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.


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12:55 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I noticed the minister likes to take credit for a lot of issues with regard to the deficit. We should perhaps talk about the record of the government.

Indeed the deficit has gone down by $25 billion during this term. However, new government revenues received from the taxpayers have gone up $25 billion. So what are all these government cutbacks about? They are about paying more interest on the debt. The Liberals do not want to talk about the debt, but it will exceed $600 billion next month and will be by their own estimates $619 billion next year.

If the Reform Party's platform had been adopted by this government we would have already balanced the books and we would be starting to see no more cuts in program delivery. The program delivery cuts we suggested, you are in many cases exceeding in what you are doing and we very much question the priority-

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I remind members to direct all interventions through the Chair, not directly to one another across the floors. I will allow the hon. member for North Island-Powell River to conclude his comments and his question, please.

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12:55 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I regret that. I lost myself there.

The minister talked about the veto situation in British Columbia. It is very clear that British Columbians did not want a veto for anyone when it came to constitutional change. If the minister wants to know why half of the British Columbian Reform members voted against a veto for British Columbia it was because we were

opposed to the whole concept of vetoes which in the long run is going to make constitutional change very difficult indeed.

I was personally involved in the softwood lumber dispute. I got into a debate in the media with the member for Kenora-Rainy River in Ontario. I assure the minister that we were talking to industry. We were taking an active interest. We were putting some Ontario members on notice that British Columbia had a strong agenda. All the government did was to do what was correct and fair, which is unusual. Some things have been done which have been fair. They were done that way simply because there are 24 Reform members from the province of British Columbia.

A further observation is that the minister certainly enjoys taking credit for some of the initiatives that were carried forward by the previous Minister of Transport, the best minister this government has had.

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1 p.m.


David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know quite where to start.

Let us start with half of the Reformers voting for the veto and half voting against it. The hon. member explains why half voted against it, but he does not explain why half of his colleagues voted the other way. That is as mixed up as the Reform Party usually is on most important issues affecting British Columbia.

With respect to the debt and deficit, let me explain again to the member that revenues are up. Why? Because the economic situation is better and revenues go up at times like that. This is a lesson in economics which apparently has missed the hon. member and indeed the whole Reform Party.

Had we adopted Reform's policies, we would not have had that increase in economic activity. We would not have had that increase in revenue and we would not have been able to cut the deficit as this government has done. It is perfectly clear that he had better understand a little better what the issue is with respect to deficits and how one can tackle it effectively without creating a recessionary situation which would put millions more Canadians out of work, which was their policy.

With respect to softwood lumber, I am glad to hear what he has said about his party being in favour of what happened because we did not hear it when it counted, which was before the decision was made. Now he has corrected the record. We say: "Fine. Thank you for joining with us in making sure that we got that particular matter dealt with".

The basic problem, if I may point this out to the House at this time, is that in the Reform Party, British Columbia members simply do not get a fair shake. They have four times as many members in this House as the Liberal caucus which has six from British Columbia, but Reform's Alberta members are constantly dominating what goes on in that party.

An article in the Edmonton Journal talks about the B.C. members being left out in the cold in the assignment of duties. It talks about a specific member, the chairman of the B.C. caucus, who said that finance, criminal justice matters and the future of social programs are the most important items on the national agenda for the next few years. They are key issues where Reform hopes to score points and Alberta Reformers were awarded all of these prestige critic positions by the hon. member from Calgary, the leader of that party.

The chairman of the B.C. caucus went on to say that it is needed to make the hon. member from Calgary, the leader of his party, realize the need for more regional balance. "We do not want to be run by one province. Appearances in politics is everything".

This is one of the basic problems that we from British Columbia, all 32 of us, as a group face in the House of Commons. There are six on the government side and 26 on the opposition side, 24 of whom are in the Reform Party, the third party. Those Reform members do not get a look in when the Alberta people are dividing the critic's positions or the opportunities for questioning in this House. I have here all the information on issue after issue affecting British Columbians where they have sat silent because the Alberta members dominate their caucus.

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1:05 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to commend my colleague from North Island-Powell River for putting forward today's opposition motion on behalf of the Reform Party.

We will use the time allocated to the official opposition to show how, at the eastern end, on the Quebec side, the federal government's malfeasance and attitudes have also impeded progress, especially in Quebec.

For the benefit of the people listening to us, I will read this motion:

That this House support British Columbia as Canada's gateway to the Asia Pacific and recognize British Columbia as a major economic power in the region, and as a consequence, this House condemn the federal government for impeding progress in Western Canada by its management of the affairs of the nation, exemplified by the government's mishandling of the west coast fishery, Coast Guard services, the closure of military bases at Aldergrove and Chilliwack, B.C., the elimination of federal Ports Canada policing in B.C., the movement of grain to Prince Rupert, B.C. and other issues detrimental to the state of the nation.

You will agree with me that, in several instances, if the word "Quebec" were substituted for the words "Western Canada" or "nation", one could come to practically the same conclusions as

the hon. member for North Island-Powell River. I will address the part of his motion dealing with the Coast Guard, which could lead to other federal issues that have hurt Quebec and its economy for some 30 years.

I am very happy to participate in this debate on the Coast Guard, among other things, as an associate member of the fisheries and oceans committee, as the member for Trois-Rivières, which is a port city, a maritime city, and also as the official opposition's critic on regional development.

The Coast Guard has launched a full-scale attack against what could be called Quebec's overall economy. It is leading a frontal attack against St. Lawrence Seaway, its ports and those who use them and it is also carrying out an assault that is more deceitful, hypocritical and irresponsible in economic terms against ordinary citizens, ordinary Quebec consumers unlucky enough-as we will see in a moment-to own a pedal-boat, a kayak or a rowboat and to use it on one of Quebec's lakes or little rivers in their free time.

We will start our review of these two issues by looking at the Coast Guard's plan to charge users of the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway. A decision was made a few months ago, at the beginning of the year, to charge users of the St. Lawrence in three ways: first, for the use of navigational aids such as beacons, buoys and telecommunications, most of which are managed by the Canadian Coast Guard; second, as early as this fall, for ice removal, for the use of icebreakers and: third, for the dredging of the ports on the St. Lawrence and the channels leading from each port to the St. Lawrence.

The project was the subject of what is termed consultation at the Coast Guard. The IBI report, according to all those who appeared before the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, involved bogus consultation; it is not even worth the paper it is written on, for all its irresponsibility and biased questions responses.

That was the position at Fisheries and Oceans and at the Coast Guard, but following strong representations made by the official opposition, the minister finally had to admit that the fisheries and oceans committee should be consulted and users invited to at least express their views publicly, which was done.

About fifty users from across Canada came to testify, 75 per cent of whom requested a moratorium, in part because, the IBI study did not include an impact assessment to determine how a decision to impose a tariff would affect the users. In many cases, the shipowners using the St. Lawrence River are foreign shipowners, and they will now be charged for the use of the river, which will seriously jeopardize the competitiveness of ports along the St. Lawrence.

There has been no impact study, although the industry concerned, the stakeholders were prepared to participate in a joint government-user study. Instead, the government took a unilateral, arbitrary approach, deciding to impose, as a first step, new tariffs for navigational aids.

Governments, and not the least significant ones, namely the governments of Ontario and Quebec, reacted very strongly against this. But as far as I know, while the Quebec Minister of Transport, Mr. Brassard, who is responsible for this issue, has repeatedly asked to meet the federal minister responsible. No meeting has taken place. This goes to show the arbitrary way this government goes about things and the true extent of its willingness to co-operate.

Another decision was made later on. Contrary to the decision made at the time when a uniform tariff was being considered, that is to say a single tariff applied throughout Canada, from coast to coast, the government gave in to lobby groups from across the country and decided to divided the country in three regions.

There is a specific objective: user fees. The Coast Guard has a mandate to come up with X millions of dollars as its contribution in the fight to bring down the Canadian government's deficit. Nobody has come right out and said so-it is the Coast Guard's share.

With all of Canada facing a real problem, they decided to carve up this vast, wonderful, united country into three large regions: the West; central Canada, meaning the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes; and the East, that is the Maritimes, with the Port of Halifax obviously being the focal point. They have carved Canada up into three large regions with three kinds of user fees.

There is one fee for the West, one for central Canada, and one for the East. As if by chance, the central region, including Quebec and Ontario, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes, is being asked to contribute the most. Forty-eight per cent of the revenues from these fees will come from the central region, 30 per cent from the East and 22 per cent from the West.

The concept of user fees being proposed, furthermore, is truly astonishing. Not only were there no real consultations, but it has been decided that people travelling on the St. Lawrence use the services of the Coast Guard.

In not one case has it ever been shown that any services are actually provided, but the Coast Guard has decided to charge fees anyway.

The result is that, for North Shore ports, such as Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles and Port-Cartier, a single buoy, an aid to navigation, will cost users $5 million. This is a small example of what happens when the powers that be fail to consult the client where the concept of user fees is involved.

The overall result is that, without any impact study, it seems that, according to users, there is a serious danger, given the very fierce competition that exists, that the competitiveness of ports on the St. Lawrence, and even in the Great Lakes, but especially ports on the St. Lawrence, will be jeopardized by the additional costs resulting from these new rates, which will put St. Lawrence ports at a disadvantage compared to ports in eastern Canada, particularly Halifax, ports on the American eastern seaboard, and even ports on the Mississippi.

There is talk in certain sectors, and not the least important ones, and this view is supported up by SODES, the Société de développement économique du Saint-Laurent, that the existing fees could double with the introduction of this new scheme.

Do you know what SODES is? It is not some little backwater special interest group. It has 110 members. They come from practically everywhere in Canada, although mostly from Quebec, given the name. Its members include: the Association de l'industrie de l'aluminium du Québec-all the aluminum smelters in Quebec belong to SODES-the Association des armateurs du Saint-Laurent, the Association des industries forestières du Québec, all the pulp and paper industries, and the Business Development Bank of Canada. The federal government belongs to SODES, and SODES feels that there is a likelihood of the fees doubling. Canada Steamship Lines is a member-and I hardly need draw you a picture to show that its federal connections are not very distant ones. St. Lawrence Cement, the entire Quebec City Urban Community is a member, as is the Quebec-Cartier Mining Company, Trois-Rivières grain elevators, in my riding, le Groupe Desgagnés, le Groupe Océan. Industry Canada is also a member of SODES.

SODES is, therefore, very concerned about the effects which are, to use its members' own words, potentially devastating for the economy of Quebec, the cities and ports along the St. Lawrence. Industry Canada is a stakeholder in the SODES evaluation. The Quebec Maritime Institute, Lavery & de Billy-a major law firm-, Logistec Corporation, MIL Davie, Oceanex. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also a member of SODES. The consistency of this government is quite evident.

Irving Oil too is a member. No less than Irving, of the fine province of New Brunswick, whose owner, let me remind you,-there must certainly be an element of family trust in this story-threatened to cut his children out of the will if they did not move out of Canada to avoid paying tax, to avoid his estate's ending up in Canada's tax coffers. Irving Oil is a member of SODES, in brackets, and is also threatened by the federal plans. The central St. Lawrence pilots, the port of Montreal, the port of Sept-Iles, the port of Trois-Rivières, the port of the Saguenay, to name just a few. The Shipping Federation of Canada, the Société du parc industriel et portuaire de Bécancour, Transport Canada-also a member-, Ultramar, the City of Montreal, Quebec City. I could go on and on; there are 110 in all.

So this is just the first step. We are talking about navigational aids only, because more information is available on this particular subject. It will be necessary to recover $20 million in 1996, out of projected $180 million to be recovered between now and the year 2000: $20 million this year, $40 million in each of the two following years, and then $60 million annually, the other items being deicing, the use of icebreakers and dredging of harbours.

Another source of irritation to users is the fact that, contrary to what was called for, there was no cost cutting by the Coast Guard itself, which might have reduced fees to users.

According to our information, the Coast Guard has never embarked on an exercise to streamline its operations, which would have made its case more convincing. We must realize that putting the burden on the shoulders of users weakens the competitive position of St. Lawrence ports and makes it less attractive for shippers to do business with us. The cost-cutting exercise never took place. As I pointed out earlier, there was no explanation of the actual services the Coast Guard offers its users on a day to day basis.

One of the points that, in my opinion, illustrates the disastrous consequences of lack of co-operation between Fisheries and Oceans and users concerns the way fees are charged, which is a very important aspect. A decision is made to charge fees, but how will this be done? Apparently there were two methods known to those in the industry. The first one is based on the size of the ship. I will give you a fictional tonnage: a ship that has a tonnage of 30,000 always has a tonnage of 30,000, wherever it may be.

The other method is according to the tonnage of cargo unloaded, which makes all the difference and is a sore point between ports of destination and ports of call. In this case, we have a major port of destination, the port of Montreal, and a major port of call, the port of Halifax. If we take the method based on the size of the ship, all ports are equal, but if the fee is based on tonnage unloaded, this works out to the advantage of the port where the unloading takes place.

So of course the port of Halifax has an advantage if the fee was based on the tonnage of cargo unloaded. So what was the Coast Guard's decision? It decided that fees would be based on the unloaded cargo tonnage, thus obviously favouring the port of Halifax at the expense of Montreal. Another good decision designed to favour Quebec's economy, right?

An additional consequence is that, again according to calculations made by SODES, which I mentioned earlier, these costs could reach one dollar per ton. There was so little consultation-and

SODES is a responsible organization, as we saw earlier-that, according to the Coast Guard, these additional costs could result in an increase of ten cents per ton.

There is therefore, as we can see, a huge gap between the estimates of two organizations that are supposed to be responsible, competent and capable of issuing an opinion. Someone may be wrong, but this discrepancy definitely shows that there was no co-operation.

A direct consequence of this is that, should things remain the same, the north shore region, including Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Port-Cartier and other ports, not using icebreakers since there is not enough ice build up in that area, will be charged a fee for the use of icebreakers, even though there is no need. This will be the case because it was decided that, in such and such regions, under such and such conditions, it will cost so much money for the use of icebreakers. People are very concerned because, again, this situation will adversely affect these ports, in terms of their ability to compete with other ports.

What the Coast Guard did last spring shows that it did not know where it was going. For example, over two weeks, from the end of February to the middle of March, its overall fee schedule rose from $3.40 to $4.48, an increase of $1.08 or 33 per cent per gross ton. This is very important as it, in my opinion, contributes to this whole exercise's lack of credibility with users, because every time the Coast Guard is pressured by a lobby group into changing its fee schedules or procedures, it just so happens that the changes are made at the expense of Quebec's management and infrastructure. A $1.08 increase over two weeks is quite impressive when we are talking about three or four dollars.

Another practical consequence is that, according to what we have learned, a 25,000-ton ship will have to pay $112,000 a year just for navigational aids. Users will eventually also have to pay for ice breaking and dredging operations. Do you not think that this represents a serious threat to us all, at least in Quebec? Since all this is being managed from Ottawa, since Quebec has no say in these decisions, Quebec's overall economy may be seriously compromised by such actions if we fail to mobilize more against them.

Since I have only two minutes left, much to my surprise, I will quickly move on to the other decision made by the Coast Guard, which is a beauty. I am talking about recreational boaters.

The government has in the works an elaborate mandatory registration process for small craft: canoes, kayaks, rowboats and pedal boats. The fee will vary from $5 to $35 per craft and covers training courses and a penalty system. Again, the consultation was bogus-that is what we were told-strangely similar to the consultation process involving the users of the St. Lawrence River.

The great excuse given for meddling in this area is public safety. But how will paying a $25 fee before they set foot in their boats make recreational boaters more safety conscious? I think this is a relevant question. How will this make pleasure boaters more safety conscious, especially since this is based on the principle of user fees?

Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for lakes. It is pretty outrageous, in fact, for Fisheries and Oceans to look after the lakes and small rivers in Quebec, while the Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the St. Lawrence River, the Richelieu River, the Ottawa River and the Saguenay River. Those who vacation in Quebec, who spend money in Quebec and Canada, who take a rowboat or a pedal boat along any small river or lake in Canada are being obliged to pay up. They are being charged a fee while the owners of sumptuous boats are not being bothered. They have to register their boats, but can do so for free. Yet, they are the ones really who make the most use of the buoys, communications facilities and locks.

Do you know how much it apparently costs to move a 30-footer through a lock? The rate is 50 cents per foot. This means a mere $15 to get a lock opened. But they want to tax the individual who enjoys a ride on a pedal boat along the shore of a small lake. That is what it is, a tax, a disguised tax, which-and I say this as the critic for regional development-penalizes Quebecers and Canadians who vacation in Quebec and Canada. Perhaps some thought should be give to that, to how this affects those who spend at home instead of abroad. They are being penalized by this anti-regional development measure, among other things.

I could go on about this, but my time has expired.

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1:30 p.m.


John Duncan Reform 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.

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1:30 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc 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.

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1:35 p.m.


Jack Frazer Reform 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.

SupplyGovernment 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.

AgricultureStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal 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 CosmodômeStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Gilles Bernier Independent 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.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Grant Hill Reform 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 EconomyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal 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 LabourStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc 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 ParliamentStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal 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 GamesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Glen McKinnon Liberal 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-MadeleineStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc 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-68Statements By Members

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


Jack Ramsay Reform 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 DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal 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 DayStatements 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.

The Leader Of The Bloc QuebecoisStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, collectors of historical and precious statements will surely gobble up some of the comments made by the Bloc leader at the general assembly of his party this past weekend in the Quebec region.

In his speech on Saturday, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois accused the Prime Minister of having forced Canada back into the constitutional debate on five occasions during the past year.

How can the leader of the Bloc make such a claim with a straight face, when everyone on this earth knows that the constitutional debate was revived by the election of the PQ and the referendum it organized on Quebec independence?

Can someone here please tell us where the hon. member for Roberval has been these past 24 months?

Alison KornStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, six athletes from Nepean competed for Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. One of those six was Olympic rower Alison Korn, a member of the women's eight team which won a silver medal for Canada at the games.

Atlanta was Alison's first Olympics. She began rowing in the fall of 1992 in Montreal and trained seriously for only two years. With only 400 metres to go, her team was in fourth place. This was more than Alison and her team members could bear so they stormed to a dramatic second place finish.

A former Bells Corners elementary student, graduate of McGill, participant in a Young Challenge International Project in Costa Rica and former hockey player, Alison is a positive role model for young women across Canada and most certainly a star in Nepean. Bravo, Alison.

Tomorrow, October 1, parliamentarians look forward to welcoming and honouring the Canadian medalists from the Olympics and paraOlympics right here in Ottawa and in the House of Commons.

The Death Of Claire BonenfantStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, early this morning, we received the news of the death of Claire Bonenfant as the result of a stroke. The women of Quebec mourn her passing. Claire Bonenfant was a woman of heart, head and action, a woman whose life was lived in total harmony with her deepest convictions, whether on Quebec women's right to equality or Quebec's right to sovereignty.

Cofounder of the Ralliement pour l'indépendence nationale, chair of the Conseil du statut de la femme for six years, Ms Bonenfant contributed to the creation of Quebec's first policy on the status of women. A bookseller and publisher, her activities included chairing the book fair, Salon du livre de la Capitale, co-ordinating the Department of Education's equal access program, and acting as a consultant on wage parity.

All those who had the privilege of meeting and working with this warm, dynamic and spontaneous woman will remember her openmindedness and respectful attitude, and how it united all those around her.

Claire Bonenfant may have left us, but memories of her presence, her energy and her perseverance will be with us for a long time.

Police OfficersStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday 5,000 police officers marched through the streets of Ottawa, assembling outside Parliament Hill to honour comrades fallen in the line of duty.

The names of six brave police officers who died in the past year while serving their communities were added to the Canadian Police and Peace Officers Memorial.

I was on duty May 24, 1977 when a brave colleague of mine, Constable William Shelever, was shot down in the line of service. On behalf of my police colleagues who served their communities so vigilantly, I salute Constable Shelever and others who served us so well. We will never forget them.

On behalf of my constituents, I extend condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones. We share their loss. On

behalf of all Canadians, I thank those who paid the ultimate price for doing their part to keep our streets safe. We will always hold their names in highest regard.

Fallen colleagues, we salute you, we thank you and we will never forget you.

EmploymentStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than 1.5 million Canadians have been unable to find employment and that does not take into account the thousands of Canadians who have given up trying to find work.

The Prime Minister claims that his government has created more than 600,000 jobs. Well, this total is almost 150,000 less than what the previous government claimed were created over the same period of time.

For almost three years I have been calling on the government to lower interest rates. Recently the chief economist of the Royal Bank of Canada conceded that the bank rate could be lowered even further to create employment opportunities.

I call on the Prime Minister to deliver on his promise to create jobs by lowering the interest rates further so Canadians can get back to work.