House of Commons Hansard #212 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

Human RightsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Richmond B.C.


Raymond Chan LiberalSecretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Madam Speaker, six years ago the world watched in horror as the tragic events of Tiananmen square unfolded. For many Canadians these events changed our lives forever. They propelled us into action. We rallied, we spoke out and we made the difference.

To commemorate those who lost their lives in Tiananmen square, on May 28 I participated in a democracy walk at the University of British Columbia. I paid tribute again on June 4 at Forest Lawn cemetery in Burnaby, British Columbia. At both locations there is a statue of democracy erected by Canadians to remind us about the tragedy.

My decision to run for political office was in large part due to the events of June 1989, for as I watched Chinese men and women risk their lives for something we all too often take for granted here in Canada, I realized that I needed to give back something to the country that welcomed me with such open arms in 1969.

I am proud to say I am still fighting for human rights improvements, both in China and around the world. Unfortunately the human rights situation with regard to human rights advocates in China has not improved significantly since 1989. The recent arrest of several Chinese dissidents in the run up to the sixth anniversary of the Tiananmen square crackdown and the strict surveillance imposed on others once again demonstrates that China continues to violate international standards of human rights.

One of the most enduring values uniting Canadians is our common commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights. Respect for human rights is a key to international peace and prosperity and it contributes to a global environment within which we Canadians can best pursue our interests.

As I have long believed, the issue is how to promote most efficiently good governance and the rule of law in China.

There are a number of ways to help influence and encourage China to better respect human rights. Multilaterally we take steps in organizations such as the United Nations to make our point. Bilaterally we discuss human rights issues with our Chinese counterparts. Development assistance lets us work with China to strengthen areas vital to human rights development. Trade is also a powerful tool. It encourages co-operation, and co-operation leads to understanding and appreciation, with which we can better manage concerns such as human rights development.

Furthermore, initiatives undertaken by people like ourselves continue to emphasize to all concerned that Canadians care about human rights. Rest assured that I will continue to work for the improvement of respect for human rights and democracy in China.

As I tell both my cabinet colleagues and my Chinese counterparts, I am a friend of China. I will continue to speak out against human rights violations in China, but at the same time I will continue to work within my means as a federal minister to help China develop in a meaningful way.

Pointing out violations of human rights is essential. So too is dialogue between Canada and China. Dialogue lets China and Canada share concerns and provides the foundation to address

important issues such as human rights proactively. This is the effective way to promote change in China and this is the cause my government and I will continue to follow.

Human RightsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today on behalf of the official opposition to mark the sixth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in which thousands of people, most of them students, died for democracy and the advancement of human rights in China.

On June 9, 1994, the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific stated in this House, and I quote:

Surely there is evidence that increased political flexibility is a byproduct of economic liberalization, and governments that have opened their markets to international trade are more sensitive to the views and reactions of other countries.

The federal government's policy of giving priority to the economic aspect in its relations with China, in the belief that China would then become more sensitive to Canadian human rights concerns, has been a monumental failure.

Even as China is seeking full membership in the World Trade Organization and after Team Canada paid that country a visit last November, we learned last December that nine Chinese dissidents had received sentences ranging from three to twenty years in prison.

According to Chinese authorities, the only crimes committed by these people were membership in unauthorized political organizations and planning the distribution of leaflets marking the third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

By coincidence, at least 12 other Chinese dissidents were recently arrested in the run-up to the sixth anniversary of the bloody crackdown on the Beijing Spring in Tiananmen Square, which, as you may recall, left hundreds if not thousands of people dead. Yet, as the hon. Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific so eloquently said earlier, China continues to openly violate international standards of human rights.

The secretary of state even told us that the situation of Chinese human rights advocates has not improved since 1989. Despite government claims that trade liberalization is the best way to promote respect for human rights, we must recognize that the secretary of state's admission points to the failure of the government policy in this regard.

If-as the federal government maintains-its policy is credible, why were there no improvements in the human rights situation in China? As the secretary of state mentioned, if trade is a powerful tool that leads to co-operation and, in turn, to an improvement of the human rights situation, why have the Chinese authorities remained so inflexible?

Furthermore, how can the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific claim that Canada influenced the course of events following the tragic events in Tiananmen Square?

How could we have any influence on events when, during his trip to China, the Prime Minister of Canada himself turned a blind eye to what the Chinese leaders are doing?

It is not by whispering quietly in his Chinese counterpart's ear that the Prime Minister of Canada, or Canada for that matter, will prompt the Chinese leadership to change its unacceptable attitude toward human rights. As we can see, this new policy did not produce the expected results; it was, to say the least, ineffective.

However, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs said recently, instead of opening its eyes and taking direct, consistent and firm action against countries that violate human rights, the federal government would rather pay court to them in order to establish trade relations with them.

Expressing discontent with the laissez-faire attitude of Canada with respect to human rights, the minister announced a while ago the Canadian government's intention to embark upon a series of trade initiatives with a number of countries, regardless of their human rights record.

This is a fine example of double talk on the part of the government. To add insult to injury, the Minister of Foreign Affairs went as far as to propose to ASEAN nations, some of which have a long tradition of openly violating human rights, that Canada represent their interests at the G-7 Summit in Halifax, next week.

In closing, I hope-but I am not holding my breath-that the government will not go on addressing human rights issues behind the scenes, as in so doing, it is playing into the hands of the dictators and tyrants of this world.

Human RightsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to the message of the secretary of state on China and Tiananmen square.

Certainly all of us have the memories imprinted on our minds of the horror and the terror and disbelief of what happened some six years ago. We need to think about what we have in Canada, freedom of speech, freedom of association and all of the good things that are part of our democracy and what it really means when we think back to those days.

Those people did not die in vain and China is moving forward as slow as it may be. China has a very major future in the world. It is a time to think of China and look at what that country means in the big picture of the world. I remember my visits in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s. I think about a country that was very agrarian, backward to our western way of looking at things.

I think of all the people in their blue and green clothes, the thousands and thousands of bicycles. I think of going to the movie theatre where I spent six cents to get in and where in the middle, because there was a Canadian there, they played "Red River Valley". Somehow they thought that was the national anthem of the country.

I remember the curious way people dealt with us as westerners but how friendly they were and how important their family and social structure was to them. I think back to being in the schools where education is such an important part of their society, where they go for six days a week, where they start at eight in the morning and finish at six at night and how they do not have text books so they have to read it on the blackboards outside the school. The people are very industrious, hard working. Commerce is important and there is a hidden power, a so-called sleeping giant in China.

China has changed a lot in the last 10 or 15 years. It now has double digit growth rates, unemployment, a massive movement from rural to urban, a dismantling of the state owned business, an aging leader who sort of keeps it together, but it will change dramatically.

For those of us who have been watching closely I do not think we can believe the speed at which this change will occur. There is a new era for China coming. It is hoped there will be a peaceful change to democracy from the chaos that might otherwise occupy that country.

The government still operates in the old way but I believe the new government will look toward the true power of China and so will come democracy in the 21st century. There is a great opportunity for China and for us in dealing with China.

The Chinese government must control corruption. It must solidify economic reform and it must carry out democratization not just from the communes but on through the villages, the towns, the cities and ultimately in the national government.

With all of this I believe firmly that human rights will come and that human rights reform will be part of that movement. I do not believe there is any way the Government of China will be able to stop that.

What is our role? Our role is to speak out against violations. This gives the people both in and out of China an opportunity to feel strength from our opposition. We need to provide assistance in developing governments and so on. Above all, the isolation of China will not accomplish the goals we all hold for China in the future.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-330, an act to amend the Criminal Code (review process and disclosure by prosecutor).

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this private member's bill for first reading. In essence it introduces or enacts the recommendations of the Donald Marshall inquiry, now some years in passing, for a better, more open and independent procedure for dealing with those who claim to have been wrongfully convicted.

At the moment that process is done in house by the Department of Justice. It is a very time consuming process. It seems there is no sense of urgency. There is no easy disclosure to those involved. Those who are claiming to be wrongfully convicted are pleading to their adversary for some mercy essentially.

We have had the cases of Milgaard, Marshall, Morin, Kelly and Morrisroe. Many cases have been taking two, three and four years to address. This bill would speed that process up and make it more open. It would be a distinct improvement in the process.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I have five petitions to present. The first is to improve the provisions for the diagnosis of breast cancer, the care for those who have breast cancer and for all the women in Canada. This petition comes from the university women's club.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, the second petition is for a public inquiry to be held at the earliest possible time. This inquiry is to be wide ranging into the operation, costs and morale of the armed forces.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, the third petition is on VIA Rail. It is to preserve services and to review these services so they may be improved for the Sarnia, London, Stratford, Toronto corridor, now one of the heaviest travelled train areas in Canada

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, the fourth and fifth petitions are against granting same sex rights.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise again to present another petition in this course of action undertaken on behalf of constituents who wish to halt the early release from prison of Robert Paul Thompson.

The petitioners I represent are concerned about making our streets safer for citizens.

They are opposed to the current practice of early release of violent offenders prior to serving the full extent of their sentences.

The petitioners pray our streets will be made safer for law-abiding citizens and the families of the victims of convicted murderers.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present the following petition which comes form all across Canada and contains 969 signatures, making a total of 5,069 to date.

The undersigned request that in memory of Dawn Shaw, a six-year old girl who was murdered in my riding of Comox-Alberni, this petition be brought to the attention of Parliament.

These petitioners request that Parliament enact legislation to change the justice system to provide greater protection for children from sexual assault and to assure conviction of offenders.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions today from constituents in Langley, Aldergrove and Abbotsford, British Columbia.

The first petition asks that Parliament not pass Bill C-41 with section 718(2) as presently written and in any event not to include the undefined phrase sexual orientation, as the behaviour people engage in does not warrant special considerations in Canadian law.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, the second petition asks that Parliament act immediately to extend protection to the unborn child by amending the Criminal Code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Randy White Reform Fraser Valley West, BC

Madam Speaker, the final petition requests that Parliament not amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing order 36, I am presenting a petition signed by constituents in my riding of Lincoln asking that Parliament oppose any amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms which provide for the inclusion of the phrase sexual orientation.

They also oppose the inclusion of this phrase in proposed Bill C-41.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present two petitions duly certified by the clerk of petitions.

The first one bearing 39 signatures primarily from the Gouldtown district in my constituency requests that Parliament not amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, the second petition signed by 163 constituents scattered throughout my riding humbly requests and calls on Parliament to desist passing legislation legalizing the use of BST

rBGH in Canada.

The petitioners further request legislation be passed requiring all imports produced from BST

rBGH treated cows be so identified.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a 25 signature petition asking Parliament not to enact legislation to amend the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase sexual orientation.

I agree with this petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

I will once again remind members we do not comment on agreement or disagreement in petitions; we present only.

I wish to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 33(2), because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 12 minutes.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members


Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-76, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 1995, be read the third time and passed.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Winnipeg North Centre Manitoba


David Walker LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to lead off debate on third reading of Bill C-76, an act to implement certain provisions of the February 1995 budget.

The bill seeks to give concrete reality to the non-taxation measures announced in the budget, a budget of reform and renewal that has been described as historic.

This means that, over the next three fiscal years, this budget will translate into cumulative savings of $29 billion, $25.3 billion of which will be the result of spending cuts. This is by far the most ambitious series of measures proposed in a budget since demobilization, after the Second World War.

The objectives set are extremely important, but so are the means used to achieve them. Indeed, in order to achieve lasting fiscal consolidation and then fiscal balance, it is essential to change the role and the very structure of the state. We will continue to reap the benefits of this budget in 1997-98 and beyond.

These measures will have a very significant impact on future levels of federal spending. By 1997-98, program spending will total $108 billion, compared to $120 billion in 1993-94.

Although it was a tough budget, Canadians approve it. They approve it because they know we have to stop writing IOUs and get on with the business of building the 21st century economy.

By 1996-97, our financial needs, that is the new money which we have to borrow on financial markets, will go down to $13.7 billion, or 1.7 per cent of the GDP. Canada will fare better than any other G7 country.

The public debt will stop growing faster than the economy. The debt to GDP ratio will start decreasing. This is the key to a manageable financial situation, and it is the reason why we are not merely trying to reduce the deficit. Indeed, we are also determined to start the Canadian debt ratio on a downward trend.

Let me emphasize that these projections do not rest on rosy assumptions. On the contrary, prudent assumptions that were more pessimistic than the private sector average were used. The assumptions were backed up with substantial contingency reserves. We will continue to rely on prudent assumption. We will continue to set short term targets that make impossible to postpone action. We will continue to take whatever action is needed to meet our objectives. This is the course we will stay until the deficit is eliminated entirely.

Let me turn now from the budget background to the specific elements of the bill before us today. As the provisions of the bill have already been discussed at some length in the House, I will focus on a few highlights and draw the attention of members to the one amendment that is more than a technical amendment.

I am referring to the transfers to the provinces. We will never have the kind of structural changes needed if we do not reform our system of transfers to the provinces.

We must implement a system which will better meet today's needs, and we must also be able to fund that system over a long period.

As regards the first requirement, we feel that the conditions set by the federal government for transfer payments in sectors which clearly come under provincial jurisdiction should be reduced to a minimum.

Currently, the Canada assistance plan transfers come with many needless conditions that restrict the provinces' capacity for innovation and increase administrative costs. In short, the costsharing method no longer helps the provinces which are clearly responsible for designing and delivering social assistance programs and for implementing them as efficiently as possible, in accordance with the needs in the community.

This bill will deal with the situation by providing funding for the Canada assistance plan in the same way as the established programs financing did in the areas of health and post-secondary education. As a result, the current breakdown into three

transfers no longer has any basic justification. That is why we are combining them into one single block transfer program called the Canada health and social transfer, starting in 1996-97.

The Canada health and social transfer represents a new, more flexible and mature approach to federal-provincial fiscal relations but the physical situation demands that the new system also be less costly than the current one. That is why when the CHST is fully implemented in 1997-98 the total of all major transfers to the provinces will be down by about $4.5 billion from what would have been transferred under the present system. However to put this into perspective, the reduction will equal about 3 per cent of aggregate provincial revenues.

We believe our approach to provincial transfers passes three very important tests. First, the federal government has hit itself even harder. Second, the provinces have been given ample notice of the government's intentions. Third, the reduction in transfer payments is equitable across provinces.

In addition to the introduction of the Canada health and social transfer, the bill also includes other measures that will help to reduce the cost of payments to provinces. One of these measures is the reintroduction of a 5 per cent eligibility threshold to the fiscal stabilization program. This will restore the program to its original function of compensating provinces for revenue losses in the event of severe economic downturns, that is, where revenues decline by more than 5 per cent.

I want to turn now to a number of allegations about the CHST which members of the official opposition and the Reform Party have made in the debate on Bill C-76. Some opposition members have been confused about the additional flexibility which the CHST will offer provinces in the area of social assistance.

The hon. member for the riding of Quebec alleged that the government was misinforming Quebecers when it said that federal conditions on social assistance transfers were being reduced. Let us be clear on what is happening here.

This bill is a major reform of the system of federal transfers to the provinces and territories that will lead to the Canada health and social transfer, the CHST.

Starting in 1996-97, the EPF and the CAP will be replaced with one single mechanism, the CHST. Contrary to the existing system which is based in part on costsharing agreements, the CHST will be a block funding mechanism, like the EPF. Accordingly, transfers will not be determined by the provinces' spending decisions as they are under the cost shared programs.

The new arrangement will eliminate inherent limitations of the former cost shared programs and reduce longstanding irritants.

Provinces will no longer be governed by rules determining which expenditures are eligible for cost sharing and which are not. They will be free to find innovative approaches thanks to social security reform. Administrative costs of cost sharing will be eliminated. Federal spending will no longer depend on the provinces' decisions concerning delivery of their welfare and social services programs and the identity of recipients.

The Canada health and social transfer is a new vision of federal-provincial fiscal relations which gives more flexibility and freedom to the provinces while increasing their accountability, and provides more stable fiscal arrangements to the federal government.

This approach will bring about more mature fiscal relations.

The hon. member for Calgary North has been giving us contrary advice on how we should deal with transfers to the provinces. First she says there has been no consultation with provincial governments about the future of federal transfers and that the federal government has been too hasty in setting out important parameters for the health care system which will affect Canadians for years to come. However, in the next breath she attacked the government for precisely the opposite error. She asked how provinces in the health care sector are supposed to plan if the federal government will not tell them how federal transfers will be structured in the future and how much the provinces can expect to receive. The hon. member cannot have it both ways.

The government has taken a very sensible approach in dealing with the provinces. In the 1994 budget the government gave the provinces a two-year breathing space prior to making any cuts in transfers. In the 1995 budget, transfer restraint does not take effect until 1996-97, even though action is being taken in the federal backyard in 1995-96. The provinces have been given two years to manage the reductions and adjust their programs. At the same time the CHST provides more flexibility for provinces to make the necessary adjustments.

In addition, the government will soon begin consulting with the provinces and the territories to develop a permanent method of allocating the Canadian health and social transfer among the provinces from 1997-98 onward.

The federal government remains committed to a co-operative and productive approach to federal-provincial relations.

Third, under clause 13 on the new CHST, the Minister of Human Resources Development shall invite all provincial governments to work together to develop, through mutual consent, a set of shared principles and objectives that could underlie the new Canada health and social transfer.

The official opposition is trying to depict this quest for shared principles and goals as an artificial issue.

Its members would like the House and Canadians to believe that this whole process is nothing but a plot to underhandedly impose new conditions, methods or penalties. This is what I have to say about such comments.

"Mutual consent" means that no government in Canada can be subjected to new principles and objectives against its will.

In other words, only the governments that freely agree to new objectives and principles will be bound by them.

Governments that do not agree would not be bound by those objectives and principles.

So, if some provinces, including Quebec, do not agree, they will not be bound by the objectives and principles approved by other governments. Things cannot be made any clearer.

Indeed, this is usually what "mutual consent" means, an agreement made by consenting parties. The wording of the legislation is quite clear on this issue. I do not see the need to be more explicit than that.

Fourth, the Reform Party has proposed eliminating cabinet's role in enforcing the Canada Health Act as well as considerably reducing the role of the Minister of Health. Instead it would turn over this job to the federal court.

Hon. members should recall that Bill C-76 makes no substantive amendments to the Canada Health Act, only consequential amendments required by the ending of the established programs funding and introduction of the CHST. The five Canada Health Act criteria whose enforcement will be affected by these motions relate to universality, comprehensiveness, accessibility, portability and public administration.

The current procedure for applying penalties to a province is as follows. The Minister of Health initiates the process by consulting the province. If the province has not given a satisfactory undertaking to the minister to remedy the default within a reasonable time, she refers the issue to the governor in council. The governor in council decides whether penalties are appropriate, how much they should be and whether they should be reimposed.

Under the Reform proposal, the minister would instead apply to the federal court. The federal court would decide whether penalties were appropriate, how much they should be and whether they should be reimbursed.

This government strongly supports the Canada Health Act, as does an overwhelming majority of Canadians all across this country. The member for Winnipeg North is here. He has spent his whole life advocating and supporting the Canada health system. I am sure he would agree with the view of the government and my own view that if we should turn the decisions on enforcement over to the courts, we would pull away one of the most fundamental principles behind the act, which is that we as politicians and as a government must take responsibility for the Canada Health Act.

It is the cornerstone of this government. We will not accept any amendments that weaken the ability of the federal government to enforce the delivery of a system that Canadians find is one of the most attractive features of living in this country.

The provisions of the Canada Health Act which the Reform Party object to have served Canadians well since that act was passed over a decade ago. Reformers are seeking to water down the enforcement of national medicare standards, but we will not waver from our commitment. The Reform amendments would have the courts decide how the Canada Health Act is to be applied. Canadians have elected us as parliamentarians to do this job. We do not intend to shirk that responsibility.

Fifth, some opposition members seem to suggest that all our problems would disappear if only the federal government would abandon health care and other social programs and give the provincial governments more transfers of tax points.

The Canadian government has no intention of giving up its responsibilities in terms of funding major social programs. The Canada social transfer will help to subsidize the programs which are essential to all Canadians, including Quebecers, and its contribution will reach almost $27 billion by 1996-1997.

Canadians all know how important these programs are, and to suggest that the federal government should withdraw from them is preposterous, as preposterous as the suggestion that Ottawa should replace these transfers by giving up tax points. The Canadian government needs all of these tax points to fulfil its obligations towards all Canadians, including Quebecers. Everyone knows that, because they mean more for the have provinces than for the have not provinces, tax points put the underprivileged provinces at a disadvantage.

Another issue raised in the bill and in further debate has been subsidies to business. In the course of program review, departments across the government took action to reduce business subsidies. Overall we are proposing to cut business subsidies by 60 per cent. This includes agriculture and transportation subsidies that were designed decades ago.

The bill proposes to repeal the Western Grain Transportation Act and to terminate the western grain transportation subsidy paid to railways effective July 31, 1995. The reform of the WGTA will result in savings of $2.6 billion over the next five years.

This is much more than a deficit issue. The elimination of the subsidy will encourage the development of value added processing and the production of higher value crops. It will result in a more efficient grain handling and transportation system. It will help maintain our market access for grain sales in foreign countries and comply with our obligations under the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization.

A number of further initiatives will facilitate the transfer to the new system. These include a payment of $1.6 billion to owners of prairie farmland plus a $300 million transportation adjustment fund. The bill also provides for the regulation of maximum freight rates that can be charged by railway companies to move grain from the prairies.

There is an amendment to the bill on the matter of freight rates that I would like to point out to the House. Clause 21 of the bill has been amended to strengthen the provisions governing the review of the maximum regulated freight rates. Instead of an automatic sunsetting provision for maximum rates, the Minister of Transport will be given the authority to determine whether the rates should be fully deregulated during a review in 1999. These amendments are designed to provide greater rate protection to shippers. Should the benefit of full rate deregulation become apparent during the period leading up to the review, the Minister of Transport will have the authority to remove the maximum regulated rate protection.

The bill also proposes the elimination of the Atlantic freight subsidies under the Atlantic Region Freight Assistance Act, the ARFAA, and the Maritime Freight Rates Act, the MFRA. These subsidies which have proven inefficient in reducing shipper costs are of marginal and declining importance to regional economic activity. This measure to take effect this July will save nearly $100 million a year. To help ensure that the elimination of the subsidy contributes to a better transportation system, the budget announced a five-year $326 million transportation adjustment program.

I would like to respond to some of the specific criticisms made about the Western Grain Transition Payments Act. First, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot, the critic for the official opposition, during his speech on May 31 stated that the transition payment of $2.2 billion is tax free. The payment being made by the government to owners of prairie farm land is $1.6 billion and is taxable. The payment is neither $2.2 billion nor is it tax free.

The hon. member has also suggested that transition payments will be made to beef and hog producers in western Canada. The payments are being made to owners of land which in 1994 produced grain or land which was in summer fallow in 1994 and which in 1993 grew grain. Payments will not be made to western beef and hog producers.

I know the hon. member has a long history of being interested in grain transportation. In committee he gave a very eloquent defence of his position. He told me he had worked on the issue many, many years ago. I very much appreciated his comments and I simply wanted to put on the record some of the perspectives of the government on the issue.

On behalf of the NDP, the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake stated that with the repeal of the WGTA, elevator points would lose $1 million annually in income. The repeal of the WGTA will result in increased transportation costs to producers. This will encourage producers to move from being oriented on exporting grain to increasing local consumption of grain to increase diversification in the economy on the prairies.

This diversification will in turn create more jobs on the prairies. For example, the construction of a new canola crushing plant in Moose Jaw was recently announced. This plant will help diversify the local economy by producing value added processed products.

The same member has suggested that we as members of Parliament need a chance to study the effects of the removal of the WGTA. Ever since the WGTA was enacted in 1984 it has been the subject of studies and ongoing reviews. There were numerous studies conducted before the WGTA was passed. As well, there have been an extensive number of studies on the WGTA reform conducted by industry, academics, various consultants, as well as by the federal and provincial governments over the past decade.

This is not the time to study nor to continue delay. Now is the time to act. I am sure the member from the New Democratic Party understands how dramatic these changes will be on the prairies. We are all looking forward to a responsible, co-operative attitude among the producers, shippers, rail companies and provincial and federal governments to make sure this works. It is no longer the time to study.

There are also a number of amendments in the bill on the public service. The measures I have outlined so far, along with other initiatives arising from the program review, mark the transition to a more focused, effective and frugal federal government. Reducing the public service was not an objective of the

program review. Such a reshaping of the government's role and the spending cuts it entails will unfortunately have an effect on the employees delivering services to Canadians on behalf of the federal government.

By the time the 1995 budget actions are fully implemented, federal employment is expected to decline by some 45,000 or about 10 per cent. Natural attrition and the programs currently in place are inadequate to deal with changes of this scope. The government appreciates the valuable service its employees provide. We are committed to managing the reductions in a fair and orderly fashion.

In keeping with this commitment the bill proposes changes to the Public Sector Compensation Act that will allow for an early departure incentive. This incentive could be taken by as many as 13,000 to 15,000 employees in the most affected departments. We estimate the cost of the program for the public service, the military, certain separate employers and the crown to be about $1 billion which will be included in the 1994-95 fiscal year.

Other proposed changes to the act will allow for cost neutral changes to non-salaried terms of employment and for certain new kinds of leave. In addition, we are proposing amendments to the Public Service Employment Act that will give public sector managers more flexibility in staffing arrangements.

Employees affected by the downsizing who decide not to take advantage of the departure incentives will have a reasonable period to find employment elsewhere in the public service, but that period cannot be indefinite. The government simply cannot afford to pay people for not working.

Accordingly the bill also includes amendments to the workforce adjustment directive so that surplus employees in most affected departments who decline departure incentives will cease to be paid after six months and will be laid off after one year unless alternative employment is found.

The President of the Treasury Board recently signed an agreement in principle with the public service unions to assist employees affected by downsizing. He will be working through joint labour-management adjustment committees to assist affected employees in making the transition from the public service.

Our goal in introducing these and other transition measures is to be fair to the taxpayer as well as to the federal employees affected. We believe the program balances the objectives.

Today's legislation will play a key role in setting the country on the course of fiscal responsibility and government renewal. These measures are absolutely essential if we are to meet our deficit targets and refocus the government on its priorities and on the country's needs.

We have drawn directly on the advice of Canadians from whom we heard several months before the budget and who subsequently gave us advice after the budget. Canadians in turn have shown their strong support for the budget. They know it will promote better public finances and a stronger economy.

To secure the savings that will lead to the improvements we must pass the legislation as quickly as possible. Anything less will compromise our ability to reach the objectives we have promised Canadians and our commitment to a secure and prosperous future for ourselves and our children. I therefore urge all members to give the bill final approval in the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

11 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak at third reading of Bill C-76, which implements certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 1995.

I was listening a little while ago to the parliamentary secretary who spoke about the hearings held by the finance committee and I had the impression that we did not attend the same hearings. People did not come to tell us that they were in favour of the budget measures. They did not come to tell us that these budget measures put the country on the track that they wanted to see the government follow. On the contrary, the vast majority of witnesses said that in the last two years, since the tabling of the Minister of Finance's first budget, the federal government always targeted those in the greatest need.

What people will remember, and what they said at the finance committee hearings, is that the government, in the last two years, has continued to make cuts in what we believe to be fundamental, Canada's social programs. What people will remember of the last two budgets is that there were cuts of $5.5 billion in unemployment insurance in the first budget and that the number of weeks of benefits to which claimants are entitled was reduced by a tightening up of the eligibility criteria. That is what people will remember.

What will stand out from the last budget and Bill C-76 in the mind of Canadians is that the government went one step further. The last budget added $700 million to the $5.5 billion in cuts already announced. This is what the Minister of Finance did, and Canadians will not forget.

People will also remember the tightening of the unemployment insurance eligibility criteria, especially those who had to turn to that last resort program because they lost their job. They will remember that it is this government that tightened the

eligibility criteria and reduced the number of insurable weeks. What happened to those people? I have seen many of them in my riding office since last year and they have had to go on welfare. These people, already disheartened and depressed by the economic situation and the loss of their job, have had to apply for welfare benefits.

Do you know how many people the Liberal government is responsible for shifting from unemployment insurance benefits to welfare? In Quebec, 50,000 more people joined the already impressive ranks of the 800,000 on welfare. This is what people will remember of this government, and what they have been blaming it for since the tabling of the first two budgets.

I will also add this: for the last two quarters or so, for the last five months, no jobs were created in Canada, there was no net creation of jobs. The economy is stagnating. Do you know what that means on a technical level? It means that our economy is slowing down and that we may be headed faster than we think toward another recession. That is what this government is offering us and that is what Canadians will remember.

The measures taken by the Liberal government over the last two years have led to more poverty in Canada. Do you know that, during the last two decades, the number of poor families in our country has increased 41 per cent? Forty-one per cent in two decades.

Do you know that the poverty rate among single parent families headed by a woman exceeds 52 per cent? It is a catastrophe. A 52 per cent poverty rate among single mother families.

Do you know what that percentage is in Sweden? We tend to forget that. In Sweden, the poverty rate among single mother families is 6 per cent. Fifty-two per cent in Canada compared to 6 per cent in Sweden. There is a problem somewhere, and I understand perfectly why women in Quebec have had enough of this situation.

I understand perfectly why, two weeks ago, women have started marching to demand that their rights be recognized, to demand that they be treated fairly, to tell both the Quebec and the federal governments that they have had enough of this poverty, that they have had enough of politicians who promise them the moon during the election campaign but who, as soon as they come into office, start taking away what little bit these women have. That is what people are saying today and what women were saying when they marched on Quebec City.

Do you know what kind of hourly wage for a normal 37 1/2 hour workweek a single mother with a child needs to survive? I figured it out a few times because several women in tears came to my constituency office to tell me that they could not make ends meet. To survive, they need the equivalent of a minimum hourly wage of $10 for a 37 1/2 hour workweek.

The $8.15 minimum wage demanded by the women who marched on Quebec City was symbolic. They wanted to see government decisions take a new direction, and this was the direction they were looking for as part of a new social covenant for Quebec. They wanted the government to change its course, to review the entire income security program, and they wanted the program to include not just training but re-entry into the labour force. This was the fundamental message these women were trying to get across when they marched on Quebec City last week.

I was pleased with the response of the Quebec government. It did not take the approach that seven demands out of nine had been met. I do not want to get into a numbers game, but the important thing is the direction adopted by the government of Quebec in response to these women. The direction of the response by the government of Quebec on Sunday is more important than any numbers and that direction is clear.

One thing is certain, the Quebec government has not lost sight of the real world. We can see this in its approach to the economy and also in its compassion for its citizens. The message Sunday from Premier Parizeau was clear: the government of Quebec will work to improve the lot of the least fortunate, taking rapid and direct action in seeking to respond to all of women's demands. This is only normal, it is vital for 52 per cent of Quebec's population, the proportion represented by women. The government of Quebec will address these areas that are key to the survival of lone parent families headed by women.

The Government of Quebec will be all the better placed to meet these needs once Quebecers have decided to stop frittering away their energy arguing and complaining about the constitution, which is what they have been doing constantly for 50 years, in an attempt to carve out for themselves a decent place-nothing more than what anyone else has-just a respectable place within the system, and for all that we have tried, they not only refuse to let us take our place, but they also refuse to even recognize our differences.

Once we have settled this issue over the next few months-yes, it is a question of months-all of our energies, all of our tax money will be devoted to helping these women, and these men, the most needy Quebecers, who will be able to at least have hope that their situation will improve. I think that the message that the Premier of Quebec delivered Sunday was clear and I think that the comparison is easy to make. When we see that the Government of Quebec is holding out its hand, when we see the federal government's partial answers to the neediest women of our society, its general orientation and its actions over the past two years, I think that the situation is clear.

Just look at what Quebecers are choosing between: a federal system which has brought public finances to ruin, with a current debt of $548 billion and a forecasted total debt of about $800 billion in another four and a half years; a federal government which has introduced two consecutive budgets cutting unemployment insurance, federal transfer payments and which could eventually make cuts to the old age security system; and the Government of Quebec, which is orienting itself towards helping the neediest Quebecers, I think that the choice to be made in the fall is clear. We must get out of this system, which is all about cuts like the ones contained in the last budget and like those they are bringing in through Bill C-76, a system which will continue in that vein over the next few years.

I would like to digress and pay tribute to these women who marched on Quebec City, pay tribute to their courage, perseverance, their faith in a brighter future for Quebec and for all Quebecers. I think that they have demonstrated that if we are determined to make society a better place, if we stop depending on power hungry politicians like the ones we have faced across the way for 18 months to make a change, we can make progress. When we see people coming to Quebec City to face their politicians, who actually want things to change themselves and give people hope that things will fundamentally change under a sovereign Quebec, that is already a great victory for the women who marched all the way to Quebec City.

I had the opportunity to tell these women, when they were passing through my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe, how beautiful they are, simply beautiful, how they were beautiful in spirit and beautiful in heart. They expressed their heartfelt concerns and the Government of Quebec answered that things would change, that they could hope for a fundamental change in their case, because they and others like them should not be held responsible and made to pay for the 52 per cent poverty rate. It is inhumane. A society with any sense of dignity should be ashamed of perpetuating this poverty, especially among women who are single parents and have had to put up with this for decades.

One wonders why these women did not march on Ottawa as well. Why not? They could have marched on Ottawa, but these Quebecers realized they would be wasting their time marching on Ottawa. They would be wasting their time, because this government is bankrupt, has no vision and has shown no compassion during the two years it has been in power, despite its commitments in the red book. That is why they did not march on Ottawa.

This government gives us nothing but cutbacks. It does not talk about controlling public spending, improving the economy or improving social justice in Canada. It just keeps cutting blindly, although this will have no visible impact in four years' time. Unless this big federal machine stops overheating, billions and billions of dollars worth of cuts every year will have no impact at all.

Speaking of cuts, the latest budget brought down by the Minister of Finance, as implemented in Bill C-76, cuts away at transfer payments to provincial governments. In Quebec alone, and this we cannot accept, 32 per cent of federal transfers will be cut over the next three years. This is very serious: 32 per cent of federal transfers will be cut in Quebec.

Predictably, every time a decision is made in Ottawa, a decision over which the Government of Quebec has no control at all, in Quebec City they have to cut not only the fat but the lean as well. It may be predictable but it is intolerable that the Minister of Finance in Quebec City does not have full control over the money that comes in and the money that goes out every year.

How can you expect a government to be able to plan ahead for the next three to five years? It is impossible. Because the Canadian government cuts 32 per cent of its transfers to the Government of Quebec, the Government of Quebec is being saddled with a number of financial problems because the federal government is not doing its job. The federal government is offloading its problems with the deficit by cutting transfer payments.

The federal government is delighted when it sees a nice flag flying over an infrastructure project in which it invested 20,000 or 30,000 dollars. On those occasions, you will see not just the minister but his assistants and his parliamentary secretary right up front at the sod turning ceremony. But when it is a matter of being responsible and controlling the public spending, they are not interested.