House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was technologies.


PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso Nova Scotia


Francis Leblanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Rosedale for his interest in this issue.

Indeed Canada can be proud of its key contribution to the technical organization to the elections that were held in Bosnia on September 14. Voting took place in a positive, non-violent fashion, free of systematic obstruction. The elections constituted an essential and reasonably democratic first step toward institution building and democratization in Bosnia.

Twenty-two Canadian electoral experts were seconded to the OSCE mission in Bosnia, many in senior positions. Canada also contributed to the larger international effort to supervise and observe the elections in Bosnia. We provided to the OSCE 15

election supervisors and 30 election observers. Another 32 Canadians engaged with the UN also helped supervise the elections.

Mr. Izatbegovic has been confirmed as the chair of the new three-person presidency of Bosnia. We congratulate all three members of the new presidency and encourage them to move quickly once the other election results are confirmed to put in place the common institutions established by the Dayton peace agreement and to implement all aspects of the agreement.

Canada is committed to helping the parties face the enormous challenge of this post-election consolidation period. We will do so through our engagement in the peace implementation process, our IFOR contribution and through our reconstruction program in the former Yugoslavia.

Canada participates fully in international efforts to ensure a lasting peace to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and to provide relief to its victims. Since the signing of the peace agreement for Bosnia and Hercegovina and the agreement on the peaceful reintegration of Serb controlled territory in Croatia, Canada has focused its efforts on promoting security as well as social and economic rehabilitation.

Since January 1996 Canada has maintained about 1,000 troops in Bosnia and Hercegovina as part of the NATO led peace implementation force, IFOR.

Canada's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the conflicts amounted to over $65 million between 1991 and 1995. These funds purchased and delivered food, medical supplies, clothing and shelter. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Co-operation announced in April 1996 that Canadian reconstruction assistance would total up to $40 million this year.

Finally, on the issue of war crimes, Canada has consistently led and supported efforts to investigate and prosecute cases involving war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to follow up on a question that I asked in this House in late September prior to a meeting of federal and provincial finance ministers on the Canada pension plan.

I urged the government at that time not to rush into changes to the Canada pension plan but rather to take the time to consult seriously and study more carefully the impact of its regressive proposals and look at progressive changes to the CPP instead of hitting the most vulnerable beneficiaries of the system.

Many Canadians believe that the CPP is in a state of crisis, that it will soon be bankrupt. Nothing could be further from the truth. The CPP was established in 1966 as a publicly administered socially insurance program. It is funded entirely by contributions from employers and employees. There is no government funding. It has had a significant impact on reducing poverty among the elderly. It is a pay as you go plan which has been strongly endorsed by the chief actuary of Canada who says: "It provides all the flexibility needed to avoid bankruptcy".

Because of the weak economy and the high levels of unemployment and bankruptcy the level of contributions has been lower than anticipated and disability claims up to 1994 were higher, although since then they have dropped dramatically. Thus there is certainly a need to readjust the level of contributions from both employers and employees to ensure future viability. This review process is built already into the CPP.

Instead of looking at how we can strengthen and improve the CPP, in particular to enhance the level of benefits of the lowest income seniors, the Liberal government aided and abetted by the Reform Party and its right wing allies in the Fraser Institute and the Globe and Mail is laying the groundwork to attack the fundamental principles of the CPP.

In February, the Liberals issued a so-called information paper. It was full of distortion and inaccuracies. It ignored some proposals for improving the CPP and took as a given that benefits must be cut. Indeed, the Liberal MP for Winnipeg North Centre, who chaired the rushed consultations, suggested that current benefits be cut for CPP beneficiaries. There was absolutely no analysis of the disproportionate impact of the proposed cuts on women despite evidence that it would be women who would be most hurt.

The Reform Party has suggested that we abolish the CPP and instead adopt the model proposed by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet: individual private RRSPs for everyone. This would destroy income security for millions of elderly Canadians and eliminate the many advantages of the CPP.

I urge the government to stop this rush to weaken the CPP and instead examine ways that public pensions can be strengthened. This is all the more important when an increasing number of Canadians are working at part time, temporary and contractual labour with no workplace pensions. Certainly RRSPs are not the answer. Too many Canadians simply cannot afford to save and more and more are cashing them in.

The New Democrat governments of B.C. and Saskatchewan have opposed cuts in benefits and have suggested that along with a modest increase in contributions, the federal and provincial gov-

ernments consider increasing the maximum level of earnings subject to contributions. This has also been proposed by the National Council on Welfare.

Finally, I want to urge the government to listen with care to people with disabilities and their spokespeople. They are deeply concerned about the impact of cuts in federal transfer payments, the elimination of the Canada assistance plan and the impact that has on disability programs. There are already totally unacceptable lengthy delays in adjudication of Canada pension plan disability claims. We understand that there may be even more cuts in the number of officers working in this area. Some individuals, including those with fibromyalgia, complain of serious problems in the present process.

Therefore, let no one suggest that disability programs under the CPP be weakened or cut. People with disabilities are too often already living below the poverty line.

In conclusion, I urge the Liberal government to strengthen the Canada pension plan and reinforce its basic principles instead of heeding the right wing voices that would destroy it. As well, the government should help to educate Canadians about the strengths of the CPP and help to rebut the distortions and myths that have given rise to a lack of confidence in the future viability of the plan.

Canadian seniors have sacrificed much for my generation through the depression and two world wars. They deserve dignity in retirement. They deserve economic security. I trust that will be the objective of the review of the Canada pension plan.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. Unfortunately, he is a little bit misinformed.

The federal government is certainly not trying to push through a package of cuts to the CPP. It is not trying to destroy the CPP but rather make sure it is there for all of us.

Responsibility for the CPP is shared among the provinces and the federal government. Changes to the CPP require the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population.

The government has been working with the provinces to find balanced changes which both provinces and the federal government can accept to ensure that the CPP is fair and sustainable for current and future generations.

The hon. member also alleges that the federal government has not consulted with Canadians on the CPP. Nothing could be further from the truth. The government and all provinces agreed to a consultation paper which was released last February.

The federal government and all provinces held extensive consultations across the country from mid-April to mid-June. The federal government and all provinces released a report on the consultations in June.

It may be that the hon. member has not read the report and is not aware of what ordinary Canadians think of the CPP. The federal government is continuing to work to find a package of balanced changes which all provinces, including British Columbia and Saskatchewan, can accept. The goal is sustainability and fairness, listening to Canadians' concerns about the CPP and responding with a package of changes that ensure it is there for all of us.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 11 I asked the Minister of Transport, considering the increase in the number of railway-related incidents and accidents in Canada, for a moratorium on the closure of one of the three track maintenance shops operated by CN in Charny, in my riding.

In his answer, the Minister of Transport said:

There are from time to time minor variations among all provinces but essentially when we look at accidents in the various categories in which they are analyzed, there has been a slight increase in some of the derailments but not at all untoward and certainly not out of the ordinary with respect to the normal variation statistics.

I hope this intervention produced some results, since last week I was told that CN had decided to extend the closure date. It will now be November 30 instead of October 30. I had hoped for a longer postponement, but still, a month is better than nothing.

I did not want to let that pass. One question during Oral Question Period is not much. I wanted to explain why, and I had read an article published in Le Soleil on August 15, which said: ``A 50 per cent increase in derailments in Canada during the first seven months of 1996: from 97 in 1995, their number has now reached 146. For the month of July alone, they more than doubled, from 9 to 20''.

I would like to give you some more statistics, since I have a few minutes left. For instance, the number of serious injuries as a result of accidents in 1995 was 40, but the annual average during the five previous years was 24. In 1995, the number of deaths caused by accidents was 87, while before it was 73. The total number of accidents for the last five years has gone up from 632 to 770.

I hardly need recall the figures given by Le Soleil on the number of accidents on the main lines, a main line that goes as far as the Maritimes, where accidents increased by more than 50 per cent.

These figures were not produced by an outside office but by the railway safety service of the Department of Transport, which is the minister's responsibility.

This is not the first time I put this question to the minister. I had done so before, on June 12. And now, months later, after the summer recess, and despite the statistics and what we read in the newspapers, the minister answers: "These variations are not important". We are talking about 50 per cent, Mr. Speaker.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso Nova Scotia


Francis Leblanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to respond on behalf of the Minister of Transport to what was said by the hon. member for Lévis.

The decision by CN to close the Joffre Shop, which is responsible for track maintenance equipment repair and overhaul is a business decision and is not related to safety. Transport Canada cannot examine every business decision made by a private company.

The relocation of the shop in Charny will have no impact on safety. The shop was responsible for the overhaul of track maintenance equipment. Equipment overhaul schedules have been modified to provide for more frequent light maintenance during operations instead of a complete overhaul. The location of the shop responsible for general overhaul has no impact on track maintenance itself. CN has announced that the shop will close on November 30, 1996.

For 1996, the cumulative statistics as of September 30, the most recent figures on main line accidents produced by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, show a drop in the total number of accidents in Quebec and New Brunswick.

This fact is corroborated by the figures of Canadian National, according to which the Champlain district, which covers Quebec and the Maritimes, is the only district where the ratio of main line accidents has dropped between 1995 and 1996. Track maintenance, which is essential to safe operations, will continue with equipment that is always in good condition. Transport Canada works together with the railways in order to provide Canadians with the highest possible level of railway safety.

Transport Canada railway safety officers monitor railway and track maintenance operations, equipment and level crossings to guarantee the safety of our railways. The Railway Safety Act authorizes them to restrict railway operations if they discover unsafe conditions and to impose fines on companies in case of violations.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Hopkins)

A motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.25 p.m.)