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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

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, one thing is certain in Quebec and that is that since 1982 nobody has wanted his Constitution, that is clear.

We know that the federal cabinet is divided on the question of whether or not to refer this matter to the Supreme Court and I can understand, because I want to ask the Prime Minister to give us and the members of his cabinet an explanation, and perhaps then he will be able to bring about unity.

How can the Prime Minister explain that Canada's justice minister has flatly contradicted himself twice in this matter, first in September 1995, when he declared that, in his view, this was not a legal question but a political one, and for the second time in May 1996 when he said that he was intervening in the Bertrand case only because the government of Quebec was doing so, and that otherwise he would not? By becoming involved now, the Minister of Justice will have contradicted himself twice since his initial statement.

The ConstitutionOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, at the time, the minister said that, if the government of Quebec did not intervene, we would perhaps not have to intervene. But the provincial government did intervene and the ruling was not favourable to the provincial government.

I imagine that if the ruling had been favourable to the government of Quebec, it would not have withdrawn from the case.

The Wording Of The Referendum QuestionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, to say the least, some clarifications of the lengthy responses we have just been given by the government are in order.

My question is for the Minister of Justice. Does the government intend to go ahead before the Supreme Court to ask its judges for a ruling on the federal government's power over the wording of the referendum question, the percentage required in a referendum, and the use of the power of disallowance?

The Wording Of The Referendum QuestionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has already said, we have not yet decided, but will do so in the next few days. As I said last week, it is our intention to respect the commitment we made in the Throne Speech, which is that next time, should there be a third referendum on the same subject, the question needs to be clear, the consequences need to be well known, and all Canadians need to be involved.

The Wording Of The Referendum QuestionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, can the Minister of Justice tell us whether the federal government will seek to obtain a favourable decision from the Supreme Court as to the possibility of holding its own Canada-wide referendum?

The Wording Of The Referendum QuestionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we will have the opportunity in the next few days to announce our intention, and I would just like to state that all of our options are still open. In the days to come, I will have the opportunity to clarify our position.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, Brigadier-General James Cox, the army's new command inspector, is doing something that the Liberal government refuses to do. He acknowledges that there is a morale crisis in the armed forces and it has everything to do with leadership.

General Cox says he has a team of soldiers ready to stare people in the face, ask all the hard questions and expect honest answers.

Let me ask the Prime Minister one of those hard questions. Does he now acknowledge the morale crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces and that it has everything to do, not with reorganization or downsizing, but with the leadership vacuum at the top of that department?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I stated yesterday that we have confidence in the leadership of the armed forces at this time. This period of reductions is a difficult time for the armed forces. The fact that there is a public inquiry which will analyse all the operations of national defence, something which has never happened before, is delicate and complicated for everybody.

I urge members of Parliament to let the commission look into all matters and report to the people of Canada. After that we will make the proper decisions. At this time General Boyle, the minister of defence, General Baril and all the others are working to make sure that the armed forces are ready for the tasks they have to do today, tomorrow, next week and next year.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, fortunately for the rank and file people in the Canadian Armed Forces, Generals Cox and Baril are not going to put politics before the morale.

According to General Cox our soldiers are worried about a lingering cloud that follows them around because of the actions of a few. They want the cloud to pass. The only person who can make that cloud go away, especially the cloud at the top, is the Prime Minister.

Will the Prime Minister get rid of the cloud that is hanging over our soldiers by appointing a new chief of the defence staff and a new Minister of National Defence.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, my answer is no. I am not about to cancel the inquiry either.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, he digs himself in deeper and deeper.

Brigadier General Cox said: "We may still have a couple of warts out there that are still hiding and I have to go out there and uncover them". The two biggest blemishes on the reputation of the Canadian Armed Forces are the defence minister and General Boyle.

These generals cannot do it alone. The plumbers and carpenters cannot be expected to rebuild the entire house. At some point, the chief architect of this whole mess has to be held accountable.

Will the Prime Minister hold General Boyle and the defence minister accountable for damaging the morale and reputation of the Canadian Armed Forces or will he pass the buck to General Cox and General Baril?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have replied to all these questions. I urge the leader of the third party, if he has any respect and he wants the army to have good morale, to try to find something else to talk about.

It is very easy for me to answer. I said that I have full confidence in the Minister of National Defence. Why? Because the previous administration had seven ministers in nine years. That was the cause of the drop in the morale of the armed forces.

I am committed to giving them stable leadership. That is why the Minister of National Defence will remain the Minister of National Defence.

Francophones Outside QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Canadian Heritage told us without blinking an eye that francophones in western Canada would be better served by a one hour national newscast than by four 30 minute regional bulletins. What she was saying was that an hour is more than 120 minutes.

My question is directed to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Does the minister apply this kind of arithmetic to Radio-Canada's radio stations in Vancouver, which will experience cuts totalling 45 per cent, in Regina and Edmonton, with 50 per cent, and finally in Windsor, Ontario, with 60 per cent?

Francophones Outside QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that these cuts will create problems in all regions in Canada.

Management at Radio-Canada in Montreal worked on this with the president and the board of directors and has decided how far these cuts should go. I know it will be difficult. I never denied that. Today we hope francophones in western Canada can have an around-the-clock service through RDI, which is in fact happening now.

It is also true that cuts hurt everyone. However, if we consider Radio-Canada's total budget, after these cuts it would still be $300 million, which is $100 million more than TVA, for instance.

Francophones Outside QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear the minister remains insensitive to the needs of francophones outside Quebec and needs of Acadians.

By imposing new cuts at Radio-Canada, which will have the effect of restricting local broadcasting in French to a few hours a day, would the Minister of Canadian Heritage agree that this is very similar to what was done by the Government of Ontario in 1912, when it passed Regulation 17, which restricted French to one hour a day?

Francophones Outside QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, these are the crocodile tears of an opposition that referred to francophones outside Quebec as paraplegics in wheelchairs and said that, after a referendum, they would disappear just like that.

I would like to draw your attention to what was said by someone who ought to know what he is talking about, and who said, in referring to francophones outside Quebec, and I quote: "The Government of Quebec does not do enough, the Péquistes do not do enough. The federal government has certainly done more than Quebec, and I am prepared to acknowledge that". These comments were made by Lucien Bouchard on April 13, 1994.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says that he does not have a problem if he does not fire a minister. That is ostrich logic and I would like to tell the Prime Minister he has a problem here.

The defence minister has been demonstrating a lack of leadership and abusing his budget for months now. Yesterday we learned of a new contract issued to Mr. Stephanos Karabekos. Today we learn he rewarded his Liberal buddy, Joe Thornley, with an untendered contract for $50,000.

Does the Prime Minister endorse the defence minister's sleazy, pork barrel politics as a way to restore morale in the Canadian Armed Forces?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, all that is within the budget of the Minister of National Defence and within the guidelines of Treasury Board.

Every department uses people from outside to help sometimes. Members of Parliament have a budget to use people from outside and it is within the guidelines of the House of Commons and Treasury Board.

This hiring is exactly in that category, the right to hire people within the budget of the minister and the budget as a member of Parliament.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, if those are the guidelines, Canadians are saying change the guidelines.

The defence minister has been too busy paying off Liberal friends to worry about morale in the forces. He has been using his budget as a slush fund to keep Liberal buddies rolling in dough. Not only that, the only reason he gave the untendered contract was because the defence minister's former press secretary told him to.

What kind of example does the Prime Minister think this sets for rank and file people in the military when their boss is filling the pockets of Liberal pals?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Perth—Wellington—Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the minister had a requirement for some assistance in handling some communications issues and a contract was processed by the Department of National Defence in accordance with Treasury Board policies.

The company in question was determined to have the unique qualifications required to do the work.

Cable TelevisionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Quebec cable companies are unanimous in condemning a bill passed by this House, whose main consequence would be to prevent, for all practical purposes, new French-language specialty channels from being introduced in Quebec and Canada.

What steps will the Minister of Canadian Heritage take so that this bill never receives Royal assent?

Cable TelevisionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the main purpose of this bill was to eliminate negative option billing, which is already banned in Quebec. We are following in the footsteps of the Quebec government, which has already banned this practice.

Cable TelevisionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know which bill the minister is talking about, but the bill that was passed Monday by this House is aimed at preventing a new service from being introduced as soon as a subscriber objects to it. It is not the same thing at all in Quebec.

The Liberal members who voted for this bill did so against the advice of the minister and her government, who are aware of its perverse effects. How can the Minister of Canadian Heritage protect francophone culture, when she could not even make backbenchers, especially those from Ontario, listen to reason on this matter?

Cable TelevisionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone in this House agrees with the principle that negative option billing should be banned, which was the main purpose of the bill. That is why we followed in the footsteps of the Quebec government in banning this practice. It is important that Parliament take a position on this.

Churchill FallsOral Question Period

September 25th, 1996 / 2:35 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Confederation the federal government is supposed to be the referee of interprovincial trade. In the case of Churchill Falls, instead of blowing the whistle on Hydro Quebec and giving it two minutes for gouging, the Prime Minister is hiding out in the locker room.

Will the Prime Minister continue to abdicate his responsibility to ensure fair trade or will he take action to protect the people of Newfoundland?