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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the deficit is being handled in a very gentle way.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Air SafetyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Mercier Bloc Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

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

On December 29, because of human error, an Air Canada flight was intercepted by South Korean combat aircraft. Experts blame an overworked crew and the degradation of service and equipment for the incident.

Could the Minister of Transport tell us whether air deregulation may have been the cause of the problems experienced during the flight in question, which could have had tragic consequences for the air travellers?

[English]

Air SafetyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that we have full confidence in Air Canada's safety systems.

We are looking into the matter which occurred some six weeks ago. It appears that the problem which arose was, in fact, not related to the Department of Transport but an error in a clerk's typing of one code which led to a mistake in Japan. That is what we are looking into at the present time. That is all the information I can give him at this time.

Air SafetyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Mercier Bloc Blainville—Deux-Montagnes, QC

Mr. Speaker, here is my supplementary question.

Can the minister give us any formal assurances, other than his words, that no one will ever type in a wrong code again and that the security of Canadians will never be compromized in the future?

Air SafetyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, certainly I can give the hon. member the assurance that the safety systems of Air Canada are among the very best in the world. We are doing everything possible to make sure that standard of safety is maintained.

I can assure him also that this matter will be looked into by the department and that in due course we will have further information to give him.

I would like to make sure that the House fully understands that the safety system for Canadian airlines and the Canadian air transport system are of the world's highest level.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, after two years of promising jobs, jobs, jobs and promising hope, the Prime Minister's record is clear. He has failed to deliver on job growth; failed to balance the budget; failed to provide tax relief; failed to abolish the GST and failed to create the economic environment in which businesses can create jobs. His government is failing.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Who is responsible for job creation? The government or the private sector?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I made it clear yesterday that the role of the government is to prepare a climate for the private sector to invest. That is exactly what we have done.

A big problem for the business community was that the interest rate spread between Canada and the United States was too wide. This has been completely eliminated and it is a big achievement for all of us.

It was reported this morning that the economy has created 579,000 new jobs since we formed the government. For a failure that is not bad.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, now the Prime Minister wants businesses to create more jobs, not the government. I am trying to find out if in fact he still believes in the infrastructure program.

The way to create jobs is to lower taxes so taxpayers and businesses have more disposable income. To lower taxes there must be a balanced budget. The government is adding to the debt, not reducing it. Funding must not be decreased the way this government has done with its social and health transfer and education.

The government should look at the way it is handling everything to do with the economy and let the private sector grow and create the jobs it should create. The government has not done its part. The government must look at the debt and look at its budget and present a balanced budget.

When will the government present a balanced budget?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, since the government has taken office the deficit has gone from 6 per cent of GDP, which it was, to 5 per cent. This year it will be at 4 per cent. We will hit our target next year at 3 per cent and the year after we have set the new target of 2 per cent, which we will hit.

That is one of the best records of any of the industrialized countries, certainly one of the best records of any of the G-7 countries, and it ought to be recognized.

The hon. member wants to talk about commitments. Before Christmas the hon. member said that his party would present a budget before the government brought down its budget. It has five

days. When is the Reform Party going to present its budget? When is it going to stop blowing smoke?

Old Age SecurityOral Question Period

February 29th, 1996 / 2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. In the speech from the throne delivered on February 27, we read the following, and I quote: "The government will propose to Parliament measures to sustain Canada's elderly benefits system for the future". Yesterday, no less than 18 Quebec associations for seniors opposed the federal government's intention to determine old age pensions based on family income.

Will the Minister of Finance reassure the elderly by confirming that their pension will not be determined by using the family income criterion?

Old Age SecurityOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet these associations a week ago. I told them that it was my intention to meet with them again after the budget to discuss the need to ensure the long term viability of old age pensions, that is old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

I also took this opportunity to assure them, as did the Prime Minister in the House yesterday, that, as regards old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, those who are already retired will not be affected. Our goal is to make sure that the plan still exists for younger generations.

Old Age SecurityOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister leaves an element of doubt as to whether pensions will indeed be based on family income. Can the minister at least tell Canadians that retirement age will not be raised from 65 to 67 years?

Old Age SecurityOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, during the meeting of provincial finance ministers, we agreed with our Quebec counterpart to hold public hearings on the Quebec pension plan and the Canada pension plan.

One option is to push retirement age to 67 years. I said that this was definitely not my preferred choice, but it is an option that was put forward by some provinces and we have to look at it. But again, I want to make it clear that it is certainly not this government's first choice.

TradeOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister for International Trade, but first I would like to congratulate the minister on his new appointment.

It seems that President Clinton has agreed to pass a bill on Cuba that could seriously harm Canadian companies with investment and trade interests in Cuba. I would like to ask the minister what avenues he is pursuing to make sure we are protecting Canadian interests.

TradeOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his congratulatory comments.

While the government joins the United States in condemning the Cuban action in shooting down two civilian planes, we are disappointed by what is resulting in the Helms-Burton bill. We are disappointed by the effect it will have on Canadians and business people from other countries in terms of access to the United States for these business people as well as the potential of lawsuits against them.

We have yet to get the details of the legal text of the bill. We hope to get that later in the day. When we do, we will be looking at it in terms of the options for action the government can take. In terms of NAFTA, in terms of the trade obligations the United States has with respect to that, we want to make sure they uphold their part of that agreement. We want to make sure Canadians continue to have access in the United States and are able within Canadian law to continue to deal in a business fashion with Cuba and other countries.

We will take action on that after we have looked at the options before us.

TradeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I address my supplementary to the Prime Minister.

The leaders of Canada and the United States have always had a good relationship. Indeed, the Prime Minister has often spoken about the warm relationship he has with President Clinton.

Given that warm relationship and given that this is such a hot issue which is before us right now, can the Prime Minister tell this House if he has called President Clinton on this issue in order to protect Canadian interests and if so, what were the discussions regarding this issue?

TradeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to answer the question.

The hon. member is quite right. We have a number of different relationships with the United States. Fortunately for us many of them are done in a very co-operative fashion. We want to maintain the opportunity to continue a very good and fruitful dialogue with the government and the people of the United States.

On the specific issue dealing with the Helms-Burton bills, the Minister for International Trade has said it is one item on which we have strong disagreements with the approach being taken. I can assure the hon. member that a number of representations have been

made at a variety of levels to ensure that the United States government knows of our objections.

Department Of JusticeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Somalia inquiry is currently going on in Ottawa. Several of those responsible for it have raised the possibility of a conflict of interest concerning the legal counsels of the Department of Justice.

Does the Minister of Justice acknowledge that having legal advisers from his department representing both the crown and the defence in the investigation of senior officers places the department in a conflict of interest situation, a point that has been raised by chief commissioner Judge Létourneau?

Department Of JusticeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, from the outset in this as in any other commission of inquiry, the possibility of conflict has been acknowledged. Whenever government lawyers act for government institutions as well as individuals, that possibility can arise.

Equally from the outset, we have made provisions for such conflicts. To date 13 individuals have been invited to retain their own separate counsel at the expense of the government and that has been done. In addition to that, additional safeguards have been put in place to ensure that any person who is interviewed as a witness or who is brought before the commission is given the opportunity to have separate representation if their interest is different from that of the government.

I can inform the hon. member and the House that earlier this week my deputy minister met with one of the commissioners, Commissioner Létourneau, and discussed this matter in detail. We are now preparing a written response to the letter we received last week on this subject. I am confident that procedures can be devised to address this difficulty while maintaining the responsibility that this department has to represent the government in the inquiry.

Department Of JusticeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Minister of Justice acknowledge that the sole purpose of using lawyers from his department to defend senior officers was to protect those officers at the expense of the lower ranks who were represented by their own lawyers, and continue to be so represented?

Department Of JusticeOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

No, Mr. Speaker, and I say that there is no foundation on the facts for that allegation. It is simply unfair.

Our interest from the outset has been to ensure that the facts come out before the commission. The Minister of National Defence created the commission for that purpose. I repeat that the Department of Justice throughout has made it possible for anyone who is in a different position from ours to have separate representation. We will continue in that regard. If the hon. member is aware of any instance in which that principle is not honoured, I would ask her to let me know so that we can deal with it immediately.

Financial InstitutionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Secretary of State for Financial Institutions.

Bell Canada's supplemental pension plan was placed with Confederation Life Insurance. At least one Bell director was also a director of Confederation Life. When Confederation Life collapsed, the same director did not notify Bell of the difficulties.

Are the director's fiduciary obligations under such circumstances to protect the employees' pension funds or to remain silent?

Financial InstitutionsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the heart of the matter the hon. member brings up is an issue of corporate governance. The issue of corporate governance is one that the Minister of Industry is looking at in his department. They have released a series of papers. The Senate banking committee is looking at the issue of corporate governance. The studies will form part of my own white paper on the financial institution legislation.

To refer to the actual incident the hon. member brings up, I will not give him a legal opinion as I am certainly not a lawyer and as a matter of fact, he is a lawyer. However, I can say generally speaking that the fiduciary responsibilities of financial institution executives are taken very seriously. Where a conflict occurs, they can of course abstain from voting on those matters.