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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was reform.

Topics

Decentralization Of PowerStatements By Members

March 15th, 1996 / 11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec sovereignists have long asked the federal government to stop acting with arrogance and a superior attitude toward Quebec. Last weekend, Daniel Johnson, a Quebec federalist, conveyed more or less the same message.

It is high time that the federal government stop using our money to brainwash us by drowning us in flags and advertising. It is high time that it at least listen to its allies in the Quebec Liberal Party, who are calling for more real decentralization. Otherwise, the centralizing Liberals in this government will widen the gap not only between the federal government and the sovereignists, but also between Ottawa and the Quebec federalists.

Your Canada's unity will not be built with a flag on the hood of a car or a beaver tail as consolation prize.

Those concerned should take note.

Athabasca RiverStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians will be shocked to learn that northern aboriginal communities in my constituency are being treated unfairly by the government.

The government has declared it will stop dredging the Athabasca River this fall. This historic trade route links the city of Fort McMurray to these northern communities. When the coast guard stops dredging this river summer transportation and commerce on the river will stop. The proposed seasonal road linking Points North and Lake Athabasca will not be completed until the turn of the century. What are these communities to do until then?

The dredging of the Athabasca River must continue until this road is completed. I and my constituents do not understand why this road is proposed to the east end of the lake when a seasonal road already exists to the west end of the lake.

Ending the dredging will have a major environmental effect on the Athabasca delta. When the dredging stops the river silt will build up and block the river. The consequences could be as devastating as the Bennet Dam was.

The government, which professes to be so green, must address these issues before major changes-

Athabasca RiverStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Erie.

TerrorismStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are deeply disturbed by the pernicious effects of terrorism. We are outraged by recent incidents of terrorism such as the subway poison gas attack in Tokyo, the Oklahoma bombing, the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and the four recent Hamas suicide bombings in Israel.

Terrorism knows no borders. Canadians recognize that terrorism constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights, that terrorism undermines societal structures and institutions, that there is absolutely no justification for terrorism under any circumstances.

We have passed the time for rhetoric. It is now time for action. Terrorist organizations must be targeted. We call on all countries of the world to establish an effective mechanism for the exchange of information, assistance, technology and training to combat terrorism in all its aspects.

We call on all countries to establish programs of counter-terrorism and to immediately conclude terrorist extradition treaties. We must eradicate these merchants of hate for the good of all mankind.

Leader Of The Official OppositionStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, although he has succeeded Lucien Bouchard on paper at least, yesterday's pitiful performance by the hon. member for Roberval shows that he does not have the makings of a party leader and that he is not worthy of that post.

In an interview with Le Soleil , the hon. member for Roberval attacks our Prime Minister with impunity and with obvious disregard for the truth, saying, and I quote: ``-that, over time, he has become an Ontarian with the Canadian mentality''.

All Quebecers and Canadians know that our Prime Minister is a true Quebecer and a proud Canadian. He represents the riding of Saint-Maurice in Quebec, and he needs no lesson in ethnic purity from the hon. member for Roberval.

If the Bloc Quebecois now considers the main residence to be a criterion for being a real Quebecer, people like Luc Plamondon, Mario Lemieux and Jacques Villeneuve do not qualify.

Canadian Cultural InstitutionsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party won the election by promising stable financing for Canada's major cultural institutions.

However, since the Liberals came to power, parliamentary appropriations for the National Film Board have dropped from $82 million in 1994-95 to $65 million in 1996-97, not counting further cuts yet to be announced. At this rate, the NFB's budget will have shrunk by 30 per cent in four years on account of the Liberals' slash and burn management.

By imposing repeated funding cuts on the NFB, the CBC and Telefilm Canada, the government is altering the nature of the mandate of these major cultural institutions, simply by cutting off their funding.

We demand that promises be acted on and that stable multiyear financing be provided to enable the CBC, the NFB and Telefilm Canada to fulfil their mandate.

The DebtStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is content to allow the national debt to top $600 billion within its mandate. The recent budget is a no hope budget with no prospect of tax relief within this century.

For businesses and individuals, present and future, who must suffer reduced incomes because of the Liberal government, the House should remember them in their suffering by observing a period of silence.

During this minute of reflection the national debt rose by over $62,000. The government cannot afford to be silent any longer.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in their brief yesterday to the human resources development committee, the Fédération des femmes du Québec stated that fewer and fewer women will be eligible for maternity benefits because of the unemployment insurance reform. The Liberal MPs on the committee were, moreover, unable to disprove the federation's statement.

Does the Minister of Human Resources Development realize that, by setting a minimum number of hours worked ranging from 420 to 700 hours, he will be preventing a considerable number of women from drawing maternity benefits?

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this question being raised by the House leader of the official opposition is indeed a very important one. It is true that the changes proposed in Bill C-12 would impact upon women, as the hon. member says. This is one of the very good reasons why we are in the process of examining the bill in committee, and why we want to hear witnesses and to find out about problems such as this.

I am sure the committee members from all parties will address the problem identified yesterday by the Fédération des femmes du Québec. I trust that here, as in other sectors, amendments will be proposed to improve or totally eliminate the problem referred to by the hon. member.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister can count on the official opposition to bring in such amendments, and I trust we can count on the minister to support them. This is not the only area in which there is a problem. Women will be penalized, not only by maternity benefit restrictions, but also when they return to work if they opt to devote several years to rearing their children. Let us keep in mind that the minister intends to triple, from 300 to 910 hours, the minimum number of hours of work required for eligibility for benefits.

I am asking the minister, who has announced major amendments and who again this morning has said he is open to certain amendments, whether he has looked at changing the rules proposed in his bill relating to people returning to the work force after more than three years, after having left to devote their time to rearing a child or for some other reason?

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, we are trying to be as equitable as we can in addressing all of the questions that will be brought to the attention of the committee.

In response to a comment by the House leader for the official opposition, we will look with great interest at any of the amendments brought forward by any of the political parties represented on the committee. Whether we can agree with them in totality we will have to wait and see. I am sure we will do the best we can.

With respect to the re-entry qualifications I want to make it clear that they apply across the board to all new entrants or re-entrants. We will take into account any special circumstances. Again there I understand the honourable member's comment about the need for mothers to take extended periods of time to deal with the rearing of their children. I expect the committee will be making suggestions and recommendations on this and a number of other areas.

I am very pleased to see that members of the official opposition now recognize the value of having this piece of legislation considered by the committee. I am sure as time goes on, as was the case yesterday and as will be the case next week, there will be a lot of constructive suggestions made and we will deal with them.

The one thing I would say we are totally committed to is the fiscal parameters that were set out for the overall EI reform. Within that restriction we are prepared to look at anything which will render the situation as equitable and as fair to women and everybody else who must have access to employment insurance.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the minister is pleased with the possibility of amendments by the official opposition, I trust that he also realizes that, if the official opposition had not opposed the initial bill so strenuously, and if there had not been demonstrations across the country-which are still continuing-the government would perhaps not have acted and would perhaps not be considering changing the bill, which was unacceptable right from the start. As well as the professional agitators-

In Quebec, women hold 68 per cent of the part time jobs. From now on, in order to be entitled to benefits, people will have to have worked between 420 and 700 hours, depending on the region. Does the minister realize that people who work 15 hours a week, the large majority of these women, would see the number of weeks they would have to work to draw benefits raised from 28 to 47 weeks? This is often a problem for those with unstable employment, seasonal employment, and 68 per cent of such jobs are done by women.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, a large number of women, students, people everywhere in Canada working a few hours weekly, a few hours yearly, are not eligible at all for unemployment insurance benefits under the system as it now stands.

There is no doubt that the matter of 15 hours needs looking at, for it is very important to understand that 15 is the total number of hours worked in a week required at the present time to be eligible for unemployment insurance.

It would be necessary to know how many people, including women, work exactly 15 hours a week-not 14, not 16, not 18, not 22-to find out exactly what the impacts will be. We are prepared to present all of the impact analyses once the committee has

finished its work, or even while they are still sitting, in order to try to assess the implications of this or that change.

I trust that my hon. colleague recognizes that, by changing the system to start counting from the first hour worked for everyone, women included, we have taken a forward step. We have succeeded in protecting many people and I am prepared, in due time, and in committee, to see that my departmental employees present all possible data to ensure that everything is clarified. We will need to look at the impact on women, on those who have been excluded from the unemployment insurance system all these years because they did not have their 15 hours a week, in order to see whether where we are headed will be fair to women and to all who need access to the employment insurance program.

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Human Resources Development. When asked in the House on Monday about employment assistance programs for students, the minister wrongly accused the official opposition of being out of touch with reality. Unfortunately for the minister, he was confronted the next day by students who reminding him of how precarious student life is and how ineffectual, indeed pathetic, government programs are. We now know who is out of touch with reality.

Will the minister recognize that all the employment assistance programs for students in the world will never compensate for the hundreds of millions of dollars the government is going to cut from post-secondary education and for the increased tuition fees the cut will mean?

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this week I had the opportunity to meet with young people from across the country at Forum Canada. The hon. member's claim that I was confronted by young people who had raised the issues he intimates in his question is wrong.

Just to let you know what is happening with the money made available for post-secondary institutions in this country, obviously we have jurisdiction-because the member and his party are always interested in jurisdiction. The provinces have jurisdiction.

The money transferred by the Government of Canada is being used as well to fund certain provincial expenditures for post-secondary institutions.

Tuition fees for universities, cegeps, community colleges and post-secondary institutions are set by the institution or by the government, depending on the system.

The Minister of Finance announced in his budget last week that we were going to stabilize the amounts available to the provinces under the Canada social transfer.

I hope we will all work together, as we did federally, by trying not only to provide the tools needed for young people to progress, but also the funds needed through job creation for students this summer to enable them to meet their objectives.

To suggest that the Government of Canada is totally responsible for the situation in universities or post-secondary institutions across the country does not really indicate where the responsibility lies. It lies with the provinces, which have jurisdiction.

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister just talked about lowering transfer payments. We have some figures for him on the consequences for Quebec, in particular.

While the federal government has cut more than $400 million in two years in transfer payments to Quebec for post-secondary education, it will allocate an additional $15 million only for summer jobs in Quebec.

Will the minister acknowledge that the recent announcements are nothing more than window dressing hiding major cuts for students?

Post-Secondary EducationOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I can have differences of opinion with representatives of various political parties on a number of issues. Surely one of the areas on which we will all find some common ground is that governments of all political stripes at all levels are faced with extremely difficult decisions.

That is the situation in the province of Quebec today on a whole number of fronts that are entirely within the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec. Although we have very serious and profound differences on a number of issues, the future of the country for example, one thing I do agree on with the premier of Quebec is the need for that government to take serious action to address its fiscal problems.

It is simply not accurate to suggest that the Government of Canada is entirely responsible for the problems that exist with financing post-secondary institutions in Quebec. On the other hand when we announced we were doubling the amount of money available in Canada for summer student employment from $60 million to $120 million and the portion going to Quebec would be $15 million, it recognized that we did understand the problem facing young people in Quebec and their need to find summer jobs.

I did not suggest that the $120 million for summer employment for students was going to be a panacea for their need to find jobs. It is just part of the solution, which will have to be met by other

provinces, municipal governments, and particularly the private sector.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, first it was a letter calling on soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces to shift their allegiance to a Quebec army. Now it is high level negotiations and agreements between Quebec officers and the PQ government to establish a Quebec defence staff headquarters after a yes vote.

This is a very serious matter. It strikes at the very integrity of the Canadian Armed Forces. What will the Minister of National Defence do to investigate the separatist attempt to destabilize the Canadian Armed Forces?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I noted the comments of the hon. member from Charlesbourg which have been in the press. Certainly those kinds of allegations are quite serious. I agree with my friend opposite on the gravity of such an accusation.

The chief of the defence staff has consulted with his predecessor, General de Chastelain, and other senior officers in the last number of hours. I can assure the House that there have been no plans drawn up. There have been no discussions authorized by the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces for the eventual creation of two armed forces or the integration of a Quebec-Canada army. That would be totally inappropriate and unacceptable.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear that assurance from the minister.

Is this the first time the minister has heard of these allegations that are being made about the interplay between the Bloc Quebecois, the Parti Quebecois and the Canadian Armed Forces?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we should view this in perspective.

During the referendum campaign there were lots of assertions and accusations made and a lot of emotional debate. The hon. member for Charlesbourg had sent a letter to certain officers in the province of Quebec. The matter was of such gravity that you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that the House debate a motion by a member of the Reform Party, my opposition critic. The matter is now before the House.

Any accusations or suggestions made by the hon. member for Charlesbourg on the latest accusation or on the letter is something that has to be dealt with by the committee. If the hon. member for Charlesbourg has any evidence to substantiate this kind of allegation, he has a duty as a member of this House to bring it forward to that committee so that it can be examined.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this goes beyond the allegations concerning the member for Charlesbourg. It goes beyond the matter that will be placed before the committee presumably next week. This is a very serious matter. I find the minister's answers to date unacceptable.

The BQ letter and the PQ secret negotiations are exactly why we have been trying to open it up and get the government to discuss the terms of separation well in advance but it has chosen not to do that. That is precisely why we are in a problem right now. Before the final showdown with the Quebec separatists, the government cannot continue to sit on the fence; it has to come out.

Will the minister make it perfectly crystal clear in whatever public domain to the Bloc Quebecois, to Lucien Bouchard and to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that the Canadian forces are off limits in the debate on Quebec sovereignty?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member was a very distinguished general officer in the armed forces. He knows that the role of the Canadian Armed Forces is to support the duly elected Government of Canada and the Constitution of Canada. I am confident that the men and women of Canada's armed forces are doing exactly that.

The burden of proof about any actions of members of the armed forces as alleged by the hon. member for Charlesbourg is on that member to come forward and give us that proof. Only at that time will we launch a greater investigation other than the one I have in a sense launched in the last number of hours with the chief of the defence staff who has assured me that these allegations are unfounded.

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

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

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

In response to a question from the official opposition, the minister recognized and confirmed that several amendments to the UI program will result in greater numbers on the welfare rolls, since thousands of newly unemployed workers will no longer be eligible for UI benefits.

Does the minister not find it scandalous that people who lose their jobs are forced to turn to a form of assistance of last resort,

instead of receiving UI benefits to which they have contributed and to which they are entitled?

Unemployment Insurance ReformOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I do not see how the hon. member can say that I agree with opposition members. This is not the case at all. What happens is that, with the legislation as it was proposed, the calculation is to be based on the number of accumulated hours.

However, I think that, with the amendments that will be moved during the course of the legislative process, we will end up with a system whereby many part time workers will not have to turn to social assistance and will in fact be eligible for UI benefits. Some employers, for all sorts of reasons, provide less than 15 hours of work per week to their employees. These workers are currently not eligible for the UI program, or for other support programs that are in place to help the majority of Canadian workers.

Hopefully, and contrary to what the hon. member implied, these amendments will reduce the number of people who have to turn to social assistance.