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House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was reform.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past six months the employment insurance figure has been, not 41 per cent, but 36 per cent. If the minister is satisfied, I do not know what he can be satisfied with.

Leaving fine speeches aside, will the minister admit that, in fact, the true impact of the reform is not that it makes it possible for Canadians to get back to work, as the minister has tried so often to tell us, but rather that it condemns them to falling back onto welfare, a provincial responsibility?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to see the hon. member for Mercier concerned with what is going on at the provincial level as well. I have noted recently that she has been keeping an eye, not only on our government and its ideology, but also on the Government of Quebec, and that she is beginning to be concerned about certain decisions that have been taken by it.

I would like to reassure the hon. member for Mercier, in the enthusiasm she is manifesting once again, that where employment insurance is concerned, we have, as a government, acted with a great sense of responsibility.

This is the greatest reform in 25 years, one with which we wanted to help Canadians break out of the cycle of dependency into which too many of them had fallen. We wanted to create conditions that would help them break out of the cycle of dependency while continuing to provide assistance with their income, so we created a transitional fund in order to create jobs, and wage subsidies in order to help people set up their own businesses.

We have brought about a major reform and are most pleased with it, because we are helping first and foremost with current conditions.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fraser Valley East.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend we learned of a defence department memo that advised the minister to shut down the Somalia inquiry because it was not in the national interest to investigate allegations of a high level military cover-up. It is no surprise that defence headquarters would think it is not in the national interest to investigate defence headquarters. What is a surprise is that the minister accepted this very biased piece of advice and shut down the inquiry.

My question is to the minister of defence. Why is it not in the national interest to get to the bottom of a high level military cover-up?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is a requirement for the minister of defence as well as for any other minister who is involved in serious problems that confront the government and the nation is to take advice from as many sources as possible.

It was not very long ago that the hon. leader of the third party was asking the Prime Minister of Canada to guarantee that the commission of inquiry on Somalia end its work before the next federal election.

I have tried to take advice from as many sources as possible, but in the final analysis the Government of Canada made the decision to extend the Somalia commission of inquiry for a third time and to ask it to please report by the end of June, which would be in excess of two years after it began an inquiry that was scheduled to finish in December 1995.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the sources the minister could have listened to was the commissioners themselves who said that shutting down the inquiry early amounted to a cover-up and a whitewash. He could have listened to them.

The national interest is not the reason the Somalia inquiry is being shut down. It is being shut down because of political interests. It is not in the Liberal interest to have inquiry commissioners look into allegations of cover-up that occurred under this Liberal government.

Again, why does the minister not want Canadians to know the truth about a high level cover-up that occurred under this Liberal government?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, to find out as much as possible is in everyone's best interests as long as the information available is of some contemporary utility.

As recently as September of last year the hon. leader of the third party felt it was appropriate to try to get to the recommendations of the commission of inquiry before a federal election. As a government we have extended for the third time the mandate of this commission. We recognize that not everyone is satisfied with that decision.

The hon. member speaks about the recommendations of the commissioners of inquiry. I recall there were three recommendations in the last letter. As I remember the text of the letter, one recommendation clearly indicated that the ultimate scenario would be that the commission would not finish its work until at the earliest the end of 1998. At some point you have to decide what you think is in the best interest.

If the hon. member would check with members of the Canadian forces and with most of the people who have been observing the

work of the commission of inquiry, he would find there is a fair amount of support for the decision the government took.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, today at the Somalia inquiry Major Vincent Buonamici raised further questions about a cover-up at the highest levels of national defence. On Sunday it was revealed that the former defence minister's office participated in a departmental smear campaign to discredit Dr. Barry Armstrong. A lot of people seem to be working very hard to ensure Canadians do not get the truth about what happened in Somalia and in the subsequent events.

Why does the minister not want Canadians to know the truth and does the minister really believe that hiding the truth will bring a just resolution to what happened in Somalia and the subsequent events?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the need to determine what happened and why it happened in Somalia and what occurred subsequent to the very unfortunate events in Somalia is obviously very important.

What I think is of equal importance and what Canadians have come to accept as being absolutely essential is what we are going to do to ensure that the kinds of situations that occurred in Somalia do not reoccur and that what happened after those incidents occurred be an appropriate response to those kinds of incidents.

Obviously the hon. member and members of his party have not yet decided how they want to address matters relating to the Canadian forces because, as the hon. member would know, by the end of this month we will be reporting to the Prime Minister, to the government and to the people of Canada on what we think should be done with the Canadian forces. We have yet to hear from the Reform Party.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

March 10th, 1997 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

The opposition has joined with demonstrators in the maritimes and Quebec criticizing the new employment insurance plan, which clearly, makes no sense. The program has barely been implemented and already the minister is having to rush in and make adjustments, because things are not working, and this morning once again, the Minister of National Defence was taken to task in Tracadie.

How can the minister justify the fact that the new measures apply to only certain regions-primarily those that fought his reform the strongest-other than for electoral purposes?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the question is quite simple: we obviously brought the solution to where the problem existed.

These are the regions that demonstrated the most clearly and drew our attention to the importance of changing the system.

My two predecessors, now the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence-my immediate predecessor-and I have always recognized, in undertaking a reform as enormous as the one involving unemployment insurance, which is 25 years old, that we would monitor the transition and implementation of the new system very carefully.

We knew that inevitably minor adjustments would be required here and there. My attention was drawn in the Atlantic caucus to an anomaly in the system relating to short weeks. The Government of Canada worked hard to correct the situation satisfactorily for the location where the problem arose.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister justify choosing the criterion of 10 per cent unemployment, when it will mean that the people of Westmount will be entitled to the new measure and the people of Saint-Hyacinthe will not?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the demagoguery of those opposite. No doubt they are talking about the committee-

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

You are not allowed to say that.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I would ask the hon. minister to withdraw the word "demagoguery".

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member was referring to Saint-Henri, is she-

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I ask the hon. minister to withdraw the word "demagoguery".

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the word "demagoguery", but I would say with pleasure that we worked hard to solve the problems brought to our attention. Where unemployment is at 10 per cent, there is less likelihood of finding work that would give people longer weeks. The aim of our system is precisely to encourage people to accept as much work as possible.

So, in Saint-Henri, where unemployment is above 10 per cent, the situation is remedied. Where unemployment is less, people are

more likely to work a full week. That is the logic and that is the sort of logic that promotes work.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, like the Canadian public, I found it extremely difficult to know exactly what went on Somalia and even more to know what has gone on here in Ottawa with regard to the events in Somalia.

The minister of defence made it quite clear from his first day as minister that he wanted to get the inquiry over as quickly as possible.

Why did he want it over last September and now why does he want it over? Is it for the good of the armed forces? Is it for the good of the country or is for the good of the Liberal Party?

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, obviously these events and much of what took place around the situation the hon. member refers to occurred under the watch of the previous administration.

To the hon. member, because of his background and his respect for the Canadian forces, in direct response to his question, he has finally recognized on behalf of his party that I indicated immediately upon coming to my position as Minister of National Defence that it was my fervent hope and the government's that the commission of inquiry would end its work as scheduled in March.

When he asks why I felt it should be ended in March, although we have subsequently extended it to the end of June, it is because everywhere I have gone in Canada and abroad, speaking but mainly listening to members of the Canadian forces, I can tell the hon. member that if he spoke with many of his former colleagues he would know that in great part it was time to turn the corner and there is no question that the decision in part was because it is in the best interests of the Canadian forces.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly share with the minister the interest of the Canadian forces.

As a former member, I have really looked on with a lot of anguish. I have seen members of the airborne regiment, especially the junior ranks, persecuted, prosecuted and otherwise vilified. So I agree with the minister, at least let us clear the air.

But how can we clear the air if the full testimony of the likes of Kim Campbell's staff, Bob Fowler, Major Buonamici and Major Armstrong is not out? What will the minister do specifically to clear the air and get those unanswered questions answered?

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, the hon. member was a valued member of the Canadian forces for many years and I understand his anguish.

I have never commented, nor will I, on the roster of witnesses or how the commission of inquiry conducted its work. It was entirely within its prerogative to set out its work schedule the way it wanted to. It has done that for over two years.

The hon. member has asked a very pertinent question. He has asked how we intend to move on and how to clear the air. I have undertaken to submit to the Prime Minister, to the government, to the people of Canada and to the Canadian forces by the end of this month a very comprehensive and substantial set of recommendations on the future of the Canadian forces. We have sought and received the input of literally hundreds of Canadians who feel very strongly about the future of the Canadian forces.

I still look forward to hearing that kind of input from the Reform Party, but regardless of that we will make public our position and our recommendations by the end of this month.

Federal Public ServiceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board.

The government has decided to transfer to the private sector the management of the 150 casual employees who were working for its regional cheque printing facilities. These 150 people, who hold precarious jobs, will now have to decide whether to accept a 40 per cent salary cut or stay home.

Given that, in a release dated August 2, the President of the Treasury Board stated that he wanted to act responsibly and in a spirit of fairness regarding the cuts affecting government employees, what does he intend to do to correct such an unfair situation?