House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

York West Ontario


Sergio Marchi LiberalMinister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, to hold Canadian citizenship is our greatest honour and responsibility. It is also recognized around the world as a symbol of opportunity, equality, freedom, fairness, and above all hope.

If we are to move forward as a nation Canadian citizenship must be strengthened and appreciated even more.

Next week is National Citizenship Week, a time when all Canadians are encouraged to reflect on the principles, rights and responsibilities of our citizenship. Therefore this is a most opportune time for me to make two announcements on behalf of the government and the people of Canada.

First, I am pleased to announce plans for the development of a new Citizenship Act. We have had a proud history of citizenship legislation in the country, a history of generosity and progressiveness, but the Citizenship Act as it exists today is almost 20 years old and we have rarely amended it in any serious fashion.

I wish to propose far-reaching changes to citizenship legislation that will be part of the renewal of our identity as Canadians-changes to strenghten the ties that hold us together-whether we are Canadian by birth or by choice.

There are compelling reasons to undertake this initiative at this time. It actively addresses an issue important to all Canadians, affirming a sense of pride in ourselves and confidence in our nation.

We also require a new Citizenship Act both to respond to the realities of our changing society and to guide us into that future. We need a dynamic act that underscores the significance of an active, aggressive, enthusiastic citizenship. We need a Citizenship Act that also ensures fairness and integrity, one that removes certain discriminatory aspects of current legislation, eliminates inconsistencies in the granting of Canadian citizenship and improves the process of acquiring that citizenship and that Canadian passport.

These important issues need the input and deliberation of Canadians and the careful consideration by members of Parliament in this Chamber.

That is why I am pleased to say that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will be examining the principles, rights and responsibilities which are fundamental to the Canadian concept of responsible citizenship.

I have asked the committee to consider the reciprocal obligations inherent in the relationship between Canadian citizens and our society.

I hope the committee will make recommendations on ways to enhance the value and visibility of Canadian citizenship. I am hopeful that a report can be completed by June and make way for preparations of a bill to come to this place in the fall.

Creating a new vision of citizenship for all Canadians is vital but it is not enough. Too many of those who are currently entitled to become citizens and desperately want to do so are blocked by an administrative system which has become overburdened and unable to cope.

Denying would-be citizens the chance to participate in and contribute to the life of our society is unacceptable for this minister and this government.

In Toronto, for instance, people have had to wait as long as two years to get their citizenship after meeting all the basic requirements and criteria of being landed immigrants for three years. That is unacceptable as well.

There are a number of serious bottlenecks in the system. We are one of the last countries, one of the last jurisdictions, for instance, to grant citizenship through a one on one interview basis conducted by citizenship court judges. In essence we are saying yes too slowly and at too high a cost because 95 per cent of all applicants get accepted. Why make them wait and why do

taxpayers have to pay the price for that process to take shape? Clearly there is a better way.

That brings me to the second announcement. I intend on the part of the government to streamline the system by eliminating the role of citizenship judges and replacing them with a more efficient and effective administrative process. However we will not wait until legislation is passed in order to do away with the position of citizenship court judges as a way of enhancing the processing of time.

We will move instead immediately on a series of administrative and regulatory changes to speed up the process today. This includes increasing the daily number of hearings, establishing group hearings to test knowledge and language requirements, encouraging applicants to file by mail rather than the long administrative process they have to go through today, extending business hours to evenings and Saturdays for citizenship courts which is also more convenient for the working public, as well as inviting distinguished Canadians to preside at citizenship ceremonies.

These measures will speed up the process. They will also strengthen the fairness of the system and ensure that all citizenship candidates meet the essential requirements that we as Canadians would want. My ultimate goal and that of my government is that applicants obtain citizenship six months after applying for this privilege.

Our judges have done a fine job and we are indebted to them for their work. Let us be perfectly clear. The political and partisan appointments of citizenship judges will become a thing of the past. As vacancies arise new citizenship court judges will not be appointed. Current judges will become part of the new administrative process and help us in this transition until the expiry of their terms.

Mr. Speaker, I have discussed this issue with my hon. colleague the President of the Privy Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. I am pleased to say that these changes are in step with the initiative taken by government to streamline its agencies and commissions, and to reduce to a minimum the number of order-in-council appointments.

I propose to ask eminent Canadians, for instance, those who have received the Order of Canada, to preside over citizenship ceremonies. I also intend to move more of those ceremonies out of the citizenship courts and into the heart of all of our communities, the heart of Canada, so that citizenships can be celebrated in school gymnasiums, in cultural auditoriums, in community halls, in church basements where many more people from the entire community can join in honouring and welcoming the new members of the Canadian family and where all of us, young and old, can be reminded of the importance of our citizenship. Sometimes the things we value most are the things we take for granted. We must start to view citizenship as more than just the aspirations of immigrants and newcomers to Canada. We must come to celebrate citizenship as a bond among all of us.

I am counting on the members of the House of Commons, the members of the committee and my parliamentary secretary, whom I wish to thank, to help make this initiative truly meaningful and inspirational.

I will also work closely with my colleagues, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and others in the development and promotion of our new Citizenship Act.

A country's citizenship act should be a proud, bold and enthusiastic statement of its history, its hopes, its principles and its dreams. A revitalized citizenship act should be a symbol of what we hold to be important as Canadians.

There is an appetite across the country for us to strengthen those symbols and to articulate the vision that ties us all together as Canadians, irrespective of the fierce loyalty we feel for our regions, our provinces and our own backyards.

We need a symbol that unites us, east to west to north. I invite all hon. members to join with me and the government in this exciting endeavour and to seize this opportunity for progress and renewal of the Canadian spirit.

Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's statement announcing plans for the development of a new Citizenship Act as well as measures, some quite vague, to speed up the administrative process involved in processing citizenship applications.

We, members of the Bloc Quebecois, recognize that, in the rest of Canada, the Citizenship Act reform announced by the minister may seem meaningful, especially in view of the many obstacles to obtaining citizenship which, as the minister indicated, are attributable to a slow administrative process.

We believe that doing away with citizenship judges is a step in the right direction. It is a fact that this structure is costing taxpayers a great deal and is partly responsible for the backlog in the processing of citizenship applications.

Everyone agrees that a great many of those appointments were actually partisan or political ones. This kind of patronage by the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party in our citizenship courts has to stop. That such a backlog exists in the processing of citizenship applications is incredible. As we speak, 220,000 people are waiting to be heard by a citizenship judge, and their numbers are growing by 10,000 every month in

spite of the fact that we have 32 citizenship courts across Canada.

In his 1990 report, the Auditor General severely criticized the absence of performance standards within the citizenship registration and promotion program.

The amount of time required to process applications had increased considerably. In 1986, 91 per cent of all citizenship applications were processed in less than nine weeks, whereas in 1989, only 30 per cent of applications were processed in the same period of time.

Despite the fact that there have been no follow-up checks, delays continue to be a major problem, one that needs to be corrected as quickly as possible. Under the circumstances, the decision to close the citizenship office on St-Denis Street in Montreal is baffling. Will the delays be shortened as a result of this closure, Mr. Speaker?

Clearly, we can no longer accept delays of two years between the filing of the application and the actual administering of the oath of citizenship. Moreover, this anachronistic oath requiring a person to be faithful and to bear allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England and to her heirs and successors should also be carefully reviewed.

Having said this, I would also say how surprised I am that the minister has asked the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to make recommendations to him by the month of June. This is not very much time, considering that all aspects of the citizenship issue need to be addressed. Why does the minister not table his bill right away so that the Committee can examine it in the usual manner?

I also want to take this opportunity to criticize the minister's decision to hold consultations outside Parliament and the committee framework on immigration levels for the next ten years. This issue is vitally important to the future of the country. Furthermore, the Official Opposition has no representation in such an outside consultation process. This goes against parliamentary standards worthy of a democratic society.

It is necessary and useful to discuss the administrative, regulatory and legislative measures needed to improve the situation. It is surprising, however, to hear the minister say that one of the objectives of the committee should be to redefine the true meaning of Canada and citizenship, as if somehow these concepts became blurred with the passage of time.

Clearly, the common vision which he would like all immigrants to share is not one-dimensional, but rather multidimensional. We have already said here in this House that there is not only one Canadian reality, but at least three: one for francophones, one for anglophones and one for first nations or aboriginal peoples, whether in Quebec, the Prairies or the Maritimes.

As far as we are concerned, the Canadian reality is not the one painted by the minister, one where citizens form one big family united by common values and the desire to fit into the same mould. As members of a society with its own distinct characteristics, Quebeckers feel a sense of attachment first and foremost to Quebec's economic, social, cultural and political institutions. This was the case long before the Bloc Quebecois sent members to Ottawa, or the Parti Quebecois sent representatives to Quebec City. This attachment to Quebec soil and the unique identity which flows from this sense of belonging are historic realities, ones which must be embraced not only by those who have lived in Quebec for several generations, but also by immigrants like myself wishing to settle permanently in the province.

This morning, I read the statements made by the minister. He is concerned about the vision of Quebec that is being projected by the COFIs in the province. There is nothing unusual going on here, since it is the minister's Liberal colleagues in Quebec who run these centres. Above all, I would ask that the minister not interfere in education as this is a provincial field.

National pride and a sense of attachment to a society, be it Quebec or any other, flows above all from the welcome extended to immigrants, from the way in which their differences are respected and from the process whereby immigrants learn about the history and culture of the people of their adoptive land.

The residents of the Prairies, British Columbia, the Maritimes, Ontario and the Northwest Territories all have their own distinctive cultural features.

In conclusion, while we do not oppose the reform of the Citizenship Act, we must not allow ourselves to be deluded into believing that national identity comes only through citizenship. No, it stems from a desire to live and work in, and to help build a country.

Citizenship ActRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to rise in response to the announcement today of the plans to develop a new Citizenship Act. It is of great importance to all Canadians and to the future of the country that we are all proud citizens and contributors to the economic growth, the cultural diversity and the social renewal of Canada.

Citizens of Canada should have a commitment to the future of the country and to their fellow Canadians. I would like to take some time to briefly comment on some aspects of the announcement of the minister. Today the Minister of Citizenship and

Immigration described his department's response in seeking to eliminate the patronage aspects of citizenship court judges.

With Canadians I have talked to, I have felt that we are truly fed up with the perceived misuse of partisan privileges. I asked them and members can be sure they are. I am pleased with this first step in the right direction in getting rid of patronage appointments.

Of the 48 judges who now occupy the benches of the citizenship court, 34 full time and 14 part time, there surely will be a long delay before full implementation of this program. They must complete their five-year, average $64,000 a year income positions.

Some appointments are recent and no announcement of the particulars of what their severance arrangements might be has been made. As well, there is no comment as to the hundreds of other positions within the department and what sort of arrangement might be made.

We still do not have a concrete government response to the issue of patronage within the system or of government interference. For instance, we have just seen an election where candidates have been appointed. Even in this very department, what about all the recent refugee board appointments? They are much more numerous than the citizenship court judge appointments and just as lucrative.

I applaud the government's willingness to include the standing committee in the process of the review of the Citizenship Act. Hopefully this involvement will be more than just recognizing general principles and ideas. I for one have input from Canadians for that process.

I have a polling system in my riding and just recently I asked this question to do with citizenship: "Should citizenship be granted automatically to those who were born in Canada regardless of the status of their parents' citizenship?" The response I had has been two-thirds against this notion which is now in the system. These things have to be looked at and I hope that our committee will have input in these areas.

The idea of streamlining the process, as in all processes of government, is to be applauded. Other attempts at amnesty and streamlining have happened in the past. In fact what comes to mind is the streamlining process in immigration between 1991 and 1992. That addressed a pressing refugee demand need within the system.

Those very stresses are now facing the citizenship courts. There is a three-year wait between the time people arrive and the time they can apply for citizenship. The three-year wait and the right of citizenship are putting the onus on the citizenship courts.

Canadians are again faced with fast tracking of these individuals. For the sake of security in our country and the maintenance of the value of our citizenship, I demand full accountability of any acceptance system.

It came to mind that over a century ago people moved from one country to another on what was known as an underground railroad. We must not be too hasty to change our present citizenship system to a Bombardier bullet train.

Of greatest importance to me and I believe to all Canadians is the elevation of the concept and value of citizenship within this country. Does Canadian citizenship at the present time have the value it deserves? Has the government helped make that citizenship a value by some of the choices it has made? Has it helped Canada be an economically viable place in which to live where the citizens can be a proud part of that viability?

I look at the budget and I see sinking credit rates. I ask if the government has helped citizens become part of a country that is to be a full player in the trade and economy of this world. I ask the government whether citizenship has been helped with the continued fractionalization of our country.

I look at present policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism. I believe they created a country that does not stress the equality of Canadian citizens as individuals but stress the individual's association with a particular group. I challenge that.

I ask the government if it has enhanced citizenship with the notion that was introduced in that act in 1977, that citizenship is a right rather than a privilege to all who qualify.

Reformers believe that Canadians should have every reason to be proud of their citizenship. It is a pride that should not be devalued but strengthened and encouraged because it is a privilege to be a Canadian, not just a right.

Those who are Canadians by birth or those who become citizens by choice should honour this privilege as we work together to make this country all it can be. Citizenship should be the first step in our commitment and investment toward a brighter future. That future is our responsibility in this place as the law makers of the country and not only within the Citizenship and Immigration Department, but in all departments. I challenge the government to make this country the best place in which anyone could want to live.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.


Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present the first report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food which deals with bovine somatotropin hormone, often referred to as rBST.

The issue of rBST was picked up by the standing committee on agriculture to study because it was an issue of great concern to those in our farming communities. They wanted the commit-

tee to come forward with certain recommendations to deal with rBST.

The committee concurs with a recommendation of a one year moratorium on the use of rBST. The committee also concurs that during this year a cost benefit analysis of the dairy industry be undertaken and that animal health including the stress placed on target animals, animal genetics and U.S. consumer reaction be studied in order that we as Canadians may get a greater understanding of the effects this will have on our consumers and on our dairy industry.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning the membership of committees.

With leave of the House, I intend to move the adoption of the 15th report later today. Mr. Speaker, I believe that you will find unanimous consent to dispense with reading of this report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent for this proposal?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, with leave of the House, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata, that the 15th report of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented in the House this day, be adopted.

(Motion agreed to.)

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

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

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from April 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-17, an act to amend certain statutes to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 22, 1994, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before beginning the debate, I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement and responses thereto, Government Orders will be extended by 28 minutes, pursuant to Standing Order 33(2).

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I previously addressed the House on the amendment that was moved by the member of the Bloc who spoke second in the debate.

I know there are members in the House who apparently oppose the bill.

I can understand the position taken by members of the Bloc Quebecois because they are the Official Opposition in this House and as such they are obliged to oppose the government's proposals, especially the budget. But they fully realize that we adopted a budget here in this House and presented it to the people of Canada. It is a fair and equitable budget, which is very popular throughout Canada.

I know it is not popular with some members of the House, but the Canadian public thinks the government has performed extremely well in the budget. I know members of the Reform Party in their heart of hearts know that too, but of course they have to oppose it because they want to make more unspecified cuts.

I would love to go on at length today but I realize there are many other members who wish to participate in the debate, and having spoken once I feel it would be unfair for me to continue at length. On the other hand, we are into 10-minute speeches. The speeches are very short.

I commend to hon. members opposite in preparation for their speeches later today the opportunity to reread the words of the President of the Treasury Board which he spoke on the introduction of this bill on March 25. If they have time and if they want to continue, they could read my speech on that occasion which I must say was a masterpiece of clarity and explained all the provisions of the bill in great detail.

With that in mind, I move:

That the question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members


Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker


Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:40 a.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, we say no to Bill C-17; no to the so-called reform of unemployment insurance; no to this government's budget measures; no to the $735 million grabbed with impunity from Quebec workers; no to the $1.620 billion lost by Canadians; no to misleading and devastating savings; no to reducing the benefit period; no to reducing benefits, sole means of subsistence for many workers;; no to offloading expenditures onto the provinces; no to regional inequities penalizing Quebec and Eastern Canada once again; no to social assistance as the only recourse left after unemployment insurance benefits run out; no to undue delays in reducing unemployment insurance premiums.

We reject any policy conceived and adopted under pressure that penalizes workers and the provinces under the guise of economy. These savings are achieved at the expense of workers who lost their jobs because of the dismal state of the current job market. Moreover, half of these so-called savings, in the order of $635 million in Quebec alone, must be absorbed by the provinces through social assistance payments.

Finally, negative consequences will not be distributed equally among the provinces. When we hear that the benefits paid to Quebec taxpayers will be reduced by $735 million while those paid to Western Canadians will only go down by $430 million, we must reiterate vigorously the disadvantages suffered by Quebec within the Canadian federation.

We say no to the harmful attitude perpetuating the idea that the unemployed do not want to work. It is not the unemployed who lack vision, it is their governments. People cannot be blamed for the lack of jobs, but governments can. We say no to unsound, ineffective and unfair policies; no to government mismanagement; no to the systematic overlooking of the real problems and the real solutions. Young people say no to the alarming unemployment facing them. They say no to the unpalatable placebo called the Youth Service Corps. Young people need jobs, not measures which will penalize them right from the start. We say no to harassing the poor and the unemployed; to conducting underhand attacks against poor working women; to letting civil servants interfere in the private lives of mothers; to tolerating paternalism toward women; to having to prove everything to get some minor benefit; and to creating tensions between spouses regarding who will have custody of the children.

We know, and this has been repeated time and again, that women have precarious jobs, which do not pay well and which are very vulnerable to the swings of the job market. Women need permanent well-paid jobs. They have no need for new constraints in their family and private lives.

We say no to precarious and poorly paid jobs; to the lack of job-creation measures which has the shameful effect of increasing the number of unemployed; to overlappings in training programs and to political decisions which favour the rich at the expense of the poor.

Until this government takes the required objectives measures to ensure that the rich share their wealth with others, we will oppose any legislative policy penalizing young people, low-income workers, women and the unemployed.

We say no to misleading statements to the effect that savings will be reinvested by businesses.

The government's evaluation regarding the reinvestment of such miserly savings is not based on any solid ground. Nothing is provided to promote or control this aspect. Moreover, only large corporations might be able to create a few jobs because of the lowering of contributions. We know that small and medium businesses are the ones which create the most jobs. How can we expect them to pay a full salary with annual savings of $40, for example? Employers need real job creation programs.

We say no to the dead-end in which Quebeckers and Canadians find themselves and we say no to despair.

We would have loved to have the opportunity to support real job creation initiatives, as well as the transfer of training programs to Quebec, the promotion of social justice, the respect of privacy and the implementation of programs which would have generated some hope.

However, in light of these phoney measures, the people of the riding of Quebec say no.

The women of Quebec say a flat "no", not even a "no thank you".

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:45 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, although the bill is mainly of a housekeeping nature it once again reminds us of the tax grab of the previous government. That tax grab is being expanded by the present government.

A businessman I know got pretty angry recently when he was writing his month-end cheques for his business. He had to write about six cheques, five of which were for various forms of taxation. There was money that had to be sent to the Workers' Compensation Board, Revenue Canada for corporate tax, the B.C. government for PST, the municipality for a business licence tax, and Revenue Canada for the GST.

In small businesses taxes have become a major disincentive to expansion and job creation. There is some evidence that the tax saturation point has been reached.

For example, the Department of Finance figures list tax revenues for September 1992 at $11.07 billion and a year later in September 1993 at $10.17 billion. That is down 8.3 per cent in one year. The revenue for April to October 1992 was $64.94 billion. For April to October 1993 it was only $61.22 billion. That is down 5.73 per cent from a year earlier. These drops are pretty serious because they really interfere with a government's ability to raise additional revenues to fund the programs we all rely on.

If we look at something like the GST, recent figures from the GST branch of Revenue Canada show that GST revenues dropped about $.2 billion between 1992 and 1993. It is interesting that although the GST revenues dropped the actual cost of collection jumped 25.4 per cent in one year from $268.5 million to $336.7 million.

In one year the number of GST employees increased by 23.3 per cent. I wonder how many businesses would deliberately increase their workforce at a time when revenues were dropping. To increase them 23 per cent is a disgrace.

A number of votes have already taken place in this House on the recent budget of the government. Predictably every Liberal MP voted in favour of both the budget bill and the bill authorizing borrowing of up to $37 billion.

Of course every Reform MP voted against both those bills. We proposed an amendment that would cap spending but that was rejected by both government members and the Bloc. I had hoped that some government members would respond to an intelligent debate in the Chamber and would change their votes but it was not to be.

On Monday, March 8, 1994, the hon. Secretary of State for Multiculturalism spoke in favour of the borrowing bill. During her speech she turned to the public gallery where there were a group of high school students. She said she was talking about their future and how important the $37 billion borrowing effort was.

When her speech was over I asked the hon. member whether she had ever asked her children or grandchildren or the people in the gallery whether they wanted $37 billion more added to their mortgage for the future. The hon. member replied that her children told her the government was moving in the right direction. Frankly I found that hard to believe. I really find it hard to believe anyone would approve of someone else borrowing $37 billion on their behalf and leaving them to carry the can. I find that quite difficult to believe.

On the same day I gave a speech about the budget. I explained how I felt as I had listened to the Minister of Finance deliver the budget. I said I had felt a bit of anger and despair but mostly a terrible sense of sadness because of my background with New Zealand and understanding the debt crisis situation that had developed there. I had seen the same symptoms and problems before: the denial that there was a problem; the failure to act soon enough; the rejection of the idea that there would be a day of reckoning.

Unfortunately we have now been committed to another $40 billion in debt this year. The national debt federally now exceeds $510.7 billion. It is growing by approximately $1,400 per second, every second of the day. The debt per taxpayer is around $36,500 and per capita is almost $18,000.

In relation to this tax load the government has been increasing its spending in some programs. It constantly praises the student job creation program and brags about its increases of expenditures on it. I think that is mainly because it is politically correct to do so.

An internal audit of the program last year concluded it was very poorly monitored. It was rife with political patronage and it was a questionable benefit in terms of genuine job creation.

That raised a few red flags for me when I received about 80 applications for grants under the student job creation program, the challenge program, in mid-March. As I looked through these grant requests from Employment Canada I was shocked to see the sorts of things previous MPs had authorized taxpayers' money to be spent upon.

One of Reform's basic promises is that we will be the fiscal watchdogs looking for ways to cut unnecessary spending and government waste. Regardless of the party that was in power previously, NDP, Conservative or Liberal, all of them were rubber stamping these terrible grants that really were quite a questionable use of taxpayers' dollars.

I quickly arranged for a small group of North Vancouver citizens chosen at random from the voters list to come in and have a look at some of these applications. Without exception every single one of those people rejected at least half of the applications that were put before me. That is a very telling piece of information about the value of this student job creation program.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place. If we do not automatically approve these challenge grants we perhaps are ruining the prospects for student jobs. On the other hand if we do rubber stamp them we are authorizing the wastage of taxpayers' hard earned dollars.

Debt should be a major concern to youth. We know many Canadians have become very cynical about politicians. Young people especially find it very difficult to take part in politics and to get involved in the votes. The lack of participation by young people in this political process is a major concern for us in the Reform Party.

Today in the House we are really mortgaging the future of Canada's young people. There are many vital government activities which young Canadians have a direct stake in protecting. These include education funding and student loans, job training, and the building of infrastructure.

However the most important issue facing the youth of today is this debt and taxes problem. Young people need to know that every year this federal government is spending approximately $40 billion more than it takes in. By next year Canada will owe $550 billion to its creditors. That is $20,000 for every person in Canada. Approximately $40 billion more is being added to the national debt every year.

Deficit spending is of critical importance to young Canadians because every time the government borrows money to fund programs it is picking the pockets of future generations. It is guaranteeing they will have to pay more taxes and have a lower standard of living than did their parents.

Today's high tax burdens are already holding back company expansion and job creation and driving businesses out of Canada. If the trend is not reversed things will get much worse. I urge all young people who are watching this program today and hear about the bill which will increase spending to write to the Prime Minister: Tell him you want this intergenerational transfer of wealth stopped and you want it stopped now. Tell him you do not want higher taxes and you do not want your job prospects, your take home pay and your health care system put at risk by this deficit spending program. Tell him you do not want to be left with the bills of my generation. If you are between 18 and 24 years old and watching this program today, virtually the entire $500 billion debt has been incurred during your lifetime.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. member and all members need to be reminded that the procedure is designed to avoid any kind of outbursts. The member will please put his remarks to the Chair and not to anybody who might be watching on television, be they 10 years of age or 99 years of age.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

10:55 a.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I got carried away with the excitement of the speech.

Through you, Mr. Speaker, if there is anyone watching today who feels they should write to the Prime Minister about these things, I encourage them to do so.

It is important that the young people of today should try to take part in the political process. They should become involved so that they can direct us as their representatives to work on their behalf to minimize the impact of this borrowing and the mortgage on their future.

Thanks to a lot of publicity by the National Citizens' Coalition over the years, the shocking details about a lot of government mismanagement of funds have become apparent. One of the most public aspects is the MPs pension plan. MPs who have served just six years can retire on a pension for life. Unfortunately the previous Prime Minister just missed out with only five years of service. She was unable to pick up a pension for the rest of her life. However many people who have served here for just six years have managed to pick up a pension for life.

One of the things the Reform movement would like to change is this gold plated pension plan. It is just one of the many things which contribute to the high tax burden of Canadians and which is totally unjustified. Members can be sure that Reform MPs will continue to be the watchdogs for the Canadian citizens to make sure that we spend less, tax less and add less to the borrowing burden for the future.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It should be put on the record that we are now on 10-minute speeches. Perhaps some members are not aware of that.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

11 a.m.

Ottawa Centre Ontario


Mac Harb LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party and opposition members are trying to really paint a very bleak picture in terms of what is happening in our society in terms of what this government is doing.

One would have to put things into perspective. We have two types of problems in our society. One is what we call a structural problem in terms of the infrastructure as a whole. It would have to be looked at.

The second problem is matter of the spending habits of governments of the past. I would suggest that the budget which was tabled by the Minister of Finance specifically addresses those two issues.

On the notion of government spending we have seen measures in the budget that specifically deal with government spending. It has been the practice of the government that every time we introduce a program we look at ways we could see a cost analysis of it in order to ensure a net benefit for the community as a whole.

On the issue of infrastructure, the structural problems, the Minister of Human Resources Development is undertaking one on the most aggressive reviews of not only the ways we deliver our social programs but the way we handle our youth across Canada as a whole. I commend him for taking this very aggressive initiative along with the Secretary of State for Training and Youth.

Unless we address the whole notion of our educational system, as everybody will know, we are going to continue in this limbo. We are going to continue to see those structural problems in our society. To that end the government has fulfilled its commitment prior to the election of reinstating funding for the literacy secretariat. We now have a capable minister in charge of that ministry.

That in itself does not solve the problem. We can talk all we want in the House but unless we have the elective co-operation of the provincial government as well as of the municipal government we will not be able to move further. The problem is not only in the House. People might think the government can with the stroke of a pen solve a lot of social and economic problems. That is not the case.

To that extent there has been a very proactive approach taken by this government with a minister specifically dedicated to dealing with provincial governments, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He has undertaken a review in terms of how the government at the federal level does provide the services to the community as a whole. He is having a lot of consultations with other levels of government in order to have a collective approach of providing services to the community as a whole.

The same thing this minister is doing is carried out by all members of cabinet, by all members of the government. Therefore we are quite aware of the fundamental changes that need to be addressed in our society and we have taken action, unlike the previous government which talked and talked and the community did not see tangible action. We are taking action.

Rather than painting a bleak picture in society, the opposition should give credit to the government where credit is due, that this is a government in action.

The Prime Minister on a regular basis, every time he has an opportunity to speak anywhere, has clearly stated that government agencies, departments, ministers and members of Parliament are always on the lookout for ways to save taxpayers' money so at the end of the day we can show the Canadian public that we are taking action by example and at the same time we are serious about seeing the economy turn around.

I say to the hon. member that for better or for worse Canada is on the leading edge of all the big G-7 countries around the world in terms of economic growth. That goes to the credit of both the private sector and the public sector in recognizing the need to work together.

The youth are going to continue to be on the leading edge in terms of the changes that are required. Institutions, federally, provincially and municipally, have to recognize that unless we get to the bottom of the problem, which is the educational system, we are not going to be able to find a long term solution for our economic ills.

To that extent it will only be fair for the opposition to give credit to the cabinet, to the Prime Minister and to the government for taking a leadership role in trying to address the whole fundamental structural problem faced by our society within the area of training, literacy skills, and for that matter working with the provincial level to address the educational problem.

In closing, I am really proud to be part of a government which in a very short time has taken so many aggressive, progressive, dynamic, tangible actions and steps to deal with the ills that have faced society for the past 15 or 20 years.

Not everything is bleak. We still live in the best country in the world. We still have the best social programs in the world. We still have one of the most accessible educational systems in the world.

We want to make it even better. Let us stop telling Canadians that things are so dark, so bad. They are not that bad but they could be a lot better.

This government recognizes the fact that we must reach a minimal level of unemployment. As long as there is one unemployed Canadian the government will continue to work to ensure there is an opportunity for every Canadian.

We will continue to work but it is time for us as parliamentarians from all sides of the House to start working as a team in order to address the difficulties faced by our society.

It is my hope that when this item comes before the House it will receive the unanimous approval of Parliament, that we will all vote and give a strong mandate to the Minister of Finance, and to the government so it can continue to do the excellent work it has begun during the last 115 day or so.

We have to start working in a positive fashion. Canadians have told us they want us to work together. They want to see a team effort in order to address some of the social and economic difficulties and challenges facing our society.

They are sick and tired of seeing the type of bickering that takes place not only in the House but I suggest at all levels among politicians from different political parties. Canadians have told us clearly they want to see positive steps taken by everyone to solve some of the difficulties we are faced with.

To that end the call is out for every member of the House to work together so we can move forward with tangible steps to respond to the needs of Canadians from coast to coast.

I thank my colleagues for their positive comments this morning and it is my hope that they will support the bill before the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

11:05 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill-17 now being debated is an omnibus measure. It contains some good provisions of which we would approve, as well as

some harmless ones. However, this bill primarily targets the unemployed.

To decrease the budget allocated to unemployment, the bill proposes a reduction in benefits and an extension of the number of weeks of insurable employment required for benefit entitlement. This certainly represents the biggest part of the budget. This year, the cuts will total $750 million, next year, $2.5 billion, and the following year, another $2.5 billion, for a total of $5.5 billion taken from unemployed Canadians. On top of that, another $2 billion in cuts will be made to transfers to the poorest provinces, bringing the total to $7.5 billion. This was the crux the budget tabled last February, a budget which is totally ineffective given the present debt and unemployment levels in Canada. Not only is it ineffective or useless, it is also totally crazy, because we have a government that, just like the previous speaker, the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, is crazy to pretend that they are acting, when in fact they are doing absolutely nothing to deal with the debt and the unemployment situation. Not only are they refusing to do anything positive, but they are going after the unemployed, the disadvantaged, the poor, the weak, the women, the elderly, and that is crazy.

That goes to show the evil side of the current Liberal government that picks on the weak in our society. It clearly shows the total lack of imagination of the government when it comes to measures that could be introduced to straighten the situation our country is in. The government has got no backbone. There are a lot of concrete, fair and equitable measures it could introduce, but does not, because it does not have the guts to act.

Why pick on the poor and the unemployed like the government does in this budget, when we could ask healthy Canadian corporations to pay their fair share of taxes? Several thousand corporations have managed to stay healthy these last few years. And when I say several thousand, I refer to the 90,000 corporations that have paid no taxes at all in Canada over the past few years.

There are over 200 millionaires who paid less than $100 in taxes. These corporations and these individuals should at least pay their fair share, especially when the country is in the middle of a serious crisis, so serious in fact that it is attracting the attention of the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is about to intervene because the debt in Canada is getting out of control and the government is ineffective. In fact, the money markets have reacted very badly to this awful and sick budget. There is a whole series of concrete, fair and equitable measures that could but will not be introduced.

Let me give you other examples of how to take the fat out of government operations, and God knows there is a lot of fat to take out and the government is not doing anything about it. Duplication of federal and provincial services, what is usually called overlap, costs us an incredible amount of money. In Quebec alone, it is estimated that such duplication costs $1 billion because the province of Quebec is delivering the exact same services as the federal government. Not only is it an awful waste of money, it creates more problems. It delays the implementation of major programs.

Take, for instance, manpower training, an area where an estimated $250 million will be wasted. Not only are we wasting this money, we are not providing any training.

In Quebec, 70,000 jobs are available but people are not qualified enough to take them. Why? Because the Canadian government lacks efficiency and has no backbone. They do not want to move although the solutions are there; they prefer to take it out on the poor, the unemployed and the destitute. This is immoral and crazy. I could never be part of that Liberal government. I would be too ashamed to agree quietly to such proposals.

This government is not even liberal. It has inherited the Conservatives' spirit: it helps the rich get richer supposedly because the rich will create jobs. This very old conservative way of thinking has no basis whatsoever. I have nothing personally against the rich but, in a society like ours, I feel that corporations and wealthy citizens must pay their fair share like everybody else. The poor and the destitute should not be asked to pay for the government's mistakes or for the fact that Canadian corporations are not taxed enough.

This is a conservative way of thinking which borders on fascism, since fascism tends to widen the gap between the rich and the poor and creates a very unfair situation like the one we have in Canada today. That is what we see today: a lousy government which merely introduce bills on the back of the poor, the destitute and the unemployed, asking them to pay more, while the rich and the family trusts are well protected.

Here is another example. The Minister of Finance has a family trust. Apparently, it is worth $40 million. Others have family trusts too. Family trusts in Canada are said to hold $80 billion at least and maybe twice as much. This is money that is not taxed, that the government does not want to tax.

This government is crazy, because it is ignoring the Auditor General's recommendations. He said in his recent report that in the last three years, $5 billion was wasted by the federal government. We do not hear about it, but the government is going to take almost $5 billion from the pockets of the unemployed. It is forcing unemployed people onto welfare, putting more pressure on the provinces. It turns the unemployed into welfare recipients and it pretends that it is an aggressive measure. The government says that it wants us to move ahead with confidence, but I call that the Shawinigan Waltz: two steps forward, one step back, change direction, three steps back, one step forward. The government tries to solve the unemployment problem with an infrastructure program that will create temporary jobs for men, but it forgets about women and young people. Moreover, this make-work project will be implemented just after the government raised the UI premium rate from $3 to

$3.07. The finance minister himself said that cancelling this increase would create 40,000 jobs.

In conclusion, I will tell you that the Shawinigan Waltz dancers are having a ball. The government claims that it wants to create jobs, but it turns around and does all it can to keep that from happening or it implements very temporary, quite ineffective measures. I say no to Bill C-17. It must not pass.

Budget Implementation Act, 1994Government Orders

11:20 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the privilege of speaking on the implementation of the budget that was presented for 1994.

First I would like to comment on the speech made by the last speaker from the Bloc Quebecois, whose specialty is the Shawinigan Waltz. I do not know if the hon. member is an expert dancer, but I can tell you, from watching him and his colleagues from the Bloc and from the Reform Party, that all opposition members are pretty light on their feet.

The member from the Bloc accused members of the government of being fascists and of creating mass injustice. He also said that all Liberal members should be ashamed. Let me tell him that the members who should be ashamed are those who refuse to pledge allegiance to Canada and who are willing to accept a salary to come to Ottawa with the intention of tearing our country apart. I am telling you, members of the Bloc, that you should be ashamed.

We are talking about finances, about money, but all you want to do is laugh at the Bank of Montreal or at credit unions.