House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was patriotes.


National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should officially recognize the historical contribution of the Patriotes of Lower Canada and the Reformers of Upper Canada to the establishment of a system of responsible democratic government in Canada and in Quebec, as did the government of Quebec in 1982, by proclaiming by order a National Patriots' Day.

Madam Speaker, in the Canadian history course I took when I was in my fourth year at high school, we had to write a paper on the theme, "Louis-Joseph Papineau: Traitor or Hero"? This provocative theme eloquently illustrated the equivocal perception and the historical ambiguity that surrounded, and still surround, Louis-Joseph Papineau and the thousands of men and women who answered to the name of "Patriote" and "Reformer".

The dramatic events known as the Rebellion of 1837-38 have often been depicted in textbooks and tourist pamphlets as the feat of a band of criminals-what today we would call terrorists-who challenged the established order.

The aim of the motion I have just respectfully submitted for the consideration of this House today is to rectify this perception and to achieve, at long last, recognition of the historic contribution of the Patriotes of Lower Canada and the Reformers of Upper Canada to the establishment of truly responsible and truly democratic government in Canada and in Quebec.

It is important to make clear that the motion does not request a pardon for the Patriotes: they were pardoned by Queen Victoria in 1849. I think it is high time the federal government recognized that the Rebellion was part of a historic current of social and political unrest that affected not just the colonies but their motherlands, starting in the 18th century and stretching into the first half of the 19th.

The rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada were not the work of a restricted segment of the population. Merchants, manufacturers, professionals, farmers, colonists, all shared the goal of freeing themselves economically and politically from Great Britain's colonial grip.

The Patriotes in Lower Canada and the Reformers in Upper Canada were fighting essentially for civil and political rights, for the establishment of truly democratic and responsible institutions, and for a certain degree of national emancipation. How can it be that the role of the Patriotes has been denigrated for so long? Everyone knows that our perception of history evolves according to the values and ideologies prevalent in a particular society, and according to ambient social and political interaction. The best example of this phenomenon is certainly the French Revolution, whose main protagonists came to be viewed over time as visionaries, then as pariahs, and finally as heroes. The Revolution has been described as the best thing that ever happened to France and even to mankind and as a bloody period in history that should have been avoided.

I contend that the time has come for the federal government to make up for lost time and recognize the undeniable contribution to history made by the Patriotes and the Reformers. Previous Canadian governments should be ashamed and embarrassed that the Bloc Quebecois had to be elected before this issue was raised in this House.

Some citizens' groups, primarily from Quebec and Ontario, have been working hard for a number of years to ensure that the Patriotes in Lower Canada and the Reformers in Upper Canada receive their due recognition and find their place in Canada's history. The ultimately violent nature of this political movement must never obscure the inestimable importance of the democratic institutions and representatives that were bequeathed to us.

What we must in fact remember are the basic ideas for which the Patriotes fought. Basically, these people were fighting for three goals. The first was the recognition of the people of Lower and Upper Canada as nations capable of taking control of their own future. Even then, the Patriotes showed their openmindedness and that sense of nationalism that did not rest on ethnicity but rather on their strong sense of belonging to the area. I submit as evidence the wording of a Patriote resolution adopted in Saint-Marc on May 15, 1837 and which reads as follows: "-(the delegates) adhere and will adhere under this agreement

to the following principles: equality of citizens, regardless of origin, language or religion".

The second goal was the establishment of truly democratic institutions. Specifically, they demanded the establishment of the principle of ministerial responsibility or, in other terms, the creation of an executive formed primarily of representatives in the House of Assembly and responsible to it-that is, accountable to the people rather than to the British crown. At the meeting mentioned earlier, one of the resolutions passed required delegates to adhere to the principles of an elected legislative council, an executive responsible to the people, and finally legislative control over all public moneys from any source.

The third goal concerned, to a large extent, the civil, political and economic liberties that many peoples of the world were beginning to adopt.

In addition to being clearly set out in the hundreds of resolutions passed by the various Patriote assemblies, these three main goals were also mentioned in assembly proceedings, statements, newspaper articles, speeches in public and in the House, petitions to the British Crown and throughout the literature of the movement published at the time. For many long years before they took up arms, the Patriotes peacefully defended their civil rights. The pen and the word were the Patriotes' main weapons, before they turned to pitchforks and shotguns. When they saw that their speeches in parliament, their demonstrations in the streets and the articles they published in newspapers were powerless to reorient the governor's autocratic and arbitrary power and that he preferred to further limit their rights, some Patriotes finally decided that they had no choice but to take up arms against Britain's authority.

Some people might wonder whether it is relevant to debate and vote on such a motion today in this House. In answer to their protests, I say that citizens who are interested in history and justice, descendants and friends of Patriotes and Reformers, have been striving for many years to ensure that parliaments recognize, finally and officially, the very source of their existence.

Besides these aspirations that have been held by certain segments of the population, historical arguments can also be raised to justify passing the motion before the House today.

The Patriotes and the Reformers, before some of them decided that peaceful means would not be adequate to the task, were what we would call today model citizens who were involved in community life; they worked toward establishing a government that was responsible for its acts, and promoted self-determination and representative elections.

But our interpretation of history is often quite unreliable; our collective memory seems to retain only what suits it. It must be remembered that some persons who are now described as Canadian heroes were closely linked to the patriot movement. We have only to think of George-Étienne Cartier, a lawyer but also an active politician and later a father of the Canadian Confederation and Prime Minister from 1857 to 1858. We can also think of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, an ardent supporter of the Patriote cause, imprisoned without having taken part in the violence and later Premier from 1848 to 1851.

We can also think of Louis-Joseph Papineau, an MP for 25 years, a politician and above all a free speaker, admired by his peers and by the public; or of William Lyon Mackenzie, an MP from Upper Canada, expelled from the Upper Canada Assembly for libel and then re-elected five times, who chose arms as a last resort. Finally, we can think of Robert Baldwin, who shared the democratic ideals that Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine believed in, so much so that these two men became the leaders of the reform parties in Upper and Lower Canada respectively.

Paying tribute to these persons who ensured that we may live in this democratic system of which we are so proud means, among other things, not denying a part of their lives or the strength of their convictions just because it suits us to do so. The motion tabled today is part of a lengthy historic evolution. In fact, it is one more step toward the recognition of the historic contribution of the Patriotes, which has been laborious and full of unexpected twists.

In February 1849, the Amnesty Act signed by Queen Victoria granted royal pardon to those involved in the skirmishes of 1837 and 1838. That Act paved the way for reparation for losses borne by the people of Lower Canada during looting by British troops. We note that a similar act had been proclaimed in Upper Canada four years earlier, in 1845. This royal pardon made waves in loyalist circles, resulting in the fire in the Parliament buildings at Montreal in April 1849.

A number of years were to pass before a monument to the glory of the Patriotes was unveiled in 1926 by Lieutenant Governor Narcisse Pérodeau, in front of the former Prison du pied-du-courant in Montreal, where 12 Patriotes, including Joseph Narcisse Cardinal, MP for La Prairie, had been hanged nearly a century earlier.

One hundred years after the events, in 1938, the Government of Canada seemed disposed to promote the cause of the Patriotes. An imposing arch to their memory was built at Niagara and unveiled by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. This arch bore a plaque on which were engraved the names of the 32 martyrs of 1837-38, both French speaking and English speaking. Unfortunately this arch was destroyed in 1967, the year of the centennial of the Canadian Confederation, and all

indications are that the then Ontario government seemed to find this weighty souvenir too much of a burden. It was only in 1984 that the ruins of this arch were displayed to the public.

In 1982, the Quebec government decided to move ahead with the process of recognizing the historic contribution made by the Patriotes. Referring to the ideal of liberty, Premier René Lévesque paid tribute to the Patriotes in these terms: "The Patriotes of the 19th century expressed that ideal in their own way, with the means they felt they had to use. No one can doubt the honesty of their approach, whatever judgment one may pass on what has been termed the Rebellion. And we must remember that we owe them a debt for having laid the groundwork here for the advent of responsible government, genuinely popular government". It is from this perspective that the National Assembly voted for the introduction of a Journée nationale des Patriotes, which since then has been marked each year on the Sunday closest to November 23.

In 1987, the bishops of Quebec reacted as well, lifting the previous religious sanctions against the Patriotes who had fallen in battle during the uprisings of 1837 and 1838. At the same time, the bishops recognized that the social and political background of the time had influenced the decision that had been made by the religious authorities. As a result, religious burial of the rebels' remains was finally allowed.

At the federal level, unfortunately, there have been stumbling blocks in the way of slow progress toward regaining respectability for the Patriotes. In 1988, Canada Post, claiming to have lost a file, categorically refused to issue a stamp paying tribute to the Patriotes. This refusal was all the more surprising and incomprehensible since in 1971 Canada Post had issued a stamp to the memory of Patriote and reformer Louis-Joseph Papineau.

I would also regret it if I did not stress one event, one of the oddest and most indicative of the ambivalence of successive federal governments.

In 1970, the Right Hon. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada, took part in the unveiling, in Australia, of a monument to the memory of the 58 Patriotes from Lower Canada, exiled and imprisoned there for two years and then freed conditionally before most of them decided to return home.

On this plaque can be read, in both of Canada's official languages, the following words: "-in commemoration of the 130th anniversary of the Canadian exiles' landing in Australia and the sacrifices made by many Canadians and Australians for the advent of independent, equal and free countries within the Commonwealth".

We also note that a monument in honour of the 92 Reformers from Upper Canada, who had been exiled to Tasmania, was also unveiled by a Canadian official that same year. It would seem that the Australians have a keener sense of history that did the governments of Canada of those times. This absence of official recognition by successive governments and Parliaments of Canada is all the more odd since we find numerous references to the Patriotes enshrined in the very walls of the building in which Canadian democracy is exercised.

Indeed, sculptures of George-Étienne Cartier, Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin can be found at the entrance to the House. Cartier is also one of the persons in the famous painting entitled "The Fathers of Confederation". What is more, in the northeast corner of the grounds of the Parliament Buildings is a statute of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine and Robert Baldwin. We note in passing that coins stuck in honour of the Patriotes were legal tender in this country in the 19th century.

While it is very disappointing to see that, until now, successive governments of Canada have not deigned to recognize the historic role played by the Patriotes and Reformers, we can still be glad that they have shown more diligence in other cases. One particularly interesting precedent reminds us to challenge the implacable verdicts of history. I refer, of course, to the resolution of May 29, 1992, passed unanimously in this House, recognizing Louis Riel as one of the founders of Manitoba and of the Canadian Confederation.

From that point on, no one could challenge Riel's contribution to the historic development of Canada. Although Riel participated in violent uprisings and was hanged in 1885 for high treason, the House recognized the value and the historic role played by that former MP, who had reached the conclusion that change could only come by force of arms. Joe Clark said, referring to Riel: "We must rely on the positive aspects of our experience rather than the negative ones".

The historic vacuum or, more precisely, the historic ambiguity that has persisted since pardon was extended to the Patriotes in 1849 and the Reformers in 1844 must be remedied. Until now, federal governments and Parliaments have been particularly silent on this issue. The vote that will end the debate beginning now on this motion will clarify formally the position of Canada's Parliament on this issue. By means of this vote, the House will have an opportunity to say whether it prefers unctuous endorsement of the decision made over 160 years ago or whether it is time, in light of the findings of the Durham report, the creation of the Canadian federation, and the introduction of responsible government, to take a fresh look at this period in our history.

For me, and for the people of the constituency of Verchères, this motion is especially meaningful. Indeed, I have the honour of representing the constituency that was, in large part, the theatre of the events we are discussing today.

According to popular history, first of all, most of the 92 resolutions adopted by the House in 1834 were written during meetings held in the LeNoblet-Duplessis house in Contrecoeur, and probably at Mr. Masse's inn in Saint-Denis, now the Maison nationale des Patriotes.

In 1837, several assemblies to protest the Russells resolutions took place in Saint-Charles, Verchères, Saint-Marc, Boucherville and Varennes. The famous assembly of the six constituencies, in which Papineau participated, took place in Saint-Charles on October 23 and 24, 1837, bringing together 6,000 persons, including 12 MPs and one legislative advisor.

On the eve of the wave of arrests decided on by Governor Gosford, Papineau and 30 other Patriote leaders decided to take refuge in Saint-Denis.

That is also the reason the first battles between the Patriotes and British troops took place there. On the morning of November 23, the British army, 500 strong, was stopped by 250 Patriotes at Saint-Denis. In the afternoon, 200 more Patriotes arrived from the west bank of the Richelieu-from Saint-Antoine, Verchères and Contrecoeur-led by none other than George-Étienne Cartier, future father of the Canadian Confederation. Twelve Patriotes died during the encounter, including the member for Vaudreuil, Ovide Perreault. The British troops retreated, conceding victory.

Two days later, following a series of mistakes, the Patriotes were brutally squashed in Saint-Charles and lost 35 men. The village itself was looted and burned down. More than 30 Patriotes were taken back to Montreal as prisoners.

That same year, on December 4, a huge meeting of delegates from all constituencies was due to be held in Saint-Charles to form an «assembly», such as the one held in Philadelphia in 1776, to solemnly proclaim Lower Canada's independence. As the story goes, on December 2 or 3, the British troops were back in the area and plundered and set fire once more to the town of Saint-Denis.

Each year, Saint-Denis and Saint-Charles host the most important event held in honour of the Patriotes. That is also where the Quebec government has established a national Patriotes museum, in Mr. Masse's old inn. Finally, it is where the greatest number of monuments honouring the Patriotes are to be found.

Route 133 between Sorel and Iberville, along the eastern shore of the Richelieu River, has also been known, since 1979, as Patriotes Road.

But beyond monuments and with historical hindsight, the goals of the Patriotes and the Reformers are easier to discern. It cannot be concluded from these events that they simply rebelled against the Establishment. The Patriote movement was far from a spontaneous blaze ignited by a handful of individuals. It was indeed the logical outcome of a long process characterized by a strong rallying of the people.

The Canadian Parliament must look at this period of our history with new eyes. It must put into perspective, according to our society's present values, the significance of the 1837 and 1838 events. Thanks to these rebellions, we have inherited a system of responsible government and democratic institutions and traditions admired the world over.

If the national liberation movement started by the Patriotes and inherited by the present sovereignty movement has not yet come to its logical conclusion, the same cannot be said of our civil and political rights and of our democratic and representative institutions. Yet, democracy is a fragile treasure to be cherished and protected, namely by honouring the memory of these heroes and promoters.

This House is the heir to and the embodiment of the ideals fought for by the Patriotes and the Reformers. It is therefore up to this House to give them, today, the legitimate recognition history has always denied them.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for presenting this motion and welcome the opportunity to give my views on the question of establishing a new national holiday.

Since the early seventies, this House has been asked several times to consider proposals for the creation of a new national holiday. The date most often suggested is the third Monday in February since there is a long period without a national holiday between New Year's Day and Easter Sunday. It is argued that a holiday in this long winter period would do a great deal of good to Canadians.

Proposals for the name of the new day have been wide ranging. Some have suggested the celebration of common elements of our heritage. Examples include proposals for a heritage day, a communities day or a multicultural day. Others, like my hon. friend, have proposed that the contributions of specific Canadians be celebrated. Examples here include Macdonald-Cartier day, Baldwin-LaFontaine day, prime minister day and national heroes day.

The proposal to create a Baldwin-Lafontaine Day is surely of great interest to my learned friend since it would mark the contribution of Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine to the establishment of responsible government.

My colleague will surely not want to overlook the richness and originality of the contribution made by the first champion of responsible government in Canada, the great Nova Scotian Joseph Howe. Howe was the one who established the first form of responsible government in the colonies which were to become the great country that is Canada.

While I agree that Canadians should celebrate the achievements of those who contributed to the establishment of a system of responsible government, I have two difficulties with the proposals of my hon. friend. First, I do not believe that we should narrowly focus on the contributions of individuals he refers to as patriots. Second, I do not believe we need a formal national holiday to celebrate responsible government.

On the first point, I have already pointed out that the proposal of the hon. member for Verchères ignores the contribution of the father of responsible government in Canada, Joseph Howe. It was his courage in facing the executive branch of government in Nova Scotia that led the executive branch for the first time in Canada to be fully responsible to the elected members of the House in 1848.

As Howe stated: "This achievement came without a blow struck or a pane of glass broken". Many Nova Scotians already celebrate his achievement each year. All Canadians should take pride in his critical contributions".

In fact, thousands of Canadians have played a role in the process which led to the establishment of responsible government. They came from all regions of Canada and they contributed in various ways to the establishment of a more genuine democracy.

Real responsible government was not achieved merely by adopting a model in which the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch. Women did not have the right to vote in Canada until relatively recently. The efforts of Nellie McClung and others resulted in Manitoba being the first province which gave the franchise to women in 1916. Only on May 24 1918 did all the women in Canada acquire the right to vote in a federal election.

Thérèse Casgrain played a major role in the fight to obtain for women the right to vote in provincial elections in Quebec, which was granted to them only in 1940.

If we want to celebrate the establishment of democracy and responsible government, we must also recognize the contribution of great Canadians like Nellie McClung and Thérèse Casgrain.

Our First Nations people were denied the right to participate until much more recently. For example, status Indians were not granted the right to vote in federal elections until 1960. I suggest that if we were to celebrate responsible government we should celebrate the breadth of contributions by the many Canadians who made true responsible government possible.

My second point is that I do not believe that Canada should declare a new national holiday at this time. There are a number of reasons for my position.

First, the federal government only has about 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce under its legislative control. Thus the creation of a national holiday would only directly affect the employees of the civil service, the banks and the crown corporations. I ask hon. members if most Canadians would not be annoyed rather than celebratory if they had to work while our banks, government offices and post offices were closed.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Madam Speaker, I think the hon. Liberal member is straying from the debate since he is not speaking to the motion for the creation of a national holiday.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

That is a matter for debate. Resuming debate.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, if we want the new holiday to have a truly national dimension, all provinces and territories should adopt it.

Moreover, considering our economic difficulties, I believe it is important for members to think of the cost of creating a new holiday.

To shut down the Canadian economy for one more day out of the current working year would according to some commentators cost the economy-

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, as mover of this motion, I must remind the hon. member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle that the motion is not at all aimed at-

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry but this is again a matter for debate. Resuming debate.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

-approximately .4 per cent of the gross national product. This represents close to $3 billion. Is the hon. member for Verchères prepared to accept that magnitude of burden on the economy?

As our economy has started to emerge from the depths of a devastating recession, can we afford to introduce a measure that risks reducing overall productivity and GNP while increasing the need for overtime work?

In our increasingly globalized economy can we afford to introduce another statutory holiday when our competitors are not doing the same? Surely the hon. member for Verchères recognizes that Canadian industry must strive to remain competitive and that the addition of a new national holiday would add a significant cost to doing business.

Thirdly, if we create a new national holiday, will the hon. member from Verchères not want the government to create programs to celebrate it? Where will we find the additional funds for that purpose?

I am not opposed to the idea of underlining the contribution of historical figures to the establishment of responsible government. Quite the contrary. Canada Day already gives all Canadians the opportunity to stop a minute and think about the greatness of their country and the contribution made by every citizen.

Further, Canadian citizens have privately organized celebrations of a number of aspects of their heritage. Many Canadians have been celebrating Heritage Day for years on the third Monday in February. While not benefiting from a full day off, they have used the occasion to reflect on the cultural, architectural and social heritage as well as the political contributions of our citizens. May I suggest that those members interested in the celebration of responsible government use their position to organize private celebrations of our democratic heritage.

Our Canada Day programs provide Canadians with the focus for a national celebration each year. Should Canadians wish to additionally celebrate our democratic heritage on another day, I would suggest that this be organized at the local level providing considerable flexibility for Canadians to tailor their celebrations to their particular community.

Schools could also organize historical re-creations of the debates which surrounded the advent of responsible government. They could ask local historical societies or heritage conservation groups to help them. None of these activities would require the creation of a new national holiday. The initiative would come from citizens wanting to promote and celebrate the tradition of democracy which they have inherited as they do for the celebrations surrounding Heritage Day.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I bring to your attention citation 459 in Beauchesne's parliamentary Rules concerning the relevance of the arguments brought forward by my colleague from Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle. Obviously, my colleague has completely misread the motion before this House since the reference to Quebec's National Patriots' Day serves only to indicate that the government of Quebec has already formally recognized the historical contribution of the Patriotes and the Reformers to the establishment of responsible government in Canada and in Quebec.

Our aim is simply to give the Canadian government the opportunity of choosing the way it wants to recognize this historical contribution. The aim of this motion is merely to get the Canadian government to recognize this contribution.

I think this debate has been seriously sidetracked.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I merely wished to remind the Member that, first, the motion is entitled National Patriots' Day.

Second, citation 459 of Beauchesne which he mentioned says:

Relevance is not easy to define. In borderline cases, the Member should be given the benefit of the doubt, although the Speaker has frequently admonished Members who have strayed in debate.

I would also like to remind the member that, were the rule of relevance strictly applied, this House would have serious problems.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention-and I think it is important to do so now-that I did not suggest the title National Patriots' Day. It was made up by the people working on Hansard , I think, or by the private members' business office, who interpreted the motion to have this meaning. I insist on repeating in the House, if I may, that this is-

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. If he finds the title given to his motion unacceptable, he can go to the Clerk of the House of Commons who will help him change it, if necessary.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate very much the opportunity to speak to this motion. It is very important that Canadians remember their history and that from time to time there be occasions for considering what has gone before.

The motion the hon. member for Verchères has put forward is a controversial one. He is talking about issues which have never really been settled in history. Canadians will have to make individual judgments about the appropriateness of recognizing that some people are considered to be great patriots and others are considered to be traitors, as he himself mentioned. That is one of the major reasons I cannot support this particular motion.

Although I think it is entirely appropriate for the Government of Quebec or local municipalities to make a decision about this, it is wrong for Parliament as a whole to make a judgment about an event in history that is still controversial in the minds of many Canadians.

I also want to echo the remarks of the member from across the way who talked about the narrowness in scope of this motion and how it does not recognize that a lot of people have made significant contributions to responsible government in this country. I will talk about that in just a moment.

Finally, I speak against it because we do have a day when we can consider what has gone on in the past and the people who have made great contributions to this country. That is Canada Day. The different efforts made over the years to bring responsible government about culminated in Confederation on July 1, 1867. Each year on July 1 we can pay tribute in our own ways and remember these people.

It was just about a year ago to the day when Reformers came to Ottawa. At that point it was as candidates because we knew an election was coming. Our leader took a bunch of us around, about 100 or 150 of us. We were here to check out the House of Commons, choose our seats and that kind of thing. We talked about the big job ahead of us.

I remember extremely well how our leader, the hon. member for Calgary Southwest, showed us the statues of Baldwin and Lafontaine. He pointed out the tremendous contributions these gentlemen had made in bringing about responsible government in Canada. I for one appreciate very much the efforts of those gentlemen.

Even the constitution of the Reform Party pays tribute to many great reformers who have contributed and have helped develop the government and the system throughout Canada's history to where it is today. However it would be a mistake to set aside a specific day devoted to the memory of particular people who have made contributions, particularly ones whose legacies are controversial.

It is accurate to say the patriots had some legitimate concerns, there is no question of that. However, we would be doing a disservice to the idea that we can have free debate and achieve things through peaceful means by implying that we give credibility to the idea that the end justifies the means, that somehow we are giving our tacit approval for the violence which took place during the revolts of 1837 and 1838. Many people were killed during those uprisings. We would certainly not want to suggest that is the proper way to bring about change.

As the member across the way pointed out, in the 1840s and 1850s Joseph Howe fought for responsible government in Nova Scotia. He was one of the people responsible for bringing about responsible government. He did that without having to resort to violence. That is a good lesson.

This motion is too narrow in scope. It does not recognize the contributions of gentlemen like Joseph Howe and others who came after Confederation. I want to talk about them for a moment. I mentioned Joseph Howe. I mentioned Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine. There are others who came after them. There are some of the populist movements which took place during the 1920s.

The Progressives came into this place in 1921, 64 of them. In fact the first Progressive ever elected to the House of Commons was from my constituency of Medicine Hat in a byelection, a coincidence I am sure. In 1921 it was that group of Progressives which brought with them the first woman ever elected to the House of Commons, Agnes Macphail. Those Progressives deserve to be recognized as well.

In the 1930s a couple of groups sprang up. The CCF sprang up in 1932. The founding convention was actually held in Calgary. For years it had been preceded by labour groups. However it was a populist movement. Populism has become an important movement in Canadian politics as evidenced by this Parliament.

In 1935 the Alberta Social Credit movement got under way. William Aberhart played a critical role. The gentleman who followed him in that movement was Ernest Manning, the father of the present leader of the Reform Party.

In 1921 the Alberta wing of the Progressives was headed up by Henry Wise Wood. There were two wings of the Progressives, the Manitoba wing and the Alberta wing. The Alberta wing believed very strongly that MPs had to be accountable to their constituents. That was a novel idea at the time and I would suggest in many quarters of this place it still is today. I hope it is something that will continue to evolve. Hopefully at some point in the not too distant future we will have truly accountable MPs who will be required to do the bidding of their constituents.

Finally I wish to speak on the appropriateness of setting aside yet another day to recognize history. There is Heritage Day, as someone referred to and we can use that day to think back on our history. However, Canada Day recognizes all the history in the development of this country. That means many things. It recognizes the social and historical developments and the contribu-

tions our troops made during the various wars. Of course there is also Remembrance Day.

We can reflect on our history on Canada Day, which is a national holiday. It is entirely appropriate. It is good that Canada Day does not necessarily specify who we should be recognizing. Canadians can make those judgments themselves.

In conclusion although I appreciate the intentions of the hon. member, our party will not be supporting this motion.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Madam Speaker, right away, before giving my speech, I would like to inform you that we on this side of the House find it deplorable that Reformers and Liberals are trying so hard and so sincerely to change the nature of the debate. Rather than opposing the motion for the sake of opposing it, taking exception and arguing against the merits of the motion, they are trying not to talk about it, they are talking about other issues, and are beating about the bush.

I would also like to point out that we are not trying to establish a National Patriots' Day as we have in Quebec. Yes, we celebrate that in Quebec, but this is not what we are after here. We are asking the Canadian government to recognize the role of Patriotes and Reformers in Canada.

An NDP member proposed that hockey be recognized as the national sport of Canada, as well as lacrosse. What more does that involve? What national day is hockey day? That is not the issue. So we would appreciate it if people would oppose the motion, not just the winds around the motion.

That being said, I will begin my speech. The motion tabled, and I am talking about the motion that was tabled and not something else, is of very great significance for us in the Bloc Quebecois.

It is essential to recognize that Patriotes and Reformers played an important part in the birth of a true democracy in Canada. In fact, we must, this House must recognize the significant role that these people played in the history of Quebec and Canada and their undeniable contribution to our current political structure.

The motion tabled in this House by my hon. colleague from Verchères is, therefore, of prime importance. I repeat, we are not trying to set up a National Patriots' Day. They did it in Quebec, but there in Quebec they are ahead of their time, not you. The name of the Patriotes must be cleared so that they can take their rightful place in history.

It is also true, however, that the means they used to reach their ends may seem to us, to some of us, drastic, but a closer look at the situation shows that their demands were legitimate, not their actions.

I think it would be a good idea, and I feel this even more strongly now, having listened to the two previous debates, to present an historical overview of the circumstances surrounding the rebellions of 1837-38. It would be my pleasure to do so, perhaps people will learn something. We should say, quickly, that over a period of a little more than a hundred years, from 1760 to 1867, the constitutional status of British North America changed five times. There was the Royal Proclamation in 1760, the Quebec Act 14 years later, then there was the Constitutional Act of 1791, the Act of Union in 1840 and finally the British North America Act in 1867. Five changes in a little over 100 years. But for 125 years we have not dared to touch this sacrosanct piece of paper on which the Constitution is written, with the exception of the 1982 mistake.

We will deal specifically with three of these documents. The Quebec Act of 1774, when England-we must also point out that these rules are always imposed from outside, and it is always from the outside that rules are imposed on francophones. This is what is known as colonial status. This is what we want to leave behind.

With the Quebec Act, England realized that the assimilation of Francophones in Canada was, to all intents and purposes, futile.

In order to ensure that the province "of Quebec", as it was called then, did not move toward the hand held out by the future United States south of its borders, the Crown offered what might be called a gift to the province "of Quebec" that re-established some of their rights, abolished the oath of allegiance, and recognized a French lifestyle in this British territory in North America.

After the United States gained its independence, a number of people loyal to the crown, the Loyalists, came to find refuge in this part of the British colony that is today called Canada. They asked their motherland, England, to allow them to have rights and exercise them in a land of their own.

Granting their request, England imposed the Constitutional Act of 1791 that divided the area in two-Upper Canada for the majority of Loyalists, and Lower Canada, Quebec, for the French speaking majority.

Therefore, in 1791, England recognized the distinct status of the French fact in North America, which our neighbours today cannot understand.

The Constitution Act introduced two new principles into the Canadian political system: parliamentarism and the representa-

tive system. For the first time, the inhabitants of the area were able to elect their representatives who would meet in Parliament.

The birth of democracy was, however, very quickly marred by mistakes. The people suddenly realised that the legislative assembly elected by the people had no authority over the two councils appointed by London. The legislative council and the executive council were composed of a majority of merchants and professionals who lived in the territory and were appointed by the British crown, which thereby maintained control over decisions concerning the French-speaking population.

The Loyalists in Upper Canada, now known as Ontario, experienced the same anti-democratic stalemate as the francophones. And William Lyon Mackenzie and his party of Reformers also rebelled against this state of affairs-they were not, of course, the Reformers we have today, but the Reformers of the time.

In Lower Canada, the Patriotes and Papineau opposed this injustice. An important point to note here is that francophones were in the majority at that time throughout all of Upper and Lower Canada.

These two political movements attempted peacefully to denounce the constitutional impasse. The Patriotes presented a list of 92 resolutions-weaknesses to be corrected in the Canadian political system. The answer soon arrived-Lord Russell refused to agree to the demands made by Papineau and his party.

There were then only two roads open to the leader of the Patriotes: submission or revolt.

Since 1834, the economic, social and cultural context had been seething. Economically, difficult access to land made it more and more difficult to settle numerous families. Socially, the English-speaking elite controlled almost everything, and particularly jobs. In connection with culture, the Legislative Council refused to respond to the need for an education system as requested by Lower Canada, a little like the situation in Ontario today, in Kingston, for those who are not aware of the issue.

Political instability, economic instability, social and cultural instability were all perfect ingredients for the pot to boil over in Lower Canada and Upper Canada.

The Patriotes, then, wanted to exercise real power over the decisions affecting the future of the people living in Lower Canada. One of their principal demands was ministerial responsibility, which involved having an executive council comprised of members of the legislative assembly-elected officials who made decisions and were responsible to the public for their actions.

London's refusal had regrettable consequences-we must point that out-and they were called the Rebellion of 1838-38. I will willingly spare you the details of the Rebellion, as they were described earlier, and go on immediately to the situation analysis carried out by Lord Durham.

After studying the situation in Upper and Lower Canada, and noting that francophones were in the minority at that point, Lord Durham, no fool he, proposed the union of Upper and Lower Canada, that would then be called "United Canada", with an English-speaking majority. Remember that because of this union Lower Canada's debt increased by a factor of 16 to pay for Upper Canada's infrastructures.

After an eight-year adaptation period, in 1848, London recognized the second recommendation in the Durham report-ministerial responsibility. Remember that date: 1848-the birth of true democracy.

We can, without fear of contradiction, state that Mackenzie's Reformers and the Patriotes were the initiators of what is known today as responsible government.

These men, who were killed in combat, hanged or exiled, made it possible for us today to work in one of the most democratic political systems in the world, and they deserve recognition from the Canadian government for their enormous contribution to our political institutions.

Quebec has done this already by proclaiming November 22 as Patriot's Day. Pierre Elliott Trudeau himself did it. In 1970, on the sly in Australia, he inaugurated a monument to the Patriotes. It is now up to us to clear their name for the collective memory of Canadians.

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Kitchener Ontario


John English LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to address the House on Motion No. 257 to establish a National Patriots' Day.

While I agree with my hon. colleague from Verchères that it is important to celebrate the individuals who have helped to establish our system of responsible government, I have several difficulties with his proposal. The first is the lack of inclusiveness of the proposal. Another is the duplication of what already exists. The third is the peculiar interpretation of the development of responsible government in Canada.

In the first place, as my colleague pointed out earlier, there is the possibility of additional cost.

We do not need a new national holiday to highlight these achievements. Canada Day provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the contribution of many Canadians to the establishment of our democratic system of government.

Thousands of Canadians currently celebrate Heritage Day in February and Canada Day in July. They organize events that draw the attention of Canadians to the cultural diversity of this great country and to the patriots of our past. They celebrate its past, present and future.

I find the motion most peculiar in that it links responsible government directly to the actions of the reformers and les patriotes of 1837. It is a linkage that Papineau himself would not have accepted. If we recall our history lessons it was the Durham report, which followed responsible government, that was the direct result of the 1837 rebellions. The Durham report called for responsible government and the union of the Canadas. Papineau opposed both.

The Durham report indicated:

I entertain no doubt of the national character which must be given to Lower Canada. It must be that of the British Empire, that of the great race which must, in the lapse of no long period of time be predominant over the whole North American continent.

That was Durham's hope. His hope was assimilation but it was fortunately not to be. That it did not occur was the result of the moderate reformers. The Liberal Party was the original and true reform party, and it was the work of Lafontaine and Baldwin. Professor Careless has said:

The idea of responsible government was taken up in the 1830s in British North America by loyal admirers of the British model, who sought both to remedy discontent with unyielding local oligarchies and to keep the provinces securely, though freely, within the Empire. Radicals such as William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau preferred American elective patterns, but Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia and Robert Baldwin in Upper Canada showed far better comprehension-better even than Lord Durham-since they realized that an organized party system was vital. Howe in Nova Scotia, and Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine in the Province of Canada, built up strong, moderate reform parties to gain responsible government, and by 1848 saw it fully operating, accepted by a Liberal, imperial Britain.

Indeed it was Howe of Nova Scotia who first achieved responsible government. Let us never forget that responsible government was not fully democratic. Should we not honour those other great Canadians such as Nellie McClung and Thérèse Casgrain who fought for the franchise for women in the first four decades of this century?

I do not disagree with my hon. colleague that we have national patriots. I accept that Papineau and Mackenzie were patriots. Mackenzie was the grandfather of the founder of one of the great prime ministers of this great party that I represent.

I agree that Baldwin and Lafontaine merit special recognition. They worked together to achieve responsible government in a remarkable demonstration of tolerance shown by Canadians of that day.

In 1841 Lafontaine lost his seat in an election of that year and Baldwin found one for him in the heart of Upper Canada, Canada West, in Newmarket, Ontario. Two years later Baldwin lost his seat and Lafontaine had him elected in the constituency of Rimouski which was 99 per cent francophone. I suggest to my hon. colleague we may switch some day in the same fashion. That was the spirit of the times and the spirit of the toleration and co-operation that created this great country.

There have always been those who had doubts about this country and its future. Joseph Howe, it must be admitted, doubted that Confederation would work. He opposed it in 1867 and called it botheration not Confederation. Within a few years he became caught up in the vision of a great nation from sea to sea. So did Wilfrid Laurier, who had opposed Confederation in 1867, and so did W. S. Fielding of Nova Scotia who opposed Confederation in the 1880s in a campaign for premier that he led for the Liberal Party. Ten years later Fielding was in Ottawa as a part of Laurier's cabinet.

Is it not possible that 10 years hence the hon. member for Verchères and indeed the Leader of the Opposition himself, who has shown such a willingness to change his political views in the past, might together with all of us on this side celebrate Canada Day and Heritage Day in Ottawa?

National Patriots' DayPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The period set aside for Private Members' Business has now ended. Under Standing Order 96(3), the item is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-30, an act to amend the Department of Labour Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders


Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette Liberalfor the Minister of Human Resources Development

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders


The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave now?

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders


Some hon. members


Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders


Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette Liberalfor the Minister of Human Resources Development

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders


York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity address the House about

not only Bill C-30, but also about the broader context of this vital amendment to the Department of Labour Act.

It is important that Canadians understand the long term goals which frame the government's response to the challenges presented by the breakdown of the traditional fishery. They need to understand our efforts to meet these challenges with meaningful, co-ordinated programs that acknowledge the inevitability of change and recognize the urgent need to establish a more diversified, relevant economic base for the Atlantic region.

We also recognize that the human dynamics of this tragic situation calls for a response that is fair and flexible, particularly as it applies to those hardest hit and least able to adjust to the change.

Certainly no group of individuals has been more affected by the decline of the groundfish industry than older fishers and fish plant workers. These are people who have spent their working lives, who have made their living in the fishery and who in many cases now find their chances for re-employment not very encouraging.

That is why the Atlantic groundfish strategy includes a fish plant older worker adjustment program. It is why an amendment to the Department of Labour Act, Bill C-30, is needed to include eligible workers who will reach 55 within their period of eligibility under the strategy.

The Atlantic groundfish strategy was designed in consultation with provinces, unions, businesses, industry and of course the communities and individuals who have been affected by the situation in Atlantic Canada, those individuals whose livelihood has been affected by the dependence that they had on a diminishing resource in that area of Canada.

In developing the comprehensive strategy, all aspects of change were considered, which is why programs that target the circumstances faced by specific groups such as older workers, are included as part of this wide adjustment strategy.

We have introduced a very comprehensive avant garde way of looking at the problem. We are using a modernized, restructured approach toward addressing the issue of change in Atlantic Canada. Fundamental in this discussion is the fact that we as a government, as a people, must understand that the only constant in today's society is change.

It requires new, more innovative ways to deal with the challenges facing the people in Canada. The changing dynamics, the changing configuration of the Canadian economy, particularly in Atlantic Canada, necessitate a new approach, a new way of enhancing our labour market strategy, of finding new ways to deal with structural unemployment, new ways of dealing with the lives, by providing opportunities, by providing the tools, by giving Canadians a tool kit to deal with the type of change that in many ways has devastated a resource, namely the fishery.

How we deal with that as a government, how we respond to the changing dynamics of Atlantic Canada's economy, is fundamental to the success not only of our region but also of our nation. It goes above and beyond that industry. It speaks to the fact that we as Canadians must abandon old ways, must realize and accept that change is here, that the economy simply does not function the way it used to.

Therefore this crisis in Atlantic Canada has in many ways challenged the traditional approach of dealing with changes in our economy. As we looked and analysed and reviewed and in some ways invented new ways of dealing with this issues, foremost in our minds as always when we are dealing with public policy, when we are dealing with the livelihood and lives of young and old in a region like Atlantic Canada was that we as a government have a responsibility to provide opportunities for our people.

In turn, the responsibility of the people of Atlantic Canada affected by this program is to make the most out of those opportunities provided by the Government of Canada in partnership with all the key stakeholders in the Atlantic Canada community. It is not a question of just giving income support for the sake of income support. We are dealing with changing the dynamics in an economy that requires innovative ways of dealing with the problem of diminishing resources, namely the fishery.

We need a variety of ways of dealing with the issue at hand and to give the people affected by the diminishing resources a variety of tools. The government, always in full partnership with the communities, the businesses and the individuals, has created a series of programs to help with the transition that is necessary in the Atlantic region.

Among others, we have initiatives such as the career planning and employment counselling. These services will help us to assess individual employment possibilities, set goals, develop a personal agenda for the individual Canadian who is looking to improve his or her chances in an economy that is forever changing.

We are also offering a self-employment assistance program. It is a program that will basically kickstart new business outside the fishery. In essence it will give hope and opportunity to Canadians in Atlantic Canada to engage in entrepreneurship training.

Through this process of extensive, wide-ranging consultation, everyone involved was brought into the consultation process. As a government we felt fundamentally that any program which we initiated must have the full support and co-operation of the people.

We have to bring it back to the community level. We have to engage people at the community level. It is for this reason that one of the initiatives speaks to a communities opportunity pool, allowing individuals to develop and contribute to community based projects and initiatives where they live.

We are also cognizant of the fact that we live in a changing world where the environment and sustainable economic growth are extremely important to the lives of Canadians regardless of which region they are from. It is for this reason that we introduced, as part of the package, green projects that connect the environment and the community with the view to improve the skills and long term employment opportunities for those people who choose to participate in this initiative.

Fundamental to this program is also mobility assistance, to provide relocation support for those who wish to find work outside their community and of course portable wage subsidies to allow employers outside the fishery to hire people and provide on the job training.

It is extremely important to note that where these initiatives are concerned we have built safeguards that will ensure there is no abuse of the programs and services offered.

We must remember that while TAGS is an active support measure, the fish plant older worker adjustment program is more in line with the traditional way of giving support to people. It will provide income support to older workers who have worked all their lives and, may I add, worked very hard. This program is an investment in their dignity and in their self-worth.

I believe it is essential to reiterate the Atlantic groundfish strategy. One of the key features of this strategy is that it is built on mutual responsibility. That is a very important principle. As such, it represents a significant change from the traditional way of giving income support provided by the previous groundfish programs that ended on May 15, 1994. Of course I am referring to NCARP and AGAP.

No one is obliged to participate in the strategy. Anyone can opt out for an alternative. That is their personal choice.

In addition to active income support, the strategy is a departure from the traditional, ineffective at times, ways of the past. At no time under this strategy program will participants be trained for jobs that do not exist. They will work at jobs that need to be done or trained for employment that will give them a chance at a future job.

In short, what is fundamental to note about this program is that TAGS is the opposite of a cynical, short lived, make work program. Those types of programs are part of the history books.

As a nation in financial, social and economic terms we simply cannot afford to go on in the same manner in which we have for decades. Conditions are simply not the same.

Other measures to encourage and assist workers include continued employment counselling, literacy programs and general education upgrading, all with the objective of connecting people to the emerging reality of a diversified economy, of giving people the skills and opportunities required to meet the challenges of this century, to meet the challenges of a nation in a global economy that is changing at a very fast pace.

When we say that people must continue to upgrade, when we say that most jobs by the year 2010 will require over 16 years of education, when we say that the future really belongs to the learners, the people who are willing to upgrade their skills, the people who are willing to take risks and challenges, the people who are willing to take the time to acquire the new economy skills that are required, those individuals are going to be the winners of the new economic system, those people who are willing to challenge future trends.

That is a message not only for the Atlantic fish workers and plant workers we are talking about today, but that is the challenge for all Canadians regardless of where they come from.

Atlantic Canadians are faced with diminishing resources on one hand and a changing economy on the other. This program we are speaking about today speaks to the challenges they are facing, adding to the effectiveness of the strategy that will be implemented in a context of wider commitments to eliminate duplication, overlap and to support development efforts in a co-ordinated manner. This means we must bring government departments together and toward this end the initiatives of the Atlantic groundfish strategy will complement the functions of regional economic development agencies such as ACOA and FORD-Q.

Even within government we have to accept change and even within government we must adapt to the realities of the new economy.

As members are aware, FORD-Q is focusing on economic diversification for eastern Quebec and the north shore. This initiative has as its clientele fishers and communities affected by the crisis, small and medium sized businesses, entrepreneurs, new business start-ups and non profit organizations such as Alliance des pêcheurs du Québec. FORD-Q serves an umbrella function, facilitating local and regional initiatives in concert with the Quebec government.

ACOA will place a similar emphasis on community economic development in finding innovative ways to enhance the potential of the communities, of the people, of the labour force; their potential within an Atlantic Canada context.

While we acknowledge that hardship will be felt in each of the hundreds of communities affected by the fishery adjustment it is necessary to recognize the potential of communities to develop new economic structures. Therefore ACOA is encouraging communities to group together, to take a regional approach to alternative industry development.

How well we are dealing with the crisis. Our approach as a government, our approach as communities, as a nation, should be not simply to view this as a crisis but it must also be to view this as an opportunity to bring about positive change in this particular area.

When we look at the way government is going to deliver the programs we will make sure that in terms of delivering effective, relevant economic development programs every effort must be made to ensure the harmonization of all existing and anticipated initiatives. That is fundamental to the success of this program. We must remember that government in co-operation with community, unions, business leaders, the people, the various communities, must act in concert, together, toward a common vision as we move forward.

It is critical then that the Atlantic groundfish strategy reinforces the community development thrust of FORD-Q and ACOA. Because we owe that to the people of the area, to the taxpayers of Canada, nothing less than the most efficient, effective and user friendly initiatives that can be designed should be delivered; initiatives that are at once pragmatic, compassionate, developed through consultation, initiatives such as fish plant older worker adjustment program.

This program in a very practical way recognizes the long term contribution of older workers with many years of attachment to the groundfish industry. This change will help these men and women maintain their dignity. It will reduce the impact of communities when it comes to dealing with the damaging consequences of significant job losses.

Bill C-30 as such represents an important component of delivering a truly effective, relevant adjustment package for older workers between the ages of 50 and 64. The programs of the Atlantic groundfish strategy, including the fish plant older worker adjustment program, are each designed to meet the specific needs, to serve as a catalyst for community economic growth and individual adjustment in the face of unprecedented change and disruption.

Bill C-30 is just one response under the strategy to the realities of change but it is an essential response to those Atlantic Canadians who have given so much for so long and who now during this crisis, yet opportunity, during this time when they are challenged by unprecedented conditions in the fishery industry really need our support.

It is for this reason that when we were drafting this legislation we took into consideration the various components. We took into consideration the fishery industry. We took into consideration the attachment that these people have to that industry, the economic conditions, the past economic practices and structures of Atlantic Canada.

We feel that through this legislation we are not only addressing a crisis but we are giving people the necessary tools to upgrade their skills, to put their experience into action in community opportunity pools, to provide them with tools like self-employment assistance and portable wage subsidies. We are doing all this because we understand fundamentally that what is occurring in Atlantic Canada today requires an intelligent, pragmatic, rational response.

It requires an innovative, flexible system that can give the opportunity to people in Atlantic Canada to react to a new situation, a new economic system and new challenges that obviously they did not face before.

As I said earlier, the role of the Government of Canada in partnership with all the rest of the stakeholders in the various communities, individual fishermen and plant workers, unions and business is to provide opportunity to the people of Atlantic Canada. I am 150 per cent sure that in the same responsible manner in which the Government of Canada provided those opportunities the people of Atlantic Canada will respond to those challenges, to those opportunities, by making the most out of it.

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to the measures introduced by the government in this bill. I think more than anything this bill demonstrates the difference between the Liberal principles and Reform principles.

It clearly demonstrates an old way of thinking about government and a new common sense way of thinking that Reformers are hearing from Canadians across this country. Maritimers and Newfoundlanders are just now beginning to hear from Reformers. I hope they are listening today.

Bill C-30 is one small component of the government's Atlantic groundfish strategy called TAGS in bureaucratic language. TAGS was announced in April by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Human Resources Development as the Liberal government's $1.9 billion response to the continuing human tragedy unfolding in Atlantic Canada. It resulted from the virtual disappearance of Atlantic cod from our eastern fisheries.

TAGS took effect on May 16 and replaces two Conservative government programs, the northern cod adjustment and recovery program and the Atlantic goundfish adjustment program.

The Atlantic groundfish strategy is a five year program which will provide a range of options for an estimated 30,000 groundfish fishermen and plant workers. It has several components which I would like to review at this time.

First, there is financial support here of between $200 and $382 per week. Second, it provides for training programs including literacy training, adult basic education, university study programs, leadership training, career guidance training and entrepreneurial training.

Another aspect of it is that participants will take part in employment projects called green projects which will be designed to preserve and enhance the environment and designed to provide fishermen and plant workers with new skills and job experience.

Another thing that TAGS will do is provide an employment bonus to participants who find and accept work outside the fishery. It will also provide an affordable wage subsidy which will be paid to employers outside the fishery sector to hire fishermen and plant workers in permanent, full time employment and provide on the job training.

Another thing is that this program will provide employment counselling, mobility and relocation assistance to those workers who want to move to find work. Program participants will also have access to self-employment assistance to help them create their own jobs. All of these can be very positive measures.

Finally, we come to the Atlantic groundfish strategy which will provide an older worker adjustment program or an early retirement package for fish plant workers between the ages of 50 and 65 who do not want to participate in any of these other programs. This is the reason for Bill C-30. That is why the government introduced it and that is the reason we are here today.

First, I commend the government for the Atlantic groundfish strategy. Reformers believe that it is an improvement over the programs that it replaces. It requires participants to participate in training and upgrading programs, work on community projects and a range of labour adjustment options and incentives to get fishermen and plant workers back to work.

I think many of the measures were designed to provide participants with a number of choices to fit their particular circumstances and needs. I also think the programs were designed to save the government money in the long run by trying to get these participants back to work. I commend the government for the thought that went into these programs. There seems to have been some real innovative thinking based on the premise that what we have done in the past has not worked.

I believe the program design indicates a legitimate desire on behalf of the government to try and use these programs to avoid or break up the dependency cycle which often accompanies government programs of this nature.

I look forward to finding out how they actually work, to see if any of these measures have application in the rest of Canada particularly as they relate to the larger task of reforming our social programs currently under review in the Department of Human Resources Development.

So much for the compliments. Let us get to Bill C-30, the plant older worker adjustment program. The innovative thinking seems to have stopped at this point. Bill C-30 will amend the Department of Labour Act to allow the Minister of Human Resources Development to enter into federal-provincial agreements and provide for an early retirement package of up to $1,000 per month for approximately 1,200 fish plant workers between the ages of 50 and 65. This is estimated to cost between $53 million and $67 million. The total cost of the program is to be shared by the federal and provincial governments on a 70 per cent 30 per cent basis respectively.

The government will purchase annuities for older fish plant workers, the amount to be calculated on the basis of 70 per cent of their UI benefits, up to a monthly maximum of $1,000.

While this guaranteed income is currently only available to fish plant workers, government officials advise that a similar package is now being designed for fishermen. As we can see the measure is going to be expanded.

It seems every time we target a new program for a certain group it creates inequities and others say "Me too", so we create another program. It has a snowballing effect. We get into the mess we are in now and it is costing us millions and billions of dollars.

Government officials explained the rationale for this new program. They said that some fish plant workers will not want to participate in the other program options offered by the government. They said that providing up to $1,000 per month to these older workers would in fact save the government money. Benefits under the Atlantic groundfish strategy will range from a minimum of $867 per month to a maximum of $1,655 per month.

Unfortunate, Reformers believe the government has not thought this final measure out very well. Under TAGS the 30,000 unemployed fishermen and plant workers will be required to participate in a wide range of measures designed to get them back to work, that is if they are under 50 years of age. However, the fish plant older worker adjustment program and any subsequent early retirement package designed for fishermen are designed with the view that these workers are no longer employable. Age 50 and you are no longer employable, no

longer capable of being a productive employee, a human resource that is no longer needed to revitalize the economy of Atlantic Canada.

Reformers believe that these early retirement packages should not be an option that we consider for workers in the prime of their life. Workers between the ages of 50 and 65 have accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and experience that should not be lost by putting them out to pasture. For half of their adult life they will be on some kind of a pension. Can we in good conscience make this kind of a move? All workers should be asked to participate in the other innovative options provided in the Atlantic groundfish strategy.

Let us think about what we are doing here. If we are going to put these valuable workers out to pasture, and I am not saying we should, the federal government already pays for a program to do just that. It is called social assistance.

If the government has given up on these workers and if the workers want to give up on themselves and go on welfare, that is the option that is available to them. Not only is it available it is cheaper than the 70:30 cost sharing proposed in this bill.

The Canada assistance plan provides financial support through the provinces on a 50:50 cost sharing arrangement, plus the bureaucracy is already in place in each of the provinces. There is no need to set up another bureaucracy to establish yet another glorified welfare program administered by the feds.

This duplication of effort is reason enough for Reformers not to support this bill. We came to Ottawa to eliminate duplication of effort and to save money. That is why we cannot go along with this.

Here is a program that is a complete duplication of effort between the federal and provincial bureaucracies and it costs the federal government even more money. Reformers say: "How about taking all the money spent in the administration of this earlier retirement program and put it in the hands of fishermen and fish plant workers to help them get back to work?"

All the other programs put forward in the Atlantic groundfish strategy have been designed to get fishermen and fish plant workers back to work, but the fish plant older worker adjustment program is designed to do the exact opposite. This early retirement package will act as a disincentive to re-enter the workforce, a disincentive to retrain, a disincentive to start a small business and a disincentive to move to find work. This is another reason why Reformers do not support Bill C-30.

Reformers do not have such a defeatist attitude that they give up on 1,200 workers before even trying to get them back in the labour force.

Another reason not to support this bill is the discriminatory aspects of it. This bill is discriminatory in three ways. First of all it is discriminatory on the basis of age. It is discriminatory on the basis of industry. It is discriminatory on the basis of region. This bill discriminates on the basis of age by providing benefits for older fish plant workers between the ages of 50 and 65. What about worker who is 49 and in the same situation as the 50 year older worker? Could he not challenge his ineligibility because it discriminates on the basis of age?

This early retirement program also discriminates against older workers facing similar hardship but not working in that particular industry or some of those fish plants.

What about those older workers who work in other service companies who are indirectly dependent on the fish plants and the fisheries? They were thrown out of work. What about the older workers who have been laid off in thousands of small industries and businesses in hundreds of communities in Atlantic Canada because of the fisheries crisis? Could these older workers not challenge this program because it discriminates against them on the basis of industry?

The fish plant older worker adjustment program also discriminates because it is targeted only to the Atlantic provinces. What about older workers in the rest of Canada who read about the special treatment of older workers in the Atlantic region? Could older workers in the rest of Canada who are also in serious financial straits not challenge this program because it is not available to them?

The Reform Party believes in true equality and is opposed to the discriminatory aspects of this bill, the fish plant older worker adjustment program. In fact Reformers are opposed to all older worker adjustment programs implemented by the government over the last number of years. The Reform Party principles would have programs apply to all laid off workers equally regardless of age, place of residence, industry and targeted to those most in need. Let us not forget that key point: target the programs to those most in need.

Finally, the Reform Party is opposed to the bill because of its defeatist approach to the east coast fishery. Neither Bill C-30 nor the Atlantic groundfish strategy describes how these programs relate to the total restructuring of the Atlantic fisheries so that it is sustainable once the recovery has taken place.

Reformers believe that the east coast fishery can be revitalized by fundamentally restructuring the industry so that it is

market driven and competitively structured with individual harvesting rights which will lead to economically viable vessels and processing units.

In closing I would like to say that we have here a classic case, a clear demonstration of the calamity caused by government intervention. For over 300 years the east coast fishery has thrived. In the last 50 years the government got too involved in managing the fishery and look at it today. What a mess.

Thirty thousand people who used to be gainfully employed and paying taxes are now dependent on a $1.9 billion make work project. I find it ironic that throughout the whole of the 50 years of government intervention the only job security has been for the tinkering, meddling bureaucrats and politicians. Those are the ones who have been assured of a job. This program is another make work project for them.

Every time the government introduces a new program it seems to create more work for bureaucrats. If it is anything like agriculture there is one bureaucrat now for every 5.7 farmers who make a living off the land. That is unsustainable. That cannot work. We have to look at how much government we have and find ways to downsize.

This is where the Reform Party is strongly opposed to the direction the government is taking. Even in this the east coast fisheries darkest hour the bureaucrats and politicians are finding ways to employ even more bureaucrats. I am sure most people in Atlantic Canada appreciate the money, the support and the programs. I cannot help but wonder what kind of fishery we would have had if the bureaucrats and politicians had not stuck their noses in where they were not needed and let the people of Atlantic Canada run their industry, make the choices that needed to be made and not have it run from Ottawa.

What kind of fishery would we have had if we had put our faith in Atlantic Canadians, if we had depended on their ingenuity, their hard work, their creativity, their productivity and their competitive instincts? What kind of east coast fishery would we have had if we had relied on free markets, free enterprise and the entrepreneurial talent of Atlantic Canadians?

The free market and free enterprise system could not have done worse than what the government has done in this case. Reformers believe that the bureaucrats and politicians have had their chance. They have messed things up big time. I believe it is time to give easterners a chance to prove themselves. Let us use this fisheries crisis to rethink the way we have been doing business. Let us give Atlantic Canadians the freedom they need to restructure the east coast fishery the way they think it needs to be done, not the way some experts in Ottawa think it needs to be done.

Instead of more government let us demand less government. Instead of higher taxes let us demand lower taxes. Reformers would rather see the future of the east coast fishery in the hands of Atlantic Canadians than in the hands of government bureaucrats. Reformers trust Atlantic Canadians to make decisions that are in the best interests of the fishery, their families, their communities, their provinces and Atlantic Canada. We trust those people.

Finally, if Atlantic Canadians are given this freedom they will revitalize the east coast fishery. It will be good for the entire Canadian economy.

Reformers look forward to working with Atlantic Canadians in the years ahead to transform all four Atlantic provinces from have not provinces to have provinces. The Reform's approach is very different from that of the Liberals with regard to this strategy.

I would like to make one more comment as I close. Meaningful work enhances the quality of life. We are telling these people through this older worker fish plant adjustment program to go. They are 50 years old, in the prime of life, and will be given a cheque every month. This is unacceptable. We cannot go along with it.

The basic philosophy of the Reform Party is very different from that of the government.

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Yvan Bernier Bloc Gaspé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at the end of this session on Bill C-30, the purpose of which is to allow workers in the fishing industry to take early retirement, at age 50. We want to say from the outset that the Bloc québécois will support this government initiative, for the following reasons.

When you come from a maritime region made up of very small communities, you see that there is no economic diversity at present. What is a 50-year old man or woman who is asked to go back to school supposed to do? Many of us realize that going back to school is very hard. The most painful thing for these workers we are discussing today is that going back to school for a period of two or three or five years, and then rejoining the labour force, is still pretty dicey. The point is not that these persons will be unable to work-I would be the first to hire them-but we must be realistic and work with the present economic conditions in the regions of Canada. The jobs are not there.

If I take my constituency as an example, the unemployment rate is 27 per cent. I have already said so, but at the end of this session I may take the liberty of sending that message again to the government side. An unemployment rate of 27 per cent, an activity rate of 42 per cent, means that four persons out of 10 who are old enough to work are looking for a job or are working. And that means there are six persons out of 10 who are not working.

In my constituency, the unemployment rate is 27 per cent. If I try to draw a parallel with the rate in Quebec, that province as a whole has an activity rate of 62 per cent; there is a 20-point spread. If, in order to compare the constituency of Gaspé with

the province of Quebec, I add that 20 per cent to the unemployment rate for Gaspé, I get 47 per cent, or nearly 50 per cent.

These figures can be found in many maritime communities. That is what has forced me to have discussions with my colleagues and reach the following conclusion: I, too, would like to be able to say, like the members of the Reform Party, that it is against my principles to hand out money, but we must face the facts: jobs are scarce.

For the enlightenment of the Reform Party, I will raise two points. Mr. Félix Leclerc, speaking about the unemployed and about paying people not to work, said, "It would kill them".

Yes, in our Quebec culture, we, too, have self-righteous people telling us that everyone old enough to work should pitch in. But the situation, this year and for the next few years, is not conducive to that philosophy.

The other small point I would like to make to my Reform colleagues is that I was a little surprised-but pleasantly surprised-to see that they would allow fisheries management by Maritimers themselves. I think the heart of the problem lies there.

I think that, if the people of the Maritime provinces had been responsible for managing or allocating their resource, we would not have the same problem we have today. I can say from having worked on the standing committee on fisheries that the witnesses we heard reflected that thinking. People want a part in decisions. They are the ones who experience the day to day problems, and very often there are local solutions to a local problem. Ottawa is a long way from Gaspé. Ottawa is a very long way from Newfoundland. How far? Six hours by plane from Newfoundland, and four and a half hours from my constituency. And it is even longer by car: remember that people in fishing communities cannot afford airfare.

If management were given back to the regions, things would be very different. But before people take sides on that idea, I would just like to say that it will not lead to any big constitutional squabbles about whether most fish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic come under individual quotas. The Government of Canada-since everyone is still Canadian for the moment-has already given responsibility for some of those quotas to the fishermen.

I know that there are members of this House who do not share my opinion, but I want to pursue this idea to its conclusion nonetheless.

I was saying, then, that in the Gulf of St. Lawrence 80 per cent of stocks come under individual quotas. Based on that fact, the remaining 20 per cent of fish stocks are allocated to inshore fishermen. If we had listened to the inshore fishermen long ago, we would not have had the problems we now have, because the inshore fishermen were the first ones who could not catch their share of Canada's quota. It may have been five years since they were last able to catch their share.

Using these figures, it may be easy to divide up the remaining quotas, on paper, for the time when the fishery reopens, provided we do not get greedy try to take more than our share. That is a suggestion I have for the government, that each fishing quota be further divided into individual quotas. After that, if all members here agree, we could whisper this suggestion loudly in the ear of the Minister of Fisheries.

Later, and this is the most difficult thing to manage, the total allowable catches will have to be determined jointly by the provinces and Ottawa or, if Quebec becomes sovereign, by Quebec and Ottawa within NAFO. These organizations need not be reinvented since they already exist. We would simply use the tools available.

We have not yet reached the sovereignty stage, however. I therefore suggest that Ottawa work in co-operation with the provinces to define the total allowable catch.

You would thus have Newfoundlanders stating theirs views concerning their own coasts, views that might be different from those along the gulf. Take, for example, the Gaspé area, which lies at the very end of the Gulf and where most of the fish caught are migratory. These fish will swim along the coast of Newfoundland before coming to Gaspé. The same goes for the southern part of the gulf. From Cape Breton, the fish will go up the coast to Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick before ending up off the Gaspé coast.

We have to act jointly so that everyone will understand the migratory movements of these fish. I find it extremely important that this point was raised by Reform members.

I have already expressed this view on other occasions. I know that the Premier of Newfoundland and I disagree sharply as well on the future of Quebec and Canada. However, I believe the Newfoundland premier's position is not that far off from the one I took during the election campaign. It is a position my Reform colleagues are now beginning to agree with. The Premier of Newfoundland spoke of setting up a committee in the province to set TACs and to divide up resources.

Where I disagree with him, however, is on the contention that a province should be allowed to set its own quotas, because

provinces share the same waters. When our TAC percentage is set before we sit down at the table, all that is left for us to do is to manage the resource properly. Provincial officials then go home and issue the licences needed to meet their quota, because each province has its own fleet. The provinces finance the fleets as well as the processing plants. This connection is very important.

Why am I speaking about this today in relation to Bill C-30 which provides for early retirement at 50 years of age? I always believed that wisdom would come with age. It galls me to have to support this measure but I want history to remember this so that these fishery workers will not have to pay twice for the administrative mistakes of the federal government.

Other points could also be mentioned. My colleagues raised a number of them at second reading. I would, however, like to emphasize one thing again at this time, namely that administrative rules should not prevent those taking early retirement from benefiting from economic initiatives. In time, some of the early retirees may decide they want to embark on a second career and they should not be prevented from doing so. Once they are back up to speed, they will be filing tax returns and the state will come out even on the deal, as they say. At this point in time, however, it is important that this bill be passed so as to ensure that these individuals, whether they live in Quebec, New Brunswick or Newfoundland, have food to put on the table.

Another concern of mine was-I asked questions to certain senior officials last week and put the question to the minister; perhaps we can get an official answer-will fishermen also be eligible under the same act? I have here a document which says that in the spirit of the existing legislation and the spirit of the fisheries recovery legislation-I do not remember the exact phraseology-fishermen would indeed become eligible for this pre-retirement plan when they turn 50. But I have not received a clear and firm answer on that. Yet, as one of our colleagues from the Reform Party pointed out at second reading, the Auditor General of Canada stated in his report that the government has to put a specific motion to the House before it can introduce such bills or authorize such public expenditures.

I have, on the one hand, the advice of the auditor general and, on the other hand, that of senior officials. First, I would like to comment on the bill as it now reads and second, I would like the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to administer its own pre-retirement program for fishermen.

I wanted to look at the next problem from this perspective. Much remains to be done. As far as the industry rationalization boards are concerned, some steps were taken but they have not been set up yet and we do not know what their membership will be. Why bring this up? Because establishing pre-retirement programs for fishermen will require extensive discussions with the provinces. As I said earlier, fishing boats were subsidized by the provinces.

How can we reconcile on the one hand, Ottawa giving fishermen a pre-retirement allowance and on the other hand, the province refusing to forgive the debt on boats? That would not make any sense. Again, how much of the $1.9 billion the minister has made available will be spent on pre-retirement programs? I do not want to see one single dollar of this money go to waste. I hope that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will come to an agreement with his provincial counterparts on this subject.

Failing which I would suggest that the resource envelope allocated to this measure be handed over to the province so that it can make appropriate arrangements. These are the general points I wanted to raise. Much was said about the high costs associated with this pre-retirement program and with the loss of expertise, but we did not hear much at all from the government, about ideas for the fisheries of the future.

Let us hear about it. This represents a $1.9 billion investment. I want to be sure we do not end up no further ahead after spending this kind of money. When he presented his program, the minister gave us the impression that we would have a better idea of the situation after six weeks of consultations. I do not have the date handy, but these six weeks must be almost up. We are coming to the end of the parliamentary session. Should I conclude that there will not be any new developments on these issues before the fall?

I think it would have been a good sign for the minister to issue guidelines before the end of the parliamentary session, in order to guide industry and continue discussions during the summer. If we wait until the fall, we should decide quickly what to do with fishermen. The minister's program deals with community and environmental projects-the expression "green projects" is used-but I want to remind you that it is difficult to work on the environment in late October. We should make plans right away to ensure that something will be put forward this summer.

Future involves other things as well. What industrial structure do we want to set up? Quebec and Canada were discovered because of our resources, namely fish or cod to be more precise. We exploited this resource in a traditional fashion. The first effective way to preserve fish was to salt and dry it. We still do it, but it has become a special product. There are other species of fish. When freezers arrived on the scene, as I mentioned, we produced frozen cod blocks, but there are still other species we have not exploited.

The current market trend is fresh fish. It is therefore necessary to handle smaller volumes of fish but consumers are willing to pay a little more in return.

My wish is that, during moratorium years, we could establish a system to try to optimize catches for each species-we would, of course, only keep mature fish to avoid depleting other stocks and repeating the mistakes we may have made with cod-in order to commercialize these species.

That is something we heard a lot of under the former Conservative government. Why did it not work? Because tools were missing and it was too marginal, we were told. But now, regarding the few cod stocks still open in Canadian zones, I can tell you that dogfish catches may be as large if not larger than current cod catches in the other zones that remain open.

The missing tool is a hopper on the wharf, so that fishermen can converge on a site. This hopper will allow us to concentrate on certain species, so that there will be enough to make people take notice. I call them "unloading areas". There are some in Europe. Of course, in certain places, it also led to a concentration of ships.

Nevertheless, the coastal villages around these landing sites are not closed, except that the fish is landed somewhere and the nearby plant, which wants to have the product, can process it. For this, the fish must be kept cold. But we can do all that now, since we have skilled workers who are especially eager to work because working is also an honour.

People now collecting a cheque at home would really like to do something constructive and know that the dry period they are going through will end. There must be light at the end of the tunnel. They do not have any now. Something important to have would be landing areas.

In addition to that is what I proposed, a provincial hub for marketing these resources. There is a way to do that as well. These are things that must be done. Some supporting figures-I see some hon. members from Nova Scotia watching us-a manager of a Nova Scotia company told me once: "Yvan, 20 per cent of the fresh fish we land account for 40 per cent of our profits."

It is easy to extrapolate from that. I realize that it takes a certain volume, but I would really like this idea to be used. Maybe the government opposite can change it a little, because if the suggestion comes from an opposition member, sometimes it is not considered good, but I would remind them that I did not hesitate to support Bill C-30, as I did not hesitate to support the bill on overfishing. So, as a demonstration of good faith, I think that the Bloc is here to promote sound management, but not to hide its political orientation.

But when we look at disorders and problems such as we see here today, I think that I can set aside my partisanship for the sake of good fishery management. I wanted to add a few words on how workers could benefit from this aid.

I want to be sure that every worker in the fishing industry is well represented under this new agreement. I hope they will have union representation and some provincial agreements because I want to be sure that workers will not be less themselves in front of the big machine of Ottawa. That is what I want to add on that.

In closing, I want to make a wish: I hope that these industry workers will meet the challenge now. May they now be assured of subsistence through a financial allowance for early retirement and may they get down to work to earn a little extra for making ends meet. I would ask them to work with their communities and call on everyone to do his bit so that in five years, there will be something else, always keeping in mind that the fisheries might recover, but analyzing what can be done about it now.

I would like to leave you with these remarks, Madam Speaker, and remind you that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-30 and hope that the government will consider past federal mismanagement and what people in the provinces and the maritime communities are saying so that we never have to relive what we are going through.

Department Of Labour ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Francis Leblanc Liberal Cape Breton Highlands—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate this morning in the debate, at third reading, of Bill C-30, and I am also pleased to see that the hon. member for Gaspé gave his party's support to this very important legislation for the workers of the Atlantic fishing industry.

I listened with great interest to the comments and suggestions made by the hon. member to rebuild an industry which is so vital to many communities on the East coast. I find the hon. member's approach to be very interesting and fruitful in many respects. Our government thinks that the time has come to rebuild this industry and, in fact, this is the objective of the adjustment program announced on May 15 by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Minister of Human Resources Development. The purpose of that initiative is to help displaced workers and those who have been left without jobs following the crisis in that industry. The program is aimed at giving individuals and communities a chance to rebuild their lives, and to rebuild that industry on a more solid foundation than in the past.

Bill C-30 is part of the government's strategy for helping the workers that have been laid off and unemployed by the crisis in the Atlantic fishery to adjust to the situation. We have to consider the horrendously difficult circumstance in which many fish plant workers find themselves, particularly older fish plant

workers. Through absolutely no fault of their own, many older workers are out of a job and their prospects are slim to none for getting another one. This is the problem that Bill C-30 addresses. Canadians want us to show compassion for these individuals. We are showing compassion. We are bring in positive measures to address this unprecedented crisis. The government is approaching this problem through a component of the Atlantic groundfish strategy which will involve income support for older workers. It is a program that will be negotiated, financed and implemented with the provinces.

However there are some workers who cannot be helped under the current legislation. I am referring to those workers who are under the age of 55, who were at least 50 years of age on May 15 of this year and who are eligible to participate in the Atlantic groundfish strategy. They do not qualify for older worker adjustment assistance under current legislation. That is the reason why Bill C-30 is so important, it addresses their plight.

Hon. members have given valuable input to this legislation. Last week Bill C-30 was studied by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The committee gave careful consideration to the issues raised by hon. members opposite. For the benefit of the House I would like to address some of those concerns.

There is always justifiable apprehension that with a new program, tax dollars earned through the sweat of Canadian workers are going to end up in the pockets of people who do not qualify for the program. I can assure my hon. colleagues that will not happen with this program. To be eligible for benefits first an individual must be determined eligible under TAGS; the individual must be a fish plant worker or a trawler person; he or she must have a long term attachment to the groundfish industry; the person has to be out of a job because of a permanent reduction of the workforce at the fish plant and that permanent reduction has to be the result of a decline in fish stocks.

So that this is absolutely clear, the only people we are talking about here are older fish plant workers, including trawler persons. All told we estimate that involves about 1,200 men and women. Of that number about 700 will have reached the age of 55 during their entitlement period under TAGS by May 16 of this year when the Atlantic groundfish strategy came into effect.

We estimate there will be an additional 500 workers who would reach the age of 55 during their entitlement under TAGS. It is those 500 dedicated men and women that the passage of Bill C-30 is designed to help.

Some members have said that if we are going to help older workers who happen to be out of a job because of fish plants closing, then should we not also help older workers who have lost their jobs because of restructuring in other industries? That analogy does not hold here. The groundfish industry is not just one of many industries in Atlantic Canada, it is its lifeblood, and in those communities which are dependent on the fishery there really is no alternative source of employment for older workers.

The demise of this industry will lead to the demise of entire communities unless we help these hard working men and women deal with the crisis. Simply put, there are few options available to older workers in this situation.

Yet there is a legitimate question about the ramifications of the decline in the groundfish industry for the rest of the Atlantic economy. I am sure that hon. members realize that these adjustments do not take place in a vacuum. There is a domino effect that spreads throughout the entire Atlantic seaboard. In Newfoundland alone there are some 1,300 communities affected by the groundfish industry. Of that number, 800 depend solely on economic activity from groundfish. The government would be remiss not to take this into account. We are taking it into account.

Hon. members will recall that the budget provided $800 million for the strategic initiatives program. Projects under this program will be funded on a 50:50 basis with the provinces and territories. They will explore innovative approaches to training and getting people back to work. In Atlantic Canada the program will complement TAGS by helping men and women who are not directly employed by the fishery.

Since the major downturn in the fishery has taken place in Newfoundland, that province will be the first to receive assistance under the strategic initiatives program.

Last Thursday the Minister of Human Resources Development, along with the minister of fisheries of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and ministers from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced funding of $20 million for projects in Newfoundland under the strategic initiatives program.

I realize that this debate on Bill C-30 is not the place for details of strategic initiatives but I can tell the House that these projects will provide financial incentive to encourage students to stay in school. They will help recent graduates to find jobs and they will encourage entrepreneurship outside the fishery.

The funds will also provide employment and training opportunities for unemployed and underemployed individuals on social assistance or at risk of moving on to social assistance. It is a partnership, co-operation among all levels of government, the private sector and community organizations to ensure that programs such as TAGS and the strategic initiatives address the

entire economic picture in a way that will help to revitalize the Atlantic economy.

Some hon. members have expressed concern that this income assistance program will duplicate the general social assistance programs. Let me assure them that this is not so. This is a program that addresses specific individuals who meet specific criteria within a specific age group. General social assistance programs apply to all citizens and have very different criteria.

As well, this program will not be a disincentive to seek work because it is only one part of a broad range of options under TAGS to help fish plant workers adjust to these drastic changes taking place in their lives. Older workers will be able to participate in the other components under TAGS such as green projects, self-employment assistance, and community opportunity pools and others.

At a federal level TAGS is a joint initiative of human resource development and fisheries and oceans. The two departments are working closely together to implement this program for the benefit of the greatest number of workers affected by the demise of the groundfish industry. Fisheries and oceans is currently consulting with its partners to develop a similar income support program for fishers who would qualify.

An hon. member inquired when the program will start and how long it will last. TAGS came into effect May 16 and eligible workers are entitled to labour adjustment measures and income assistance for a period between two to five years, depending upon their attachment to the groundfish industry.

The provisions made available under Bill C-30 to assist older workers will provide a dignified exit to those unemployed fish plant workers in my riding and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada who, having reached the age of 50, know full well that there are no reasonable opportunities for employment in their communities for them and the only alternative course once their unemployment insurance expires would have been social assistance. This program gives those workers a form of early retirement.

In the meantime it will allow the industry to be rebuilt with the younger people who are coming behind them. At the same time it will provide them with an opportunity to have a dignified exit and to be able to deal with the consequences of this crisis without the additional burden of loss of income and the need in some cases to leave their communities where all of their assets are located.

In closing I encourage hon. members to consider the tremendous hardships being faced by these older fish plant workers and to support Bill C-30 so that the government can give them the assistance they very much deserve during this severe crisis in their lives.