House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vancouver.


Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


John Duncan North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for his speech. There is some commonality in some of the things my colleague is speaking about.

One of the concerns is the whole question of user fees. It has been identified that Canadians are paying more now in user fees for government services than they are paying for GST. We are dealing with a level of government, the federal government, that basically collects one dollar in two of all taxes in Canada. To me these user fees appear to be a new form of taxation that is not called taxation in some cases. It is easy to buy into the user fee principle as long as the fee is used for appropriate purposes.

One of the concerns that has been identified in British Columbia is that we now have a commercial marine industry that as of June is paying commercial marine fees in a major way. There is the recreational fee the member was also referring to which will be coming into play probably next year. It has been deferred. We know from insiders that this is another tax or revenue grab. It will be packaged in such a way that this is a necessary user fee in order to ensure that recreational boats and recreational boaters are appropriately licensed and controlled in some measure. Is that how the member sees it?

Another thing that concerns us is the sense of priorization that is coming forward. The safety aspects in the Pacific region that deal with public safety, the cuts that are being made that have serious ramifications are the rough equivalent of $7 million annually. I am not talking about fisheries management here. I am only talking public safety, the coast guard, search and rescue. At the same time we see the minister of heritage spending an unbudgeted amount but what is reported to be $23 million to give away Canadian flags. I would ask the member to comment on that.

Government Orders

1:30 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I think that, in the case of recreational boaters, this is indeed a disguised tax. It is ill-advised to implement such a measure. In the case of Quebec, it might make sense if, at least, it only applied to those waters, including the St. Lawrence River, where the Coast Guard is present.

However, supposedly for reasons of public safety, this applies to areas where the Coast Guard never set foot and does not provide any service. There is something which I did not mention earlier, but which I find very annoying. I am referring to the purported benefits mentioned by the Coast Guard to justify the registration of boats and the implementation of user fees. As regards these benefits, the Coast Guard issued the following press release on April 30, 1996:

Benefits: The establishment of a computerized system to store up-to-date information on boats allowing the organizations responsible for search and rescue operations and for implementing the act, to have quick access to reliable data, 24 hours a day. This system would greatly increase their effectiveness during investigations relating to theft and other offences, and to search and rescue operations. All those who use Quebec waters would benefit from this improvement.

I am certainly in favour of law and order, but I see imminent dangers in letting everyone, including Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard, monitor the public. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is giving himself a mandate to oversee the public and, if we let it happen, there is a risk that we will find ourselves in a quasi-police state, where any stakeholder with any kind of power can, given the current sophisticated technology, find out a great deal about his neighbour's private life.

It will be possible, thanks to the rowboats and pedal boats, to follow the comings and goings of citizens around the clock. The intention may be good but, as we know, there are a lot of people who can manipulate this sort of information. Some people know how to make lists. Therefore, a debate should be held regarding this issue. As a parliamentarian, I am increasingly annoyed by this type of behaviour.

This is a tax, hypocritically disguised. We are witnessing, as with gun control, a tighter control over the public. There should at least be a real public debate to find out what kind of society we want to live in, given the existing dangers. As we know, studies show that some dangers exist because of sophisticated means involved in this issue.

Government Orders

1:35 p.m.


Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my debate today with a question: How does the Liberal government feel about B.C.? I would also like to answer that question from the perspective of a B.C. member of Parliament.

The government likes our taxes and it likes to be able to use them, with B.C. as a have province, to provide equalization payments to the have not provinces. It seems to like to hold its conventions in Vancouver, I think for very obvious reasons, and it likes to visit us in the winter. In fact, the Prime Minister is attending an international conference in Vancouver in November of this year.

How does the government repay us? Well, among other things, it mismanages our fishery. I will refer to the 1996 spring hearings which were really a charade. I would like to read into the record a letter from the sports fishing industry in Victoria, British Columbia to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Referring to those hearings, the fishermen said:

There is no satisfaction in this outcome, only regret that the concerns brought forward by the sport fishing community were not taken more seriously by senior DFO officials. While we appreciate the audience you gave to our concerns last spring, the outcome was a rejection of the alternatives which were presented to you. In addition, no other options were considered by your ministry which could have mitigated the economic impact for the sport fishery and ultimately the consequences that British Columbia and its coastal communities are suffering.

The Liberal government has a habit of situating its hearings. It seeks to have people appear before its committees who are on line with Liberal policies and therefore will follow the strategy that the Liberal government has already determined. There are a number of instances of this but I will leave it at that for now.

The Liberal government has also moved to remove the last regular army presence in British Columbia. I will speak more to that in a few moments.

Despite the fact that Vancouver is recognized and acknowledged as one of the major ports through which drugs and contraband are imported into Canada and thence to the United States, the federal government has decided to do away with the port police at the port of Vancouver. We question the wisdom of that.

The government has replaced manned light stations, or are in the process of doing so, with automated stations. I would like to refer to the views of a tugboat captain, Robert D. McCoy, who said: "Having spent the best part of 52 years sailing on this coast, 30 of them as a tugboat master, I feel I am well qualified to speak on this subject. I am as protective toward my tax dollars as any Canadian. Automated lights cannot give visual reports on sea conditions or the visibility in the vicinity of the stations. These alone are of paramount importance to mariners and bush pilots. They cannot see flares nor can they render assistance of any kind. My personal experience with reports from automated buoys is that their data are sporadic and at times unreliable. To put the Canadian marine community at the mercy of a satellite system operated by the U.S. department of commerce is to me questionable at best".

Of late the word is that we are going to reduce the coast guard presence on the west coast. Again, this is another reduction which will dramatically impact the safety of the citizens of the west coast. I will have more to say on that in a moment.

My time is restricted and therefore I will limit my comments to light stations, the coast guard and the military.

With regard to light stations, Reform is in support of economizing but certainly not at the price of people's safety and welfare. The B.C. coastline is unlike any other in the world, save possibly the coastline of Norway.

We cannot compare the B.C. coastline to that of Washington, Oregon or California. We cannot compare it to the coastline of Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick or Newfoundland. Its deep fiords, steep descents into the water and rocky coastline is unique. Other than perhaps Alaska and Norway, there is no comparable coastline in the world. Therefore studies which show that other areas have divested themselves of manned light stations are interesting but not relevant to B.C.

The coast of B.C. has extremely heavy traffic. I will deal more with that in a few moments as it bears on the subject as well. A human presence is required. I can think of two recent incidents. One was last spring at the north end of Vancouver Island where a ship was foundering with two people aboard. The only way the message got out and assistance was rendered was the observation of the light station keeper at the north end of Vancouver Island.

My colleague has referred to a second incident which happened this past weekend. I would like to read from the Globe and Mail report on it: ``Bella Bella, B.C. U.S. pilot John Hilliard has a lighthouse keeper to thank for being plucked from the wing of his sinking aircraft after he crashed near this community on the central B.C. coast. With some direction from the Canadian Coast Guard and a lighthouse keeper on McInnes Island, he was rescued unharmed''.

It has been plainly obvious that there are alternatives available. The B.C. government has offered to become involved and it is my contention that the federal government has not taken this intervention seriously and considered it enough. The policy to unman the light stations needs to be re-examined promptly.

I would like to move now to the Canadian Coast Guard. The coast guard budget was previously reduced, as were all government departments. We are not fighting against that. Now the government is proposing even further cuts to the coast guard in the Pacific region. It is talking about a 35 per cent reduction, or about $31 million and 360 staff, over the coming four years.

For the 1997 year commencing on April 1 the fleet budget will be reduced by $7 million, reducing the coast guard vessels from 39 to 22. That is a reduction of 17 vessels out of the coast guard fleet on the west coast. There are also plans to multitask and cross train the crews to provide support to both coast guard and DFO programs and the reassignment of coast guard vessels to fisheries duties. We will not argue with any of that. Cross training people and double tasking them if it does not affect their prime capability is a good program.

We are concerned about the safety of air and marine traffic using west coast corridors. In my own case, and I will be referring to it in a bit more detail later, we are concerned about the safety of students, residents and tourists which is in question as a result of this policy.

The coast guard is responsible for many programs. Every one of them is affected by these cuts. My chief concerns today are in the area of search and rescue, environmental response, that is pollution from shipping, and direct spill response management or supervision of private sector clean-up. Last, the area I am concerned about is the loss of coast guard influence on boating safety; that is, to provide information, advice, inspections and demonstrations. The coast guard is also responsible for providing navigation aids, buoys, beacons and other conventional marine aids.

The decision has been made to discontinue visual aids based on the presumption that the GPS, the global positioning system, will overtake them and make them redundant. However, our neighbours to the south have had GPS in place for a number of years and they

have made no such move. They have left the visual buoys, the visual shore markers and the long range navigation system in place.

In my region many U.S. boaters who come up to sail in the Gulf Islands, one of the most beautiful spots in the world, are navigating on Esso road maps. I guess we could say they are not taking enough precautions, but surely we cannot ignore the fact that they are in Canadian waters and it is our responsibility to provide support to them if an emergency should arise.

The reductions result in an increased response time for search and rescue emergencies, an increased response time and reduced capability in the case of oil spills and a reduced effective response area for the coast guard in general.

The total staff reduction has not yet been explained in detail. My concern is how much of the reduction will take place at the tail and how much will take place at the tooth. Surely we could do away with some bureaucrats and keep the coast guard at the sharp end, available to do the job.

Local government and citizens have provided me with very strong and very irate feedback. The letters protesting the relocation of the Ganges station, which is on Saltspring Island, come from the capital regional district, school district 64, which is the Gulf Islands district, the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf Islands Teachers Association, the Saltspring Island fire department, Local 788 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and many more from individuals on Saltspring Island and other affected B.C. coastal areas.

Yearly traffic in B.C. waters surrounding the Gulf Islands consists of a quarter of a million pleasure craft, which is increasing every year, 6,000 fishing vessels, more than 3,000 merchant ships and increasing traffic from our neighbours to the south. On an average summer weekend there will be 30,000 pleasure boats in B.C. waters. Added to this are chartered seaplanes, or float planes, bringing in tourists from a number of areas.

I do not want to lobby for a local coast guard on Saltspring Island, but I do know that these cuts have had a detrimental impact on the presence of the coast guard on the west coast.

This is an area of very heavy traffic. It is the heart of the ocean playground. There is a plethora of ocean and tourist traffic in the area. There is an abundance of sport fishing. Yachts love it. Tourists and float planes are present at all times. Shipping lanes run through the area and many deep sea vessels anchor in and around the Gulf Islands waiting for authority to enter the port of Vancouver.

The area also houses the Victoria international airport. There are twelve ferry terminals. Ferry traffic between the mainland and Vancouver Island alone consists of more than 20 million passengers annually. There are innumerable marinas and yacht clubs. The area is teeming with boats the year round.

The area around the Gulf Islands and Powell River have become two of the most popular scuba diving destinations in Canada. Unhappily, in the case of decompression sickness in scuba divers minutes count. It is vital that the coast guard be there to provide immediate response if an incident does occur.

Unlike many communities in the rest of Canada, students attending the high school in the Gulf Islands on Saltspring Island use school boats rather than school busses. There are three school boats operating out of Ganges, the Scholarship , the Graduate and the Ganges Hawk . They operate twice a day over 190 days a year, starting at 6.45 in the morning when they pick up the students and deliver them to school and returning at 3.30 in the afternoon, taking them back to the islands where they live. Obviously during the winter the return journey takes place after dark. Therefore there are added hazards.

Our gulf enjoys a Mediterranean climate but the water temperature is not very variable. It goes from about 4 degrees in the summer to about 2 degrees in the winter. Estimates are that an individual in that water will lose consciousness in between 30 minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes. This depends on the condition of the individual, the attitude and the what the individual is wearing at the time. Additionally, the area is subject to strong tides, rocky shores and shoals, and in winter the waters are subject to fog, storms and darkness. It is a lovely area, but one which people need to respect rather than simply take lightly.

The Gulf Islands school district also depends on the coast guard locally for safety training of students travelling by the water taxi and for doing safety inspections on those taxis. The requirement is that they be there in case of an accident.

There is talk that the Ganges station will be relocated to Victoria. When that happens it will reduce the response capabilities substantially. This is an issue of cutting the sharp end rather than the wagging tail.

When this happens the proposal is to replace the present coast guard vessel Skua in Ganges with an roving vessel called the Atlin Post . The Skua is capable of speeds up to 24 knots. The Atlin Post is an 8 knot vessel. It is going to journey between Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands. If it should be at the northern end of its sweep when an emergency happens there is just no way the vessel is going to be able to respond in time. It may take two and half to three hours for the coast guard to get from that position to where it is required.

Moving the Skua to Victoria is placing the vessel and its crew in danger. The Skua is designed for inter-island operations. The area down to Victoria exposes them to open waters in which the seas and the storms will be beyond the capacity of the vessel. In point of

fact, the vessel will be replaced in the winter with a 44 foot ship from Port Hardy.

The Ganges coast guard at the moment is on call 24 hours a day with a 15 minute launch window, even during standby hours. This has been depended on to maintain the safety standards in the area. The removal of this unit from that area will definitely degrade its ability. It has responded to requests from the fire department. It has taken equipment and emergency calls from the various islands around. There is a certain safety in numbers. However, we cannot always count on someone being there to help a vessel in distress. We can stay beside a broken down car on the road. But if a boat breaks down it is likely to be washed on to the rocks and be in extremely serious trouble before help can arrive.

Michael Turner, the deputy commissioner of the coast guard, has said that the merger between DFO and the coast guard will have a minor impact on users. Some jobs would be lost but most would be at the admin end and not the pointy end. The closure of Ganges station proves this is not so.

With the move of the coast guard from Ganges, unit 36 of the coast guard auxiliary will be involved in providing assistance to boaters with problems.

This is a super outfit. There are thirty active members who have units in Sidney, Mill Bay, Oak Bay, Victoria and Sooke. They serve the Saanich Inlet to the San Jauns and throughout the gulf islands. They have done an excellent job. They have been called out 69 times since April of 1995 and they have highly trained volunteer crews on call. They accept the requirement to be on 10 minutes call from their boats 24 hours a day.

But they are in trouble. The two vessels are located at Sidney and Brentwood Bay. They receive coast guard tasking money for fuel, maintenance, which is based on the size and power of the vessels and the number of hours on the water for extra funds. But they require extra funds, which are not provided and they have to raise, for weather cruiser suits, for life jackets, for hand held radios. They presently have one hand held radio, which cost about $400, and they require six.

It costs about $10,000 to keep that unit operational for six months. Currently it has $1,000 in its budget, so those cuts will hit that auxiliary unit hard.

The federal Emergency Preparedness Act states that every minister accountable to Parliament for the administration or affairs of a government institution is responsible for identifying civil emergencies that are within or related to his or her area of accountability and for developing a civil emergency plan for such situations. I contend that lowering the coast guard presence on the

west coast, particularly in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island, is not accepting that as a realistic requirement.

I also point out that the Deputy Prime Minister in her position as minister of heritage has managed to give away $23 million and counting on flags. The coast guard cuts are $31 million. The money the minister was able to find for the flags might have been better applied to the coast guard.

The base closure at Chilliwack is probably the worst case of ignoring B.C. problems that I have seen. I have a personal acquaintance with that base. It has real estate, it has plant, it has a climate that is incomparable and irreplaceable anywhere else in Canada. The reason the engineering school was moved there from Dundurn was climate. That cannot be replaced. It is a mistake and that policy should be reconsidered.

Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I see you are standing to put some questions to the hon. member, but I think that with the shortage of time we will take the questions immediately after question period.

It being almost 2 p.m., we will proceed to Statements by Members.

Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to take part in the Durham Federation of Agriculture's fact finding tour of area farmers last Friday.

Agricultural sales are second only to the automotive sector in total economic production in Durham. Farmers engaged in the production of beef, eggs, milk and wine were part of our stops where they could voice their concerns to federal, provincial and municipal representatives.

Farmers are part of small business as well, which is why the Scugog Chamber of Commerce hosted a subsequent dinner which also included small business operators. Reinventing government means government, farmers and small businesses working together to solve common problems.

I would like to thank the Durham Federation of Agriculture as well as the Scugog Chamber of Commerce for an opportunity to listen to their concerns. They can be assured their voices are being heard here in Ottawa.

The Laval Cosmodôme
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Gilles Bernier Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, the white elephant known as the Cosmodôme in Laval is another fine example of wasted public funds. It has already swallowed up $31 million and there is talk of another $10 million being needed to keep it going.

I am in no way questioning the educational value of the establishment, but I think there is a serious management problem. I urge the provincial and federal governments to resist the temptation to pour more money into this losing concern and I hope that the City of Laval will get its act together and quit thinking that the solution to its problems lies in our pockets.

This reminds me of something former federal minister André Ouellet said a few months ago about the Mirabel airport. "After twenty years", he said, "it can be concluded that Mirabel was a mistake".

Taxpayers have already contributed more than their share to pay for this white elephant: another bottomless pit just like Mirabel airport.

Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, melatonin burst on the alternative medical scene with a flourish. Produced naturally in the brain of humans it has claimed to have benefits for jet lag-something MPs know about-and aging, which no politician needs worry about.

The health protection branch in Ottawa says this natural product has not been studied enough to guarantee that it is safe. No evidence of direct harm, mind you, after millions of doses.

Its solution is to ban the sale of melatonin in Canada. However, it allows the purchase of three month's personal supply from the U.S. Recently health food stores in B.C. have been charged for this infraction.

If melatonin is really unsafe, ban it. If it is okay to buy melatonin from the U.S., let it be sold by Canadians. We thought jobs, jobs, jobs meant jobs here at home.

The Economy
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, small and medium sized business is the engine of the economy and is vital to the economic well-being of Canada. A great number of jobs have been generated from these businesses, and now, more than ever, Canadian small and medium sized businesses are seeking export opportunities abroad.

In Etobicoke-Lakeshore we have many success stories which include the LifeTech Corporation, a scientific research company that has developed technology to sterilize blood products; Harmony Printing, a high quality computer printer; the local Great Lakes Brewing Company, and the new state of the art European bakery and food production facilities of the Future Bakery and cafe.

These are but a few of the businesses contributing to the growth of our local economy. Not only are these small businesses creating jobs, they are at the forefront of the innovation necessary for survival in today's competitive economy.

All Canadians benefit from these successes and the government will continue to work in partnership with the private sector to develop programs encouraging growth for small and medium sized business in Canada.

Child Labour
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, we read in a report from the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch that there are now close to 65 million children in India being used as cheap labour, particularly in carpet and brick factories, and in mines. Of this number, 10 to 15 million were sold into slavery by their parents.

Yet, close to eight months after Team Canada's visit to that country last January, nothing concrete has been done to prevent products in whose manufacture children are involved from entering Canada.

Given that the problem of the exploitation of child labour is not limited to India, but is a world wide problem, what is the Liberal government waiting for to take concrete action against offending countries?

Library Of Parliament
Statements By Members

2 p.m.


Paul Steckle Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize and thank the personnel in the Library of Parliament for their outstanding efforts in assisting my constituency office, legislative office and myself personally as we endeavour to serve and represent the people of Huron-Bruce.

In this place, as parliamentarians we can, at times, become so absorbed in the excitement and fervour that surrounds an issue or debate that the work behind the scenes and the people who are responsible for that vital service are often forgotten or taken for granted.

Today I would like to extend to each and every staff member at the library my personal gratitude for their assistance to my offices over the past three years. Their contributions have enabled me to significantly increase my effectiveness and the level of service that I can provide to my constituents. Again I say thank you.

Canada Games
Statements By Members

September 30th, 1996 / 2:05 p.m.


Glen McKinnon Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to tell members about some exciting news for young Canadian athletes.

For close to 30 years, the Canada Games have given athletes from Victoria to St. John's a chance to perform at their best on the national stage. As we all know, television coverage has played an essential role of presenting these athletes on this medium.

I am pleased to announce that this evening, the Canada Games Council, TSN or the Sports Network and and Le Réseau des Sports are announcing a new partnership that will more than triple the amount of air time over the next three Canada Games already on the drawing boards.

This stability will attract corporate support for the games, which means more support for the young athletes.

As Brandon, Manitoba will be the host city for the 1997 Summer Games, I would like to invite all members of the House to the announcement and to the reception this evening.

The Member For Bonaventure-Îles-De-La-Madeleine
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, because he wanted to hold hearings on the language of advertising in Ottawa, the member for Bonaventure-Îles-de-la-Madeleine is no longer co-chairman of the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages. He naively thought that he would be allowed to defend the historic philosophy of his party.

Here is what the member said, and I quote: "Organizing public events when people are accused of having broken the Referendum Act is acceptable. But it is not acceptable to defend bilingualism in Ottawa. Yet this is not what I learned from Pierre Trudeau and the current Prime Minister when I was young".

Our colleague has tripped up in the Liberal logic of the double standard. The member now finds himself faced with a difficult choice: follow the example of another great Liberal from his region, René Lévesque, and leave his political party, or follow his whip's orders and wait until the next election for the public to put him out of his misery.

Bill C-68
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, last year the justice minister repeatedly stood in the House and assured all members he had consulted extensively on Bill C-68.

He also stated that he was in continuous consultation with the offices of the provincial attorneys general. The attorneys general from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon appeared before the standing committee and testified that these statements were not accurate and that only minimal consultation had occurred at best. The James Bay Cree and the Yukon First Nations also told us they had not been consulted. Yet the minister emphatically insisted that consultation had occurred.

We now have irrefutable evidence that the minister's statements were inaccurate. Many feel, as I do, that we have been mislead. The proof is this. The governments of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon have launched a court challenge against the registration portion of Bill C-68.

The lack of consultation has led to an unnecessary legal confrontation with huge financial repercussions for taxpayers. It has also destroyed the credibility of the justice minister of Canada.

International Translation Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, today, September 30, is International Translation Day. I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to all the translators, interpreters and terminologists who help us understand each other better every day.

These industrious people, who nearly always work behind the scenes, are part of our day to day lives. For example, all the official activities of the Government of Canada are translated, and this is a huge undertaking.

Here on Parliament Hill, we enjoy the uninterrupted services of translators, interpreters and terminologists. Hansard , which we receive every morning, is translated and revised overnight by translators from the government's translation bureau. Debates in the House are interpreted by teams of interpreters who relieve each other at regular intervals, maybe because the debate is so heated at times.

This morning, in conjunction with World Translation Day, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, which is responsible for the Translation Bureau, officially launched a project for distributing TERMIUM throughout the Public Service. TERMIUM , the Translation Bureau's terminology bank, is now

accessible on CD-ROM. It contains over 3 million entries and is an indispensable tool for effective communication in Canada's two official languages.

To all the translators and interpreters-

International Translation Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon member. The member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle has the floor now.