House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.


Canada Pension Plan
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.



Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there very clearly is a commitment to the Canada pension plan. It has been stated unequivocally by the government, in terms of young Canadians coming along, that the Canada pension plan will be there for them. That is the purpose of the consultation.

I believe the member's question goes beyond that, that he is talking about the way accounts of this government or any other government are provided. That is a valid debate, the outstanding liabilities of any national government or any provincial government of this country or any other. That certainly is a debate in which we are prepared to engage. It is precisely to deal with those kinds of problems that the government is dealing with the problems the country faces today and also anticipating those in the decades ahead.

Parks Canada
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.


Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, the heritage minister, responsible for Canada's national parks and historic sites, is about to embark on the implementation of a new employee takeover program that will only result in increased costs, reduced service, lower wages and lost jobs for hundreds of dedicated, long term employees of Parks Canada.

Since she knows that these employees are not supportive of this plan and that if it fails it threatens the very existence of some of our parks and historic sites, is she prepared to postpone these foolhardy plans at least until such time as she has clear evidence of support for her proposal?

Parks Canada
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Hamilton East


Sheila Copps Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, in a meeting I held yesterday with my assistant deputy minister, in response to the concerns expressed by employees about their futures, I issued a directive that we look at a number of options.

The first option would be to seek further economies, as required under the program review, the possibility of economies from within. The second option would be to pursue a number of expressions of interest by employees interested in takeovers. The third possibility would be to examine whether there might be an application for a strict commercialisation of services which would guarantee employees not only their long term jobs but also their current union status. Those three options are being explored by the department.

Canada was the first country to have a national parks system, and I certainly do not intend to be the minister responsible for in any way impinging on it.

Parks Canada
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

This brings question period to an end. We will now hear Thursday's question.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

April 18th, 1996 / 3 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as is the custom, I would like to know what is on the agenda for the coming week. I usually put the question to the government House leader or to his assistant. Today, everyone has an opportunity to answer.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick


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

Mr. Speaker, if necessary, tomorrow and Monday the House will continue with third reading of Bill C-11, concerning HRD reorganization.

When that is completed we will call third reading of Bill C-18, concerning the health department reorganization, and Bill C-19, respecting internal trade.

If these bills are completed we will commence second reading debates of items we have discussed with our friends opposite and which we will discuss further before setting the precise order.

Tuesday will be an allotted day. Also on Tuesday the government intends to introduce the bill implementing the budget and it is our intention to commence second reading debate on that bill on Wednesday.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-11, an act to establish the Department of Human Resources Develop-

ment and to amend and repeal certain related acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.



George Proud Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have the opportunity to speak on Bill C-11.

As hon. members know, the legislation deals essentially with administrative matters regarding the formation of Human Resources Development Canada, better known as HRDC.

The government is surprised that the Bloc Quebecois suddenly decided to attack this legislation. There is certainly nothing sinister about it. It contains no new powers and simply reiterates HRDC's existing mandate.

I understand that members opposite are especially concerned about clauses 6, 20 and 21 of the bill. I will begin by dealing with clause 6.

This clause addresses strictly the department's mandate. Apparently there is a misunderstanding that clause 6 would enable the Government of Canada to intrude in provincial jurisdiction. This is definitely not the case.

The hon. members who comprise Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition are reading things into this legislation which are just not there. If members opposite will read the bill carefully they will see it limits the minister's powers to "matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction". That seems clear enough to me. The provision does not give the minister jurisdiction over provincial matters; it does just the opposite.

There is nothing in clause 6 that does not relate to existing programs. It simply combines the existing program mandates from the four former departments which constitute HRDC. There is no subterfuge designed to undermine provincial legislation at all.

The government does not think it necessary to waste Parliament's valuable time spelling out in the bill every detail of every program HRDC is responsible for. Even if we did, something tells me members opposite still would not be satisfied.

Clause 6 of the bill before us sets out the basic objectives of the department: enhancing employment, encouraging equality and promoting social security. These objectives are clearly within the jurisdiction of the Government of Canada.

Members opposite have also raised concerns regarding clause 20 of Bill C-11. This clause allows the minister to enter into agreements with the provinces or with financial institutions or other such bodies. Clause 20 is adapted from section 7 of the employment and immigration department and commission act, from section 6 of the heritage act and from section 5 of the labour act. Under the legislation before the House clause 20 will allow the minister to enter only into agreements similar to those in the past.

For example, in 1991 the minister of employment signed an agreement with the Government of Quebec. That agreement recognized Quebec's Société québécois du développement de la main d'oeuvre, SQDM, and its vital role in labour force training in that province.

Nevertheless, apparently members opposite still think clause 20 gives the minister too much discretionary power; that is, too much power to reach agreements they think will intrude on all areas of provincial jurisdiction. That is definitely not the case.

Let us look at the wording of clause 20. It states clearly that these agreements are for the purpose of facilitating programs related to "the powers, duties and functions referred to in section 6". This clause sets out the minister's mandate. There is nothing new in it, nor does it create any new powers.

Surely the members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition can see the minister's discretionary powers are limited by the department's mandate.

The bill clearly states the limitation is to matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction. Therefore there is no way clause 20 authorizes the minister to encroach on provincial jurisdiction.

Clause 20 allows HRDC to sign contracts with other organizations. The department could not function without that authority. The minister has signed thousands of contracts and agreements with numerous organizations, including the example I have already given, and organizations in the province of Quebec. Not only that, HRD has signed agreements with the Government of Quebec to help unemployed Quebecers return to the labour force.

In fiscal 1994-95 we signed more than 50,000 labour market contracts in the province of Quebec. Through those contracts we invested a total of $695 million in program funding and income support. That was done under existing legislation. Bill C-11 simply carries forward these arrangements.

As I emphasized, clause 20 will not be used to bypass the authority of provincial governments or to intrude on their areas of jurisdiction.

The third clause apparently keeping members opposite awake at nights is clause 21. I do not know why, because all clause 21 states is that the minister may delegate his authority, especially to the Minister of Labour. This section also enables the minister to delegate authority in order to support single window delivery, a key component in Human Resources Development Canada's services delivery network.

The ultimate aim is to provide Canadians with a simplified, faster and more accessible gateway to HRDC's programs and services. Single window delivery is a more flexible and a more efficient means of reaching that goal.

As I speak, in Alma, the home town of the premier of Quebec, HRDC, SQDM, local municipalities and local clubs are working in partnership in a single window delivery system. This is one of a number of similar projects we have with the Government of Quebec. If the Government of Quebec is willing to work with us, and we are glad it is, I fail to understand why members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition are upset about these arrangements.

Another consideration is part II of the government's employment insurance legislation. It contains active measures to help unemployed Canadians get back to work quickly. This is part of our comprehensive response to addressing the underlying causes of unemployment.

To that end, the minister is currently discussing new arrangements with the provinces. However, these agreements will not infringe on provincial jurisdiction. On the contrary, the minister has made it abundantly clear that the Government of Canada will withdraw fully from labour market training in recognition of provincial responsibility in this area. We will do this over three years or less as we work out the details with each province.

The federal government would provide financial assistance to skills development but only with provincial agreement. In addition, the Government of Canada will work in concert with the governments of each province to put in place new customized labour market arrangements which will meet the different needs and circumstances of each province.

The Government of Canada will live up to its constitutional responsibility. We will retain jurisdiction over the national employment insurance system and the national dimension of our labour markets.

If that is not enough assurance for the party opposite, during the debate and the speech from the throne the Prime Minister stated: "The federal government is also prepared to withdraw from its functions in such areas as labour market training, forestry, mining and recreation. That in the 21st century will be more appropriately the responsibility of others, provinces, municipalities or the private sector".

In conclusion, I say to members opposite that there is nothing in Bill C-11 to suggest that the Government of Canada is centralizing national programs. This legislation deals strictly with administration. I urge the House to pass this bill so that we can move on to more urgent matters which I am sure all Canadians, including the people of Quebec, would prefer.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.


Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, can I count on the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands' friendly support? It would motivate me in my presentation. I would have liked to speak to a bill more concerned about fighting poverty.

On my way to the House from my office, I was thinking that, instead of recycling Bill C-96, a bill that was roundly condemned by just about everyone in Quebec, the Minister of Human Resources Development would have enjoyed greater support from us if he had tabled a bill with two objectives.

The first objective would have been to take steps to fight poverty and the second one, to give back to Quebec some 25 manpower training programs duplicating provincial initiatives in this area, because $250 million is being wasted or not used as efficiently as possible.

Why talk about poverty in 1996? Why should we, as members of Parliament, talk about poverty when the minister is about to put forward a centralizing bill? May I remind you that, by and large, government members took little notice of the annual report tabled a few days ago by the National Council of Welfare, which-I think it is important to remember this-pointed out that, globally, the number of poor people in society is not going down.

The government majority may act as though this was not an issue but, for all those with a social conscience-and God knows that includes the opposition-the fact is that even though people in our society are living longer, the poverty rate is rising.

In Canada, poor people-that is to say those who have to spend 56 per cent of their income on basic necessities, such as food, clothing and housing-according to Statistics Canada, are considered as such when they live in a large urban center and have to spend 56 per cent of their income on clothing, food and housing.

Looking at poverty rates in Canada, while 15 per cent of the population was living under the poverty line in the 1980s, 14 years later, 16.6 per cent of Canadians are still living in extremely difficult conditions and can be considered as poor.

Why did the minister and his government not look into this matter? Let me remind the House that the National Welfare Council prefaced its remarks by saying-I realize that some parliamentarians may not like to hear this, but let us nonetheless bear in mind the opening line of the council's press conference and related press release, which said: "Governments should add combatting poverty to the list of immediate economic priorities".

When was the last time we heard any member of this cabinet protest against the fact that such a situation is tolerated in a society like ours, where resources are plentiful, new production technologies available and a gross national product of about $750 billion? Why is this situation being tolerated? How can this government allow that? In philosophical terms, it means something to be a liberal. But what did these Liberals do, those Liberals who, in the 1960s, were calling upon us to live in a just society, an increasingly just society? What does it mean for this Liberal government, in

1996, to live in a just society, an increasingly just society, when poverty rates are allowed to raise as high as 16 per cent?

The National Council of Welfare which, as we will see later, the government is about to muzzle with Bill C-11, tells us that 4.8 million people live at the poverty level. It must be understood that poverty, like other phenomena in our society, is not evenly spread.

Single parents are hardest hit. Three times out of four, it is the woman who is alone, often in difficult conditions, to raise her family. The reality is that, in 67 per cent of the cases, it is these women who are hit hard and who suffer from poverty.

Mr. Speaker, you may wonder what these comments have to do with Bill C-11. As you know, since I became a member of this House, I never allowed myself to be out of order. The connection is the following: had the minister taken a good look at the situation, he would have realized that we cannot afford to have two levels of government investing in programs which are similar in many respects.

Let me just give you the example of Quebec. Quebec employment minister Louise Harel, who happens to be the MNA for my riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, told us during the last referendum campaign that the province of Quebec alone spends $10 billion on its labour market policies. If you take the Quebec territory for the purpose of this comparison, relatively speaking this is more than what is invested by all OECD countries.

As you can see, the problem is not a lack of money. Considerable resources are allocated to labour market programs. The problem is the duplication of resources.

The minister is asking us to pass a bill which, for all intents and purposes, seeks to allow federal involvement in areas over which this government has no mandate. Try for a moment to imagine one of the 33 Fathers of Confederation coming back here and trying to understand what provision of the Constitution Act gives this government the authority to get involved in the area of labour or manpower.

Yet, if we were to accept this bill, the human resources branch would get involved, as it does unfortunately too often, in income security, post-secondary education, social welfare and student loans.

On the train earlier this week I read-maybe you heard about it because I know you have a sharp mind and that nothing escapes you in social matters-the Fortin report, which was commissioned by Quebec's minister of income security. The economist Pierre Fortin is not a research officer for the Bloc. Moreover, he has never declared himself in favour of sovereignty. You will be surprised, but even more disappointed, to see the analysis made in the Fortin report. I take the liberty of quoting from it, with the consent of my colleagues.

Part of the report reads as follows: "The federal government has already reacted to its own financial crisis in several ways. Of course, as we very well know, the federal government's debt is rather astronomical, and its deficit out of control". It goes on to say: "Three federal measures directly affect income security in Quebec. First, access to unemployment insurance benefits has been reduced in 1990, 1993 and 1994". In fact, Mr. Fortin should or could have gone even further back to 1988, when the unemployment insurance program was first attacked by the now infamous Conservatives.

The report reads: "For the year 1996-97, a cumulative reduction of 15 per cent of transfers to provinces under the CHST has been announced. Third, the elimination of the Canada Assistance Plan in 1996 has been announced". Hon. members will remember that, under CAP, Ottawa used to share the cost of welfare programs fifty-fifty with the provinces. The most interesting part in this report is that it estimates that the federal retrenchment-in other words, the kind of policy being adopted here with regard to unemployment insurance-will create a very heavy burden for Quebec because 70,000 households will go onto income security if the bill is not amended. The direct and indirect costs of this will not translate into a deficit, but into unforeseen expenses of $1 billion for the province. All of this, because of the offloading the federal government is doing. That is how harmful this system is.

In a system such as this, it is getting extremely difficult, even for the best Quebec government-and I think Quebec has a pretty good government right now-to plan effectively and to abide by its budgetary decisions, because the federal government can at any moment, without prior notice and without negotiating anything, wreak havoc with Quebec public finance. That is exactly what happened during the last three recessions.

As many have said before and as the hon. member for Mercier put it so eloquently, this bill which the government side wants us to pass is unanimously opposed. It is hard to think of another bill that brought together, in a unanimous show of displeasure, the employers, the unions, and various associations and co-ops.

What I am saying is so true that the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, a lawyer by profession-not his best quality, but then it was his choice-will perhaps want to raise a question of order at the end of my speech to have this document tabled. Should that be the case, I would be glad to table a resolution concerning the first version of this bill, numbered C-96, adopted by the Société

québécoise de développement de la main-d'oeuvre, whose work the hon. member from Kingston may be following.

Pursuant to this unanimous resolution, the tripartite board of the Société, made up of representatives from the unions, the employers and the Quebec government, is asking the federal government to take a very praiseworthy initiative, which meets the consensus reached in Quebec, and to give back to the province about 25 programs it currently manages.

This is no small achievement when a non-political organization, authorized and mandated by the government of Quebec to review the labour market policies, has its board, where the Bloc is not represented of course, pass a unanimous resolution to urge the federal government to give back the areas of jurisdiction related to manpower.

What are we seeing instead? How can the human resources minister be so insensitive, ill-advised and confused as to fail to recognize that by passing and supporting Bill C-11, we would thoroughly not only violate Quebec's interests but a consensus, which is a sacred thing in democracy.

If all this was only academic, there would be no reason for concern. These would only be rhetoric debates that would have nothing to do with the day-to-day life of our fellow citizens.

Here are some of the consequences resource duplication in the management of labour training programs can have. First, as it is now well known, there are 25 manpower training programs in Ottawa and 25 others in Quebec.

When his party was in power in Quebec, former minister Bourbeau, a Liberal, estimated that human resource duplication costs us $275 million that could be put to a better use.

Even more dramatic is the fact that the system's inconsistency is such that, at this very moment, people really need help, really need training. You know full well that, as we near the year 2000, more and more the jobs that will be created will require 13, 14 or 15 years of schooling. This is a fact.

My father, who is almost 60, worked all his life for the same company. He succeeded in earning his life, supporting his family and making his children happy, but he spent all his working years with only one company.

I am only 33 years old, or rather I will be on May 13, and I already have three careers to my name. It is said that in the year 2000, people will accumulate five careers. That is why continuing education is so vital. It is not true that once you have a university degree or a technical of vocational diploma you will have the same job for all your working life without having to go through adjustment periods. On the contrary, nobody, in the young generation, can think that he or she will have only one employer for all his or her life.

We will be committing a sin, a crime if we do not establish a manpower training system that is more rational, more coherent, and is based on the single-window concept.

This is so true that, at this very moment, there are approximately 25,000 people on the waiting lists in Quebec. There are 25,000 people in Quebec who, at different levels, need to improve their skills, who need to acquire experience, who need guidance services, but who are deprived of this resource, who are deprived of the assistance to which they are entitled because the system is inefficient.

You will ask: "Yes, but did the minister learn the lesson?" No, this minister is stubborn. This minister is looking ahead without concerning himself with what is going on in his environment. All Liberals are not like him, but I must say a majority of them seems to be of that type.

We can only wish, and anybody in their right mind would agree, that the minister will realize that the best thing that can happen to Quebec is that he changes his mind, that he does not authorize, as proposed in Bill C-11, various bodies which do not represent the Government of Quebec to obtain mandates directly from the Department of Human Resources Development, that he respects Quebec's jurisdiction and that he contributes.

He would become famous should he accept to put an end to duplication and work towards the establishment of a single window, as he has been asked to do by Quebec's Minister of Employment and Concerted Action, Louise Harel. This would ensure a more productive use of the resources that are available in the system, because it is absolutely wrong to suggest a lack of resources as an excuse. That is the challenge facing a minister who has been too stubborn until now.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, who once again has expressed social concerns, and not just for the people in his riding, which is very large.

I obviously support all he said on the attitude of the government, which, despite the message it sent during the referendum promising change and greater sensitivity towards Quebec, spoke gobbledegook.

Unfortunately, we are forced to recognize that it was gobbledegook, that the government's centralizing approach continues unabated. I know he has many more examples of this centralizing approach and of the government's desire to meddle even more in provincial jurisdictions. With Bill C-96, creating the Department of

Human Resources Development, there is the example of training, education. Unfortunately, we can see that it is still not resolved.

I would like to ask the following question, because we have to comment and ask a question. I know I will not bother him at all, but I would like his opinion on the government's alleged decentralization, when we can see in the bill that the Minister of Human Resources Development is giving himself the power to go over the heads of the provincial governments and conclude specific agreements with organizations, even with businesses, in training or other areas. I would like his opinion on that.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.


Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, you will understand that no matter how repetitive and expected this question is, it is still relevant. Allow me to stress the excellent work the member did on the human resources development committee; he was a very vocal representative of the Bloc Quebecois on this issue.

I appreciate his question all the more as there are certain parallels to be drawn between Lévis and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. We both have in our ridings people who have experienced de-skilling. For the most part, this is the history of my riding. It used to be a thriving city. It is hard to believe that between 1883 and 1918 Hochelaga-Maisonneuve had such a vibrant industrial sector that it was called the Pittsburg of Canada. I know that in his riding too, I am thinking about shipyard workers among others, there has been a de-skilling process.

What the member for Lévis is asking us to realize is that periodically through the history of federalism and through the history of the Liberal Party, we have witnessed a profoundly despicable, not to say shameful, and I believe totally unacceptable manoeuvre on the part of a government refusing to accept the position of a legitimately elected government, its counterpart in Quebec, and instead going through intermediaries.

This was done in the sixties on the language issue, such an outcry was raised that the government had to back down. What is unacceptable in this bill, I believe, is the push toward centralization and the lack of respect for the authorized agencies.

As far as manpower policies are concerned, the authorized agency is the Government of Quebec. So by what authority, what rationale would a government, even a Liberal government, think it has the right to use a CDEC, a municipality or any other agency or corporate entity to ignore Quebec's wishes?

All this must not keep us from seeing-I will try to be brief because I would be most honoured if the member for Kingston and the Islands were to be so daring as to ask me a question-that as long as there will be duplication of resources, some people will not receive training. Mr. Speaker, look at the member for Kingston and the Islands, I think he wants to talk to me.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve will not be disappointed, but I will try to stand in for my colleague from Kingston and the Islands as best I can.

I would preface my remarks by saying that as a woman I have often been plagued by the question: What do women want? I could translate that by saying: What does a Bloc Quebecois want?

I listened to my colleague opposite asking for the minister to do away with duplication and overlap and to deal with the province of Quebec, i would answer him by saying that is exactly what this bill proposes.

Mr. Speaker, when the bill now before us was tabled in this House last June 7, and this March 7, a number of us were amazed that the Bloc was so strongly opposed to it. Many of us were amazed at their heroic efforts to delay passage of a bill which has as its sole purpose the regularization of a government administrative restructuring that took place two years before. Amazed yes, but not in the least surprised.

At that point we were on the verge of the referendum campaign and the opposition wasted no opportunity to try and convince Quebecers of the dark intentions of the federal government. Nor did they waste any opportunity to hinder the smooth operations of government, to hold up to scrutiny every little action or statement by members of the government, as a diversionary tactic. It is easy to understand what was behind their actions at that time, but then the referendum came along and Canada remained Canada.

When the bill came back, the opposition began to sing the same tune again, to throw up the same roadblocks, but for a different reason. This time it was a sort of warm up in preparation for their opposition to the employment insurance bill the minister was going to introduce shortly. Here again, their reasons for acting on the federal level to immobilize and oppose any proposed change are easily understood.

The reasons were clearly demonstrated recently, on March 12, when it proposed that the bill on employment insurance be withdrawn even though everyone agrees that the current employment insurance program is in need of reform.

However, one important change has taken place since the last time the bill to establish the Department of Human Resources Development was debated.

Meanwhile, the Quebec employment minister agreed, after meeting with the federal minister, to discuss our proposal regarding employment insurance. Discussions are still going on with Quebec, as well as with all other provinces. Quebec is interested in the formula proposed because it will allow updating the management of worker adjustment programs; because it is consistent with its own goals regarding decentralization in favour of regions; and because the federal government has clearly indicated its intention to withdraw from manpower training.

For a large part employment insurance entails decentralization and partnership with provinces. If clause 20 allows the minister to enter into agreements with a province, financial institutions or similar agencies it is simply because we have taken into consideration, by adapting them, section 7 of the Employment Department and Commission Act, section 6 of the Heritage Department Act and section 5 of the existing Department of Labour Act.

The Department of Human Resources Development Act does not give the minister any powers other than those already being exercised. It does not confer any powers that were not previously exercised, respectively, by the ministers responsible. What is involved, essentially, is internal management. In other words, hypothetically even if the bill were never passed the minister would still continue to do everything he does now. When the bill is passed the minister will not be doing anything more or anything less than what he has been doing until now.

We all know we must invest in our human resources if we want to stay ahead of the world's nations in terms of quality of life.

This bill reconfirms the basic mission given to that department by the Government of Canada by bringing under the same roof all initiatives and programs designed to help Canadians at all stages of life: learning, work and retirement. In fact, as the bill stipulates, the powers, duties and functions of the minister "are to be exercised with the objective of enhancing employment, encouraging equality and promoting social security".

The act to establish the Department of Human Resources Development is especially designed to allow the department to continue helping put Canadians back to work.

To do so, we need a legislation which provides a simple and integrated mechanism in order to clarify the role of the department and the responsibilities of the minister with respect to the Canadian people.

Members of this House have had ample opportunity to thoroughly examine and discuss the bill which will put an end to this transitional phase, a transitional phase not only for this department but for the entire government reorganization.

I therefore believe it is time to put an end to it now and to consider other issues far more crucial for Canadians and the future of this country.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech of my colleague opposite. I want to comment on it and perhaps ask her a question in closing.

As you know, I am the member for Shefford. The main town in my riding is Granby. Granby is an industrial town of approximately 45,000 inhabitants. There are about 90,000 people in the region.

Cuts were announced under both human resources development ministers. This reminds of the dismantling of railways in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you are a federalist-I have no doubt about that, Mr. Speaker-and I believe that all across Canada, employment centres are considered as a symbol of Canada. They are actually closing them down, doing away with them, so much so that Granby now receives only $36,000 from the federal government in lieu of taxes. Might as well say there is no federal presence in our region.

When our great country was created, the federal government's goal was to distribute wealth fairly across the territory. But now, my region is cut off by this government. Some 50 or 55 people were working in the employment centre, and now the government is considering going down to 12 or maybe 18 employees-no decision has been made yet.

This is sad for my region. It is a heavy blow since the employment centre, as it was organized, was making a significant contribution to the region's development. It is a whole network they are breaking up. This network is important for the regions. It is important for Quebec, for its development. Usually, all kinds of people are represented on boards of trade, people from every political affiliation, mostly federalists.

The Granby Board of Trade circulated a petition that was signed by over 6,000 people to condemn the government's attitude and to ask it to give more consideration to regions. As I said earlier, employment centres are a symbol of the Government of Canada, but this symbol is about to disappear because of the policies of the department and the minister.

My question is this: When the government makes decisions like the one to reform the system, why does it ignore the other governments? I would like to hear the member's comments on that matter.

Department Of Human Resources Development Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, my initial response to the member's question would be the same as the introduction to my speech: What does the Bloc Quebecois want? On the one hand it is saying to keep our nose out of its affairs; on the other hand it is saying to do more for it specifically and do not worry about the interests of other Canadians.

The business of governing this country as a country is to take into account the interests of all Canadians. The minister is taking a positive step forward in doing that. He is doing it in Quebec in the same way he is doing it in any other region of the country. As part of the family, we all share and share alike.

Sooner or later the member opposite will have to figure out what he wants.