have more than 97 per cent of their people employed. There is a direct link between taxes and unemployment.

Countries with high tax loads have high unemployment. There is a terrible lack of vision from the government in failing to recognize that it is the high tax rates that are causing unemployment and that the problem can be cured by reducing government spending.

Will the minister acknowledge that high taxes are the cause of unemployment?