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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was israel.

Topics

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I remind you my colleagues to address your statements to the Chair.

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

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

If the federal government can prove it has the deficit under control, it is because it is reducing it mostly on the backs of UI contributors by accumulating a surplus of at least $5 billion a year through payroll taxes, which, as we know, are paid mainly by workers and discourage job creation.

Will the minister admit that, by asking lower and middle income workers, the unemployed and businesses-especially small businesses-to build up this surplus and pay for the deficit, he is dangerously and unfairly taxing employment?

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, when we came to office, there was a $6 billion plus deficit in the unemployment insurance fund. We had to make it up and we did. This year, we have a $5 billion surplus.

According to Human Resources Development Canada's chief actuary, we need a surplus of $10 billion to $15 billion so the fund can sustain another economic downturn or recession. Second, it is clear that if we lower premiums, every five-cent reduction would cost us $350 million, and we would have to find this money somewhere else.

There is a question I sincerely want to ask the hon. member. There are several kinds of payroll taxes, not only employment insurance, but also taxes for health care, training, the CSST. If this is true, I hope the hon. member will also ask the provinces to lower their own payroll taxes.

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the commission's chief actuary said, the accumulated surplus will amount to at least $5 billion a year, whereas during the worst of the recession, when benefits were higher and more unemployed people had access to unemployment insurance, it was close to $6 billion. This increase makes no sense at all.

Since what really matters is employment, will the minister admit that, beyond his fine-sounding words, Canada's citizens are in fact poorer according to Statistics Canada, as the real disposable income per person has dropped by more than $1,000 since 1989? Will he admit that Canadians have become poorer?

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all, if the hon. member looks at her figures, she will see that, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians did get poorer-she is right about that-but it happened before we came to office. Since we came to office, the situation has stabilized, which means we made significant progress. We would like to increase Canadians' income, but before we could do so, we had to stabilize it.

Second, yes, there will be a $5 billion surplus at the end of the year. This does not mean that the surplus will keep growing forever. But we do need a surplus to protect ourselves against a recession.

As I said earlier, according to the auditor general, this money is included in our figures. When we lower premiums as we did last year and as we intend to do this year and hope to do in the years to come, it certainly costs us money.

Having said that, I want to ask the hon. member, because I myself cannot ask my provincial counterpart, Mr. Landry: Will she ask Mr. Landry, will she thank Mr. Landry, who said yesterday-

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Your time has expired. The hon. member for Capilano-Howe Sound.

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday's fiscal update needs a critical update. Only in the never never land of Ottawa is there celebration over a deficit of $29 billion. Only in the never never land of Ottawa is there celebration over deficit reduction by downloading on the provinces.

Why has the Minister of Finance burdened provincial health, education and welfare programs with cuts of $6 billion while he lets his own government get away with cuts of less than $2 billion a year?

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it was made very clear in the presentation yesterday that while we were very proud of having bettered our targets for the second year, and while I think all Canadians can take great pride in the control which we now have over the nation's finances, we made it very clear that victory was not yet won. The fight ahead of us is going to be very tough, and we are going to stick with it. I think the hon. member should understand, and I would hope that he would join with this side of the House and with all Canadians as we stick to what is going to be a very difficult fight.

I would also hope that perhaps he would get his numbers just a little more correct. The fact is that in the period 1994-95 to 1997-98 in terms of our own spending as opposed to transfers to provinces, we have cut by $8.3 billion, and total entitlements to the provinces have only been cut by $4.1 billion.

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Reform Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess we will have to look at the record of what his deputy minister said yesterday. As of yesterday it was $6.3 billion.

I wonder how this works out. Coming from British Columbia, creative accounting in federal fiscal updates scares me. Creatively, last year's fictitious deficit was improved by a fictitiously large windfall. By a very mysterious coincidence, projected declines in revenues, exactly dollar for dollar, match projected declines in interest costs.

How many more such fictitious numbers and creative accounting are behind the minister's assurance that he is hitting his unchanged and unchanging targets?

The DeficitOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows there is no fictitious accounting. Our books are certified by the auditor general. The auditor general goes through them and it is according to generally accepted accounting principles. I do not think that it behoves the hon. member to cast aspersions on the federal government's numbers because he knows the implications of what he is saying.

I would like to go to the member's question of transfers. We all have to understand something. When we cut, whether it is transfers, which we do not want to do, or in our own backyard, it impacts on the provinces. It really is slightly bogus to talk about cutting this way and cutting in our own backyard as if it does not cut the provinces.

If military spending is cut and a base is cut in a province it is a cut in that province. Is the hon. member saying that we should cut old age pensions? We will not do it. However, if we ever did, it would impact on welfare in the provinces. Is he saying we should cut R and D? If we did, it would affect the universities.

There is nothing the federal government does that does not impact on the country. That is why we will not cut old age pensions, why we will not cut research and development and why we will not savage this country.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the army is being rocked by one scandal after another.

Today, we learned with disgust that pictures were taken of several members of a regiment based in Chilliwack clowning around the body of an Iraqi civilian blown to pieces by a mine in the desert, in Kuwait. No less than 24 pictures have apparently been taken showing this dead body from all angles.

Could the minister tell us if he too was informed just this morning of what these soldiers did or if his predecessor had known about it for a long time and, in the latter case, could he advise us of the sanctions taken to ensure such unbecoming conduct never recurs?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with my hon. colleague that this kind of situation is absolutely unacceptable. I learned of the picture's release yesterday. I have asked General Baril to look into this matter and I can assure my hon. colleague that, as soon as General Baril's conclusions are available, I will gladly convey this information to him.

I would like to emphasize the fact, however, that this is another example of situations, of things that happen and that will not be tolerated. I would like to be able to tell my hon. colleague that any risk of the public being exposed to such things again has been eliminated, but there is no point in having him believe something like that when I cannot deliver the goods.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister justify the statement made by the army spokesperson for the western region to the effect that there is nothing seriously wrong about this and that such a minor incident does not even warrant sanctions?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I realize that it is often difficult to prepare for the supplementary and that, in many cases, the answer gives us a lead.

In this case, my answer to the hon. member was that the situation could not be tolerated. This is something that happened a while back. I asked the general in command of the land forces to try to find out why and how this happen and to make sure that proper sanctions are taken.

Income TaxesOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the finance minister tried to get Canadians to believe that there is no difference in how single income families are treated compared to dual income families under the tax system. I truly cannot believe that he really thinks that.

The fact is that on a $60,000 income the single income family pays $7,000 more in taxes than the dual income family.

Why is the finance minister and the government maintaining tax policies that force single income families to pay higher taxes?

Income TaxesOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, my answer to the question is the same as it was yesterday.

Income TaxesOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that explains why the finance minister has trouble balancing the books.

I quote from a recent book: "You have a lawyer and he is paid a lot of money. He has to pay a sizeable chunk in income tax so the lawyer gets the firm to put his wife down as an employee and part of his salary goes to her except that she never works at the firm". That is called income splitting and the lawyer who took advantage of this scheme is now the Prime Minister of Canada.

Why does the finance minister support a tax system that encourages crafty arrangements for clever lawyers and wealthy shipping magnates, yet discriminates against the average single income earner family?

Minister Of Intergovernmental AffairsOral Question Period

October 10th, 1996 / 2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The minister used the letterhead of the Privy Council Office, which is his department, but also the department of the Prime Minister, to call a party fundraiser in his riding.

Are we to understand that, with the election approaching, we will be seeing more and more of these ethical lapses on the part of Cabinet members, and that the government's moral code will be taking an increasingly elastic turn?

Minister Of Intergovernmental AffairsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, do my colleagues wish to know the truth? The office of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs issued a release to the media saying that on such a date and at such a place the minister would be speaking and that he would be accompanied by another minister and two colleagues.

It is a release like those issued by the Prime Minister, the minister and even the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the third party each time they attend activities or travel. I do not see why the member is so upset.

Minister Of Intergovernmental AffairsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the Minister of Labour attempt to justify the unacceptable conduct of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs by making light of the error he committed?

Minister Of Intergovernmental AffairsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I repeat that there was no breach of the code of ethics or of the guidelines. This is a practice common to all parliamentarians. But perhaps I should remind the member about what they say about people who live in glass houses.

I would like to remind the member that the member for Québec-Est used the House of Commons E-Mail to invite members to call a House of Commons telephone number, 996-4151, and pay $20 to buy a book written by his own wife.

She should perhaps think twice before casting the first stone, as I was saying.

Canada PostOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Unaddressed ad mail is a major irritant not only in my riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton but across Canada. What results will the minister's announcement have for Canadians who are tired of receiving what they call junk mail, and what impact will the announcement have on those whose job it is to deliver ad mail?

Canada PostOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Winnipeg—St. James Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question and his interest.

I would like to reiterate what the minister said yesterday, which is that Canada Post will be withdrawing from so-called economy ad mail. However, I want to assure the hon. member that this withdrawal will be staged in a very orderly fashion with as little disruption as possible. It will be done only where alternate facilities exist.

I would also like to point out to the hon. member that we expect this delivery service to be transferred directly to the private sector.

With respect to premium ad mail, Canada Post will not be withdrawing from that service right now. That carries with it some financial implications and Canada Post will be studying those implications before a decision is made.

EthicsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the press is reporting a few wispy details of the nearly invisible, ever elusive ethical guidelines of the Prime Minister. It appears that the government thinks that ethics is a little bit like the game "pin the tail on the donkey". The public is blindfolded and if they are lucky they get to pin a cabinet minister with a lucky guess.

No one can figure out why the Prime Minister has not tabled the guidelines so all Canadians know what we are talking about.

My question is for any government minister. Will one of them please rise in the House and if such guidelines actually exist will he or she table them so we can have a look?

EthicsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the question was properly answered yesterday by the Prime Minister. He said that there are direct communications between the Prime Minister and his ministers on a cabinet confidential basis which set out certain rules of conduct.

The reports that were printed in the papers today are simply briefing notes that the ethics commissioner uses to brief various ministerial staff. They are not the same documents. They are two very different things. I think the hon. member should recognize a difference when he sees one.