House of Commons Hansard #211 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.


Budget Implementation Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. government member who spoke before the last member. I would like to commend this gentleman for his honesty in addressing squarely the fact that these new provisions under Bill C-76 for transfer of money from the federal government to the provinces to help pay for and support social programs are in total contradiction to the position taken and the promises made in the Liberal red book during the election. The member is to be commended for urging the government to show some integrity in the way it carries out the promises it made to Canadians.

The government knew or ought to have known that this country was in some financial difficulty. It should have been honest with the Canadian people during the election, as other parties were, and forthrightly suggested to them that changes would be made. However, it did not. In spite of that, changes were made by the government to funding for social programs, among them under Bill C-76.

The unfortunate thing is that these changes were not made in a planned and managed way. They were not made in a way that would allow the provinces to properly and sensibly deal with the changes, the funding drops and the different rules the federal government unilaterally decided to play by and imposed on the provinces in Bill C-76.

This is causing a great deal of difficulty for the provinces, which are responsible for delivering these services to Canadians, and thereby to Canadians themselves. The difficulties of poor government leadership and planning really go right down to the bottom line which is where people are or are not being served.

With respect to the funding for the Canada assistance plan or welfare, the money for CAP is presently based on a per capita formula. The money which the federal government provides to the provinces for welfare payments is based upon the welfare rates and population of each province. The more money the province spends on welfare because of its rates or caseload, the more money is transferred.

What Bill C-76 does is to provide a new formula. There are at least two things wrong with the formula, maybe more. The first is that it was imposed without any consultation with the provinces. This is rather shocking when we think about the fact that people's lives are involved in this about which Liberal members always say they are so concerned. They are so concerned about compassion, fairness, equity and all of those good things yet without the slightest consultation with the people who are going to be affected, these kinds of changes are made. The provinces are rightly upset and unhappy that they were not consulted and had very little chance to prepare or have a say in what was going to happen to them.

The second problem with these changes is that the formula imposed provides a formula for transferring money only up until the 1996-97 fiscal year. After that there is no formula and no plan at all. That is a real difficulty. How are the provinces and the people dependent upon services supposed to plan for the future or have any sensible long term goals and strategies when the funding which is always the underpinning of a program has been so cavalierly dealt with?

On asking the department, as I did, what its long term projections were, its five-year or 10-year projections for the programs based on the changes it has made in Bill C-76 that we are debating here today, the department said it did not have any. This is an absolutely shocking admission from a department which is supposed to be running some of the most important programs in our country. There are people who genuinely need these services.

The provinces are struggling with their own debt, their own fiscal situation and with the bigger picture of the economy, which was caused by the debt and deficit situation of our federal government. Some people think Reformers tirelessly mention that but it is so critical. How are these entities supposed to deal with the responsibilities they have given this situation when there are these sudden unexpected and unexplained moves made on the provinces without consultation?

We have some real difficulty. Some of the most troubling things to the provinces and to Canadians are provisions in Bill C-76 which allow the federal government to make a unilateral imposition of standards and rules for the use of these funds. The words in the section are that there will be a mutual agreement about how the standards are imposed. Again, according to the department when questioned it had to admit that mutual agreement is not defined. Does it mean the federal government in one province? Does it mean the federal government in two provinces? Does it mean the

federal government in seven of the 10 provinces with 50 per cent of the population? We do not know. It is not defined at all.

The federal government is diminishing its support for these programs but has the gall to say it is going to say how the money will be spent. It is going to call the shots. It is going to call the tune even though it is not paying the piper. This is a recipe for disaster.

The provincial governments very rightly one of these days and probably sooner than later are going to tell the federal government to go take a hike, as they are already doing on health care. How can the federal government impose its own will on the provinces, especially when it very obviously is so poorly thought out and poorly managed when it is diminishing greatly the support it is giving the provinces for these programs?

We have a federal government that wants to decide everything but other people are going to pay for it. Not only that, other people are going to pay for it in an atmosphere under a regime that keeps changing unilaterally. This simply is not workable for our social programs and for the support that this country's needy, who truly are needy and need the support under the welfare program, are wanting to retain.

When we look at Bill C-76 and the changes in the payments made under it, especially to the whole area of CAP funding we need to look at the fact that there should be some real consultation with the provinces, some mutual agreement. This is supposed to be a co-operative federalism. Instead, we have a very haughty, a very arrogant, a very single minded national government changing the rules in the middle of the game. It is changing them in the short term without any long term plan. It even admits that and then expects the provinces to continue to deliver services on standards that the federal government insists upon and sets.

What happens if the provinces do not fall into line? Under this bill, any payment the federal government might be making to the provinces can be interfered with. This is simply financial blackmail. There is no other word for it. There are many payments the federal government makes to the provinces under a variety of agreements. Yet the federal government says it can and will abrogate any and all of those agreements if the provinces do not toe the line the way the federal government thinks they should on a number of service delivery issues such as CAP.

I would suggest to the Liberal government that this is no way to run a country. It is certainly no way to run a country where many levels of government, particularly the two main ones, are responsible for the well-being of citizens and for providing services and spending the citizens' money in a way that best benefits everyone.

When a federal government is so arrogant it actually stands and says that things must be done its way or any dollars it might have promised are at risk, what kind of management style is that? How is that going to get co-operation? How is that going to get interaction among levels of government that really will benefit all the citizens?

We very strongly condemn the way this has been done. We acknowledge and Canadians realize there have to be changes to the structure of funding programs. However, this kind of change and the way in which it has been done is totally unacceptable and totally against the best interests of our country.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


Audrey McLaughlin Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to second the motion of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It is true that the clauses in Bill C-76 which the member is proposing we delete, and I am in agreement with that, represent a fundamental restructuring of the social and health system of Canada.

It certainly makes a mockery of the review done by the human resources minister in which many people participated thinking that they could have real input. It certainly makes a mockery of the national health forum that was supposedly established to set out more clearly a national system of health.

Most concerning about the clauses that are proposed to be deleted is that they change Canada in a very profound way. While social and health programs are of foremost importance to citizens of the country in their daily lives, there are important economic programs that provide a social infrastructure absolutely essential to the competitiveness of the country.

It is shocking the Liberals have joined with the Bloc and Reform parties to dismantle national programs. Rather than saying up front that they are prepared to dismantle the programs, the Liberals are prepared to do it as one article recently stated: "by erosion through stealth, by the death of a thousand cuts".

Even today the government has brought in limited debating time for an extremely serious issue. It suggests that not only are the Liberals not keeping their promises in the red book but they do not want it brought before Canadians who will look at it more carefully and see the real implications. The shift has come without a full public debate. That is why it is so important to have a full debate in the House.

On other issues, whether the use of drugs in sports or medicare, we had independent commissions. This is one proposal I have made because of the long term impact of the clauses we are now

asking to be deleted. They should be deleted until there has been further in depth study of the long term social and economic implications to the country.

The Liberal government is sending a clear message to Canadians that it is willing to abandon its responsibility to promote economic and social equality. Canadians should be reminded once again that the Liberal Party won the last election on its promise to make job creation the number one priority of the federal government. Instead Bill C-76, a financial bill, kicks the legs out from under some of the supports that have softened recessions in the past and would do so in the future.

At a time when child poverty is at the highest rate we have had in history, when the United Nations is criticizing us for our lamentable record on poverty issues and when many young people are giving up hope, the government has all but abandoned the promises that brought it here.

Does the government have a national vision in terms of these important programs. We can only judge by its actions. When Canadians look at the clauses in Bill C-76, they will wonder about a government whose only goal seems to be to complete the downward spiral of social programs and encourage the lowering of wages and benefits for Canadian workers everywhere.

The $7 billion cut to federal transfers for post-secondary education, health care and social assistance will have a profound effect in further creating the haves and have not provinces and territories. The Canadian Hospital Association and the Canadian Medical Association have expressed their concerns about specific clauses of the bill. They are experts in the field who know what the effect will be on health care should the clauses pass.

The bill is not about making a small change to social and health programs. It is about dismantling them. The block funding arrangement means that funding from the federal government will not be tied to specific programs. It suggests that the government no longer embodies a national vision of the programs. That is why I say the motion must be supported. There must be much more study and much more understanding by Canadians about very important decisions on the future of health care and social programs.

My colleague from the Bloc Quebecois says that national standards are terrible. They have guaranteed, particularly under the Canada Health Act, some equity from sea to sea to sea. There is no guarantee it will continue. There is no guarantee at all. As the funding is not just reduced but no longer available from the federal government, the federal government will no longer have a say in implementation in the provinces and territories.

Under Bill C-76 the cash transfers to the provinces and territories will run out within the next decade. Without the power of enforcement the federal government will not be able to maintain medicare as a public not for profit system.

Even Liberal members of the finance committee who studied the bill opposed the plan, because it is a betrayal of everything the country has stood for. We are in a mad rush to the bottom. I am afraid we have not seen the end of it from the government.

The Prime Minister is on record as saying that we need to get our health care spending down and that maybe the Canada social transfer is one of the ways he will do it.

Let us look at the facts. We are spending about 10 per cent of GDP on health care. The Prime Minister says that is too much. The major increases in health care costs continue to come from increasing drug costs and private health insurance for extended health coverage. We spend only about 6.8 per cent of GDP on public insurance.

The Liberal government can do something to reduce health expenditures. It can rescind and repeal Bill C-91 that provided patent protection for multinational drug companies and dramatically increased drug costs and the costs to every health plan in every province and every territory.

The United States spends far more on health care than we do. It is precisely because it has a private system that is out of control. If one charts the statistics one can see that until the late 1960s when Canada introduced its public system health care costs were rising at about the same rate in the United States and in Canada. We spent about the same proportion of GDP on health. However when our public system was introduced we began to save money. The growth rate in the United States has continued to skyrocket where ours has levelled off. Now the United States looks to us for solutions.

The government promised that it would not withdraw from or abandon the health care field but the bill breaks the promise. The government is abandoning every Canadian who trusted the government. It is abandoning poor Canadians and the unemployed. It is abandoning the ill.

I despair for the country when the government has turned its back on the people. I strongly oppose Bill C-76. I strongly support the motion of the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. I urge and indeed plead with the government to delete the clauses so there may be further discussion, public debate and open debate on the serious and fundamental restructuring of the social and health care plans.

Should the government choose to do so, it would have praise from many parts of the country. This is the opportunity for government members to vote for the motion to delete the clauses

and allow time for Canadians, not just the Liberal Party, to have a say about the future of health care and social programs.

I urge all colleagues in the House of Commons to support the motion to delete the clauses.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Bourassa has two or three minutes before we go to members' statements.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in the debate at report stage of Bill C-76, an Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 1995.

I oppose this bill, which maintains national standards in the health field and provides for the introduction of new national standards with respect to social assistance and post-secondary education. These measures fly in the face of the provinces' autonomy and jurisdiction. If the provinces did not comply with these national standards, the federal government would impose sanctions by cutting transfer payments, having already cut benefits to the unemployed and those receiving social assistance and planning to target seniors next.

This bill will affect the education sector, a sector of exclusive provincial jurisdiction and one that is vital to Quebec's cultural identity. These Canada-wide standards will reflect the interests of the majority of English speaking provinces, not the reality of the special situation in Quebec, which is a distinct society.

In my opinion, this bill has two fundamental objectives: first, to steam roller over the legitimate claims of the government of Quebec in its own areas of jurisdiction; and second, to introduce unprecedented cuts in provincial transfer payments and, consequently, in social programs.

The first federal budget in 1994 began by offloading $5.5 billion in cuts onto the backs of the unemployed and $2 billion in cuts onto the backs of welfare recipients and the education system for the period from 1994 to 1997. The February 1995 budget announced additional cuts of $7 billion in transfer payments for social assistance, education and health, and another $700 million in cuts to unemployment insurance. Is this is the much touted flexible federalism of the Liberals?

In addition, the Minister of Finance announced in his last budget that the government will review the old age pension plan. Seniors, including the 15 per cent of the population in my riding of Bourassa who are aged 65 or over, can now expect to see their cheques further eroded. I hope that seniors will again rise up and protest, as they did under the Mulroney government, against the deterioration in their living conditions, particularly with respect to pensions.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleague, as it is almost 2 p.m., you will complete your remarks after Question Period.

It being 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to statements by members.

Environment Week
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Pat O'Brien London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of Environment Week 1995, I extend an invitation to hon. members and to all Canadians to do more and to find more ways to protect and preserve our country's environment.

As a result of numerous activities and exhibitions being held nationwide, Canadians will have an opportunity to familiarize themselves with healthy environmental practices. I encourage all Canadians to take part in the activities.

We can do a great deal. We could build a composter, join an environmental organization, install water saving devices at home, car pool or use public transport.

In the spirit of Environment Week, let us keep in mind that preservation of the environment is an ongoing commitment. The initiatives taken are important not only this week but throughout the year.

Francophone And Acadian Communities
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Jean Landry Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, francophone minorities outside Quebec still face multiple frustrations ranging from the violation of their education rights to the lack of adequate government services in French at both the provincial and federal levels. Yet, instead of helping Acadian and other francophone communities, the Liberals prefer to lend a hand to their gravediggers.

This weekend, the leader of the Liberal Party in Ontario confirmed her opposition to any plan to establish a French language university in Ontario. Mrs. McLeod did not hesitate to violate the constitutional rights of francophones in her province by delaying the creation of a French school board. At the same time, the Government of the Northwest Territories is following in the footsteps of the Ontario Liberals by refusing to recognize the education rights of the French speaking minority in its new education law. In the meantime, the federal Liberals are greeting this infringement of francophones' rights with silence.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals were in opposition they roundly castigated the Conservative government for not speaking out against human rights abuses in China. In their red book of broken promises they said: "We will continue to support democracy and respect for human rights worldwide". Yet in government the Liberals have done an about face.

The sixth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre passed yesterday without a whimper from this government. Yet the people of China are still under the boot of a repressive regime. Human rights abuses abound and democratic principles are squashed.

In the face of this the government has said: "Give us your money and we will turn a blind eye", saying that trade should take precedence regardless of a country's poor human rights record. In the same vein, Canada is one of the world's leading suppliers of arms to the third world.

In the red book it said: "Canada will help develop greater international and intercultural collaboration in the interests of peace, justice and humankind". Sadly, the red book promise has shown once again that it is a book of hypocrisy.

Statements By Members

June 5th, 1995 / 1:55 p.m.


Bonnie Hickey St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is appropriate that the inauguration of this year's National Transportation Week took place in St. John's, Newfoundland, the first time the kick-off has ever been held in our province. It gave us the opportunity to focus on our important local and provincial transportation issues.

The organization committee provided the delegates with a taste of Newfoundland life that included a harbour tour and a seminar at the Marine Institute, St. John's world class marine science research facility.

As islanders, Newfoundlanders understand the value of transportation. We rely on marine transport to take our products to market and bring back to us the goods we need.

The theme of this year's National Transportation Week is "Careers in Transportation: Opportunities, Training, Skills". It is a reminder that the modern national transportation system requires highly skilled and dedicated people. We all have a stake in seeing that the transportation sector continues to attract the best candidates possible. A successful transportation sector will keep the country moving into the next century.

Glenn Gillespie
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to recognize the outstandingly heroic initiative of Glenn Gillespie of Burlington, Ontario.

On June 2 Glenn began his River of Hope kayak marathon for cancer research. Glenn's journey will take him from Fredericton, along the Gulf of St. Lawrence in New Brunswick, through the St. Lawrence River in Quebec and Ontario, until he reaches Burlington in August.

Years ago Glenn met Terry Fox jogging along the side of the road through New Brunswick during his Marathon of Hope. Glenn ran with Terry Fox and was inspired to take up Terry's challenge to raise funds for cancer research. This chance encounter with a truly remarkable young Canadian inspired Glenn to take up this adventure.

Mr. Speaker, fellow members of Parliament, please join me in saluting Glenn Gillespie of Burlington as he begins travelling along his River of Hope and wish him the best of luck.

Health Care
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Bonnie Brown Oakville—Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, a Canadian company that recently brought jobs and investment to Oakville is also bringing sensible cost savings to Canadian hospitals without harming patient care.

In May, Livingston Healthcare Services Inc., an Ontario based health products distributor, opened a new logistics facility in Oakville. This company has introduced to Canadian hospitals a cost saving innovation: just in time delivery. The result is that hospitals no longer need to keep large, expensive inventories.

Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto has saved over $200,000 in its first year using this system. While the Toronto hospital anticipates savings of over $1 million annually, these savings have no negative impact on patient care and in fact can allow money to be reallocated to improve it. The latest investment and expansion has the potential to benefit all Canadians.

Clearly this is welcome news for Canada's health care system.

Privatization Of Canadian National
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Laurent Lavigne Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, to make CN more attractive to potential buyers, the

Minister of Transport is about to spend between $600 million and $1 billion in public funds to reduce this corporation's debt.

This squandering of public funds for the benefit of CN's future buyers is unacceptable, especially since the minister has refused to make a commitment to ensure the survival of AMF Technotransport. The minister himself admits that this CN subsidiary, which employs 1,300 people in Pointe-Saint-Charles, a Montreal neighbourhood which is one of the poorest in Canada, faces an uncertain future. The closing of this company would have serious consequences for Montreal and a disastrous impact on the Pointe-Saint-Charles area.

Instead of sweetening the deal for the eventual buyers, the minister should try to help AMF workers, who live in an area already afflicted by poverty.

Ontario Election
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario polls show a clear preference for Mike Harris and his common sense revolution. Voters give every indication they will reject the Ontario Liberals' daughter of red book on Thursday.

This election is not about right versus left, it is about right versus wrong. Ontarians are saying that employment equity is wrong, that MPP pensions are wrong, and ever increasing taxes are wrong. Ontario is saying that hiring on merit alone is right, workfare is right, and balancing the budget by a fixed date is right. Like Alberta, Ontario is saying that the Reform agenda is right.

It proves clearly that popularity polls are meaningless until the rubber hits the road. Once the Ontario election was called, the common sense revolution destroyed the Liberal mirage.

This Thursday, what is wrong in Ontario will be rejected and replaced with the only party with the Reform message, which knows what is right, Mike Harris-

Human Rights
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week marks the 11th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, in which the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

The sanctity of the most holy place of the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple, was dishonoured. Many innocent men, women and children who were there to mark a holy day were killed in the ensuing battle for the Golden Temple. Religious freedom, which is protected here in Canada and in many other democratic countries around the world, was violated.

The Sikh community continues to tell its sad story of sacrifice to the world. Today, I ask you to honour the sacrifice of many innocent people who died in this senseless, ruthless tragedy.

We must remember the victims of Operation Blue Star and ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, the first week of June marks remembrance for two of the darkest incidents in recent times. I am speaking of course of Operation Blue Star, the attack on the Golden Temple, one of the Sikhs' holiest shrines, and the Tiananmen Square massacre.

On June 3, 1984, the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple, injuring and killing hundreds and perhaps thousands in the process. The invasion of the Golden Temple was more than an assault on the shrine itself; it was an assault on the human rights of Indian people.

On June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square was the site of a brutal attack on students by the Chinese army. Television cameras around the world recorded the horror of students being shot and run down by tanks.

In China as in India, the attack on the students was not only a savage murder of innocent people but also a vicious attack on human rights and democracy.

As parliamentarians, I believe it is incumbent on us to raise the awareness of human rights abuses and to speak out forcefully against them wherever they may occur.