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House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was privacy.

Topics

JusticeOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

No, Mr. Speaker.

If the hon. member looks at the cases he referred to last November, he should look at the appeal court decisions from those results. If the hon. member is suggesting that any time a judge somewhere in Canada makes a sentencing decision that he does not agree with we should pass another law, then he does not understand the criminal justice system.

Judges are to apply the criminal law which includes penalties up to life in prison for serious violence, including sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault. The tools are there. They are spelled out in the code for the courts to apply.

I urge the hon. member to reconsider what the purpose and nature of the criminal justice system is.

U.S.-Canada Tax TreatyOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Finance.

The Bloc Quebecois welcomes the fact that Canada and the United States have reached an agreement on amendments to the tax treaty between our two countries. However, retroactive payments will not be made until the agreement is ratified by the Senate.

Is the minister prepared to pay an advance to people on low incomes who will otherwise have to spend nearly two more years deprived of 25 per cent of their U.S. pension income?

U.S.-Canada Tax TreatyOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I previously said that we need to set up a system because of the rather complex administration involved. We have already taken the requisite steps to ensure that, if an agreement is not reached in time for the U.S. Senate to be able to act, we are prepared, once the system is set up, to make payments on an interim basis.

U.S.-Canada Tax TreatyOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, am I to understand from the minister's reply that he thinks it would be normal for a person whose sole income amounts to $10,000 annually to receive some compensation so that he will not have to live on $8,000 a year for two years, while waiting for retroactive payments because of an unfair tax treaty?

U.S.-Canada Tax TreatyOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

No Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member did not understand the answer.

I said we needed to set up a system in order to have the data required to make these payments. Now if there were some delay in the U.S. Senate and the system is ready to go and we have the data, then we will make these payments. So the delay is not due to a matter of principle on our side but is purely administrative.

Military BasesOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in question period the Minister of National Defence told the House that Canada was involved in negotiations with the United States over the clean-up of abandoned military bases across this country. Now we have learned that there are not any negotiations taking place and none planned for the future.

Why did the Minister of National Defence mislead the House?

Military BasesOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is in the grip of this monumental question that was resolved last fall. The fact is an agreement has been achieved with respect to the clean-up of a number of bases, including distant early warning systems at Argentia, Goose Bay and a couple of others. However, it is a contingent agreement because it still remains to be dealt with by the American government.

What we are looking at is, hopefully, that there will be a resolution on the basis of this tentative deal, but we are still making sure that there is progress toward a final resolution which will include the decision of the Government of the United States through the U.S. Congress.

Military BasesOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian taxpayers are being stuck with a $500 million tab to clean up American garbage. I cannot believe the subject did not come up when the Prime Minister was smiling for the cameras and sipping white wine with his close friend Bill Clinton.

We would appreciate the straight goods this time. Will the government force the Americans to clean up their own mess or will Canadian taxpayers be stuck with toxic waste and a $500 million tab?

Military BasesOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think the only thing toxic is whatever the hon. member is sniffing.

What we are trying to achieve here is an arrangement whereby the American government takes some responsibility for a situation that has developed over the last 40 or 50 years.

The hon. member may have a slight capacity of recall that there was a second world war. Subsequent to that there was a cold war, during which time American military establishments were set up in various parts of the country.

We have come a long way in trying to negotiate a deal with the American authorities to assist us in the clean-up of a number of these sites.

The number he referred to, specifically the $500 million figure, was not a number put forward by the Canadian government. It was a number that may have been put forward by someone else. The $100 million U.S. that has been agreed to, contingent on approval by the American Congress is, we feel, a significant improvement over what anybody else has been able to negotiate with the Americans subsequent to their deployment to various parts of the world.

I know if the hon. gentleman took on this cause and went to Washington to meet with his friend Newt Gingrich and others, he would scare the hell out of the Americans and would get whatever he wants.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

April 11th, 1997 / 11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

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

Before the Easter recess, in answer to my question about employment insurance benefits for members of the reserve, the Minister of National Defence said he would let us know as soon as possible why members of the reserve did not pay premiums for service in class A or for contract jobs with a duration of less than 30 days.

Could the minister finally explain why members of the reserve are excluded from the Employment Insurance Act, while all other workers are not?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for the question he asked a few weeks ago.

I would like to point out, however, that all employees are not necessarily covered by the act because if I am not mistaken, the Sûreté du Québec is not covered, since the Quebec government decided it would be better for employees of the Sûreté not to be covered.

However, since the hon. member raised a matter I thought was very important, we looked to the whole picture. Since it is a fundamental principle to ensure that all Canadians who have a job have access to the employment insurance program, we are now changing the regulations at the Department of National Defence to give members of the reserve access to the employment insurance program, even for a period of less than 30 days.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the Bloc Quebecois has made major gains. We are often in the House to push this government to do things, and we do that on a regular basis.

Since the minister agrees that the government should change the regulations for members of the reserve, will he promise that he will take action as soon as possible, in other words, by the end of this month?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we will do everything we can to act as quickly as possible.

My only regret is that the hon. member is surrounded by people who once sat on this side of the House as members of the Conservative government, including the leader at headquarters in Quebec City, and all these people let this situation go on for many years. However, we will act a lot quicker than the hon. member may think, and I want to thank him for recognizing the fact that we reacted appropriately to a problem that had to be dealt with.

Infrastructure ProgramOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Michel Dupuy Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, not so long ago, the minister responsible for the infrastructure program announced the federal government's offer to continue the program for a year. Provinces have been signing agreements for a number of weeks now.

Could the minister tell the House how negotiations are going with Quebec?

Infrastructure ProgramOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Government of Canada has reached an agreement with the Government of Quebec on continuing and expanding the infrastructure programs.

Under this agreement, $185 million dollars from the Government of Canada will be spent on municipal infrastructures over the next twelve months, and we hope to create over 5,000 jobs with this expanded program. It will enable municipalities to put in place the infrastructures that are vital to all Quebecers.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Government Operations tabled its report on contracting yesterday. The report was particularly critical of the government and found that Treasury Board was not following its own rules. It was found that fully 37 per cent of contracts worth over $3.2 billion were sole source or non-competitive contracts.

In the red book the Liberals promised accountability and integrity in government. What do we see? Millions of taxpayers' dollars being squandered by the government. It is not following its own Treasury Board policies and guidelines regarding the awarding of contracts.

My question is for the minister responsible for Treasury Board. Will the minister guarantee that Treasury Board will follow its own rules with respect to the awarding of contracts and, in particular, drastically reduce the number of contracts awarded without going through the competitive bidding process?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, this committee of the House has been doing what we believe is very good work for about two years. The members submitted a preliminary report in the fall of 1995. We agreed with quite a number of their recommendations.

In fact, already we have put in place a number of measures to implement these recommendations. For instance, in order to increase the number of contracts that went to competitive bidding the threshold was lowered from $30,000 to $25,000. The new bidding procedures have been tightened. The monitoring is much stronger. We are waiting to see the other recommendations in the final report in order to act on them as quickly as possible.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is tinkering around the edges. He has not dealt with the meat of the issue. We are talking about $9 billion in contracts. That is nearly 10 per cent of total government spending and yet the government has not addressed the key issues.

The committee report recommends that Treasury Board address four areas of abuse by the government: sole source contracting, contract splitting, contract tailoring and contract amendments. These abuses fly in the face of government policy and are contrary to the standards of fairness and transparency that Canadians expect from their government. The committee report calls for strong sanctions to be imposed to prevent such abuses from continuing in the future.

Will the minister guarantee to Canadians that his department will follow the committee recommendations and put an end to contract splitting, contract tailoring and excessive contract amendments?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, first, more than 60 per cent of the contracts that are concluded are concluded according to rules that involve competitive bidding. The great majority of these contracts are clearly recognized as being efficient, fair and under proper procedures.

In the circumstances that were mentioned by the committee we have recognized that in certain cases the recommendations make a lot of sense. As I mentioned, we have already implemented a number of these measures. We will now study the other recommendations. We have, I believe, 90 days to respond. We will

respond to all these recommendations. When they make sense we will implement them.

National DefenceOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

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

In the report to the Prime Minister entitled "Leadership and Management of the Canadian Forces", there is a common thread to the reforms proposed by the Minister of National Defence. They do not touch anything that sets the army apart, well out of public view, and that affords it government complacency.

Why did the minister refuse to act on the recommendation by Professor Albert Legault that civilian and military companies be integrated and the ombudsman accountable to Parliament?

National DefenceOral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we tried to take into account a number of recommendations that came from a lot of people, not just Professor Legault.

I would point out to my colleague that, as regards the system of military justice and the operation of the military police, we will be establishing a tribunal to oversee the activities of the military justice system and to look into complaints about the system. This is completely outside the chain of command of the Canadian forces and outside the bureaucracy of the Department of National Defence. It will report directly to the Minister of National Defence.

However, as is generally the case, because he has no regulatory power but rather the power to verify and encourage so that the appropriate changes are made in cases where the system has treated individuals unfairly, the ombudsman is to report, as is often the case, to those persons in a position to make the necessary changes.

In the case of National Defence, the ombudsman's reports will be made public as will those of the tribunal I have just mentioned. This will, I think, ensure a transparency heretofore unknown in the organization of the Department of National Defence.

National DefenceOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, the military police and the ombudsman, who will both remain under the authority of the chief of staff, and the minister's refusal to review the army's traditional role, including its readiness for combat, lead us to conclude that the minister's reform is nothing more than window dressing.

Does the minister not agree that, in fact, his reform accords full and unconditional amnesty to the chief of staff of the Canadian armed forces and treats all those guilty of murder and of covering up all the events in Somalia as innocent, without any formal decision? Does the minister realize that he is proposing not only amnesty, but total amnesty?

National DefenceOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

No, Mr. Speaker, but when I come face to face with incomprehension, I certainly realize it.

There is no doubt that some of the 65 recommendations we made in fact concern a number of the points the hon. member has raised. However, I would point out to him that the recommendations on the military justice system and the operation of the military police were prepared and submitted to the Prime Minister and the government without a single letter being changed. The recommendations are the result of work presided over by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

I think the hon. member should make sure his facts are right and that he understands what he is saying when he refers to the recommendations on the military justice system and the military police. Because when the time comes to judge the content, I believe the opinions of the hon. member will be measured against the ability of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Health CareOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Canadians are up in arms. The government is pursuing a course to ban commonly used herbs and medicinals that people have been using safely for decades.

Would the Minister of Health get his priorities straight and allow people to use these substances without restriction?

Health CareOral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the member is so exercised. Health Canada is discharging a responsibility that he would impose on it and which he would want all Canadians to ensure it fulfilled, specifically to ensure that all products that come on the market claiming a medicinal function be both safe and effective.

Second, he is well aware that Health Canada already has a committee in place to study all such herbal products. Over 100 of them are approved on an annual basis. Surely the member would not want Health Canada or any other body to release products on to the market before they have been tested for efficacy and safety.