House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.

Topics

ChinaOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan LiberalSecretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Rosedale, the vice-chair of the foreign affairs committee, for the question and for his concern about an issue that is so dear to my heart.

I understand the hon. member has been travelling across the country with his work on the committee, and the issue of human rights in China has beenraised consistently. I am sure that we will have the support of the House and Canadians for advocating human rights in China, and I appreciate that.

I would like to reaffirm to the member and the House the conviction of the government concerning the issue of human rights in China. The situation remains a concern to us and there are different efforts being ensured to advance that cause.

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, for several days, the Minister of the Environment has been claiming that government regulations concerning double-hulled ships in Canada are in force, despite a contrary opinion from the legal service of the Department of Transport.

My question is for the Minister of Transport. As the one responsible for applying the Canada Shipping Act, does the Minister of Transport confirm, as his legal advisors indicate, that there is no regulation now in force under this act with respect to double-hulled ships?

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows very well that international agreements on ships plying Canadian waters and those anywhere else on earth allow 15 years to comply with international regulations.

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, since there is no Canadian law, can the Minister of Transport inform his colleague in Environment that there are no regulations on double-hulled ships and that such regulations should be passed urgently in order to avoid environmental disasters?

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, for the third time, I even gave the hon. member a copy of the law yesterday. Maybe he did not want to take it, but on page 1407, Chapter 36 of the Statutes of Canada, he will find the text of a law that was passed in 1993. Do you still want a copy?

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Double Hulled ShipsOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. Order.

Hon. members, you know that from time to time it is necessary to have books to quote from in the House, but I would ask you all not to raise any books or papers.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

Canadians have been constantly demanding that the government abolish the current MP pension plan which allows members to collect benefits after only six years of service.

The Prime Minister has stated that his government is reviewing this overly generous plan but that we have four or five years to deal with it.

We do not need a commission to tell us what needs to be done. We have already suggested changes that can be implemented immediately.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister commit to bringing the MPs' retirement compensation package in line with the private sector?

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, the House has been previously informed, as hon. members know, that there was a study commissioned by the previous government that was brought to a committee of the House and is now under study by a committee of the House as provided for by the Parliament act with respect to compensation including pensions for members of Parliament.

The government has made it clear that it intends to bring about revisions to the pension plan for MPs. As soon as the Lapointe commission submits its report, which I understand will be about mid-July, we will examine the results. We will look at the recommendations. We will then proceed to deal with the matter of MPs' pensions and other compensation factors.

I have indicated previously to the House that we expect to deal with the matter of MPs' pensions prior to the end of the year.

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a supplementary question.

Mid-July simply is not good enough. It has become public knowledge that the Leader of the Official Opposition, a man dedicated to the break-up of Canada, will become eligible for his pension on June 20.

Does the Deputy Prime Minister not agree that this alone constitutes a good enough reason to reform this extravagant MP pension plan?

Members Of Parliament Retiring Allowances ActOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, if any member of this Parliament is to receive a pension, first of all

it is after they cease to be a member of the House. They must qualify under the provisions of the act to do so.

I understand the question that is being asked by the hon. member, but I fully expect that the hon. Leader of the Opposition will qualify as a Canadian citizen to receive his pension for many years.

National Forum On HealthOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Minister of Health has not been able and/or has refused to release the terms of reference for the national health forum. The Prime Minister will be chair of that forum.

Also, if the current cost-sharing between federal, provincial and territorial governments continues there will be no federal funding for health care by the year 2015 and some provinces will not receive federal funding in the life of this Parliament.

Given the above, can the Deputy Prime Minister guarantee on behalf of the government that there will be a rebalancing of cash transfers to provinces and territories to ensure that the principles of the Canada Health Act can be maintained and enforced?

National Forum On HealthOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, obviously the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister are working very hard with the provinces to ensure that the process of the forum is in fact a very productive one. That will obviously be one of the issues on the agenda at the forum.

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of agriculture.

In the red book we talked about the whole farm safety net program. When can we expect the government to take action on this commitment and are producers taking part in the process?

AgricultureOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, in February I convened a meeting in Winnipeg with 40 or 50 farm organizations from across the country in addition to provincial and federal government officials. Their objective was to consider the future need and shape of a national safety net system based upon the whole farm concept that was described in the red book at the time of the election.

A national safety nets committee involving these 40 or 50 farm organizations is now in place. They have been working hard through the spring and early summer. Producers are very much leading the process. Their work is augmented by and co-ordinated with the ongoing work of federal and provincial officials. Their work has also involved consultations with all members of the House who have on occasion expressed an interest in making representations about the safety net system.

The objective is to have recommendations in place to present to federal and provincial ministers of agriculture when we meet for our regular meeting in July in Winnipeg. Our objective after that is to begin the implementation of the whole farm system by the beginning of 1995.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

June 8th, 1994 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Gombosuren, Minister for External Relations of Mongolia.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Jerome C. Dill, Minister of Human Affairs and Information of the Government of Bermuda.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

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

Western Grain TransportationRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to inform members of the House of the government's plans to address several problems experienced during the current crop year in the transportation of western Canadian grain to market. These actions are intended to help clear up this year's difficulties. Even more important, they will help ensure that those difficulties are not repeated in the next or subsequent crop years.

Members of the House will be aware that significant delays were experienced this year in getting western Canada's grain to market. The reasons for this were several. The flooding of the Mississippi River system forced United States' shippers to turn to other modes of transportation. This tied up rail cars in the United States that would normally have been available for lease to Canadian rail companies. The turnaround time on rail cars in the United States is longer than in Canada. A severe winter limited unloading at country elevators and slowed the movement through the system. A labour dispute on the west coast

added to the congestion of ships waiting in harbour to take on Canadian grain.

While I was on a trade mission to the Pacific rim earlier this spring, I was told in no uncertain terms by our customers that their purchases of grain and oilseeds from Canada were not being delivered on time and that this was disrupting their own operations. While Canada's reputation as a quality grain producer helped the country through this year's difficulties, our customers told me that unless we improved our delivery record they would begin to look elsewhere for more reliable suppliers.

While I was in Asia the subcommittees of the agriculture and agri-food committee and the transport committee of this House were working in Ottawa to produce valuable recommendations to help alleviate several of the problems we were experiencing.

As soon as I returned from the Pacific rim I called an urgent meeting of key players in the western grain transportation sector. The meeting was held in Winnipeg on May 16. There were representatives from the grain companies, the railroads, the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Grain Commission, the Grain Transportation Agency, the unions, and the maritime employers. I presented them with a list of initiatives including many of the subcommittees' recommendations. I asked that group in Winnipeg for their input and advice.

Shortly before that meeting was held, members of the Grain Workers Union and owners of the west coast grain terminals reached an agreement that allows for weekend unloading, thus reducing some of the bottleneck at the ports.

From a backlog of 41 vessels waiting for grain on the west coast when our problems were at their height late in the winter and earlier this spring, we now have that number of waiting ships down to 15 as of this week. That is the number which is considered close to reasonable for the efficient use of the ports. The railways also will have increased their fleet this month to more than 30,000 grain cars, compared to 24,600 in mid-February.

What is critical though is that we cannot afford a repeat of this past year. I want to congratulate the labour and industry representatives and the members of the two subcommittees of this House for their dedication to solving the myriad of problems that have plagued western grain transportation these past several months.

Incorporating the work of those subcommittees, the industry leaders, the labour representatives and advice from Transport Canada, Human Resources Development and my own Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, I wish to announce the following measures with the support of my colleagues the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Human Resources Development.

First, the system of back hauling grain from Thunder Bay as far as Winnipeg just to qualify for subsidies under the Western Grain Transportation Act is going to end. This practice which has crept into our system in the last period of time is nothing more than a waste of our resources and an inefficient use of our rolling stock.

Second, a system of demurrage and storage charges for rail cars will be developed. Currently there is no system of penalties or incentives in place to encourage shippers of grain to use and return rail cars to the general fleet expeditiously.

These two changes require amendments to the Western Grain Transportation Act. We propose to make these changes with an implementation date of January 1, 1995. Thus those who may be entering into contracts now have notice that changes are to be expected.

Third, if the railways do not deliver sufficient rolling stock in the future to accommodate grain shipments, the government will use provisions of the Western Grain Transportation Act that apply to sanctions and hold backs where necessary.

Fourth, a policy will be developed to define the circumstances under which private cars could be added to the general grain fleet for western grain movement, if we are again faced with severe rail car shortages.

Fifth, we will end the maximum elevation tariffs at the west coast and Thunder Bay to increase competition among elevator companies and to allow them to charge at sufficient levels to cover the increased costs of weekend loading at port.

Finally, the forecasting of rail car requirements will be improved, as will be the co-ordination of inland loading and movement of rail cars with vessel arrivals at the ports.

We will be working with the group of key leaders who met in Winnipeg on May 16 to make sure that these changes are in fact implemented as quickly as possible. We will be looking beyond that group as well for input on longer term measures to prepare our western grain transportation system for future challenges.

In that spirit I have spoken today by teleconference with 34 of the senior leaders of relevant farm organizations, businesses and institutions who are the stakeholders in these processes for both the short term and the long haul.

Through the changes we are beginning to make, we fully expect Canada will be able to restore its reputation as a reliable supplier of quality grain. Nothing less is acceptable.

Western Grain TransportationRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, the issue of western grain transportation is not a new one. The crisis that just occurred is the result of the apathy of the federal government which, for over 20 years now, has never done anything to solve this problem. Contrary to comments made by the Minister of Agriculture, the increase in American demand for grain was not the primary cause of the crisis in grain transportation in Canada. This factor merely helped show the lack of planning and flexibility of the grain transportation system in Canada. The problem is not a temporary one.

This year, the Grain Transportation Agency will not be able to deliver more than 30 million tonnes of grain, compared to over 35 million in the past. Major changes must be made to meet the needs of foreign importers as well as of Canadian and Quebec buyers. Indeed, it is disappointing to see that it will have been necessary for the Minister of Agriculture to go to Asia to realize how serious the problem of grain supply is, while right here several buyers have suffered major losses because of grain shortage or delays in delivery.

Something must be done urgently. The estimated $35 million in demurrage charges in the West, as well as sales of 2 million tonnes of grain which were either lost or delayed, confirm the existence of a crisis. In fact, Canada's credibility and reliability as a major grain exporter are being questioned. I am pleased to see that the Minister of Agriculture intends to make changes in the grain transportation system. However, I would have preferred to hear him tomorrow, since he is meeting the Sub-Committee on Grain Transportation this evening.

This would have helped, among other things, clarify some conservatively worded recommendations, and add other changes to those intended. The minister says that the system of back hauling grain shipped from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, merely to be eligible for subsidies provided under the Western Grain Transportation Act, is going to disappear.

I fully agree with this decision, which should have been made a long time ago. Having to take rail cars to Thunder Bay results in high costs, since the turn-around time for those cars is extended by several days. Each year, close to 2 million tonnes of grain use that itinerary.

But what is really serious is the fact that, during the crisis, when there was a shortage of cars and when Canada was losing buyers, the National Transportation Agency did not even have the common sense of abolishing this obligation. This is a prime example of the system's lack of flexibility.

And what about grain transiting through the Panama Canal on the way to Europe? I raise this issue because the problem goes far beyond the waste which results from the system of back hauling grain. The minister does not deal with the issue of the under-utilization of the Port of Thunder Bay and the St. Lawrence River. The Sub-Committee on Grain Transportation recommended to the Minister of Transport to ask the Canadian Wheat Board to ship more American-bound grain through Thunder Bay.

The same recommendation could be made regarding grain exports to Europe, through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Indeed, the under-utilization of the St. Lawrence Seaway has now reached a critical level. Since 1984, the Seaway has lost more than half of the volume of exported grain. Obviously, the Minister of Agriculture shows little concern for this issue; yet, this is a totally irrational utilization of our transportation network.

Moreover, the minister gives no indication as to his intentions regarding the subsidy for Western grain transportation. I remind the minister that the Bloc Quebecois will oppose any transfer of the subsidy which might result in an unfair competition between farm producers.

The minister must propose concrete measures to improve forecasts regarding the need for rail cars, and to co-ordinate domestic loading and the movement of rail cars with the arrival of ships. The minister must not merely make pious wishes. The problem is not a new one and we can no longer wait and risk to once again paralyse our supply system.

Western Grain TransportationRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide a brief response to the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food's statement on the grain transportation system of today.

The minister explained for us in the House what in my judgment was not just a problem or series of problems this year but a real crisis in the grain transportation system. While some of the stakeholders in the transportation industry did not see it as a crisis, I believe most did; certainly farmers who could not get their grain moved.

Granted, a unique set of problems did occur this year with the weather and farmers know a lot about weather problems. I believe we should be able to develop a system that can adjust to extreme weather problems. We must try to be prepared for eventualities of all kinds.

The minister also clearly articulated the repercussions of the marketplace to our problems. Our reputation as a reliable grain provider was questioned by our customers. Essentially they issued an ultimatum to us: "Improve your delivery record or we will be shopping somewhere else". That is very serious.

The minister then outlined some of the ways we have been trying to deal with this crisis, including referring the work of the subcommittee which had two days of emergency hearings and the May 16 meeting of concerned parties in Winnipeg.

We on this side concurred with the report of the co-chairman of the subcommittee, believing that some good solutions were proposed. In all honesty I do question the impact or benefit of the May 16 meeting in Winnipeg when the subcommittee had just heard some of the same witnesses and when certain stakeholders, including farmers, were not at the meeting.

Once again farmers are left out of the problem solving equation and yet they are the ones who bear the brunt and the cost of a crisis such as this. I would implore the minister to get farmers more directly involved in issues that directly affect them.

I have said before and will say again that farmers can fix almost anything if they can get their hands on it.

The minister noted developments which have helped alleviate the situation. A west coast labour settlement occurred, although it does not seem to be entirely satisfactory and in fact may only be temporary. The railways have also increased their fleets.

One amazing thing that many of my colleagues who sat on the subcommittee were incredulous over is why the turnaround time for rail cars on a trip to the ports is not any faster than it was 80 years ago. Surely there must be room for improvement there.

The minister also stated for us today the lessons that we have hopefully learned from this crisis and announced a list of six steps that he and the Minister of Transport will implement by January 1, 1995. Generally we believe they are good and we believe we are on the right track. We would urge, however, that the entire system be overhauled so that there are commercial and financial incentives on the part of all to improve efficiencies and services. If each stakeholder in the entire system held up their end of the bargain and were rewarded for doing so and penalized for not doing so, the system could move toward more excellence.

Farmers are held responsible for their actions, and so should everyone else in the system.

What is also needed is legislation to prevent labour disputes from holding up product movement while still allowing for a collective bargaining processes. My colleague from Lethbridge and I are presently bringing forward legislation to address this.

We on this side of the track are willing to work with those on the other side of the track to ensure that this crisis does not happen again, to revitalize our world-wide reputation and to help farmers get their grains and their goods to market.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development regarding Bill C-24, an Act to amend the Canada Wildlife Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

Pursuant to an order of the House dated Tuesday, April 19, 1994, the Standing Committee on Finance studied Bill C-11, an act to amend the Excise Act, the Customs Act and the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act, and has agreed to report the bill with amendments.