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House of Commons Hansard #209 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

BosniaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Canada prefers the option recommended by UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. We believe the mandate should be redefined to make it possible for our troops to avoid the kind of position they are in now.

That is exactly what I said to the Secretary General when I spoke to him on Sunday. He preferred the option favoured by Canada.

BosniaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is now negotiating with the Serbs to let Canadian soldiers volunteer to replace their colleagues who have been taken hostage so they can take turns.

Notwithstanding the noble proposition of our Canadian peacekeepers, could the government tell us whether these exchanges will be restricted to hostages who are ill, because otherwise, it would be tantamount to agreeing that the Serbs have the right to take hostages?

BosniaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the soldiers who are there and who know their colleagues are being held a few kilometres away from the base are trying to find a way to put an end to this situation. They are trying to find a way to end the deadlock. Last year, the situation went on for a few weeks, and the local commanding officer managed to find a solution that was acceptable to all parties.

For the time being, I would rather let the local authorities decide on the best way to obtain the release of the hostages or at least provide for maximum security, under the circumstances.

BosniaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say we are far removed from the days when Lester B. Pearson was a household word in international relations.

Are we to understand that Canada has no clearcut policy on redefining the mandate of the peacekeepers in Bosnia because it no longer has any influence and has ceased to show leadership among peacekeeping forces on the international scene, now that it is not even a member of the contact group and has been relegated to the role of a bit player, merely following the cues given by other countries?

BosniaOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I just explained that the position taken yesterday by the Secretary-General of the United Nations is exactly the one we proposed to him over the weekend. I personally had a discussion with him on Sunday morning.

We are using all the channels available to us. In that case it is evident that the position of Canada was integral to reaching a conclusion. It is not one that is supported by all participants. We are in constant contact with the United Nations.

I have to say that the Secretary-General of the United Nations recognizes that of all the forces available anywhere in the world, when Canadians are there he can always rely on them because they are the best. He is listening to Canadians as he has done in that case.

Gross Domestic ProductOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. The gross domestic product fell for the second time in as many months. According to Statistics Canada, the GDP fell by 0.2 per cent in February, and by 0.7 per cent in March.

It would appear that the economic slow-down is due to a slump in exportation and domestic consumption. The situation is largely the result of a monetary policy which favours high interest rates, and is not aimed at reducing unemployment.

Why is the government persisting in pursuing the same monetary policy as its predecessors, when it knows that it is bad for the economy and for job creation?

Gross Domestic ProductOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I remind the hon. member that the GDP in the first quarter of this year rose, it did not fall. In only two months of the quarter there were minor declines in the GDP.

These numbers do have variations and they are not indicative of a recession as yet. I remind the hon. member that our economic programs are on course.

Gross Domestic ProductOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, why is the government refusing to correct its aim, when the drop in the gross domestic product is signalling an economic slow-down, when its present policy flies in the face of its election promises regarding job creation, and when there has been no net job creation during the past five months?

Gross Domestic ProductOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will point out to the official opposition that, looking at these statistics, it is obvious that something happened which hurt the economy. We had a two-week long transportation strike which caused the economy to slow down.

At that time, we told the Bloc Quebecois that by refusing to pass the government bill, it was causing an economic slow-down. Today, the economy is paying for the Bloc's irresponsibility.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government's mismanagement of aboriginal affairs in British Columbia has now brought tempers to a boil at Douglas Lake. The Upper Nicola Band is blocking the road to the Douglas Lake ranch and the RCMP is worried that someone will get seriously hurt or killed.

The blockade is just the tip of the iceberg. What we do not want are three or four Okas in B.C. this summer, yet the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development refuses to address this and other similar situations.

What is the government prepared to do to resolve the standoff at Douglas Lake before things get out of hand?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. leader for his question.

As far as jurisdiction is concerned, this demonstration is clearly off reserve and is not within federal jurisdiction. I checked and the Upper Nicola Band does not have a specific claim which would put us in the picture. It is not a part of the B.C. treaty process. On these three grounds it is clearly provincial. However, if requested by the province, we are prepared to go in and do whatever we can to facilitate.

I am encouraged by several things. First, several significant aboriginal leaders have volunteered to help. The hon. member of the Reform Party in whose riding this is has talked to my executive assistant. He has offered some help. I am prepared to delegate someone if Mr. Cashore asks for help.

The other encouraging thing although the situation could get volatile is that Joe Gardner, manager of the Douglas Lake cattle ranch, the person who is most involved, has told the various ranchers to sit still. He has insisted that the dispute be resolved peacefully and we agree with his position. Hopefully we can get it resolved.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal red book contained promises which led to unreasonable expectations on the part of the aboriginal people. In Quebec, the Band Council of Kahnawake, with the help of Frank Vieni, one of those in charge of Indian Affairs during the Oka crisis, has presented to the Department of Indian Affairs a land claim asking for millions and even billions of dollars. The co-ordinator of the project for the department, Kate Fawkes, said that the document contains some real breakthroughs.

Is it the policy of the department to encourage claims of such a large scope when it knows quite well that it will be impossible to meet those expectations?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member is wrong.

Other than the hon. leader making a commendable effort in French, I assume the question is: Are we trying to lift up expectations? Are we trying to settle? Are we trying to do the reasonable thing?

We are trying to do the reasonable thing. We are trying to do what most Canadians want us to do, to deal honourably and to find just and reasonable solutions. Merci bien.

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, if there is anything that has soured relations between aboriginal peoples and governments it has been inflated expectations and broken promises.

The current minister appears to be going down the same road as his predecessors. The Liberal red book promises on land claims and self-government raise aboriginal expectations sky high, and then the government simply cannot deliver.

Would the minister not agree it would be better to make one or two simple commitments to aboriginals that he could keep rather than make inflated promises to 600 aboriginal bands that he is simply unable to keep at the end of the day?

Aboriginal AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Liberal

Ron Irwin LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member behind me says, Liberals are optimists, not pessimists. That probably describes the difference between Liberal members and Reform members.

We did an assessment last night. One whole section of the red book deals with aboriginal issues. It has been a difficult year, but I can say to the House that on every promise we made in the red book there has been medium to moderate to significant progress made across Canada.

It makes me proud as a member of the Liberal government and the Liberal Party that we have kept our word and done our job in difficult circumstances.

[Translation]

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

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

A report from Statistics Canada shows a new decrease in the number of unemployed people covered by unemployment insurance. In 1990, seventy-seven per cent of the unemployed were covered by unemployment insurance, whereas in March of this year the proportion was down to 49.7 per cent. This shows how much the reform introduced by the government in its February 1994 Budget is hitting the unemployed.

Considering that the unemployment insurance plan is helping only half the unemployed, does the Prime Minister not realize that his reform is increasing the poverty problem in Quebec and Canada and that he must rescind the cruel decisions taken in February 1994?

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

York North Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. It raises the very important issue of unemployment in Canada, which the government takes quite seriously. It is for this reason that through various programs initiated by the government over 460,000 new full time jobs have been created in Canada.

I also bring to the attention of the hon. member that reading the report would make it very clear to her that the reason there are fewer people on unemployment is job creation.

In Quebec over 110,000 full time jobs have been created. Also in the province of Quebec over 86,000 people did not exhaust their UI benefits prior to gaining new employment. That to me is positive change for the people of Canada.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is very hard to swallow since there has not been any net job creation for the last five months, since the new report on social assistance shows that there has been a further increase despite the fact that we are supposed to be in a period of prosperity, since irate unemployed are confronting members everywhere.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Since, to this day, the Unemployment Insurance Fund has a surplus of $4 billion, due to the cuts and the 15 per cent reduction in the money distributed despite an increase in applications, does the Prime Minister not find it indecent that his Cabinet is studying a plan to cut unemployment insurance by a further $700 million next year?

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

York North Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has a very suspicious way of looking at statistics.

The fact is that because of the changes we have made to UI, over 280,000 low income families in this country are benefiting through a differential benefit rate of 60 per cent.

I understand the point made by the members of the opposition, but I think there comes a time in this House when they should be applauding positive measures for people.

BosniaOral Question Period

June 1st, 1995 / 2:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we speak, the U.S. and Europe are sending squadrons of F-14 Tomcats, F-18 Hornets, Harrier jump jets, Cobra attack helicopters, an amphibious battle group, and even U.S. nuclear powered, fast attack submarines. Mr. Speaker, does this sound like a humanitarian peacekeeping mandate to you?

Given this rapid escalation, how can the government assure Canadians that our troops will not be inextricably drawn into a war for which they are neither equipped nor mandated?

BosniaOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we welcome the departure in U.S. foreign policy to perhaps put ground troops into the former Yugoslavia under extreme circumstances to help with the redeployment of UNPROFOR forces. We welcome that possibility. We would like to know how they would be deployed.

With respect to the British and French contingents, the British defence minister has said that those forces will be part of an effort to protect British forces that are in Bosnia, which are

currently more exposed than the Canadian forces but would be subject to UNPROFOR command and therefore would be available for the protection of all.

This Saturday the defence ministers of the NATO contributing countries will be meeting to discuss other ways we can reprofile the positioning of military forces in Bosnia with respect to fully discharging the UNPROFOR mandate.

BosniaOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, Lord Owen, the chief European negotiator in Bosnia, who is himself withdrawing from this war torn country, argues that if there is no peace settlement by autumn then UN forces will be forced to leave Bosnia.

Given the circumstances and that Canada's commitment to Bosnia ends in September, will the government assure Canadians today that after three and a half long years in Bosnia all our troops will be home with their families by fall or sooner?

BosniaOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Lord Owen, we do regret very much that he now feels unable to continue with his duties. He has done outstanding work, but it is frustrating and very demanding.

However, we still believe that a negotiated settlement to this problem is the answer, not a military solution. We will not be moved by any deadlines set by anyone, whether it is the Bosnian Serbs or any other party.

SingerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

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

Former workers at Singer are arguing that the federal government did not fulfill its contract obligations toward them because it gave the company, instead of them, the Government Annuities Account surplus, that is a part of their pension funds that it was responsible for administering.

Does the Minister of Labour not agree that the contract binding the parties between 1946 and 1957 is abundantly clear and that the federal government had an obligation to pay the surplus out to the workers and not to Singer?