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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

Last Friday, the Minister of National Defence caused quite a stir by stating that the Somali killed in the events of March 4, 1993 was murdered. He thus contradicted the conclusions of the report of the military police and added to the complexity of the matter, because he spoke of several murders.

When he told the press that he considered the Somali killed on March 4, 1993 was murdered because he was shot in the back by Canadian soldiers, was the minister giving his personal opinion or was he revealing privileged information he had received from a high ranking army officer?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I said last Friday, I clearly made a mistake by linking the incidents in Somalia and by describing the incident my hon. colleague is referring to as murder.

Obviously, murder was the conclusion reached in the case of the Somali killed following torture. In the case of the two Somalis who were shot, where one died, I apologize as I did Friday before this House for having mistakenly linked the two incidents.

I think it would be quite inappropriate for me today, just as it was on Friday, to make this sort of link until the whole issue has been examined and the conclusions of the Somalia inquiry are presented at the end of June.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister himself has added somewhat to the confusion in this matter, and, clearly, the commissioners will not be able to shed light on all the events of March 4, because they do not have time to hear any more witnesses.

Since the minister himself has said and repeated in this House that this question still needs to be resolved, what guarantee can he give us today that everything will be examined and that we will find out whether murder was committed on March 4, as he himself claimed on Friday, since we are no longer assured of getting this guarantee from the Somalia inquiry?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this question is very important, there is no doubt. When I make a mistake, I try to avoid making a second or a third one.

I do not want to prejudice or cause any prejudice to the inquiry based on the testimony it has already heard or on testimony it may hear in the future. I do, however, make a commitment to my hon. colleague and to all the members of this House that, once the commission is finished, and the conclusions and recommendations have been made, obviously, the government will have to look at the whole issue in order to decide how best to react.

I interfered in an area I had no business in, on Friday, but I do not intend to do so today.

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, two years ago the finance minister said that payroll taxes kill jobs. Now he is saying they create jobs. A lot of us are wondering just what illness the minister was suffering from last week.

Two years ago Liberals voted themselves the best pension plan that taxpayer money could buy, a gold plated MP pension plan. Under the plan the Conservative leader would receive $53,000 a year for his 9.9 per cent premium; the Deputy Prime Minister, $49,000 a year. Meanwhile regular Canadians would get $9,000 a year for their 9.9 per cent premium.

To be consistent, to be fair, will the minister announce an immediate 70 per cent increase in the premiums for the MP pension plan?

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I think what I would like to do is answer the question raised in the preamble.

If we take a look at the essential ingredient of a successful economy, we will see that it is confidence. It is confidence that health care is going to be there for the workers. It is confidence that old age pensions are going to be there for the workers. It is confidence by which the government is able to pursue a steady course, not simply the scorch and burn policies advocated by Reform and not simply ignoring the question as advocated by the

previous Conservative government and now by the NDP; but policies that give Canadians the confidence to know that basic government programs will be there for them.

That is what we have done with the Canada pension plan. The hon. member ought to understand that.

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister is trying to brush the question off, but it is a fair question. People want to know why the double standard. We have the member for Beaver River who voluntarily gave up a pension worth $1.5 million because she believes in leadership by example.

Maybe the finance minister is well off and maybe it is not an issue for him, but ordinary Canadians do not think there should be a double standard between what Liberal government MPs give themselves and what they do for the rest of the country.

Why the double standard?

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all, when taking a look at the pensions of members of Parliament it will be recognized that the government has opted for one course while the Reform Party advocated a doubling of MPs' salaries. The fact is-

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

PensionsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises the question of a double standard in the context of the increase of Canada pension plan premiums. I have asked the Reform Party to state what its model would increase premiums by.

I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, since the Reform Party will not. Compared to our 9.9 per cent, the model it advocates, which is chilling, has a 13 per cent premium. That is what the Reform Party would do.

Canadian Embassy In WashingtonOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

Last weekend, we learned that Major Michel Prud'homme and Colonel R.G. Taylor, who are military officers at the Canadian embassy in Washington, had asked an official of the U.S Defence Intelligence Agency to spy on a Quebec diplomat working in the U.S. capital.

Will the Minister of National Defence confirm that the military staff at the Canadian embassy in Washington submitted such a request to the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency?

Canadian Embassy In WashingtonOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there is no policy, no direction whatsoever that anybody in any embassy should spy on any member of any provincial government, in fact on anybody at all.

As a result, there is an absurd assertion which has no back-up or basis in fact.

Canadian Embassy In WashingtonOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard that line before, but we have not forgotten the barn burnings in Quebec, the PQ membership lists that were stolen, the bombs laid by the RCMP and the promotions given to reward those who had laid them, after the truth came out.

Will the minister give us, from his place, the solemn assurance that his department never asked any foreign government to spy on representatives of the Quebec government abroad?

Canadian Embassy In WashingtonOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I just said very clearly that there is absolutely no direction that anybody do any spying. The individual case was an official of the U.S. government who gave a speech at a conference in which he took a position directly opposed to that which was the official position of the United States government.

We simply made inquiries to determine what the difference was. He then made an assertion. The hon. member, a rational, thoughtful member of Parliament in this thing, would know an absurd statement when she hears one.

Grain ShipmentsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister of agriculture.

Farmers in western Canada are losing millions of dollars because of the dismal performance of rail companies. Rail companies are refusing to ship grain to the west coast.

Over the weekend I met with farmers in the Morris area of my riding who are tired of being held hostage by the rail companies. They need grain cars and they need them now.

Will the minister tell these farmers the results of his meetings over the weekend with stakeholders? Can he assure the farmers in my riding that grain cars will be provided and grain will start moving today?

Grain ShipmentsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the grain backlog in western Canada is obviously a serious and costly problem.

There was a very constructive meeting held last week in Calgary, which I called and which involved all the players involved in the logistics of grain transportation in western Canada. There was a very determined attitude at that meeting aimed at solutions and not at finger pointing.

We identified the next six to eight weeks as obviously a critically important time not only to meet basic shipment targets but to whittle away at that accumulated backlog.

Agreement was reached to try to simplify grain collection logistics in the countryside on a temporary basis to make the most efficient use of locomotive power and to speed car turnaround times.

There were a variety of other measures agreed to to augment locomotive power, to improve terminal operations and to explore some trucking programs that could also add to the capacity of our system.

It is also important to note-

Grain ShipmentsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

February 17th, 1997 / 2:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of National Defence said that everybody in Canada knows exactly what happened on the ground in Somalia.

By Friday we reached the point where the minister admitted to misleading the House and he had to apologize. The minister is confused about what happened. The minister does not understand the Somalia file.

My question is for the Minister of National Defence. How can Canadians trust anything that this minister says? How many other times has he mislead Canadians?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that, as I said on Friday, I had made a mistake when I used the term murder in the plural to describe the situation that occurred in Somalia in March.

As a matter of fact, as a result of that mistake having been brought to my attention by the press after I left the House and not actually brought to my attention in this place, I returned.

I checked the first edition of the blues to make sure of exactly what I said. I understood that I had made a mistake. I came back to the House at the very first opportunity and made the clarification.

I want to welcome my hon. friend back to the House after what I know was a difficult period with his health. Just to make sure there is no confusion in my mind, I would like to make sure that the hon. member can explain to me why in April 1996 he was quoted as saying: "There is now sufficient evidence of problems. The utility of the commission has been exhausted. The taxpayer's money should now be spent on a criminal investigation".

What is the position of the hon. member with respect to the Somalia inquiry today?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is being very humble today, but it is far too late for the minister's apologies.

The minister continues to interfere with the Somalia commission. From the start his department has hindered this commission, refusing to release information. Now the minister's reckless statements are sabotaging its work.

Does the minister see that his actions demonstrate his total disregard for due process?

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, the due process the hon. member refers to was established in March 1995, had its mandate extended three times, the third time just recently by the government, asking the commission to report by June 30, a substantially longer period of time than was originally foreseen when the inquiry was put together.

What I am saying is that the government had to make a decision. We felt it was in the best interests of everyone concerned that we move on and deal with the specific issues facing the Canadian forces and the Department of National Defence.

The very due process that the hon. member now speaks so highly of is the one he said nearly a year ago should be ended because the utility of the commission had been exhausted.

I know it is difficult, and I did make a mistake last Friday, but at least I recognize when I make a mistake and I try to correct it. I urge the hon. member to do likewise when he recognizes that perhaps he has made a mistake.

Department Of Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

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

On February 10, the Department of Foreign Affairs very quietly released its new guidelines on the funding of the arts. The new

policy provides that, in order to be sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs, cultural projects will have to promote national unity.

Given that the Department of Foreign Affairs is violating the freedom of expression of artists by restricting funding to cultural projects that promote Canada, will the minister pledge to transfer his department's cultural program to the Canada Council, which is an independent organization with no political ties whose mandate is precisely to manage support for artists?

Department Of Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, these changes were made to improve access for various groups, including young people and native people. These changes also seek to promote the interests and values of Canadians abroad.

This policy is an important tool to promote Canada's interests here at home, and to ensure that groups from across the country have access to the programs.

Department Of Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, surely the minister must know that this program has been in place for several decades to de-politicize the funding process, and that Telefilm Canada and the Canada Council were set up precisely for that purpose.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs not realize that he is taking part in a witch hunt that was started the day after the referendum by the heritage committee, and that is being led by the ineffable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage?

Department Of Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member has it all wrong. The whole point of the program which has been traditionally within the third pillar of our foreign policy is to ensure that we have an ability to engage the outside world in the important values of Canada.

To give an example, this is the year of Asia-Pacific. We are trying to get Canadians involved in the enormous opportunities developing in the Asia-Pacific rim. Part of the cultural program is to develop partnerships between Canadian and Asian groups to develop joint cultural interests both outside of Canada and inside Canada, and to invite groups here.

They are all judged on merit. They are all judged on artistic value. We make no reference to politics. We simply want to ensure that in the burgeoning area of the Asia-Pacific, Canadian culture and the values it represents will have an opportunity to be expressed.