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House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member well knows, what we are dealing with is a contract between two parties and two governments in the provinces of Newfoundland and Quebec. The federal government is not a party to this contract.

I find it very strange that this party that comes into the House every day defending provincial rights would ask the federal government to interfere in a situation involving two provinces.

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the Prime Minister that the people of Alberta had a fair deal to sell oil a market prices in the 1970s and a Liberal government made it unfair by implementing the national energy program.

Now in the case of Churchill Falls there is an unfair deal and the government is refusing to take steps to make it fair even though it has a responsibility to do so.

Even though the Prime Minister refuses to take action on Churchill Falls, will he at least admit that this is not a fair deal?

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I come back to the point that-

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Is it a fair deal?

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anne McLellan Liberal Edmonton Northwest, AB

Do you want me to respond? The question of fairness is not for the federal government. The question of fairness is for the two parties that entered into the deal some 30 years ago.

I have taken heart today from the fact that my Quebec counterpart, the minister of natural resources, Mr. Chevrette, has indicated an openness and willingness to sit down with the province of Newfoundland and talk about the possibility of negotiation on future projects and the terms on which they might go ahead. The premier of Quebec has indicated his openness to discuss and

negotiate the issue of open access transmission of electricity through the province of Quebec.

I would suggest that the two parties should sit down and talk about their differences and attempt to renegotiate the deal if that is their wish.

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the family trust scandal has raised many questions about Revenue Canada's questionable interpretation of the Income Tax Act.

On September 10, 1996, Choices, a coalition for social justice, approached the Minister of Justice, requesting that he ask the courts to issue a declaratory judgement on the decision made by Revenue Canada on December 23, 1991.

Could the Minister of Justice tell this House whether he intends to ask the courts to settle the family trust scandal?

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

All this squawking is making it extremely difficult for me to speak, Mr. Speaker.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I ask members please to listen both to the question and to the answer, as they are very important to us here in this House and also to fellow citizens across the country.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

I have not even asked the question, Mr. Speaker.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Let us get back to the question.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the Minister of Justice tell us whether he intends to go to the courts to settle the family trust scandal and check if Revenue Canada did indeed misinterpret the Income Tax Act, as Choices and eight academic experts claim it did?

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the preamble was so erroneous that I was prepared to answer it. But I will go beyond that and answer the question. Some hon. members said "for a change", which I think is quite unfair.

It is important to remember that after the auditor general delivered the report in question, this government referred the matter to the Standing Committee on Finance which heard from a number of legal experts, the vast majority of whom agreed with the legal issue that was in question.

Second, it heard from justice officials that the course taken was consistent with justice advice given over the years from whichever government was in office. It also heard evidence from which it concluded that the officials from revenue acted in good faith.

Against that background the committee formed its conclusion. I believe that represents a thorough analysis of the issue and a conclusion with which we should be entirely comfortable.

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, by refusing to let the courts rule on the family trust scandal, is the Minister of Justice not admitting in fact that the decision made by Revenue Canada was rather questionable and that any judge called upon to rule on this issue would not hesitate to overturn such a twisted decision without giving it a second thought?

Family TrustsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I cannot agree.

The reality is that it is for the very reason that the ruling was challenged that the government referred the matter to the standing committee. That committee heard evidence, including expert evidence, on the very question.

After having examined the evidence, which I urge the hon. member to look at, if memory serves, six of the eight legal experts who testified supported the approach taken.

I do not agree that a court would take a different view. I think we have had a full airing of the issue. It was before the committee for public discussion and I believe the matter should rest there.

Goods And Services TaxOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Beth Phinney Liberal Hamilton Mountain, ON

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

The minister has been accused of flip-flopping several times on the payment of GST on membership dues to non-profit organizations. There is still a lot of confusion out there. What is the situation? Do they have to pay or not?

Goods And Services TaxOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Scarborough East Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters LiberalSecretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the member has taken a considerable interest in this subject.

I am pleased to report that the changes issued last April have been altered and that memberships in certain non-profit organizations are no longer subject to the GST.

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is always talking about fairness. It professes that no one in the country and no party in the House can match the Liberals in their commitment to fairness.

Yet when we have the poorest province in Canada being exploited by one of the largest, the Prime Minister will not even admit there is a problem, let alone seek a solution.

Then the Minister of Natural Resources has the gall to say in this House that the question of fairness is not a matter for the federal government.

Why should the people of Canada believe that the Liberal government is committed to fairness when it consistently ignores the injustice of the Churchill Falls project?

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, it seems to me the leader of the third party misses the point. Is he possibly suggesting that it is the role of the federal government to be the arbitrator and determine the fairness of every contract entered into by any two parties in this country? Surely not.

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are not suggesting anything of the kind. We are talking about one particular project.

The minister administers the National Energy Board Act. Surely she has read the words fair and reasonable, fair and reasonable, fair and reasonable, time and time again.

Quebec Hydro has made profits of over $500 million annually from Churchill Falls in recent years, while Newfoundland gets only a fraction of that amount.

If Newfoundland received a fair portion of those profits its dependence on federal-provincial transfers and equalization would be significantly reduced to the benefit of all Canadians.

Why will the federal government not simply ask the National Energy Board to ascertain-we are not asking it to give an order-what would be a fair and reasonable division of returns between the provinces involved under present economic conditions?

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that since the leader of the third party seems to be intimately acquainted with the National Energy Board, he would know that the National Energy Board has no jurisdiction to interfere and modify the terms of an existing contract.

The Ethyl CorporationOral Question Period

September 25th, 1996 / 2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have the same problem as earlier, but still.

In February, the Minister for International Trade wrote to his colleague, the environment minister, to warn him that Bill C-29, which prohibits the importation of MMT, runs totally contrary to Canada's obligations under NAFTA and the WTO.

Considering that Ethyl Corp. is about to make a $275 million claim under NAFTA if Bill C-29 is passed, can the minister tell us how he will ensure that Canada will win its case before NAFTA?

The Ethyl CorporationOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the government is proceeding with Bill C-29 for many different reasons. We will defend our position with respect to NAFTA. Just because they put in a claim does not mean they will be successful.

The Ethyl CorporationOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, is the minister telling us that, if the federal government goes ahead with Bill C-29, in spite of his department's warnings, it could end up having to pay Ethyl Corp. $275 million coming from Canadian taxpayers?