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House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I have checked, and employees of our department have had training sessions since the bill became law. They are perfectly aware of how the new legislation will apply.

I have checked and the transition measures have been worked out, and they are to the advantage of workers, in the sense that each week worked in the last 26 weeks will be considered to contain 35 hours.

The only employees not yet trained are those who have no contact with the public, with clients. And those who will begin processing applications referred to them by their colleagues have asked to have these training sessions at the end of January, when the first applications come their way.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it took our researchers several days to come up with the 1-800 number that all unemployed workers in Canada will need to know. Our extensive research showed us that employees were unable to answer the questions put to them. And the minister thinks that the poor folks who will soon be unemployed will have no trouble obtaining all the answers and information they need. It is to weep.

The 1-800 number is to all intents and purposes not in operation at the present time. Three weeks before the system is to start up, and I draw the minister's attention to the coming holiday period, employees have still not been trained to implement the EI system. I ask the minister to tell us what has become of the transition measures that were going to ensure that people moving from the old to the new system received fair treatment? Where are they written down, where can a person see them? That is a clear question.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, what I find encouraging is that it took you three weeks to find the 1-800 number. It is a sign that not too many of those on your team are unemployed.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleagues, I would remind you always to address your comments to the Chair.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 1-800 number has been given out to all those who have received UI benefits since the month of July. This number, and I am giving it out because it is important, is 1-800-276-7655. This number has been given out to anyone who has received EI benefits since the month of July.

I can therefore assure you that the information is available to our people, and that, throughout the country, our people are well trained to receive clients and provide them with very good service.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

Since the minister raised the issue of active measures, let us talk about them. Last week, after several days of questioning and denials, he finally realized that transitional measures were required. The minister will now have to admit that the shift to active

measures is in fact window dressing to hide cuts to the consolidated fund.

Does the minister know that the federal government will spend some $150 million less on active measures in Quebec in 1996-97 than it did in 1993-94? Will the minister recognize that the so-called shift to active measures is nothing but window dressing?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the active measures we are implementing now are designed to break the old cycle of dependency. It is extremely important to put people back to work. We are very happy to have a system that fosters active measures. Over the next few years, an extra $800 million will be added to the $1.9 billion already available, for a total of $2.7 billion.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer my question. Does he know that, in 1993-94, $854 million was spent on active measures in Quebec and that, according to figures I obtained from his own senior officials, this amount will be reduced to about $710 million this year, or some $150 million less? Does he know that?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am always shocked by the attitude of people who like to fiddle around with this figure or that figure. I am glad that our government's transparency seems to be operating in favour of the hon. member for Mercier.

But do we recall the number of times through equalization payments, for instance, made to the Quebec government, Quebec alone receives 47 per cent of all amounts paid in equalization; 47 per cent, that is quite a large share.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday at a CBC town hall meeting, Canadians started to hold the Prime Minister accountable for his broken campaign promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. Lori Foster of Saskatchewan wanted to know why she could not find full time work with three university degrees. Alain Reny of Quebec used his UI to go back to school and upgrade his skills, but still no job. Juanita MacKeigan of Cape Breton wondered how the Prime Minister expected her to start her own business when she does not have enough money to pay the bills.

Canadians could not get a straight answer from the Prime Minister last night so I would like to try today. After three years of being in office, why is it that these Canadians and thousands like them feel that the Prime Minister has broken his number one election promise?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we said that jobs were to be the priority of this government. Over the last three years 672,000 new jobs have been created in Canada.

We have worked very hard to put the finances of the nation in good shape. We have been very successful. Today we have the lowest interest rates in Canada in 40 years. Because we have turned the fundamentals the right way, yesterday we read in the press that last month housing starts rose by 17 per cent. People now believe that they have a future and can borrow money at the lowest rates they have ever known. We have done what is right.

Nobody can promise that there will be a job for everyone in Canada tomorrow. There will always be some unemployed people. What is important is that the government have a priority to create jobs and give everyone an excellent chance to find a job. That is exactly what this government has done.

We wish that we could have created a million jobs, but 672,000 jobs were created. That is the best record of all G-7 countries other than the United States.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, those numbers and that answer did not satisfy the audience last night and those numbers and that answer do not satisfy this House.

The Prime Minister last night told the 17.2 per cent of Canadian young people looking for work: "Go back to school". His answer to the two million to three million people who are underemployed in this country was: "Get a loan and start a business". His answer to the 1.5 million unemployed Canadians was: "Some are lucky. Some are unlucky. That is life". That sounds like rolling the dice with the lives of the unemployed.

Is that really what the Prime Minister has to say to 1.5 million unemployed Canadians, that some are lucky, some are unlucky and that is life? Is that the Prime Minister's position on the unemployed?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is very true that the government has put order into the affairs of the nation. I said that we could not put everybody on the federal payroll. Is that what the leader of the Reform Party is proposing?

We have set the conditions for people to find and create jobs in Canada because the conditions are now the best. When we started, the interest rates were much higher than they are today. Today they are the lowest they have been in 40 years and people can start to work. It is why three-quarters of the jobs have been created by

small businesses in the last three years, and 672,000 new jobs have been created in Canada since this government came to power.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is completely unacceptable for the Prime Minister of this country to tell 1.5 million unemployed Canadians "that's life". That is a tragedy .The policies that were created are a failure. The Prime Minister is the one who promised people jobs, jobs, jobs and gave them the heave ho. He is the one whose jobs strategy is not working. He is the one who will not balance the budget until the next election. He is the one who will not provide the tax relief required to create more jobs.

Instead of wishing unemployed Canadians good luck, why does the Prime Minister not adopt a new jobs strategy? Why does he not balance the budget, lower taxes and facilitate the creation of the millions of jobs required by unemployed Canadians?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in the last budget the government put $350 million new dollars toward helping young people in their search for work. Not long ago for example the Minister of Finance reduced the contributions for employers who are employing new employees, exemptions for EI contributions so that it would be easier to create jobs. Jobs are created by the private sector because the government has decided to put the nation's fiscal house in order, and that is what we have done so far. That is why we are praised around the world. We have been the best in bringing down our deficit and creating the proper conditions for job growth.

SingerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development, the one who is on the workers' side.

The Liberal government is obviously more generous with businesses than with workers, regardless of what the minister may say in his speeches. Indeed, in addition to allowing the non-payment of pension contributions, the federal government also remitted customs duties to Singer, from 1982 to 1986, for an undiscounted amount of $30 million. This is outrageous.

How can the minister justify such generosity toward Singer, when the only compassion he is showing to the retired employees of that company is nothing but hot air? As we say: "With a friend like this, workers do not need enemies".

SingerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, obviously, I was not a government member in the early or mid-eighties. Maybe the hon. member should talk to his friends of the time.

As regards this very important case, I wish to point out that Singer's solicitors asked us to settle out of court. I looked at everything that relates to this issue, and I came to the conclusion that there were no precedents, and my legal advisers said that this very serious issue had to be settled by the courts.

SingerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the minister does not have his little piece of paper, he really has a very hard time answering.

The federal fund that manages private pension plans, including the one for retired Singer employees, is called "government annuities". This fund generates actuarial surpluses of $2 million per year, and these $2 million are put into the federal government's consolidated fund.

SingerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

SingerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

We are getting close to the question. The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

SingerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, will the minister admit that he is currently letting the dispute deteriorate because he wants to get these $2 million and put them into the government's consolidated fund? Instead of settling the basic issue, he is appropriating these $2 million and too bad for his friends, the retired Singer employees.

SingerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, it want to tell you, since we must address the Chair, that we asked our legal advisers to review this extremely important issue. Given the seriousness of the situation, I asked my department's officials to act with great diligence, so that the issue can be settled at the earliest possible moment.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, last night Johanne Savoie from Montreal wanted to know why the Prime Minister had broken his promise to abolish the GST. Instead of giving her a straight answer, the Prime Minister said that he did not make such a promise, but the tape does not lie. During the last campaign when he was asked about the GST, the Prime Minister said publicly on CFRB radio in Toronto: "I will abolish it".

I ask the Prime Minister: Which statement is true? Is it the one he gave Johanne last night when he said that he did not promise to kill the GST, or is it the one he gave on CFRB radio that he did promise to abolish the GST? What will it be, flip or flop?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Reform Party, we put in writing what we were going to do. We said that we were going to modify the GST, that we would harmonize it with the provinces so there would be only one form of taxation.

Not long ago the Reform Party said that was the solution. Reformers applauded the actions of the Minister of Finance. They agreed that it was the proper solution to put provincial tax with the federal tax to make a new tax, a harmonized tax. The GST is not a harmonized tax.