House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was deficit.


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3:45 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not respond to all the remarks and all the questions. I would say that 90% of them are not relevant.

Our colleague is saying that we are hauling out things that are old hat. That is because the members across the way do not understand. We have been obliged to repeat the same thing to them for the past four years, because they understand nothing, even though we put the figures in plain view before them.

I would ask the member to take his responsibilities a bit more seriously and get his facts straight. Cuts of $42 billion over the next five years will not have a positive effect on the most disadvantaged. Nor will they improve the health network, since the provinces are being deprived of $42 billion in federal transfers for social assistance, education and health. If he puts a little more thought into it, I think he will understand things that he had not quite grasped.

The Bank of Canada has shot itself in the foot too. It has just said that the Minister of Finance did not do as his predecessors had done, which means that he has not done his job. He is supposed to send a signal to the Bank of Canada on the direction monetary policy is to take. If the government has job creation objectives—and he says there are job creation objectives and they are important—he ought to give a different signal to the Bank of Canada. He is empowered by the Constitution. He can give signals. He cannot direct monetary policy or set the interest rate every Wednesday, but he can give signals by indicating that the government considers employment important and that the inflation rate could rise a bit without killing anyone.

In the United States, the rate of inflation is over 3%, and the rate of unemployment is 5%. This makes all the difference between an intelligent policy—perhaps a more intelligent Parliament as well from time to time—and the Minister of Finance's very misplaced policy on interest rates. Our real interest rates are higher than those in the United States. He should find out about that. This party has a communications problem.

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3:45 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not think it is necessary to throw insults around just because we do not agree on major issues.

Speaking of true rates, the hon. member said that interest rates in the United States are higher than in Canada. This is a first. I am therefore taking the floor to respond to this member, who has just said that the interest rates are far lower in the States.

That is simply not the case. It is more poppycock than we are familiar with on this side of the House because they are based on some ideological principle that does not allow them to open up their ideas, does not allow them to open up their minds to anything that would allow them the understanding that we are progressing in this country.

I must repeat my question to the hon. member once again, in this context. Does he not agree with me that, when we have a system with a huge deficit and huge debts, the interests of the disadvantaged are protected when we take taxation and monetary measures to ensure that the country will benefit from sound management in future? Does he not agree that we are the best country in the world by more than sheer luck? Does he not agree that we are a country like no other?

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3:50 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, if things were all that great, we would not have the same number of unemployed, after three years of economic growth, as we had in 1993 before this government was elected. Will he eventually figure that out?

Is there anyone on that other side who will figure out one day that we have a job shortage, that we need jobs, that this government is doing nothing to help employment, that it is doing nothing to get the unemployed onto the labour market? That it is, instead, doing everything to keep them on the sidelines? Are they going to understand that it is abnormal that, but a few years ago in 1993, 77% of the unemployed were entitled to unemployment insurance benefits, while at this time only 44% are? After all, it is certainly not me who, along with my party, set the rules that apply to employment insurance claimants. It is his government.

Will the hon. member also realize that there are five million Canadians who live in poverty, including 1.5 million children? The figures have not changed in two years. If anything, they might be going up. Can he figure that out? Can he make the connection between, on the one hand, the government's repeated cuts to social programs and tightened UI requirements and, on the other hand, the workers being marginalized because they are no longer eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, not to mention the poor, who are the victims of the $42 billion in cuts? Will the member realize this at some point?

It is not so difficult to understand. Can he read the newspapers? Last week, Canadian economists were unanimous. They said that, two weeks ago, Gordon Thiessen had no business raising interest rates, that there was no overheating of the economy, and that the governor was contradicting his own statements of a couple of months ago.

Do you know what the Governor of the Bank of Canada said a couple of months ago? He said our economic growth could reach a cruising speed without causing inflation and requiring the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates. Two months later, he has changed his mind.

Every time he changes his mind, it prevents an unemployed worker from getting a job. Is this normal? This seems to me to be a matter of common sense. The people across the way should find out the facts, instead of talking nonsense.

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3:50 p.m.

Western Arctic Northwest Territories


Ethel Blondin-Andrew LiberalSecretary of State (Children and Youth)

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to present what we have done as a team in attempting to deal with and improve the lives of young people across the country and with the troublesome concerns about employment opportunities for young people.

We understand that in an ever-changing workplace and with the global markets as they are, that this is not a simple problem, not one tasked to one minister, one department or one level of government. It is one that we share with other countries and organizations that have amassed the collective experience and wisdom to deal with such matters. It is a partnership.

Since we were first elected in 1993, the government has shown a great deal of concern and has taken significant steps to improve the prospects for young people.

I have had the good fortune to be in this position, first to work with youth and training and now with children and youth and to follow the progress in perhaps a more detailed way than most members have because of my mandate. We intend to continue to build on those opportunities.

We have reason to be somewhat hopeful, although there is a sense of doom and gloom. We have an obligation as elected officials to give hope to people, not false hope but to be honest about the problems. I am not prone to brush problems under the carpet and forget about them. I am one who is honest about the progress that has been made.

In the last four months youth employment has risen by 63,000 jobs, which is the best four month performance in this decade. Youth are at last benefiting from the economic recovery that has favoured adults to date.

Today's generation of young Canadians are the best educated in our history and, as a nation, we are in an excellent position to thrive in the emerging knowledge based economy.

We need to ensure that young Canadians benefit from the economic revival so that they can take their rightful place in society.

Partnership is the key to success. And as stated in the Speech from the Throne, we will continue to work with our provincial and territorial partners to reach mutual objectives in that area.

The government has identified three priorities: first, providing a better chance for youth who are at risk because of low skills and lack of education. We cannot afford, with the resources we have to be distributed among our citizens, to forget those who are most in need. This has been cited time and time again.

The second priority is helping youth make a successful transition from school to work and the third priority is ensuring that young people have access to education so that they can fulfil their educational potential.

To support youth at risk, we will develop and expand community based programs with partners to assist young Canadians who lack skills and have low levels of education. Part of that will include establishing aboriginal multi-purpose youth centres to provide targeted support for urban aboriginal youth. We will build on the success of the school to work initiatives under the youth employment strategy.

The Government of Canada will also create a Canada-wide mentorship program. This will enable a young person to link up with a mentor who has experience in the field that the young person wants to explore. We will also expand the youth internship program and extend support for summer student job action.

What is more important than ensuring that young people who are coming out of college, universities and high schools have an opportunity to work in the summer and to help contribute in their own way to their community and to their country?

The Government of Canada will do its part to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to as many Canadians as possible. Education is, after all, one of the keys to their success and we continue to reduce barriers by providing further changes to the Canada student loans program. But we cannot do that alone. We have our partners at the provincial level to consult and our partners with the organizations that hold that expertise and responsibility.

Increased assistance for low income students with dependants through special opportunity grants should help 25,000 students each year. New scholarships, such as the Canada millennium scholarship endowment fund announced by the Prime Minister, will help low and moderate income students who show excellence in their studies.

Everyone deserves an opportunity. Everyone deserves a chance to do the best he or she can. Young people do not want a handout. They want a hand up.

When the youth unemployment numbers are analysed, two trends appear. First there are young Canadians who, for whatever reason, do not get beyond a high school education and have low skills. They are in danger of being left behind in today's economy. These individuals need more help than they can get through work experience alone. They need a variety of interventions such as counselling, skills, upgrading and literacy coaching.

Second, we find that those young Canadians with a post-secondary education are doing relatively well on average but some of these individuals find themselves in a catch-22. They have no experience, therefore they cannot get a job and they have no job, therefore they cannot get experience.

Third, we know that education is one of the factors in weighing a person's success in society. Rising post-secondary education tuition costs may make this difficult for some. Providing access to post-secondary education is a central goal for this administration and government.

The leader of the NDP was not a member of this House in the last Parliament. Perhaps she is not aware of just how much the government has done in an attempt to deal with this very troublesome problem that we are addressing today.

In 1994 we began fulfilling our election promise to help Canadian youth when we brought in the youth employment and learning strategy. After five months of being in government we pulled together a strategy. This initiative gave us our first look at youth internship, Youth Service Canada and student summer job action, programs that have proven their worth and continue to do so to this day. In our March 1996 budget the Minister of Finance announced the reallocation of $315 million over three years to help create employment opportunities for youth.

We have been building incrementally. We understand there is not one quick fix. We understand that what we have done is not enough. We understand and realize that. Our commitment is longer than one effort to deal with this issue. Other measures have followed.

In February of this year we introduced the new youth employment strategy. This strategy which consolidated over $2 billion in new and current funding builds upon existing programs and is helping 110,000 young men and women acquire extremely valuable on the job experience. For example, the new federal public sector youth internship program in partnership with the private sector's Career Edge and YM-YWCA will help 3,000 young Canadians gain experience in occupations that have great potential for future demand.

I wonder if the hon. member realizes that our youth internship and Youth Service Canada programs have a high success rate. Youth Service Canada has a 68% success rate and youth internship has a 78% success rate. This means graduates either return to school or find meaningful employment within six months of completing their work in the program.

However we cannot just measure the success of the programs quantitatively. We must look at them qualitatively as well. I have had the opportunity of meeting with many of the participants of government sponsored programs where we have engaged in some very good partnerships. Qualitatively some of these programs have given the opportunity, the hand-up that these young people need which otherwise would not be there. It has made a difference in the lives of young Canadians who want equality of opportunity. They are not asking for freebies. They are asking for an opportunity and this is what has been made available to them.

Youth Service Canada and youth internship are helping approximately 20,000 youth at risk this year alone. That is just one section of the program. This year summer student job action provided summer jobs for more than 63,000 young Canadians. Our human resources centres for students helped about 200,000 students prepare for the job market. We understand they need the counselling, they need the assistance and they need the support. That is what we have made available to them.

Nearly 40,000 callers have made use of the youth info line since the middle of August. Our Internet site has been visited more than 66,000 times since it was introduced.

In the hon. member's province of Nova Scotia, young men and women are participating in our youth internship programs. Our partner, Manutech Regional Industry Council, is helping the participants to become COBOL programmers for which there is an increasing demand as we approach the year 2000. The first class of these programmers will graduate shortly and a local employer is offering employment to those with at least an 80% average.

In my own riding of Western Arctic five young people spent the summer and early fall researching job growth in northern mineral and mining industries. Anyone who watches the news will know we are encroaching in the Northwest Territories on the largest diamond mine development in the western hemisphere. There is a small diamond development in Colorado, but for all of North and South America this is it. These young people are becoming a part of that by participating in this program. Their work will give us a data bank of 142 mining occupations which will soon be available on the Internet so that youth across the north can learn about the mining industry.

Despite these accomplishments, this government has no intention of resting on its laurels. We fully realize that youth unemployment is a serious problem. We share the concerns with hon. members of the opposition parties. We understand and share the concerns of our provincial partners. It is important enough that the premiers will convene a meeting with the Prime Minister to deal with youth unemployment and some of the other social issues that evolve around this particular problem.

In the Speech from the Throne we renewed our commitment to make employment opportunities for Canada's young people a major priority. One of the key ways for doing that is to create an economic environment that will stimulate job growth.

I am pleased to tell hon. members that we are seeing signs of improvement. We now have the lowest interest rates in 35 years and the lowest mortgage rates in 30 years. Our exports and international trade are at record levels. The overall unemployment rate is now at 9%, the lowest it has been since October 1990.

Since we first took office in 1993 more than 1.1 million jobs have been created in the private sector. We do not pretend that government creates jobs. That is not what we are all about. We understand that we have to create the climate. In just the past seven months, 292,700 jobs have been created. Among the G-7, Canada's rate of economic growth is second only to that of the United States. The OECD is projecting that our rate of employment will be higher than any other G-7 country both this year and in 1998.

In closing I would like to say to the hon. leader of the NDP that this government has demonstrated that helping Canadian youth fulfil their potential is a major priority. It is a priority because we understand that they are the future leaders of this country. They are the people who will fill the seats of this House in the years to come. They are the people who will make the decisions that will forever effect this country. We understand that and we do not see the expenditure under education experience as being wasteful. We see it as an investment. We cannot afford not to invest in the future of these young people.

I invite the hon. member from the opposition party and all members of this House to join us in working together because the interests of young people go far beyond partisanship and beyond politics. It is something we share in. We all have children and children whom we know and care about. We all understand that their future lies within the kind of initiatives that we can take in partnership to work on together.

I invite them to work with us. I also invite them to encourage the young people by visiting their local projects, by participating in the committees and meeting with the people who have ideas. The wealth of ideas is not contained within the walls of Parliament. There are people out there who have ideas and experience.

Take for instance the Ottawa-Carleton area. It has one of the best crime prevention programs for young people headed by Constable Claude Turgeon who is an expert in his field. In Vancouver there is the Picasso Cafe. Street youth provide the services in that very wonderful restaurant. Those young people have made the transition from street life to engaging in a very positive activity to advance themselves in their own life and also to contribute to the economy. There is Covenant House in Toronto for young people.

Many organizations are seized with the issues of the day that affect young people and want to help us. The Canadian Paediatric Society is interested in doing something about street youth. There are ideas outside of these walls that will help us to engage in further contributing to getting rid of unemployment for young people, in making the quality of life for young people better and in making Canada what it really is.

Despite all of the problems in our country we still have more opportunity than we have doors closed in our faces. We still have a future in this country. We are a new country which is building. In the Northwest Territories we will create two new territories in 1999. We are preparing for that. The majority of the young people in that area are under the age of 25.

A commitment cannot go any further than that, on my part or on the part of other members. We must work together to deal with this problem.

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4:10 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I welcome the NDP's motion. It shows an awareness of the most disadvantaged, the poorest members of society, and as long as that is where they are headed, I am with them.

I was listening to my colleague opposite praising her government, the state of the budget. But, apart from eliminating a large chunk of the deficit, what has the government done for the poorest and most disadvantaged members of society? My colleague spoke about summer jobs for students. That is not what young people want.

What young people want is permanent jobs. There are large numbers of young people who have graduated from top universities, who have BAs, MAs, PhDs, but no jobs, or jobs at starvation wages, but not in the field for which they were trained. All young people in Quebec want a job to be able to survive.

How many 25 or 30 year olds are there in deep debt and unemployed? They are told: “Give us part of what we gave you; pay back your loan”. Every six months, every month, a notice goes out asking them to pay back their loan with interest. They do not have a job.

It is shocking to say that things are going well. It is creating false hope to say: “Here is what we have done, what we will do”. It is so much hot air. What young people in my riding, and elsewhere of course, want is action.

Look at young people who are unemployed. It is said they are better educated than before and that is true. But what is the point of having four diplomas if students do not get to make use of them for years and their parents have to support them because they have nothing to live on? That is my first point.

As far as seasonal workers are concerned, there are a great many of them in my region of Matapédia—Matane. This winter, a number of people will be short 50, 60 or 75 hours to qualify for employment insurance, which I will continue to call destitution insurance, at least for the time being. What are we to do with these people this winter? It looks as if it could be a cold, long winter.

At the same time, members opposite boast: “Everything is fine, the country is prosperous”. All our colleagues across the way seem quite pleased. They lack compassion, to a certain extent. In our riding offices, we can see that people are suffering, really suffering. They are worried and increasingly depressed. They come to us and ask: “What can we do?”

I urge my hon. colleagues opposite to think for a moment about how destitute people are, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas. When bread winners cannot fish because of the cuts in fishing quotas or lose their job in the logging industry because winter is coming and roads are closing down, what are their families supposed to do?

The people across the way should ask themselves the question. What will these workers do? They will get income security. People back home are very proud to work and to work hard. They are not afraid of starting at five or six o'clock in the morning and working all day until five or six in the afternoon. Don't come and tell me that they are lazy.

The members opposite lack the will to help these people, because, often, there is something missing, but very little missing. I would like my hon. colleague to tell me if, as a member of Parliament and a woman—because there are many single mothers who suffer terribly, whose young children often have nothing for breakfast and go without dinner—she knows what this government could do to help these families, and disadvantaged families in particular?

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4:15 p.m.


Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberal Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member.

The hon. member spoke from what I consider to be a perspective from his riding in Quebec. It pleases me to say we have engaged in the area of the labour market agreements. We have an agreement with Quebec that frees up the resources for that province to the tune of $7 billion or $8 billion to effectively structure the resources and the framework of labour market activities so that they can best benefit.

I talked about partnership. Have we done enough. No, we have not done enough. In the prime minister's words, as long as there are unemployed people in this country what we have done will not be enough. But we are attempting to do a number of things.

I indicated that currently all levels of government are seized with this problem. The provincial premiers as well as the ministers at provincial and federal levels are discussing this.

The hon. member said students do not want summer jobs. That is not the case. About four or five years ago the summer employment program was to phase out. We have doubled the amount of money for young people. Talk to any young people coming out of university or high school. Not only do they want permanent jobs, but they want summer employment. I have met many who want to be gainfully employed to pay their own way during that period of time while they are attending school.

The hon. member asked what will we do about the poor people, those who are most in need. For many of the programs that I have taken part in developing and assisting I have gone to those people to ensure that it passed their litmus test. If people are at a disadvantage, including youth and children, programs should reflect that and provide opportunities for them.

I am sure the hon. member reads the material that he receives in the House. This government is currently engaged in starting the national child benefit in July which will give $850 million to those needy families, to those individuals who are most in need. In much of the legislation that we are engaged in there is always a provision as we have for unemployment. The hon. member talked about seasonal workers. I understand and I sympathize. I know that no piece of legislation is wonderful and perfect but the fact remains that many of the opportunities, as in the $800 million in active measures, are designed to reach those people who are the poorest.

The transitional job fund is for high unemployment areas. I know that people in not necessarily his constituency but in high unemployment areas have benefited from that. They have taken a part of the $300 million and a good portion of the $800 million as well as the youth programs. They are now in that position as a province. They have a labour market agreement of $8 billion.

The hon. member should engage in dialogue with some his provincial separatist government members to give them the same kind of message he gives the federal government, to care about the people in his province and to transmit those resources into success for the people who need it most.

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4:20 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to split my time with my colleague for Vancouver East.

First of all, I am pleased to take the floor today to speak to the motion from our party, the NDP.

It must be kept in mind that in our area—which I will use as an example to start with, and then will move on to the rest of the country—there are a lot of seasonal workers. The changes to employment insurance have been disastrous to our regions. New Brunswick alone used to receive about $243 million that it has now lost with the changes to employment insurance.

The region I come from, Acadie—Bathurst, has lost more than $66 million in funds, which means that it has lost jobs instead of creating any. We have lost jobs because the small and medium businesses have been forced to close, since no one is buying their goods.

My predecessor, Doug Young, travelled through the Acadian peninsula in 1989, telling people “Vote Liberal, that will save employment insurance”. That was what he said in Acadie—Bathurst. I will tell you another thing my predecessor said.

The newspapers reported “Mr. Young is calling for New Brunswickers to submit briefs to the legislative committee that will be holding public hearings this coming September in the province on employment insurance. According to the hon. member for Gloucester—in opposition at the time—New Brunswick must strenuously oppose any change to employment insurance and any proposed change, because it will have serious repercussions on the region”.

That is the gift from our predecessor. Our predecessor became the Minister of Human Resources Development and is the one who made the changes to employment insurance. Unbelievable, and unacceptable.

My predecessor was not the only one, however, to talk like that. Let us talk about Marcelle Mersereau, Liberal Minister of Natural Resources in New Brunswick, who was still saying this week that employment insurance changes were a disaster for New Brunswick, that there were terrible repercussions and that it had added more people to the welfare rolls. This is what the minister of natural resources of New Brunswick, another Liberal, was saying publicly.

What are they doing? They take people who are on social welfare who have no rural experience and they pack them off to work. I have no problem with the people on welfare having an opportunity for a job, but I do not agree with the fact that the government, because of problems due to its changes to employment insurance, takes people and, to get them off welfare because changes to employment insurance have resulted in an increase in the number of people on welfare, and sends them working in order to get them on employment insurance and off the provincial rolls.

Let us have a look at the figures. There are families on welfare receiving perhaps $750. People are sent to work at $6.25 an hour. If you figure you work 40 hours a week, that means $1,000 a month. When we multiply that by 55%, that gives $550. They are going to make these people even poorer. This is what they have to realize.

This is a sort of jobs that have been created in our regions. And that is what hurts. If we have a look today, what do we see? We are told that if taxes are cut jobs will be created. I said that this morning here in the House, if taxes are lowered, jobs will be created.

I remember the government gave money to large corporations to promote new technologies. Where did that take us? The companies made more money, but with the new technology, in the mines for example, in the Brunswick mine in Acadie—Bathurst, there were some 1,400 employees. Well, not long after the arrival of new technology, the number of employees dropped to 800.

We can take a look at what happened with the banks. In the next ten years, 35,000 people will lose their jobs in Canada. The banks are making millions and millions of dollars in profits. They are not creating jobs, they are laying people off. This is what is happening.

Now, let us look in the Atlantic region, not only in Acadie—Bathurst, in Newfoundland, for example. Everyone there is affected by the closing of the fisheries. Cod fishing is closed. Everyone there is affected, and people in the Reform Party are saying that the TAGS program must be terminated. Just imagine the number who will starve to death.

During the election campaign, I met people and entered the homes of some poor people. But what I heard after the campaign was even more painful, because I am the new member for Acadie—Bathurst and the people of my riding expect a lot from me. They expect me to do a lot for them because they are living in poverty. One evening, this woman phoned me up and said: “Mr. Godin, I am so glad you were elected. Finally, someone will speak for us in the House of Commons in Ottawa instead of merely looking at the deficit. We are in dire straights and, last night, my husband and I seriously considered committing suicide together. We have worked all our lives. We both used to work in a fish processing plant for $6.50 an hour. Today, we are out of work because the cod fisheries have been closed down, crab quotas have been reduced and lobster quotas are all but gone.”

This kind of testimony is painful. I can feel what these people feel. I can understand that some members do not meet these people, but I can tell you that, in my riding, I do see them. I can certainly speak for our region.

British Columbia is going through the salmon crisis. They will face the same problems we have had in Atlantic Canada. When I say that people back home are hard working, I know that they are indeed. They would travel to the other end of the country to find work. They are hard working people.

In Bathurst for example, when it was announced that a new CPP office would open and that there would be 60 positions to fill, 800 people showed up. Go to the Brunswick mine today and you will see that, even though they are laying people off, there are between 1,000 and 2,000 people at their door looking for work.

As regards fish plants, those who do not know, those who have never seen poverty in this country should visit our region in the summertime to see what is going on. They will see women—because 80% of fish plant workers are women—get up at 8 a.m., seven days a week, to work until 2 a.m. at the plant. This morning, Reformers claimed I accused them of saying our people were lazy. No, they did not say that. That comment was made by my predecessor, in Hamilton, Ontario. He is the one who said that people in my region were lazy and that it was time for people to stop abusing the system.

What do our regions need? What is required to help New Brunswick's economy? What is required to help Newfoundland's economy? What is required to help Nova Scotia's economy? These economies need real jobs. We must be able to use the natural resources that our provinces are lucky to have and do the first, second and third processing. This is the only way we can create jobs back home.

Never—and I will say it in this House—will GM build a plant in New Brunswick. Never will Chrysler come to our province. Therefore, we must use our resources and do the second and third processing.

Meanwhile, what do we do with human resources? I say this government, this country has a responsibility toward people and must make sure there is bread on the table in the morning for children who go to school.

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4:30 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I can well understand the emotion and the figures provided by the new member for Acadie—Bathurst.

I would like to tell the hon. member that, despite everything he said about my former colleague, Mr. Young, governing is not about saying one thing in one context and something else in another. It takes leadership and courage to say and do some rather difficult things.

I know that it was not easy for the member before me or the member before him to make these decisions, but they saw that it was absolutely necessary that the system change. After ten or so years, the unemployment insurance system was in such bad shape that, in the end, everyone was being penalized.

Now I know very well, as does the hon. member, that the collapse of the cod fishery was due to environmental causes and was not the fault of the federal government or individuals. I know that the member is very familiar with the situation that exists in his area, Acadia, in large urban centres like Toronto, and elsewhere in Canada. I must therefore ask the hon. member a question. What changes would he like to see to ensure that people at the other end of the country are not penalized by the system?

I must point out that there are people in my riding working for $6 or $7 an hour, who do their job, who at least try to make a living when the day is done, but who must pay insurance. Is the member proposing a system in which there would be no employment insurance, or does he favour a sound system that would work for everyone?

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4:30 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I will be pleased to reply to my hon. colleague. First of all, why is it that, when the Liberals were in the official opposition, my predecessor used to say it would be disastrous for our region?

Second, it is not my fault nor that of the government, supposedly, if fishing quotas were cut in New Brunswick and if there is a complete ban on cod fishing. I congratulate the fortunate ones who have found jobs, I am happy for them. But if we are to live in a united country, where we all look after one another, attention should be paid to those regions experiencing difficulties.

What my hon. colleague said is starting to sound like what my predecessor used to say, claiming that the unemployed were lazy and should stop abusing the system. He said that, in his region, people get up in the morning and work all day long. That is very similar to the remarks my predecessor used to make. What is different with the people in my region is that, when they get up in the morning, they do not have a job to go to. Jobs have disappeared because there is no cod to fish.

We cannot go ice fishing for cod in winter. We cannot make a hole in the ice the same way we would on a lake in Ontario and put our lines through. That is not how fish is caught in the Atlantic ocean. Another thing: New Brunswick blueberries cannot be gathered under the snow.

Peat bogs cannot be operated under snow, the same way that Christmas wreaths do not get made in July. That is the problem we are facing in our region. And tourism is slow in New Brunswick in the winter, as compared to the summer.

Our jobs are seasonal jobs and, until the government does the responsible thing and invests in natural resource processing at the secondary or tertiary level, this will remain a problem. In the meantime, what we need is a short term solution, not $12 billion hoarded for bankers and for Paul Martin.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, law enforcement officers.

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October 21st, 1997 / 4:35 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in support of the very important motion placed before the House today by the New Democratic Party.

As a new member of the House, having been here for about a month and listening to the debates which have taken place, I have been struck by the rhetoric that flows around this room. What is important about the motion is that it deals with the number one issue facing Canadians.

It was our commitment from the day we came to the House to raise the issue and make the government accountable with respect to unemployment and job creation.

I was in my riding of Vancouver East last week when the finance minister was also in Vancouver speaking to the finance committee about the state of the economy. He was in the Hotel Vancouver with all the media and the fancy hardware making his speech. I was across the street with some of my constituents. It was not a huge crowd. They were people who had rallied at the last minute because they had heard the finance minister was coming to town. They wanted to speak out. They wanted to address what they understood to be the real issues facing them as well as other Canadians.

The finance minister spoke about the state of the economy. He gave himself and the government a nice pat on the back. We were across the street in the pouring rain, unfurling a banner which pointed out that social and human costs of the budget of the Minister of Finance had been devastating to our communities.

When I went back into the hotel to listen to the finance minister, none of his statistics pointed to the real crisis we are facing, which is unemployment among our young people and other Canadians. We have growing poverty. The motion before the House today addresses this question.

I listened to the Secretary of State for Children and Youth earlier today say that the NDP has not been here and might not be aware of what the government has done for youth unemployment and young people in general. We may not have been in the House with party status in the last parliament, but we have been aware along with other Canadians of exactly what the government has not been doing to address unemployment, particularly unemployment among our youth.

No matter what the government says, there is no escaping the fact that for the 84th month we are facing an unemployment rate of 9% or more. We are now facing the highest sustained unemployment rate since the 1930s. When we couple that with the severe cutbacks that the government has enacted in its obsession to deal with the deficit, we can see what a toll it has taken on Canadians.

When we consider 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed and add in those who are underemployed and those who have dropped out because they have given up looking for work, we are really talking about 3 million Canadians who have failed in the system because the system has failed them.

Earlier today I heard a member saying that sacrifices had to be made, that these were tough times and we had to make sacrifices. A question needs to be raised. Sacrifices by whom?

The fact is that the record of the government and the finance minister is being carried out on the backs of the unemployed. It is being carried out on the backs of women who are trying to re-enter the workforce. It is being carried out on the backs of young people.

When we look at real statistics in terms of new jobs that have been generated, part-time work with lower benefits and no job security, and when we look at the cutbacks there has been a sacrifice. But that sacrifice has not been equally shared by all Canadians. I think that point has to be made. We need to understand who has really paid the price.

One thing is clear. The government's economic proposals and its obsession with dealing with the deficit and meeting the agenda of corporate Canada have been at the expense of the lowest 20% of low wage income.

We heard from my colleague from Acadia—Bathurst about the situation of unemployment insurance and what a severe impact it has had on unemployed workers.

When we talk about sacrifices and what opportunities have been created, we need to know why the government has not addressed the issue of fair taxation. Why will we be witnessing for another year a record $7 billion in windfall profits for major Canadian banks? Why do we still have $17 billion in deferred taxes? Why do we have tens of thousands of profitable corporations and businesses that do not pay any taxes?

We have to tell the Minister of Finance that his state of the economy is really a one-sided view. It has failed on every ground to address the real crisis of unemployment. It has failed to address growing poverty. It has failed to address that in the 1990s we have seen a decrease in full-time jobs and an increase in low wage, part-time jobs.

We are here today with our motion to draw attention to stark reality and to say that it is time the government is held accountable for the situation in terms of unemployment.

I would like to address one particular aspect which concerns young people. Youth unemployment is double the national average. At this time almost 500,000 young people are unemployed. Since the Liberals took office in 1993, 40,000 more young people have ended up on the unemployment roles. For those who are lucky enough to find a job there has been a doubling of part-time work. It is very difficult to find full-time work.

We hear the Liberals say they are committed to youth. Listening to the minister today, these are just hollow words that have no meaning for young people who are desperately trying to pay off student loans and find work.

If the government were truly committed to young people and solving the crisis of unemployment among them, the first thing it would do is restore the cuts to post-secondary education. This year alone we will be witnessing a cut of $550 million. Is it any wonder that tuition fees have gone up 45% since 1993.

The government should take note of what the provincial government in British Columbia has been able to achieve. Despite federal cutbacks of $2.29 billion in post-secondary education, the NDP provincial government has been able to hold the line and freeze tuition fees to give our young people a fighting chance to get through post-secondary education.

Under the Liberal plan what is happening? Our young people are graduating into poverty. The government has to restore funding to post-secondary education.

We have heard a lot about this millennium fund and that somehow it is a wonderful thing that will happen in the year 2000 to help young people. Young people cannot wait until the year 2000.

Young people need assistance for post-secondary education and they need to have a freeze of tuition fees. They do not need a scholarship program. They need a realistic plan that will relieve their debt load which is now at $25,000. That is what we are saying to young people who go to post-secondary education.

The hollow words and the rhetoric I have heard from members in the House are little comfort to unemployed Canadians. If we are serious about our commitment to unemployment the government has to address a program of job creation. It has to embark on a program of fair taxation. It has to ensure that it intervenes in the marketplace.

Today I heard from a hon. member across the way that some how the marketplace is responsible for job creation, not the government. If we look at the cutbacks we have witnessed in the last four years, $7 billion in the public sector alone, they have had a massive impact on unemployment.

This motion brings back a sense of reality to the House. It is a motion that addresses the real issues facing Canadians. Those of us in the NDP caucus have listened to the government records. We have witnessed the record of the government and so have Canadians. We are determined to continue to raise the number one problem of unemployment. To have 1.4 million Canadians unemployed is absolutely unacceptable. It is a national disgrace and it is a crisis. The finance minister and the Liberal government have to make this the number one priority.

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4:45 p.m.


Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened to the hon. member with interest. She included a lot of information from in her previous speech.

The hon. member mentioned the $17 billion in deferred taxes and tens of thousands of profitable companies that pay no taxes at all. The Ontario NDP government carried out a survey when it first came to power. It found that the principle reason why tens of thousands of profitable companies did not pay taxes in a particular year was they were carrying forward losses from previous years.

If the hon. member wants to remove the ability of companies to carry forward their losses, losses they incur to keep people in jobs when the company is not doing well, can she not see that will kill jobs?

How do these companies avoid paying taxes? Could the hon. member give me the list or give the House a list of reasons why companies do not pay taxes, especially profitable companies?

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4:45 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. It is something which he has raised with me before. The issue of fair taxation is something that is very important to us in the NDP. It is something which has not been taken up by the Reform Party.

What we are talking about is a situation where profitable businesses pay a fair share of taxation. Look at the taxation system and the burden it places on working people and middle income people. Time and again we hear we have to tighten our belts. If there were loopholes they would have to be taken away. When it comes to businesses those loopholes still exist.

All we are calling for is a program of taxation reform, a program of fair taxation that will ensure we will not continue to see a shift in taxation from major corporations to individuals. That is the issue.

I never hear Reform or Liberal members or the finance minister addressing this. Why do we not hear those members willing to stand up and question why profitable corporations are not paying taxes? Those are issues which should be raised by the government and by the Reform Party. I challenge them to do that.

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4:50 p.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario


Tony Valeri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to the comment made by the member for Vancouver East that a representative from her community came before the finance committee in Vancouver and made a very effective and very real and significant presentation. I want the hon. member to understand that there was no one around that table who did not empathize with what was going on. The message came through loud and clear.

I also want to correct some information that was put forward in the speech. It was stated that the jobs created in this country were all part time jobs. The majority of the 279,000 net new jobs that have been created in this country are full time jobs. Although the unemployment rate for young people is still excessively high, I want the hon. member to acknowledge that those with a post-secondary education have an unemployment rate below the national average. Our focus must continue to be on education. The finance minister in Vancouver did indicate that there would be additional focus and emphasis on education now that the books are very close to being in order.

I want the hon. member to understand that the cuts or anything that went on in British Columbia cannot always be pointed back to the national government. The transfer cuts that took place in British Columbia amount to 1% of the total B.C. revenues. British Columbia will receive over $3 billion under the Canada health and social transfer this year alone. With the increase to $12.5 billion as the cash floor, British Columbia will receive an additional $800 million through the Canada health and social transfer. It will receive and has received $1.3 billion over five years to fund training initiatives for the unemployed.

This national government is doing things for Canadians. I refer to what we have done for the province of British Columbia.

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4:50 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The unemployment rate for young people who have had the opportunity to go through post secondary education is lower than for young people who have not. However, that does not deal with the crisis of young people in post-secondary education who are now facing massive debts and are basically graduating into poverty. That is an issue this government has not addressed.

As I mentioned earlier, the millennium scholarship fund which the government claims will start in the year 2000 will not help students today and will not help students who are in great financial need because it is based on a scholarship program.

Yes, post-secondary education is critical in terms of finding a good paying job, but what are we saying to our young people when we force them into poverty and into massive debts of $25,000, which is what this Liberal government has done by cutting back on post-secondary education? That is the effect of what the government is doing.

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4:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba


Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Hillsborough.

It is truly lamentable that the federal NDP motion before us sees fit to condemn but does not offer any creative solutions to the remaining challenges that confront our people today. By its motion it would like us to believe that deficit and inflation should no longer be of concern. It would like us to believe that the federal government has made no appropriate investments in health care, education and training. It would like us to believe that the federal government is blind to the plight of the unemployed. Far from it.

Let it be said that this member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul and this government on whose side this member sits have been concerned with unemployment since we took office in 1993 and remain determined to continue working so that any Canadian who wishes to find work can find it.

Since first taking office in October 1993 this government has created close to one million jobs distributed around the regions of our country. In fact, 279,000 jobs were created in the first nine months of this year alone.

In October 1993 the unemployment was 11.4%. Today it is at 9%, decreasing despite the increasing demand for jobs. Consider what would have happened had there not be a surge in job creation. Canadians recognize this, but they equally recognize that this government has achieved a level of success that points to the direction of continued success.

We appreciate that Canadians renewed their confidence and trust in this government last June. This is the government that reduced the interest rates to record lows, thereby easing the burden on our national and personal debts through reduction of interest payments.

This is the government that has continued to contain inflation, thereby protecting the buying power of our hard earned Canadian dollars. This is the government that inherited a crushing deficit of $42 billion or 6% of the gross domestic product in October 1993 and reduced it to $8.9 billion in four short years. This is the smallest federal deficit as a proportion of our national economy, 1.1% of GDP, in over two decades.

This deficit reduction should be known. It has been achieved not only by improving government efficiency but by stimulating the growth of the economy with resulting increase in revenues.

No later than the fiscal year 1998-99 this government pledges the crushing deficit of 1993 will be turned ultimately into a fiscal dividend. This means Canada will enter the new millennium with more than a balanced budget; with a surplus, thereby clearing the way for future generations. We can do no less for our youth.

We should never forget that the government has been able to restore fiscal health only because Canadians shared the discipline and sacrifice and the common determination to so succeed. How can the federal NDP be so blind and deaf as to fail to see and hear this good news?

Good government does not stop at its economic and fiscal success. As the finance minister aptly said in the last budget, a government relieved of the deficit burden is not a government relieved of its obligation. It is a government able to exercise its obligations. It is awareness of this duty no doubt that prompted our prime minister in his address in reply to the Speech from the Throne to say we owe our greatest obligation to the future of Canada.

That future is best ensured when we invest in health care, child benefits, education and training and research and development, all of which are essential in maximizing opportunities for the economic and physical health of all Canadians.

That is why this government has increased the CHST cashflow to $12.5 billion for health care alone. This means that in 1998-99 provinces will receive $700 million more for health than currently budgeted, and this will further increase by at least $1.3 billion every year until the year 2002.

That is why this government has invested $800 million for the Canada innovation fund to help universities and hospitals in their research and development requirements. That is why this government has established and will be enhancing the national child benefit program.

In addition, the prime minister has announced the creation of the Canada millennium scholarship endowment fund to ensure access to post-secondary education.

Only time limits for debate prevent me from cataloguing the many government initiatives aimed at easing the human tragedy of unemployment and preparing Canadians, particularly our youth, for tomorrow.

We realize our work is not complete and that is why we are asking all Canadians and provincial governments to be partners with the federal government in its pursuit of our common challenge.

We also firmly believe that a balanced approach is the way to go. This balanced approach has enabled us to restore fiscal health and at the same time sustain our national priorities. Thus we have been able to maintain our standing in the world community as the number one nation in which to live while at the same time just about balancing our national budget. Certainly this is not the time for condemnation, for retreat into the unworkable federal NDP approach of the past.

Why do I say this? Allow me to quote at some length from one provincial NDP premier. In his state of the province address delivered before the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce on February 10 this year, Premier Roy Romanow of Saskatchewan declared with pride:

Our economic and fiscal picture is looking brighter than it has in a long time—. Now I wish to stress that this doesn't mean we'll be taking any wild swings at the established tracks. We are not going to derail this train. What it does mean is making careful, targeted investments to prepare for the next century. It means a balanced approach—keeping an eye on debt and prudent fiscal management. We have come too far and worked too hard to restart the cycle of careless spending.

I hope the federal NDP is not about to condemn their provincial counterpart. If the quote so far is not enough, may I continue?

Now there is no magic well where the money came from. The unfortunate truth is this. If we take a larger portion from our budget for health we have to reduce elsewhere. However, as the economy continues to grow we will be able to broaden our choices in a balanced and fair manner.

May I be permitted at this juncture to share with my colleagues a pearl of wisdom I recently heard from a former senior distinguished colleague. He said, and I paraphrase “A bird has two wings, the right and the left. It needs both to fly”.

Canadians can be assured of our commitment to look forward on our agenda, to make Canada not merely a participant but a leader in the modern economy and thereby assure them access to the greatest range of opportunities available. Our priorities are clear, as the finance minister in his economic and fiscal update of October 15 last week so clearly articulated:

First, we must preserve and improve the valued programs on which all Canadians depend such as our health care, education and pension systems.

Second, we must work together to enhance the learning and training opportunities available to Canadians, focusing on accessibility and addressing the wide range of needs that begin at early childhood and extend through working life.

In light of the time remaining that you have just indicated to me, Mr. Speaker, let me conclude. Let no one doubt our resolve to remain the number one nation in the world as we enter the new millennium. I urge the NDP and all colleagues to join Canadians in their great sense of optimism in the future for Canada, thanks to the superb and caring leadership the government has given to all Canadians.

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5 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Winnipeg just said a bird needs a left wing and a right wing in order to fly. The problem with the Liberal bird is that the muscles in the right wing are too strong. There is not a proper balance between the two wings.

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5 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Is that why they are going around in circles?

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5 p.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Qu'Appelle, SK

They are flying around in circles, Mr. Speaker. What we need to do is correct that imbalance. I hope we can do that by bringing us back to the left a little to give more balance to the Canadian economy and society.

I want to ask the member one specific question. He did not really mention interest rates. I am concerned that the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Bank of Canada have already increased interest rates twice very recently and indications are that they are going to jack them up once more. They say inflation is becoming a problem. The inflation rate now is 1.8%. The Canadian dollar is still strong at about 73¢ American.

What advice does the member have for the Minister of Finance. Is he willing to say to us today in a spirit of independence that he thinks the Minister of Finance should persuade the Governor of the Bank of Canada not to increase interest rates? An increase in interest rates will slow the economy and throw more people out of work.

I know the member is independent minded. Is he willing to publicly advise the Minister of Finance that he not increase interest rates?

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5:05 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his kind words. It is that independence which tells me that when we look at an issue, just as when we look at a patient, we cannot only evaluate one symptom to be the basis of the total diagnosis. We have to look at the total picture. Therefore, when we look at interest rates we cannot only look at the short term interest rates, we must look equally at long term interest rates.

The hon. member would admit that short term interest rates have somewhat increased. Of course, we wish it had not happened. However, we must realize that the long term interest rates which have continued to remain low are an indication of the economic confidence that investors continue to have. They have that confidence in the country or they would not have allowed the long term interest rates to go down.

That side of the equation indicates that although there has been an increase in short term interest rates, the fact that long term interest rates have remained low and that Canadian interest rates are lower than those in the United States by five percentage points indicate that we are on solid economic ground. We should continue the track we are on and when we show a surplus, have a balanced approach, but never again to go back to deficit spending, as the NDP premier of Saskatchewan said. That is what this motion seems to indicate we should do.

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5:05 p.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot let this go by.

I would like to ask the hon. member exactly what he means by going back to deficit spending since we have not left it since the Liberals first came to power in the 1970s. We have had deficit spending every year, including every year since this government was elected in 1993 and even now.

Admittedly the deficit is now smaller. We are going away from the target of no debt at a slower rate, but the debt is still increasing. That cannot be denied.

The Minister of Finance said that the deficit has been brought down to $8.9 billion, which deserves mild applause. However, we are still borrowing. The debt is bigger now than it was when the government took office. It is growing this year. Interest payments are still going up. Thank goodness for low interest rates, otherwise we would be in deep trouble.

How can the member talk about going back when we never left deficit spending?

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5:05 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is beautiful application of the analogy of the bird with two wings. On the one side the traditional NDP suggest that we spend more. That is why I alluded to not returning to deficit spending. Admittedly, we have not quite balanced the budget yet, as I said in my speech. It is only projected to be balanced by the year 1998-99. My optimism tells me that it may be sooner.

The Reform Party has suggested in its platform to spend everything on the reduction of taxes. That would not be the right approach.

The Liberal government would like a balanced approach using the right and the left so that it can fly beautifully.

When we have a surplus we will continue to spend half on social and economic programs and the other half will go toward the reduction of taxes and reduction of the national debt.

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5:05 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in light of today's opposition motion, I take great pleasure in speaking in support of the government's record.

Today the leader of the New Democratic Party has introduced a motion that attempts to chastise the Liberal government. But considering her party's platform, I believe it is quite obvious to Canadians why the NDP is the fourth party in the House.

The motion goes to great lengths to cover many aspects of government policy. I point out that the motion is a lot like the NDP platform that says that government can and should do everything. Likewise the motion tries to cover everything: job creation, monetary policy, funding to health care, education, training, culture and the environment.

I am not going to address everything in the motion today. I will concentrate on job creation, the priority of the government.

Unlike the NDP I believe the people in my riding of Hillsborough and the people of Canada as a whole need a balanced approach to government. The government believes that it can no longer afford to create jobs on its payroll. That is right. The government cannot afford grandiose make work programs. It cannot afford to create jobs just for the sake of creating jobs. What Canada needs are stable jobs created through long term economic growth, not temporary jobs created through short lived programs.

Having said that, I realize the opposition members are wondering about my views on the infrastructure program. It was a very successful program. There is a need for programs to upgrade our national infrastructure but we can rely on these programs only for short term jobs. We cannot rely on them alone to create jobs.

The infrastructure program and its extension was just part of our approach in the last Parliament. By implementing a balanced approach the government has created an economic climate that supports private sector job creation. It is this job creation that has created close to one million jobs since October of 1993.

In contrast let us look at the NDP platform. While it has commendable objectives, the cost is irresponsible. It pledged almost $8.5 billion over five years in capital investments for infrastructure, public housing and highways. The problem is that it failed to explain how it was going to pay for it.

The NDP election platform is filled with outdated, discredited ideas left over from a utopian era. It is an endless list of new and costly programs to be paid for by higher taxes for all, with the supposed goal of cutting the unemployment rate in half. What it fails to realize is that these policies would ultimately be very harmful to job creation.

I remind all members that the level of government spending is not the best measure of the effectiveness of action. We know that. Canadians know that. Obviously the NDP does not.

In total its platform contains $8 billion in tax increases and $19 billion to $20 billion in spending increases. That is alarming enough on its own but even more alarming is the $12 billion between the two.

Today during debate, members heard statements indicating the national debt was created not by program spending but by high interest costs and lost tax revenues. That is just semantics. It was created by overspending.

If I ask my constituents how the debt was created they would not say high interest rates, they would not say say by lost tax revenues, they would say by overspending. The more you overspend the more the associated interest costs.

The government is taking control of the finances. We will not let the government books fall back down the slippery slope of overspending. My colleagues know full well the impressive results the government has achieved over the last four years. Part of that is the support provided to innovation, science and technology. It is essential that Canada not only conduct its own research and development but that it be quick in applying that research to business applications. To remain competitive in a global market we must innovate.

Government can support and assist the realization of key discoveries, the implementation of new technologies and the financial requirements of Canadian entrepreneurs. Various measures have been implemented, including the network of Centres of Excellence to support the research and development activities of Canadian institutions. The Canada Foundation for Innovation has been created to expedite the jump from creating new technologies to their implementation.

We continue to address the financial needs of small business and entrepreneurs. Together with our partners we created the $30 million Atlantic venture capital fund. This fund is helping Atlantic Canadians to capitalize on their entrepreneurial spirit.

However, the NDP platform pales in comparison. Buried among the vague promises it wants to restrict the science research and economic development tax credit. This credit alleviates a portion of the enormous R&D expenditures Canadian firms make.

Without this credit, considerable research and development might not occur. That would be a sad state of affairs for Canada. Canada would not remain competitive for very long. Since R and D supports thousands of jobs across the country, such a move would be short-sighted and very detrimental to Canadians.

In Atlantic Canada, especially in Prince Edward Island, we are striving to improve and enhance the high technology sector. It is this sector that will allow Atlantic Canadians to regain their former economic importance within North America.

Back at the time of Confederation the maritimes were an economic engine running on substantial international trade. Over the last 130 years their strength has been overshadowed by the sheer numbers of central Canada. However, with the knowledge based global economy the maritimes are again in a position to resurrect that engine.

The advantages are there: low labour costs, a skilled labour force and a high quality of life. In short, Atlantic Canada leads Canada in low business costs. This was clearly illustrated in the recent KPMG study which listed four Atlantic Canadian cities with the greatest cost advantage relative to the U.S. four-city average. I am proud to say that a city in my riding, the city of Charlottetown, the birthplace of Confederation, is ranked second on this list.

These cities rank much higher than major centres across the country. The advantages of Charlottetown are almost double that of the city of Ottawa, more than double that of Toronto and triple that of Vancouver. To earn that ranking Charlottetown had four top 10 rankings for lowest costs. Among those was the number one ranking in total labour costs.

These Canadian cities ranked so well because the federal government created an economic environment which encourages job creation. We lowered interest rates by wrestling our spending under control. We introduced programs which will support key sectors of our economy. In short, we restored confidence in Canada and regained our economic sovereignty. Canadian business is no longer penalized with high interest rates because of a crushing federal deficit.

I wish to end my speech today by informing members of the House that like many of them I have unemployed people in my riding, in fact too many people who are unemployed. Practically not a day goes by that someone does not come into my office looking for help in finding a job. Neither I nor my party is satisfied with this situation.

However, we have to ask ourselves if we use measures from the past, measures which together created part of the problem we are trying to fix today. Do we use huge make work programs which add to the government deficit and create only temporary programs? Or, do we look forward and put into place the fundamentals for stable, permanent jobs for Canadians as we enter the 21st century?

The answer is clear. Canadians do not want a party which promotes old programs that no longer work. Canadians want programs that work. Canadians want a government that works, and the government they want is a Liberal government.

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5:15 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Hillsborough talked about what the Liberals want. He said that Liberals want long term jobs.

It is interesting to hear that is what the Liberals want. When we look at their actions and hold them up to the light of day they just do not wash. Their desires and their actions are two different things.

For example, in the last parliament Bill S-9 was passed. That bill was supported by Liberal members, by Reform members and by Bloc members. The only party which opposed it was the NDP. Bill S-9 has done for the country the opposite of what the Liberal member has just talked about, that is creating jobs.

Bill S-9 did a number of things. Primarily it gave Canadians, retroactive to 1988, a refund of estate taxes paid in the U.S. on wealthy estates. Their estates were reimbursed eight years back. It gave Canadians tax deductions in Canada for making contributions to U.S. charities.

The scandalous point I want to emphasize today is that it gave Canadians who make contributions to U.S. universities like the University of Arkansas and so on tax deductions in Canada from Canadian income.

On the other hand the Liberals take money away from education, creating great hardships to our students. They give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax deductions to wealthy Canadians who can afford to send their children to the States. If we look at the numbers there are 30,000 Canadian students in the U.S. right now and only 3,000 American students in Canada.

We see, with a ratio of ten Canadian students to one American student, where the money is going to flow. It is going to flow south. Yet the Reform, the Bloc and the Liberal government embraced and supported the bill to the detriment of Canadian youth and Canadian education.

I have a letter I want to raise with the member. It reads:

I am writing to you about an issue that is of concern to me. I am in my second year at the University of Regina and have just recently finished paying my tuition fees. The price of going to university is getting outrageous. I am only taking four classes and it is costing me $1,300, plus the price of books on top of that.

Here is the point:

Within this last year, I have noticed that the cost of tuition has gone up dramatically. Talking to people who went to university five years ago, I have found that the price of one semester now would have been the price for two semesters when they were going. If this rate of increase continues, it will be very hard for me to be able to continue my education and achieve my degree since I am paying for it myself and only working at a minimum wage job.

Eventually, I can see only the rich or academically gifted attending university while the rest of us serve them food at McDonald's. It seems that every time a new budget comes out there are more and more cuts to school funding. I am not sure how this problem can be fixed but I know that something must be done. I do not want to spend the rest of my life working for very little money at a job that is going nowhere.

A high number of students writing to me say they need jobs. Education expenses are increasing and are out of control. The member says he wants to talk about how they desire long jobs, but every action the Liberals take is contrary to what they wish.

I have a question for the member for Hillsborough. What does he think of Bill S-9? Why does he think it is something we have to continue to support at the cost of the Canadian youth in our education systems?

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5:20 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, no government in a long time has done as much for students as this government is doing with the bursary system and the tax deductions we have brought in, in the last four years.

Let me add to what the member said. There is no doubt tuition fees are going up. If we look at enrolment in universities it is going up dramatically as well.

I know there is an awful cost to going to university today. The prime minister just announced a program the other day for bursaries for students of middle and low income families. We will continue to do this with training programs and in other aspects of society such as high technology industries. We are doing very well in this regard.

Students are accepting it. They come to my office. I know the member gets letters from people who are having problems. Everybody has problems paying their way in society today.

As I read in the newspapers the other day, the increase in enrolment in universities proves that what we are doing by making student loans available, giving bursaries and giving more tax deductions to students will enable more students to go to university than ever before.