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House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Government ExpendituresOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there are 29 proposals in the throne speech for higher spending and nothing on debt reduction or tax reduction.

If the government makes higher spending its number one priority, there will be no surpluses. Therefore 50 per cent of zero is zero, and there is zero for tax relief or debt reduction.

Is not this 50:50 formula simply a shell game, like the GST promise in the previous election, to allow the government to do what it really wants to do, which is to return to excessive spending?

Government ExpendituresOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, obviously the Leader of the Opposition does not have anything very concrete on which to attack the government. He is setting a target to shoot at. We said very clearly we will spend more money when we are in a surplus position.

When we were elected we said we would reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of GDP. It now looks as if within the first four years of our administration we have managed to reduce it to zero, or very close to zero. At the same time there are problems in society that have to be fixed and we will do it in a responsible way.

Around the world today people look to Canada because we are an example of a fiscally responsible government and, at the same time, a government caring for those who need the most help in our society.

EmploymentOral Question Period

September 24th, 1997 / 2:25 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, in February the Minister of Finance said a 5 per cent jobless rate was not only achievable but desirable. However, according to his department this is hogwash. It is forecasting 9 per cent, 8 per cent next year and 7 per cent until the year 2015.

Can the minister explain why he is publicly talking about a 5 per cent unemployment rate when privately his department says the opposite? Who is right and who is wrong?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is wrong.

The debate to which the hon. member refers is a discussion over the natural rate of unemployment, the rate at which inflation would take off, and there is, in fact, a difference of opinion.

This government clearly states that an arbitrary number, like 8 per cent for a NAIRU, is not applicable to a country whose productivity is improving, a country where interest rates are low, a country whose industry has become lean and competitive.

All I can tell the hon. member is that Alan Greenspan agrees with me and I will take him over the member for Medicine Hat.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Reform Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, in Canada several economists say that the long term natural rate for unemployment is well over the 5 per cent that the minister is talking about. Under this government my 13 year old son will be middle aged before we get within shouting distance of that 5 per cent target.

When is the minister going to take the advice of the real job creators and cut taxes? Canadians want tax cuts. I would like an answer from the prime minister-in-waiting, please.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it does the member good to be in the official opposition. For the first time he understands the real political truths in this country.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

No, not about me, but that they will never make it.

Let me give a couple of numbers. In the last four years under this Prime Minister the Canadian public has created over 970,000 new jobs. This year under this Prime Minister the Canadian public has created over 260,000 new jobs, the vast majority of those in the private sector. Under this Prime Minister the youth unemployment rate has started to go down. Under this Prime Minister the—

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

More, more.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Governor General read a speech from the Throne that contained a number of particularly moving, even lyrical, passages on Canada in the 21st century. The reality of the matter, however, is quite something else.

Will the Prime Minister not acknowledge that the Speech from the Throne sanctions his vision of Canada, where all major decisions will be made in Ottawa, with the provinces being relegated to the position of subsidiaries of Ottawa, and where Quebecers as a people have no place?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we made frequent reference in the Speech from the Throne to the partnership we want with the provinces. We made frequent reference in the Speech from the Throne to what we intend to do for the children of poor families in Canada.

I would like to make it clear to the former Leader of the Opposition that, at the first ministers' meeting in June last year, all the provincial governments and premiers in attendance, including the Premier of Quebec, agreed to our establishing a child credit program to help poor families. This shows that we can work together within Canada as partners.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister uses the term “partners” because he thinks it is a popular term and would give it the same meaning it was given by the sovereignists. However, we have no illusions about this, because when the Prime Minister talks about partnership, it is the kind of partnership in which the political decisions are made in Ottawa and the provinces are asked to carry them out. The provinces are being treated like so many municipalities.

Would the Prime Minister agree that the throne speech has demonstrated, more clearly than ever before, that there are two diametrically opposed visions of Canada: one in Quebec where, since Jean Lesage, people have wanted to be “maîtres chez nous” and one in the rest of Canada, the one in the Calgary declaration where Quebecers are just as unique as Pacific salmon?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party overlooks the fact that we have worked very hard with the provinces since we came to power.

Take, for instance, Quebec's traditional demands regarding manpower training. We have entered into an agreement with the provincial governments, including the Government of Quebec.

For many years, the Government of Quebec and the other governments complained that we were involved in areas they would rather see us out of. That is why we withdrew from forestry, mining, tourism, social housing and manpower training. We have adjusted many programs. Of course, there is no way we can accommodate someone who wants separation.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister wanted, he said, to launch an appeal to citizens to work together to save Canada, except that nothing about the speech is likely to please Quebec.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Will he confirm that his party has buried the concept of distinct society once and for all and replaced it with the concept of “unique character”?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to the member for Roberval that he voted against distinct society here in this House.

I also want to point out to the member for Roberval that, when he was an MNA, he voted against the Meech Lake accord in the National Assembly.

We now have terms that are acceptable both to Quebecers and to all Canadians. What the premiers wanted to do was to show Quebecers that it is possible to be a francophone, to retain one's French culture, to live in Quebec, to be very proud of what sets one apart, and to be perfectly at ease within Canada. And I am very pleased with the premiers' attitude in this regard.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, in exchanging niceties with the Prime Minister, might I remind him that he was the one who was traipsing all over Quebec during the last election campaign promising Quebecers that he would sell the rest of Canada on the idea of a distinct society, not I.

Is the Prime Minister now telling us that once again he is going to change his story and not fulfil the commitment he made to the voters of Quebec?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have always stressed the necessity of recognizing the distinct character of Quebec because of its language, its culture, and its Civil Code.

The formula the premiers saw fit to accept a few weeks ago is a new one which describes the Quebec reality, something we continue to fight for, while the Bloc Quebecois, in the House of Commons, and the Parti Quebecois, in the National Assembly, have voted against anything which could accommodate Quebec so as to enable it to prosper within Canada.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have waited a long time for this moment. My question is to the Prime Minister.

On behalf of 1.4 million unemployed Canadians, will the government commit today to set clear timetables and targets for the reduction of unemployment? The government has done it with respect to deficit reduction. When will the government do the same for unemployment and show that it is serious about putting Canadians back to work?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to welcome the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party to the House of Commons. I am happy to have her here. I know she has waited a long time and I hope she will stay for a long time too.

I would like to say that we want to reduce unemployment and we are working very hard on it. In fact during the last 46 months the Canadian economy has created 975,000 new jobs. The level of unemployment went down from 11.5 per cent to 9 per cent but we have to keep working.

The first thing we had to do was to put the finances of the nation in order. A few years ago we had a deficit of $42 billion and very soon we will have reduced it to zero. We have to do that in order to create jobs. When there is no inflation, low interest rates and a competitive dollar, we can produce and be very competitive. It is in that way that we will create the jobs.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that 155 Liberal cheerleaders over there are pretty pleased with their record.

Since the last Liberal throne speech promised to tackle youth unemployment, 26,000 more young people in this country have not been able to find jobs and they are not cheering.

My question. Will the government commit today to set targets and timetables to reduce unemployment? If not, will it admit that it has simply given up doing anything to help the young people who most desperately need its help?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have tried to explain in a few words that we must have the basic elements to create jobs in the country. It is not by spending money that we will cure the problems of the nation. We have to do it in a responsible way and we have to put the books of the nation in order.

I would like to quote some advice I read on February 10 of this year. It was said that we have come too far and have worked too hard to restart the cycle of careless spending. Therefore, we will not follow the advice of the leader of the New Democratic Party. We will follow the advice of Mr. Roy Romanow who spoke in front of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. It has to do with his government's shameful abuse of the unemployment insurance system.

His government said in the Speech from the Throne that it cares about unemployment in general and about youth unemployment in particular. The government could take concrete action immediately by reducing employment insurance premiums.

This is what the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as well as Quebec's Chamber of Commerce and Conseil du patronat, are asking for.

What is this government waiting for to end this abuse and put people back to work?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to welcome the Conservative Party leader, who is now back in the front row. We are happy to see him and look forward to be closer to him and to see him more often than in the last Parliament.

The Conservative Party leader should know that, when we came to office, the unemployment insurance fund showed an enormous deficit, because the Conservative government had not exercised prudence. The Conservatives had to increase premiums from $2 to $3.30, at a time when unemployment was on the rise in Canada.

These premiums were to go up to $3.30 on January 1, 1994 under the legislation passed by his party's government. We reduced them to $2.90, and will lower them again to $2.80 on January 1, 1998. We are reducing premiums gradually, but we must do so responsibly, because we still have work to do to clean up the fiscal mess we inherited in 1993 from the Conservative Party leader's government.

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Charest Progressive Conservative Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Prime Minister for his kind words in welcoming me back to the House. I would caution him against wishing that I be here too often and remind him of the old Chinese proverb that he may end up getting what he wishes for.

Today I want to offer the Prime Minister a great opportunity, an opportunity to do something for unemployed Canadians and young unemployed Canadians. If he acts today he can put thousands of people back to work in the next few weeks by reducing employment insurance premiums, this tax, this rip-off on Canadians to the tune of billions of dollars.

To be clear, I want to ask the Prime Minister one simple, straightforward question. Does he and his government believe that this employment insurance system should be used for the purpose of reducing the deficit, yes or no?

EmploymentOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we did not want to run the affairs of the nation the way that the previous government did. It never had any surplus in the unemployment insurance fund. When Canada was in a deep depression in 1991, a time when there were more and more unemployed in Canada, the Tories took the insurance premium from $2 and moved it up to $3.30. That is not the way we want to do it.

We want to act as prudent managers in order to make sure that our financial situation is good in Canada and that we have low interest rates. We have that now and that is what is creating the 4 per cent growth that we will have this year in Canada. We are the leaders of the G-7 countries in this.