House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was transport.

Topics

1992 ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, on December 15, 1993, Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa wrote the Prime Minister of Canada, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice, to confirm the existence of a verbal agreement between himself and the former Prime Minister of Canada. This letter was signed and dated December 15.

Following the questions Bloc Quebecois members have been asking in this House for several months on this subject, could the Prime Minister not have shown good will by checking with Mr. Mulroney, right after Mr. Bourassa made the request, if he really wanted to be fair to Quebecers? Should he not have done so a long time ago instead of waiting for the opposition to force his hand a few days ago?

1992 ReferendumOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the opposition says that there was an agreement. In my opinion, any agreement requires the consent of both parties. We found no evidence that the former government gave its consent. We recently asked Mr. Mulroney. We asked Privy Council officials and others who worked with these former first ministers, and they told us that there never was a commitment.

I went one step further: I called Mr. Mulroney himself. I talked to him on the telephone and he told me that he would confirm his position in writing. Once we know his position, we will take action. If he made promises to Mr. Bourassa, I will be very happy to honour them. If he did not make promises at the time and personally refused to pay when he was leading the government, I am not responsible for the actions of another government that did not want to pay. I was not involved in this matter.

I would like to say to the opposition that Alberta and British Columbia also wanted to hold provincial referendums but, under the circumstances, they preferred, to avoid the costs involved and to be sure they would get paid, to have the referendum held under federal legislation.

1992 ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, given the attitude of the officials surrounding the Prime Minister who have been playing hide-and-seek for several months in this matter and the fact that the Prime Minister of Canada questions the very word of the former Quebec premier, does the Prime Minister not agree that his attitude, far from being a sign of co-operation with Quebec, points to a conspiracy against that province?

1992 ReferendumOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, a prime minister cannot act alone. The opposition would be the first to blame me if I took on financial commitments without cabinet and Treasury Board approval. Of course, if I give my word, they will honour it; on the other hand, legally, without a cabinet decision and Treasury Board approval, there can be no government commitment.

If Mr. Mulroney made a personal promise to Mr. Bourassa, I will go before my Cabinet to ensure that the word of the former Prime Minister is honoured, even though he did not act prudently. If he promised something without having it approved by Treasury Board and the government then in office, I will not act illegally without the approval of cabinet, Treasury Board and my party.

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, may I divert the attention of the House to something Canadians really care about?

Canada's social programs are not sustainable at their current levels. In fact estimates by the Auditor General and the Superintendent of Financial Institutions show that within only 15 years Canada's social security system plus interest will exceed 100 per cent of all government revenues.

Is the minister going to reduce spending on social programs or raise taxes?

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member well knows, the money that the federal government spends, along with funds spent by provincial governments, is the most important investment we can make because we are investing in the people of Canada.

We are helping young children to have a better life by making sure they are nurtured. We are helping young people get an education so they will have the skills for the future job market. We are providing security for older workers and we are helping our senior citizens.

As a country we have to stay strongly committed to the provision of an effective and improved social security system. This is the reason we will next week be putting forward a series of options, directions for Canadians to take a look at so they can become involved in the important debate as to the kind of social programs we want, how we will pay for it and how we make sure we improve them. That is the reason we are doing it.

I hope the hon. member will actively participate in that debate, unlike some of her colleagues who are saying let us not have a debate at all.

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, seniors and those planning to retire want to know if their government pensions are safe and secure and who will pay for the programs that retiring Canadians have been counting on?

Will the minister's action plan deal with the reality that there will be a 40 per cent increase in the number of senior citizens in the next 15 years?

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the social security review that we will be launching next week deals primarily with matters of the workplace, with matters of lifelong learning and income security.

The hon. member should recall we made very explicit in last February's budget that programs pertaining to the question of old age security and the Canadian pension plan were not being touched as part of this review.

The Minister of Finance clearly indicated that we would be preparing and releasing a discussion paper to show what the demographic changes would be and what the long term impacts would be on some of our income security papers. That kind of analysis is now under way. It is the kind of thing that has to be shared with all Canadians to make sure we can reason together on very important issues.

Once again I invite the hon. member to participate in a constructive way in that debate.

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister should realize that Canadians cannot prepare an informed response to his action plan unless they understand the financial consequences.

Will the minister help all Canadians deal with this reality by providing detailed financial projections next week with all the elements of his action plan?

Social SecurityOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I could begin right at this moment to give Canadians one set of analyses. I heard the hon. member, in a press conference the Reform Party held, talk about a cut of $15 billion in social programs. A $15 billion cut would mean the total elimination of all assistance for children, all social services for seniors and all assistance for higher education from the federal level.

In other words, the Reform Party's fiscal program would wipe out assistance for children, young people and workers. We do not need that kind of fiscal program.

Child PovertyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

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

In its report released yesterday, the Canadian Institute of Child Health says that one child out of five lives in poverty in Canada. The Institute, which conducted a similar public study in 1989, concludes that child poverty and its harmful effects have increased.

Will the Prime Minister recognize that, beyond all the nice rhetoric, the only measure taken by his government was to contribute to the impoverishment of Canadian families by substantially reducing UI access and benefits, thereby forcing the unemployed and their families to rely on welfare?

Child PovertyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to inform the House that one of the major results of the changes we made to the unemployment insurance system in the legislation last spring was to provide assistance for an additional 27,000 low income families with children. We substantially increased their UI benefits.

[Translation]

Child PovertyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about children's health. My question is: Does the Prime Minister realize that his social reform, which is designed to cut into these programs-and that is the only measure announced-will in fact impoverish families already living below poverty level, in very difficult conditions, and also have harmful effects on children?

Child PovertyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have asked members of the House to wait until we table the paper before they begin making judgments on the various propositions.

However I can tell the hon. member very clearly that the issue of child poverty is a very central concern of the government. It will be seriously addressed in the discussion paper. We will use that occasion to engage Canadians from one end of the country to the other in a major debate on how we can better mobilize resources to put an end to child poverty by the end of this century.

It is a commitment this party made when it was in opposition. It is a commitment we make as a government to begin to bring Canadians forward on a serious debate about how we can deal with the problem of children and their parents.

I would ask the hon. member to use her best offices as a member of that party to provide a constructive and positive contribution to that debate.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked for an explanation of questionable practices within the defence department. Most glaring was a $327,000 contract in connection with the deputy minister's office.

This figure could in fact be much higher. A departmental answer to an access to information request suggests that additional costs have been camouflaged by splitting invoices between several agencies.

Does the Prime Minister agree that this is an unusual practice? Will he tell us how much money was involved in these purchases, and if those figures are not now available will he commit to making them public when he has them?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the allegation and the question are centred around the Lagueux report, an audit done in national defence in 1992. I was briefed on it and I have to report to the House.

On the evidence that I received this morning I have to report that there is no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are many discrepancies revealed in the Lagueux report that indicate poor management practices within the department. People inside and outside the department are aware of the allegations and are unhappy with the implications.

In the interest of morale and confidence in the system will the parliamentary secretary commit the government to commissioning an outside, unbiased, professional investigation to settle the matter once and for all?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if you accept my answer to the first question then obviously the answer to the second question has to be, I regret, no.

Centres Of Excellence For Women's HealthOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health.

In the report on poverty, women's health problems are mentioned. The Minister of Health announced the establishment of a centre of excellence on several occasions: during the throne speech, in January; during the budget speech, in February; in the House, on March 8; in Montreal, before the Canadian Medical Association, on August 16; and finally last week, at the gynecologists' convention.

When will the Minister of Health stop announcing that the centres of excellence will be established shortly and act?

Centres Of Excellence For Women's HealthOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as soon as the plans are finalized, I will be delighted to let everyone know.

Centres Of Excellence For Women's HealthOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, are we to understand that the delay in implementation is due to the fact that the minister is unable to convince her colleagues to allocate the funds for centres of excellence for women's health?

Centres Of Excellence For Women's HealthOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the centres of excellence for women's health are well on the road to being announced. The terms of reference are being worked on. I will be very happy when they are all completed and the centres are operational across the country.

Land Engineering Test EstablishmentOral Question Period

September 28th, 1994 / 2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, for 50 years the land engineering test establishment, known as LETE, has provided one-stop shopping for Canadian army design, development and testing.

In 1993 the chief of defence staff gave LETE a departmental commendation for the completion of 50 high priority tasks supporting peacekeepers in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

LETE has saved Canadian soldiers. Will the Prime Minister confirm that in fact there are no real savings in the closure of LETE and that others will fill LETE's crucial role at the potential expense of Canadian lives?

Land Engineering Test EstablishmentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in response to his question I assure the hon. member that the Canadian forces have not and will not place their troops at unnecessary risk with inappropriate or unsafe equipment.

As the member knows, the closure of LETE on September 1 will not result in reduced standards or reduced responsiveness to the army's needs.

Land Engineering Test EstablishmentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public is demanding accountability from the government; it wants the facts.

The remarks of the parliamentary secretary do not represent the facts. The facts are that DND is sending some of LETE's sophisticated equipment as a gift to the United States army test and evaluation command, according to their fax which I have in my possession dated September 22.

Will the Prime Minister tell us how defence can justify LETE's closure as a cost cutting saving when we will now have to pay the Americans to use our own equipment?