House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.


Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

moved that Bill C-82, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mint Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Cochrane—Superior Ontario


Réginald Bélair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-82 is of wide ranging significance for Canadians. The piece of legislation will enable the government to modernize Canada's currency by introducing a new $2 coin.

The bill is part of a two-tier approach that will transform Canada's currency system and save Canadian taxpayers a half billion dollars over 20 years. The other element of the strategy is the decision to change the metal composition of the 1-cent, 5-cent, 10-cent, 25-cent and 50-cent circulation coins. Such a move has become necessary given the rising cost of producing the coins.

For example, it now costs approximately 1.4 cents to produce a 1-cent coin. In all, altering the metal content of the coins will result in annual savings of $12 million.

These new measures, an important stage in the history of our currency, are arousing a lot of interest throughout the country. For Canadians, their currency is more than a mere payment instrument. It is part of their heritage, a national symbol.

By deciding to replace the $2 bill with a coin and by changing the metal composition of the lower denomination coins, the government remains true to the principles it has always stood for.

Since our government took office, it has been faced with difficult choices. We have never shirked our responsibilities and we always tried to face the music in cooperation with all Canadians.

The savings to the people of Canada are considerable. I have already discussed the savings that will accrue to the people of Canada as a result of changing the metal composition of the lower denomination coins. It is estimated that moving to a $2 coin will by itself save taxpayers $254 million over the next 20 years. This is because coins last so much longer than notes.

At present the $2 bill costs 6 cents per unit to produce, but with all the wear and tear it takes a note only lasts one year. A $2 coin, on the other hand, will cost approximately 16 cents to produce but will last 20 years.

The new $2 coin brings another benefit to the government: within 18 months of issuing the coin the government will obtain $449 million in seigniorage. The difference between the unit cost to produce a coin and the face value of the coin is seigniorage. Within 18 months of issuing the $2 coin $449 million in seigniorage will accrue to the government, thus an additional $500 million for the government's consolidated revenue fund within 18 months. This is not bad by any stretch.

This move also reflects the government's sense of priorities. All Canadians understand that we have to get the government deficit under control, which demands spending cuts in every government department. As was stated in this year's budget, Canadians want the government to spend money and secure savings in ways that make sense and that reflect their values. To do so it is essential that our efforts be guided by clear principles.

The proposed changes to our currency are a good example of the savings that can be achieved with some determination and creativity.

Let me also tell the House that the government is looking for other ways to reduce spending in order to avoid tax increases. The introduction of the new $2 coin and the proposed changes to the other denomination coins will also meet our needs, since coins are still widely used in Canada.

In fact, despite the growing popularity of credit cards and debit cards, coins are still used in over 75 per cent of all financial transactions made in this country.

The third principle is frugality; each dollar matters. The initiatives put forward today are probably the best way to illustrate this principle. Some will argue that savings of $12 million a year, or half a billion dollars over 20 years, are not a big deal, but on this side of the House, we think that every little bit counts and as the old saying goes: "Little streams make big rivers". This government thinks that a dollar saved is a dollar in the pockets of the taxpayers.

By making these impressive savings in the production of our coins we are helping Canadians avoid painful budget cuts in other areas. Let me be perfectly clear. Our government is committed to eliminating the deficit, which will require more spending cuts in the years to come. Reducing the cost of our currency is a good example of spending cuts that are fair to all Canadians and relatively painless.

Some people have expressed concern about the changes to our national coinage, but the disadvantages which are mostly related to the bulk of coins are far outweighed by the advantages, especially the considerable savings.

I am convinced that if given the choice all Canadians would choose a few more coins in their pockets or purses over fewer dollars in their bank accounts as a result of tax increases. Canadians understand that a $2 coin will add a little weight to their pockets but will take a big load off the debt.

The government also understands the concerns of the vending industry and is committed to giving this and other important factors the time they need to adjust to the changes. The 8 to 12 months advance notice they have received should allow them to convert their equipment to handle the new coins. One reason we decided to introduce the new $2 coin at this time as we change the composition of other coins is to assist the vending industry.

By pursuing the two initiatives at the same time the industry will only face a one-time investment in recalibrating its machines.

Not only will the new $2 coin be better adapted to the needs of our trade and industry sector, it will also be more practical for users. As more and more goods and services such as coffee, snacks, laundromats, subway tickets and public parking require the use of coins, the need for printing low denomination bills is increasingly reduced.

By modernizing its currency in this fashion, Canada is joining the ranks of the many countries all over the world that already have higher denomination coins. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and Switzerland are only some of the countries which have recognized the practical value of coins as a method of payment. Many countries have coins that have a much greater nominal value than ours. For example, in the United Kingdom, the one pound coin has approximately the same value as our new $2 coin.

France is another country where low denomination bills have been withdrawn. In fact, their smallest bill, the twenty franc bill, is worth almost $5. Some European countries have coins that are worth as much as our $10 bill.

The proposed coin is composed of a nickel outer ring with a round aluminium bronze core. The use of bimetallic coins is another trend that is growing throughout the world. Such countries as France, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico and many others are already using such coins. The government's choice of a bimetallic $2 coin reflects another one of our principles, that of helping Canada break into new markets with new products. The capability of producing a bimetallic coin in Canada will position the mint and Canadian suppliers to compete internationally for the bimetallic coin business.

This is especially true given the Royal Canadian Mint's worldwide reputation for unsurpassed quality, its markets and its production expertise internationally. I am convinced that the capability of producing the bimetallic $2 coin will give the mint and potential Canadian suppliers another advantage in foreign markets.

I have outlined many of the tangible benefits that will flow from the changes. Canadians will benefit directly from the immediate cost savings as well as from the more cost effective method of producing coins. All this will result in a more efficient and effective coin system that can only help our economy.

The criteria for an effective coin system are that the system will first meet the needs of trade and commerce, will be cost effective, will have public acceptance and will meet public preference.

I have already addressed the first two points regarding the new coin. I would now like to address the issues of public acceptance and public preference. As was the case with the introduction of the ever popular loonie, I am confident that Canadians will also come to enjoy the convenience, the distinctive look, and the feel of the $2 coin.

The $1 coin may give us an idea of how popular its sibling could prove to be. Since its introduction, more than 685 million

$1 coins have been struck, which is more than double the number of $1 bills that were in circulation when they began to be withdrawn.

As a matter of fact, after seeing the success we have had with our loonie, the U.S. general accounting office is looking at reintroducing the $1 coin in the United States. That says a lot.

It is not necessary to wait and see if our $2 coin will be popular. According to the information we have now, more than 79 per cent of Canadians are in favour of the new $2 coin because of the savings it will bring.

Once they are informed of all the advantages associated with the new coin and of the modifications that will be made to the metal composition of other coins, I am convinced that Canadians will support this project wholeheartedly.

Canadians in all the provinces have shown their support for the new $2 coin by sending their ideas on the theme and the illustration of the coin. The Royal Canadian Mint has already received over 17,000 submissions from school children, artists, coin collectors and other Canadian men and women.

I encourage members of this House who have received suggestions from their constituents or who want to make their own suggestions to send them to us, but they have to do it as soon as possible because this cost-saving measure is progressing very quickly.

Our government is making these changes in the interest of all Canadians. The savings alone justify this decision but, more importantly, these changes reflect our determination to prepare for the future.

In making these changes we are also responding to the message we received from Canadians from coast to coast and we are putting into practice the message we sent out in the February budget. They want us to spend money and secure savings in ways that make sense and reflect Canadian values. We want to carry out their wishes in ways that cause the least pain possible.

It is only a small step in our larger march toward the future, but it is a symbol of our government's ongoing commitment to reducing the cost of government while providing service to Canadians.

Surely the people of Canada will benefit greatly from the introduction of the new $2 coin. That is why I strongly urge all members of the House to help us in passing Bill C-82.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-82, an act to replace the $2 bill with a coin.

As the parliamentary secretary just explained, this change would save the government some $12 or 13 million yearly for the next 20 years. This measure will save us money. In fact, as he explained, the production cost of a bill, which has a circulation life of about 1 year, is 6 cents; the cost of minting a coin, which has a circulation life of 20 years, is 16 cents. Hence, the savings of $250 million over 20 years.

However, the parliamentary secretary neglected to mention the costs, amounting to approximately $30 million, which will be associated with the new coin. There certainly is the potential for savings; that is the main reason the government tabled this bill. When it comes to that pursuit, the Bloc Quebecois has always striven to propose to the government ways of saving money. This is always practical, especially for a government facing a deficit.

Some businesses, in particular bus companies, also support this initiative because they are having problems with their money boxes. All those $2 bills tend to get stuck in the money boxes on buses. That is indeed a great problem, and perhaps one of the arguments in favour of replacing the bill with a coin.

We can talk about savings for the government and for the government only. That is where the savings end. Substantial costs will be associated with making the transition to the use of the coin.

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10:20 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, when a member has the floor, I think his colleagues should at least give him a chance to express his views and other people a chance to listen. The comments being made right and left make it impossible for us to listen undisturbed to what the speaker for our party has to say. I would appreciate, Mr. Speaker, if you would call my colleagues to order.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I am sure that is what we want, regardless of the topic or the member who is speaking, and I hope hon. members will remember this, and that the debate will proceed in a way that is acceptable to all members on both sides of the House.

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Joliette for coming to the rescue. I was so absorbed in my speech that I did not notice the other conversations that were going on, but now, as I look around me, I see people talking.

As I was saying, the purpose of Bill C-82 is to issue a coin that will replace the $2 bill, as a money saving measure that, I agree, will save approximately $240 million over 20 years. But that is where the saving stops. When we consider the transition period until this legislation can be implemented, we are talking about substantial expenditures, because it is clear that the private sector will again be stuck with spending several million dollars during the transition. As you know, when the government issues

a new coin, in this case the $2 coin, it means all cash registers in every business in this country have to be changed.

At the present time, cash registers can accommodate coins in denominations of 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and one dollar, and now all cash registers will have to be changed to accommodate the $2 coin. Who is going to pay? The merchants, of course. We will have to change all the vending machines across the country, at an estimated cost of more than $80 million. And yes, there is more. We will have to change parking meters in our municipalities to accommodate the $2 coin, and ticket counters and video games. And what about telephone booths? There are a lot of those in Canada. Apparently, the additional cost for the private sector in Canada will be $400 million during the first year, and that is a conservative estimate. That is the minimum cost to the private sector.

These are very substantial amounts.

It is nonsense to say, like the parliamentary secretary, that it is painless for the business community. There is nothing painless about obliging merchants to change their cash registers at a time when many are already suffering as a result of poor decision making by this government. Consider the GST and all the paperwork small businesses have to cope with, businesses that in some cases are on the verge of bankruptcy. Now they are being asked to change their cash registers. This is not necessarily good news for them.

We can hardly say this is painless and that the government is acting in the best interests of a private sector that will have to spend at least $400 million because a new coin is being issued.

I heard some comments from government members. Sure, this will get the economy going. This will make a real difference. Four hundred million dollars at least will be spent. That will make a difference. I think this reasoning shows a lack of imagination and I would even say a lack of intelligence on the part of the government, because we know perfectly well that if the government really wanted to boost the economy, it could do it in a positive way.

If the government really cared about promoting private enterprise and small business, it would make an effort to simplify the paperwork, the forms and all the taxes imposed on small business and forget about issuing a $2 coin.

Issuing a $2 coin is no help to small business or even businesses in general in Canada. It complicates their lives. It forces them to spend money for something they did not ask for. Who, in the end, is going to pay for it? Businesses will pass the cost on to the customer. It will have an inflationary effect, perhaps like the introduction of the GST and all the other government measures of the past. It will have an inflationary effect.

We all know that, with the introduction of the dollar coin a few years ago, a whole slew of things that sold for 80 cents, 85 cents or 90 cents suddenly started selling for a dollar. The same thing will happen again. Everything that now sells for $1.75 will now suddenly be selling for $2. It is not fair. This negative effect is not fair for consumers who will have to pay a little more for each purchase.

All the business people who will have to buy another cash register will pass the cost on in the goods and services they sell to their customers. Basically, the consumers will be the ones to pay. On the pretext of saving $250 million, the federal government is handing another bill to the consumers, who will have to pay two or three times more. This is unimaginative, would you not say, Mr. Speaker?

Besides, this is not a new approach. The federal government has often passed a debt on to the provinces or the municipalities in order to save money and reduce its deficit. In this case, it is passing the debt on to the consumer.

Furthermore, this measure not only does not help the economy, it may even have an inflationary effect on certain items. It may even be said to have a slowing down effect, dragging the economy down. Here again, this is not helping private enterprise, which is being stuck with a needless expenditure, one it never asked for. There is no money in this for private enterprise.

No business asked for this, except perhaps bus companies which could benefit from the elimination of the $2 bill. There would be no more $2 paper money. People would probably have to use one dollar coins. In other words, what I am trying to tell the parliamentary secretary is that there may be other ways to solve the problem caused by $2 bills in bus fare boxes.

To introduce a $2 coin at this time, given the present economic situation in Canada, with its crushing debt load and cuts to social programs and elsewhere, could possibly slow down the economy, because of the additional costs to the system. The government is considering expenses the private sector finds useless. It will cause consumers to spend more for the sake of saving a few million dollars.

Again, we, in the Bloc, believe Canada should save money, but not just any which way and at any cost. If, to try to save $250 million, you ask consumers to pay $400 million, what kind of saving is it? The parliamentary secretary mentioned the fact that the reaction from the public was very positive, that people were enthusiastic, and that the $1 coin had become the ever popular loonie. We were given the impression that the public agreed, and so did associations and merchants, but this is not the case at all.

The majority of merchant associations and consumer associations were not consulted. Only a few were consulted, and some said they felt the government was going too fast. Consumer and merchant associations remember the costly introduction of the $1 coin which was not readily accepted by the public and is not quite entirely accepted yet. Its impact was not very positive. It took some time to get used to it. Right from the start, the coin was found to be too heavy, too big, and unacceptable. This was a mistake.

The consumer and merchant associations I consulted told me that the government was going too fast. It might make another mistake and introduce a coin which might be heavier, bigger, and even less acceptable for the public, and which will be of no help to the private sector or retail business and will hurt them. It will cost shopkeepers at least $400 million more to adapt to this new coin and, in the end, consumers will have to foot the bill.

We have to ask ourselves whose interests the government is defending? Who exactly are we serving here? For whom do politicians work? To whom are we accountable? Is the government taking these measures just to solve some small problem of its own? By creating this $2 coin, we might be solving problems only for the Royal Canadian Mint, while ignoring those of the business people and the population.

The parliamentary secretary argued that the Royal Canadian Mint will have the opportunity to develop an industry and compete with other similar industries over the world, even sell $2 coins to the United States maybe. But can he explain why the Royal Canadian Mint is unable to compete on the international market right now? Why does it need a $2 coin? We already have the nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar coin; we could mint 2, 5 and 10 dollar coins for other countries.

Is helping the Royal Canadian Mint compete internationally a good enough reason to introduce a two dollar coin in Canada, when in fact, the Royal Mint is quite capable of competing on the international market as things stand right now? Are we creating that coin just to please the Royal Canadian Mint? Should we not first try to find out if the public wants such a thing? Do shopkeepers and business people want that coin? That is the question.

Before we implement a change as important as this one, it seems to me we should get to the bottom of the issue and ask ourselves who we are supposed to serve. I happen to think we are here to serve the public. Therefore, before doing anything else, we should consult the public. We should find out if Canadians really agree with the introduction of a $2 coin.

The parliamentary secretary says that everybody agrees. Everyone wants coins, they love the loonie, the "ever popular loonie", as he said. Yet, when you look at the poll which was conducted, you wonder whether it was not also orchestrated to please the Royal Canadian Mint.

The were two polls, the one we are interested in was done this year or at least the results were released this year. In fact, this is the only poll done this year by Environics, although it was in two parts. It shows that, deep down, there is a strong reluctance in the public.

The company did one poll that showed that about 50 per cent of the people said no, absolutely not, no $2 coin. Another 50 per cent said maybe, they hesitated. And this was interpreted as a positive response, 50 per cent said yes.

The parliamentary secretary did not talk about the people who are against it. Environics redid the poll a second time and talked to the same 1,000 people-because they only talked to 1,000 people in Sherbrooke, Toronto and Calgary. They repolled the same 1,000 persons and they told them that the country would be saving $250 million. That second time, of course, the acceptance rate jumped to almost 80 per cent. Sure, everybody is in favour of motherhood and apple pie.

Everybody in Canada wants to save money. Nobody in Canada would refuse the government a chance to save. But did they take the time to explain to these people that it will also cost a lot of money to merchants and consumers? No, they did not take the time to explain that. They did not take the time to explain the other possibilities or to do a thorough polling to try to avoid the mistake made when the $1 coin was introduced. There was a big mistake made at the time. We know that.

When you look back at the history of our currency, you realize that there was a very strong opposition to the loonie. People were saying it was not real money, it was just a piece of metal of the wrong colour and it was far too big and too heavy.

But worst of all, the government did not take the time to inform the people. It did not launch, let us say, an advertising or information campaign to explain to citizens the need for this coin. It could have consulted people and put some effort into producing a coin that would perhaps be less bulky, lighter and more original, but it did not do so.

Once a coin is introduced, we are stuck with it for the rest of our lives. We cannot change it. The same thing can be said of the loonie. A mistake was made and this is not the ever popular loonie. Even in Kingston, as in cities everywhere, banks have 50 million loonies in their strongrooms, because this coin is not circulating. People did not accept it.

Here we are stuck with perhaps 50 million loonies which are not in circulation, quite a load. Obviously, in Kingston as elsewhere in the country, we will witness the same reluctance to use the $2 coin and it is already happening. I sense it myself but one has only to speak to people in the streets, on the buses and so on to see that people do not want a $2 coin. People did not accept the loonie, so why would there not be even greater reluctance to use a bigger and heavier coin?

Of course such reluctance is normal, because the idea is new. But if we decide to eliminate the $2 bill, for example, it will be a new experience too.

The government lacks imagination and vision. It does not take the time to really think things through. Even if, for some, the introduction of a $2 coin will not change the world, one has to take the time to do one's job. The Department of Public Works certainly did not do its job in this case; besides the minister did not even bother coming here to defend his bill this morning. Or rather, the hon. minister is here in spirit, smiling through his colleagues.

I note, however, certain factors that clearly indicate to me that the minister is not particularly interested in defending his bill as I would have liked him to.

Polls which unfortunately are made to serve the interests of the Royal Canadian Mint, but polls which are also incomplete, very incomplete, and which repeat the errors of the past, which do not consider two other alternatives that must be considered, that the government could consider, with the same regard for economy and with a greater respect for the general public.

If, for example, the government took a close look at the situation, maybe it would realize that this is not the right moment to introduce a $2 coin. Maybe this is not the time. Maybe we should maintain for some time the current system with the $2 paper bill. Maybe the timing is not right. Maybe the retailers do not want to be involved in another change, when they are already being buffeted by changes in taxation and forms coming from the government. Another government requirement, more useless spending by the government. Maybe this is not the right time. Maybe this is a lack of judgment on the government's part, bad timing, and if the government really, sincerely wanted to save money, it could do it elsewhere.

I could suggest many ways to save those $250 million. The Minister of Public Works could himself abolish the Atlantic Canada Opportunities agency, something that has been suggested to him many times, because we know that this agency spends its money very freely, making gifts to this one and that one. We read in the newspapers that the minister, who does not have the best reputation in the government when it comes to his handouts, could, by abolishing the agency which spends between $300 million and $500 million every year, have saved a much greater amount that the savings that we are supposedly making by issuing a two dollar coin.

There are all sorts of reasons and examples that we can give to encourage the government to save $250 million. Also, there is a second alternative. First, we can maintain the current situation and continue for a while, because the timing is bad for merchants and consumers. The other alternative that the government did not even consider and that I suggest simply because I too am interested in savings, is to abolish the two dollar denomination, whether paper or coin, as was done in the United States.

In the past-I have a $2 bill, I had a $2 bill in my hand-there was a $2 bill in the United States. I was in New York when they abolished it. There was no problem with that. There are no $2 bills any more in the United States. It is not the only country in the world that has abolished the two dollar bill. The parliamentary secretary mentioned that a two dollar bill had been introduced in Great Britain. But that is not true. In Britain, it was abolished, and several other countries simply abolished the two dollar denomination.

Some countries did convert it into a coin, but others did not. The parliamentary secretary seemed to want to mention only those who converted it into a coin. Many countries have abolished the two dollar denomination, and if they did, so can Canada. That could be very well received. It is not as if we wanted to abolish the 1 cent coin or another denomination essential to counting money. A $2 bill is not like a cent. To abolish the cent would have a devastating impact because we would be abolishing a unit essential to counting money. But the $2 bill is not essential, for that purpose. The proof of that, I repeat, is that other countries did it successfully.

That is what I am suggesting to the government. If we kept the present $2 bill for a while or if we simply removed it for some time, the government would save more money than by introducing a $2 coin.

This way, private business would not have to spend another $400 million to no real puprpose. Municipalities would not be forced to spend money replacing parking meters, vending machines, cash registers and all sorts of other business machines all across Canada. We would save a lot of money, and even the government would save.

If the government decided to eliminate the $2 bill, it would still be possible to reintroduce it later, if it was considered a mistake or if the public did not accept the change. By contrast, once the $2 coin is introduced, we will already have spent $400 million. The damage will already have been done. If it were abolished later on because the public did not accept it, the private sector would still have made unnecessary investments.

Some say that perhaps the timing is wrong, since the government is considering the introduction of a $5 coin. Some coun-

tries, Australia for instance, introduced a $5 coin. By the way, in Australia, the $2 and $5 coins have not been accepted yet.

At least the government understood that this is not the right time to issue a five dollar coin. They have understood that at least. They say: We may issue a five dollar coin in five or ten years from now. Why not wait and issue the two coins at the same time? Why now? What is the hurry? Why impose unnecessary expenses on the private sector? Why not wait for technological advances?

As we all know, we live in a rapidly changing society. I, for one, pay my newspaper with a credit card. I do not use spare change very often. People, at least in my town, use credit cards or debit cards issued by their caisses populaires to make purchases at their convenience store or supermarket. Plastic may be the way of the future.

New technologies could make currency obsolete a few years from now. Why should we have a bill which will force unnecessary expenses on merchants and tax consumers even more, when we know that in a few years from now technology will make coins obsolete? I believe this bill shows a lack of foresight, intelligence and vision.

This government is clumsy. Obviously they have not done their homework. Even their argument regarding fare boxes in buses is clumsy. They claim that there will be no more two dollar bills obstructing fare boxes and that using two one dollar coins instead will solve the problem.

Some say that, if we eliminate the $2 coin, we will end up with a lot of small change in our pockets, with many more $1 coins. We will keep them in our pockets instead of leaving them in the bank. Obviously, if a $2 coin is introduced, we will have more change in our pockets anyway. Having one $2 coin is no better for us than having two $1 coins. What I am saying is that four quarters are still equal to a dollar, but that in the end we are forcing shopkeepers to spend considerable amounts.

My government colleagues disagree, arguing that people in Canada are weak and vulnerable; that they do not know how to count; that they are used to the $2 bill; that if this bill is eliminated, they will have trouble counting to two. These arguments come from the Liberals.

I think that people are smart enough to figure out that one plus one is two. They do not necessarily need a $2 coin.

Another argument from the government-as the parliamentary secretary put forward a moment ago-is that this coin would be a symbol of our national heritage. Just imagine! Some Liberal members also told me that a Canadian $2 coin would enhance the Canadian identity and makes us different from the Americans, who do not have a $2 coin. What an argument.

The Canadian identity must be pretty fragile if we need a $2 bill to maintain it. That is a pretty weak argument.

The issue of future developments must also be considered. The parliamentary secretary talked about all the other countries in the world, listing a few-like England-that have introduced a $2 coin. He said that England had issued a $2 coin which, in fact, has been eliminated. He is showing bias in his remarks, stating that several countries have issued a $2 coin, although a number of them have eliminated it.

The way of the future is not so clear. Either we eliminate the two dollar denomination or we introduce a coin. Both examples can be found in this country. The other way is perhaps to act prudently and wait for technological developments to see if credit cards and plastic money could do the job instead.

Perhaps now is not the time to make such a change, requiring business and private enterprise to pay out up to $400 million for the sole purpose of alleviating a government concern. You know, many reasons militate against passing this bill, but the main reason that I would like to call to your attention is the fact that it was brought forward by the Minister of Public Works, who has quite a reputation.

The minister has already introduced legislation, namely Bill C-52, which had to be put off indefinitely because it was flawed. The minister was trying to introduce through this legislation a means of competing with private enterprise, in particular with the Canadian architectural and consulting engineering sector. There was a general outcry across the country and it was decided not to go any further with this bill. Bill C-52 was never seen again.

Perhaps the Minister of Public Works lacks good judgment in his bills. Here is another example: this ongoing competition with Canada Post, which competes unfairly with courier companies. Again, the minister seems to encourage unfair competition with private enterprise, which goes to show that this minister does not care very much about the business and industrial community. This is a minister who has, time and time again, squandered the taxpayers'money. And the list goes on. If I had more time, I could give you more examples of how this particular minister diverts funds, wastes money and does not do his job, because what we have here is a perfect example of a minister not doing his job.

We, Bloc members, care about savings and there are great savings to be made. Perhaps this is not the right time to be introducing Bill C-82, as it entails major transition costs. This measure will cost businesses and consumers a bundle, and introducing a $2 coin will not solve the problem with the $1 coin. We suggest that the government do its job, that is to say put out feelers to check whether or not the time is right to be

introducing something like this or if other alternatives should be explored, like eliminating the two-dollar denomination altogether, which was not done. This should be done because we stand to save even more by eliminating the two-dollar denomination.

It would also add an element of flexibility, since a two-dollar coin could still be introduced in the future, if need be. At least, this would be a more prudent, economical move. All I have to say to the Minister of Public Works is: "Do your job, because you have not done it so far".

Royal Canadian Mint ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleagues, it being eleven o'clock, we will now proceed to statements by members, pursuant to Standing Order 30(5).

Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom FestivalStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, from May 25 to May 28 I will join with constituents of Annapolis Valley-Hants in celebrating our annual Apple Blossom Festival.

This celebration signals the end of winter and offers the promise of a new growing season. Since the first festival in 1933 there have been many changes in apple production. However, one thing has not changed: the wonderful sight and breathtaking scent of apple trees in full bloom.

This festival draws people from near and far. It is an opportunity to showcase the beauty of Annapolis Valley and the warmth and generosity of the people who live throughout my riding.

I ask all members in the House to join me in congratulating all the people who volunteer their time to make this event so special. They should truly be proud of their efforts.

Access To Quebec MarketStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I remind our colleagues from the maritimes and Ontario that, this year, trade between Quebec and the rest of Canada will amount to over $70 billion in goods and services. In Ontario, hundreds of thousands of jobs are tied to exports to Quebec. As for the maritimes, let us just say that access to the Quebec market accounts for a large part of their GDP.

Make no mistake about it: the Quebec market is the second export market for the rest of Canada. Ontario's three largest private employers, GM, Ford and Chrysler, would really suffer if they were to suddenly lose the Quebec market, which absorbs one quarter of their total production.

The federalists' bluff must be denounced. If Quebec becomes sovereign, no politician from Ontario or the maritimes in this House would be able to ignore these facts and what they mean for the economy of their respective ridings. Negotiating the maintenance of a common economic space will then be a question of common sense and economic interest for all partners.

I leave it to the members of this House to draw their own conclusion.

Hyack FestivalStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, every May New Westminster, British Columbia holds its annual Hyack festival, a Chinook Indian word meaning "hurry up". The May day celebration dates back to 1870.

This year marks 125 years of these May day festivities. The celebration is an important part of Canada's heritage and continues to be the longest running celebration of its kind in the British Commonwealth. Children dancing with ribbons around the maypole, parades, music and fun fill the week.

Dignitaries from many countries including Queen Elizabeth II have joined the festival in past years which includes marching bands from across Canada and the United States, as well as traditional cannon shots in memory of Queen Victoria, done with two anvils and gun powder between.

The royal city is proud to present the Hyack festival, a symbol of west coast spirit within the Canadian family of communities.

Underground EconomyStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, recent estimates of the size of the underground economy range from $20 billion to $140 billion per year. Even at the low end of the range the loss of revenue to Canada is significant enough to warrant the urgent attention of all Canadians.

When a consumer is offered a lower price in return for a cash payment and no invoice not only are they condoning tax evasion, they are also hurting honest taxpayers. Under the table economic activity creates unfair competition to honest businesses, resulting in bankruptcies and loss of jobs. It means lost revenue necessary to sustain health, education and other essential eco-

nomic and social programs, and it means honest taxpayers must bear the burden of those who do not pay their fair share.

The preferred approach to reducing the underground economy is voluntary compliance. Therefore I call on all Canadians to just say no to tax evaders. If everyone pays their fair share we will all pay less.

Franco-Ontarian GamesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Carleton—Gloucester, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Franco-Ontarian Games take place from May 19 to 22, at the André Laurendeau high school, in Vanier, which is part of the Ottawa-Carleton regional municipality.

Five hundred athletes, artists and performers from 60 Ontario French speaking high schools, as well as 250 young volunteers and community leaders are taking part in these games.

For the second year in a row, these games provide young Franco-Ontarians with an opportunity to come together and participate in friendly competition. This gathering of young people reflects the vitality of the French language in Ontario, while also giving us hope regarding the future of the French fact.

I join the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier in congratulating the organizers of these games and in wishing luck to all participants.

Learning DisabilitiesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today in order to raise an extremely important but often ignored problem in Canada. Learning disabilities presently affect between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of the population, which translates into two or three children in every classroom. With the proper guidance these Canadians, with average to above average intelligence, are quite capable of functioning normally in mainstream society.

Such guidance is increasingly provided by such organizations as the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada. Since 1963 this non-profit volunteer organization has been committed to the advancement of people with learning disabilities. The association serves Canadians from coast to coast in more than 140 different communities.

It is my pleasure today to recognize the continuing commitment of this organization in helping citizens afflicted with this disability. With the aid of this association, Canadians with learning disabilities will continue to be a vibrant and productive part of our society well into the future.

New Arena In WinnipegStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the wonderful world of politics, it is not unusual to see signs of government posturing after it makes dubious decisions or budgetary choices that are in the very least debateable.

Yesterday, in a very clumsy attempt to deflect criticism, the Prime Minister's behaviour was a prime example of this when he tried to justify the federal grant for the construction of a new arena in Winnipeg under the pretext that it was needed for the 1999 Pan American Games.

I would like to mention a few facts which should debunk this myth. First, Winnipeg's designation as host of the games was not contingent on it building a new arena. Second, the list of competitive sports featured in 1999 will only be issued in September 1995, and hockey is never featured at summer games. Last, an arena with a capacity of 22,000 is not needed for volleyball competitions: a capacity of 17,000, such as in the current arena, suffices. So how can the government continue to maintain that this grant is not an attempt to save the Jets?

People are not stupid. Confronted with these irrefutable facts, the Prime Minister should have-

New Arena In WinnipegStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

I regret to interrupt the hon. member. I am now giving the floor to the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, to date 81 of 87 members of a Chinese investment delegation who came to Canada on visitors visas have disappeared and gone underground. It seems they were well aware of the government's let them all in immigration policy and the minister's generosity.

Now some of the delegates have turned up to make refugee claims. Now they are entitled to free health care, welfare and lawyers at taxpayers' expense.

This episode should serve as a warning. Next year the immigration minister in his infinite wisdom will be issuing visas and the health minister will be handing out $1 million to bring to Canada 500 AIDS sufferers from the third world to attend a conference in Vancouver.

Since AIDS sufferers have been granted refugee status already in Canada, the question is not if some of the 500 AIDS sufferers will jump ship and make a refugee claim, but how many.

I call on the government to use a little common sense. Enforce the law. Do not give visitors visas when Canadian safety is at stake.

Missing ChildrenStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—Woodbine, ON

Mr. Speaker, Thursday, May 25, is missing children's day. Every year in Canada police receive thousands of reports of missing children. The overwhelming majority of these cases, about 45,000, are runaway children. Too frequently these runaway children turn to the streets and engage in delinquent activities as a means of support. This makes them extremely vulnerable to further violence and exploitation while on the streets.

A cornerstone of the federal government's efforts to protect Canadian children is the RCMP's missing children's registry. In operation since 1986, the registry is the major source of computerized information on missing children in Canada. It supports the efforts of Canadian and international police and concerned agencies in the search and recovery of missing children.

The RCMP has also joined forces with National Revenue Canada and citizenship and immigration in a joint initiative called "Our Missing Children". This partnership has resulted in a significant increase in the recovery and safe return of missing children here and abroad.

Protecting our children is a collective responsibility.

Aboriginal Awareness WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Patrick Gagnon Liberal Bonaventure—Îles-De-La-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, May 22 to May 26 is Aboriginal Awareness Week. The goal of this week is to heighten public awareness of the aboriginal culture and to honour its contribution to Canadian society.

In keeping with the spirit of this event I am pleased to inform the House that last April marked the 3rd anniversary of the implementation of the federal government's first nation policing policy. The policy provides a practical way to improve the level and quality of policing services for first nation communities through the establishment of policing agreements.

As of May 1, Canada and the provinces had reached and signed 41 tripartite agreements with First Nations communities.

These agreements represent concrete progress and partnership at work among First Nations, the government and our provincial counterparts. I am sure all Canadians will join me in celebrating aboriginal awareness week and congratulating the Solicitor General of Canada for the ongoing success of the First Nations policing policy.

I would invite all hon. members to acknowledge the contributions of aboriginal people, which are all too often ignored by the official opposition.

Member For ChamblyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the "brotherhood of Bloc intolerance" welcomed a new member into the brood yesterday. It took him a few weeks to do it, but the Bloc member for Chambly has joined ranks with his colleagues, the Bloc members for Louis-Hébert and Chicoutimi, who are demanding that newcomers to Quebec be denied the right to vote because they fear that they will impede Quebec's independence.

In fact, the hon. member insinuated that Quebec's immigrants, who have contributed to the province's economic and social development for years, do not have the same rights as those Quebecers whose ancestors were among the first settlers. This tendency among Quebec separatists to create different classes of citizens based on their language or their cultural origins cannot be tolerated and must be emphatically condemned.

Quebecers do not want to create an independent Quebec which promotes discrimination and racism.

Quebec City Convention CentreStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister said smugly that if Quebec City did not receive federal funding to build a new arena it was because its separatist mayor had decided to spend the money on something else.

Once again, the Prime Minister is so intent on putting sovereignists in their place that he simply forgets the facts. Construction of a convention centre in Quebec City was a first and foremost a promise by the provincial Liberals that came to fruition only because of the insistent lobbying by the Prime Minister's current chief of staff and the present Minister of

Foreign Affairs, in other words, because another Liberal government got involved. The Prime Minister ought to know as well that Quebec City is not investing a single penny in the construction of this convention centre, which is being financed strictly by the Government of Quebec and the government in Ottawa.

Finally, I will repeat what was said by Mayor L'Allier and I quote: "We are penalized for not showing the flag. This is hardly what I would call democratic, and the real republic-"

Winnipeg JetsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are continuing to seriously bungle the finances of the country, thereby threatening health care, welfare and post-secondary education. Unbelievably, they are to give $20 million to the Winnipeg Jets professional hockey team with its multi-million dollar, fast skating stick handlers.

The Manitoba Entertainment Complex applied to Revenue Canada for special tax status which will allow it to create some form of a crown owned entity which would be eligible to give instant tax receipts. Canada's tax gathering system means every Canadian will be supporting the Winnipeg Jets professional hockey team. This is an unconscionable use of tax deductions.

I call on the revenue minister to immediately shoot down this ridiculous Jets plan. The Liberals have stick handled their way into a hat trick with their $20 million for the Jets, private luxury boxes, new digs for the athletes and now tax deductions for supporters. The result is penalties to the Canadian taxpayer.

Gun ControlStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, aboriginal groups from across the country have made presentations regarding their concerns about Bill C-68, the firearms legislation.

The James Bay Cree and the Council for Yukon Indians have presented well documented briefs which illustrate the government did not initiate the required consultation process on this legislation. The onus was on these two groups to hold the government accountable for the agreements which have been made.

Given the CYI agreements were proclaimed in February of this year, it is quite shocking that barely four months later the Minister of Justice had not complied with certain aspects of the agreements.

While these agreements are between two parties, it is inevitably the First Nations that are expected to ensure compliance with even constitutionally entrenched agreements. Is it any wonder there is a high degree of mistrust of the federal government by aboriginal peoples?

The Inuit-Tapirisat, the AFN and the Metis have all presented their concerns. The minister has said he will consult. What he has not said is what he will do to meet these specific concerns. The minister has both a legal and a moral obligation to be forthright and address these issues today.

Ontario ElectionStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, after listening to last night's Ontario leaders debate, there is no question Lyn McLeod is the best choice for premier of Ontario. She showed she has the intelligence and the integrity for the job and the determination to do what needs to be done. With her action plan she has the ability to achieve it.

Bob Rae was consistently put on the defensive by McLeod over his dismal economic record. He failed completely to live up to his billing as a champion debater.

Mike Harris failed to gain any ground, and the Liberal leader was successful at proving that Harris could not defend his unbelievable 30 per cent tax cuts. He failed to show himself as a potential leader of the province.

Lyn McLeod used the debate to sell her plan to Ontarians. She focused on the issue of jobs and highlighted the specifics of how her government will create these jobs.

McLeod won the debate and the respect of Ontario voters looking for credibility. She proved that her plan and her team can capably guide the economy in these challenging times. She will win the election on June 8 and restore growth and prosperity to Ontario.

Ontario Liberal Party LeaderStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, last night in the debate among the party leaders running in the Ontario election campaign, we again had the pleasure of listening to Lyn McLeod, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario.

With great eloquence and sincerity, she showed that she is ready to take over the reins of the government in Ontario. Her style, clear and forthright, reflects her firm resolve to serve the people of Ontario.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lyn McLeod is worthy of representing her fellow citizens. A few weeks from now, Ontarians will at last be free and unencumbered by the savage

constraints of socialism à la Bob Rae. At last they will be able to put their trust in their leaders.

Winnipeg JetsOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

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

In the context of the announcement of $20 million in direct assistance to the Winnipeg Jets, Izzy Asper, the head of a group of businessmen trying to acquire the hockey team, has confirmed that discussions on federal funding for the Jets have been going on for a long time.

Would the Deputy Prime Minister confirm Mr. Asper's statement that discussions have been going on for a while between the federal government and the promoters trying to save the Winnipeg Jets?