House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debt.


The Budget

12:25 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed sad that downsizing has to happen but it is an essential component of good governance.

It is indeed sad that some jobs have been lost, but at the same time we have the new economy. Therefore we have to adjust our country and our citizenry to that new economy. We must realize that when we have created over half a million jobs, and I hope the member would agree with me, that some who have been laid off in their previous jobs would have found new jobs among the new jobs created. This is the reality of our times.

In terms of specific projects, the summer student program is there for our youth and I would not like to belittle that, as the member may suggest, as only because the unemployment rate among our youth is among the highest compared to any other age groups. We have to focus on our youth.

It does not mean we have not focused as well on job creation for those beyond the youth age. Jobs have been created for them. We have the Team Canada spirit where the government in partnership with the private sector would create jobs. When we work co-operatively and in collaboration with each other we will create more jobs.

As I indicated during debate, of course the government is not happy that we have created only this much. We will continue to do more, but if we can work together we will achieve that goal.

The Budget

12:25 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Okanagan Centre.

It seems that when people put together a budget, and certainly it should be no different for a government, a budget should be reflective of a plan. As we take a look at the affairs of the government day after day we see they are disorganized, in disarray. Most of all we have a strong sense of disappointment that the Liberals are effectively betraying the trust given to them by Canadians in the 1993 election.

None is anymore true than in the case of the heritage minister. The heritage minister has been going around Canada making verbal droppings of different ideas that she has. She has no organization, no plan and no idea of what will be happening next. Let me give some examples.

Before she came on board, this has been a problem within the department of heritage right from the word go. Probably the most classic example would be the so-called Juneau commission that was examining the affairs of the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board.

It started off in May of last year with the idea of having its report complete by September. It did not complete the report by September. It said it would be completing it by November. We were rather curious to see how many dollars it had already consumed to the end of its original report period. It had consumed over $900,000 in that period of time.

The committee went past its November deadline and said it would deliver its report in January. Again we went to access to information and we discovered that the $900,000 had ballooned to $1.6 million. Within that $1.6 million was an entry for $60,000 for the three commissioners. I think it was instructive that in the original set of numbers of $900,000 there was no money for the commissioners, no money at least reported at that point, and suddenly out of the $1.6 million there is $60,000.

Then the committee came forward with its report in January, and what a report it was. It was absolutely brilliant, saying that Canadian who chose not to watch the CBC and who get cable would really enjoy paying an extra cable fee, an extra cable tax to cover the costs of the CBC which they did not want to watch in the first place. Or if they did not want to get cable, maybe it would be a good idea if we were to charge them some kind of a levy or tax on their video rentals. Apart from the fact that it really did not accomplish anything we know the report is going to end up on the shelf and nothing is ever going to happen to it, and what did we pay? We paid $2.75 million for that report.

What was particularly instructive was how the heritage minister's friends made out, the cultural elite who were doing the report. In the first instance in September there was no mention of any fee for the commissioners. In November there was mention of $60,000. In January when this wonderful tome finally came forward, it cost the Canadian taxpayers $300,000 for the part time work of these commissioners.

We dug a little further and of course we were making noises about the fact that it did not seem right that these people should be getting $100,000 for about seven or eight months of part time work. One of the commissioners suddenly piped up and said: "Oh, I did not take anything", which makes it even worse. Now there are two commissioners digging into the pockets of Canadian taxpayers for $150,000 each for seven months work. Not bad work if one can get it I guess. That is typical of this government. It takes care of its friends and keeps on going through these reports but it does not have any plan.

When the heritage minister took over the portfolio what happened with respect to Radio Canada International? Radio Canada International performs a valuable function for Canada. It has approximately 125 employees and its budget is approximately $16 million. It is of interest to note that in order to get the short wave

out, almost $1 million of the $16 million is consumed in hydro power alone. It is really quite an enterprise. However, it has 125 loyal employees who were told in November last year that their services would no longer be required as of April 1.

The heritage minister loves to do these little droppings all over the place. She said that we were going to save Radio Canada International, which was good news. Except she got her portfolio in the latter part of January and then she had to figure out where the money was going to come from.

She went to the CBC. We are going to be talking about the CBC in just a second. She ended up taking $8 million from the CBC. Then she scavenged around with a tin cup and came up with another $8 million for a total of the $16 million.

There is no plan. Radio Canada International is still in the state it was previously. Radio Canada International has a reprieve of one more year with absolutely no idea of how it is going to be kept on the air or how it is going to keep this valuable service going.

It has been my position as Reform Party heritage critic that we have to look at privatizing and look at other ways of funding valuable functions like Radio Canada International other than from the pockets of taxpayers, other than going into debt. However there is no plan.

I should note that members of the staff and management of Radio Canada International are to be highly commended for staying on the job doing their work and keeping the faith while the minister kept them waiting for a full five and a half months from the time they were told they were no longer needed. Only two weeks before they did not know where their next mortgage payment would come from, she said she had scrounged around and had come up with some dollars.

What about the CBC? The minister is particularly noted for what I call her Canadiana. She loves to say that she is going to give us a much more wonderful Canada. I must admit that along with a lot of Canadians I am becoming increasingly sceptical of whether the government will be able to do what it says it will be able to do. What the government says and what it does very frequently do not match up.

An example is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which the Reform Party has said should be privatized. The Liberals have said out of one side of their mouth they are going to keep the CBC as a public broadcaster funded with public funds, but they have already cut $227 million. They now have to find $150 million more by 1998. It is no wonder that without any kind of direction or a mandate the unions today are in a position of being able to take a strike vote the week of April 22, next week.

A report from Canadian Press today states that if no deal is reached between the CBC's three unions and management a strike or lockout involving 7,000 employees could happen as early as May. They are presently fighting over the issue, as it were, of contracting out, in other words, how much information or programming will be done in house by these unions for the CBC.

This question cannot be resolved because of the lack of direction of the heritage minister and the lack of direction of the government. This is the reason I and many Canadians are so sceptical that the government will be able to do what it says it is going to do.

Last Friday the minister announced a $10 million program. I should explain that this comes out of a $120 million slush fund set up by the finance minister. This $10 million program is called Young Canada Works. It theoretically is going to put 1,900 people in the age bracket of 16 to 30 to work. It is going to involve high school and college students. Of those 1,900 it would be fair to speculate that this summer about one million people are going to be looking for work. That means one person in five hundred is going to be able to take advantage of the program, but how much of a program is it?

Let us make it clear. The Canadian Museums Association in a news release it also put out over the weekend expressed some happiness that this was in place. However, the association should know that the Deputy Prime Minister, Canada's heritage minister, has no idea where the funds are coming from for any of its projects either. What she has basically done is she has slipped her hand into this $120 million slush fund and has come out with $10 million.

This is going to be shared with other institutions. It is going to be shared with Young Canada Works in both official languages, Young Canada Works in national parks and historic sites, Young Canada Works for urban and aboriginal youth, and Young Canada Works in heritage institutions.

The point of my submission is that this government has no plan. The minister is out of control. She has no idea of what she is doing. This budget and the way the minister is administering her heritage department is disgraceful.

The Budget

12:35 p.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Kootenay East began his debate by stating that the government has absolutely no plan and that the budget should be reflective of the government's plan.

I refer him to the throne speech we began this session with. The throne speech did refer to our commitment to jobs and growth, youth, science, technology and trade. The throne speech referred to security for Canadians. A secure social safety net is very important for the people of Canada. The throne speech referred to a modern and united country. Federalism is constantly evolving. There were

promises made in the throne speech about a first ministers meeting which will be coming up probably in June of this year.

I now refer the member to the budget. The purpose of the budget is to spell out the government's plan in detail and the implementation of the government's plan. Beginning with our platform in 1993 we fulfilled certain commitments halfway through our mandate. Now we are showing Canadians how we are going to meet the rest of our commitments in the latter half of our mandate.

I would like the hon. member to read the throne speech and the budget speech again. I think he will be assured and he can assure his constituents that this government has a very clear plan for the future growth of this country.

The Budget

12:40 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member unwittingly makes my point. My point is that there is no connection between what is contained in the throne speech and the budget and the activities of the minister. For example on the issue of the fly flag program of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Reform Party would say "buy flag, fly flag". In other words, let us have some responsibility. Let us spend $2 on a little flag and let us fly the flag. Let us spend $30 on a larger flag let us fly the flag. Let us take some responsibility for that.

The minister wants to go back to 1967 and as a consequence she has come forward with a plan. Her fly flag program was running before the civil servants in her ministry had any idea where the flags were going to come from. Calls were coming in and they had absolutely no idea what they were doing or how they were going to do it. Is it going to cost $2 million, $4 million, $6 million? I do not know and neither do her officials. She came up with $150,000 out of thin air for a lacrosse project. It goes on and on and is absolutely astounding.

The Liberal member has underscored my point. Yes we have a throne speech and yes we have a budget, both which have nothing whatsoever to do with what the minister is doing on a day to day basis.

The Budget

12:40 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised my colleague has attacked the Deputy Prime Minister and minister of heritage, with her knowledge and vision of Canada, her commitment to this nation, her boundless energy, her tremendous creativity. I applaud her flag program. I cannot see the value in attacking it.

I am also disappointed the member would say the minister does not have a plan. The minister does have a plan. Either the hon. member does not understand the plan or he is simply quibbling about the fact it is not his plan and therefore he is unhappy.

I would ask my colleague to tell us what his plans are. He suggests he knows what he would do. Let us hear it.

The Budget

12:40 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is rather silly to say let us hear the Reform Party plan. In 30 seconds we are supposed to have a plan.

Every time we end up talking about the heritage minister and the fact that she does run willy-nilly on these things, suddenly I am attacking her commitment to Canada. I would suggest that kind of rhetoric is really unfortunate. To question the commitment to Canada of anyone in this House, save 53 members, is beyond the pale.

We should be able to point out that the minister does run around indiscriminately making all sorts of announcements which her officials then have to run around picking up after her, without my being questioned as to whether I question her credibility to Canadians. Of course she is proud to be Canadian and is committed to Canada, as are the majority of people in this House and I.

The minister is lacking in credibility on the promises she made on the issue of the GST. She is also lacking in credibility by continuing to come forward saying let us do this with the collection fee for the CBC, or let us do that with respect to the CRTC. There is no plan which is exactly the point.

The Department of Canadian Heritage has the ability to be a tremendous fixer of Canada, a cement builder for Canada. It can glue things and permanently pull things together in Canada. As long as this minister continues to fly off in all directions at once we will never see the full value of the Department of Canadian Heritage, and this is a shame.

The Budget

12:45 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I draw the attention of the House on this debate to perhaps a little different approach. I focus it in the words of a professor at a university who was referring to Aristotle, the great teacher and great philosopher about democracy and how it should operate. He said people in government exercise a teaching function. Among other things we, the people, see what they, the government officials, do and think that this is how we should act.

Whether we like it or not the position of legislators in this and many other countries and how they act is somehow interpreted by the people that they should act that way as well.

If we examine this budget from that context and look at the message it sends to the people, in particular to young people, I suggest that there is very little to be proud of. Let us take a few moments to reflect on some of the messages the budget sends.

The first message is if you cannot afford it, borrow it. The second is if you do not want to pay for it, borrow it and tax future generations and/or spread the burden on to others in society. How have Canadians responded to these messages not only in this budget but in previous budgets? This is not a new trend in Canada.

For example, if you cannot afford it, borrow. Personal debt in Canada, including credit card debt, is at an all time high. There is some indication that less than 10 per cent of the disposable income of Canadians is discretionary. In other words, they do not have much flexibility to spend that little bit of income they have left over after they are taxed. Is it any wonder our retailers are crying that people are not buying? Our economy is dying because they cannot buy. How can they? They have borrowed to the maximum. Almost all of their discretionary income is going to paying those debts so they do not have money to spend.

Then the retailers and the other business people ask how can they get them to buy more. They have various schemes like do not pay until next year, do not pay until two years from now, and most recently, do not pay anything until three years from now. That is dangerous.

The second message was if you do not want to pay for it, borrow it and tax future generations and/or spread the burden on others in society. There is a very strong situation today, and some legislation has been introduced in the House, that students do not repay their loans. Is that good? No, it is not. Can we blame them when they look at their government and say the government is not living up to its promises? It borrows to pay the interest on the debt that is outstanding. The students see this and say there is a double standard. The government says to the student "you pay" but when it comes to its own debt it just keeps on borrowing more.

Abuses to the UI system are examples of how we distribute it around to other members of society. Quit a job that one has to work at for 365 days and get a job where one can be employed for 12 weeks and then collect pogey for the other 40 weeks of the year. Who pays for that? Not the individual who incurred it; it is someone else.

The example Canadians see that is set by the federal government in this and previous budgets is one which no one should follow if they want to be in control of their own financial future. The budget is the major policy document of a government and as such ought to be the best example of how Canadians should operate. It does exactly the opposite.

There is another part to this. The budget as it was proposed to us says it is not necessary to tell the whole truth; just tell the people what they want to hear. The deficit is going down which means we are getting closer to balancing the budget. That is good, is it not? So far, so good.

However, do not tell them the debt is actually increasing. Do not tell them the interest is actually increasing. Do not tell them it will continue into the future because there is no plan to eliminate the deficit. Nor is there a target date as to when the budget will be balanced. Do not tell them there will be less disposable income as a result of this budget because taxes will have to increase to pay for it all.

Do not admit that in the election campaign the government promised to kill, slash, eliminate the GST. Instead, quote page 22 of the red book which does not promise to eliminate the GST but to harmonize it.

Do not admit the verbal promises of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister went well beyond the provisions of the red book. Instead, when called to account, they declare: "I am not responsible for what I said. I am only responsible for what is said in the red book". That is quite an example, is it not? It is the wrong example for our young people.

Do not tell them there will be a direct and negative impact on social programs, particularly medicare, education and seniors' pensions. In other words, there will be less money available for these programs.

At the same time, we have the government telling us it is really serious about looking after seniors, making sure their pension benefits will continue, that they will be at least as well off as they are today. How can it be serious about a statement like that when the message the budget sends is different?

At the heart of this comes another issue, freedom or liberty. Probably the most serious implication of this and previous budgets is that this important policy document, especially in our senior government, is the absence of wisdom and responsibility in that budget.

It is not wise to spend more money on government programs than the government collects in revenue. It is not responsible to incur debt in one generation which a future generation will have to service and ultimately repay.

How different the attitude that was just published about Albertans. They were asked in a recent poll what the government should do with the surplus. They said to the government pay down the debt, do not reduce taxes. That is wisdom. They understand that as the debt is paid down, the interest to service that debt comes down. That means even if the taxes are kept at the same level, they will buy more. That is wisdom. That is also responsible.

From that perspective, the Alberta position is the correct position. The position of the federal government says keep on borrowing. It is dishonourable and it is an example that we as Canadians should not follow in our own lives.

The burgeoning debt is the problem. It is the issue. It stands at $581 billion today. We have an interest bill of $47 billion. In the four years, as indicated in the 1996 budget, this contemporary federal government has added over $100 billion to the federal debt.

Why is that important? As has been already indicated, it increases the service costs, particularly the interest payments. Any dollar that is added to the debt will change the amount of interest paid.

Each point of interest has an impact as well. Supposing the interest rates should rise, and it looks like they will, each point rise in the interest rate itself adds $1 billion immediately to the total interest bill.

How much is $1 billion? There is a very interesting bit of arithmetic that somebody did not too long ago. I wish I had the time to figure these things out. Somebody sat down and figured it out. If one counted a number at the rate of one per second consistently, each second there would be a complete number. It would take just short of 32 years to get to $1 billion. That is how much would be added to the interest if the interest rate rises 1 per cent.

Each time that happens it increases the amount of money that future generations will be expected to repay. At present levels of roughly 30 million people in Canada and a federal debt of about $600 billion, that is $20,000 per person. Any child born today comes into the world with a $20,000 debt they will be responsible for in order for us to liquidate that date.

That is what we are doing but is that what Canadians wanted? I do not think so. The number one requirement, which the government hit right on the head when it went into the election, is to create jobs, jobs, jobs. That is exactly what we wanted.

We had over this last week a very interesting development on Friday afternoon and it raises some very interesting questions. For example, airlines in Canada must be 75 per cent owned by Canadians in order to fly but bus lines transporting people on the highways do not have that restriction. What kind of sense does this make? Is this a matter of Canadian culture and Canadian identity or is it about competition and preferential treatment of some over others?

What is it we want to preserve? A viable economy? A Canadian culture? Preservation of our social programs? I say it is all three. We want all of these. Our job should be to establish and maintain a culture which rewards entrepreneurship, innovation and research and ensures a level, competitive and honest workplace and marketplace.

Governments lead by example. I implore the Prime Minister that the government change the example so we can follow it because it reflects wisdom and responsibility, not this last budget which reflects the exact opposite of wisdom and responsibilities; it is neither wise nor responsible.

The Budget

12:55 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, following on the point of not being wise or responsible, that is a fairly substantial indictment.

Earlier I spoke about being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. When the government took over after the last election, the financial year ended in March 1994 and the government had a deficit of 6 per cent of GDP.

The finance minister in his first budget brought in the concept of two year rolling targets. We have achieved 5 per cent in the first full year of deficit to GDP; 4 per cent in the second; 3 per cent will be the percentage at the end of March 1997; and a commitment by the government, by the finance minister, to further reduce that to 2 per cent deficit to GDP.

We are getting very close to delivering to the people of Canada a balanced budget. We have hit the targets. We have set them. They have been realistic and balanced in a way which will not impact negatively on seniors, on our health care system which keeps the country together, on young people, on jobs and on economic growth that we have been experiencing.

The indictment this member makes tells me he is spending more time lamenting the past rather than looking forward to the future.

The Budget

12:55 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it rather interesting that the member opposite would suggest that the meeting of the target of 2 per cent of GDP is a desirable goal for the deficit.

I wonder if the member recognizes that doing that means a perpetuation of a deficit on a continuing basis. If the gross domestic product should rise, which I hope it will and it looks like it will, it will automatically allow the government flexibility to increase that deficit which means the end result is not a decrease in the government debt but an increase in the government debt.

The very point the hon. member is making is the exact opposite of what he is trying to prove. It it true that there is less of a deficit today than there was last year, and that is commendable, but the point is that even $1 of deficit is too much because it increases the debt. When will the government recognize that to be wise and to be responsible means to tell the truth, the whole truth, not part of it? Tell the people the implications of this debt. Tell them the implications of the interest rates and how it will increase the debt. That is the whole story.

Am I supposed to suggest that everything about this budget is bad? I did not say that. I said tell the truth, tell it the way it really is rather than telling part of the story. That is the issue.

The member makes a big point about being on track and having reached the targets, et cetera. There was a target. It was to eliminate the GST. I ask him, where is the elimination of the GST? That was the promise. That was the promise they campaigned on. Where is it?

The Budget

1 p.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot let the hon. member's incorrect statements go unchallenged.

I refer him to the budget speech. He complains about what was and was not said to the public. The Minister of Finance said: "The new funds that government must borrow from financial markets each year will be cut to $6 billion, 0.7 per cent of GDP in 1997, the lowest among all G-7 central governments". The minister went on to say: "The debt to GDP ratio, the size of the debt in relation to Canada's economy, will finally begin to decline in 1997-98. The economy will grow faster than the debt". There are the statements in black and white made publicly in the House of Commons.

How can the Reform members, speaker after speaker, say that we are not open and honest with the public?

The Budget

1 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Okanagan Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, my point has been proven again. I quite agree the government is going in the right direction. But it does not matter how long we proceed or how much slower we proceed to the edge of the waterfall, the waterfall is coming. If we slow down the canoe by paddling backwards slower or faster so that progress toward the edge of the precipice decreases, we are still going to come to the edge of the precipice sooner or later.

With all due respect to those statements, the fact still remains that the debt is increasing and our interest costs are increasing. Unless we change that direction we will not get our debt under control.

The Budget

1 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in support of the 1996 budget brought down in the House on March 6, 1996 by my hon. colleague, the Minister of Finance.

Let me say at the outset that I believe this is a good budget for all Canadians. It has particular relevance to many aspects of my portfolio as Minister of Natural Resources.

The difficult decisions we took and the measures that we announced create an environment conducive to economic growth and job creation.

The variety of measures announced by the hon. Minister of Finance affecting the natural resources sector result from a series of intensive consultations with the provinces, with industry and with stakeholders in Canada's natural resources sector. We listened to the views of Canadians and we delivered.

The announcements by the Minister of Finance solidify my department's progress to focus on sustainable development and jobs and growth in the energy, mining, forestry and earth sciences sectors. This progress is critical because these sectors make a substantial contribution to Canada's overall economic growth, to job creation and to the trade surplus.

In addition, the work of my department reflects the federal government's core responsibilities in those areas where national effort and co-ordination are necessary.

First, I would like to talk about the budget announcements regarding renewable energy and energy efficiency. Canadians who work in the renewable energy sector have a vision of the future. They work hard to ensure that Canada is at the leading edge of developments in this important sector.

In the spirit that environmental health and economic development should complement each other, the federal government's green power procurement policy and the tax changes in the 1996 budget emphasized the commitment we made in the red book to renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

The income tax changes will provide a level playing field for certain renewable and non-renewable energy investments. The creation of the Canadian renewable and conservation expenses, or CRCE, will provide renewable energy investments with similar treatment to that afforded to non-renewables.

This will attract new investment to the Canadian renewable energy industry. Officials in my department will join their colleagues at Finance Canada to begin consultations with stakeholders to determine the types of expenses that will be included under this expenditure category. I expect this work to be completed this fall.

I should point out that I have been gratified to receive many letters from individuals and associations in the renewable energy sector who expressed their thanks to the Government of Canada for these progressive announcements in the 1996 budget. These announcements respond to the needs of the Canadian renewable energy industry. We listened and we delivered.

For this reason, I am working with my colleague, the hon. Minister of Finance, on a process for consultations on proposals for tax measures to promote energy efficiency investments. I expect to join my hon. colleague in making an announcement on the timetable for consultations very shortly. The objective for this process will be to recommend measures for implementation in the 1997 budget.

In the meantime, I am committed to ensuring we play a role in further progress by Canada's renewable energy sectors. For

example, in the very near future I expect to release a renewable energy strategy. This strategy will continue to emphasize the importance of R and D and stronger market development activities.

Success by Canada's renewable energy sector, both at home and abroad, will contribute to economic growth and jobs. In addition, the renewable energy sector offers significant potential to help Canada move toward its international climate change commitment to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Let me now move to more traditional energy forms. In this regard I would like to speak about Alberta's oil sands. Let me remind members of the House that the oil sands deposits in Alberta are estimated to contain more recoverable oil than all the reserves of Saudi Arabia, more than 300 million barrels. The national oil sands task force has estimated that in the next 25 years new investments totalling approximately $25 billion will help create approximately 44,000 permanent new jobs in the oil sands industry.

The federal government recognizes the potential of the oil sands industry to spur economic growth and create jobs. However, to realize the potential of this enormous resource, the oil sands industry requires increased investment.

To send positive signals to the investment community, the 1996 federal budget provides a generic tax treatment for all oil sands projects. In short, the tax treatment previously accorded to oil sands projects using mining methods has been extended to cover all oil sands projects. Tax incentives that were available for new projects and major expansions will now include investments in environmental efficiency improvements.

The Government of Canada has made these changes for three reasons. They will promote economic growth Canada-wide. They will increase domestic oil supply and they will stimulate job creation.

The fiscal changes made in the 1996 budget, along with recent changes to Alberta's royalty framework, will establish a clear, consistent and attractive regime for oil sands investors. These changes will encourage them to invest in Canada rather than competing projects in other countries.

The importance of this attractive framework for the economy of Alberta can hardly be overstated. There is no other industrial or resource opportunity that compares in size to the oil sands. Oil sands development offers the promise of major growth in investment and income well into the next century.

I should point out these benefits will not be restricted to Alberta. Studies conducted under contract to Industry Canada demonstrate the procurement benefits from oil sands development will flow to more than 50 different industrial groups. Simply put, jobs will be created across the country.

Moreover, the changes in the 1996 federal budget affecting the oil sands industry reflect many of the recommendations by the national task force on oil sands strategies. Again, we listened and we delivered.

Let us move to other changes announced by the Minister of Finance that provide benefits for Canadian mining and oil and gas industries. In mining, investment in Canadian mineral exploration has been rising. In fact, 1996 will be a banner year for mineral exploration. The Government of Canada shares the excitement in this increased exploration activity. We are working hard to ensure a bright future for mining by living up to the commitments made in the Liberal mining policy.

The mining industry, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and the Association des prospecteurs du Québec, were asking for changes to the flow-through share system.

They requested that eligibility rules for these shares be tightened to ensure that the benefits are delivered only where they are most needed to support new grassroots exploration activity. The 1996 budget delivered.

In addition, the Minister of Finance announced an extension of the 60-day rule for flow-through shares to one year. As a consequence, mineral and metal and oil and gas exploration activities will be more efficient. The risk to investors will be reduced and greater efficiencies will likely lead to more discoveries. These new mineral discoveries will provide new opportunities for economic growth and jobs in Canada and increase the benefits of jobs and growth in existing mining communities in both rural and urban Canada.

I would like to move to other budget announcements, in particular those concerning Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, or AECL. AECL's budget will be reduced from $174 million in 1996-97 to $100 million in 1998-99. AECL will focus on maintaining a viable and competitive Candu business at a reduced cost to the federal government. AECL will capitalize on its business potential and will continue to make a significant contribution to Canada's economic growth and the creation of high skilled jobs in an area of advanced technology.

Nearly 20 per cent of Canada's electricity is produced by Candu reactors and the foreign sales of Candu technology bring important economic benefits home to Canada. For example, the projects to build three Candu reactors in South Korea are bringing more than $1 billion in contracts to Canadian companies.

The magnitude of the budget cuts required difficult trade-offs. One of these trade-offs was funding for basic science activities that are not directly linked to the Candu program. However, the

Government of Canada is committed to seeking alternative sources of funding and other institutional arrangements for some of the key basic science activities that AECL has conducted until now.

Let me tell you that the decision of the federal government to withdraw from the financing of R and D programs concerning fusion in Ontario and Quebec was a very difficult one to make but that fusion is not presently a priority of the federal government. Actually, we believe it will take some 30 years before fusion technology can be marketed. The Government of Canada must clearly focus its resources on short term priorities.

Moreover we believe that Ontario Hydro and Hydro-Quebec can financially support R and D fusion projects on sites where this sector is a priority.

The federal government is determined to deliver good government at a lower cost to the taxpayers of Canada. My department continues to play a leading role in this effort among all federal departments and agencies. Let me make a few comments about the budget's announcements with respect to the operations of my department. All members of this House will recall that the results of the first phase of the federal program review dramatically reduced the size and the budget of Natural Resources Canada and many other departments.

The results of the second phase of program review have identified further reductions in my department's budget of $14.6 million or 3.3 per cent in fiscal year 1998-99. Both programs and staff levels will be affected. While detailed decisions will be taken during the next 18 months, present estimates suggest a reduction of between 75 to 100 positions in 1998-99. These further reductions together with cuts announced last year will result in a reduction of roughly 60 per cent of the resources in my department.

These reductions will be reflected in a more focused role for NRCan in the natural resources sector, a role that emphasizes science and technology, the regulatory and policy regime, international trade and market access and knowledge of Canada's land mass.

Program review is a continuing commitment to get government right. We will continue to examine what we do and how we do it. The objective is to keep looking for a more efficient and effective contribution to a stronger federation. This is critical to meeting the future challenges that face Canada, challenges that include maintaining the federal contribution to jobs, growth and sustainable development in the energy, forestry, mining and earth sciences industries. NRCan is achieving what we promised in the speech from the throne. We are withdrawing from areas where others can function more appropriately.

As a result the work of my department reflects the federal government's core responsibilities in the areas of international trade and investment, science and technology, aboriginal matters, federal crown lands, national statistics and environmental issues. These are areas where national effort and co-ordination are necessary.

In addition, my department is already engaged in many partnerships with stakeholders in the natural resources sector, including the provinces and the private sector, to explore further changes in the way it fulfils its federal responsibilities. In fact, I believe my department is setting an example for other federal departments and agencies. NRCan's approach to partnerships is an excellent model for efficient and effective federal activities that reflect the objectives set out in the speech from the throne.

In conclusion, this is a good budget for all Canadians and it is particularly a good budget for the natural resource sectors. The announcements by the hon. Minister of Finance concerning our resource sectors result from serious, meaningful and productive consultations with all stakeholders.

The income tax changes will have positive benefits for these sectors throughout Canada. These changes will increase prospects for investment, stimulate economic growth and create jobs for Canadians. In addition they will stimulate investment in key areas that are critical to Canada's progress toward sustainable development. The reason for this is simple. The Government of Canada listened and the Government of Canada delivered. We will continue to listen to all Canadians and we will continue to deliver.

The Budget

1:15 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the minister's comments about Canada and about Alberta in particular.

In Alberta there is a great deal of pride developing. We have our deficit at zero. We now have a surplus budget. We now have a plan to take care of our debt. That is very positive particularly in the resource industry. We have a very positive feeling that things are moving forward. When is the minister's government going to develop that same plan at least to get the deficit under control and then show that vision that something further is going to happen?

On a second issue, the many businesses in my province of Alberta and her province of Alberta are very concerned that those provinces which have socialized their utilities are still going to receive the advantages of the federal government's tax deduction. Those provinces that have privatized and have a free enterprise efficient utility industry are now not going to get that refund. The effect of that on all business, in turning one province against the other and not creating a level playing field is of great concern to

many of my constituents and I am sure to many of hers and many others in provinces like Alberta. I would like her to commenton that.

The Budget

1:20 p.m.


Anne McLellan Liberal Edmonton Northwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his many questions. Let me see if I can remember them all as I work through them.

First of all the hon. member talks about a plan in relation to deficit and debt reduction. It is very plain that if the hon. member reads the three budgets that my colleague, the hon. Minister of Finance has brought down over these past three years he will see a plan. I would suggest probably for the first time in many years one sees a plan, a clear blueprint, in relation to how we will deal with the deficit and the debt in this country.

I think the success of that plan, the acknowledgement of that plan, is clear in the reaction not only of financial markets here at home but financial markets around the world. If my hon. colleague needs reassurance he can find it in the three budgets that my colleague, the Minister of Finance, has delivered.

In relation to the specific question the hon. member raises regarding PUITTA, the public utilities tax, this was a rebate provided initially by both the province of Alberta and the Government of Canada. The Government of Alberta chose to repeal the rebate to Albertans in 1990. I can direct the hon. member to the exact page in the Alberta legislature's Hansard if he would like. Alberta did so specifically because of its deficit and debt situation. As I understand it the Government of Alberta in fact has saved itself $90 million a year by repealing its rebate.

The federal government chose to do the same thing in the 1995 budget delivered by the Minister of Finance. However because the federal government is acutely aware of the importance of level playing field issues, the Minister of Finance has created a task force involving ADMs of taxation across this country. This task force is looking at the whole question of tax treatment of private and public corporations.

As the hon. member is undoubtedly aware, this difference in tax treatment arises because of section 125 of the Constitution Act, 1867. This provides the Minister of Finance with some significant limitations in terms of how we deal with issues of level playing field.

However, the Minister of Finance has chosen to create this task force on which might I add there are not only federal and provincial finance officials but also representatives from industry, which I believe include TransAlta Utilities Corporation, Ontario Hydro and Nova Scotia Power. We are looking at this difficult question of the level playing field and how one creates it in the context of public and private corporate entities. We look forward to the report of that task force in the months ahead.

The Budget

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Témiscamingue. Would the member inform the Chair if he will be sharing his time?

The Budget

1:25 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Drummond, who will speak during the second half of the period. Afterwards, there will be a 5 minute questions and comments period.

It is my turn to have my say on the last federal budget that was brought down on March 6. During the next 10 minutes, I would like to address certain elements of the budget pertaining essentially to the new Canada social transfer.

We knew since last year that the federal government planned to merge its old cash transfers to provinces into a single new program, the Canada social transfer. This program is a combination of established program financing and the Canada assistance program.

What the government has done is reorganize various transfer programs, establishing a single program and reducing the global envelope. The amount of funds that will be devoted to the Canada social transfer will be $11 billion. By creating this new package, the government is trying to delude us into believing that, in the field of transfer payments, it did not make real cuts. And to come to this twisted conclusion, it ads up the tax points which were given in the past, and it ads up the equalization payments if that can be helpful in certain cases. In short, the government is twisting the facts.

Let us simply look at the figures, the real ones. When it came to power, this government devoted $17 billion to the old programs, the cost shared program for post-secondary education, the Canada assistance plan and the cost shared health program. The government provided $17 billion; this year, it will provide only $11 billion. At one point it was even almost $18 billion. So, it reduced that amount by 6 or 7 billion. It is simple: 17 minus 11 gives 6. It cannot have us believe that it is giving us more money than before. No matter what numbers you add, no matter how you present it, reality speaks for itself.

At the same time, the government is maintaining the same standards. A few minutes ago, an hon. member on the other side said: "We guarantee social security because we are still maintain a presence in the health field to ensure a universal system for all Canadians". What the Liberals do not say is that they ask the provinces to find new ways to give the same services with less money but by applying the same standards. The government

announced its cuts one or two years ago but, in practice, the provinces are the ones that have to live with them.

We see Quebec and Ontario trying to cope with those cuts that were imposed on them. In fact, I am not sure that Canadians are convinced that the federal government is there to ensure an absolute social safety net, as the members opposite claim. The federal government wants to take credit for the good things and pass the bad things on to the provinces. Often in politics, someone will reap the benefits from a situation and have others pay for it. That is the strategy behind the Canada social transfer.

I think that we must be honest with the public and say that the $6 billion in cuts made by the federal government in transfers to the provinces is in money that went to social assistance, health care and education. These are three areas from which the federal government has withdrawn, asking the provinces to make the more surgical cuts.

I now want to deal with the area of post-secondary education. In the case of Quebec, there have been cuts totalling nearly $300 million. The federal government is telling students that it is the institutions and the provincial government which are raising tuition fees, that it has nothing to do with it. Of course, what choice do they have when they end up with $250 to $300 million less? They either have to make substantial cuts in the system or increase tuition fees. For the moment, the Government of Quebec has chosen to try to absorb the cuts without raising tuition fees. But other provinces have had to do it, and Quebec will have to consider doing it also, if the federal government continues to follow this path.

Students are told that there are no cuts, but there is a $250 to $300 million shortfall that, sooner or later, will inevitably result in increased tuition fees or reduced services. At the same time, the government proposes a student summer employment program. Many of us know about that kind of program. When we were students, we all have looked for summer jobs to help pay for our education and to try to gain practical experience in a field related to our field of study.

In its first year in office, the government maintained the funds allocated in this area. Last year, it reduced these funds by about 40 per cent. This year, it is practically doubling these funds to make the annual cuts of $300 million in the case of Quebec less difficult to swallow. The government will pour $60 million more into the summer student employment program for one year only, so it can say: "Look what we are doing for you". It is getting as many political points as it can from these $60 million.

We will see what kind of program the federal government will announce to get more visibility, while cuts are being made in a more indirect way so that somebody else has to deal with them and pay the political price for them.

Figure it out yourself. Take $300 million a year and multiply that by five, ten or even fifteen years if you want, and compare that to $60 million for one year. Will there be more? We will see, but I would be surprised. The government has not said that this was a permanent increase in that program's budget.

So this is a way to make students swallow the bitter pill, to avoid creating too much dissatisfaction among a client group which seriously questions the existence of the federal government and which counts a high percentage of sovereignists in Quebec. The government avoids creating discontent as much as possible among students or tries to make sure they will not be able to clearly understand what is really going on.

I have discussed with some representatives and no one is being fooled. Student associations have a clear picture of what is going on. They too have problems understanding how they come out as winners in such a situation. This does not mean that we should make no financial effort in this sector. We still must have the honesty to recognize what is being done. A budget must not be nothing but words that conceal reality.

In the last two or three minutes I have left, I would like to talk about subsidies to dairy producers. The two regional county municipalities located at the southern and northern ends of my riding, Témiscamingue and Abitibi-Ouest, have numerous dairy producers. The last budget announced a phasing out of subsidies to dairy producers.

This will create a new reality: there will either be a rise in the price of milk or a major income crisis for dairy producers. The federal government would like us to believe that it took this decision in consultation with producers. The government refers to industry and says it talked to industrial entrepreneurs but it never says it talked to producers. This is difficult to accept.

What people accept even less is that at the same time, the federal government has long had an agriculture policy that supported in a very substantial way the grain industry in the West. We had the Western Grain Transportation Act and the Crow rate, known by everyone in the agricultural sector. When the federal government decided to abolish that, generous compensation programs were set up.

For them, there was a transition period, but for Quebec producers, there has just been talk of looking into it, discussing it, but nothing has been done, nothing concrete announced, and no major developments are expected.

How can it be that, when abolition of the Western Grain Transportation Act was announced, compensation mechanisms were already in place? How is it that, when Quebec and eastern Canada are involved-for it is not just Quebec but also part of

Ontario-the thing is impossible, while, when the west was involved, it was an absolute priority?

In the federal government's eyes, right from the start, agriculture has essentially equalled western beef and grain. This is hard for taxpayers in Témiscamingue to swallow, when they are dairy producers or the neighbours of these producers.

This last budget contained something unacceptable to the people in the rural areas of Quebec, and Ontario, and the dairy producers of these areas. The industry is, as we well know, mainly concentrated in Quebec.

I could have spoken about unemployment insurance as well, as many of my colleagues have done, about making use of a $5 billion surplus, year after year, instead of making less of a cut to the benefits paid to the unemployed or to the amounts workers and employers have to pay into the fund, thus injecting more money into the economy and trying to make use of it to revive employment,

Employment was a recurring theme during the campaign, but there is no sign of government action on it between campaigns. This creates a problem, and it is something I hear about constantly from the people in my riding. It worries them a great deal to see that employment is being taxed, because the surplus is being tapped year after year. That $5 billion represents a lot of money that could have been put to another use, instead of reducing the deficit with it.

These are the elements in the budget on which I wished to speak, the ones I see as the most negative. There are also a number of measures that are not bad, but I am sure that the hon. members across the way will enjoy listing them, so I decided to concentrate essentially on those three.

The Budget

1:35 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate on the latest federal budget, which smells suspiciously like an election budget, because the measures it contains are not particularly heavy or harsh. We could even say the budget was a sort of pacifier for Canadians, except perhaps for the cuts to the dairy subsidies-a flagrant injustice to Quebecers and milk producers.

Apart from this injustice, the latest budget could be called an electoral budget to mollify Canadians, in preparation for elections this fall or next spring perhaps. The most difficult measures have already been put into effect, in the previous two budgets. When the Liberal government was elected three years ago, the government was widely known to have a big problem, that of the debt and the deficit. They have reached $550 billion and have even been predicted by department and government statistics to go over $600 billion by the year 2000.

It is a huge problem. It is Canada's major problem, which the Liberal government undertook to resolve. It is so serious that Canada has the highest debt in the world in terms of its gross domestic product apart from Italy. Canada has already been warned of the precariousness of its position by the International Monetary Fund. There are leaks everywhere. Technically, we could even say that Canada is bankrupt, so to speak.

This is all to say that the problem of the deficit and the debt is extremely complex, severe and serious. What have the Liberal members done since their election three years ago? Not much. They could have done a lot. They could, for example, have reduced the number of senior officials, because there are a lot of them and their salaries are very high and their expense accounts substantial. There is a lot of waste here.

The government has decided to reduce the number of public servants by 45,000, mostly at the lower and middle levels. Normally, some 15,000 public servants retire every year. This certainly does not qualify as a major effort to reduce the size of the public service. The federal government could have cut its spending or at least contained its losses.

As a former member of the public works committee, I know that there are many loopholes for federal funds to slip through, contracts being one of them. Some $10 billion a year is spent on contracts. There is a great deal of abuse and waste in this area. So far, the government has not done much to close these loopholes.

Even the auditor general's numerous recommendations were not taken into consideration in the government's previous budget measures. Senate spending was not cut. Senators' pay could have been reduced to $1 a year rather than the thousands of dollars they receive for doing nothing. The Senate costs Canadians $50 million. This is a rather shameless waste of Canadian taxpayers' money.

The government could have made significant cuts to its defence spending. DND's budget exceeds $12 billion a year. The Somalia affair and other recent events clearly show that DND is not the most effective of federal government departments. Had the Liberal government been seriously committed to reducing the federal debt and deficit, it could certainly have cut the defence budget by several billions of dollars.

It could have tightened up tax measures for corporations. As we know, tax evasion in Canada represents between $3 billion and $4 billion. Corporations shelter their profits in countries like the Caribbean islands to avoid paying taxes. Canada's losses due to tax evasion are estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion. The federal government did not act in this area either.

Another option would have been for the government to crack down harder on the banks. Last year alone, banks made $5.2 billion in profits, record profits, but this government, the Liberal government, collected from the six chartered banks something like $100 million over two years, which represents less than one per cent of their net profits.

The government could also have imposed restrictions or made other changes to family trusts. Again, this is an especially interesting case, in that family trusts benefit the wealthy, Canadian families which are fabulously rich. The Minister of Finance himself is one of the fabulously rich Canadians who can invest their net profits in family trusts to avoid paying taxes for generations and generations. Because of such trusts Canada's wealthiest families avoid paying taxes altogether.

It is estimated that taxation is avoided on nearly $100 billion through family trusts. The federal government could have collected taxes on family trusts to help resolve its very serious debt and deficit problem.

I have just listed nine measures this government could have taken to reduce its debt, but it did not see fit to act in those areas. Instead, the government decided to act in two well-known areas. It is worth repeating because it reflects the basic thinking of this Liberal government. It very clearly shows that, in Canada, the rich, the wealthy are spared while the most vulnerable are hard hit.

The only two measures taken by this government to reduce its deficit and its debt were to cut transfer payments to the provinces by a few billion dollars, some $7 billion, by the year 2000. As we know, these transfer cuts will affect education by reducing funds available for education purposes. This means that Canadian youth are directly affected. Health transfers are cut, which means that the sick will be affected.

The other measure soon to be announced concerns changes, cuts to old age pensions, which, as we already know, will affect mostly senior women. Cutting transfers to the provinces is a measure designed to leave the provinces holding the baby by giving the impression that they are the ones making cuts.

The measure to be taken in another area, namely unemployment insurance, is perhaps the most outrageous measure this government has ever taken. It is actually asking the unemployed to contribute to the debt reduction effort. Nothing less. Since 1990, the federal government has not contributed a single dollar to the UI fund. The money comes from the contributions of workers and employers. The federal government does not contribute one penny to the fund.

Last year, the federal government took out about $5 billion from the UI fund. It will do the same this year and next year. Over that three-year period, $15 billion will have been taken out of the UI fund and used to reduce the federal government's debt.

This is a disgrace because it is basically a misappropriation of funds. The money in the UI fund should be used to provide training programs for the jobless, but the government has other ideas. This Liberal government is dishonest to the point of reducing the amount that the unemployed can receive, setting tougher eligibility criteria so that fewer people will qualify for UI benefits and, in addition to that, misappropriating money from the UI fund and using it to reduce the debt.

This is a dishonest and unfair measure which is tantamount to a fraud. The government is defrauding those who contributed to the fund, namely workers and employers. It is purely and simply a fraud. That money was to be used for the benefit of the unemployed and to provide training for workers. Instead, this government is using it to reduce its debt.

Of all the initiatives that it could have taken to reduce its debt and its deficit, the government opted for two measures which mainly seek to get money from the most vulnerable members of our society, namely the unemployed, the sick, young people and women, while protecting rich people, family trusts, banks and corporations.

In conclusion, this series of measures spread over a three-year period clearly show the spirit of that Liberal government, which seeks to spare the rich and to hit the most vulnerable ones in our society.

The Budget

1:50 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I have a few comments to make. I wonder how my colleague would define the words "dishonest" and "fraud". What does he think they mean? Is he prepared to make these kinds of accusations outside the House of Commons?

I only have one question for him. What does he think his cousins now in power in Quebec, his former leader, will cut when the time comes for a budget in his province? Does he think that the organizations that he mentioned earlier this morning and that were supposedly treated so badly by the Canadian government will be cut, yes or no?

The Budget

1:50 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the way the federal government used the unemployment insurance fund is tantamount to a fraud. It is a fraud to use this fund for purposes other than what it is usually used for. It is a misappropriation of public funds. The money employees and employers put in the unemployment insurance fund is supposed to be used for unemployment insurance purposes. It is not all that complicated. The unemployed are either compensated by directly receiving unemployment insurance benefits or by taking part in training programs. This is why the unemployment insurance fund was set up in the first place.

When the money is used for purposes other than to help the unemployed, it is called fraud. It is dishonest. We are lying to the Canadian citizens, to employees and employers. They are asked to contribute to a fund which is not used to meet their needs, so it is a misappropriation of funds. I do not think we can be any clearer over the fact that the government is guilty of fraud, since it is misappropriating public funds. We, in Quebec, are at least honest enough to avoid all the hypocrisy shown here by the current Liberal government.

The Budget

1:50 p.m.

Vaudreuil Québec


Nick Discepola LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, since the Bloc's arrival on the Hill, for the past two and half years or so in particular, they have been singing just one song: tax loopholes, trusts, big business. I must point out that, when the entire issue of family trusts was examined, the Bloc's minority report had no suggestion whatsoever for another way of dealing with them.

As well, when we ask the Bloc to offer concrete suggestions on how to bring the $45 billion deficit down to zero, they always tell us to go after the $6 billion in bad debts.

Everyone knows that there is no long term reduction to be found in bad debts, only a short term one for the year involved. Procedures have been established for debt recovery.

A surtax has also been levied on financial institutions. The hon. member talks of our dipping into the unemployment insurance fund. This I find totally unacceptable, particularly in a context where, with the possible exception of this year, Quebec has received more from the unemployment insurance fund than it has contributed.

What I want to ask the hon. member is this: Is it not prudent, in a recession, to always create a reserve so as to avoid additional burden on the government? During a recession, we all know social programs increase, thus increasing the burden, and revenues decrease.

I therefore find it unbelievable that the Bloc members keep on telling us we must not touch the $5 billion in the reserve we have created. The precise reason for creating a reserve fund is to avoid a potential recession. Is that not prudent?

The Budget

1:55 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I should have spoken English, because I do not seem to make myself understood in French. Of course it is obvious. You would have to be nearly blind not to recognize that the government is using the money from the unemployment insurance fund fraudulently. In other words, this money is not being used for unemployment insurance but for federal deficit reduction. It is a fraud. It is dishonest-there is no other way to put it.

When they say, as my colleague has just pointed out, that the Bloc has not proposed practical measures to reduce the deficit, I would point out that, on the matter of family trusts, the Bloc suggested they simply be abolished. Some $100 billion is in family trusts in Canada. This money is not taxed. It is set aside for the wealthiest families, the super rich, which includes the Minister of Finance. That was one of the suggestions we made. In fact, I made eight this morning the government has not acted on.

So, the hon. member's repeating the Liberal government's harebrained, hypocritical and dishonest ideology does not stop me from seeing clearly that unemployment insurance funds are being used fraudulently and that the Liberal government has neither the backbone nor the guts to resolve its finances as it could have done had it really wanted to.

MackenzieStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, 1996 is a watershed year for the town of Mackenzie in my riding.

Unfortunately it is not positive. Due to the inaction of the government, the residents of this small, isolated community nestled in the Rockies have lost their northern living allowance. Why are the residents of Mackenzie discriminated against while thousands of people living in cities further south still qualify?

1996 also marks the 10th anniversary of spring weight restrictions for trucks travelling the Alaska highway to Yukon. The continued imposition of the 75 per cent load restriction is unfair and costly to trucking companies and northern residents.

Millions of resource dollars flow out of our region and little is put back. Like the Trans-Labrador highway, the Alaska highway is not even finished yet. Northerners in my riding are fed up with their needs being ignored by the government.

When will the government recognize that the north is a vital part of Canada's economy?

Learning DisabilitiesStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, last month was designated as Learning Disabilities Month. There is not a lot of recognition paid to learning disabili-

ties even though one in ten or 2.9 million Canadians have this type of disability.

Learning disabilities are permanent disorders which affect the way individuals with normal or above normal intelligence receive, store, organize, retrieve and use information. These difficulties show up in five distinct areas: visual, auditory, motor, organizational and conceptual. Such difficulties extend to school, work, social functions and employment and can impede learning to read, to write or to do mathematics.

We can help to increase public awareness of learning disabilities by talking about them whenever there is an opportunity and educating the public to help these individuals live a fuller more productive life.

PensionsStatements By Members

April 15th, 1996 / 2 p.m.


Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge and thank the many constituents in my riding who took the time to take part in a public pension forum I held in Rosseau last week.

Close to 70 people turned out to provide me with their comments, concerns and ideas about how to improve Canada's public pension system so that it will be affordable, fair and sustainable for future generations of Canadians.

My constituents invested their time and energy to learn about options to change the Canada pension plan and the details of the proposed new seniors benefit. They considered and suggested potential solutions. They participated in round table discussions with their peers and put forth recommendations that I will in turn forward to the ministers of finance and human resources development for consideration in future deliberations.

I thank my constituents for their valuable interventions on the subject of public pensions. I encourage them to keep coming forward with their thoughts and ideas.

Distinct SocietyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, even after being distorted and robbed of any meaning in an attempt to sell it to English Canada as a meaningless concept that would give Quebec no additional powers, the concept of distinct society is still too much for federal Liberals.

This became obvious last weekend when the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada tried to kill the distinct society concept and replace it by stating the obvious and recognizing Quebec as the principal homeland of French language, culture and legal tradition in North America.

The Liberal Party of Canada, led by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, is acting in an arrogant and provocative manner toward the people of Quebec by proposing nothing more than a simple acknowledgement of a fact that has been recognized since the 1760 conquest.

If this is the proposed reconciliation plan, the government is not taking the people of Quebec seriously or treating them with respect. It is reneging on the promises made in Verdun during the last referendum and, when the time comes, the people of Quebec will remember.