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House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cpp.

Topics

HighwaysStatements By Members

December 4th, 1997 / 2:10 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the federal government's declining commitment to rail service, our roads are under more pressure than ever.

A well maintained system of roads and highways is the basic transportation backbone and economic diversification tool of rural communities and provincial economies. That is why in this year's Saskatchewan budget the NDP government announced a 10 year $2.5 billion program to improve the province's roads and highways. But they cannot do it alone.

Canada is the only one of 28 OECD countries not to have a national highways program. The federal government collects $4 billion in fuel tax from Canadians but spends less than 12% of these tax revenues on road transportation and not one dime of it in western Canada. As a matter of fact, if a car stopped on a dime in western Canada, you can bet that dime did not come from Ottawa.

It is time the Liberal government established a national highways program to help build a strong economic future for all western Canadians. It is time for the government to put some cash on the dash for its national highway system.

Team CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are delighted by the decision of the premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, to join Team Canada on its trip to Latin America from January 10 to 28.

We will recall Mr. Bouchard's praises for the work done by the Canadian embassy in China during a similar trade mission.

We can assure the Quebec premier that the Government of Canada will do an equally effective job for the Latin American mission so that the members of the Canadian delegation may return home with maximum economic benefits for Canada and Quebec.

Obviously, Mr. Bouchard will not come home a federalist following a Team Canada trip. Let us hope that he will at least appreciate certain benefits of Canadian federalism when he sees that Canada's economic strength benefits Quebec in such circumstances.

Who knows, one day Mr. Bouchard may find some goal other than to break up Canada.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I met with the minister of agriculture regarding assistance for Nova Scotia farmers who have been severely impacted by the extended drought. Feed costs have risen dramatically while production has been substantially reduced, threatening their livelihood.

The minister committed to work with companion programs already in place which may make funds available to the Nova Scotia agricultural industry in this emergency. Funds already committed to other programs might be shifted to provide assistance needed, while not requiring any new money.

The minister has committed to negotiate with the province of Nova Scotia in an effort to reach a federal-provincial agreement to make this assistance available as soon as possible.

I thank the minister for his attention to this problem and look forward to the much needed assistance for Nova Scotia farmers.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the government to face up to Canada's crushing debt load and high tax load. The response from the government was pathetic. In essence it said that it did not have to answer for high debt and high taxes.

Today a major public opinion poll shows that 89% of Canadians say that the government had better start answering debt questions now.

What precisely is the government's debt reduction target?

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, our target is to have a balanced budget. This year for the first time the debt decreased by a couple of billion dollars. The next budget will tell us by exactly how much.

The government has a policy that is clear. I note that Reform's program does not talk about debt reduction; it talks about tax reduction. We have a balanced approach. We know that we will reduce the debt and taxes—

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government knows nothing about balance when it comes to debt and taxes.

Under Liberal governments personal income taxes have risen to the highest levels in the G-7. Under the government the debt has risen in total to close to $600 billion and Canada's youth are stuck with the tab.

In today's poll it was significant that it was Canadians under 30 years of age who were most insistent that the government address the debt.

Why is the government considering more spending when young Canadians are demanding that it address the balance sheet first?

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we realize that there are problems in society, like child poverty, which are the responsibility of the government. The government realizes that there are some people in some parts of Canada who need help from the government.

That is why in the same poll Canadians said they believed those on this side of the House are best able to manage the economy of Canada.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government thinks that helping people and cutting debt and taxes are opposites. What Canadians are telling the government is that these things go hand in hand.

The government taxes the poor more heavily than either the Americans or the British, so broad based tax relief helps the poor, including poor children.

The $45 billion a year the government is paying on interest eats the heart out of social programs, so debt reduction helps social programs.

How long will it take the government to understand that debt reduction and tax relief are—

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Prime Minister.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we were the first. We have done it. We did not only talk about it. We did it.

I have the terrible task of being the first prime minister in 40 years to deal with the very difficult problem of what to do now that we are balancing the budget.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, according to today's poll 89% of Canadians are demanding debt reduction but the government is so out of touch. To paraphrase Ernie Eves, the cabinet is hovering like vultures waiting to spend away the surplus.

My question is for the prime minister. When will the government get the message that Canadians want the backroom buzzards to buzz off, to start to address the problem of the debt and to start to relieve them from the high, staggering burden of taxation? When will this get through to the government?

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the minister of finance of Ontario and the socialist minister of finance of Saskatchewan are asking us not to spend money. I took note of that. I hope when they come to town next week that they will remember that.

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously they touched a nerve.

Not only does the government ignore Canadians, the cabinet can hardly wait to try out its new American Express card, because with an American Express card there is no pre-set spending limit.

Instead of showing complete disdain for the priorities of Canadians, the people they are supposed to serve, when will the government cut up its credit card? When will it leave home without it?

The EconomyOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I inform the hon. member that we on this side of the House of Commons make decisions that are in the best interest of Canadians. We do not get up in the morning asking pollsters what to do. We take our responsibilities seriously.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The Prime Minister and his colleague, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, have elevated the leader of the official opposition to the status of champion of the Calgary declaration. Today, the leader of the Reform Party made public his plan to consult Quebeckers on the Calgary declaration.

Are we to understand that, because the leader of the Reform Party is his champion and partner, the minister agrees with the Reform leader's initiative to hold mock consultations in Quebec on the Calgary declaration?

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada welcomes any initiative, any effort made by the members of this Parliament who want to have a positive dialogue with Quebeckers, and I am sure that the Reform Party will learn a great deal from Quebeckers in the process.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister recently stated in this House that “unique character” means the same thing as “distinct society” and that there is not a single serious jurist who would say otherwise. But the leader of the Reform Party has been saying from the very beginning that he is totally opposed to the concept of distinct society or anything of the sort.

Does the minister not realize that he and his partner are contradicting each other and that the Reform consultation will take place amid this confusion?

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. member is the champion of confusion.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

However, we disagreed with the Reform Party on this issue because the Reform Party regarded distinct society as a special status while we did not see it that way.

In the Calgary declaration, this misunderstanding has been eliminated. Anything that is available to one province will also be available to the others. There will be no special status. And we are very pleased and confident that all Canadians will recognize Quebec society as a fundamental component—

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Roberval.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Reform Party invites his friends and colleagues to fight the notion of distinct society or any other related concept, while the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is trying to convince Quebeckers that what is in the Calgary declaration is the exact equivalent of distinct society. Surprisingly, both claim they approve of the Calgary declaration. Both have associated themselves with the Reform initiative.

How can the minister accuse the sovereignists of sowing confusion when he and his Reform associate—

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Calgary DeclarationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. member has a hearing problem.

We have just said that there is no special status; there is a recognition of a fundamental dimension of Canada. Rather than letting its leader make inept statements on Canada in Alberta, the Reform Party is certainly welcome to go to Quebec to talk about the Calgary declaration.