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House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.

Topics

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would like you to address the Chair in all of your statements, please.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

December 10th, 1996 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the heritage minister does not have a reputation for making consistent comments in this House, but there is a limit. For example, when she was appointed heritage minister, she pledged to save Radio Canada International.

Will the heritage minister explain to the House why, barely one year later, she has now decided to shut down Radio Canada International?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, we are all grateful for the work done by the international component of the CBC.

I am pleased to see that the hon. member, who wants to destroy Canada, is nevertheless supportive of the CBC. Now, this shows a lack of consistency in the Bloc Quebecois' policy. These people want to destroy the country, but they also want the CBC to keep broadcasting abroad.

Regardless of that inconsistency on the part of the Bloc, it goes without saying that the government hopes to find the means to allow Radio Canada International to continue its operations. I have had several discussions with my colleagues regarding this issue. We have not found the necessary funds, but we always want to leave the door open.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not inconsistent on our part to defend the CBC. We paid for it, it belongs to us as much as it belongs to the rest of Canada. Once we have decided to become sovereign and the only thing left to do is to change the name, we will do so.

How could the minister pledge, before the Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal, that Radio Canada International would continue to exist as long as she would be Minister of Canadian Heritage?

Is the minister doing the number that she did with the GST?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

No, Mr. Speaker.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the premise of the Deputy Prime Minister's response is false. The member for Simcoe Centre referred to Prime Ministers from Quebec's having led this country to ruin. That was the quote, Mr. Prime Minister.

The throne speech referred to all Canadians having a say in the future of their country. The premier of Ontario is a supporter of referenda but he also has his priorities right. He wants to talk about jobs and the economy, not the Constitution.

The premiers of the three most populated provinces, including Quebec, are against distinct society, yet the Prime Minister ignores them.

In order to ensure that the will of the Canadian public, not this government, is reflected in any constitutional change, will the Deputy Prime Minister assure this House that the question on distinct society will be put to a national referendum?

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I happen to have a copy of the article that was in the Examiner written by Bob Bruton in which the member for Simcoe Centre was quoted as saying: ``French Canadian prime ministers have led this country down the road to ruin. The mood of the people across Canada is that they are not doing a good job. The mood is that maybe we should try someone else''.

That kind of vicious rhetoric, applauded by his colleagues in the Reform Party, is an unfortunate reflection of why this party is becoming more and more marginalized-

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is vicious around here is catering to the separatists, the distinct society.

The Prime Minister was against distinct society in the Meech Lake accord. Then he was for it in Charlottetown. He was against raising it in last year's referendum and now he is for it.

Could the Deputy Prime Minister explain to this House why Canadians should support the idea that the Prime Minister himself waffles on and for which does not have the support of the public or of the premiers of Canada's three largest provinces, including Quebec?

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would refer the hon. member to his own comments. His comments were not about separatists. They were about French Canadian prime ministers.

There is no one in this country who has fought harder to bring people together, to build bridges, than Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

When the member labels French Canadians as separatist, he does every Canadian a disservice.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, please do not refer to each other by your names but by your ridings.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the decision to shut down Radio Canada International was announced. But the minister had promised, she had given her word, that Radio Canada International would remain open as long as she was the minister. The Minister of Canadian Heritage recently had to resign for not keeping her word over the GST.

Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage tell us why she is still the Minister of Canadian Heritage today, after once again failing to keep her word and save Radio Canada International?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the door is still open as far as Radio Canada International is concerned.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister renege on her promise to save Radio Canada International when we all know what the solution is? Everyone knows it and it has been clearly shown that, in making budget choices, she herself has decided to waste $43 million: $20 million on the propaganda agency operating under the name of Canada Information Office and $23 million on the flag project, when all she would need to save Radio Canada International is $16 million?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that the decision not to fund half of Radio Canada International was made by the board of directors of the CBC. I hope that the hon. member is not suggesting that we force the CBC to spend money outside of its mandate.

That having been said, there is no doubt that I have worked and continue to work with my colleagues in government. We have been unsuccessful in finding alternate funding to cover the money lost because of the CBC's budgetary problems, but we have not shut the door on anything and, if at all possible, we would like to work together, in co-operation, to find a solution like we did last year.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this exchange on Radio Canada International gives us an idea of just how far out of touch and out of control this minister is. She has absolutely no idea what is going on within her own department.

Radio Canada International's closing was announced in December last year and we had 125 people working for Radio Canada International who did not have any idea what their future was going to be. And now it has been announced again in December this year. What in the world is going on? Why does she not have some kind of idea of where the funding will come from for functions within her very own department?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, if the member actually took the time to examine the estimates of the government he would know that RCI actually falls under the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a news release from the minister dated March 21, 1996: "The enormous outpouring of support for RCI, both within Canada and around the world, has persuaded us that it is a vital voice for Canada which we must maintain. "While we have managed to put together a financial package for the coming fiscal year, all the parties with an interest in RCI must now work together to develop a long term funding solution".

She was responsible, according to this news release of March 21, 1996, yet she has done absolutely nothing, has put the jobs of 125 people at risk and has closed down the voice of Canada internationally.

Why does she not get her act together? Why did she not have some funding in place so that we would not be going through this fire drill with nobody in charge?

Radio Canada InternationalOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, once again I am encouraged by the hon. member's support for Radio Canada because unfortunately when we as a government announced the rescue package last March this very member spoke out against it. This is the same member who recently passed a minority committee report in which he said: "A national federally funded television broadcaster is not essential". This is the position that he took before the standing committee on heritage.

Perhaps if he could bring the same clarity of thought to the House of Commons as he did to the committee, then with the support of the Reform Party, the support of Bloc and the support of Canadians we could keep this very vital voice alive.

Canadian FlagOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the heritage minister.

In letters she sent to cultural organizations confirming grants, the heritage minister asked them to display and promote the Canadian flag, and to encourage pride in Canadian citizenship. Federal government grants to cultural organizations therefore now depend on these organizations taking part in Heritage Canada's propaganda campaign.

Is the heritage minister aware that in these and all her other dealings she comes across not as the minister of heritage but as the minister of propaganda?

Canadian FlagOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of my country and I am proud of my flag.

I find it completely consistent with my cultural responsibilities, just as Quebec's Minister of Culture wants taxpayers to know where provincial grants come from. We made the same request. Our request is exactly the same as that made by Louise Beaudoin, Quebec's Minister of Culture.

Canadian FlagOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am only too pleased to inform the House officially that it does not happen like that in Quebec. All grants are made by the Conseil des arts et de la culture, and nothing comes from the minister herself.

What the heritage minister would really like is to go down in history as the minister who put all those flags out there.

Does the heritage minister realize that, by making the promotion of culture, unity and the Canadian flag a prerequisite for obtaining grants from her department, she is trying to harness culture to political partisanship?

Canadian FlagOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, as usual, the Bloc Quebecois does not have all the facts. We never required that the flag be flown. We encouraged it, just as Mme Beaudoin did.

When festivals are financially supported by Canadian taxpayers, it is only natural that the Government of Canada should be recognized. For my part, as long as I live in a country called Canada, I will never be ashamed to fly my flag.

Nuclear EnergyOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada has agreed to import a small quantity of plutonium fuel for testing purposes at the research centre in Chalk River, Ontario. This naturally concerns many Canadians.

Could the minister say what concrete assurances she can provide this House that this action is not compromising the safety of Canadians and that appropriate monitoring procedures will be put in place?

Nuclear EnergyOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the hon. member and all Canadians in relation to the announcement made yesterday by my counterpart, U.S. secretary of energy Hazel O'Leary.

First, I want to remind colleagues that Canada has a lengthy history in terms of advocating the destruction of nuclear weapons. Colleagues will remember that in April the Prime Minister attended the safety and security summit in Moscow where he said that Canada had agreed in principle to look at the prospect of burning weapons grade plutonium in CANDU reactors.

Yesterday my counterpart, the U.S. secretary of energy, announced the conclusion of phase one of an American study to determine safe and secure methods for disposal of weapons grade plutonium. The CANDU reactor is one of the three options that appears on that list. In fact, what now becomes necessary is to do a fuel test in relation to the utility on the CANDU.

What I want to do today is reassure all members of this House that the fuel test is going to be conducted under the most stringent safety and security measures put in place, regulated and monitored by the Atomic Energy Control Board.