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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Let us go on.

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6:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Which book?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

This is Friends in High Places here. It is not the book I was referring to. I was referring to Stevie Cameron's book, On the Take . I will send it over to my hon. friend if she has not read.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member

I have read it.

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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

We will leave it at that.

I will draw the debate to a close by simply saying that we can stand here for hours on end and point out all the horror shows attached to financial support for political parties, whether they are kickbacks, tollgating, bribing or whatever. We all know it takes place. No honest member of Parliament will stand and say that this does not occur in our country.

For goodness' sakes, why not open it up to a major public inquiry? Let us do the right thing. We hope to bring credibility to this institution. We hope to bring credibility to government and to our parliamentary system. We have to make some changes. We cannot simply turn a blind eye and pretend that—

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6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Elk Island on a point of order.

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6:25 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is more for my information than anything. If the member has only 15 minutes remaining, do we not then get 5 minutes for questions and comments?

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6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member has 20 minutes. He still has six minutes remaining, although he cannot get it all in because I will interrupt the proceedings at 6.30. If he wishes to continue his speech, he is free to do so.

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6:25 p.m.

Kent—Essex Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague across the way. I found some of what he was putting forward a little questionable. I too happen to have several documents which refer to contributions during elections.

It is rather interesting that the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association was a chief donator to the party across the way, the NDP. It protested the operations of Air Nova in Nova Scotia, and who happened to be the chief donator to the campaign for the leader of the NDP? It happened to be the union standing against Air Nova.

Let us look at United Steelworkers. Yes, indeed it is lovely. There is no question that United Steelworkers was a chief contributor to the NDP campaign.

Let us look at the United Auto Workers. NDP raised $3.8 million, mostly political donations. There is no question the NDP can claim that other parties receive donations, but it did not mention once its millions of dollars in donations. I wonder why. I wonder if it was just a slight memory lapse or if there was another reason that it missed all these huge donations.

Some folks in my family donated to the NDP, not because they wanted to but because they belonged to a union and the union took the money. These folks did not want it to go to the NDP. As a matter of fact they objected to that happening and yet—

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings. Pursuant to the order made earlier today, the question is deemed to have been put and a recorded division is deemed to have been asked. Therefore the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, October 21, 1997, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

(Division deemed demanded and deferred)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is in response to the answer the Minister of Human Resources Development gave me on September 25, 1997 when I asked him a question on employment insurance. He said that he was proud of the changes to the employment insurance program. In my mind, this shows how disconnected this government is from its constituents.

I would like to quote from a statement my predecessor made in the Acadie Nouvelle on July 31, 1989. He said: “According to the member for Gloucester, taxpayers in New Brunswick should vigorously oppose all the proposed changes, which will have a negative impact on the area”. He is the very person who five years later went after the employment insurance system, thereby directly attacking people in this country.

Many problems are associated with the administration of the employment insurance as a result of the changes made by my predecessor, the former MP for Acadie—Bathurst. One of the particularly difficult issues is the problem of seasonal workers. They are one of the groups which have been hurt the most by the changes to the employment insurance. These changes ignore the particular needs of these workers.

The formula used for calculating the weeks of entitlement to benefits penalizes seasonal workers. Because of the changes implemented by this government, these workers are without income for several months out of the year. By reducing the number of weeks when benefits are paid, the government has plunged these people into poverty.

Everywhere in the country, from B.C. to Newfoundland, from northern Ontario to New Brunswick, the economy relies on natural resources such as mines, forestry and fisheries. For the last two, the industries are seasonal.

Those people work very hard during part of the year, but when the weather is adverse or the level of fish stocks too low, they must apply for EI. It is not their fault if Mother Nature decides that one season will be shorter than the other. The very purpose of employment insurance is to help workers make it through difficult times.

But what does this government do? It punishes the workers and turns a blind eye when they need help. The government should know that the logging and fishing seasons do not overlap and should therefore implement programs to meet the specific needs of those industries.

Canadian workers are waiting for the Liberals to keep their promise and create jobs. In his answer, the minister told me that he preferred active manpower measures. Well, I urge the government to develop long term active strategies to deal with the very real problems were are experiencing throughout Canada. I realize Liberals have a hard time setting up long term programs. Very often, they carry no immediate political reward.

We need leadership on this whole issue. We need short, medium and long term strategies to deal with the structural problems in our economy. But we also need immediate programs to alleviate the suffering. It is not good enough to examine the situation, as the human resources development minister said he is doing.

The minister seems to like active measures, but I urge him to take action to help people who are suffering.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the member's question and the issue as it relates to the new EI system.

I come from the same type of region as the member does. I am a little bit surprised that he continues to suggest as other members in his party have, that the new EI system does not help seasonal workers. In fact it is just the opposite. Northern Ontario is very similar to northern New Brunswick.

The new EI system allows those workers who previously could not collect EI because of the way the system worked to now collect EI. For example over 45,000 seasonal and other workers are now in the system who were not in the system when this legislation came into being.

The fact that we went to the hours based system has made a big difference to part time workers. There were approximately 350,000 people who did not quality for EI before the new system came into place, but now they do qualify for employment insurance.

I find it somewhat ironic that the member continues to suggest that the system does not have a lot of merit and that it is not an improvement over the last one. Is it an income security system like social assistance? No. It is an insurance system intended to help people who need that push. It is not intended to be an income supplement system as some members would like it to be.

The last thing I would like to say is that this is a brand new system. One of the main recommendations made by the committee was to put in place a monitoring system specifically to look at the system every year to see if there are any particular problems with it. If changes need to be made we will look at that because it is a new system and we may need to look at some changes. However the overall changes which were made are for the better and not for the worst as is being suggested.

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6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 3, 1997 I asked the Deputy Prime Minister a question about six projects in the analysis phase under the transitional job creation fund that were the subject of an investigation into influence peddling.

At the time, the Deputy Prime Minister replied that he would do his best to obtain the information. Since then, I have had no news of these six projects, they have not been found, and the government is hiding behind the fact that they are the subject of an RCMP investigation.

I think it is important to point out that it is not the projects that are the subject of the investigation, but the influence peddling linking the Liberal Party of Canada with ministers of this government. That is the subject of the investigation.

Why not table the projects as planned? I find it most astonishing, particularly since the transitional job creation fund, as part of employment insurance reform, was supposed to be the way of transforming regional economies, so as to help them achieve a rate of growth and effectiveness equal to that of other more industrialized regions.

The way the government is using the transitional job creation fund today, it is causing it to lose its credibility, by making it a tool of patronage, when the fund should be helping to promote the development of regional economies and offsetting the devastating effect of employment insurance reform now being felt.

When the minister says there are 45 000 new seasonal workers, this means not 45 000 seasonal workers who will be entitled to employment insurance, but 45 000 workers who will contribute to a plan they will probably never be able to draw on, because they will not have accumulated sufficient hours according to the government's new requirements.

I cannot understand that the present government has not got the very clear message sent to it by the voters in eastern Quebec, in the Maritimes, in all of the regions, particularly those in which there are seasonal workers and many young people coming on to the job market.

I also find it aberrant that today, right under the noses of the entire population of Canada, the federal government prefers to conceal the list of projects that will be affected by the influence peddling affair, and in so doing does away with any appearance of justice. They are contributing to the public's belief that transitional jobs fund projects can be obtained only through political intervention and influence peddling, and this is unacceptable.

I trust that the government will eventually table the list of projects, to clarify things a little for those citizens who are questioning the way the government administers the public purse.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the transitional jobs fund was another program that was put in place under the new EI system. That program was put in place with some $300 million to help high unemployment areas.

Because the discussion at the time was going on about the Government of Canada and the provincial governments as it relates to education and training and who has jurisdiction, we put in place a system that this member and all members should be aware of, which suggested that no projects would be approved in any province without the province's concurrence.

The member knows that Minister Harel in the province of Quebec approved all these projects. To suggest that there is some influence peddling going on when a PQ government is the one that is signing off on these particular projects, it is almost hard to believe that even a member from the Bloc would suggest that in an open forum.

In order to make this very clear, because we do this in northern Ontario as well and we have a Conservative government in northern Ontario, when we put in these particular projects that create long sustainable jobs in the particular area that we are dealing with, we at the same time put the proposal in and ask individual groups within the area to approve it or not approve it. Then it goes up the system and the minister signs off on it.

To make it even clearer for the member, yesterday the minister put a list together and put it out to the press. There were some 181 proposals that were accepted in the province of Quebec. I am sure if he takes a look at that list he will see a number of projects in his own riding. He will feel very good about the fact that those projects help individuals in his riding with long term jobs and help the unemployed. That is what the transitional jobs fund is for. It is a very good project.

Lastly I want to say one thing. This project is one of the first of its kind. Out of every dollar that is spent on a project, 80% of it is private money and 20% of it is public money. It is one of the most successful programs ever put together on average. To think that we can get the private sector to put forward 80¢ on a dollar for sustainable jobs in this country is something we should be all proud of.

For the member to suggest it is some sort of slush fund, I think he should say that outside and see how long he would last if he made those kinds of comments and accusations when nothing at this point is proven. When the RCMP does its investigation, we will go from there to see what he then has to say in the House.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it has been quite a day.

I rise today to further question the Liberal government, in particular the minister responsible for Canada Post.

My question to him was as follows: The U.S. postal service handles 40% of the world's mail while its postmaster general Marvin Runyon earns a salary of $205,000 Canadian per year. The Canadian post office handles 3% of the world's mail while its president Georges Clermont just had his contract renegotiated for another two years for $380,000 Canadian per year. As the minister was so willing and capable to quickly settle the services of Georges Clermont, then why does he and Canada Post not show the same consideration toward the Canadian postal workers? His response was for me to get back to my friends within the union to get back to the bargaining table.

I am very honoured for the minister to say that I and the NDP are friends of not only the union workers but all workers throughout Canada. It is just this point that we defend the rights of those workers against scandalous practices of the management of corporations such as Canada Post.

The arrogance displayed by the minister by announcing Georges Clermont's contract during a time when negotiations between management and union are at best a very tense situation is what I would always fight against.

Without consultation this government has directed Canada Post Corporation to ignore its original mandate and to start realizing a return on equity of 11% which would represent profits of around $175 million to $200 million per year. Interestingly enough, a government commissioned report released earlier this year said that with this kind of financial return, Canada Post would be capable of privatization by an initial public offering of its shares in the future if government should decide to pursue this alternative.

I firmly believe that if the government had not interfered in the original bargaining process, and if it had not promised John Gustavson of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association of Canada that in the event of a labour stoppage he would introduce back to work legislation within eight days of a strike, I believe that Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers would have reached a collective agreement by now.

Another concern to Canadians is why the government is insisting that the corporation, after making a $120 million last year, has taken an additional $200 million in concessions from the workers.

Everything I have mentioned is going against the Canada Post Corporation Act. It is my opinion that the corporation should make enough profits to finance operations and for the purpose of reinvestment into improving and expanding services like door to door delivery.

Canadians enjoy the second lowest postal rates in the industrial world. An example how Canada Post can make additional revenues needed is as follows. Every penny increase for a stamp realizes $25 million profit to the corporation. If the government reduced the GST on stamps from 7¢ to 2¢ and raised the price of stamps by 5¢ the corporation would realize an additional revenue of another $125 million.

I would call this a win situation. The workers at Canada Post win because they would not have to be sucked into giving any concessions of any kind. The post office wins with additional revenue. The public wins because there would be no additional costs to them in the purchase of stamps.

I trust the government and the Canada Post Corporation will in all honesty sit down with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and, for once in their lives, bargain in good faith.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Kent—Essex Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be proud of the best postal system in the world. They have some of the lowest postal rates in the world.

Canadians owe this, in part, to the competent management at Canada Post headed by Mr. George Clermont. Canadians also owe this to the Canadian postal employees who provide a very valuable contribution to the corporation.

The wages, benefits and working conditions of Canada Post employees are among the best in the country. The corporation has recognized their valuable contribution by extending an offer which proposes a reasonable wage increase above the standard reached in other industries this year. It offers 500 new full time jobs and above all maintains job security for those who have it now.

To maintain these jobs Canada Post must respond to the challenge presented by fax machines, satellites, courier companies and the Internet. It must respond by being efficient, flexible and progressive. This is what the present negotiations are all about.

Canada Post wants to negotiate with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and it welcomes the labour minister's appointment of a conciliation commissioner. The government sincerely hopes that a negotiated settlement can be reached. A financially healthy business is the best way to protect the jobs of Canada Post employees, managers and workers alike.

Canadians can be proud to have a postal service that has not received taxpayer funding since 1988. As an independent, self-financing commercial crown corporation, Canada Post last year paid a dividend of $10 million to the federal government. This past fiscal year it returned a profit of more than $112 million and expects to remain profitable in the years to come.

As profits continue to grow, we can look forward to a very good postal system. The important message is that management and employees must work together to make sure the Canadian public is well served.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.48 p.m.)