This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consumers.

Topics

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment proposed by the Reform Party is in order subject to a small editorial change. It reads:

That the motion be amended in the first paragraph by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

this House agrees with the principle set out in the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-70, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related acts, but would propose that the amendment be amended to read as follows:

Pages 334 and 335, clause 242: Replace lines 40 to 45 on page 334 and lines 1 to 4 on page 335 with the following: "Subsection (1) comes into force on a day fixed by order of the Governor in Council, which day shall not be before the first day on which all provinces have enacted laws requiring that suppliers include the tax under Part IX of the act in indications of the prices of property or services supplied".

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. You have been trying to clarify that amendment which comes from a party that promises to practise politics differently.

Can the Chair or the Reform members clarify whether the amendment would have the effect of denying the benefits of harmonization to Atlantic Canada because one province does not have a sales tax and it calls for-

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The parliamentary secretary knows that is not a point of order but debate.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Finance held three days of hearings on Bill C-70 in January. Here are some powerful examples of what was contained in the briefs. I will provide a quick overview.

For example, the Retail Council of Canada, which submitted a brief, represents over 65 per cent of all retail business in Canada. Even though this body supports the harmonization of provincial and federal sales taxes, it opposes the inclusion of the tax in the selling price in the maritimes as a policy that will drive up costs and add to the confusion among consumers.

By approving several different ways of displaying the price with the tax and by providing a number of exceptions to these rules, federal policy seriously complicates the situation. How is it possible to compare costs at two retailers that use different methods to display a price with the tax?

Consumers will be faced with different labelling within a single store. For example, some products will display the price with the tax, others without; others will have a package label without tax, but a shelf label with it and then there will be products that are tax exempt or that do not need to have the price indicated with the tax. How are we going to know the total cost of our purchases with such a system, with such confusion? A single product could have as many as four different prices on the label: the regular price with and without tax, and the discount price with and without tax.

In short, as these examples show, it will be much more difficult for the consumer to discover the price of merchandise quickly and easily.

The tax can be included in the price over a four month period, as the legislation provides. The Retail Council of Canada claims, and rightly so, that the firms including the tax in the price ahead of the others will be shooting themselves in the foot, because they will display a price on a product that will be higher than at a competitor's.

The buffer period may well be useless, because, in all likelihood, every firm will be waiting until the last minute to display prices with the tax included.

In terms of the costs involved in Bill C-70, the Retail Council of Canada estimates it will cost the retail industry $90 million in recurring annual costs and another $85 or $90 million for the initial adjustment to switch over from the old way to the new harmonized Liberal tax.

Finally, the council vehemently criticizes the fact that hearings were held on only three days in January. It also criticizes the Standing Committee on Finance for holding hearings only in Ottawa, thus preventing a multitude of small retail merchants from testifying and expressing their opinion.

The Council said, and I quote:

"These tactics leave retailers wondering whether legislators have any interest in their views whatsoever".

It should be pointed out that the Bloc Quebecois supported the Reform motion to continue hearings in the maritimes, a motion that was defeated by the Liberal majority in committee. I clearly remember that hearing day; I sat on the committee as a Bloc Quebecois member.

In its brief to the committee, and this is a second example, Sears Canada, said, and I quote: "For Canadian retailers, tax inclusive pricing in a partially harmonized system will mean higher costs and more complex systems".

Sears will produce 52 million catalogues in 1997, but the production of "harmonized" catalogues, to accommodate the standards applying to the maritimes, will cost Sears a fortune. It may also mean fewer catalogues or higher retail prices for consumers in the maritimes.

Sears also testified that, while the purpose of this legislation is not to limit product availability in harmonized provinces, this will certainly be the result". In addition, like many other large chain stores, Sears labels its products before shipping them to its stores. With Bill C-70, the company will have to keep two separate stocks, depending on whether the price includes the tax or not, with the related increase in production costs being reflected in retail prices. Goods will have to be divided in lots and stored separately before shipping, which complicates things, be it only by imposing the use of a dual stock system.

The brief submitted by Woolworth Canada Inc., a company with over 100 stores and 14,000 employees in the provinces affected by harmonization, included the following: "Given that the proposed legislation applies only to three small provinces, and given the current proposals regarding tax inclusive pricing, we believe that costs will significantly increase for retailers and consumers, and that this legislation will also result in extreme confusion".

In its brief, Canadian Tire writes the following, and I quote:

We are opposed to the piecemeal approach to the application of tax inclusive pricing as part of the introduction of the new HST. This would create very significant ongoing costs as well as extreme confusion to our customers-for the retail industry, any benefits derived from input tax credits are more than offset by the significant cost increases resulting from tax inclusive pricing. There are no savings; in fact there are increased costs.

Here are a few excerpts taken from the Liberal minority report of November 1989 on the GST, when the Conservatives decided to introduce this consumer tax, and I quote: "The Liberal members of the finance committee maintain that the goods and services tax proposed by the Tory government is bad and that no 'repair job' of any kind will make it fair for taxpayers". You can find that quote on page 283 of the report.

What are the Liberals doing with Bill C-70, if not a repair job? Except for the fact that the tax is hidden in the price, the GST remains the same and its rate remains the same. In fact, it is the provincial tax that is being harmonized. Therefore, the Liberals are only doing a repair job on the Conservatives' GST and, if we are to believe their own words, this new HST is as bad and unfair for taxpayers as the old GST. "Moreover, if the GST is hidden in the sales price, it will be a lot easier for the government to raise it later". This is from page 298 of the same report.

Based on the Liberal logic, one can conclude that the Minister of Finance will certainly increase the GST in the maritimes in his next budget, since he is in the process of hiding that tax in the sales price. In 1989, the Liberals condemned the idea of hiding the GST in the price. However, in 1997, they are doing just that, on the false pretence that this is what consumers want.

Consumers want the Liberal government to fulfil its commitments, including the promise to scrap the GST; they do not want the government to hide it in the price or partially harmonize it.

Why, then, have the Liberals systematically refused, since they have formed the government, to carry out such a total reform of the Canadian taxation system?

Even though this ill advised promise will cost Quebecers and other Canadians close to $1 billion, all the Liberals can think about is getting out of the mess at any cost and as quickly as possible. Just as they did with the Airbus affair, Pearson and the Somalia inquiry.

This is therefore not the first time the Liberals have made colossal errors that will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars but not taken any responsibility for their actions. Even in

the case of the GST, the Liberal government showed its contempt for democracy by preventing opposition members from doing their job.

Yet the Liberals came up with 13 important amendments, those were their words, to Bill C-70, the very evening of the third and final day of public consultation, claiming that these amendments were a response to the complaints heard during the three days of hearings. If it was possible to find 13 amendments in three days, imagine how many we would have had if we had been able to extend the public hearings by one or two weeks.

In their haste to leave behind the embarrassing issue of the GST, the Liberals do not want to hear what people have to say; they are afraid that people in the maritimes will tell them the plain truth: Bill C-70 is a botched job, a very bad bill. The Liberals are standing in the way of democracy by preventing citizens from expressing their views during the legislative process, and by moving full steam ahead, worrying more about their electoral agenda than about doing a good job of serving the citizens who will pay for this new tax, and who, in the meantime, are paying their salaries.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed as a block to this bill to harmonize the GST in the maritimes. This is a botched bill. It is based purely on political and electoral considerations. It is badly written. People have pointed out all sorts of shortcomings that the government does not even want to hear about. It is not the harmonization model that maritimers deserve and are calling for.

What is more, in order to convince the three maritime provinces in question, the federal government had to promise political compensation of $1 billion, while it has systematically refused to pay Quebec, in all fairness, the $2 billion it lost by harmonizing its provincial sales tax with the GST in 1991.

If the federal government is able to come up with $1 billion for the maritimes, let it also find a way to come up with the $2 billion owing Quebec. Otherwise, everyone should receive the same treatment and the federal government should stop subsidizing New Brunswick's corporate raiding in Quebec using Quebecers' tax money.

For these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois is calling upon the government to go back to the drawing board, to start from scratch with a new bill on its plan to harmonize the GST, this time taking the time required to present a serious bill, and particularly taking the time to listen to what people have to say.

The Liberal government had winning votes in mind when it spoke out against the partial removal of the tax from books. Only educational and literacy institutions will pay no GST on books purchased, while what I would call the normal taxpayer, the person who buys books at the neighbourhood bookstore, will continue to pay it. No doubt what the Liberals want is to be able to say, during the next campaign which is almost upon us, that they have taken the GST off books. But that is not true.

In conclusion, I would like to say that, with the Senate amendment to Bill C-70, there will be no further reference to including the GST in the price as long as a minimum of 51 per cent of the population of Canada does not have a provincial sales tax system harmonized with the federal sales tax. During all of the House debates on Bill C-70, the Bloc Quebecois spoke out against the government's haste to get rid of the GST business before the election.

The Bloc Quebecois spoke out against, and voted against, Bill C-70, asking the government, as I have said, to go back to the drawing board, to propose another model for harmonizing the sales tax, since this one was full of defects.

Unfortunately, the Liberals would not listen to us. But now we have the Senate proposing an amendment to Bill C-70 which is, basically, along the same lines as what we were finding fault with in the bill, and the Liberals are preparing to adopt it.

I would therefore like to say in closing that the Minister of Finance has stated, on a number of occasions, that Bill C-70 would introduce inclusion of the GST in the price in response to the wishes of the people. Now that they are preparing to remove inclusion of the tax in the price from Bill C-70, what is left of Bill C-70? Nothing. The GST is still the GST. What is being harmonized is the provincial tax, not vice versa, despite what they are trying to make us believe. And for that they are going to pay the maritimes $1 billion, while Quebec gets turned down when it asks, in all fairness, for $2 billion for having done the same.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I promise I will not use the word you and I debated in the House a little while ago or refer to the definitions the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance was so worried about.

I will call it an inducement. I will call it a payment to another province that tried to make up for a shortfall in revenue in terms of the provincial sales tax it was charging. They have now converted it to a broader base of goods and services which in effect has the final impact of raising the GST in the three Atlantic provinces from7 per cent to 15 per cent.

After two or three months consumers will realize that they have to pay more for goods and services in the three provinces thanks to the Liberal government and thanks to Atlantic MPs. During the

election campaign I hope they remember that and vote for the people who will represent their region.

I find it interesting that two groups are responsible for having the bill come back to the House. It passed third reading; it was pushed through. The Liberal government was praising its merits and the value of a harmonized sales tax. One of the two groups is the provincial government of New Brunswick and Premier Frank McKenna.

He is no longer a Liberal in the true tradition in that he has broken with the rank and file Liberal philosophy. He has chosen to do something the Reform Party prides itself in doing. He has chosen to represent the people who voted him into power. He listened to the people in his region and argued their position so that they got a chance to have an impact on a collective group like the House of Commons.

The second group that had influence was the Senate banking committee. If it were not for its members taking the time to go to the Atlantic provinces, the government would have been able to force, pressure, foist, push, cajole or put it on to the people of Atlantic Canada and then brag about how good the harmonized sales tax was for the rest of the country.

The Senate committee listened to the people of the Atlantic region. As a matter of fact the master of myth, the Minister of Finance, even felt it was so important that he should show the courage to show up at the committee to tell Atlantic Canada why he felt he had to have tax inclusive pricing.

Having done so it all came out: all the things Reform Party members said in the House of Commons and all the things committee members said in the Standing Committee on Finance on what was wrong with harmonized sales tax: that it was ad hoc, that it was partial, that it was confusing, that it was coercion.

Yes, that payment of $961 million to the Atlantic provinces was definitely an influencing factor for those three provinces. Not that it was better for business or for anybody, because at the end of the day everybody in the Atlantic provinces who made representation to the Senate committee complained. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Retail Council of Canada complained that the Liberals were not listening. However, the finance minister said that consumers wanted this and the government was going to give it to them. That is why we have tax inclusive pricing.

The minister was not listening to the people. This was strictly a poorly concocted, politically motivated effort so that in the next election the Liberals can stand up and say they kept their promise to replace the GST.

Because the deputy leader quit, we all know the Liberals did not keep the promise they made door to door to get elected which was that they would kill the GST. They said they hated it, they would kill it, they would abolish it and they would scrap it. They know they did not keep that promise, so they want to shift the debate on to another level, another plane which is to read the red book which said "replace". They wanted to put this in there. They wanted to change the name. They wanted tax inclusive pricing so they could call it the harmonized sales tax and nobody would be referring to the GST.

They did not get their way. The GST is still there. I am very disappointed that at the end of the day we have a bunch of politicians who end up lacking integrity and losing their principles. How can a person as knowledgeable and as competent as the Minister of Finance lose his principles? How can a person like that, who sat in opposition dreaming of being in government and who finally is in government, entrench the GST in people's lives forever when he said that if one ever combines a provincial sales tax with the goods and services tax we would have the net result of entrenching the GST? Is this his legacy to the people of Canada? Is this his idea of representation and doing what is in the best interest of all Canadians or is this just an example of partisan politics at its worst?

Another gentleman, one I respect an awful lot and one I think is a Reformer in Liberal clothing, is the current Minister of National Defence. I remember when he was minister of transport, the job he did there, the way he did it and how he took that department and downsized it. He did not fire 44,000 employees like the secretary of Treasury Board has. He had all those people relocated. He privatized some aspects of the service of that department that should be in the private sector and retained those aspects of the department that should be in the public sector. He then went to the area of unemployment insurance and was on his way of doing a good job there and then the rug got pulled from underneath him because they needed help in defence. Now he is there.

However, as much as I respect him I will criticize him. I criticize him for a lack of integrity and for changing his principles. Is it not important to stand on principles? He is one of the Atlantic MPs. When he was on this side of the House he said there was no way a government should ever impose a hidden tax. He said that the tax must be open and visible because that was the only way to hold the government accountable. Both the finance minister and the defence minister were right then. What has happened? Why have they changed their minds? It is not wrong. It is right. That is the right attitude and the right philosophy.

I sadly conclude that the only reason they have done this is strictly for politically motivated purposes. Where are the Liberals today? They are sheepishly talking about how they are going to meet the deadline of April 1. They are going to go ahead with this

bill because harmonization is important. They have backed off on the tax inclusive pricing because the Senate has forced them to do it.

Why are they not standing up and condemning the senators? Why are they not condemning all those people in front of the hearings who said they did not like this tax and the government knows better than the people do on what is good for them?

Why are they not praising today tax inclusive pricing? Where are all those advantages that they talked about before, how the harmonization would blend in nicely with the consumer and the retailer, and that the price the consumer sees on the item is the price they pay at the till, everybody will just spend more money, everybody will be happy, the whole economy will grow and everything will be wonderful?

Why are they not talking about that today? They are not hammering on all those advantages any more. Where did they go? This was so important. What about the consumers, Mr. Finance Minister? Mr. Finance Minister, you said that you will give the Canadian public what it wants, and what it wants is tax inclusive pricing and this government gives the people what they want. Where is he today? Where is he on this issue?

I am proud of the fact that Canadians and especially those Canadians in Atlantic Canada took the time to go to those hearings and made themselves heard. I am proud of what the senators did. I will give them a lot of credit too. They have some power.

We as members of the third party here have no power. It shows the dangers of a democratic dictatorship that does not listen. All the things that we pointed out have come to pass. They are true. The Senate has done its job. That is why I am always in favour of a Senate; the type of Senate is another story and another debate. At least it is a check and control. It is a chamber of sober second thought.

The government and the cabinet need a lot of second sober thoughts. They are ramming some of the worst legislation in the history of this country on Canadians. From gun control to endangered species to financial institutions, the government is wreaking havoc on the whole economy and the rights and freedoms of Canadians and corporations across the country.

This harmonized sales tax is another example of that. The government is setting bad precedents. We have a finance minister who has been criticized by the auditor general and who made this $961 million payment to the Atlantic provinces one year ago. He charged it off to the year ending 1996.

I will read from the public accounts how we are supposed to do our accounting and how we are fairly supposed to represent the finances of the nation. This finance minister who has been getting all the credit and all the praise from the left wing leaning Liberal press in this city has gone against generally accepted accounting principles. The auditor general says so, most CAs, most CGA, CMAs, RIAs and MPs would say so who have an accounting background.

In the public accounts of 1996 the auditor general said: "The inclusion of the transitional assistance of $961 million in the 1996 deficit and accumulated deficit represents a departure from both sound accounting practice and the government's own accounting rules".

Second, so that people who are listening understand what we are to do when we charge something into a current year's budget, we have to have an agreement in place on how the money is going to be spent and who the two parties are that are involved, not a letter of intent, which is what the finance minister argues on this or, as it says here, the financial obligations are reported as liabilities if the underlying event occurred prior to or at year end.

We are speaking of March 1996. This deal takes effect April 1, 1997. We still do not have a harmonized sales tax in place. Why did Atlantic Canada get $961 million, if not as an inducement to procure these signed agreements? Even today the agreement is not in place and the money has been put out.

We are talking about integrity. These are the finances of the nation and we have a finance minister who is so cocky, so overconfident that he feels he can do anything with any piece of legislation, that he can ram it down the throats of Canadians and nobody will question him on it.

Thank God there is a Senate, especially with this kind of House where we are fractured, where we cannot hold the government accountable because we do not have enough manpower to do it.

I think the Liberals are very lucky to have a free thinking, open minded Liberal premier in the province of New Brunswick. I predicted that those three premiers in the Atlantic provinces would lose their jobs if they went ahead with the harmonized sales tax, the tax inclusive pricing. At least somebody was listening.

Frank McKenna, in a newspaper article written by April Lindgren of the Ottawa Citizen , said he is unapologetic for doing what he did even though he is a Liberal premier: ``When you are a provincial government and the federal government is of the same persuasion, there is no law requiring that you park your brains and your opinions at the door''. That is what the backbenchers from Atlantic Canada have done on the issue. They parked their brains and their opinions at the door. They are like trained seals. They just follow the pack, do what the cabinet says must be done and what the finance minister says should be done because they are high in the polls. Everything here is related to polls. They are trying to get

themselves re-elected. Liberal members support what is in their own self-serving best interests and not the interests of Canadians.

I commend the premier of New Brunswick for having the courage to tell the truth. The truth is that the consumers will have to pay the tax.

Excise Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I know that consumers, as I, will wait with bated breath for the end of your speech. You still have four minutes and the floor will be yours if you wish at the end of question period today.

It being almost 2 p.m., we will proceed to Statements by Members.

Recognizing MembersStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Liberal Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are thousands of Canadians who do not know the name of the member of Parliament who is speaking from in Chamber at this very moment.

Currently, Mr. Speaker, you address members according to ridings. My name and riding are printed for a few seconds in small letters at the bottom of the TV screen.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind and severely visually impaired Canadians have indicated that this practice is unfair, given that blind persons cannot read members' names and province of origin as printed on the screen.

I recommend that it would be more appropriate to have members addressed by their name, riding and province. This would only pertain to the manner in which the Speaker addresses members and not to the manner in which members address each other in the House.

In the name of fairness I pray that this recommendation be given serious consideration.

FrancophonieStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, 1997 is a banner year for la Francophonie. This year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Charte de la langue française, the 10th anniversary of the Semaine du français, the 5th anniversary of the Semaine internationale de la Francophonie and the 7th anniversary of the Journée internationale de la Francophonie in Quebec. These various events have now been combined in the Francofête, being held for the first time from March 16 to March 23, with the author Marie Laberge as honourary chair.

The Francofête is an event marked by pride and excellence. At the heart of this event we find the French language, the official and common language of Quebecers at work, in communications, business, culture and education.

To quote Yves Duteuil: "It is a beautiful language with magnificent words that expresses its history through its many accents". This week is a wonderful opportunity to speak, write, read, sing and love this language of ours.

JusticeStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party's fresh start for justice has the Liberal Party's spin doctors scrambling for answers.

An access to information request clearly points to the Liberal failure to deal with hardened criminals who make a career out of hurting or killing innocent Canadians. The Liberal justice minister believes that capital punishment and truth in sentencing are "buzzwords" and are an act of revenge.

The Liberal idea of a safer society is to release violent offenders earlier because it is cheaper to do so, all under the name of rehabilitation. Liberals do not believe that the punishment should fit the crime. Neither do they believe that criminals are responsible for their actions. They say that you and I and society are to blame.

The bottom line is that the Liberal government continues to support criminals with its weak laws. On the other hand, innocent citizens are victimized and to the Liberal mind this is good.

The Liberal government is deluded. Fresh start for justice is the only answer to law and order in this country.

The EconomyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Mr. Speaker, for more than a decade this government and the previous one have pursued the same economic policies: deregulate, cut spending, lay off workers.

Both business and government have sung the same tune. Has it worked? We have 45 per cent more child poverty in the country than in 1989 when this House passed a motion to do away with it. Today's Globe and Mail reports that the working poor are now6 per cent worse off than 10 years ago.

University of Saskatchewan economists tell us that realized net farm income for their province was $315 million in 1996, or about $5,000 per farm. The projections are that it will be lower in 1997.

Bankruptcies hit record levels in 1996 under these policies. Real income for most Canadians is declining as are living standards. However, big business profits are up and so is the stock market. But for ordinary people, nothing but harder times.

The BudgetStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, there is financial light at the end of the deficit tunnel, as we heard from the Minister of Finance during his recent budget presentation.

Canadians have a right to be proud of the accomplishments toward deficit reduction: proud of moving from being referred to as a third world country financially in the early nineties under the previous administration to today, once again, being the envy of the industrialized countries of the world.

Canadians are proud also that the deficit reduction accomplishments have provided the flexibility for financial investment in health care, student education, children and families, rural Canada, the tourism industry, the infrastructure program extension and programs to foster small business, economic growth and jobs.

This is responsible government. Canadians have a right to be proud of their accomplishments. God bless and long live Canada.

Foreign AidStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the 46th parliamentary seminar in the United Kingdom. Participants included legislators from all corners of the globe: Malawi, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Uganda. The seminar coincided with Commonwealth Day, March 10.

Canada is held in high esteem abroad and is well served by its commitment to multilateral organizations such as the Commonwealth and la Francophonie.

One of the lasting impressions I will have will be the importance of our country's foreign aid to the well-being of fellow Commonwealth and la Francophonie citizens. I urge all members, as legislators in one of the richest and most senior members of both organizations, to recognize and promote the value of foreign assistance.

I call on the government during la semaine internationale de la Francophonie, specifically the Minister for International Co-operation, to continue our foreign aid activities so that we may look forward to a time when we will be members of organizations such as la Francophonie and the Commonwealth where wealth is indeed-

Foreign AidStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River.

Transfers To ProvincesStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Nault Liberal Kenora—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as an Ontario MP I have been hearing a lot of whining from Mike Harris and his chorus line in the Reform Party. They are trying to blame every cut in Ontario on the federal government.

They are tossing out accusations that Ontario's transfers have been cut by over 40 per cent. The fact is, when this government assumed office, total transfers to Ontario, cash and tax points, amounted to $10.3 billion. This year it is $9.1 billion.

The real reduction is 11 per cent, which only represents 2.5 per cent of provincial revenues. The 1996 budget includes a plan to start increasing transfers once again.

How much has Mike Harris cut? More than $6 billion from hospitals, schools, municipalities, social assistance and shelters for battered women. And why has he had to make these cuts? To pay for an irresponsible $5 billion tax cut for his rich friends.

Reformers can say what they like, but my constituents do not buy their sudden belief in medicare. I look forward to pitting our record and commitment to social programs against these right wing relics of the past.

St. Patrick's DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday thousands of Quebecers filled St. Catherine Street to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, when all Quebecers become O'Quebecers, as Cardinal Turcotte pointed out.

St. Patrick's Day is a time to remember when this community came to Quebec from its country of origin some 150 years ago to escape the potato famine. The conditions for these immigrants on board ship and subsequently in quarantine on Grosse-Île remain painful memories that testify to the courage and determination of the Irish.

In his sermon yesterday in St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was founded 150 years ago, Cardinal Daly recalled the warm welcome extended in the past by Canada's francophones who, together with the Irish already established in Montreal, worked so hard to alleviate the suffering of these Irish newcomers.

St. Patrick's Day has become a tradition in Quebec. We all celebrate this day and hope that this tradition will be maintained for many years to come.

A happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone.

Endangered SpeciesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, the people of Cariboo-Chilcotin support the protection of endangered species but they oppose Bill C-65, the federal government's endangered species protection act.

Bill C-65 threatens the rights and livelihoods of thousands of responsible ranchers, miners, foresters and landowners in the B.C. interior. It gives federal authorities the power to dictate to responsible landowners and users how they will use their land. It offers no compensation to landowners and users who are forced to leave productive land dormant, and Bill C-65 allows activist groups to go to court solely to stop resource development. This bill is an unfair, unbalanced and unsatisfactory piece of legislation.

Fortunately there is a better way. The Reform Party has proposed 42 amendments that would ensure fair compensation, co-operation by all concerned and a commitment to the preservation of all endangered species. If the government refuses to pass these amendments I will vote against Bill C-65 on behalf of the people of Cariboo-Chilcotin.

Ports Canada PoliceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, Friday's announcement by the Minister of Transport abolishing Ports Canada Police bypasses the democratic process in this House. Bill C-44, the Canada marine act, is presently before the House. There are provisions in that bill that deal with ports police. It is confusing that the minister would abolish ports police before Bill C-44 is passed.

In the announcement the minister has placed access control in the hands of the ports and municipal police forces to ensure standard police services at the ports. But the minister made no reference to the present ports police officers. What are the minister's plans for these dedicated and specially trained people? And what is he going to do about continued funding for such services?

The ports police officers are specialists in their field. They are trained and knowledgeable in national and international crime. Why is the minister subjecting our communities to the possibility of increased crime? I urge this minister and this House to reconsider what came out on Friday.

St. Patrick's DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, 150 years ago the great potato famine was devastating the Irish countryside and Irish tenants were fleeing their homeland.

Today Canada, while celebrating St. Patrick's Day, also celebrates the great migration of those people who became the backbone of so many of our communities. Whether it is corned beef and cabbage at the historic Victoria Tavern in Windsor or a green beer at the Knights of Columbus in Tecumseh, the people of Canada are all Irish today.

However, as we enjoy the fun, let us not lose sight of the historical fact that so many came here out of such a great tragedy and that they joined with others to build one of the great free democracies of the world.

Health CareStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Valeri Liberal Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, health care continues to be a priority for my constituents in Lincoln, and they are worried about its future.

As the Ontario government continues to pursue its plans to restructure hospitals like the West Lincoln Memorial in Grimsby and St. Joseph's Hospital in Hamilton, let me share with the House what my constituents are saying. They want a health care system that is focused on patient care and wellness and not one that offers fewer services at fewer locations.

Let us be clear. Premier Harris has decided to close hospitals in Ontario. That is his choice and no one else's. The National Forum on Health stated that Canadians want the federal government to continue to play a strong role in protecting our publicly funded medicare system. The government has demonstrated that support through the recent budget which invests in the delivery of health care services.

Clearly we will continue to ensure that our universal health care system is protected and meets the needs of all Canadians.

Montreal's East EndStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, for too many years, the east end of Montreal has been associated with factory closings and unemployment. As of today, this unfortunate perception will change and there is new hope for the east end of Montreal.

At a press conference this morning, the Minister of Human Resources Development announced a $8.1 million subsidy to Iris Inc., a sock manufacturer. This financial assistance comes out of

the 30 per cent of the transitional job fund which has been earmarked for Quebec.

Thanks to this partnership between the Government of Canada, the municipality of Ville d'Anjou and the private sector, an expansion plan worth an estimated $63.7 million will create more than 3,000 permanent full time jobs in the east end of Montreal over the next three years.

Bloc QuebecoisStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois has a new leader, and, for the first time, the leader of a federal political party was elected by universal suffrage.

More than 50,000 members of the Bloc exercised their right to vote. That figure is more than the number of Quebecers belonging to the Liberal Party of Canada. This is an extraordinary democratic exercise, and I challenge the other federal political parties to follow the Bloc's example.

I speak on behalf of all my colleagues, supporters of the Bloc, and leadership candidates in congratulating the member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie.

We have no doubt that, with our team of members, he will gain the support of all those who hold so dear the sovereignty of Quebec and the defence of the interests of the people of Quebec.

Well done, Gilles.

1997 BrierStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Kevin Martin and his Ottwell Curling Club rink have once again proven that Edmonton is a city of champions.

Kevin, along with lead Don Bartlett, second Rudy Ramcharan, third Don Walchuck and fifth man and coach, Jules Owchar, won the 1997 Brier yesterday in Calgary with a thrilling 10-8 victory over the powerful Vic Peters rink from Manitoba.

All who helped organize this year's Brier championship are to be congratulated. A quarter of a million people attended the event during the week.

It looked bad when we lost to Peters in the round robin during the week, but on Friday night in the quarter final we squeaked out a win and it was then one game each. Then Sunday was the all-time, ever-lovin', championship tie-breakin' round. In the eighth end my heart sank when Peters stole two, but in the ninth we scored three back and then in the tenth end we stole one for the win. What a finish.

Now it is on to the world championships where once again Martin will prove that we are the best of the best. Way to go Kevin Martin, you are the champ.

Renewable FuelsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton—Peel, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and its members are gathering in Ottawa today to discuss the environmental and health benefits of ethanol fuels. Ethanol and other renewable fuels can greatly reduce vehicle tailpipe emissions, the leading source of air pollution and related health problems. The use of ethanol in our vehicles will reduce ground level ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter in the air we breathe.

A healthy and vibrant ethanol fuel industry in Canada will provide the following benefits: clean air, reduced health care costs, a domestic and renewable fuel supply and a stable domestic market for Canadian grains.

It is time for all Canadians, both rural and urban, to adopt the vision of cleaner air through renewable fuels like ethanol. It benefits all of us.

Montfort HospitalStatements By Members

March 17th, 1997 / 2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, three weeks ago, the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission recommended the closure of the Montfort hospital. Since the announcement, there has been an upsurge of popular opinion in eastern Ontario and especially within the francophone community in support of the Montfort hospital.

To mark the blossoming of this solidarity in support of the Montfort, a rally will be held at the Ottawa Civic Centre this Saturday, March 22 at 2 p.m.

I invite everyone in the community, everyone who is a friend of the hospital, everyone who believes in the importance of being given health care in one's own language to help the organizers of the SOS Montfort campaign fill the Civic Centre to the overflowing.

Organized CrimeOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

We will now proceed to oral question period with the new Leader of the Opposition.