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


Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order regarding the question raised by the hon. member for Beaver River. I understand that you have settled the issue by saying that it was a mistake on the part of your staff, who refused to print the document. But the real question is this: are we to understand that there are people at the printing shop who make it their business to communicate to the Prime Minister's Office all the documents that members send over to the printing shop to have them printed?

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

As I said, it is a question that I raised myself. It is something that was done, but that will no longer be done. It was a mistake, and it should not have happened. It is as simple as that. You can be sure it will not happen again because I say so.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us would acknowledge that this is a difficult time for our country given the problems we have experienced with respect to national unity, et cetera. I think all Canadians would want to know that in the House of Commons as wide a spectrum of views as possible generated by them through elections and the electoral process is expressed. In view of this, I rise on a point of order to seek the unanimous consent of the House that following the spokespersons of the three official parties in the House in the address in reply to the speech from the throne that a representative of the New sDemocratic Party be allowed to speak. With a view to increasing the representativeness of the House at this difficult time, I think everyone should be heard.

I ask that we be allowed to be heard after the first three speakers.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. In fact in the same spirit that my colleague made his comments and in the same spirit that we heard comments from representatives of the Reform Party yesterday on the issue of fairness, I rise today to ask the same consent.

Today is the day when the leaders will have an opportunity to reply to the speech from the throne. There was a lot said about national unity in yesterday's speech, and you certainly know that last November, when we-the New Democrats and the Conservatives-tried to take part in the debate on the distinct society resolution, we were denied unanimous consent by the opposition parties, namely the Bloc and Reform.

Since that time, and I will be very brief here, I am happy to say that the present leader of the Bloc Quebecois has promised publicly on the radio in Sherbrooke to see to it that the leader of the Conservative Party has the opportunity to speak more often in the House of Commons. Therefore, it is in that spirit that we are now asking the consent of the House to have an opportunity to reply today to the speech from the throne.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as far as the government is concerned, we would be willing to allow a twenty minute period to each party, as was requested, for speeches. We will pleased, for our part anyway, to accept this request.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we stood in the House during the last session to explain that judgments were made on this question following the arguments put forward by NDP and Conservative members at the time. I believe that the same judgment must be made today. We will not give our consent, and the leader of the Bloc Quebecois explained, or tried to explain, to the leader of the Conservative Party that if he wanted to take part in the debate, there was an essential condition: he had to be here more often.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent that the members be permitted to put the motion?

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament I am sure that I have made errors and staff members have made mistakes.

I want a ruling from you, Mr. Speaker. The fact that someone makes a mistake, does that exempt it from being a breach of a member's privilege? I would like clarification from the Chair. Is an honest mistake or a dishonest mistake not cause or not eligible to be a breach of privilege?

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I have already ruled on this particular matter but I would invite the hon. member if he would like to pursue the conversation with me to do so in my chambers, as I would any other members on this particular issue.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would like the record to show that when a chance came for a federalist party to be heard on the floor of this House of Commons, given all the crocodile tears by the Reform Party, they were silent.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, speaking to the point of order, the status in this House of any party was determined by rules when the Reform Party came here. The hon. members that have-

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Points Of OrderRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the House leader of the New Democratic Party that I am prepared on behalf of the Reform caucus to have discussions with him. The hon. House leader has extended a letter to me. I intend to follow that up and look at possible ways we can facilitate his involvement in the House.

I would also like to say to the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party that my leader extended an invitation to him to discuss how he could participate in the House in a further way and he rejected that offer. That offer was rejected so why should I open the door today?

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion of Mrs. Sheridan for an Address to His Excellency the Governor General in reply to his Speech at the opening of the session.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 1996 / 3:25 p.m.

Roberval Québec


Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, today will be my first speech in this House as the new Leader of the Official Opposition. I imagine hon. members will be interested to know where the member for Roberval will be coming from.

Let me reassure the House, first of all, that I intend to continue the tradition of respect and deference for the institution. Above all else, we in the official opposition want to contribute towards raising the level of the debate. We look forward to a debate that is calm and respectful of the rules of this House, in the same democratic spirit that has always characterized the Bloc Quebecois, even when addressing its fundamental opposition to this country. We expect and look forward to seeing the same respect and a similar spirit among our colleagues opposite and of course among the members of the third party.

I may add that while we will undoubtedly represent the interests of Quebec, we also intend to promote and defend the interests of Canada as a whole, as we have done for the past two years. We will do this systematically, case by case. In other words, although mindful of our roots, we are the official opposition and we willingly accept a role that goes well beyond the party line.

Yesterday when we heard the speech from the throne read by the Governor General of Canada, we had the distinct impression the government does not realize something has changed profoundly in Canada since the Quebec referendum on October 30.

Since then, the final outcome of that battle has led many Canadians to see the sovereignty of Quebec as inevitable. The reactions of Canadians to that event were at times diametrically opposed to those of their leaders.

We saw our English speaking fellow citizens getting together to form new interest groups such as Dialogue Canada, British Columbians for Canada, Canadians Together and Civitas Canada.

Their members meet to discuss ways to define a new Canada, often without Quebec. The reactions of political leaders, however, have been immature and sometimes inconsistent. Verbal overkill and aggressive language have reached heights never equalled in the history of a country that has enjoyed such a long tradition of democracy. We saw ministers contradict each other, even today. We even heard a new Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs mention the partition of Quebec as a possibility.

We saw a good example of the conciliatory approach in a recent statement by Ovide Mercredi, the Chief of the First Nations, who in no uncertain terms condemned the remarks of the Minister of Indian Affairs, and I quote:

"The minister of Indian affairs does not speak for the Indian people when he raises the spectre of violence. I take great exception to that. He had no business to heighten the tension between us and the people of Quebec".

At the same time he launched an appeal for a dialogue with Quebecers and the government of Quebec. That is the kind of consistent approach this government has sadly lacked during the past few weeks.

However, one would expect our leaders to set a premium on wisdom and calm, especially the Prime Minister, who now seems unable to control either his ministers or his own actions. We on this side of the House draw some consolation from the fact that English Canada does not resemble its leaders and has shown it understands what is really at stake: the need for coexistence of the two peoples.

The inevitability of Quebec's sovereignty is only a first step. For us in the Bloc Quebecois, sovereignty is as unavoidable as partnership is desirable in the interests of Canada and Quebec. We know that partnership implies respect for the other partner and it is that new wisdom we would like to see demonstrated on the part of the government.

The inevitability of Quebec's sovereignty is only a first step. For us in the Bloc Quebecois sovereignty is as unavoidable as partnership is desirable in the interests of Canada and Quebec. We know that partnership implies respect for the older partner and it is that new wisdom that we would like to see demonstrated on the part of the government.

Sovereignty and partnership are both part of the same equation and part and parcel of the strategy of the Bloc Quebecois. Meanwhile, we have a mandate to defend the interests of Quebec and condemn the inequities and injustices that are often its lot. We must not forget it was the exercise of democracy that made the Bloc Quebecois the official opposition, a status we fully intend to keep.

But what will it take for the other side of the House to start to recognize that federalism cannot be changed?

What will it take for the other side of the House to start to recognize that federalism cannot be changed?

Stéphane Dion said not long ago that the Massé Committee had A and B plans to deal with the problem of Quebec. Is he not aware of all the commissions and committees we had in the past: Laurendeau-Dunton, Pepin-Robarts, Charest-Spicer, Castonguay-Dobbie, Beaudoin-Dobbie, Beaudoin-Edwards? The federalists have had as many plans as there are letters in the alphabet. The real solution, the longlasting solution, the real plan is sovereignty for Quebec with an offer of partnership.

Following the referendum result, we have to wonder at the attitude of the Prime Minister of Canada. He has knowingly kept Canadians in ignorance of what is happening in Quebec; the increase in the number of sovereignty supporters caused in part by the dissatisfaction of Quebecers. With the federal government policies this very significant phenomenon has been concealed by the Prime Minister.

This refusal to explain the situation clearly to Canadians during the referendum campaign largely explains English Canada's reactions now.

The Prime Minister acted like nothing had happened in this country in the past 15 years, as if he himself had not had a major role in the course of events. He is, however, an integral part of Canada's problem; he seems to have forgotten that. Maybe he was not involved in the unilateral patriation of 1982. But he was one of the signatories as we well know. Maybe he did not speak out on the Meech Lake accord, but he was one of those who helped bury it. Maybe he played no part in the Charlottetown referendum; except that we know he did everything possible to reduce Quebec's share in this agreement, which was rejected. And, while we are at it, maybe there was no referendum in Quebec. Maybe the surveys are not indicating that support for sovereignty continues to rise.

This irresponsible attitude coupled with the deplorable prevarication so ably exemplified by the Minister of Canadian Heritage in her remark to the effect that it was the fault of the separatists that the unemployed were demonstrating all across the country. Any unemployed individual in the Prime Minister's way deserves to be grabbed by the throat, as are all the unemployed as the result of the minister's reform. In any case, it is always the fault of the separatists, and for the Deputy Prime Minister this justifies all actions.

We can only hope that cabinet pulls itself together and returns to an analysis of the situation that considers what is really going on.

Until Quebec becomes sovereign, we will play by the rules, especially because it is our best interest to have our future partner in optimum political and economic health. The fact that Canada's economic health is of concern to us is in large measure due to the actions of the present government, which, in 1993, made firm and specific commitments it subsequently failed to keep for the most part. Had it done so, our economy would have grown, but it did not. Two years later, let us have a look at what the government did with its own commitments, those in the red book and those in the first throne speech.

Quebecers and Canadians thought there was hope when the Liberals undertook in their red book to, and I quote, "-redistribute opportunity more broadly so that many more people have a decent standard of living and can build good lives for themselves and their families, allowing them to live with dignity and respect-". Yet, with the first Liberal budget, barely a few months after an electoral campaign waxing passionately over the disadvantaged, our fellow citizens were blown away.

The Minister of Finance announced up front that he was going to cut $5.6 billion from the unemployment insurance program. Last fall, he added to that by introducing into this House Bill C-111, commonly and cynically known as the employment insurance bill. It too provides for major cuts in funding to those who are or could become the victims of this scourge of underemployment.

Never once, during the electoral campaign, in the fall of 1993, or in the speech from the throne was there any hint that the fight against the deficit would involve humiliating those in need, who are trying desperately to avoid abject poverty.

Quebecers and Canadians did not suspect that, when the government said it wanted to achieve sustained economic growth by counting on human resources, it meant that it would, through Bill C-111, launch an attack against the unemployed now and in the future, as no Canadian is immune from this plague.

No one suspected that Quebecers and Canadians would face a substantial increase in the number of weeks of work required to qualify for benefits, that this government would drastically reduce the level of benefits, or that it would force tens of thousands of households onto welfare in the next three years.

This government did not make a commitment to attack women. Yet, women are the big losers of this reform. It did not make a commitment to rob the UI fund-to which the federal government

stopped contributing several years ago-of its annual $5 billion surplus, which comes solely from worker and employer contributions. Yet, that is what it has done.

Few people would have believed that the Liberals who solemnly rose in this House to condemn the Tories' actions would do worse in two years than their predecessors did over two mandates. It is certainly not on that basis that the Liberals gained the trust of Canadians in October 1993.

As for the commitment to keep the deficit under control through sound management of government finances, we are far from it. They are reducing the deficit mostly by unscrupulously using UI fund surpluses and by cutting $7 billion from transfers to the provinces for health, post-secondary eduction and social assistance. In Quebec alone, these drastic cuts will translate into an additional tax burden of $650 million in 1996-97 and a $1.2 to $2 billion shortfall in 1997-98, depending on how the cuts will be distributed. If it is done based on the population, Quebec alone will sustain 40 per cent of all cuts.

On October 20, 1993, during an interview on the television program "Canada AM", the current Prime Minister had this to say about transfers to the provinces, and I quote:

"We said in our platform we do not intend to reduce the transfer payments. What I said in the program, and I intend to keep my word, is we do not intend to cut further".

In fact, budget targets are not pursued through sound management but by cutting benefits to the unemployed and transfers to the provinces.

The Minister of Finance's commitment is to limit debt growth. Our debt will exceed $600 billion this year.

As far as employment is concerned, the promises made to Canadians and Quebecers have not been kept, although the Liberals had made it the cornerstone of their election platform. But what really happened on the labour market, while Quebecers and Canadians were hearing that tune ad nauseam? Decline and stagnation.

Our economic difficulties have had serious consequences on the employment situation. In the last 12 months, only 120,000 new jobs have been created in Canada, almost four times less than the year before. Not only was employment stagnant, but participation in the labour force dropped. This situation cannot be tolerated in the long term, because it would impoverish the entire population.

In fact, Canada's unemployment rate has not budged and, if we take into account the reduction in the labour force participation rate, it has even risen by half a point. It is not the federal government but exports that drive the economy and keep it from sinking into a recession.

As for Montreal, the Liberal government did nothing to improve the situation in that area and to prevent one of the worst employment crises in its history. What did the government do to help Montreal restructure its economy? Nothing, Mr. Speaker.

Two years after the Liberals came to power, the people of Montreal are still waiting. In light of this neglectful attitude, is it any wonder that the greater Montreal area, which was to be the driving force of the Quebec economy, has the highest unemployment rate of any major urban centre in North America, or 10.1 per cent? That is unacceptable.

Is it any wonder that the labour force participation rate has dropped from 67 per cent to 63 per cent since 1989? This means that four per cent of the labour force, or 40,000 people, have given up all hope of finding a job. They do not even show up in official unemployment statistics any more, but they remain jobless, discouraged and underemployed, and are gradually being dragged into the vicious circle of poverty.

If you include those who have stopped actively seeking work since 1989 because they have given up hope, the unemployment rate in the Montreal area actually rises from 10.1 to 15 per cent. What is the federal government doing about that? Absolutely nothing. This is one more promise the Liberals have broken.

What has become of the promise to eliminate the GST? We will recall that the red book stated, on page 20, and I quote:

-the GST undermined public confidence in the fairness of the tax system.

The GST has lengthened and deepened the recession. It is costly for small business to administer and very expensive for the government to collect.

What did this government do? Nothing. What did the government do in 1993-94 to collect $6.6 billion in unpaid taxes? Nothing, or almost nothing. Only $250 million was collected on $6.6 billion in unpaid taxes. A mere $250 million amounts to almost nothing in that case.

Also, what has become of the fairer tax system we were promised? We will come back to it later because this is a very important issue that needs to be discussed further.

As for culture, we would have expected such a significant vote for a sovereignist party to bring about a more open-minded attitude toward the people and culture of Quebec. What did the government do about that? Nothing. The Canadian heritage legislation totally overlooked the existence of a Quebec culture.

The Liberals promised $1 billion would be earmarked for the science and technology policy. God knows how important it is to invest in that area, for the future of the Canadian economy and our

ability to create good steady jobs. We are still waiting. Nothing has been done.

The list goes on and, while listing all the promises this government has not kept during the first part of its mandate is certainly tedious, it is nevertheless necessary in order to see the extent to which they failed to honour their commitments. Canadians deserve to know where they stand in this regard.

The January 18, 1994, throne speech read in part, and I quote:

On October 25, 1993, Canadians chose a new Parliament and a new government. The Government has made a number of commitments to the people of Canada. They will be implemented.

That is what the last throne speech said, yet the list of commitments that were not fulfilled appears endless.

How can the people of Quebec and Canada believe in the policies and commitments set out in this speech from the throne? How could they be expected to trust a government that trampled most of its commitments underfoot? That was the government's record of unfulfilled undertakings.

Yet, some things needed to be done in the last two years. We kept saying that, to put our fiscal house in order, a tax reform was necessary, particularly as regards tax expenditures, which include all the exemptions granted to individuals and businesses.

Mr. Speaker, do you know that, in a December 1993 document on tax expenditures, the Department of Finance listed 288 tax exemptions available to businesses? The department candidly admitted that 176 of these exemptions cost over $17 billion, adding that it did not know the dollar figure for the other 112 exemptions. This is unbelievable. And what has the government done since? Absolutely nothing.

The lack of accurate information on tax expenditures compels us to demand that a review and a reform of the taxation system be undertaken. In fact, we suggested that even before this comprehensive reform the government should set a minimum tax on corporations' profits, not to unduly increase their tax burden, but to ensure that each and everyone of them makes a contribution to the Treasury.

Last December, the International Monetary Fund, which is not recognized for its social-democratic convictions, proved the Bloc Quebecois right as regards corporate taxation. The December 8 issue of La Presse provided a summary of the IMF report, which made a comparison between Canada and the other OECD countries. The article read: ``Corporate taxation represents a smaller proportion of the GDP in Canada. This leads us to believe that it may be possible to reduce some of the tax benefits granted to companies''.

Let me also say that, under my leadership, tax reform will be, in 1996, the official opposition's main target as regards public finances. We do not seek to impose an unfair tax burden on businesses. We simply want them to pay their fair share. Corporate income tax now accounts for a smaller proportion of the federal government's tax levy, while the contribution made by individual taxpayers has increased.

This means that the government is overburdening the middle classes with taxes, while also targeting the poor in order to reduce its deficit. This does not make sense. Contrary to what was said in yesterday's speech, this lack of compassion for the poor is, in the case of this government, also accompanied by a tax avoidance policy that benefits the most powerful people, this at a time when major companies are reporting record profits and laying off people.

The government's approach, which is patterned on what is being done abroad, protects the corporate tax system in the hope that large corporations will create jobs. But the fact is that, while profits are increasing, jobs are disappearing.

GM Canada reported record profits of $1.39 billion, while at the same time laying off 2,500 employees. Total profits for the five major banks reached $4.9 billion, but 2,800 jobs were cut. In 1995, Bell Canada recorded profits of $502 million, but also eliminated 3,200 jobs, this in addition to the 8,000 already lost since 1990. Petro-Canada's profits totalled $196 million in 1995, but the company eliminated 564 jobs.

In conclusion, the time has come for the government to review its analyses and its priorities, so as to ensure that all businesses do their share as regards taxation and job creation. We have no choice but to say that, in this regard, the Liberal Party's economic program is a dismal failure.

Unfortunately, in light of yesterday's speech from the throne, the government seems to be deliberately pursuing a tax avoidance policy which benefits large corporations and which even condones such practices as the use of tax havens, practices that are questionable, to say the least.

In the July 1995 issue of the trade journal of the Canadian chartered accountants-not so long ago-it was recognized that almost all of the major multinational corporations of Canada used foreign affiliates as part of their financial strategy.

In plain language, one could say that a Canadian corporation that operates a foreign affiliate under certain conditions can practically get away with paying almost no tax on the profits its affiliate made outside of Canada. However, we do have a few indicators that give us an idea of the amount of tax revenue that can be lost this way. The auditor general told us that, according to the most recent statistics, Canadian companies invest billions of dollars in non-resident corporations and that these corporations have received

hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends they do not have to report.

These tax havens, which are well known to the financial establishment, have very nice names like Barbados, Cyprus, Ireland, Liberia, the Caiman Islands et even Switzerland.

Tax havens have never been so popular. Here are some figures I hope the Prime Minister and the government will take time to consider.

According to International Privacy Corporation, a company specializing in tax havens, it deals with hundreds of Canadian clients. Moreover, of the 16,000 companies incorporated in Turks and Caicos, the majority belong to Canadian interests. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested outside Canada.

A few years back, the tax section of the Harris & Harris law firm, in Toronto, had 30 to 40 client companies set up for tax avoidance purposes. It now has more than 300.

Interestingly enough, of the 119 branches of the six major Canadian banks, 57 are operating in the West Indies, in the Cayman Islands. Over there, they have 28,000 corporations for 30,000 inhabitants. The number of companies increases by 4,000 every year.

Under these circumstances, the Minister of Finance could have a more balanced tax policy and go easy with cuts to the Canada assistance plan and established program financing. He could show some compassion, let the unemployed and the welfare recipients breathe a little easier and go after the right targets.

In 1996, in what the United Nations call the International Anti-Poverty Year, it is deplorable that the federal government chooses to go after the poor instead of tackling poverty. Given the employment crisis, this is not a good time to reduce the deficit by cutting programs for the unemployed, especially since there is a surplus in the unemployment insurance fund.

As for the shortage of jobs, the performance of the Liberals has been worse than that of the Conservatives. The rates under the Liberal government are worse than what we saw under the Conservatives. This same Liberal government has tried in almost every way to show its interest in the jobless and its commitment to job creation.

At the end of 1995 the major Canadian urban centres, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, had unemployment rates higher than that of the large American cities.

The situation in Canada is worse than anywhere else in North America. The deficit shovelling into the provinces' backyards, undertaken by the Conservatives and carried on by the Liberals, has led to an increase in welfare recipients. The number of welfare recipients in Canada went up by 800,000 between 1990 and 1994, an increase of 35 per cent. In Ontario, their number rose by 45 per cent over the last five years. To make matters worse, provinces have had to cut benefits because the federal government has reduced its transfer payments. In 1993, the Liberal Party promised to give Canadians the dignity of a job. Can you imagine that, Mr. Speaker.

What it did, really, is introduce a new poverty culture. In 1980, 16 per cent of Canadians were below the low income cut off. In 1994, 17.1 of them were, and that is more than 5 million people. Not only is poverty not declining, but the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider.

There is no improvement in sight either for those most in need, that is single parent women. In 1994, 56.4 per cent of them were below the low income cut off, a percentage that has not fluctuated for years.

As if things were not bad enough, Statistics Canada reported on January 24 that poverty is a status that is hereditary. Those who are poor have every chance of staying poor.

The feature that used to set Canada and the U.S. apart, that is our safety net, is collapsing. More and more, in both countries, poverty breeds poverty and wealth breeds wealth, and the middle class in slowly but surely sinking into poverty.

The Bloc Quebecois does not oppose social program reform. Indeed, it repeatedly reaffirmed that all social programs should be modernized, and adjusted to our way of life, to the labour market and to the economy of the 1990s.

The government has to acknowledge the consensus that has emerged in Quebec that it should be the sole policy maker as far as manpower and occupational training are concerned. This means that Quebec must regain control and administration of employment and manpower services. These matters should be under Quebec jurisdiction, unconditionally. I certainly hope the federal government will finally understand that.

That is why the official opposition asks the government to do its homework, and not reinstate Bill C-111. We think this bill is unjust, regressive, detrimental to jobs and a source of poverty. Let the government drop that bill.

Instead of cutting social programs, the Minister of Finance should turn to the national defence budget. There, he would find plenty of savings to be made. For example, the government should give up this idea of buying or leasing, at any price, submarines it has never been proven we need; it should replace only a limited number of shipborne helicopters and it should not insist on submarine warfare capability for them. In the current state of world affairs, it is a luxury we cannot afford. We could have saved $2

billion by not ordering the new armoured vehicles. That purchase was never really justified. And what about the 1,600 new anti-tank missiles, ordered at a cost of $23.6 million in an overall weapons acquisition program of $230 million. These are expenditures a government that respects its citizens could reconsider instead of cutting benefits to the unemployed.

Instead of taking money away from the unemployed and the welfare recipients, the government should review its strategy, impose a moratorium on new purchases, and allow its acquisition projects to be debated in the House so that members of Parliament can discuss them and indicate to Canadians why the government should stop pouring their money into projects of dubious importance.

In foreign affairs, the Liberal Party has, in the last two years, put an end to the very old Canadian tradition of giving top priority to human rights.

The new foreign policy statement "Canada in the World" confirms the about-face of the government which is now pursuing only its commercial interests at the expense of promoting democracy and human rights, as is shown by Team Canada's commercial missions.

From now on, human rights will come after commercial imperatives. Let me give you two examples that clearly show this new attitude on the part of the Canadian government. While in India, the Prime Minister was reminded by a young Canadian of the mass exploitation if not the enslavement of children. It is appropriate here to pay special tribute to this 13-year old Canadian, Craig Kielburger, who, by his courageous condemnation, reminded the Prime Minister that Canada's foreign policy used to promote human rights.

Everybody recognizes the importance of opening our country to international markets. Exports are the backbone of the Canadian economy. But, even when he is doing what is best, the Prime Minister has to turn everything into a show. During his trips abroad with Team Canada, the Prime Minister makes sure that human rights are well out of the spotlight and takes care to surround himself by a huge propaganda machine that streeses the form rather than the substance of the agreements. That is the lesson that the young Kielburger taught the Prime Minister.

Finally, the Bloc Quebecois will be the defender of the cultural uniqueness of Quebec. In North America, Quebec's culture is unique and must be treated as such. As communications and new information technologies become more and more important, Quebec's culture must take the place it deserves. Quebec must not be kept out of the decision-making process in this area. Yet all the powers in the area of telecommunications, which is vital to the future of Quebec's culture, are in the hands of the federal government.

Quebec must no longer be considered as a province just like any other province. The Bloc Quebecois must force the federal government to recognize Quebec's cultural uniqueness. It intends to hound the federal government until the funds allocated to francophone cultural institutions are readjusted to reflect the need to protect Quebec's culture which is constantly threatened in a mostly anglophone environment of more than 250 million people.

Right now, at the CBC, the English network receives double what the French network receives on average for one hour of production. This inequity is unacceptable and unjustified, especially considering that, in 1976-77, the average hourly cost of programming was shared equally between the two networks. Equity must be restored.

The Bloc Quebecois must also ensure that federal decisions relating to the information highway preserve the cultural uniqueness of Quebec. The federal government is giving private businesses complete freedom for defining the content of the information highway. Yet the government has certain means at its disposal for the development of a Canadian and a Quebec content in the area of radio and television broadcasting. The Bloc Quebecois must see to it that the federal government does not rob Quebec's culture of its importance by lowering it to the level of a Canadian subculture. Quebec's culture is the culture of a people, of a real people.

In its speech from the throne, the federal government has finally admitted that it has interfered, and still does, in areas under exclusive provincial jurisdiction. In the same breath, it undertakes to withdraw from certain areas and it even has the nerve to claim that it will turn over these areas of jurisdiction, which are not its own, to municipal governments or to the private sector. This is a strange way indeed of reversing policy.

This behaviour is in line with the federal government's historical tendency to mess up federal-provincial relations.

Once again, the federal government is trying to isolate Quebec, by suggesting that it could use its spending power to create new cost-shared programs in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. What takes the cake is that creating new programs would only require a simple majority of provinces.

Worst of all, the government is intimating that it might hold a cross-Canada referendum. It must be clearly understood that Quebecers will never let their future be settled by a Canadian referendum.

In conclusion, we believe it to be essential for the House to be presented with a plan containing the following elements. This might provide the Prime Minister with food for thought and it might steer him in the right direction. First of all, the federal government must put its fiscal house in order by reducing its expenditures and eliminating waste; re-establishing tax justice in this country, especially with regard to big corporations; implementing a true and moderate reform of social programs instead of cutting them; creating jobs, especially in the high tech sector, since Canada is the OECD country which invests the least in this area. This is incredible. Should the government be reminded that grey matter is this country's main resource?

Consequently, we want to move the following amendment to the throne speech. I move, seconded by my colleague, the House leader and member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie:

That, the following words be added to the Address: This House deplores that Your Excellency's advisers have demonstrated a lack of vision in the face of the fundamental issues confronting Quebec and Canada, such as job creation, better administration of public funds, the re-establishment of fiscal justice for all, the recognition of Montreal as the economic hub of Quebec society, the need to protect Quebec culture;

And show a lack of sensitivity toward the poor by proposing a reform of the social programs that strikes at those who are unemployed or on welfare, as well as seniors and students;

And show a total lack of understanding of the referendum results.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating the member for Roberval on his appointment as the Leader of the Opposition.

I must tell you that, in my student days at the Séminaire de Joliette, the students from Roberval and Saint-Félicien who had been requested to leave the Collège de Chicoutimi for being somewhat over-exuberant transferred to Joliette, and I became very good friends with some of them. In those days I would never have believed for a minute that one day I would be sitting in this House, as Prime Minister, across the way from a leader of the opposition from Roberval, almost next door to my riding. I felt I must make particular mention of this coincidence, and I offer the traditional wish of good luck to the Leader of the Opposition-not too much, but just enough to make the debates interesting and profitable for us all.

I would like to congratulate the member for Saskatoon-Humboldt-

-and the member for Ottawa-Vanier, for their excellent presentations yesterday in the House of Commons.

They took me back in time with a bit of nostalgia, because I was a rooky MP for Saint-Maurice at the time of the Pearson government's second throne speech, and had the privilege and honour of speaking on that occasion. I know that they both have done their constituents proud.

We were very pleased with the member for Saskatoon-Humboldt. I would like to congratulate her on the quality of her French. It was pretty good. We were all impressed. She was probably not born when I made my speech but my English was not as good as her French is.

The member for Ottawa-Vanier is a Franco-Ontarian. There are a million francophones in Canada who are not Quebecers and who are deeply attached to, and proud of, their culture and their language. The member's speech yesterday demonstrated the vitality of the francophone community outside Quebec. We on this side of the House will never abandon francophones who have shown such courage and been so ably represented here.

This new session of Parliament marks the mid-point in the mandate of our government. We are halfway through our term, setting new goals, meeting new challenges and building on the accomplishments of two years and four months in office.

It is often said that to know where you are going, you must remember where you have been. I will add that you should remember where you started. I remember where this government started just over two years ago.

We inherited a country which was indeed in economic trouble. Unemployment was more than 11 per cent, the deficit was $42 billion and growing every year. The economic malaise that we inherited was only half of the picture. As deep and destructive was the distrust and cynicism that Canadians felt toward their own government. Ministers served in the federal government who did not even believe in Canada. The taint of scandal forced the resignation of minister after minister and the business of government was dominated by lobbyists and fixers. This was the scene when we took office in 1993.

This government rolled up its sleeves and got to work to turn things around. And turn things around we have.

We came to government with a plan, the red book. In the last session of Parliament we passed almost 100 government bills and implemented almost three-quarters of our red book commitments. But these statistics do not tell the whole story: That more than half a million new jobs have been created in the Canadian economy since we took office; that the unemployment rate has fallen by two

points to under 10 per cent for the first time in half a decade; that after years of empty promises and deferred actions, the federal government is finally getting its fiscal house in order.

At the end of the new fiscal year we will have reduced our deficit to GDP ratio from more than 6 per cent to 3 per cent as promised in the red book, from $42 billion to $24 billion. Next year it will be 2 per cent, another per cent lower, the lowest level in 20 years and it will keep going down. This has been accomplished not against the will of Canadians but with their active support.

It has not been easy. I salute the work of the Minister of Finance who has been able to garner support for tough but fair budgets. And I want to thank the Canadian people for their understanding and commitment. We made it clear to Canadians and Canadians understood that deficit cutting is not an end in itself. We have not pursued it because we want to nor because we are driven by ideology, but because it is a necessary step in restoring the economic health of Canada in ensuring long term growth and jobs for Canadians.

Accepting high deficits year after year has meant accepting high interest rates. That has meant higher mortgages for Canadians who own homes and it has made it more difficult for young families to buy their first home. It has meant that thousands of small businesses and farms cannot grow and expand and create jobs.

Accepting high deficits year after year has also forced us to borrow money from abroad just to finance our debt. This has made us too vulnerable to the foreign money markets. It has limited our own economic sovereignty and every single Canadian has paid a heavy price.

These are the reasons we have worked so hard and will continue to work hard to reduce the deficit. Our success so far is translating into real lasting benefits for all Canadians. Much has been accomplished. We are not yet at the end of the road, but for the first time in a long time the end is in sight as the Minister of Finance will show next week in the budget.

In the red book, we wrote that: "The Liberal two-track policy of economic growth and fiscal responsibility will make possible a monetary policy that produces lower real interest rates and keeps inflation low, so we can be competitive with our major trading partners".

That is exactly what is happening. Interest rates have come down dramatically. Inflation in Canada is lower than it has been in decades-and lower than in virtually any other industrialized country.

Since March of last year, short term interest rates have dropped by three percentage points. This decline is 2.5 percentage points more than the decline in the United States. Today there is virtually no difference between Canadian and American short term interest rates.

The way we are putting our fiscal house in order says a lot about our values as a government and as a society. We could have gone after spending with a meat cleaver-hacking everyone and everything with equal vigour. But that would have been unfair. As Canadians, we cherish the values of community, of equal opportunity, of tolerance and understanding, of compassion and support for the most vulnerable. We believe in simple decency and respect. Canadians want deeply to win this important battle against the deficit. But they absolutely refuse to do it on the backs of those in need of help. So does this government. And we are proud of that.

That is why, for example, we have cut military spending, but we have actually increased spending on employment programs for young people. That is why we have cut subsidies to business by more than fifty per cent, but invested in a national infrastructure program that is resulting in capital projects in every province of Canada that have created tens of thousands of new jobs and will have important economic benefits for decades to come. That is why we have closed loopholes for family trusts and imposed a special tax on bank profits, but funded new programs such as the pre-natal nutrition program and the aboriginal head start program and restored the national literacy program.

That is also why we eliminated the $100,000 capital gains exemption, and increased the Small Business Loans Act ceiling to $12 billion. That is why while we have worked to reduce the size of the federal public service, we have also created programs such as youth service Canada and the youth internship program to give thousands of young people the work experience they need to earn-and keep-that important first job.

It is this sense of balance and priority that has been the hallmark of our government: tough, no nonsense deficit fighting, which frankly has broken the back of the deficit, combined with compassion, understanding and a willingness to invest in people, as we set out in the red book. We have proven that a government can be a tough, fair and effective financial and economic manager and that it can also be progressive and human. That more than anything else is the balanced approach Canadians voted for when they voted for us to lead Canada over two years ago. I am proud to say that, more than anything else, has been the accomplishment of the first half of our mandate.

I mentioned earlier that our government inherited not just a fiscal deficit from our predecessors but a credibility deficit too. Canadians had given up on their public institutions. They had

stopped believing in their government and they had stopped trusting elected officials.

One can agree or disagree with our policies but no one, after more than two years in office, can question the honesty and integrity of the government and its ministers-no one. That is an accomplishment that not only makes me very proud but which has given Canadians a reason to believe in their government again. Canadians know that when the government gives its word, it keeps it.

Restoring the Government of Canada as a competent fiscal and economic manager and restoring people's faith in government as an honest institution are our cumulative accomplishments half way through the mandate, accomplishments of which we are deeply proud. They set the stage for the second half of our mandate.

Yesterday the throne speech announced the broad initiatives the government will take in this session, initiatives that continue the work we began two years ago, initiatives promised in the red book that promote economic growth and job creation, unity and the security of individual Canadians and their families.

We were elected to restore the economic well-being of Canada. Unemployment is down considerably from the time we took office in 1993 but it is not down low enough for our liking or for the liking of Canadians. Too many Canadians are still out of work. Too many more are still worried about holding on to their jobs.

Above all, we want young Canadians to become active participants in our economy. They want jobs. They deserve jobs. Young people want to embrace the future, not fear it. It is up to all of us to create that hope and opportunity for them.

Youth unemployment is not unique to Canada. We see it everywhere in the industrialized world today, in every country, most far worse than here. However, that comparison should give us little comfort because we should not measure the success or self-fulfilment of our young people against those of other countries. We should measure them by our own hopes and ambitions and by our sense of obligation as the custodians of the society they will inherit. If we want Canada to continue to grow and prosper, if we truly want a country of hope and confidence, young people working hard in meaningful jobs, jobs with a future, is our only guarantee.

In our first two years the government has done much to actively foster a climate of job creation and it has met with success. Government does not create jobs; it creates the climate for the private sector to create jobs. That is what we have done and continue to do, laying the foundations for long term sustained job growth. Now we need the active partnership of the other levels of government and the private sector to make that job growth happen.

We have had a preview of how well that partnership can work with the right amount of commitment and effort. Nothing in many years has given Canadians a greater sense of pride in accomplishment than the Team Canada trade missions to foreign markets such as China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

These trade missions, combined with the Latin America trade mission I led a year ago, brought home more than $20 billion in deals for Canadian businesses. That means tens of thousands of jobs in Canada and an important foothold in some of the fastest growing foreign markets in the world.

Even more important than the impressive statistics of the Team Canada missions was the impact on Canadians of seeing their Prime Minister, their provincial premiers and leaders of businesses large and small working together to bring home jobs for Canadians. There were politicians from just about every party, representatives of just about every kind of business, small and large, all pulling in the same direction. For once the politicians stopped pointing fingers at each other. The business people stopped blaming government and everyone pulled together, working on the same team with the same goals.

Canadians were used to seeing governments compete, first ministers bicker, but with Team Canada they saw us working together. They liked what they saw and they want to see more it.

We can and must prove to Canadians that we, federal and provincial governments and the private sector, do not need to leave Canada in order to work together. Team Canada worked well in Beijing, Bombay and Buenos Aires but it can work as well in Burnaby, Brampton or Bromont. We should put the same Team Canada spirit to work here at home creating jobs in a true national partnership. I commit here and now before the eyes of the nation every resource of the federal government to creating that partnership. I urge the private sector and the provincial governments to join with us.

To the private sector I have a very specific challenge. For many years you have urged the federal government to get its fiscal house in order. You have campaigned against deficit. You have warned us of the negative impact of too much government spending on the economy and you have urged us to get out of areas that are better dealt with by the private sector. You said that when this is done the private sector would create jobs. I say to you that the federal government has delivered. Now Canadians want the private sector to deliver.

Now it is your turn to show your confidence in Canada and Canadians, especially young Canadians, to recognize that just as we have taken the lead in eliminating the fiscal deficit, you have a responsibility to eliminate the human deficit of unemployment. No true balance sheet can ignore the heavy and growing cost of chronic

unemployment. It is wrong. It is wrong on a human level. It is wrong on an economic level. It is wrong on a commercial level. It is wrong on a moral level.

You have a responsibility, just as surely as I and my colleagues in government have, to invest the energy and commitment it takes to solving this problem. That is why in the throne speech yesterday we announced that the federal government will be doubling its contribution to summer job creation this summer and urged the private sector and provincial and municipal governments to do the same. We need to encourage and help young people who are putting themselves through university and this is an important way we can do it.


Today I want to announce another initiative. In the weeks ahead I will be calling on businesses to join in launching a domestic Team Canada focused on creating jobs for young Canadians-primarily in the private sector. I will be appealing to businesses large and small to invest just one additional per cent of their payroll budget into jobs for young Canadians. This would create many tens of thousands of new jobs. It would further promote economic growth and consumer demand. And most of all, it would prove to millions of Canadians that Canada does work-not just for the powerful and the privileged, but for ordinary Canadians.

And to the provinces I issue a challenge as well. I challenge you to join with us in rekindling the spirit of Team Canada-and making it work on a permanent basis. As we work on redefining and clarifying our responsibilities, let us work together on this jobs agenda. It may not be as exciting as picking fights with each other. It certainly will not be as easy. But we have proven we can work together for jobs and economic results. We owe it to Canadians to give it the effort it takes.

We also owe Canadians the security that is provided them by our social programs. A healthy, growing economy means healthy, viable, sustainable social programs. That is why getting our fiscal house in order is such an important key to preserving the social programs we as Canadians hold so dear.

But that is far from the limit of this government's commitment to social programs. We also know that if we want healthy social programs not just today and tomorrow, but ten and twenty years from now, we must plan for them now. And that is a responsibility that this government takes very seriously.

In no area is this more important than in the public pensions system. Everybody recognizes that demographic changes in our society mean that we will have to make changes to ensure that our pension system remains sustainable for future generations of Canadians.

That is why we have begun discussions with the provinces to ensure that the Canada pension plan, which we run in partnership with the provinces, will be there for Canadians who work hard and contribute to the plan. The public has been asked to participate in these discussions.

The next step is to ensure that the support provided to seniors through the old age security and guaranteed income supplement program is sustainable and will be there for future generations as well. You have our commitment that we will do it. We have an obligation to plan for the future. We do not take that obligation lightly.

As we do that we will honour another commitment, a commitment I undertook in the House on behalf of the government. I made a promise to current seniors that I will repeat today. The OAS and GIS payments that you receive will not be reduced. We will also continue to ensure the health and sustainability of medicare, the most cherished social program of all.

The government will ensure that the health system will be there for all Canadians, rich and poor alike. We will maintain substantial cash transfers through the Canada health and social transfer to ensure that the federal government always has a strong say in medicare and is able to preserve free, universal access to health care anywhere in Canada for every Canadian.

Medicare is as much a part of our country as the air we breathe and the water that runs through our rivers and lakes. It defines what we are and who we want to be. It sets us apart from other countries. It draws us together no matter where we live in Canada. We will work to ensure it continues to draw Canadians together for a long time to come.

Bringing Canadians together and keeping Canada united in common cause and purpose must be the number one priority of any government. The referendum on October 30 last year showed us that we can never take our magnificent country for granted. We need to remind ourselves every day why it is so good to live in Canada. We need to remind ourselves of all that we have in common: the values that we cherish, tolerance, respect, generosity and sharing. We need to remind ourselves what many generations of Canadians have accomplished to make our country the envy of the world. We need to remind ourselves of the genius of federalism and how it has accommodated our diversity while building on our strength.

A united Canada is a far nobler enterprise than the narrowing of vision proclaimed by those who want to break up this country.

Canada is a vast country occupied by a diverse population. Thirty million people of diverse origins who live peacefully together in a land that the United Nations ranks as the very best for its quality of life.

It is a great success on the world stage, a success that we cannot simply take for granted, a success which we must continue to build.

In the community of nations, Canada is seen as a young country that is constantly evolving in an environment of rapid change. The global economy is transforming itself and becoming more and more interdependent as larger blocs of nations are formed, as in Europe. Canada itself has become a large collectivity as more and more provinces and territories have joined over the years to make us one of the seven leading industrial powers in the world. Canada has grown very quickly. It is only natural for us to review the way that our country functions. Economic globalization is forcing governments around the world to redefine themselves.

The one constant in Canadian history has been our ability to adapt to new circumstances and new realities without sacrificing our principles and values. The Fathers of Confederation provided a framework that is as valid today as it was 130 years ago. They provided for strong, autonomous provinces capable of delivering services and of adapting them to local circumstances. They provided for provinces that could grow and flourish in their own individual ways. For example, all of Canada is richer because Saskatchewan invented Medicare. All of Canada is richer because British Columbia makes us a Pacific nation. And at a time when people are told to think globally but act locally, strong provinces are more important than ever.

But the Fathers of Confederation also provided for a single national government, elected directly by all Canadians that speaks and acts directly for all Canadians on the great issues of the day. In the 21st century that national government will be as important as it has ever been.

We will preserve the role of that national government in strengthening our economy and economic union to ensure a prosperous country for ourselves and our children; in enhancing social solidarity in Canada, in preserving and modernizing the social union so that the caring and sharing society is truly Canada-wide in scope; in pooling our national resources to achieve common goals efficiently and effectively; in protecting and promoting Canadian values and identity while celebrating our diversity; and, in defending Canada's sovereignty and in speaking for Canadians collectively on the world's stage. Together we will modernize our federation with respect for our diversity and with confidence as we head into the 21st century.

Clearly, Canadians face particular challenges following the referendum result in Quebec. This is not a time for major constitutional change. We must continue to adapt, modernize and develop our federation. I believe we can do so by focusing on practical steps within a spirit that respects the principles of federalism.

The operation of our federation should be responsive to our common needs and diversity. It should show respect for each other and our institutions. It should involve partnership and dialogue between governments and citizens. It should be flexible. It should aim for efficiency and effectiveness in addressing our problems. The fact is Canada has largely operated in this way in the past. The federation has proven remarkably flexible and responsive to Canadians.

What I propose now is a concerted effort between the federal and provincial governments to address a number of outstanding issues in the operation of the federation with a particular focus on strengthening our economic and social union. Our effort should focus on practical, concrete steps rather than a grand design or the emotional symbols of major constitutional change.

Canada's economic union has been one of our greatest successes. Canadians underestimate the depth of our economic integration, which goes far beyond the economic integration we have with any foreign country, including the United States.

Over the past generation we have seen regional disparities in Canada diminish. We have largely closed the gap between Canadian and American standards of living but we have still have not taken full advantage of our economic union. Maximizing the advantage is key to ensuring Canadian competitiveness internationally.

I invite the provinces and all Canadians to consider how we can improve our economic union to enhance labour mobility between provinces, to reduce internal barriers to trade, to improve our internal capital markets, to enhance the sharing of technical knowledge and to co-operate better abroad.

There is a strong consensus in Canada to promote our social union. The people want governments to work together to modernize our social safety net to ensure that it is sustainable in the long term and continues to reflect the values of Canadians from coast to coast. Working with provinces and individual Canadians, beginning with the principles that we have in common, our government will explore new approaches to social policy issues.

The development of our social union needs to respect the spirit of our federation as well as the fiscal realities we confront. In recognition of this, the government makes a formal engagement that any new national cost-shared programs in areas of exclusive provincial responsibility will require prior agreement of a majority of provinces. Such programs will be designed so that provinces choosing not to participate will be compensated provided they establish initiatives which are equivalent or compatible with national objectives.

This is the first time any federal government has undertaken formally to restrict its use of the spending power outside a constitutional negotiation. Our undertaking recognizes that the use of this power for shared-cost programs has been a source of tension with the provinces. We believe we can build our social union within this spirit, as well as through other, non-financial means.

Canadians want their governments to be flexible and to work effectively as partners so that the country functions well. We will work with the provinces to ensure that Canadians are served by the most appropriate level of government. In a number of areas, the federal government no longer has to be involved in order to serve its citizens effectively. We have made a start on transferring transportation infrastructures to municipal authorities and the private sector. Then, for example, we had a tourism program managed by the Department of Industry. Last year the tourism industry recommended that the private sector be made responsible for managing this program in co-operation with the public sector. We agreed. We withdrew from our own program and the Canadian Tourism Commission was set up. It is managed by the tourist industry in co-operation with the federal and provincial governments, with all parties working together. This has been a remarkable success which serves as a model of partnership between the various levels of government and the private sector for the 21st century.

The federal government is also prepared to withdraw from its functions in such areas as labour market training, forestry, mining and recreation, that in the 21st century will be more appropriately the responsibility of others-provinces, municipalities or the private sector.

There are a number of fields in which both levels of government have a genuine role to play. In those sectors, we must achieve maximum efficiency in our actions, to ensure that taxpayers get value for money. The government will ask the provinces to increase their efforts to eliminate duplication and overlap and identify other grey areas that could be discussed.

In the months to come, a first ministers' conference will consider better ways of working together for job creation in Canada, how to secure the social safety net, and how to put in place a common agenda for change to renew Canada.

Preserving and enhancing Canadian unity requires more than a rebalancing of roles and responsibilities of levels of government. It requires us to remember what we have in common, by promoting culture, the arts and our heritage.

Preserving Canadian unity requires us to offer, to Quebecers tempted by an alternative, a nobler vision of a Canada in which Quebecers-like all Canadians-feel at home wherever they are in the country; a Canada that believes it is the best assurance of the French fact in North America.

Democracies endowed with more than one official language, and accordingly a broader window on the universe of cultures, make special arrangements to help their linguistic groups live together in harmony. Our Official Languages Act and the recognition of language rights in the Constitution are a model of such arrangements. We need only go further and recognize as a strength, as a piece of good fortune for Canada, that anglophone America contains a society that functions in French and takes action so that it can continue to do so.

On a continent where only one person in forty is francophone, we must all appreciate the concerns of many of our francophone fellow citizens in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. They are worried not only about the survival of their language and culture, but also about their development.

Quebec wants to be recognized as a distinct society through its language, its culture and its institutions. The House of Commons has passed a resolution in those terms, and a regional veto guaranteeing that there will be no constitutional change without the consent of every region of Canada was also approved here in this House.

We want to entrench these changes in the Constitution. We know it will not be easy. We must convince and explain that recognizing the distinctness of Quebec society does not take anything away from anyone but simply reflects reality. A reality that represents an asset for our country.

Last week, we all found out what the former premier of Quebec, Mr. Parizeau, would have said if the result on October 30 had been in his favour. The result was irreversible; democracy had spoken; the page had been turned; everyone had to support the choice. Why not accept that Quebecers chose Canada for the second time in 15 years?

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.


Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Why not concentrate all our energy and resources on building the future of our country together?

Canada needs political stability to ensure its economic stability, so that Montreal will find the road back to prosperity, Toronto will develop further and Vancouver will continue its growth. In fact, every Canadian city, town and region needs it. Political stability benefits all Canadians, and that is very important.

Let us work together to preserve what we have built together. It will not be easy, but it was never easy to build this great country in which we have the extraordinary good fortune to live. Canada was built with courage and determination. It was built with the desire to live together, recognizing our differences are also our strengths. That is our heritage. It is up to us to preserve and to build on it.

There are different ways of measuring greatness. Some measure the greatness of nations in terms of wealth or power. I believe we in Canada have found our own special definition of greatness by achieving the greatest balance between economic success and social justice of any nation.

I have had the privilege of travelling to foreign countries, representing Canada and Canadians to the world. I have had the opportunity to see how the world sees Canada. What it sees is very much a real country, un vrai pays, make no mistake about it.

What it sees much more is a large and diverse society that has turned diversity into prosperity. It sees a country of promise and integrity built by people from every corner of the world. It sees a land where each individual citizen has the opportunity to be the best they can possibly be but where there is also a true sense of caring and compassion, a true sense of community.

We have seen that when the world looks to Canada. What it sees is the future, or rather the best hope for the future of the world. Together let us build that model of hope and confidence, that model for all mankind.

When I was in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago I realized what Canada is all about. I was invited to visit the two biggest towers in the world, which have just been completed. They wanted to link the two towers together but they needed the best technology. They have problems with weather there as well, but not snow. They needed a bridge very high in the air between the two towers. They came to Canadians to test the technology. When we crossed from one building to the other they told us this is their Canadian connection; it was build by Canadians.

I was also invited to visit a construction site in Kuala Lumpur for a light transit system.

SNC Lavalin and Bombardier were there, who were building this advanced system in co-operation with companies from Vancouver and Toronto. They were all working together, all these Canadians, who are all proud of this French- and English-speaking country selling an outstanding technology a few days after we left Pakistan, where they were awarded the contract for the construction of a similar system in the city of Karachi.

I saw everybody there, French and English, east and west together, and the joy when one government was on the stage with the business community of that province signing contracts. The premier of Ontario was congratulating the socialist premier of B.C. when he was doing well. Others were turning to the premier of New Brunswick because he had made a great deal for a farming community of New Brunswick. It was such a good deal that he was telling me he will need some cattle from Quebec. I said fine, we will talk with the Bloc and send some there, and even from Manitoba. There were congratulations from each other and the people were looking at us.

They were not buying Canadian goods and services because we were Canadian. A lot of them remember that we were there at the time of the Columbo plan. They remember that. They were buying Canadian goods and services because they are the best on the market.

If we can build a bridge in Kuala Lumpur between the two highest towers in the world, we will build a bridge that will keep the greatest nation in the world together.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:15 p.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to respond to the government's second speech from the throne in this 35th Parliament, or we could refer to it as its second kick at the can.

This second try is full of words, hope and promise. We certainly have just heard an hour's worth of them from our Prime Minister. It is an indication that at last the government seems at least to be hearing the anxious voices of Canadians and recognizing that Canadians are scared. They are scared for their own futures, the future of their country and the future of their children.

It is a speech that gives an indication that at last the government seems to recognize and is attempting at least to remedy the past mistakes and strategic inaction of the last couple of years.

This second speech from the throne is in many ways an admission of failure by the government, but it is an attempt at a jump start.

When the Liberals came to power in 1993 expectations were high right across the country. At last the Conservatives had paid the ultimate price, the price of arrogance and the Liberals were promising hope, jobs and a bright secure future.

In 1993 Canadians were told not to worry, the mighty Liberal Party was back in power. Today in 1996 though, two and a half years later, the hope has faded. The real, long term jobs have never really materialized. It is one thing to say that jobs have been

created but the Prime Minister did not note how many jobs have been lost in that amount of time.

The Liberal promises of a bright future were shown to be nothing more than empty election rhetoric. Any sense of security and hope that Canadians had in 1993 withered away as the months and months of Liberal do nothing government drifted by.

Yesterday the throne speech talked about giving Canadians hope and lifting them out of the despair they feel right across the country. What it did not acknowledge however was that the Liberal government's inaction, its lack of a plan, lack of innovation and lack of vision contributed to that overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair in the country.

This is where we stand now in 1996 and it is why the government is beginning again. It has shown in the throne speech that it can speak the words of the Canadian public, but the question of course, and one which we will be asking time and time again is: Can it deliver? This is what we have to analyse today as we sift through the guarded wording and cloaked phrases of the Liberals' second try.

Everyone deserves a second chance, even if they make an incorrect ruling. Everyone deserves a second chance. Do not get me wrong. That is something with which I am sure Canadians agree. But three strikes and your are out. That is the way it is done in baseball and that is the way I think it should be done here.

So in the spirit of second chances and second tries, let us look at what the Liberal government in this speech has promised the people of Canada. Let us look at what it is intending to do to restore hope, confidence and security to Canadians, all of which we so desperately need in these times of uncertainty and fading hope.

Jobs and financial security are of concern. In an attempt to convince Canadians that the government is working toward long term economic growth, it is heralding its new and improved deficit reduction target of 2 per cent of gross domestic product. Low targets are always easy to reach. We need deficit elimination and a balanced budget. Quit digging the big debt hole deeper. The digging must be stopped period before starting to fill in the hole.

The government still stubbornly refuses to produce its firm timetable for totally eliminating the deficit. Two year rolling targets are rolling along. As we come to the end of the century I am wondering how long they are going to continue to roll.

Without totally eliminating the deficit or the yearly amount which we are spending more than we are bringing in, the federal debt continues to increase at an alarming rate and interest payments continue to eat more and more of the money that government needs to spend on securing our essential social programs. Billions and billions of dollars every year we are spending just on interest on the debt. There is something inherently wrong in that and we need to get that totally under control.

By the government taking this go slow approach it might just as well be promising to raise taxes because that would be the result. If we are going to continue to overspend, there is a way that we have to be able to feed that appetite and there is nothing more than increasing taxes when we are going to do that.

Elimination of the deficit on the other hand as Reformers have proposed will stop the further unnecessary erosion of our social programs. It will enable the government to begin paying down the massive debt, a debt that successive Liberal and Conservative governments have piled up incidentally over the last 32 years while our Prime Minister has been on the public scene. It will enable the government to give much needed tax relief to Canadians.

We saw nothing about tax relief in the throne speech. If there is anything that is going to cheer Canadians up it is the promise of real live tax relief so that they will have more money in their pockets.

Elimination of the federal deficit will not just give us a light at the end of the tunnel; it will bring us out of the seemingly endless tunnel and finally into the light, not just a glimmer at the end of it. Canadians will once again control their own destinies. Social programs will be financially sustainable. People will have more money in their pockets. With that money, they can use it to pay down their growing debts, buy new houses, new cars and have a plan for the future of their families.

Another thing that would improve consumer confidence and even voter confidence in this government is scrapping the GST. The throne speech back in 1994 promised it. It is promising it again now. It talks about progress on it, but time is running out on this Liberal government and on the political career of the Deputy Prime Minister. This is an actual quote from her. During a CBC town hall program on October 18, 1993, one week before the last federal election, she said: "If the GST is not abolished under a Liberal government, I will resign". We are still waiting for it. It would be easy for her to stand up and say that the Liberals are planning to abolish it. In my estimation from what I know of the English language, abolish does not equal harmonize, or make a few changes, or rename it, or whatever. Abolish means abolish.

The Deputy Prime Minister has said that the Liberals will abolish the GST. They will not just harmonize it with provincial sales taxes. In my province of Alberta we do not have a provincial sales tax. That is the last thing on their minds, harmonizing

something on the GST, on which the Deputy Prime Minister said she would resign. I say, we are waiting.

On April 4, 1990 before the last election when the present finance minister was in opposition he said this which I thought was kind of excellent: "I would abolish the GST". There is that word again, abolish. Not harmonize, not change, not rename, not whatever, but abolish. That means over, done with, toast. He would abolish it. "The manufacturers' sales tax was a bad tax but there is no excuse to repeal one bad thing by bringing in another". Oops, how times change. How things change when one moves across the aisle. I suspect you know that feeling, Mr. Speaker. You have been in government and I have not yet but we are working on it.

This is what is particularly painful. When something comes from opposition it is one thing but when it comes from right within government it is painful. Just yesterday the Liberal member for Mississauga West said: "I keep hearing from the finance department that Canadians are getting used to the GST and they now accept it". She went on to say: "If anyone really believes that, I don't think they are in touch with reality". That is a Liberal backbencher.

Most of the insecurity and worry being felt by Canadians today relates to their jobs and job security. Instead of addressing this genuine concern however, the government has decided to embark on programs that create artificial jobs or, as they have been so aptly termed, bubble jobs; they are here and gone just like that. That is not long term. That is not something people are working toward.

The government has announced a plan to double for one year the number of federal summer student jobs. Unfortunately though, with youth unemployment stuck at a staggering 16 per cent, although well intentioned, it will do little to ease the job prospects for thousands and thousands of our struggling youth. It looks good on paper and I am sure people will appreciate it in the short run, but the question I and I am sure many young people would like to ask is: Why is the government going to give young people money now and then yank it back later from them plus interest? That is what is happening. It is easy to say the cash will be given out now, but because our interest payments are just so incredible the government is going to yank it back later from those people and from their kids when they get to be my age and later at your age, Mr. Speaker, but not that much later.

What else is this government going to do to create jobs and job security for Canadians? From this it does not look like very much. Without eliminating the federal deficit, growing interest payments on the national debt continue to endanger social spending, continue to endanger the health, education and pension systems of Canadians.

When it comes to the Canada pension plan, the government is planning to dramatically increase the amount snatched from Canadians' paycheques while at the same time lowering the benefits. Such actions will further depress the job market adding undue payroll tax stress on Canada's small and medium size business. This is stress that neither the job market nor Canadian business can afford. Such moves will do nothing to increase the security of Canadians. In fact it might depress them even more.

Reformers encourage the government to look seriously at our approach to address Canada's pension crisis through the introduction of super RRSPs. This does not need to be partisan. We need to get out of this mess we are in. Mandatory contributions into self-directed retirement funds will ensure that all generations will get their fair share of benefits without dramatic contribution increases. At the very least, it would be great if the finance minister would have the political courage to at least put it on the table for discussion.

The government states it wants to co-operate with the provinces in establishing new national standards in the area of social policy. The government however has a record of confrontation not co-operation, of inflexibility not accommodation. We need to correct that problem. If the government is serious about co-operating with the provinces in social policy areas, it should transfer tax points to the provinces; that is, let the provinces determine what their taxation levels should be. That would not just ensure stable funding for health, education and welfare, it would also provide a mechanism for the growth of funding in these areas. Heaven knows, we need that in this day and age.

Canadians wanted firm measures to improve their financial security and bold initiatives to stop the drain on their social security. Unfortunately, in the throne speech they heard nothing more than half measures. At least in these two areas the government is making some positive moves. When it comes to personal security the throne speech lacks both substance and rhetoric.

Criminal justice is another area that at least was touched on in the throne speech but it was one single paragraph out of the entire speech. That is all the government felt the fears of Canadians for their safety and the safety of their families and property warranted.

The government has spent half of its mandate harassing law-abiding farmers, hunters and gun collectors and is now feebly paying lip service to addressing the criminal element. Let us spend more energy, time and resources hitting the criminal element and leave the law-abiding citizens alone.

If the federal government really means business on criminal justice reform, it must make the protection of life and property the number one priority of the criminal justice system. The law must reflect the values held by the majority of Canadians that all offenders must be held accountable and responsible for their criminal acts and the rights of victims must supersede the rights of criminals always, every time.

The government must amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that violent offenders serve their full sentences. Once released, some violent offenders and all repeat offenders should be under parole supervision for the rest of their lives. To allow for the indefinite incarceration of dangerous offenders, the government should amend the current dangerous offenders law to allow for the designation of "dangerous offender" prior to, during, or at the end of that offender's sentence. Such offenders have no right to live in society and the people of Canada are right to demand protection. They are right to demand their indefinite incarceration. Canadians want and need to be freed from fear.

Canadians want security so their kids can walk home after school or over to a friend's house and not have to worry about what is going to happen to them on the way, so women can walk to their cars, as we do all the time, so they can wander through airports and hotels alone across the country, so we would feel safe, so we would not feel threatened of being mugged or assaulted.

Canadians need the assurance that violent criminals, whether they are at home or on the street, are being dealt with by a criminal justice system that knows and understands the severity of their crimes, and will protect Canadians from them always.

Regarding national unity, the government has begun to realize that over centralization, bringing the power to the centre, in large measure has contributed to the frustration and alienation Canadians have felt toward their federal government. Any movement on this front is welcome.

The government is to be commended for expressing its desire to strengthen the economic situation and lower internal trade barriers, but it has to go beyond just desire. The federal government should seek more power in this area in exchange for giving other powers to the provinces, powers they originally had vested in them that federal governments have taken away over the decades.

Canadians from coast to coast have indicated that they want Canada to be a balanced federation in which Ottawa would play a co-operative role but not a dominating role. Reform has advanced 20 new Confederation proposals that help to establish this arrangement for the long term.

There have been longstanding concerns about the arsenal of centralizing powers, that power that is used by the federal government under the Constitution, and about the over concentration of power in the hands of the executive in the cabinet. The throne speech indicates a willingness to address some of those concerns but of course it does not go nearly far enough.

Now is not the time for half measures and tinkering. Canadians want leadership. They want to know where they are going as they get closer to the next century. Future governments have to be able to respond more effectively to the needs of ordinary Canadians through a revitalized federal system, one that addresses the historic concerns of dissatisfied Canadians, both inside and outside Quebec.

There are dissatisfied Canadians right across the country and I think it is time we realized it. National unity is more than a rebalancing of roles, responsibilities and levels of government, as the speech from the throne has pointed out. The ending of over centralization must be coupled with substantial democratic reforms to federal institutions, reforms that will ensure that Canadians themselves have more input into the way the federal government runs, the directions it takes and the decisions it makes.

Democratic reforms such as referendums, an elected Senate, citizens' initiatives, recall and freer votes in the House of Commons are all needed to ensure the long term unity of our country, to put an end to political uncertainty and to make Canada one of the most progressive democracies in the world. Sadly, we saw nothing about that in the throne speech.

Again, we are encouraged by the signs in the speech that the Liberals have finally recognized that any constitutional change must be put to the people directly for ratification in a referendum. It is one thing to say "people will have a say on it".

As I said earlier in question period, when people are told they will have say they equate that to having a vote. The Charlottetown accord changed everything in this country. Since people were given an actual vote on that issue, they will never again put up with anything less. That was the best thing about the Charlottetown accord.

Reformers and all Canadians must also be pleased to see the government has learned its lesson from the last Quebec referendum. The government will take its responsibility seriously with any future referendum in the province of Quebec to debate the consequences of secession based on a real or possible scenario that there may be a yes vote.

The federal government should develop now a Canadian position on terms and conditions of secession rather than what it did last time, nothing. If that would have been on the table, if the people of Quebec knew there would be real consequences of a yes vote, they would have said: "Wow, there are serious consequences and I think my vote is going to be to stay with Canada". We hope that happens next time.

However, the government needs to lay out on the table that if the people of Quebec decide to vote yes, they had better be prepared for some hard answers and some hard negotiations. "These are the terms and conditions of secession. We want you to think again". I

think Quebecers will vote strongly to remain a part of Canada. We are confident that this can and will happen if the government responds to it, rather than leaving everyone out of the debate as it did last October. We can all live together and prosper.

In the end, where has the government left Canadians? That is the question people are asking. There appear to be glimmers of hope and I want to give the government credit for those glimmers. The Liberals are learning from their past mistakes, however reluctantly, and the real concerns and fears of Canadians for their own security and the security of their country are finally being heard. That is a good move.

The real question is, can they deliver on these promises? We will watch during the second session of this Parliament. Where progress is made, we will encourage it. Where they fail, we will propose constructive alternatives so that they can rethink their positions.

We truly feel for Canadians and the stress that all are under during this time in our history, the sense of insecurity in their lives and jobs, and the constant threat of the break-up of our country. These things must be dealt with once and for all.

Reformers will do everything in their power to ease this stress and to calm the worry Canadians have about the future of their country. We share their feelings and we will never give up their cause.

Therefore, I would like to amend the Bloc amendment by adding the words:

-and in particular, providing more personal security; the need to effectively reduce the budget deficit; simplifying the tax system and balancing the budget; greater personal social security by providing a permanent and stable source of social program funding in the areas of health, education and social assistance; greater public safety; understanding the need to communicate to Quebec honestly and openly what will be the stance of the rest of Canada concerning separation; understanding the need to pledge their unconditional commitment to protect and defend our rights and freedoms as Canadians wanting to remain Canadians in Quebec both before and after a possible yes vote in the future.

I have signed that Deborah Grey, member of Parliament, Beaver River.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Generally the amendment seems to be in order. I wonder if the hon. member might give the Chair the liberty of adding three small words at the end of "and in particular does not address". We have to have a verb in there. Being old school teachers we happen to know that.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.


Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to take part in the debate on the throne speech. This is an exciting time in the history of our country. As we approach the 21st century, a world of opportunity lies before us. We must continue to build a strong economy to secure our communities, and to strengthen our country to take advantage of those tremendous opportunities.

The government has been laying the foundation for a strong and prosperous economy. In the last two years, 497,000 full time jobs have been created. Inflation is low and interest rates are declining.

In Hamilton, my home town, the unemployment rate is 6 per cent. This is down from a rate of 11.3 per cent two years ago, a 5 per cent decline since this government was elected. The low unemployment rate is a testament to the advantage of co-operation between business, unions, schools, community groups and government that exists in Hamilton. Organizations like Mohawk College in my riding have been co-operating closely with unions and management and the federal government to develop training programs for workers that have increased productivity. Increased productivity is leading to more jobs as resources are used more efficiently.

Through hard work and co-operation among everyone in Hamilton over the last five years, we have turned Hamilton into a world recognized model of sustainable community development. It took a lot of hard work, which is continuing, but the achievement was well worth it. I am sure that similar effort and co-operation among all Canadians can be equally successful across the country. That is the government's goal, as we heard the Prime Minister state earlier this afternoon.

Just as the Team Canada approach to external trade promotions is paying dividends, Team Canada co-operation can pay off in job creation. As was said in the throne speech, it is time to harness the energy of the Team Canada partnership to create hope, opportunity and jobs.

The government's balanced and steady approach to deficit reduction has led to a steady reduction in the deficit and in interest rates. Careful spending cuts, coupled with a well thought out restructuring of the government will lead to a stronger economy and to job growth.

Members of the business community have often stated that if government would get it finances in order, private industry would create jobs. The government is putting its finances in order and is challenging Canadian businesses to move forward on job creation, particularly for our young children.

Of course, getting the government's finances in order is not an end in itself. The steps we are taking are necessary to defend and maintain social programs, such as medicare, that embody the

values that Canadians hold dear such as caring for the less fortunate and maintaining a high quality of life in all areas of the country.

As was stated yesterday in the throne speech, the government will continue to defend the principles of the Canada Health Act: comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. The government will maintain the sustainability of social programs by putting a floor under the cash component of the Canada health and social transfer so there is a steady level of cash transfers to the provinces. The government will also be working with the provinces to develop common standards to maintain our social programs.

Youth unemployment is a major challenge to the government and it is addressing this through programs such as the youth internship program and Youth Service Canada. The proposal to double the number of federal summer jobs this coming summer will be a great help to students. These programs help young people make the transition to the working world giving them the experience they need to get their first job.

Whenever I visit Mohawk College or the high schools on Hamilton Mountain, I am impressed by the intelligence and enthusiasm of these students. Canada's young people are tremendously talented and have a great deal to offer our country.

It is our responsibility through programs such as Youth Service Canada to give young Canadians the opportunity to put their talents to use. In my riding of Hamilton Mountain a $150,000 youth service project, which will help to reduce the incidence of car theft and vandalism, is co-sponsored by the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police and the federal government. Along with improving community safety this project will provide young Hamiltonians with valuable experience in planning management and communication skills. The government has also taken steps in the throne speech to reassure all Canadians that their retirement years will be financially secure years. The benefits of current seniors will be protected. Adjustments to the Canada pension plan will be made to ensure that future seniors can enjoy their retirement.

Canada is the best country in the world to live in. In order to keep making our country even greater we must take steps to enhance the security of our communities as well as improve our economic security.

Recent reforms of the justice system such as amendments to the corrections act, gun control legislation and amendments to the Young Offenders Act will help ensure the safety of our streets and neighbourhoods. Proposed changes such as legislation on dangerous offenders, improvements to the stalking legislation and the establishment of DNA data banks will future enhance safety for Canadians.

Security of our communities does not simply refer to personal safety. Environmental protection is equally important. The health of Canada's air and water is vital to our quality of life. In recognition of the importance of our environment, the government is committed to modernizing the Environmental Protection Act. We must take steps now to ensure our children can still enjoy a clean environment in the future.

The Liberal government is determined to work with all Canadians to build a modern, united country to face the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. For all our differences, Canadians live in peace and we have together built a successful and prosperous country that is the envy of the world. Our shared values unite us more than our differences divide us. Our success in the world is proof of the wisdom of continuing to build on those common values.

Canada is more than the sum of its parts. Together we can and we will build on our common achievements to create an even better country in the years ahead. Canada is a country committed to international co-operation, open to the world and open to new citizens of every heritage.

Canada must continue to engage in the events of the world and promote peace, economic development and environmental protection on a worldwide basis.

While continuing efforts to reduce economic barriers around the world, we must continue efforts to reduce trade barriers among our own provinces. All Canadians have a role to play in modernizing our country. Every single citizen can and must have a say in our future. We must not let the voices of disaffection dominate the discussion or convince us that we would be better off divided and separate rather than united and working together.

Working together, we can build on our wonderful heritage, our incredible blessings, our amazing diversity and our limitless opportunities to ensure that Canada will always be a beacon to the world of hope, of freedom, of human dignity, of peace and of decency. It is a very exciting future that Canadians can and will chart together. That is the message of the speech from the throne, for that is the real message of Canada.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:45 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there has been negotiation among the parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent that the House continue to sit this day after 6.30 p.m. in order to consider the following motion:

That this House take note of Canada's current and future international peacekeeping commitments in Haiti, with particular reference to Canada's willingness to play a major role in the next phase of the international community's efforts to sustain a secure and stable environment in Haiti.

That, during consideration of the said motion, no member shall speak for more than 10 minutes and no dilatory motions or quorum calls shall be receivable; and

At 9.30 p.m., or when no more members rise to speak, whichever is earlier, the Speaker shall adjourn the House until the next sitting day.

(Motion agreed to.)

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

5:50 p.m.


David Walker Liberal Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, before beginning my speech in response to the speech from the throne I would like to take a minute to thank the House for the co-operation I received as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. It is a heavy workload and requires the patience of the Speakers and of the table officers to make sure the work gets done.

I would like to thank the Bloc Quebecois member who will sit with me on the finance committee. I think we will have a great time working together.

We are proud of our record for the first two years of our mandate. We have fulfilled the vast majority of the commitments made in the red book and our first speech from the throne. We have focused on our plan to promote job creation and economic growth. As a result, 500,000 jobs were created and our growth rate is one of the highest among industrialized countries.

This throne speech outlines our plan of action for the second half of our mandate. Our goals remain unchanged. We want to build on what we have accomplished so far. This throne speech has three main thrusts: job creation and economic growth, the security of individual Canadians, and streamlining the federal system to strengthen Canadian unity.

We will put special emphasis on three major areas, namely young people, science and technology, and trade.

We will continue to foster a healthy economic climate by strengthening the basic parameters of our economy. To this end, we will meet our deficit reduction targets and work together with the provinces at harmonizing sales taxes and eliminating domestic trade impediments.

We will therefore rely on the Team Canada partnership between federal and provincial governments and the private sector to create jobs for young people; double the number of federal summer student jobs as early as this summer; support technology development in the aerospace industry, in environmental technologies and in biotechnology, and launch a Canadian technology network; expand the access to the information highway, particularly in rural communities; undertake further Team Canada missions under the leadership of the Prime Minister; and finally, announce new measures to enhance export development and financing.

I will also spend some time today addressing the very real issue facing Canadians, the Canadian pension system, an issue that perhaps has been discussed the most in the time leading up to the speech from the throne and next week's budget, as announced by the Minister of Finance today.

I cannot think of anything that hits more at home to the security of Canadians than what they believe their pensions will be as they retire. Because of great media speculation the government has decided to take the initiative to bring security to the system.

I as a Canadian and as a Liberal and now as a parliamentarian am very proud of the progress made among our seniors since the mid-1960s. The cornerstones of that program are the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

We have designed a program which, more so than any other country in the industrial world, has lifted literally millions of people from the edge of poverty or in dire straits during their retirement years to having a secured monthly pension.

Any discussions in public debate, whether from the government in the House, from the public in general or from researchers, that insinuates the Canada pension plan cannot be secured and that old age security is about to be taken away creates an insecurity among older Canadians that reverberates across the country. My constituency of Winnipeg North Centre is one of the areas in which many elderly live in very poor conditions. This worries people.

Let me assure the House on behalf of the government that we are making every effort to secure and modernize our pension plan. Perhaps the best way to think about this is to realize that people my age, in their late 40s, the baby boomers, will be hitting retirement age in approximately 15 years. That means an effective planning system has to be set in motion and we literally need a 15-year countdown. We have to facilitate and maintain the security of those who are already in retirement because they have the least flexibility to respond to new situations.

That is why our low inflation strategy, our price stability strategy, helps so many seniors. It gives them the security that their monthly pensions will not be eaten away at 5 per cent, 10 per cent or 15 per cent per year, rates which are not just a nightmare but rates we have already had in our own lifetime.

The purpose of the Canada pension plan review, which will be launched in March with the co-operation of the provinces, done jointly with them, is to ask Canadians how they want to secure their Canada pension plan. Do you want to see any cuts in benefits? Do you want to see increases in contribution rates? Do you want to see

changes in disability pensions? Do you want to see changes in the age of entitlement?

None of the 11 governments involved, as well as the two territories, is coming with preconceived ideas as to how it should be changed. However, they are coming with the one idea that it must be changed and that it must be done jointly. I am very optimistic that by the time the new year rolls around again we will have a resecured Canada pension plan with a new structure that will enable Canadians to understand that long into this 15-year horizon they will have a plan that is stable and able to finance their own retirement.

On the issue of government funded pensions, not the CPP which is paid for by the employers and employees but the general pension plan, it is incumbent on all parliamentarians to enter into a debate with the retired and also with people in their 40s and 50s about the retirement plans they have, how we can best structure all the components, whether RRSPs, the OAS or the GIS, and what sort of package can we put together that will help them in their retirement plans.

I can think of no other purpose for parliamentarians, no higher calling right now, than the accomplishment of security for seniors. This will require work at a time when the government maintains its deficit reduction strategy. The less call we make on the public purse the better off the country will be.

Because we are a Liberal government we have priorities. Our priorities are to focus on social security. We will have negotiations with the provinces this year to jointly set out a framework for the continuation of social and health transfers. We will make sure that social policy has direction and that the right thing is done for Canadians from sea to sea to sea.

We will also ensure, as outlined in the speech from the throne, that the cash component of the transfer does not disappear and that Canadians know that real money will continue to be put in the system by the federal government. This will bring upon us a new level of co-operation among the provinces so we can be assured that we have a transfer which is flexible, which allows the provinces to do what they think is best and is done in the framework agreed to by all of us and with the declared values we have as Canadians toward the health system, social assistance and post-secondary education.

These are the parameters of the government. This is what we are trying to do. The social agenda is evolving. It began with the former Minister of Human Resources Development. It is being continued with the present minister who is being assisted by the Minister of Finance and is being led by the Prime Minister. This is the cornerstone to providing social security for Canadians of all ages and turning our attention to the youth.

I say to the people of Winnipeg North Centre, this speech from the throne addresses issues of prime concern to you. We will have in front of us an agenda that treats people as fairly as possible and gives us a sense of purpose in our social policy.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could share the optimism that the hon. member had for the future of the Canada pension plan. He seems to think that some minor adjustments and a slight increase of the contributions to the plan will salvage it.

He also talked about the baby boomers in his presentation. I happen to be in that group and one of many millions of Canadians who wonder whether there will be a CPP around when we reach eligibility age.

Another factor that he did not discuss in his speech should be considered. When we baby boomers were teenagers at the time of the centennial, the federal debt was only $17 billion. The population was about 20 million. Twenty-nine years later, 1996, the debt has multiplied 34 times. It is now $570-odd billion and is growing by over $90 million per day. This debt will be borne by the baby boomers as well.

How does the hon. member expect the younger generation, the children of the baby boomers, to make higher contributions to the CPP to fund our retirement while heaping on them a debt that is continuing to grow by $90 million a day? There are already three Liberal budgets or another $100 billion to add to that debt.

If it were just the CPP contributions that were going to go up, maybe the younger generation would be able to shoulder it. They will have to shoulder the interest on the increase of $100 billion in three years and no plan to balance the budget in the near future. The projection now is 2 per cent of GDP and 2 per cent is still billions and billions of dollars added to our debt every year.

We are handing this over to the baby boomers' children as well. They are going to be shouldering higher CPP deductions or premiums or however we arrange it, plus paying higher taxes to pay the interest on the debt which continues to grow.

Certainly it is not a fair burden to place on our children. I do not really think they will be able to shoulder it unless we take more responsible actions sooner.