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House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was via.

Topics

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, what we will have to do, I guess, is draw pictures to make sure that the hon. member and his colleagues will have some understanding of what is going on.

I have on two occasions during question period referred to a document provided by the commissioners last fall, in 1996-

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Table it.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I have not got the pictures drawn yet, so I will not table it until I can make sure they can understand it.

The document says that the most desirable or optimum scenario would result in the completion of hearings by May 1998, followed by a four to six month period thereafter for the production of the final report.

We are just coming up to two years. Even the hon. member can do this. There are 12 months in a year, there are 52 weeks in a year and so forth. He would probably understand that, even on the basis of the document provided by the commissioners, it is not 10 per cent of the work that remains to be done, they are barely half way through it. That is what the hon. member does not understand.

We are not interested in a historical document. We want to be able to deal with the real problems and challenges facing the Canadian forces today, not in the year 2000.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has always defended itself by saying that the events and the revelations brought to light by the Somalia inquiry took place under the Conservatives. As the inquiry moves along, however, it is focussing more and more on the more recent role of senior Armed Forces staff and senior officers in this matter. And that it what is bothering the Liberals.

Since we now know that the inquiry wanted to get to the bottom of the cover-ups that went on in 1995 and 1996, are we to assume that the Minister of Defence put an end to the Somalia inquiry because it was starting to get interested in what happened under the Liberal government?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

No, Mr. Speaker. The reason behind the government's decision is that, after three extensions to the mandate, the time had come to ask the commission of inquiry to produce its recommendations and conclusions.

We felt that an inquiryt created in March 1995, which had been given an initial mandate to finish up by the end of December 1995, and had been given one extension and then another, ought at some point to terminate its activities.

It was very important to the Canadian forces, and Canada as a whole, to ensure that lessons be learned from what we found out in Somalia, what happened before we went to Somalia, the incidents that occurred there, what was done after that-and everyone agrees that this was not acceptable-and to ensure that steps are taken promptly to change the behaviour of the Canadian forces as well as the way the bureaucracy reacts under such circumstances.

If the hon. member is interested in having an inquiry that was going to run for another four, five or six years, that could be interesting from a historical point of view, but it would be of very, very little value from a practical one.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, what we have always asked the government for was a reasonable time frame.

The Somalia inquiry will go down in history as an unfinished investigation. The intention was to get to the bottom of the matter in order to rebuild the Canadian forces. We will have failed to do so.

How can the Prime Minister speak of the integrity of his government, when that same government is putting an end to the Somalia inquiry when it started to get too interested in the actions of his government?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have always had great confidence in the judgment and fairmindedness of the Canadian people.

I believe that most people will agree with me that, when reference is made to integrity, especially in recent days, there is nothing the Bloc Quebecois can teach us.

HousingOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. The government is involved in important negotiations with all the provinces concerning housing.

Will the minister assure my constituents in London-Middlesex and all Canadians that the government will insist on the protection of all existing rights of people living in co-operative housing before it agrees to transfer administrative responsibility to the provinces?

HousingOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. The government will respect all of its commitments, financial and other, in social housing. We are not getting out of social housing. We continue to spend approximately $2 billion a year on social housing.

The purpose of the transfer of administration is to end overlap and duplication, therefore freeing up more dollars for social housing.

As a condition, before provinces get to sign an agreement, they will have to agree to respect national principles. More important, they will have to adhere to a strict accountability framework in order to ensure that those dollars continue to be spent to help those in need of housing.

When it comes to co-op housing-

HousingOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, Justice Létourneau, not Reform, accused the Prime Minister and the defence minister of political interference.

He said that he did not know what the political motivations might be for the government shutting down the inquiry and whitewashing the truth. There was a murder, a cover-up of the investigation, a whitewash and now, a cover-up of the cover-up: all conducted under the very nose of the government.

What is the government trying to hide?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is aware that in mid-September the hon. leader of his party asked the Prime Minister to guarantee that the commission of inquiry report before the federal election.

He did not talk about hearing all the witnesses. He did not talk about getting all of the truth. He did not talk about making sure that every inch of it was looked at. He simply asked that the Prime Minister of Canada guarantee that the commission of inquiry report before the next federal election.

What was his motivation at that point?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the defence minister's helmet is a bit tight. Let us be very clear on what we are talking about here. We are asking about evidence that suggests a cover-up of a murder at the highest possible levels.

What does the government have to hide? Why is it afraid of the truth coming out?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member somehow has been kept in the dark about the incidents in Somalia that resulted in the death of Somali citizens then he obviously is very much out of touch.

Most Canadians understand and deplore what happened in Somalia that has led to all of this problem. What we are particularly concerned about and I believe what Canadians are concerned about is that as intolerable as these incidents may be there is always the possibility in the kind of environment that military organizations function that terrible situations will occur.

We are aware that the organization and institution did not respond adequately. That is why by March 15 and by the end of March in terms of making it public we will have gone to great lengths to review the military justice system and the capability of the Canadian forces to investigate itself. What is very important is to ensure that this kind of situation does not occur again.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I know the hon. member is not interested in the facts but at some point-

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing.

Child PovertyOral Question Period

February 13th, 1997 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development. It concerns the proposed child benefit.

He knows that this proposal will provide dollars to the provinces in the hope that they will pass those dollars on to poor children. He knows that child poverty has got worse under the government and that the Minister of Finance has called it a national disgrace.

The minister has no guarantees from the provinces that they will use these dollars to alleviate child poverty. Nor has he sought them.

Why does Minister of Human Resources Development not ensure that the child benefit is a true national program with national standards so that poor children in Canada, no matter what province they live in or whether or not the province cares about children, will actually receive the benefits in question?

Child PovertyOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his very interesting and extremely important question. I agree that the government is very much involved with alleviating the situation of children living in low income families.

I reassure the House we will make absolutely clear that this is a national project. We will be working with the provinces and the federal Government of Canada will have a platform. The provinces have committed that any money which would be freed up from the new federal platform would be reinvested in services for children living in low income families in all provinces of Canada. We will be renegotiating with them to put together a reallocation framework. I trust they will work very well with us.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, may I ask the government House Leader what the business of the House will be for the days to come?

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of the business for the next week as well as to give it some sense of our priorities for the month of March.

Monday shall be an opposition day. On Tuesday at 4.30 p.m. the Minister of Finance will present the budget. Wednesday and Thursday shall be the first two days of the budget debate.

I plan tentatively to call second reading of the borrowing authority bill emanating from the budget on Friday, February 21.

I also want to inform the House that it is the intention of the President of the Treasury Board to present the main estimates on Thursday morning.

Our first legislative priority tomorrow and thereafter is the consideration of any amendments that may have been sent from the Senate with respect to Bill C-41, the child support legislation.

The other measures we may expect to consider before the budget include Bill C-17, the Criminal Code amendments; Bill C-46, the legislation regarding access to records concerning sexual offences; Bill C-72, the wheat board legislation; Bill C-79, the Indian Act amendments; Bill C-66, the labour code amendments; and Bill C-23, the nuclear safety bill. Any of the already mentioned legislation not completed this month will receive early attention in March.

The other legislation that will receive priority attention in March includes Bill C-27, the child prostitution bill; Bill C-32, the copyright legislation; Bill C-44, the ports bill; Bill C-71, the tobacco legislation; Bill C-49, the administrative tribunals bill; Bill C-67, the competition legislation; Bill C-69, the income tax amendments; and Bill C-74, the environment bill.

We would also like to deal with the Canada-Chile free trade bill introduced yesterday and the financial institutions bill to be introduced tomorrow as well as Bill C-62, the fisheries legislation.

If Bill C-49 respecting reproductive technologies, Bill C-55 respecting high risk offenders and Bill C-65 concerning endangered species are reported from committee in time, they will also receive priority treatment.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is based on practice and precedent and may refer to article 438 of Beauchesne's. It is with regard to the minister of defence during question period referencing material that was sent from the commission of inquiry relative to Somalia to the Privy Council. The minister read extensively from that document.

I believe practice and precedent indicate that the document should be now tabled in the House for the surveillance of not only members but the general public.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member quite rightly points out that it is tradition where a document has been quoted from directly for the House to ask and expect the document to be produced.

I will take this as notice from the hon. member and when the minister of defence is in the House next we will ask him for the production of those documents.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, we are discussing the motion presented by the hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke, asking the House to condemn the transportation policies adopted by this government. "Condemn"

may be a big word, but we can at least censure or severely criticize the policies of the federal Department of Transport. It is a pleasure to realize I will command the attention of the Minister of Transport himself, who is across the way from me.

Before question period, I touched on two subjects, and I have two left. They specifically concern the people in my riding as well as railway transportation.

I will illustrate the bankruptcy of the Liberal government's transportation policy, using examples that occurred in my riding, and I will start with the loss of jobs. My riding has a major railway centre called Charny. In fact, the name was selected to underline this community's strategic location as a railway crossroads.

Over the past three years, CN's privatization and cuts have meant the loss of 100 out of a total of 500 jobs and the closing of one of the three railroad infrastructure repair shops. After we bombarded the Minister of Transport with questions in the House and he spoke to the media, we showed that the number of rail accidents had increased using statistics provided by the office of railway safety of Transport Canada and the department's own figures. The CN agreed to keep the Joffre shop open, but in a different way: by selling it to an Ontario company, CLN.

Thanks to the concerted action of the people of the community, to the interest generated by the media and to pressure on the government and CN, we kept 30 people employed fixing tracks, which are in ever worse shape because of a lack of resources. And now, the resources to maintain them are being cut.

The rehabilitation of the central Quebec rail line, which could have linked Quebec City with the south, is very important to us and to the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead. The economy flows increasingly north-south, and it would be worthwhile rehabilitating this line. However, without the help of higher levels of government, including the federal government, it will be hard to fix what is broken.

Rail lines are being dismantled and abandoned. I would like to ask the minister some questions, but Oral Question Period is over. In my riding, there is an intermodal station in Lévis, which was renovated in 1986 at a cost of $3 million. Today, CN has sought permission to abandon the line along the St. Lawrence. However, instead of using this line, Via Rail asked for permission to back the train from the maritimes up a distance of three kilometres over the Quebec bridge and then, once the train reaches Charny, it would be backed up again as far as the Ste-Foy station. Meanwhile, they abandon a station that remains in good condition.

I could go on. These are incredible measures since Via Rail, a Crown corporation, is considering abandoning a station on which $3 million was spent in favour of a new one that could cost $800,000 or more, because the figure does not include the land. This decision should have been made two years ago. However, on February 22, when a decision is to be made, Via will recommend to the Minister of Transport this sort of mumbo jumbo of backing up the train.

I know people in Charny who are railroad experts. They have told me this makes no sense. Do you know that, up to a year ago, an employee caught backing a train up more than 300 metres was liable to a warning, which in certain instances could lead to suspension?

And now freight trains, not passenger trains, would be backed up over the Quebec bridge, for which we managed to extract a bit of money from the federal government for renovation work and which remains the symbol of the decrepit state of federalism in the Quebec City region.

Fortunately, after many efforts by the opposition and by the coalition to save the Quebec bridge, we were finally successful. But the energy required to convince this government to do the right thing is unbelievable.

I am very short of time. Ten minutes is not enough. I have two minutes left to speak to marine policy. All the Liberal candidates promised there would be something for the Magdalen Islands ferry built by MIL Davie. Two years later, they are still bandying around the idea of refurbishing the old ferry still in service.

A summit was promised on future marine policy. Nothing has been done. No policy, no summit, nothing. Not a cent has been spent on defence industry conversion, because MIL Davie was a business that primarily handled national defence contracts. The federal government has not spent a cent on this business, on marine construction. It is obscene, and with the election approaching I would not let the Prime Minister or his ministers take credit for the wonderful things they have accomplished in the area of transportation. Yes, the member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke is right to criticize this government for its failure to act in the area of transportation.