House of Commons Hansard #260 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-96.


Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to put before the people of Canada what I consider to be one of the most disconcerting aspects of the financial situation our country finds itself in today.

Make no mistake that what is happening in Canada today is a result of circumstance. It has far more to do with circumstance than it has to do with ideology. We are talking about how to go about getting the country out of the financial mess it is in. As everyone knows, we are in a financial mess federally and provincially.

As was so clearly illustrated in the Globe and Mail on Saturday in an excellent article on individual and family debt, Canadians by and large are in a financial mess personally. The Globe and Mail article stated that the average family consumer debt in Canada equals 88 per cent of disposable income. This is up from approximately 60 per cent 10 years ago.

The net result is that our federal debt is up, our provincial debt is up, the debt in most municipalities is up and individual credit card debt is up. We find ourselves paying more and more for less and less. All we have to do is add zeros to see that the financial situations of the country and the provinces really are no different from the financial mess most citizens are in.

I can speak with some assurance in saying that most Canadians and certainly those Canadians with whom I am familiar find themselves in an increasingly difficult financial situation. Our incomes have remained fairly stagnant but the cost of living has continued to escalate, even though it is escalating more slowly. We find ourselves being pinched and businesses are being pinched for profit.

What do we do? How do we go about extricating ourselves from this horrid mess? One way the federal government is doing it is definitely a step in the right direction. It is amalgamating the various cash transfers from the federal government to the provinces which are paid in support of people. The transfers used to be separate under education, health, welfare, et cetera and were sent to the provinces with strings attached. These moneys which were transferred to the provinces had to go to individuals specifically and we could track where the money was going.

That was changed in the last budget. Under the Canada health and social transfer act, this money was pooled and is being

transferred to the provinces with strings attached. The strings are rather tenuous and not direct. It is pretty difficult for the federal government to tell the provinces: "We gave you the money. These are the national standards to which you must adhere in order to get the money". I do not think the federal government has any right, responsibility or place to send this money to the provinces with strings attached. Who does it think it is kidding? It is our money anyway and it is just being recycled by the federal government.

At any rate, the Liberal government opposite finds itself in the situation where it will be transferring to the provincial governments and then to the people, $7 billion less this year than it did last year. If we think that is tough, wait until the next budget. We still have at least $20 billion to go in the reduction of transfers before we get to a neutral position and we stop going further into the hole. This is the first scratch, the first attempt at fiscal responsibility in the country.

Some provinces in Canada, most notably Quebec, have yet to cross that rubicon. Quebec is still going along blissfully without considering its provincial debt which is $5.7 billion in deficit this year. Just wait until Quebec begins to address that problem.

We recognize the necessity of addressing the debt problem responsibly on federal, provincial and personal levels. How do we go about making sure that the most vulnerable people in our society are protected? That is what I would like to speak to. There has been built in this foundation the necessity for objectively and realistically looking at what we can do to ensure that those who are the weakest and the most vulnerable are protected and looked after in the true Canadian spirit. This is one of the values which is pan-Canadian, a value we all share regardless of our political persuasion.

We share the value that the weakest and most vulnerable in our society should be and will be protected. We are also very much of the understanding that the most privileged in our society are going to have to pay a premium to ensure that those who are the weakest are protected. That is the way it works and that is how we get social order. The only way we are going to have a society that works is if we are prepared to share. I do not think anybody seriously questions that.

What is being seriously questioned is whether or not people have a right to say: "We have always done it this way and therefore, we are always going to continue to get it this way". We are going to have to change things dramatically in order to make sure we are able to live within our means nationally. Recognizing and understanding this and accepting the fact that we are going to accept change, that we are going to have to work with it, how do we go about making sure that those who are least capable of looking to this change and the most vulnerable are protected?

I have looked at this very carefully over the last few months as a member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons. The government has seriously fallen down in its fiduciary responsibility to make sure that the most vulnerable people are at least to a modicum consulted before change happens and that they feel some sense of confidence that when this necessary change takes place they will be protected.

To my knowledge, the government has not convened one single solitary meeting with the provincial governments responsible for delivering the programs to those persons with disabilities; people in wheelchairs, people confined to their beds, people who cannot get around, people with learning disabilities, people with mental or physical disabilities, motion disabilities. These people who are the most vulnerable have not been consulted through the provinces which are responsible for delivering the care and the services.

The national Parliament has said that in the total basket under the Canada health and social transfer $7 billion less is being transferred to the provinces than was transferred last year. That money has to go to education, welfare, a whole myriad of purposes. One of the purposes is persons with disabilities.

People with disabilities already feel vulnerable. Imagine how people with disabilities feel when they see that funding is going to be reduced by such a substantial amount. They are the most vulnerable of the people in the categories to which the funding is going to be reduced.

The federal government has not done a thing. There has not been one meeting with the provinces to say that it recognizes the relationship between the federal government, which is responsible for funding, and the provincial governments, which also fund, but in addition to delivering the programs deliver the bulk of the money necessary to support these programs. How do you suppose vulnerable people feel if the federal government has not convened one meeting with the provinces to say: "We recognize there are changes coming in the way we fund these programs. Things of necessity are going to change, but let us work together with the consumer groups in the disabled community to make sure the people are protected".

Over the last couple of months witness after witness after witness have come to the committee. They said that because of funding cuts there are people in our country today who are mobility impaired, who cannot get out of bed by themselves, and have been lying in bed in their own waste for hours and hours and hours. There is no funding for people to come in and help them change their linen or even get to the bathroom. This is happening in our country.

We as parliamentarians have a fiduciary responsibility. How we treat the least among us is a measure of the worth of society, the greatness of society. We must look to the most vulnerable people in

society and ask how we are treating them and, if we were in that position, how we would want to be treated.

When speaking to people in wheelchairs in the disabled community we realize that any one of us as Canadians could be in a wheelchair tomorrow morning. We need to think about how it would be for us if we were in that position. We must give some extra thought to the absolute necessity of reducing funding to people and transfers to people from all orders of government so that we protect the weakest and the most vulnerable among us.

I appreciate the opportunity to put these comments on the record.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-96, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development.

I was quite taken by the member's remarks about looking out for the most disadvantaged. I have stated repeatedly in the House the essence of government. We in the Chamber should not be spending most of our time ignoring the advantaged because they form a very important part of the economic equation of the country. However, we in the House are supposed to be the people who speak for the most disadvantaged. That is the essence of why we are in the Chamber.

I was touched when I heard the member for Edmonton Southwest talk with caring, sensitivity and compassion about the most disadvantaged in the country. I should like to put a question to him and expand my thoughts that are driven by the set of core values of caring, compassion and approachability. I am sure the member believes the same set of principles should apply to young people who are out of work or anyone who is out of work in the country.

Could the hon. member consider building on that same traditional value system by saying that maybe as a government at this moment in time our focus has been too much on the right wing agenda, too much on the cutting, the slashing and the tight fiscal framework to a point where we have basically lost sight of the most disadvantaged? In this case I focus on people who do not have the dignity of getting up in the morning and going to a job, of having enough money in their pockets to pay for their kid's hockey stick or their daughter's clothes or food. Perhaps as a Chamber we should review our right wing agenda and go back to looking after the disadvantaged in a more aggressive way.

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12:20 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member opposite for the question. I assure everyone here that it was not a set up question. I appreciate the question because it strikes at the heart of what is the difference between members on this side and members opposite. We virtually share all the same values but we do not share how we go about achieving them.

From discussions with members opposite I know the vast majority of representatives in the House share common values. How do we go about providing the kind of society the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood is talking about? How do we get young people working? Why is it that kids cannot play hockey? Why cannot their parents cannot afford it even if both parents are working? Why is it so expensive? How do we go about ensuring that everyone can participate in our wonderful nation?

The root cause of the problem can be found in The Canadian Global Almanac for 1996. It shows the per capita accumulated federal debt. In 1975 it was $849 and the interest per capita was $139. Today, 20 years later, the debt per capita is $17,381 and the interest per capita is $1,299. If we multiply that by four members of the family, it does not take very long to realize that we do not have any money.

We could then consider provincial debts and at our credit card debts as families. It costs 15 per cent, 16 per cent or 17 per cent to service credit card debt. We have the situation where most of us as a country, as provinces and as individuals are using today's income to pay for what we have already consumed in the past. Therefore instead of the money being used to purchase goods and services it is being used to service debts.

It makes us wonder when we read the paper today and see that all five of our national banks have record profits. They have $5 billion worth of profit. How do they get that money? They get it from the interest on the debt. The debt goes up and the interest goes up. The amount of interest goes up in real terms even if the rates do not increase. The banks get richer. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

People who are able to make financial investments get more money through investing in passive capital investments where there is no risk than people who risk everything they have to start a new business. They put every nickel they have including their homes and everything else into a business to get it going. And what happens? They pay tax after tax after tax.

I sat next to a person travelling from Vancouver to Ottawa yesterday in an aeroplane. He is in the garment business. He is also in the sports and recreation business. He has a fitness business. He is getting out of the fitness business. He said the problem was that it cost $33 a month for people to come to work out. People do not even have $33 a month that they can spend. It has to be dragged out of them. People just do not have any money any more.

Why do we not have the ability to create employment, especially entrance employment for young people, generation X? If they are not gainfully employed they will waste their time, get involved in crime and all other social ills. It is that people do not have enough

money to invest in anything other than necessities. Therefore businesses cannot sell, manufacturers cannot manufacture and shippers cannot ship.

Until we deal with the root cause of the problem, which is that we are all broke because we are paying interest on money we have already spent for goods and services, we will not get ourselves out of this mess. We cannot borrow our way out of this mess. If spending money we do not have worked, everybody would have five jobs.

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12:25 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I should like to pursue this thought with the member because I obviously do not see it the way he does.

I have a difficult time understanding the derivatives section of the Royal Bank of Canada. I use the expression its private casino where they play with derivatives and sometimes even bet against the Canadian dollar. I have a difficult time understanding how the derivatives section of a bank can find an average of $30 billion a day to play with and make money. That is one bank. It is said that the derivatives game in the world now involves a trillion dollars a day. This money is being pushed. It is paper pushing all over the world. There is no production related to that trillion dollars a day.

I find it difficult to accept that our largest bank can find $30 billion a day to gamble in pushing paper alone. Yet the small business float for a whole year for the entire small business sector is only $28 billion. And I am only talking about one bank.

The issue is not that we must eliminate waste and watch our spending. When we talk about debt we should not avoid talking about the tremendous assets in the country: our resources, our water, our infrastructure and our educated people. We are talking about human resources. Our human resources are recognized as the best on the planet. We have to measure that into the economic equation.

Would the member not agree that when we talk about getting at root causes we must talk about who is controlling all the capital, who is pushing all this capital around the world and preventing a sufficient amount of it from being distributed into the economy where there is true production in the manufacture of goods and services? Does the member not think that is a debate we should have in the House?

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not pretend to know enough about the derivatives market or international finance to be able to respond thoughtfully to the question.

I have a general sense of unease and malaise about the lifeblood of our economy. I do not know it well enough to speak to it so I will not. However I know what makes business work, particularly small business, entrepreneurial business, because that is my background. What makes people start a business, what makes people risk a business, what makes people get up in the morning and provide employment, is a chance to make some money, a chance to be one's own boss.

I was out with one of my sons on the weekend. I said: "Always do the best job you can when you are working. You owe that to your employer. But you will never get rich working for somebody else. If you want to get rich you have to work for yourself". Not everybody will do that, but one will never get rich working for somebody else or being a member of Parliament, for that matter.

What makes people get up in the morning, risk everything they have in life and start a new business is the expectation that they will make some money at it. The problem is that it is getting more and more difficult to make money at business or even to do it. Once one has established a business and sells it what happens? How much of the money does one get to keep after paying all the taxes? It is relatively little.

We can look at the difference between passive investment, for instance investing in bank stock or investing finances with no risk, and investing in an entrepreneur with a lot of risk. What do most people do? In my case I could make a decision to invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds at virtually no risk or I could make a decision to invest in people, which is high risk. I can invest in the people. Because of my tax situation I get virtually no return on it. I can invest in stocks and bonds and get essentially the same return but I have no risk.

Investing in people is by far the best way to go. It is what we need to do for our country. It is what I am going to do as well. I have a situation right here in Ottawa. A person who works with me in my office is from Edmonton. She is unilingual. She has moved to Hull. She lives and is working in Chelsea. She has taken over as a unilingual anglophone a little cafe, the Cafe Meech, in Hull near the Gatineau Park.

She has to raise the capital independently because it is not a very bankable deal. She has the fire in her belly that she is definitely going to make it work.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON


Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

The point the hon. member for Broadview-Greenwood raised is so important to what we are to do as a country to get people back to work, for first time employment for all our young people so that they have something to look forward to, so that they feel part of the community, so that they have something rather than standing on the sidelines looking in.

The debate the hon. member opposite has suggested is a good one. It is timely. How do we go about doing that? How do we go about getting someone to risk their capital, to get their idea in gear, to get that sense of drive and ambition so they will start a little

widget manufacturing business or a service and will hire one or two people?

That is the way we will get the country working. That is the way we will get unemployment insurance premiums down. That is the way we will take off the dependence on government and make the country work. We have to re-establish that sense of purpose and entrepreneurialism and zeal on a personal basis. country.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time has expired for questions and comments, as have the five hours of debate. We are now into 10-minute speeches.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I remind the House that we are debating Bill C-96 but we are also debating the amendment to the bill put forward by the hon. member for Mercier.

That party objects that the bill does not give full and alone jurisdiction over human resources development. That phrase frightens me. Again it shows that the official opposition is pushing its hidden agenda of separating so that it has full powers, full control over human resources and other things.

I draw the attention of the official opposition to recent post referendum polls, which state that 61 per cent of Quebecers want to remain in Canada and 78 per cent of Quebecers want to see major changes to the way the Canadian federation works. It is through bills such as this that hopefully through provincial federal co-operation we can get more people to work.

Last week I had a town hall meeting. There was a qualified veterinarian in the audience. He was from another country. Sadly, he is on social assistance. He does not have a job in Canada.

Two weeks ago I saw a switch from the official opposition to the Reform Party when the member for Calgary Southeast debated this bill and said very little about it. She talked about pensions and everything else.

I was pleased to hear the member for Edmonton Southeast at least talking about the purpose of government being to help the most vulnerable people in society. He talked about the disabled.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sure the member meant Edmonton Southwest. The member for Edmonton Southeast is the chair occupant and does not participate in debate. This small correction will not come out of the member's time.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you for the correction, Mr. Speaker.

I was pleased that the member talked about the disabled because it was this government in the early 1980s that set up a special task force across the country to look at how obstacles could be removed for the disabled. The work of that task force is benefiting many handicapped people today. By removing the obstacles they are no longer handicapped.

The Reform Party criticizes the bill because it does not solve any problems with the Canada pension plan, for example. We all agree there are problems with the plan. The Reform Party knows perfectly well the government takes these problems seriously. I object very strongly to the Reform Party's suggestion that the Canada pension plan is about to collapse.

The government is preparing a working paper which will set out options for reforming the CPP. We will present those options to the provinces which share responsibility in this area. With their goodwill we will negotiate a new and better plan which will meet the needs of seniors not only today but in the future.

Bill C-96 is not about pension plans. It is an administrative bill to establish a department. The Reform Party then takes advantage of this debate to decry the federal plan for gender equality. We make no apology for advancing women's equality by examining initiatives related to economics, autonomy, poverty, employment, education and training. However, this has nothing to do with Bill C-96 which is an administrative bill to establish a department.

The Reform Party members criticizes this bill because it does not radically transform post-secondary education into its strange vision of the future. However, it knows full well that Bill C-96 is not about changes to post-secondary education at all. It is an administrative bill to establish a department.

The Reform Party criticizes Bill C-96 because it does not change the Constitution and prevent the federal government from fulfilling its responsibilities for labour market programs. Even if we wanted to do that, the Reform Party knows full well that one does not amend the Constitution through an administrative bill to establish a department.

The Reform Party and Bloc Quebecois criticize the bill for intruding into provincial jurisdictions and then complain that the bill does not radically alter areas such as education where the provinces do have jurisdiction. Opposition knows full well this has nothing to do with Bill C-96.

Opposition members can try to side track the debate on this bill, throw up smoke screens and parade their own pet theories on every issue under the sun, but lets us keep one thing clear. It has been said many times that Bill C-96 deals with consequential amendments to a variety of legislation related to the reorganization of government departments. That is all it does. It is not intended to change the world.

This does not mean the world does not need changing but let us keep a proper perspective on the task at hand. The task at hand is providing Canadians with a department that supplies them with essential programs and services, a department that has been remarkably successful over the past few years in bringing our labour market and social programs out of the past and into the 21st century.

Bill C-96 is about the department that launched one of the biggest grassroots consultations on social programs ever seen in this country, with more than 100,000 Canadians taking part.

It is this department that made the first major changes to the Canada student loans program, changes the Reform Party seems to have ignored. As a result of these changes over 13,000 high school students are getting special grants to pursue their education. One hundred thousand underemployed graduates, twice as many as before, are getting expanded interest relief. The program is costing taxpayers less while students are getting a better service.

It is this department that is pioneering an approach that puts programs and services into the hands of local communities with tools and resources that can be customized by communities to meet their needs.

It is this department that is building the most decentralized service delivery network in any government moving from 450 to 700 points of service, moving it to rural communities across Canada; people can get help where they live.

It is this department that is providing Canada's seniors with four times as many offices where they can get personal service. This is what Bill C-96 is about. It would be useful if the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois would talk about the bill and look at what is really going on in the department.

When the member for Calgary Southeast complains that the bill does not eliminate overlap and duplication between federal and provincial services, she should look at the real progress the department is making in building new partnerships with the provinces, with the private sector, with communities across the country. Look at what we are doing in the real world; the work with provinces on pilot projects that test the joint delivery of federal and provincial programs. These are designed specifically to improve efficiency and eliminate overlap and duplication.

Let us get constructive and talk about moving forward that effort. Let us encourage the provinces to join with us in the new agreements that will clarify roles and responsibilities, as we have invited them to do. Let us look at the very essence of Bill C-96, the focus on a better integration of programs and services that is so critical to this effort. By passing Bill C-96 without delay we can move on to address these concerns more efficiently.

Let us not hold up change on the pretext that change is not happening fast enough to suit the Reform Party. Let us not pretend that change is not taking place right now. Everyone in the House knows that real reform in our social and labour market programs is taking place and will continue to take place.

Bill C-96 does not do everything but it is an important step toward getting the architecture right, establishing a department that can provide the highly integrated, focused programs and services Canadians need.

Of all the comments on Bill C-96 from the Reform Party, I can find only one based on fact. Bill C-96 does not require an annual report to be tabled from the Department-alleluia.

Members of the Reform Party appear to be equivocating on this issue. For example, they praise the decision to eliminate the annual report from the department of public works as a move towards greater efficiency, and yet they condemn the elimination of annual reports from Heritage Canada. Let us hear some consistency from the Reform Party.

The government's own view is clear. We want to handle the question of annual reports in the most efficient manner. Section 157 of the Financial Administration Act calls for the elimination of annual reports when the information they provide is duplicated in public accounts or the estimates. That applies in this case. Members of the House will still have access to the information they need to monitor departmental spending through these other resources.

For a party that professes to want grassroots control over programs, the members opposite seem surprisingly tied to the old ways of doing things, or to doing nothing. Bill C-96 is not a defence of the status quo or of outmoded ways of doing things.

The government does not pretend that by passing this bill it can achieve everything it wants to achieve overnight. It is one step along the way. It would be foolish to hold back, to block this important step forward simply because it does not do everything at once. It would be equally foolish to block this step forward because we are afraid of change.

Whatever the Reform Party may think, Canadians want change. We saw that in the referendum, we see it post-referendum, and the government has addressed this. The old ways no longer work. By bringing about change, it does not mean it has to be constitutional change. The way we share services with provinces is a good place to begin.

The government is giving Canadians change, not just rhetoric. With this bill we can move forward. With this bill we can get on with the real challenge of building a more efficient, effective form of government for Canada.

I remind the official opposition and the Reform Party of the realities of today. When I was seeking a job in 1956 after I finished teacher's college, there were about a dozen boards of education that wanted my services. One board was hiring 600 teachers at a time; another, 500 teachers. Boards were recruiting teachers in England, in Australia, in New Zealand. Today teachers graduating with much higher qualifications than I had cannot get a teaching position. They can hardly get their names on the supply list.

There was a time when teachers complained because they did not pay unemployment insurance. The government of the day insisted that teachers should pay unemployment insurance. As a teacher, I supported that move because you never know when you might be unemployed and this is an insurance scheme. Teachers then started paying UI. Today many teachers are benefiting from that.

Because of the changing nature of the workforce and the competitiveness, more and more workers are going to have to move from province to province and require training and retraining. I hope we can count on the official opposition and the Reform Party to give this bill speedy passage.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-96.

As you probably know, barely one month has gone by since the Quebec referendum and already another federalist mask is dropping. Bill C-96 is one of those masks. This government waited till after the referendum to bring this bill back and try to go ahead with it.

Far from signalling the federal government's withdrawal from manpower training, this bill will allow even greater interference in a provincial area of jurisdiction. This government is going over the heads of the provinces. Quebec has been asking for many years to be given full and complete jurisdiction over manpower training. In December 1990, labour and management partners in Quebec joined in a co-operative effort and unanimously took position in favour of repatriating all federal funding for manpower training. There is a consensus in Quebec, and a rather telling one at that. Even the Liberal Quebec government in office at the time agreed with its partners. So, this is not a separatist initiative but rather an opinion shared by the public at large.

Why then does the federal government not listen? Because this government has only one thing in mind: to gain total, perfect control, up, down and sideways. It wants to have all of the powers, even in an area like this one, in which its poor performance is legendary. This is just one more stepping stone.

This government should know that all its centralizing actions ultimately affect people of course. And it is with people in mind that consistent policies should be developed, and for people that manpower training is offered, so as to increase our manpower's performance.

Here is more good news: last Friday, the Chicoutimi-Jonquière region, in my riding of Chicoutimi, was once again declared the winner because it has the highest unemployment rate in Canada. How nice. How very nice. This shows how incapable this government is when it comes to manpower training.

People in my riding are increasingly tired of winning this dubious award month after month, year in year out. What can the government do to help our economy get out of this mess? It must provide a consistent manpower policy. When faced with unemployment, people must know where to go, and not only to claim UI benefits. I am referring to employment centres, which have now become places where people go to claim UI benefits. People are well aware of that. However, they do not know where, in the future, they will go to find jobs.

The key to the future is a good training program based on the manpower requirements of the region in which they live. It is certainly not here in Ottawa, far from my region and others, that public officials can determine the best training programs for my constituents. They are too far away, and they do not know about our specific needs. Therefore, the decision making process regarding manpower training must be closer to those concerned.

Bill C-96 will certainly not settle this issue once and for all, far from it. Given the way things are going right now, people in my riding will be even more concerned. In addition to giving powers to the minister, this bill bypasses the provinces. It will give Ottawa the required judicial and legal basis to justify interfering in and encroaching upon the area of manpower training.

This is confirmed by clause 20, which provides that the minister may enter into agreements with a province or group of provinces, financial institutions, municipalities and such other persons or bodies as he considers appropriate. Since the minister is in charge, will financial support follow, or is this just a ploy from the federal government to shift its problems?

This bill does not make it compulsory to reach an agreement with the provinces. Again, the number of stakeholders is being increased, at a time when joint action is taking place in that sector. The bill will make things even more complicated for those involved. Dividing budgets among a variety of groups, chosen goodness knows how by the minister, is not the way to establish some degree of cohesion in training programs.

Will these groups have the necessary expertise? And when will the single window approach materialize? This is not the first time the Bloc has brought up one-stop service. As it now stands, Bill C-96 does not guarantee it.

I believe that is what could make the difference. The single window approach is essential. It would ensure that the reform would be focessed on the individual. Making the individual the focal point of the reform cannot help but be beneficial from the job creation point of view.

It is also beneficial for our young people, who do not always know what training would be best for their future. For years Quebec has been demanding full jurisdiction over manpower. There is plenty of proof that the federal government has missed the boat in the way it has managed this.

Mr. Speaker, you are indicating to me that I have only a few seconds left, so I shall close with the following remark. Last October 5, in response to a question on this bill from the leader of the official opposition, the minister stated-and his words are recorded-that we ought to have read the bill.

Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, we have read the bill. And not only Quebecers have read it, moreover. The Minister of Human Resources Development should-and these are my closing words-redraft his bill. I shall vote in favour of my colleague's amendment.

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12:55 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning on Bill C-96.

Clause 3 of the bill states:

There is hereby established a department of the Government of Canada called the Department of Human Resources Development-

Perhaps the most remarkable part of the bill is the very name of the department it creates: "Human Resources Development". Those three words stand for one of the most critical challenges and also one of the greatest opportunities facing Canadians today. They stand for one of the most basic beliefs underlying the government's commitment to Canadians.

We believe that Canada has enormous potential, economically and socially. We believe that people, our human resources, are the key to unlocking that potential. It is the talents and skills of people that have made this country one of the most prosperous nations on earth. It is those same skills and talents that will secure for Canada and Canadians a prosperous future.

By investing in people, by developing our human resources, we want to ensure that every Canadian has a chance to take part in the future. We want to ensure that every element of the social programs works toward that goal. That focus is what the new department is all about. It is about helping the people who need help the most, by giving them the tools they need the most, by giving them a chance to overcome the barriers of poverty, a chance to gain access to good training and skills and a chance to get good jobs.

Throughout the social security reform consultations we have been asking Canadians how to focus our social programs better to achieve that goal. It has been going on throughout the Department of Human Resources Development over the past year as departmental officials have worked to sharpen the focus of programs and services to make them more effective. It is going on right now as we develop the new human resources investment fund, which will lead to greater decentralization in this area. We will be working more with our partners at the local level and will be reducing the 39 current programs to a handful which can be hand tailored to local needs.

Social security reform will continue to evolve as the government prepares legislation to refocus the UI program and integrate the lessons it has learned from consultations into departmental operations.

If members want to see social security reform in action as an example of focusing resources on investing in people, they can take a look in my riding at the Bedford Professional Training Services. With this program each project consists of a mix of classroom and on the job training in modern office management. Many of the trainees are older workers who have been displaced from their former employment. In addition to learning new skills, they must deal with low self-esteem, grief, embarrassment and frustration which accompany a midlife job loss, as we all know well. A strong counselling component is built into the training package to address these issues.

The co-ordinator of the program, Fran Hill, is to be commended for her excellent work. In fact the placement rate for this program in its first two projects was 90 per cent. Ninety per cent of those people who were actually in the program were placed in jobs. That is excellent and is to be commended. One former trainee has successfully started her own business and is now employing another of Fran's graduates.

These people do not want handouts from the department. They want jobs and they want help getting the tools and skills they need to get on with their lives. That is what they are getting at places like Bedford Professional Training Services. They are getting a second chance at education and learning skills for new jobs. That is just one example of the strategic initiatives we are undertaking to refocus the department's resources away from the status quo toward real, productive and meaningful change.

I will give another example. Let us look at the communities of Lucasville and Upper Hammonds Plains which are two minority communities in my riding of Halifax West. These communities have benefited tremendously over the past two years working closely with the Bedford Canada Employment Centre.

Through a section 25 program a UI recipient prepares a strategic development plan. Right now they are arranging for community consultation on this plan but they will soon begin the initial stages of implementation. Part of that plan involves tutoring programs which have already begun and have been very successful.

Through the Youth Services Canada summer program, students, including eight from the summer program and four in the career placement program, did two activities. The first involved recreation services in the communities. The second involved renovations of homes, churches and community centres in those communities but according to priorities which were established at the local level by the people in those communities. That is a very important point.

The curriculum they used was developed with funding by the delivery of systems project of the department. The curriculum works to improve educational standards. It gives the area the capability as a remote learning centre. It will actually start in the middle of this month.

There are many examples like these across the country that reflect the new focus and direction of the department. We can see it in the assistance that thousands of Canadians receive every day in our network of CECs, Canada Employment Centres, across the country. Thousands of Canadians who need help to get the training, the jobs and income support they need are helped in these centres.

We can see it in the hard work and dedication of some 30,000 departmental employees. I want to mention one in particular with whom I worked over the past couple of years and who retired this summer. Keith Cameron was the manager of the Canada Employment Centre in Bedford. I was very impressed by his commitment to his community and his commitment to his work.

In fact on Canada Day in 1994 I visited Upper Hammonds Plains. There on a day off was Keith Cameron coaching the local ball team. If that is not commitment to a community that needs assistance and needs involvement, I do not know what is. To me that shows the kind of dedication and commitment of many of the employees of the human resources development department. It is an excellent example for others to follow.

Day in and day out, people like Keith Cameron and other departmental employees are working with people who are looking for jobs. They help mediate labour disputes. They help communities with economic development. They help young people get started in the world of work and help seniors benefit from income support programs.

This new focus of the department is an integral part of the human resources investment fund established in the last budget. They work closely together. The whole point of this fund is to make the most flexible use possible of our resources to ensure that people get the support and services they need to find jobs, jobs that they want desperately.

For example, this fund will support the government's commitment to child care, a crucial measure to help unemployed parents find work and get training. We made a commitment to co-invest with the provinces in child care and we will live up to that commitment.

We are also working to improve the child care that is available to aboriginal peoples. Our officials are working with a team from the First Nations. Together we are making good progress. The government hopes to have a new program in place this fall.

Additionally the department has launched the child care visions fund with $5 million annually. The money will be used to help support new research and development in this area which is so very important to Canada's future human resources potential.

These are some of the ways the new focus of the department is reflected in concrete action. In the immediate future one of the government's top priorities will be to integrate this focus into the unemployment insurance program with a major overhaul of the program.

A few weeks ago the Minister of Human Resources Development spoke to the human resources standing committee about the direction this overhaul is going to take. A key objective of the overhaul is to transform the UI program to focus on re-employment not unemployment, on jobs not joblessness. This means finding ways to remove disincentives in the program that hamper job creation and discourage workers from returning to the workforce. It also means simplifying the system for both workers and employers, making it easier to work with and less costly to administer. It means integrating the UI program with a variety of tools to help people get back to work.

The government will introduce legislation to reform UI in the next few weeks but the department is already working on the basic operational changes needed to make the integrated employment program work and succeed. This means streamlining the current 39 separate programs and services that are delivered through CECs across the country and integrating them in a way that allows the communities to implement them in different ways. That seems to be very appropriate.

The objective is to ensure the department's energies are driven not by program rules but by the needs of individual Canadians in different parts of the country. There will be much more room for discretion and judgment at the local level which is important. If we want to tailor re-employment programs to fit local needs, we must have that kind of local discretion.

Bill C-96 does not in itself accomplish these changes. What it does is it consolidates the administrative framework for changes that have taken place, are taking place now and will continue to take place in the future. It reflects the basic focus that underlies the government's approach to social and labour market programs. It is this focus that will help to develop Canada's human resources giving those who need help the most the tools they need to work and prosper in the future.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I join the debate on Bill C-96, a bill which sets up the Department of Human Resources Development. I would certainly hope the kinds of remarks and words my hon. colleague across the way has just expressed will come to fruition, at least in part.

This bill, which is a structural kind of bill to set up a department, takes place in the environment we find ourselves in as far as Canada and the world is concerned. It deals with things such as the fact that we live in an information society. Taking place around us is a technological revolution toward a knowledge based economy. There is the globalization of politics, industry and trade. There is a move toward the devolution of power to individuals. There is a gradual recognition that the past is not a model for the future.

There is an express need now for a new federalism. We are very well aware of that having just experienced the referendum in Quebec. All of society must be involved, not just the elite. This hinges on a very major part. We need to recognize that if we are going to have real change in our country, it is going to come from the rank and file. It is not going to come from the top down. We have had enough of that. That model is not working, has not worked and will not work in the future.

What do we need? This is where the bill lacks a lot of its input for Canada's society and for the government. Canada needs the development of people. We need an innovation and technology orientation. We need to have an infrastructure in science and engineering. I will only deal with those three areas. Many more ought to be addressed but those are the three I will limit my remarks to this afternoon.

If we are going to develop people successfully, the number one requirement as we move from the old society to the new information and knowledge based society is the ability to change. Individuals will have to have the willingness and motivation inside them to learn continually and to do so in all aspects of life.

I was rather impressed with the Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association which has a very interesting set of requirements for people who need to be up to date in their particular industry. The association says that some of the best programs are those developed by the industry on the shop floor as the best learning takes place on the shop floor.

Those are the two elements: the ability and willingness to change and subsequently the willingness to learn and to do so on a continuing basis. It goes beyond that. We need to develop people who have the ability to handle the technological and social aspects of living and working. We are developing some very competent people in the technological area. We are not developing them as a balanced position in terms of handling their social and other situations.

Let me alert the House to the findings of Maclean's magazine which just did a poll ranking all the universities in Canada. It became pretty obvious on listening to various people that what individuals require today is the ability to do technical work very effectively and at a very high level. However at the same time they need to be able to balance their home life and their primary relationships with other people. We need this balance in people but we need more than that. We need particular technological development in areas that are not presently being developed.

It was rather interesting to listen to some of the captains of industry say that they need particular emphasis, willingness and ability in people who deal with computers and the skills required to do that successfully.

Today there is the breakdown of our families. If there was ever a need for the family to be strongly structured it is in this situation where constant learning is required. When there is a need to change there has to be a place where there is quiet, comfort and security. That comes from strong interpersonal relationships which are best found within the family. As we develop these other aspects, the high technical skills, we need to develop the reason and the basis for strong families and strong primary relationships.

In order to achieve that what is necessary? We need a balanced education system, one that encourages an entrepreneurial spirit which shows people how to be entrepreneurs. We live in a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and rewards the risk taking that is incumbent upon those who venture out in their own businesses. We then need to develop that skill and ability for people to blend economic and management awareness with science and technology.

It is so easy to become focused in a very narrow area of a particular science or technology and forget that unless we can

manage people it does not matter how good we are at running machines or computer programs. We have to learn to manage people. In the new high tech industries that seems to be the area which is most in need of development.

It goes beyond that. We need to have a balance among educational institutions. There are hundreds of universities in this country. They seem to spring up all over the place. It seems to me that parents want their kids to go to university. That is the best. The summum bonum of all education aspirations is graduating from university, preferably with a Ph.D. That is not necessarily the requirement for technological development. We need to balance our institutions so we focus on the highly academic skilled people but also develop the person who can do the actual technical stuff of putting a computer together, of writing a computer program, of recognizing the interrelationships of computer networks and things of that sort.

We need more than just university institutions. We need other post-secondary institutions. We have technical institutions such as BCIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and institutions of that nature, but we need a group that goes in between those as well, which brings a level of sophistication and understanding of a Ph.D. but that is not a Ph.D. in the academic sense, but rather in the technical and science sense, as contrasted with existing university programs.

There are two specific suggestions I now draw to members' attention. The first is it is necessary for us to examine, validate and help diffuse or reject research studies prepared by other organizations and build on valid work by undertaking or commissioning research to study the linkages between education and the economy, the forecasting of skill requirements, international comparisons, quality of education and training, gender and equity policies, student learning styles and core curriculum.

The second is to facilitate linkages between all levels of the education system: business, labour, government, the community, social services, non-governmental organizations. If we move into that kind of an environment we will do away, or at least certainly reduce, the town/gown conflict that exists now between the university professor on the one hand who rests primarily on his seniority to maintain his position rather than on new ideas. We have some wonderful professors who have great seniority and who rest on that particular thing. A lot of them need to change their lifestyle and have a new orientation.

We also need to develop a receptivity among our companies, our various industries, that they will take and integrate into their operations the best practice technologies. Then we can play the leadership role that Canada is capable of in the development, commercialisation and marketing of technology. The challenge is ours. We can do that.

Another area I draw attention to is developing the science and engineering infrastructure. We need to again emphasize the excellence required in education, the excellence in skill development and a vibrant research department.

The complexity of the relationships among research, education, skills training, innovation and competitiveness is not to be denigrated. It is extremely difficult and it is the one area where we have not done a good job. This bill should have addressed those kinds of things. It did not.

Universities, community colleges and technical institutes must re-examine their missions, establish clear goals and improve the mobilization, allocation and management of their resources to achieve these goals.

Consideration should be given to the complementarity between the program offerings of colleges and universities as well as to greater differentiation between the roles and missions of each institution. Concurrently there must be a review of post-secondary funding in view of redefined missions. This review should result in a clear definition of goals, outcomes and increased accountability.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

November 20th, 1995 / 1:15 p.m.

Portage—Interlake Manitoba


Jon Gerrard LiberalSecretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to be here today as the member for Portage-Interlake in Manitoba and speak about Bill C-96, the act which will formally establish the new Department of Human Resources Development, a department for which my close colleague and fellow Manitoban, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, is responsible.

Some might ask why the Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development would be particularly interested in talking on Bill C-96. There are several reasons. First and foremost, the bill brings together people and resources in a new way, a way that will position the Government of Canada to play a more effective role in human resource development.

The bill is central to a redefinition of the role of government in Canada, a role that improves the ability to form partnerships, to share resources, to enhance local and national understanding of the issues and to use national networking and research to ensure effectiveness and accountability.

It is a paradox perhaps of our age that governments, like computers, must cost less and do more at the same time. Sharing powers through partnerships, bringing groups and resources together at the local level is the process this bill enables, a process essential to meet the challenge of our times.

The process is now operating in many locations across Canada: at the new Learning Centre in Portage la Prairie, at the Learning and Life Centre in London, Ontario, at le Centre de resources humaine de Matagami in Québec, and in many other areas.

Sectoral partnerships like the Automotive Repair and Service Council, the Canadian Steel Employer's Council, partnerships with industry leadership, are further examples of sharing, decision making and resources through partnerships.

Decentralization and a sharing of powers through partnerships, a regrouping of stakeholders and resources locally, this is what the DHRC is about and this is what Bill C-96 will enable us to continue doing.

We now live in the knowledge age, a time when an understanding of science and technology is vital for the development of human resources. This has happened for several reasons. More and more of the employment and the business opportunities of today depend on a knowledge of science and technology.

Over the last five years there has been a net gain of more than a million jobs for those with a college or university education but a net loss of more than 600,000 jobs for those with only high school training or less.

Employment in some science and engineering based areas, computer science, software engineering, advanced materials, biotechnology, environmental technology, are now and continue to be among the fastest growth areas for employment. Just being able to use a computer well in one's job has been estimated to provide a 15 per cent additional income benefit compared to a similar worker without such skills.

Science and technology are important as well because they are increasingly essential for the efficient delivery of government services. In Portage-Interlake constituents have historically often had to travel long distances to get to the nearest Canada employment centre.

Constituents from Ashern, Gypsumville, Dauphin River, Peguis, Fisher River, Jackhead and many more communities have had to travel two, three, four hours one way to get to the nearest Canada employment centre.

Fortunately due to the advance in technology and the foresight of the Minister of Human Resources Development it will not be long before employment kiosks are much closer so that increasingly constituents will be able to receive effective service in their own communities, as the citizens in Stonewall in my riding already do.

We look forward to the day when such service will be provided cost efficiently over the Internet to all people in their own communities. The government's community access program is providing rural communities across Canada the opportunity to get connected and to be served effectively at home.

Science and research are also increasingly essential to the design and the implementation of programs through the human resources development department.

As the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology emphasized in its report "Health, Wealthy and Wise", all levels of government need to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs and the efficiency of their delivery. They need to begin to understand the underlying causes in order to reduce the overall demand for remedial social programs.

NABST further emphasized that social science humanities research may be the key to responding to these issues. NABST singled out the self-sufficiency project of the human resources development department as an example of the sort of critical action research needed, testing by doing.

Numerous strategic initiatives now being undertaken by the human resources development department follow in the same fashion. Examples include the taking charge initiative in Manitoba, helping single parents on social assistance, and the improved access to child care initiative in British Columbia, a four-year project to test new ways of delivering and developing child care services.

The Government of Canada is not taking the lead in any of these initiatives. We do not want to take the lead. It is the results of these partnerships that interest us.

It is the creation of the human resources department in its present structure and the leadership of its present minister which have allowed the effective integration of sophisticated social science and program design so that we can expect to see for the first time with the upcoming reform of the unemployment insurance system an overhaul which has effectively used science based testing to ensure a better and far more effective program.

Science and technology in the development of human resources are only effective to the extent that they are used wisely and are balanced by the ability to develop critical human elements, ethics, discipline, creativity, hope, courage, self-esteem, compassion, tolerance, diversity, co-operation and team work.

It is also these elements which are important and can be nurtured within the focus of the new department which is focused on co-operation and partnerships, sharing resources and decision making, targeting these particular values. Our bottom line is that we must advance in the development of human values even as we advance in science and technology for economic purposes. To make wonderful developments in science and technology for

economic goals alone but to fail to make the same developments in social and human sciences would be like a see-saw with all the weight on one side.

In this context it is appropriate to mention today, national child day, the important role the newly developed human resources development department can and is playing in nurturing the children of Canada.

Let me use an example of an effort in my riding of the newly opened learning centre in Portage la Prairie. It offers technology to help provide citizens with an alternative learning mode, including self-directed computer based learning, for all levels from grade 4 through first year university. The facility is of particular relevance to single mothers and their children.

As noted in the statistics reported last week, some 56 per cent of single mothers in Canada live in poverty. These mothers and their children deserve and need our attention. At the Portage learning centre they are receiving it. It is coupled with a day care facility which enables single mothers to be full participants and to learn new skills and to enhance their success in the participation in the job market and to enhance their income.

This example and many others like the improved access to child care initiative I mentioned earlier are important building blocks for our society and our children tomorrow.

Let me now return briefly to the theme I began with, a new department with a new approach, decentralized in that it shares resources and decision making in the most effective ways. This approach allows the rapid emergence and development of creative local initiatives to respond to local needs, and yet at the same time provides a nationally networked department which can share experiences, best practices and test results from new initiatives from one end of Canada to the other.

Today, the government has begun an in-depth reform of our labour market and social security programs, by creating a system of employment for the 21st century.

As a government we started the process of reform from the ground up. We have engaged almost 100,000 Canadians directly in deciding how to deal with unemployment insurance, how to deal with job programs, how to deal with issues like employment equity and child care.

The result will be a job system built by Canadians for Canadians. The result will be a system preoccupied not with turf wars but with results and getting things done. The result will be a system run by partners who can get those results. The result will be a system that favours the creation of employment in the wealth creating private sector rather than enlarging the government sector.

That is what Canada needs and that is why the government is creating through Bill C-96 a new Department of Human Resources Development and ensuring its mandate.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

Mr. Speaker, as soon as the all clear sounded on October 30, the government rushed to release a flood of centralist and/or antisocial bills. These bills had been ready for some time, but it would have been poor timing to table them before the referendum and in the process cause many voters in Quebec to turn away from that great and beautiful Canada of ours in the privacy of the voting booth.

It was a close call for Ottawa, but now that it has managed, just barely, to negotiate this rocky stretch, the government can at last heave a sigh of relief and calmly pursue its usual goals. Can a leopard change its spots? Of course not. So, full speed ahead, towards an even bigger and more beautiful Canada which, according to this government, means even more centralized and antisocial.

The promises to decentralize, made in a prereferendum panic, are now gone with the wind of victory, slim though the margin was, and too bad for the believers who naively voted no.

Remember the last days of the referendum campaign, when the polls made them break out in a cold sweat and federalism's big guns sang the hymn to decentralization. They understood what we wanted, they chorused, and they loved us. Time would tell. From now on, provincial jurisdictions would be respected. If we voted no, there would be no more wicked ministers trying to graze in the greener pastures of provincial jurisdictions.

After the majority voted no, the very first thing this government did, as if to make it abundantly clear to those who had not yet understood how they had been tricked, was to table the bill before the House today. A real masterpiece of centralization and leap-frogging over the heads of the provinces. The no side won, which means there is no longer any incentive for Ottawa to respect us. Here comes the first wave over the damn, Bill C-96, loaded with new powers Ottawa has the effrontery to assume in the field of manpower training, thus ignoring not only its own promises but also a general consensus in Quebec including even the Liberals.

Until now, the minister could not sidestep the provinces altogether in this area, to enter into agreements with financial institutions, persons or bodies, as the minister considers appropriate. This was of course intolerable. It was high time the referendum was over with so the government could finally do something about this. Otherwise, people would start thinking that Ottawa respected the powers of the provinces.

Some will say that one swallow does not a summer make. One centralist bill is not necessarily a harbinger of all out centralization. It is true, but, believe me, you can trust the government, a whole flock of swallows is on the way. Bill C-96 is merely a forerunner, Bill C-95 is already peeking out from behind it. This bill not only gives birth to the Department of Health, it is giving it as a christening gift comfortably broadened ministerial powers.

Before long, we will also be seeing Bill C-98 with which the government is giving itself environmental control over the oceans and also the waters that flow into the ocean. Now, since all waters flow into the ocean-

In short, ever shrinking transfers to the provinces and ever expanding involvement in provincial jurisdictions. Pay ever less and control ever more: this is the incredible policy of our colleagues opposite. How long, we wonder, will the other provinces meekly go along with this little game.

If they accept another round of cuts to their rights without flinching, it makes little sense to me, but, after all, it is their business. However, this steam roller of a centralizing and antisocial legislation whose rumblings we hear, this campaign that they have just boldly launched against provincial prerogatives now that they have nothing more to fear, this bellicose rumour arising from the ranks of the Liberals, can you see how clearly it is revealing the intentions of the Prime Minister when he talks about unearthing old legislation that has fallen into disuse?

The aim, as everyone will see, is to prevent Quebecers from holding a third referendum when the time is right. All the Quebecers who were misled into voting no because they believed in the promises made are very likely to change sides, do you not suppose, and vote yes after the steam roller has gone by. At that point we will be able to assess the damage done to the social safety net and to provincial jurisdictions. What kind of reaction can we expect from Quebecers faced with the inflated arrogance of the federal government as it sports the new powers it has snatched from the provinces like new plumage?

One day we will be sovereign, because one day a majority of Quebecers will understand. Believe me, they will not be misled again by excessive flattery before the referendum only to be pistol whipped after. This is why those opposite want nothing to do with a new referendum. Bill C-96 will at least begin to open the eyes of the half of Quebecers who have yet to understand.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-96, a bill which talks of partnership, of collaboration between the federal and provincial governments, of the need to develop our greatest asset, human resources.

I know firsthand from my constituents in Saint-Denis that we must develop efficiently this important resource in order to meet the challenges facing Canada in the 21st century.

Questions have been raised about the powers granted to the minister in this bill, specifically with respect to clause 6, which sets out the mandate of the department. They suggest that somehow this clause allows the federal government to intrude on matters of provincial jurisdiction. I find myself puzzled by some of those questions. I wonder if we are all reading from the same bill or do some members opposite have their own private version that they would like to share with us.

In my copy of the bill, clause 6 has a very important and I think very clear phrase that puts definite limits on the minister's powers. It limits those powers to "matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction". What part of that phrase is unclear?

By some kind of hocus-pocus, members opposite read that phrase and it comes out "matters over which the provinces have jurisdiction". That is just plain nonsense. It is not what the bill says. It says just the opposite.

In fact, Bill C-96 does not affect federal and provincial powers in any way. It does not give the minister any extra powers or undermine those he already has. All the powers now granted to the minister under the law will remain the same.

Bill C-96 does not create any new programs or bring any substantial changes to those that already exist. All programs and services in effect the day before this bill is passed will remain the same.

There is no ambiguity in this. There is no doubt whatsoever. Whichever way you look at it, this bill does not grant any new powers. This encroachment exists only in the fertile imagination of those who would like to see such an encroachment.

Perhaps some members would be more comfortable if clause 6 spelled out in laborious detail all of the specific programs offered by the government. That is certainly an option but it is an option the government decided would be ill-advised and counterproductive.

We are dealing with a very large department and with a wide range of programs and services. Enumerating all of those programs point by point would take pages and in the end nothing very positive would be accomplished.

The whole direction of the department, of the government, of governments at all levels and indeed most business organizations is to stay flexible and ready for change. At a time when flexibility,

streamlining and efficiency are so important, it makes sense to set out the responsibilities of the department in a better way. That is what clause 6 does. It sets out the basic objectives of the department: enhancing employment, encouraging equality and promoting social security. These objectives are very clear. They are very important and are within the jurisdiction of this Parliament.

The people who use our programs every day, whether they are in Newfoundland, Quebec, Manitoba or British Columbia, do not want the federal government to shirk its responsibilities. I trust that no one in the House is suggesting that we do so.

At the same time, we all recognize that there is room for more productive partnerships between all levels of government. We recognize the need to clarify roles and responsibilities in labour market development. That is why we have made it very clear that as we proceed with social security reform, as we put a new unemployment insurance program in place, as we develop a new human resource investment fund and the Canada health and social transfer, we are open to change.

We are willing to take a hard look at who is in the best position to deliver programs and services most efficiently. It may well prove that some programs managed now at the federal level can be better managed by others: the provinces, private sector partners or community groups.

The federal government wants to work with Quebec and all provinces with an open mind. We are really not interested in turf wars. We are interested in working with our partners in a constructive way to meet common goals and serve Canadians.

Let us consider the agreements already concluded between HRDC and Quebec: the interim Canada-Quebec agreement on certain manpower development measures; the agreement on the implementation of a deal affecting welfare recipients; the Canada-Quebec agreement on agricultural employment; the block funding granted Quebec under the Canada student loans program, to name but a few.

These umbrella agreements may not be perfect, but they work. They directly affect the lives of thousands of people in that province.

The whole thrust of HRDC activity is to strengthen those partnerships and to decentralize power away from the centre to the local level. Labour market programs and services are already among the most decentralized of all federal programs. We are decentralizing them even further with a new, modern service delivery network firmly rooted at the local level in communities across this country.

The federal government is also committed to working with the provinces to provide the most flexible services possible to Canadians.

For example, the Canada transfer for health and social programs will give Quebec another source of funding for measures such as the parental wage assistance program or PWA, which cannot be funded under the old system; the provincial sales tax rebate to welfare recipients, which does not come under the old system; a nutrition program for disadvantaged children, which cannot be funded under the old system either; as well as transportation services for handicapped people, without having to assess the needs as would be required under the old system.

Because clause 6 of Bill C-96 sets out the department's mandate in terms of general objectives rather than the minute details of existing programs, we will have this kind of flexibility. It provides a basis for a more efficient department and clears the way for continued evaluation and reform down the road.

Diverting the debate on this bill by inventing jurisdictional problems-by finding in clause 6 words that are obviously not there-is doing a disservice to thousands of Canadians across the country who benefit every day from the services provided by the Department of Human Resources Development.

It is doing a disservice to the million Quebecers throughout that province who rely on and use this department's services, to the people who come to our human resources and student employment centres, who register in our employment programs, who receive unemployment insurance, who benefit every day from the $14 million that HRDC spends in Quebec on an annual basis.

Canadians are entitled to the best possible services. They deserve the kind of integrated, focused, practical programs that HRDC is working to deliver, and Bill C-96 is important to that effort.

Let us not sacrifice good, productive service on the altar of rhetoric. In the end all levels of government are striving for the same goal: to help people find and keep good jobs. That is what is important. That is what we promised as a party and that is what we are delivering as a government.

I have numerous examples in my riding of programs that work. Young people who had no future, who had no hope for the future, are now in programs financed by the department. I have the

example of 13 young high school dropouts who are now in a program that is a collaborative effort of the federal government and the private sector. All 13 of them will have jobs the minute that program ends.

We need to consolidate the progress we have achieved in integrating social and labour market programs and sharpen the focus on developing Canada's human resources. More important, we need to clear the way for further progress as we launch the new employment insurance program, as we develop new programs and services under the human resource investment fund, as we work to improve programs for seniors, and as the department continues to re-engineer and streamline services to Canadians.

It is important to clear up the administrative tangles left over from earlier times. It is important to establish a clear identity and coherent mandate for the new organization to function properly. It is important to ensure that as the department looks to the future there is a solid foundation to build on. As I said earlier there are numerous programs by which we want to build a solid foundation for the young people of the country. For instance, the youth services program in my riding has helped a number of young people have hope for the future, as I said earlier.

Bill C-96 provides that foundation. We need to pass the bill and get on with the work of serving Canadians.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government's Bill C-96, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development.

The bill basically does little more than transfer legal powers from the former Ministry of Employment and Immigration to the new department. In summary, the enactment establishes the Department of Human Resources Development with a presiding minister to be appointed by commission under the Great Seal of Canada, with the powers, duties and functions as therein set out, and a deputy minister to be appointed by the governor in council with provision for employees. It also provides that a minister of labour may be appointed and that a deputy minister of labour may be designated. That is it.

With all the huffing and puffing the minister of human resources did regarding his intentions for social reform, Bill C-96, all 44 pages, does very little but change the name of the department and continue as usual.

I will comment on a few clauses I take issue with before I address the need for social reform especially for our seniors. I fear clause 6 means the government will continue to interfere in the provincial areas of social programs, in other words entrench the status quo that causes overlap and duplication.

Clauses 20 and 21 enable the minister to enter into negotiation with any group including the provinces and municipalities. The provinces are waiting for less interference in social programs. Reform would support real decentralization with the provision of power going directly to the provinces to administer at their discretion.

Then there is the matter of government accountability. If there is no annual report from the department how will Canadians have full knowledge regarding its administration and cost to the taxpayers? We are also kept in the dark about staffing in the new human resources department. Will it increase or decrease?

Canadians have waited a year for the discussion paper to come out. It seems we are still waiting. Once again the government, in this case the Minister of Human Resources Development, has failed Canadians. There is no meaningful social reform in the bill, no decentralization as the provinces have been asking for.

As Reform's deputy critic for human resources I must look at seniors' concerns. I must tell the House that seniors are so concerned about the future of their pensions that Canada's usual seniors groups have joined to create a coalition of seniors for social equity. The coalition consists of five major national seniors groups concerned in a large part about the future of income security programs for the elderly. It is hoped that by giving seniors a strong voice the coalition which claims to represent 500,000 seniors across Canada will ensure that government considers the wishes of seniors. The paper was written a year ago. I must consider the remarks of one senior spokesperson who stated:

When our coalition was formed, we set ourselves some rigid criteria. We decided that we, as seniors' organizations, have to face the hard facts. We have to recognize that the deficit and growing government debt are real. We have to recognize that the elderly population is growing faster than the population as a whole and that government expenditures on the elderly are increasing.

We recognize that seniors, like others in society, may have to pay higher levels of taxation and receive lower levels of government services. The seniors of today have always paid their fair share to society and will continue to be willing to do so. What they object to is being singled out to pay more than their fair share. Seniors recognize that, with due consideration and consultation, some changes may be necessary to the income security system for older Canadians.

They stated their major concern as follows:

When change is necessary, people who can adjust must be given enough time to plan and adjust, and those who cannot must have benefits continued.

People have to know what to expect when they retire so they can prepare their financial affairs well in advance.

It is interesting to note that others in society, especially the financial experts, say the same thing. Most Canadians recognize that due to the country's changing demographic profile Canada's pension system is facing a cash flow crisis.

The Canadian birth rate soared after World War II, producing a baby boom generation that will start to retire around the year 2010. The number of pensioners per working Canadian will more than double by the year 2031.

This would not be a problem if Canada's government administered pensions were funded, that is if each person's contributions to the CPP were placed in an individual account and invested. Instead the CPP is funded on a pay as we go basis. For example, the funds collected from today's workers are paid out immediately to today's pensioners. Thus every time the ratio of retirees to workers increases the per capita cost of the system to workers increases in lock step.

Canadian politicians have shown little creativity in addressing the pension funding crisis and seem to believe that the rise in pension demands can be dealt with only by cutting benefits to pensioners or by raising taxes for working Canadians. If the first of these two options is chosen, pension benefits will have to be cut by over 50 per cent by the year 2031 to keep payroll deductions for CPP at their current levels.

If the second option is chosen, taxes on working Canadians will be driven to unprecedented heights. To maintain CPP benefits at their present levels payroll deductions will have to be increased from the current level of 5.4 per cent to 10.28 per cent by the year 2011 and eventually over 14 per cent. That source is from the Canada pension plan 15th statutory actuarial report of February 1995.

Health and Welfare Canada in "Charting Canada's Future", 1989, stated:

The term "demographic aging" refers to an increase in the relative weight of the elderly in the total population. The aging of the Canadian population has come about largely because of declining fertility rates and, to a lot lesser degree, because of an increase in average life span.

By the time the post-second world war baby boomers retire roughly one in every five Canadians will be 65 years of age or more, compared to approximately one in ten today. What is more, while senior citizens will form an increasingly large proportion of the population the percentage of young people will decline.

It is wonderful news that our seniors are living longer and healthier lives. However with this fact comes the realization that our social programs must change.

Unfortunately, although the Minister of Human Resources Development promised change to our social system two years ago, we are still waiting. Why is he still compiling evidence when our government's experts have had papers written on the subject for years now? Is he hoping that through more and more consultation he can stall any meaningful change until after the next election?

I wonder when politicians will realize that Canadian voters only expect their politicians to do their best while spending the Canadian taxpayers' dollars wisely. If the government starts to show that responsibility and accountability are major considerations in any social reforms program the government initiates, the Canadian public will be supportive. If politicians do their job there is nothing to fear from voters. When politicians do not do their jobs, force unwanted legislation on Canadian voters, appoint friends and party faithful to high positions, keep Canadian citizens dependent rather than helping them to be independent and productive, Canadians lose faith in their politicians.

Our human resources minister said it in his article "Breaking Down Barriers" in The Hill Times of August 31, 1995:

By changing nothing, we are condemning people to the same old rut, the same old cycle of dependency which has been holding people back for years. And what is worse by ignoring fiscal imperative, it won't be long before the international financial community is going to come in and dictate those changes for us.

If he thinks this way, why is he doing nothing? The Liberal government promised that by the fall of 1994 it would implement comprehensive reform of Canada's social programs. Instead, in October 1994 the Minister of Human Resources Development issued a paper "Social Security in Canada". To date no meaningful legislative changes have been introduced. The minister has also promised that a comprehensive paper on aging including pensions will be issued by the end of 1995.

The Reform Party has a proposal for seniors to look at. It is responsible social reform, taking a look at reforming the Canada pension plan to secure retirement years for all Canadians.

We recognize and listen to all the experts, including the chief actuary for Canada who states that CPP will be exhausted by 2015. He predicts that CPP will be gone in 20 years. What is to become of the millions of Canadians at that time who are currently contributing to the unsustainable black hole? What happens to the next generation with no hope of receiving its benefits?

The groundwork for the Reform Party's revision of Canada's social policies was outline in the taxpayers' budget of February 1995, a blueprint for achieving both fiscal and social security for Canadians in the 21st century.

I wish there was time to go over Reform's four-point plan which addresses the seriousness of the upcoming pension crisis in Canada. Basically it deals with protection of seniors' benefits, recognition bonds, super RRSPs and survivors' benefits.

Department Of Human Resources Development ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 2 p.m. we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Medical Research CouncilStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year marked the 35th anniversary of the Medical Research Council of Canada. Over 35 years the MRC has played a key role in establishing one of the most influential and efficient biomedical research communities in the world.

Canadian medical achievements are numerous, including the discovery of a gene linked to Alzheimer's disease, progress in the understanding of muscular dystrophy, and the development of an innovative approach to reducing the side effects of aspirin.

The Medical Research Council of Canada is a vast network of people seeking better care for Canadians, a fairer distribution of health care resources, new knowledge and more effective medical and surgical interventions.

The Medical Research Council is an organization truly worthy of continued federal government support.

Atlantic CanadaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, a short time ago I had the opportunity to visit Prince Edward Island. Aside from the beauty of the Island and the friendliness of the people I could not help but notice the political oppression of the system in Atlantic Canada.

Politicians use their positions to garner support through patronage and threats. For example, one day I met a provincial cabinet minister and informed him of a public meeting planned for later the same day. The minister appeared that night not to attend the meeting but to find out who else was attending. More than one person turned and walked out the door when they saw the minister.

If the people of the Island cannot openly express political beliefs and attend a meeting without fear of reprisal, we must challenge the system under which Islanders live.

The Reform Party is offering Atlantic Canadians a positive alternative, an alternative that will allow them to break free from the system of political oppression they are now forced to endure.

Diabetes Awareness MonthStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the statistics are staggering. One and a half million Canadians are diabetic. The disease grows at a rate of 6 per cent per year. By the year 2004 experts predict that one in four Canadians over the age of 45 will have developed the disease.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada. Most people do not realize that diabetes is the leading contributor to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. Furthermore, most people incorrectly believe that insulin is a cure. Across Canada we spend $200 per person annually to treat diabetes and diabetes related illnesses. That totals $5 billion in government health expenses alone.

I commend the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation for its efforts in this, the 25th year since its formation, for continuing to fight for a cure to this disease.

During Diabetes Awareness Month let us all do our part to raise awareness and dollars to make sure that the slogan of the 1990s is achieved and truly make this the decade of a cure.

United NationsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, 1995 is the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. On Wednesday of this week the Secretary-General of the UN, His Excellency Boutros Boutros-Ghali, will be in Ottawa to commemorate this event.

It is fitting today to remember that Canada is a founding nation in this great institution. For me it is also fitting and a great honour to recall the contributions of my predecessor from Windsor-St. Clair, the Right Hon. Paul Martin, Sr., who was committed to the success of the United Nations and who was there at its inception.

I know that all members will join me in welcoming His Excellency Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Canada and in wishing continuing success to the UN.

National Child DayStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we commemorate the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 1989 Canada and other member countries of the United Nations gathered together to develop a set of formal obligations to the world's children. At that time a standard was set for nations with the best interests of the child being the primary concern in all actions relating to children.

The government takes seriously its responsibilities to better the lives of Canadian children. As Canadians we must be vigilant to ensure that the values and guarantees in the Convention on the Rights of the Child are respected.

Let us today, on National Child Day, renew our commitment to the promises we have made to the many hungry and neglected children who are depending on us to ensure their future is as bright as it can possibly be.

Okanagan CentreStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week I spent some time knocking on the doors of constituents.

I asked people what was of concern to them now, halfway through the mandate. Three issues were stated most frequently. Several seniors said: "I'm afraid to go out on the street alone in my neighbourhood. Several years ago I felt no threat for my own safety as I walked to see my neighbour. Today I either take a cab, my car or ask someone to come with me. Can't you do something that will discourage the criminals?"

The second issue was: "When will the government get its spending under control? I am worried that when I reach retirement age there won't be any money left for me".

The third issue came from a 16-year-old. He quoted Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst system ever invented except for all the rest". He talked about the problems of the Quebec referendum balloting and said: "We need to tell the government to do everything it can to punish the guilty ones and to make sure that we take all possible precautions to prevent it from ever happening again".

That is what the people are saying. I challenge the Prime Minister and every MP to get on with the Canadian agenda.